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Back to School Composition Activities

Composition Activity Ideas for Back to School

back to school music composition music literacy Aug 17, 2021

      Elementary music teachers have a lot of content and standards to keep track of. Many of us feel more confident teaching some concepts than others. For example, I’ve always been solid with rhythms and feel that I pass that along well to my students. However, a common struggle among many music teachers is how to teach composition. The word “composition” itself often strikes fear in the hearts of teachers, and many undergraduate programs hardly touch on the concept. Today, I want to help you feel more comfortable empowering your students to compose their own music!

Chance Compositions

      An easy way to get students started with composing is to leave certain aspects up to chance. You can find a few easily accessible activities on That Music Teacher’s TPT store,  including composing for recorders and boomwhackers. Essentially, students will roll dice to decide what rhythms and notes to use in their compositions. It takes the stress of choice off of the student, but they still get the experience of creating a brand new piece of music!

Extension Activities

      Do your students have a song they absolutely love? I’m sure a few just popped into your head! With many pieces, students can create new ostinato patterns using phrases from the song to add onto the piece. Another option is to have students use manipulatives to create 4-, 8-, or even 16-beat patterns to add onto their favorite piece. If your song is about fruit, students could use fake fruit to create a pattern that they would have to clap and say out loud. Taking that another step forward, you could use this activity to create an ABA form with the original song. (Thank you to Aileen Miracle for this idea!) Get creative with the music you already use!

Work Within Specific Parameters

      When I took a playwriting class in high school, my teacher told me that rules/specifications/guidelines can actually encourage more creativity rather than hinder it. This was always true for me. When presented with the prompt “write a song,” I panic. There’s too many possibilities! Even small guidelines such as “write an 8 beat song with only one rest and at least one tika-tika” can be less overwhelming for many students. This is also a great way to check to see if students are truly grasping the concepts you’ve been working on!

Variations on a Theme

      Another fun activity to do with your students would be to show them the music for a familiar song (ex. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) and have them create a variation. Again, giving them parameters to work within would make this activity less intimidating. You could work one phrase at a time, have them only change the rhythm, move notes up or down a certain number of steps, the possibilities are endless! 

      What are some ways you’ve come up with to incorporate composition into your classroom? Let us know in the comments! If you’re still stuck on where to begin, be sure to visit That Music Teacher on Teachers Pay Teachers for some activities to get you started!

This article was submitted by Rachel Ammons, contributing author for Interested in becoming a contributing author? Email resume and writing sample to [email protected].

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