Musical Tricks to Help Kids Learn!

Hi and welcome back to Attentionology for K – 5 Teachers!

Ever find yourself tapping a nearby object to the beat of music around you the way I found myself tapping the steering wheel yesterday to the beat of a John Phillip Sousa march playing on my car radio?

Music has the power to move us…all of us…young and old alike, everywhere around the world! Music is an international language.

Composers, performers, teachers, students, many of us come from multicultural backgrounds. Sousa, for example, known as “the March King,” was born in Washington, DC (US) in 1854. Research shows that his father was born in Spain of Portuguese parents and his mother was born in Bavaria (Germany).

The cultures we share can open doors to learning. As the English expression goes, “that’s music to my ears!” Your ears too? Here’s a magical musical tourThe PowWow Drum originated in North America; the Maraca in South America; the Violin in Italy; the Banjo in the Middle East and Africa, the Sitar in India, the Trumpet in China and the Didjeridu, a wind instrument, in Australia. In forty-one italicized words we’ve traveled the world.

Can you sing or play an instrument? Wish I could but I can’t, not well anyway, but I love to move to music and I know this…kids do too. Teaching tricks that include music catch and keep students’ attention!

Following are first notes, if you will, for a few tricks to try with your class…

 How Does the Sun Sound? 

Start a cloudy school day with this statement to set a positive, upbeat tone…Say, “I know that it’s cloudy outside today, so we’ll have to make our sunshine indoors, class.” Then ask, “If the sun made a sound what would it be?” Your answer after the kids’: “Laughter!”

Give Us a Maraca Minute!

Stage a Maraca Minute to transition between lesson.

Keep a pair of maracas, like you see in my blog pic here, handy for a musical transition between lessons.

For example, after you wrap up math time, announce to the class that you’d like a volunteer musician to give the class a Maraca Minute.

Choose a student to come to the front of the room, “center stage;” hand her/him your maracas; command the class to listen to the musical lead-in to the next lesson. After a minute or so, thank the volunteer and tell the class, “On that note, it’s time to turn our attention to learning!”

Create a Crazy Word Teacher’s Cue

Kids LOVE crazy-sounding words! Make up a loooong, silly sounding, attention-getting word with exaggerated spelling (like loooong) and introduce the word to the class as a cue for students to stop, look and listen to you.

Optional approach to this trick: At the beginning of the school term, tell your class that you need them to help you create a crazy word cue for attention-time. Invite suggestions. Write the words on the board. Hold a vote for the class favorite. Post the winner on a classroom wall or bulletin board with a sign identifying the word’s translation: Stop, Look, Listen to (insert your name).

Guess That Sound

Help students develop audio recognition and memory skills by playing different sounds at a designated time and frequency. For example, you can add this to your attentionology teaching tricks to start Mondays once every two weeks.

Couple of ways to work this trick:

1) Ask a family member or friend to make sounds for you to record using ordinary and found objects in your home, such as a spoon banging against a pot. Note the sequence of sounds so that you’ll remember what sounds you’re playing for the class when you lead this activity.

2) Find a large box and collect small musical instruments and objects to bring to class. Just before you introduce this activity put the sound-makers inside the box (out of students’ sight), turn the box on its side so that you can easily access the sound-makers, and set the box on a table with the open side hidden from the students’ view. Cover the box with a piece of fabric so that it looks like a magician’s stage. Play the instruments and objects, one by one, and challenge the kids to guess what they are.

You Be the Conductor!

When students appear distracted or seem like they need a break between lessons, tell them that you have a surprise. Reach for a music player that you’ve brought to class (CD player, iPod, etc.) and tell the kids to get ready to be a conductor during a musical break. Invite them to stand with you and move their arms like a conductor at a symphony, like you see in my blog pic

Playing the role of a symphonic conductor gets the blood pumping!

here. Tell them to move to the rhythm of the music.

         Count the Notes

Roll a math problem into You Be the Conductor time. Play the music of a single instrument for your class, like the famous bugle composition, Taps, by  American Daniel Butterfield  (1831-1901).

Ask the class to count the notes. Taps has only 24.

Tambourine Time

Try this quick and easy variation of the game Musical Chairs. This trick works well for transitions between lessons or class activities, especially when students’ attention levels appear to be waning. Try it. Announce to the class that it’s Tambourine Time…time to stop, stand and stretch while you play a tambourine. Advise students to listen, move to the music, and sit down when the music stops. Who sat first? Kids need a longer break? Play the game again.

Play Quiet Music for Quiet Private Writing Time

Many teachers I’ve worked with play quiet instrumental music during class writing time. The music serves several purposes…Quiet melodic sound can be a writer’s muse. It relaxes listeners, freeing up their thinking. Quiet background music in class also sends this signal: It’s no talking time.

Fun with Music Beyond Music Class

No matter what level of musical proficiency teachers have – all teachers, not only music professionals – music adds fun to learning and teaching. I always say to students I teach, “Have fun writing; stay focused but have fun, because when you have fun writing your (story, poem, report, opinion, etc.) there’s a very good chance that your audience (your teacher, classmates, parents or caregivers) will have fun reading or listening to your work!”

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in any instructional setting!

Talk with you again soon,

Barbara ♥ The Lovable Poet

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