Favorite Elementary Music Lessons | January 2021

January 1, of course, is the start of a brand new year! No matter what the past year has brought, I always work to start the year off with a positive, fresh attitude. Out with 2020. It is a BRAND NEW YEAR. Let’s ALL work together to make our corner of the world a better place. It is time to gather up all YOUR favorite elementary music lessons and dive in!

YOU are the most important factor in creating a successful, positive music program at your school, whether you are teaching in-person or via distance learning. Look for ways to SIMPLIFY and STREAMLINE your classes. Less is more when you choose FEWER activities that are more EFFECTIVE. With careful PLANNING you can make this a GREAT year in your elementary music classroom!

Ideas, Activities, and Lessons for the Elementary Music Classroom | January Favorites

Read on for some inspiration and to see some of my favorite elementary music lessons. Don’t miss the FREE song link for Chinese New Year and the FREE PRINTABLE and DIGITAL Treble Clef Staff for use with manipulatives.

My Favorite Quote of All Time

I love quotes! My favorite quote of ALL time is from Maya Angelou. It is a mantra that I try to live my life by.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” ~Maya Angelou

Isn’t that what we always want our students to do? As teachers, we are always learning too. At times, we are even learning more than our students. If some lessons have not gone well for you in the past, get out there and find new lessons, ideas, and activities. Analyze what areas you need to improve and “do better”. That is all anyone can ask.

January Holidays and Observances

I had no idea there were so many holidays and observances during the month of January! Undoubtedly, the most important day to make sure you celebrate is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. His actual birthday is January 15, but this year it will be celebrated nationally on January 18.

  • January 1 – New Year’s Day
  • January 4 – National Spaghetti Day and Trivia Day
  • January 5 – National Bird Day
  • January 6 – Epiphany – Three Kings Day
  • January 12 – National Hot Tea Day
  • January 15 – National Hat Day
  • January 18 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
  • January 18 – Winnie the Pooh Day -The Birthday of A.A. Milne
  • January 19 – National Popcorn Day
  • January 21 – Squirrel Appreciation Day/National Hugging Day (Socially Distanced this Year)
  • January 23 – National Handwriting Day
  • January 24 – Compliment Day
  • January 26 – Australia Day
  • January 28 – National Kazoo Day

Weekly Observances

  • January 10-16 Letter Writing Week

Monthly Observances

  • National Braille Literacy Month
  • National Hobby Month
  • Hot Tea Month
  • National Oatmeal Month
  • National Soup Month

Celebrate the Life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

This song and lesson are truly among my most favorite elementary music lessons of all time! And, it is appropriate for any time of year. This Orff Arrangement of Oh, Freedom is a multitasking, differentiated lesson which is designed for grades K-5. This resource includes two short biographies of Dr. King, one for primary and one for intermediate grades.

Oh, Freedom, An African American Spiritual Paired with a Spotlight on Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 4-part Orff arrangement includes differentiated ostinato patterns simple enough for even the youngest early elementary students and advanced patterns that will challenge more accomplished upper elementary students. Click to listen to the arrangement in the video preview.

Start the New Year Fresh | Music Literacy Activity Series

Yes! Music reading lessons can and should be among your favorite elementary music lessons. Why would you want to do anything that wasn’t your favorite?

If you need some tips to help you Integrate Music Reading into Every Lesson, be sure and check out the helpful post. If you need some NO-PREP Kodály-style guided music reading resources with ICONIC and STANDARD NOTATION check out the bundles below. 

Favorite Elementary Music Lessons are Always Interactive

Do your students need to practice and develop their rhythm reading skills? These Winter Interactive Rhythm Pattern Flashcards are differentiated into 8 different levels for grades K-5. Level 1 includes ICONIC reading while levels 2-8 use STANDARD notation and build sequentially. 

Check out this post for 10 FUN Ways to Use Interactive Rhythm Pattern Flashcards. This helpful post includes ideas to integrate these DIGITAL Rhythm Cards seamlessly into your lessons. And, these ideas work for standard printable rhythm cards as well.

Squirrel Appreciation Day | January 21

Yes, we are supposed to appreciate those little critters that hang upside down and eat all of the birdseed out of our feeders. Oh well, they are hungry too.

Any time of year is a good time to learn the song “Hop Old Squirrel“. If you haven’t learned it yet, what better time than around Squirrel Appreciation Day. I LOVE this song and game. More importantly, kids love it too! 

This DIFFERENTIATED guided music reading lesson includes activities for MULTIPLE GRADE LEVELS. The Kodály-style lesson includes the following and more!

