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Learning Dynamics Music Games for Elementary Grades

Learning dynamics with music games makes the process fun and memorable. Start with simple songs and singing games. Then learn the Italian terms.

Do you need fun ways to teach your elementary music students about dynamics? Learning all the elements and nuances of music is a life-long journey. Dynamics are one of the expressive elements which bring music to life.

And learning about dynamics is an important step to becoming musically literate. But dynamics can be tricky for young musicians. As music teachers, it’s our job to find or create activities that make learning music vocabulary and nuances seamless and fun.

See below for fun singing games to engage your early elementary kids and free online games to challenge upper elementary students.

Smiling children in a circle

Discriminate Between Loud/Soft and High/Low

Young children often mix up loud and soft with high and low and this is NOT surprising. They often hear “turn up the TV” which seems to correlate with high while “turn down the TV” seems to correlate with low.

Take time to teach high/low and loud/soft independently. Take a peek at this post for more about Teaching High and Low Sounds.

Singing Games to Teach Dynamics in the Early Elementary Grades

Two of our favorite singing games to teach loud and soft are Lucy Locket (so, la, mi) and Closet Key (do, re, mi). The two games are almost identical in their structure.

Directions are below.

Formation: Large open circle with space between students.

  • One student is chosen to be the “Finder” and one student is chosen to be the “Hider.”
  • The Finder steps out in the hallway for a minute while the Hider hides an object.
  • The Finder returns to the classroom and stands in the middle of the circle.
  • Then, the Finder slowly turns around in place pointing forward as the class sings the song.
  • The class sings louder when the Finder points closer to where the object is hidden and softer when they point away from where the object is hidden.
  • Once the Finder knows what direction to move in, they move closer and closer listening to the dynamics clues until they find the hidden object.

Lucy Locket

For the song Lucy Locket the hidden object is a coin purse, small wallet, or a small purse.

Lucy Locket lost her pocket, Kitty Fischer found it.
Not a penny was there in it, only ribbon ’round it.

Long ago women did not have pockets in their dresses. In the song, Lucy’s pocket is her purse. Some older ladies still call their wallets their pocketbooks.

Closet Key

In the song Closet Key the hidden object is a key. An old-fashioned skeleton key would be perfect for the game, but you may use any key.

I have lost the closet key in my lady’s garden,
I have lost the closet key in my lady’s garden.

Important Note: These can be exciting games for early elementary kids. Take care to remind students to use their singing voices and not yelling voices. 😊

Introduce Italian Terms Slowly

Even young children can easily learn the proper Italian terms for dynamics if they’re introduced slowly and used frequently. Our district adds the following dynamics in our elementary music curriculum in the following grades.

  • Kindergarten – loud/soft; louder/softer
  • Grade 1 – piano (p) and forte (f)
  • Grade 2 – pianissimo (pp) and fortissimo (ff)
  • Grade 3 – mezzopiano (mp) and mezzoforte (mf)
  • Grades 4 and 5 – crescendo, decrescendo, and diminuendo along with the corresponding symbols and abbreviations.

This list is cumulative so when students are in fourth and fifth grades, they’re ready to use the online dynamics games below.

Dynamics Flashcards

Quizlet is a free online tool that provides several different ways to practice any content. I created a simple set of dynamics vocabulary. Four of the games are embedded in this post.

Quizlet offers five different practice and learning modes four of which work well to practice dynamics terms. (Skip the “Spell” mode.) I always start with flashcards because they are not timed. Students can learn and practice at their own pace.

The flashcards below have audio so ensure your sound is turned on. The Italian pronunciation is a valuable tool for young musicians. I love the way my students imitate the pronunciation. Have fun with it!

Note: Bookmark or save this page before you use these activities in case you navigate away from this post.

Directions – How to Use Embedded Flashcards

  • Use the scroll bar on the right-hand side to center the flashcard.
  • Name the Italian terms for each dynamic level.
  • Click the flashcard to turn it over and see the answer. 
  • Click the speaker in the upper left-hand corner of the flashcard to hear the Italian pronunciation.

Note: Click the “Settings” gear on the upper right-hand corner to change what you see first, the Italian term or the English definition. Practice both ways until you have learned those dynamics.

Learn Mode

Pull the side scroll bar on the right side down to view all answer choices. These questions are NOT timed.

Directions:

  • Use the scroll bar on the right-hand side to center the question and answer choices.
  • Click or tap the term which matches the dynamic level.

Dynamics Matching Game

The matching game is my favorite for learning dynamics. This game challenges students and motivates them to work to improve their scores and be quicker with their answers. This game is timed so ensure your students have had some adequate practice before playing. Otherwise, this game can frustrate some students.

Allow students enough time to play several times to improve their scores.

Directions: 

  • Click “Start Game.” The timer starts immediately.
  • Click or tap to select the matching terms. 
    • If they disappear, your answer is correct.
    • If not, try again. Keep practicing to improve your time and be more accurate.

Gravity Game

You may have previously played the Quizlet Gravity Game. This mode is no longer available as Quizlet has removed it.

Test Your Knowledge

Quizlet even offers a “Test” mode. The Test mode may be used for additional practice or as an assessment. Students may take practice tests online complete with automatic grading and immediate feedback.

Teachers may also print the test and administer it as a pencil/paper assessment. Teachers have the option to choose question types – written, matching, multiple choice, and/or true and false. (I currently have the written option unchecked.) As a bonus, each time you generate a new test, the questions are scrambled.

Directions: 

  • Answer each question.
  • When you’re finished, click the “Check Answers” bar at the bottom of the test.

Keep practicing until you have them learned. 🙂

Expand Your Music Vocabulary – Music Symbols Puzzles

Are you looking for more fun ways to engage your students and learn music symbols and terminology? Check out the Music Symbols Puzzles below. Each of these activities may be completed as standard PRINTABLE worksheets or as DIGITAL online activities.

Conclusion

Truly learning and interpreting the nuances of music takes a lifetime. Help your students develop the music literacy skills they need to be successful in your middle and high school music programs. Prepare your students to become lifetime musicians.

Enjoy the journey.


Free Treble Clef Note Names Games

Quizlet is a FUN way to practice treble clef notes names as well. Take a peek at these FREE Treble Clef Note Names Games.

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