Elementary Music Lesson: Daily Routine

When I began teaching music in the elementary grades I learned [very quickly] that younger children need a consistent, predictable, and well-planned routine. Of course, any student of any age can benefit from this, but I found myself being a bit more spontaneous in middle school.

Before the Lesson:

My to-do list:
  • Launch ClassDojo
  • Launch my Rhythm Routine
  • Turn on projector
  • Open all programs needed for the lesson (UK Curriculum, Chrome, iTunes)
  • Sound check speakers
  • Tune instruments that will be used
  • Prepare mallets, sheet music, and any other materials I need
  • Vacuum

Entrance Procedure - 2 Minutes

I have a very specific entrance procedure. You can read about it here: Entrance Procedure - Classroom Management

In essence, the students must remove their shoes (I work in Japan), line up, and listen. I then greet them, they greet me back, and I let them know what the agenda for the day will be. I ask if they have any changes to suggest and adjust accordingly. 

School Song - 3 Minutes

We have a school song we sing at the beginning of every lesson. While students sing the school song I choose 2 random students (using ClassDojo) to pass out books and resources we will need for the lesson that day. 

Rhythm Drills - 3 to 5 Minutes

We do 2 different types of rhythm drills
  1. We follow the videos on my Rhythm Routine
  2.  Using Drum Loops (click here for some in several tempo variations), I have students clap through rhythm exercises. I really like the PDF Book from SIS Bands

Solfege Hand Signals Warmups - 3 Minutes

Like many music teachers, we have the Curwen hand signs on the wall. Even though most of the kids have memorized the hand signals, they all like to look at the wall while we practice. 

For an additional challenge: ask your kids to use both hands or to close their eyes. I give my students lots of praise for pushing themselves.

Here is a great video to introduce the kids to the hand signals. For some reason, they love to watch and re-watch it. 

Japanese Standardized Material - 10 Minutes

All students attending public schools (and some private schools) in Japan must abide by the MEXT Objectives for each subject. The MEXT Objectives for music highlight a list of songs that students must learn in each grade level. 

The government provides all students a music book and provides all teachers a piano score version of the book and compact discs with recordings of all of the songs. The recordings include an audio performance of the song and a karaoke version. 

I recently installed a microphone and amplifier in the classroom and the students are loving it. They feel like they are at a real karaoke house!

Playing Instruments - 15 Minutes

Okay, so I used to have all the students on the same instrument whenever we played instruments in class. Why? Because I was afraid of the chaos that would inevitably ensue if I gave different instruments to the students. 

Now the students can choose from one of the following instruments
  • Keyboard (Piano)
  • Ukulele
  • Sanshin (local Okinawan instrument)
  • Push Bells
  • Xylophone
  • Metallophone
  • Guitar (SOMETIMES, I let the students try to play the guitar, but only if I have an easy tab for the guitar and the student has shown mastery on the ukulele)
For about 3 months now I have given up that belief and have let the students choose the instrument they want to play in class. I am in the process of writing music in matching key signatures for them. Click here to use them in your classroom too (yes, they are free).

Performance/Playing Test

I give the students 5 minutes to learn the content in 1 line of music. At the end of the 5 minutes, I press the random button on ClassDojo to select a student to perform what they've learned. 

The student may accept the challenge, play for the class, and earn 2 points for giving a Satisfactory performance, or 5 points for giving an Outstanding performance. 

The student may also "pass" with no penalty. Why? Because I want the students to want to perform, and most do! Most want to see their ClassDojo score go up and most want to show off what they've learned to do on their instrument. 


Students must return everything to its rightful place, go back to their seat, and show me they are ready to go back to their homerooms by sitting quietly in a clean classroom. 

I usually dismiss students by groups or areas. If an area is not clean, I ask the students to double-check their areas. 

When dismissed, students must walk to the door. If they run, they must come back to their seat.

Teaching Chords/Tab on Ukulele

When I teach ukuleles, I use the free PDF printables from Doctor Uke or CapoTasto (my personal favorite).  I switch between teaching chords and tab.

Click play below to see how I teach chords

If you want to see how I teach tab, press play on the video below. 
Disclaimer: these videos are for teachers to see my technique. If you think that I should make one for the students, leave me a comment below!


I also use this pretty cool PDF Boomwhacker Songbook. Sometimes if I have a lot of absenses in class and I want to do away with the lesson plan, I give each student a boomwhacker or two, we form a big circle, and we play these songs. 


  1. Love the video Ukulele instructional video. I am going to have to watch the other 3 before it.

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