There are so many ways to open a class musically.
Just like our morning routine sets the tone for our day as teachers, the opening activities of your music class set the tone for the rest of the lesson.
We want those activities to be:
Pssssst - On the go? Listen to this post instead of reading!
Here is my opening warm up sequence for my room.
Keep in mind that every teaching situation is unique, so if you choose to add any of these to your classroom, be sure to edit and adapt them for your needs.
I use these lesson plan templates to write down my warm up routine each lesson. The format is flexible enough for me, while still providing a lesson structure.
Let’s jump in!
1. Beat or Rhythm
We always start with either a steady beat or rhythm activity.
When we enter, my young students copy my motions. After a few actions from me, I let other students be the leader instead.
At the beginning of the year, all my students will enter keeping a steady beat, even the upper grades. However, upper grades don’t copy my motions. Instead they create their own body percussion pattern. After a few lessons, upper grades make up a rhythm pattern on body percussion as they walk in instead.
(If you read this post, you’ll remember that I’m going into my second full year at my school. My older students are still working on many beginning concepts so I don’t mind spending this time to reinforce steady beat.)
Music for Steady Beat and Rhythm
Anything from John Feierabend’s Keeping the Beat CD is great for this!
For older students I like to add a few more genres to the mix. Here are just two of my favorites.
If you do a composer study or a music history study throughout your year, this would be a perfect time to add that music!
Sometimes we also enter by singing one of our favorite songs. This is especially fun to do if your song has a quick, active game you can play at the end of your warm up routine.
You can read about some of my favorite songs to use at the beginning of class here.
Teacher Talk: Mix it Up!
All of us need change from time to time. One of my favorite ways to do this in the warm up routine is to have a bucket of rhythm sticks at the door. Students grab a pair as they enter and we do the same routine with instruments.
It also works just as well to have other unpitched percussion instruments laid out in a circle. Students enter keeping a steady beat, but once they get to their spot they use the instrument to do the activities. Every so often, have students pass their instruments to the right so more people get a chance to play different instruments.
We always sing hello as a part of our warm up routine, and I always use the tone set we're working on in class for our greeting.
For example, if 2nd graders are working on do, I’m sure to include do in my greeting. If 3rd grade is working on low la, I’ll include that.
What do we sing?
I sing hello to my students, and they sing hello back. From there, I can sing any question I want such as:
How are you today?
What did you have for lunch?
What’s your favorite video game?
Students respond (singing) however they want. Sometimes I take individual responses if I think we have time.
I also like to include a few tonal patterns for students to echo (again, using the tone set they’re working on). For this I use my voice, my alto recorder, or a slide whistle.
Teacher Talk: When a Student Doesn't Sing
If a student doesn’t sing during this part of the lesson, I don’t draw any attention to it. I just make a mental note, and look for vocal participation later in the lesson.
Again, here I like to use rhythms that we are working on in class.
For example, 1st grade rhythms will stick to 4 beat phrases, and use ta and ta-di. In 4th grade many of our patterns will be in 3/4 time.
Students copy my body percussion pattern and we go through a few phrases before moving on to the next activity.
This is a great transition to the next section of the lesson. Here are some quick examples:
Students create a four beat pattern that becomes an ostinato to accompany the song
Students create a four beat pattern with a partner that they later put on percussion instruments
Students copy the teacher’s pattern and then figure it out on rhythm syllables.
Students copy the teacher’s pattern and then figure out what song it is
Students copy the teacher’s pattern while moving to their spots
Teacher Talk: Mix it Up!
Students don’t have to copy you all the time. It’s also fun to ask students to answer your rhythmic question, or you can have a student lead the class in a four beat pattern. You could also clap a pattern and have students echo you on the body percussion of their choice. Enjoy mixing it up!
4. Extra - If We Have Time
Normally we end the warm up with rhythm patterns.
However, if I want to add anything else (like reading patterns or running through a performance song) we do it here.
How Much Time Does This Take?
Though it seems like a lengthy process, in the classroom it actually takes a short amount of time.
This whole routine takes about three or four minutes. If I want to add in something extra, the whole routine takes five minutes maximum.
After the warm up routine we start our regular lesson. You can look at the typical flow of my lessons by downloading my first day of school lesson plans in the Resource Page.
You can also grab the lesson plan templates I use in the Elementary Music Planning Kit.