It’s Elementary

Krista Carney • May 2024Modern Band • May 6, 2024

Have you ever thought, “Modern band sounds great but I don’t have the time, instruments, or patience to do modern band with my younger students”? Your littles may not be ready to rock out independently, but the modern band ideas of using popular music can add some pizzazz to elementary music classes. Here are some easy-to-implement ideas you can use this week!

To count rhythm flashcards, use a drum loop from Garage Band or other music creation software, a backing track from YouTube, or even a drum setting on a keyboard.

Use the song every kid is singing in the hallway to play “copycat.” 

Or use that song to alternate walking with a steady beat to standing still while keeping a steady beat with tapping on a neighbor’s shoulder. Use a fun instrument, like a slide whistle or vibraslap to signal when to switch from walking to tapping.

Use special events like kindergarten graduation to use a popular song with alternate lyrics. A quick internet search will yield these. Lyrics can also be changed to be personalized for your school and teaching situation.

To find out what is popular for students at your school, you can create a survey for your older students to complete or just ask what their favorite songs are right now and if there are any you can use with the younger students. Look up the lyrics because students don’t always know what is appropriate. Even if you only come up with two or three songs this way, you can vary the activities by grade level and get a lot of mileage out of a few songs. Almost any activity you do with classical music can be done with popular music.

Another way to find out what the students are listening to outside of school is to make an anticipatory set or exit question. 

Since introducing popular music in my classes, I have found my students to be more open to different kinds of music. There are rules about opinions and kindness that are explained and enforced, such as “even if you do not like something, it might be someone’s favorite, so we keep our opinions to ourselves.”

These are just a few of the easy-to-implement ideas and activities for elementary general music.

Krista Carney is a music teacher in Winfield, Pennsylvania. 

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