With schools in harder-hit countries closing due to the new coronavirus, I know I’ll have more colleagues around the world who are forced into online learning or some other kind of remote learning (for students without dependable internet access). So here are twelve quick ideas for continuing the learning even when you can’t be with your students. (For now, we are hoping the distance learning won’t last long, so these activities are a bit on the laid-back side.) This post focuses more on upper primary grades. Please see this post for early years ideas.

Have them learn songs that you pick out, or post yourself, on YouTube. You can ask your students to record themselves singing the song once they’ve learned it. If you want to level it up, then ask them to figure out the Solfege and sing it. They could sign it along with the recording, or even as they sing. You could tell them which note is Do, or have them figure it out. If they aren’t ready for that, they can show the melodic contour by moving their hands up and down as they sing. Parents can record it on a phone and share it with you.

Along a similar vein, they could choose a favorite song of their own and figure out the Solfege. Have them submit a video of them signing or singing the Solfege. If your school uses Seesaw, for example, they could post it there.

Students can create a piece of body percussion that fits with one of their favorite songs. The body percussion should have a form that matches the song (for example, verse-refrain with a contrasting bridge).

Students can put on a small recital for their family and friends, performing songs or instrumental pieces. They could make a program that lists the pieces and composers, along with some short program notes. They could design tickets and a poster with the information about who, where, and when—maybe even add a logo! Perhaps they could even have a guest artist join them for some of the recital. If they want to share, they could Skype you in, post it online somewhere, or send a recording of part of it.

Students can create a drum set using things they find at home, but not just a collection of drums. Think about what is in a drum set. What can replicate the sound of the bass drum? What can be the tom, snare, hi-hat, ride cymbal? What would make good sticks, that make a good sound and are also easy enough to control? Can they set their materials up the way a drum kit is set up? You choose the level of detail you want, but this can be a really fun exploration of this instrument, teaching kids to appreciate that it’s not just a bunch of random stuff to bang on.

Start a piece using Chrome Music Lab’s Song Maker. Set it up with the number of measures, octaves and divisions you want, and enter in one phrase. The students should finish the composition in a way that relates what you’ve done. This is easy to do: Just create the piece, enter what you want, and you can share via a link. The students receive a link to that project, which they can edit and share via a new link. Students who need an extra challenge can notate it once it’s done.

The Classics for Kids Note Names Game has an explanation of how to name the notes in both treble and bass clefs, which is great for students who haven’t had a solid introduction yet. Then the game has them name notes to spell words, with the option of treble or bass clef. You can have students work with this for a while, and then ask them to think of, and notate, some words of their own in each clef. They can use rulers to draw staff lines, or you can share some staff paper for them to print. If you want them to hand it in, they can scan or snap a photo to send to you. 

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Send this Music Bingo home to your students, to get them making music at home. 

Looking for ideas for distance learning activities or choice boards? Check out this collection of 250 ideas! Plus, both pre-filled and blank, editable Music Bingo and Listening Bingo cards to get you started right away!

Share a Padlet with some inspiring or uplifting songs that will help students to feel less anxious during this challenging time. Open it up so students can also add their own ideas, suggestions, and comments.

Encourage the students to start a listening log. You might share a list of suggested pieces, perhaps as a YouTube playlist, or they can get suggestions (of songs they don’t already know) from friends or family members. Each time they listen, they can write a few words that describe the music and/or how it makes them feel. If they want, they can draw what they imagine when they hear the music.

If you want to make a connection to another subject, have the students choose a character from something they are reading, and make up a theme song (or for the more advanced, a leitmotif) for that character. They could write up a brief explanation of how the music fits the character.

Challenge them to keep a running list of all the times they hear music throughout the day. Where, when, and what kind? Was there music where they’d never noticed it before? What was the purpose of the music?

Schools closed for #coronavirus? Check out these 12 easy ideas for elementary general music #distancelearning – keep it simple and challenge them to make genuine connections to music in their lives! #onlinelearning #musiced Share on X

Keep it fairly simple, remembering that students may not have a lot of support at home, particularly with something that requires specific musical skills or understanding. The instructions should be clear and concise, written as steps or bullet points, rather than a paragraph. I’ve also been told that it will take students three or four times longer to complete a task at home, compared to doing it at school with you. And if you are posting videos, I really recommend keeping them short, like 2-4 minutes. 

One more thing
If you are using a copyrighted resource, be sure you are not violating it. Sharing is caring, but if you are using resources that you have purchased (for example, from the iTunes store, TeachersPayTeachers, or a music publisher), be sure that each teacher has purchased their own, and if you need a copy for each student, that each copy is legal.

12 EASY Ideas for Distance Learning in Elementary General Music
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