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Music Lessons for the Virtual Classroom

Music lessons for the virtual classroom: Ideas to keep students engaged during their elementary music lessons!

Are you teaching virtually, and wondering how to put together a cohesive, engaging lesson? In this blog post, I’ll detail a structure for writing virtual lessons, and will include some of my favorite activities!

This year, I’ve been teaching 100% virtually, to the students who are virtual. It has been a bit of a learning curve. There is a lot about teaching virtually which does feel the same…but also a lot that feels different! So how can you write and teach a lesson that can work virtually? Here are five tips for writing and teaching a fun, engaging, quick-paced lesson!

#1: Include an opening activity

Just like you would with in person lessons, some kind of opening activity works well for virtual teaching. Once you are ready to begin, and most or all of the students have “arrived,” you could do some kind of gathering activity.

For K-2, this might include a song, such as “Here we are together” (to the tune of “The more we get together.”) For this, I sing through each of the students’ names, going down the attendee list, and have them wave as I sing their name. I’ve also begun doing greetings, in which I sing to students and they sing back their answers. At first, they might have to do this with their microphones off (because of wi-fi latency) but if you are listening to students sing solos, you could hear them sing!

For grades 3-5, it might be a well-loved song, or a mindful minute, which could help them get focused. For more about mindful minutes, click here to listen to a podcast from Music Teacher Coffee Talk.

#2: Get them away from their computer

My district is thankfully limiting the amount of hours students are in front of their device to three hours…but in our home district, my second grade daughter was in front of her iPad for SIX hours a day (that is, until we decided it was best to homeschool her.) Kids are often sitting for a long time in front of their device or computer, so it’s wonderful if you can get them away for a little bit! To do this, you could have students go on a scavenger hunt for something like:

  • A piece of paper and writing utensil to write a vocal exploration pathway
  • A piece of paper and writing utensil to write rhythm patterns
  • An instrument in their house, or a household instrument, to echo rhythm patterns
  • A stuffed animal, to use in a game or for a beat buddy

While students are looking for an item, I’ve shared my screen and used these three timers, depending on the activity, to give students a time frame. Just make sure that you also share audio when you share you screen, so students can hear the fun music!

#3: Play the unmuting game

I created video conference signs (which you can download for free below!) which help students know how to mute and unmute, raise their hands, etc. We have to be on mute for much of the lesson, because of different wi-fi speeds, but every now and then I like to play what my colleague Ashley has dubbed the “unmuting game.” Here are some ideas for when to play the unmuting game:

  • To listen to students do vocal exploration (as a solo, or as a group)
  • To do a grizzly bear roar at the end of the song “Grizzly Bear” (which can be found here)
  • To listen to students all play whatever they want on the instruments they found during their scavenger hunt
  • To sing something silly (all at the same time, which will be super messy but fun!)
  • To say hello
  • To say goodbye

#4: Get them up and moving

A lot of students are spending A LOT of time in front of their devices, so I like to add at least one movement activity into each lesson. Examples include:

  • Keeping the beat in different ways to pieces of music with a great steady beat (check out this CD for some great examples; note: this is a referral link.)
  • Freeze dance, using these signs from Artie Almeida's website and the “Potpourri” track from this CD (Note: this is also a referral link)
  • Creative movement
  • Folk dancing which can be done virtually (check out this blog post)

#5: Adapt singing games

Even when kids are virtual, they want to play games! Check out this blog post for some games that could be played while social distancing, or while virtual!

Here are a couple more ideas:

  • Play “Bee Bee” with stuffed animals, instead of with students’ fists  (check out this video)
  • Play “We are dancing” by having students dance while singing, then freeze when the music stops. If the wolf puppet catches them not frozen, they are “caught”!
  • Play “See Saw” by having students play with an invisible partner

Think about how a game is typically played, then think about how it might be adapted a bit, so students will still have fun!

Download the free video conference signs here:

I hope this has been helpful to you as you are teaching virtually! Happy teaching!

2 Responses

  1. Hello! Thank you for your wonderful website. Do you teach children visually? I was looking for a remote music class for my 1st grader. Thank you.

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