quiet music lessons

Making It Work: Quiet Music Lessons During Testing

Making It Work:

Ideas for Quiet Music Lessons During Testing Season

In most public schools around the nation testing season is upon us.  In my district we begin this week. For many music educators that means quiet music lessons. Finding ideas that are quiet, engaging and meaningful as well as meets the needs of students who may have been sitting for a standardized test before they have music can be a challenge. I looked around the Internet for some of your best ideas and complied them in the list below.

  1. Take them outside! If the weather is cooperating and you can find an outdoor area that is far enough away from testing, have music class in the good old out-of-doors! Take your favorite play parties, singing games and folk dances outside. A Bluetooth speaker is perfect to play folk dance music outside. Grab a pile of jump ropes from the PE teacher and learn jump rope rhymes, have the kids make up their own, choreograph them, create a jump rope grand rondo. Notate rhythms on the sidewalk or blacktop with chalk then rotate teams through and see if they can perform each other’s compositions, add body percussion. Grab that bin of recorders and have a recorder lesson outside. Choose a recorder lesson like “Playing With Improvisation” by Lisa Sullivan where some children perform the movement while others play recorder then switch.
  1. Team up with the PE teacher! If the gym is away from the testing area and it is OK to be noisy in there work together and have a folk dance or line dance lesson together. Have the children use PE equipment to create percussion compositions.

Teach the students Tinikling or create cardio-drumming lessons that meet both PE and Music standards.

  1. If you must stay inside and have some space try quiet movement lessons. Create “quiet” creative movement using scarves, streamers, stretchy bands, fabric even paper plates. Move through the silence, or play quiet music in contrasting styles.  Create “statue” poses or tableaus to represent the contours and texture in the listening examples. Use “Yoga Pretzel” cards to choose stretches and poses to create a beautiful movement product. Have the children listen to music and draw a picture or tell a story based on their listening and then “move” the story while the rest of the class tries to guess what the story was about. Grab some flashlights from the science teacher, cover them with colored cellophane and choreograph a “light dance” on the wall.
  1. Practice reading, writing and performing rhythms. Make notes and rests out of pipe cleaners or Popsicle sticks and the children can use them notate rhythms that you (or they) tap out. Use chopsticks as really quiet rhythm sticks. Play the rhythms on the chopsticks. Use chopsticks in place of rhythm sticks in your favorite rhythm stick lessons. Cut and paste rhythms and perform with body percussion in small groups. Play “rhythm telephone.” In groups of four or five, students sit in a line. I give a rhythm card to the first person in the line. Then they gently tap the rhythm on the hand of the next child. The last child has to write the rhythm on a dry erase board, if they match the team earns a point.
  1. Take a portion of the class time to read amazing picture books and stories about composers, famous musicians or any of your favorite music related stories or books.
  1. If you have access to technology, a quiet music session would be a great time for students to compose using online software or to notate a selection they composed before the quiet music lesson. Take a portion of the lesson to try new iPad apps and music websites the children will enjoy.  Please list your favorite apps and websites in the comments, especially if they are free.
  1. Break out your favorite music “board games” and centers. Rhythm and Instrument Bingo games are commercially available as well as on Teachers Pay Teachers. My students love “I Have Who Has” using rhythms, melody patterns and music terms and symbols. Memory match games using rhythms, melody patterns, composers or instruments can be quiet partner games.  My go to resource for center games is The Big Book of Music Games by Lorilee Malecha. It takes a bit of time to assemble the games and there are so many great ideas in one place.

These are just a few of the possibilities for quiet music lessons. Please share your best ideas in the comments below so we can help each other “Make it Work” when trying to develop quiet lessons during testing.

LeslieAnne Bird

LeslieAnne Bird is a music and movement educator at University Schools in Shaker, Ohio. She teaches general music and choir to fifth through seventh grade young men and is an adjunct Professor at the University of Akron. She has previously taught in North Olmsted & Cleveland Ohio as well as in Prince George’s County, Maryland. LeslieAnne is a national presenter. She has served as vice president and membership chair for the Greater Cleveland Orff Chapter and is currently serving as the content curator for the Teaching With Orff community. In addition, she is the owner and CEO of Three Little Birds Music Education Services LLC where she offers teacher training, coaching and musical experiences for children and adults. She earned Orff Certification from Baldwin Wallace University in 2014, and has completed Music Learning Theory General Music Level One, Level One World Music Drumming training, Level One Google Certification and has earned the Ohio Master Teacher designation.

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  1. Nola Carnine on April 9, 2017 at 12:05 pm

    Do a short play or act out a storybook. Add a short musical motif on a single instrument after each character speaks and/or in between scenes. The students who do not wish to be up in front can help organize the characters “backstage.” Having a student photographer/filmer is fun, too. If there is a consistent rhythm pattern below the improvised motif, the “audience” has to pat & snap to add continuity and to keep the entrances & exits of characters/narrators moving. Stories can be told using narrators with “actors” pantomiming what happens, so speaking lines are not necessary. They love it!

  2. DD on May 3, 2017 at 10:18 am

    I especially love using technology during testing. GarageBand projects are always a hit with my kids. I have used a lot of things from Digital Music Innovations found on Teacherspayteachers.com that have been successful. They work for Macs or on iOS so even when I can’t go to the lab we can team up and do them with the handful of iPads we have on campus.

  3. Jessica Peresta on August 19, 2017 at 12:59 pm

    Ok, this is a great blog post. Testing week is always the worst for music teachers because we’re told to keep the kids quiet (right because that’s so easy). Your ideas are awesome.

  4. D.Dille on April 14, 2019 at 11:29 am

    Unfortunately, all of the testing is now on technology, so there are no computers, tablets or laptops available. Thought of doing Kahoot since I know most of my fifth graders have phones they are not suppose to have in school anyway?

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