Through being in contact with over 55,000 music teachers from around the world every week, I know that the upper primary or elementary age is one of the most challenging groups that teachers have to work with on a regular basis.
In most situations these are students who are not really old enough to be in full band programs or learning instruments, yet they are too old for many of the general music activities they did in the early years.
We are talking about kids around the age of 10 to 12 years, who are generally given one or two general music classes every week in their school.
It’s a real challenge, as these kids can be way too ‘cool’ to sing songs and play tunes on xylophones and recorders… but physically, they are not yet ready for band instruments or drums and guitars like they might be ready for in high school.
So what do you do in music lessons?
What we found in our research was variety and surprises work best with this age group, but they have to be relevant and age appropriate.
So we’ve come up with a couple of our own original innovations recently to help teachers keep the “cool” factor in lessons, but provide stimulating educational lesson resources at the same time.
Here’s what our two most recent innovations are:
This was a concept we came up with for getting kids at the upper primary level to become more engaged with playing untuned percussion instruments….and we called it ‘Bucket Beats’
This is because students at upper primary or elementary have probably hit tambourines and claves in music class since they were in grade one. They are most likely “over it” and might just take the chance to misbehave…..is that right?
For this reason we realised that we needed to come up with some kind of activity which is age appropriate, but will still be a challenge. We also knew that this new activity needs to be achievable physically. It just wouldn’t work if we came up with a rock drumming program at this level because a) physically some students are just not big enough, b) not all students have the co-ordination skills to do it well at this age and c) not all primary or elementary schools have this type of equipment or space.
So the answer is……. to challenge them to get multiple sounds from one, inexpensive instrument.
With Bucket Beats, you have the option to use anything available to you that will make three different sounds.
You could use “junk percussion” buckets with a set of drumsticks. Here you can get multiple sounds by hitting the end (a low sound), hitting the side (a higher sound) and then hitting two drumsticks together.
You could use a tambourine where you can shake it ( a low sound), or you can hit it(a higher sound) and then you can clap hands or snap fingers together.
You could use a Boomwhacker where you could hit it on the floor (a low sound), hit it on your other hand( a higher sound) and snap fingers together.
Even if you have no instruments at all, you can still do this activity as body percussion. You can have them pat their legs (low sound), clap hands (high sound) and click fingers together to make up the multiple sounds.
Here’s how we’ve notated it to make it easy for students to read:
From here it really doesn’t take long until students are reading and playing conventional rhythm notation fluently!
This is an idea that we’ve been working on really hard throughout this past year. We’ve designed this component to our most recent resources to help engage and motivate kids at this age group while it simultaneously meets the need in most curricula to get 10-12 year old children to sing and use their voices.
There are a couple of real benefits to this activity:
1) They can use their voices in a non threatening way.
Most kids (particularly the boys) at this age really shy away from singing. If you think about it, it’s easy to understand why. Boys voices change at this age, and they feel very self concious about it. Beatboxing allows them to use their voice in a positive manner, and they’re making real music.
2) They can learn rhythm notation without the need for co-ordination
Playing rhythms on the drums requires co-ordination and technical skill.. neither of which is very easy to develop at a young age. By using the voice they can master quite complicated beats without having to be able to co-ordinate their hands and feet to play them- and I’m sure you already know that when you can say it first or verbalise it, it becomes so much easier to play later on.
Have a look here at one of our most recent videos to find out how easy it is to get started with beatboxing:
These are just two of the ideas we’ve come up with over the past year to help motivate 10-12 year olds in the music classroom. Over the past year, we’ve actually found ten types of activities that will get your upper primary or elementary students inspired and having fun in their music classes.
For a more detailed video on what these are and how to use them and a free printable report, just visit https://funmusicco.com/interactive-whiteboard-music-lessons/upper-primary/