Teaching Musical Form using a variety of teaching strategies is a wonderful way to get students engaged and help them internalize the idea of patterns in music. I’ve found students learn best when given multiple opportunities to learn a concept via differentiated activities. When I teach MUSICAL FORM, I like my students to learn about it through creative movement and many other modes. I feel like it helps them make stronger connections physically, visually and aurally. So I’m sharing creative music class activities to teach form. The following are some super simple musical form activities you can use in your music classroom today.
How do I explain musical form? It depends on which grades and when I use each of these lessons. My students relate to the idea of patterns better than the word form. I begin the class by asking questions like;
“What kinds of patterns do you see in numbers?”
“What kinds of patterns do you see in nature?”
“What kinds of patterns do you see in space?”
Teach Form Using Images
Introduce the idea of Form using images in patterns.
Shapes – Square-Triangle-Circle
Ask a (boy-girl-boy)(girl-boy-girl) to come up to the front of the room. Have them stand in the two different patterns. Discuss with students what they see.
Classical music is perfect for teaching form. Use shapes and images in a class activity where students can hold them up or point to them as they listen.
“Eine Kleine Nacht Musik”
I like to ask the students to listen and show when the music changes. Then I will show the images or shapes during the sections of the music.
Then we describe the music. I may play short selections and ask students to create arm movements for each section.
Then I will show pictures of animals, colors, shapes or letters during the sections of the music.
Depending on time, I will ask students to come up and show the pictures during the song, or I may combine this activity with the instrument game or scarves.
Teach Form Using Instrument Activities
I recently found this fun game to reinforce skills in identifying and demonstrating FORM. The purpose of playing the game is for students to have the experience of musical form. It isn’t necessarily for students to recite the definition and explain. I like to give my students many diverse ways to experience musical concepts.
Listen and respond through movement to Form.
Play the Steady Beat.
Materials: Hula Hoops or buckets
A Song that students can easily identify FORM ( ABA or Verse/Chorus works well).
1 Classroom instrument for each student.
Review or Explain Musical Form:
Play the game:
Students sit in a Circle. Begin with one large circle and then as students learn the game and gain confidence-move to smaller circles. One idea is to use a hula hoop and have the students sit around the circle. Ask them to keep their knees close to the edges.
Teach Form Using Scarf Activities
Listen and respond through movement to Form.
Materials: Scarf for each student
A Song that students can easily identify FORM (ABA or Verse/Chorus works well).
I like to use “Shoo Fly” for the younger students. It’s easy to learn and many of them have heard it before.
A-Shoo fly, don’t bother me (repeat twice)
For I belong to somebody.
B- I feel, I feel, I feel, I feel like a morning star. (repeat)
A- Shoo fly, don’t bother me (repeat twice)
Ask students to sit in a circle. Place a scarf on the floor in front of each student.
During the “A” section wave scarves up and down to the music.
During the “B” section gather scarf into hands and hold close the heart. Pull scarf close on the words “I feel…”
Here’s an Mp3 File of a piano accompaniment of “Shoo Fly” you can use in your music classroom.
As an extension idea, I’ll ask students to brainstorm and create different ways to show the musical form.
Here’s another way to use “Shoo Fly” to teach form to younger students. The teacher joins students in a circle holding hands. During the “A” section, the students move into the center of the circle. During the “B” section, the students weave in and out “windows” of the other students.
YouTube Link https://youtu.be/QIO1UKarlX8
Teach Form Using Body Percussion Activities
One of my favorite songs to use with my Kindergartners is “There’s a Beat” by Teresa Jennings. Before we begin the activity, I tell the students that I want them to listen to the song and when the music changes I want them to stop and listen. Then I turn on the music and they begin to march around the circle. “There’s a beat, there’s a beat, there’s a B-e-a-t, Beat!” The music changes and amazingly, many of them will stop to listen ” 1-2-3-4 hear that marching band”. It’s a moment of wonder and excitement when I clap and say and “yes! you got it!” Let’s keep marching! And we begin again. The students gain confidence in their “musical ears” and now when I say “listen” they have a real experience to relate to and they “know” what it means to listen and how important it is too. You can find the link HERE.
“Turn the Beat Around” is a fantastic song to use with upper elementary students to learn musical form. I have the Making Music Series and have used this song for years in my 4th, 5th and 6th grade classes. I will play the music and let the students “free-move”. Then I ask them to sit down and show the different sections with more define actions. Finally, I’ll ask them to get in groups and create different moves to show the musical form. Watch as these students dance their way through the song changing moves with every section. Although in the video they are not really creating a repeating a pattern for music form, I think that the activity helps students to understand that there are different sections of the music.
I know that you want to get your thing off
But you see I’ve made up my mind about it
It’s got to be the rhythm, no doubt about it, whoa whoa
Cause when the guitar player start playing
With the syncopated rhythm, with the scratch, scratch, scratch
Makes me wanna move my body yeah, yeah, yeah
And when the drummer starts beating that beat
He nails that beat with the syncopated rhythm
With the rat, tat, tat, tat, tat, tat on the drums, hey!
Ask students to create movement, play instruments and dance are great ways to help them understand the concept of musical patterns. As they respond to the patterns through movement they will be able to distinguish the sections of the music.
You may want to check out my Body Percussion resource that I’ve used for several years at the beginning of school and also right after breaks to help students be actively engaged in the music classroom.
Teach Form Using Parachutes and Stretchy Bands
This lesson makes me want a parachute! These kids are having so much fun showing musical form to some Star Wars Music!
Or how about this listening map of Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark?
I can visualize students creating patterns with scarves. You could use the video for the students and help them by holding up letter cards for the sections. Let them experiment with different creative movements for each section.
Stretchy bands really get the kids involved in music class. Ask students to walk on the A sections, stop and move their arms up and down on the B sections, C sections- move in and out. I use many different types of music to help students experience musical form. Check out my blog post on Stretchy Bands.
I also use Pool Noodles with my upper elementary students. Here, my 6th graders created patterns for each section in the music.
I love to use movement to introduce and/or reinforce musical form. I feel that when students experience through movement, they make connections quicker. It makes it easy to follow up with other activities to help all learners understand the concept of musical form.
(I did not receive any remuneration for any of the links. I just wanted to share them with you.)
And a special thank you to these great clip artists for their clip art.
What are some of your favorite ways to teach musical FORM?
Like these ideas?
I hope you’ll share them!
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