Take it Outside!
As the weather gets warmer, and classrooms get much warmer (especially for those of us without air conditioning) taking the kids outside can be a nice change for music learning! I’ve compiled a selection of lesson ideas for meaningful and engaging music lessons in the out-of-doors.
- Any of the singing games you teach inside can go outside. Those who teach on a cart or have small rooms can go outside and play the singing games that are a challenge to play in restricted space. Some favorites for my students are, Cut the Cake, Ye Toop Doram, Acka-Backa, Chicken on a Fencepost, and “I Have Who Has” review games. These games can be found in most music series books and in online lessons for free.
Singing outside can be tons of fun too.
- Have a “campfire singalong!” Set up a fake campfire with flashlights to battery-operated tea lights and tissue-paper. Set up benches or logs around the “fire” grab a guitar or ukulele and teach your students all the camp songs you know.
- On another day go “camp song caroling”! Walk around the school and sing camp songs (instead of holiday carols) at the first-floor windows around campus.
- Blow bubbles, sing and move the contour of a bubble as it blows away. Some students move and sing while some watch then switch roles.
- Grab a few picnic blankets and sing the song “Going On A Picnic”. Bring out a basket full of fake picnic food from the toy store, laminated pictures of food or those squishy toys the kids love so much. This song is great for working on solo singing skills. “Teddy Bear Picnic” would be a fun addition to the theme.
Many times, props are difficult to use in the classroom due to space and safety concerns. Going out doors opens up the space to move and use those exciting props.
- Jump rope rhymes are fun! Teach the rhymes and jump rope to the beat. Jump faster or slower. Compose B section chants and notate them on the ground in chalk. Choose a form and add body percussion and voices to the second section.
- Stories with songs, vocal sounds, body percussion and small instruments are great to read and perform outside. Possum Come A Knockin’ by Nancy Van Lann and Baby Rattlesnake told by Te Ata are outdoor favorites for me. Choose stories you wish to take outside and make a bucket or bag for each story. The children carry the supplies for you!
- Tennis balls and basketball bouncing to the beat games can be found online. Grab a blue tooth speaker and take those lessons to the playground where there is enough space for everyone to bounce and play without bumping into each other.
- Parachute and stretchy band games/songs would be even more fun in the sunshine and fresh air!
- Borrow hula hoops from the gym and take a drum along. Do some quick reaction activities. Play beats while the children move in a variety of ways, (walk, tip-toe, skip etc.) When the drum stops they have to jump in the hoop. This can also be an elimination game, remove hoops as more and more students are “out”.
- Everyone finds a stone or stick, sit in a circle and play all the stone and stick passing games that you know. Put the stones and sticks back when you are finished.
- Click here for a fun “Music Tug of War” lesson from “Floating Down the River on the Ohio” music blog.
Folk dance is fun inside, it is also fun outside!
- Draw a circle in sidewalk chalk and perform all the circle folk dances you have worked on this year. “Sashay the Donut” is a great outdoor circle dance! Play music on your Bluetooth speaker.
- Play parties require no recorded music, draw “sets” on the ground with chalk so the kids can easily stay in lines. “The Noble Duke of York” and “Alabama Gal” are great places to start!
End of year review takes a new turn when you include fresh air and a new space.
- Play rhythm and/or sol-fedge hopscotch. Draw a few hopscotch boards and fill the squares with rhythms or melodic patterns to read. The students must hop and read the music to earn the point. Be sure to include supports for students who may need them.
- Get some cheap paint brushes and cups of water. Paint brush rhythms using the water on the pavement. The kids must clap the rhythms before they dry. (This game is more challenging the hotter it gets!) Give pairs of students a paint brush and take turns “painting” rhythmic dictation on the sidewalk.
- Draw big squares with the notes of the treble, bass or grand staff all over the black top in chalk. Play a note review game by calling out a note name and asking the kids to run to the answer. Make up a song and play it on uke or guitar so they can sing along. When you say or sing the letter name at the end of the song, they run to find the correct note.
- Use “found items” as iconic notation or markers to label phrase form.
- Take those recorder, ukulele, or bell songs outside and let the kids practice in teams. They will be able to hear themselves better, and you will too.
- Any drum, ukulele, or recorder lesson would work well outside. If you have a projector on your phone, you may be able to project charts on the shady side of the building!
Use the skills the students already have to make something new.
- Go outside and LISTEN! (How long can they listen? Time it!) Journal, recreate sounds, compose sound carpets or vocal exploration pieces using the recreated sounds they hear around them. Improvise a story to go with your music.
- Make “story stones” for musical stories or rhythm stones or melody stones or chord progression stones then hide them. Have students find the stones and organize the order of a musical story like Peter and the Wolf or compose and perform rhythmic or melodic compositions by rearranging the rocks.
- List all of the folk dance moves they know in chalk. Add one or two of their own and create a new dance or play party.
- Collect items and work in small teams to build an instrument out of items found on the grounds, compose ostinatos and sing favorite songs with their instruments.
I hope I have inspired you to take your music lessons outside. If you have great ideas for outdoor lessons please add them to the post by writing your ideas in the comments below.