  • Specific Student Learning Outcomes
  • Learning Targets written as clear concise student-centered “I can” statements
  • Iconic reading
  • Large easy–to-read music notation
  • Ostinato pattern for unpitched rhythm instruments
  • Solfege Signs
  • Differentiated recorder notation 
  • Fun Facts About Squirrels
  • “Take It Home” pages which may also be used as assessments

Storybook to Read & Sing

Storybooks always make for favorite elementary music lessons. Ten on the Sled, by Kim Norman provides a different version of the old favorite Ten on the Bed. It is perfect for early elementary students.

For older students, pair the story & song with Orff ostinato accompaniments and/or So, Mi, Do patterns to match the melody when the characters fall off the sled. Students can rotate to a different instrument as they “fall off” the sled.

This storybook provides a FUN structure for students to be creative as they design their own accompaniments. See this post for more on using Children’s Storybooks in Elementary Music | Establishing Historical Context.

Chinese New Year Begins February 12

I know Chinese New Year is in February this year. But, I do NOT want you to miss out on this FREE SONG with accompaniment mp3. A few years ago I came across this beautiful song by Nancy Stewart. Gung Hay Fat Choy translates wishing you good fortune and happiness. This is a beautifully crafted and tasteful song for Chinese New Year. And Nancy is sharing it completely FREE of charge. 

You may download the Full Performance mp3 and the Accompaniment mp3 for your elementary music classroom. You will be glad you did. We integrated sign language for a beautiful and memorable presentation. One of my school parents told me that this song touched her so much, it made her cry. She actually requested it several years in a row.

Tip: In order to avoid all the giggles and snickers from singing the word “fat”, I admit that I changed the word to “fa” with the same short a sound. We simply left off the “t”. That small change, made sure that students were all focused on the beautiful message of the song and not being silly about the lyrics

Boom Cards | Favorite Elementary Music Lessons

If you have never used Boom Cards designed for music classes, you are going to be amazed! These Boom Cards offer activities to develop music reading skills through ear training geared specifically for elementary-age students.

This month I am highlighting the Melodic Dictation Sets. There are two different melodic dictation series. The first is in the Key of C with standard notation. I created another series in the Key of F per teacher request. This sequential set is designed especially for young students. It uses stemless notes and all of the notes are “on the staff.”

The decks in both series are sequential, building skills as students master each deck. Boom Cards are so versatile. They can be used as a station for centers, for individual or group learning, assessment, distance learning, or home school. They can even be assigned with Google Classroom.

One of the best things about Boom Cards is that you can sample the first four cards in each deck. That way you make sure you know exactly what you are getting and that it is going to work for your students. Boom Cards may be purchased on TpT or directly through Boom Learning. Or, you can even create your own!

You do have to set up an account to use Boom Cards. Boom offers several different levels of accounts including FREE accounts. You do NOT have to have a paid account to use Boom Cards with your students. This video demonstrates how to purchase, redeem, and assign Boom Cards. It even shows a tip for using Boom Cards as an assessment using a FREE account.

If you need more tips and ideas for using Boom Cards in your music classroom, check out these helpful blog posts.

Click to preview the sets below.

Melodic Dictation | Key of C – Standard Notation


These sets were designed in the Key of F with STEMLESS NOTES for your young musicians.

Using Boom Cards with Manipulatives

Boom Cards require an internet connection. They work with computers, white boards, Chromebooks, most tablets, and even phones. But if you are not a 1:1 school, or even if you are, you can use these Melodic Dictation Boom Cards with an entire class using a PRINTABLE Treble Clef Staff and manipulatives. 

Display the questions on a white board while students “write” the answers with manipulatives. Students love using manipulatives. It is so much easier to “erase” if they make a mistake. You may want to use manipulatives while teaching students how to use Boom Cards to ensure all students are actively engaged.

This FREE Treble Clef Staff is designed to work with pennies or inexpensive Bingo chips. (P.S. I have found that sometimes rolls of pennies were even less expensive than the Bingo chips.) I am sure you can think of lots of other uses for this FREE large PRINTABLE and DIGITAL Staff including practicing treble clef note names. You can also use it in a DIGITAL version to demonstrate for students in the classroom or online via distance learning. Or, give students their own DIGITAL copy to use.

Best Wishes for a Happy, Healthy, and Productive New Year

I know that we are all in different places in our professional and personal journeys. Some of us have been teaching for many years. And for some of you, this may be your very first year of teaching. But, we have all been discouraged at times as we struggle to teach through this pandemic. I hope I have helped inspire you and give you some ideas to start off your new year fresh and motivated. I hope some of my favorite elementary music lessons will become some of yours.

Remember, no matter where you are in your journey, embrace it. “Do the best you can until you know better. Then do better.” ~Maya Angelou

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