Reviewing and Relevancy in Music Class after a Long Break


We all like breaks. I took a mini-hiatus from blogging to devote more time to my CASA kiddos. It’s beautiful and emotional all at the same time.  But for you teachers, especially if you’re a public school teacher, the break was pretty much needed for your physical and mental health. I hope you were able to take advantage of the healing a break can give you.

Unfortunately, next week begins a new year and for most of you, the end to your winter break. And darn it! I have to say it again, it brings a lot of the unknown. COVID decided to mutate again into Omicron. Political issues might not have been addressed. Your kids who need SEL might need to be re-triaged. You have to be ready with your “bring it! I got this!” face. Pooh on that. It’s tough enough to return from a break without all this other stuff facing you. Now, more than ever, you mustn’t STRESS about turning cartwheels lesson plans. You need to review. But you need not go into crazy detail and start composing or rehearsing for a program if you still have one going on or break out the recorders and start something new. You need to come back to something comfy and familiar like kids love that old blankie they hang onto. Your kids desperately need that, too. 

Here is your After Break 2022 Survival Handbook……

  • Break out the familiar movement games. You will have to assess their behavior as they come in on the first day, of course, so have a variety of movement games in mind so you can switch as needed. Don’t limit them by age. If your fifth graders haven’t done Charlie Over the Ocean since kindergarten, and they want to do Charlie Over the Ocean (and seem to be able to handle it appropriately), let them. (True story. Sixth grade was the oldest grade in my building, and in May, they all wanted to do Charlie Over the Ocean because it was a comfort game of their childhood. They were nervous about moving on to middle school.)
    Kids can also do something as simple as mirroring with a partner to TV theme songs (my go-to was the Theme from Doctor Who), shadowing, or any type of movement that calls for concentration and focus. I’ll be listing some of my favorites further down the page.
  • Don’t rule out reviewing with technology. You are probably sick of it, but consider keeping it in the background. To be totally honest, you can’t be sure your school won’t go remote again. Be prepared for that. Using something you already had set up for Google Classroom or found on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning can allow your kids to review quietly and stay distanced if necessary. Look for items that have answer sheets or provide instant feedback. 
  • Let them read. How is that related to music?? You can take what they read and use words to create speech pieces later when everything is as routine as it’s going to get. More on that in a week or two. (BUT, I will have a free lesson plan for anyone who signs up for my newsletter or who is already on it because I keep a Google folder of freebies just for those folks! Look for it by January 1.)
  • Provide review puzzle pages and worksheets. You can either print them, or you can check Teachers Pay Teachers for any worksheets that might be in their Easel format. Additionally, you can scan or upload them into Seesaw if you use it. (See my blog post on the basics of Seesaw.)

Detailed Activities:

Movement Ideas

  • Charlie Over the Ocean. Concepts and desirable skills learned: Echo, acceptance of losing. 
    Like any other playsong, there are a variety of lyrics, since it is a folk game. Here are some ideas:

    Beth’s Notes
    Kodaly Center for Music Education
    We’d add a little extra when we played. I’d often play walking music with an open fifth. If the child was tagged, we’d say “Oh, no, fishie got caught”. If the child made it, we’d say “Yay, yay, the fish got away”. (I taught the song using “big fish” instead of “blackbird”)
  • Sasha. A huge favorite from New England Dance Masters. This video gives you some idea of how to play this game, but basically, there is a section where the children walk around and on a signal, they must find a new partner. To make this less frantic, you can have half the children wear Mardi Gras beads. Beads have to find non-beads. This also avoids the gender issue. How can you distance if your COVID numbers are up again? If you have the room, have your children back up the right number of feet, and then during the walking music, ask them to walk in a circle. Don’t change partners.
  • Other Activities for Lower Grades: I have written about this in my posts on kindergarteners and keeping class kinesthetic.
  • Activities for Older Students: My older student enjoyed a variety of movement activities that incorporated the basics of movement I learned as prequels to music improvisation. Your students can do mirroring activities or shadowing activities to various styles of music. Here are simple directions:
    *Establish a quick but safe way to divide the class into partner groups. Use the bead suggestion as provided above, or use partner cards (free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store). I would ask the students to rock, paper, scissors to see who the leader would be and who the “reflection” or “shadow” would be. In mirroring, the students are facing each other. In shadowing, the shadow is behind the leader. Use an instrument like a triangle or rachet to determine when the student pairs would change “jobs”.

Little or No Prep Activities

  • Speech Pieces. Speech pieces are not as complicated as they sound, and they are pretty easy to create. You can use any form of reading medium, select words from the reading sample and create word phrases that can easily be said rhythmically. Here’s an example of ostinati I recorded on A Capellla, using word phrases from the book I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon James. If you are feeling a little ambitious and have the materials, you can utilize rhythm pattern cards for the students to match with the word phrases. In fact, in my next newsletter, going out on January 2, I will have a free speech piece lesson plan with word cards and reading sources already provided. To get it, just opt-in for my newsletter!

Check Teachers Pay Teachers

There are oodles of worksheets, puzzle pages, and simple activities provided by excellent music teachers, all ready to go for you. You won’t need anything complicated at all!

From my TPT store, these activities are good for review or movement with little prep:

Take these activities and enjoy them with the kids! Let yourself have fun with them. Do what you can to enjoy your classroom during times when things might be pretty tough in education. 

Take care….



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Hi there!

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.

I am an elementary music teacher and adjunct professor from Missouri and have just completed my Ph.D. in music education through the University of Kansas.


Weekly teaching support, right to your inbox!​