Keep 'em Busy

Happy May! I hope you are enjoying the last few weeks you have with your students. This is Jamie, and I’ve got just a little over a month left with my k-4th graders. In this final stretch, I have to remind myself of the best classroom management technique I have ever learned: Keep ‘em Busy!

I don’t know about your students, but mine seem to go crazy once we hit May. If they have even a few moments of down time, they take full advantage of it! My best mentor teachers have all taught me to make every second count in the classroom. Music class needs to be so engaging and fun that the students only have time to think about joyful music making.

Here are some of my favorite activities for my older students that seem to go over well during the month of May:

Magical Pattern Aural Game
This activity could be used in preparing or practicing any rhythm or melody concept. Choose one pattern to be “magical.” Since my fourth graders are currently practicing Tom Ti (dotted quarter/eighth note), I might use the pattern “Tom Ti Ta Ta” as the magical pattern.

Place many circles around the room. You could use Poly Spots or even foam circles.

Then, have the students march around the room. Tap many patterns as the students march. Whenever you tap the magical pattern (Tom Ti Ta Ta), the students must stand on a circle. After each round of play, take away 3-5 circles. Those students not on a circle when the pattern is tapped are out.

Write Melodic Patterns with Manipulatives
I love using manipulatives in the classroom! My students love to have objects in their hands to write with, and I have found that it is super easy to assess them as they’re working. I try to have many different types of manipulatives so that the students view each writing experience as something “new.”

Right now, my students are practicing the melodic pitch fa. I purchased these small wood blocks from my local craft store:

On each side of the blocks, I put a different solfa pitch (d r m f s l) with permanent marker. Then, I bagged the blocks up for my students. I am going to have my students work in pairs for this activity, so I made 15 different bags with 8 blocks each (120 blocks total).

When students are writing patterns, they will choose the pitch and show the contour with their blocks like this (pattern is from the song, On a Mountain):

You could have your students take dictation with these blocks or you could even have them compose their own patterns.

Save the best games for May
I try to save some of the all-time favorite games for the end of the year. One of the favorites at my school is Ye Toop Doram:

Game Formation: Seated in a Circle
Game Play: During the song, a ball is passed every two beats (twice per measure). Stop passing the ball on the word, “seh.” The student with the ball on the word, “seh,” goes to the middle of the circle. The other students roll the ball back and forth across the circle, trying to tag the student in the middle. The student in the middle must dodge the ball for the entire “Kel kel kel lee-a-lee-a” section. For more fun, you could add multiple balls.

Move, Move, Move!
During the final month of school, I like to add more folk dances to my lessons to allow for more movement. One of my favorites is “Los Machetes” which is included in Sanna Longden’s book, More Folk Dance Music for Kids and Teachers.
Perform the search, “Los Machetes Stick Dance,” on YouTube to view the dance. So much fun!

Enjoy your last few weeks of school!


  1. Fun ideas, Jamie! Thank you!! :-)

  2. LOVE the block idea! I will be hitting up my craft store this week!

  3. Love the Poly Dots game. Can't wait to try it! It's so adaptable to different ages and skills :)


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