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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.

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

And, learning about dynamics is an essential step for developing music literacy. Dynamics can be tricky for young musicians. As music teachers, it’s our job to find or create activities to make learning music vocabulary and performance seamless and fun.

Take a peek below for fun singing games to engage your early elementary kids and free online games to challenge your upper elementary and middle school students.

Smiling children playing a game.

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.

Teach high/low and loud/soft independently in the early elementary grades. Take a peek at this post for fun activities to Teach High and Low Sounds.

Early Elementary Singing Games to Teach Dynamics

Two of my favorite singing games to teach loud and soft are Lucy Locket and Closet Key. The two games are almost identical in their structure.

Directions for both games 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 few seconds 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 the Finder points away from where the object is hidden.
  • Once the Finder knows the general direction where the object is hidden, they move in that direction listening to the dynamics clues of the group until they find the hidden object.

Lucy Locket

In the song Lucy Locket, the hidden object is a coin purse, small wallet, or other similar object.

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 this 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 this 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 are 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 play 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 may learn and practice at their own pace.

The flashcards below include 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 accidentally navigate away from this post.

Directions for Using Flashcards Mode:

  • Center the Flashcard. If necessary, use the scroll bar on the right-hand side to center flashcards.
  • Start with Answer with English.” Quizlet allows you to choose to display the Italian terms or the English definitions first. I recommend you display the Italian terms and students “Answer with English” definitions until they are familiar with basic dynamics terms.
  • Listen to the Pronunciation. Click the speaker in the upper right-hand corner of the flashcard to hear the Italian pronunciation.
  • Display the Answer. Click directly on the flashcard to turn it over and display the answer. 
  • Challenge Students. When students are comfortable defining the Italian terms, change the settings to “Answer with Italian” and have students name the corresponding Italian terms. 😊

How to Change Settings – Click the “Settings” gear in the upper right-hand corner.

Learn Mode

Keep students engaged by practicing in different modes. The Flash Card and Learn modes are NOT timed.

Directions for Using Learn Mode:

  • Pull the scroll bar on the right side down to view all 4 answer choices.
  • Click or tap the term that matches the dynamic level.

Dynamics Matching Game


The matching game is a student favorite for practicing dynamics. This game challenges and motivates students to work to improve their scores and be quicker with their answers.

This game is timed so ensure students have had some adequate practice before playing. Otherwise, this game can frustrate some students. Allow students time to play this game several times to improve their scores.

Directions for Matching Game: 

  • 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 be more accurate and improve your scores.

Gravity Game

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

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 online practice tests 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 various question types – written, matching, multiple choice, and/or true and false questions. As a bonus, each time you generate a new test, the questions are scrambled.

Directions for Using Test Mode: 

  • Choose the type of questions you want.
  • Scroll down and click “Start Test.”
  • Answer each question.
  • When you’re finished, click the “Check Answers” bar at the bottom of the test.

Keep practicing until you are getting 80% or higher. 🙂

*Note: I currently have the written option toggled to off. You can click through to Quizlet, change the setting, and create a written test. You will have to create a Quizlet account to use this feature.

Expand Your Music Vocabulary – Music Symbols Puzzles

Are you looking for more fun ways to engage your students and learn music symbols and terminology? Take a peek at our Music Symbols Puzzles Bundle. Each of these activities may be completed as standard PRINTABLE worksheets or as DIGITAL online activities.

The following Music Symbols Worksheets and online activities are included in this bundle.

Printable and Online Digital Music Symbols Puzzle Bundle | Elementary and Middle School Music Classroom

Conclusion

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.


Quiet Down, Loud Town! by Alastair Heim and illustrated by Matt Hunt is a fun way to reinforce loud and soft dynamics with your early elementary kiddos.

Quiet Down, Loud Town!

Last update on 2024-04-12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Free Treble Clef Note Names Games

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

Meet the Author

Terri Lloyd is a former elementary music teacher with over 25 years of experience. She holds a Bachelor of Music, a Master of Science in Education, and a Technology Certificate in Instructional Design.

She is currently active in music education through blogging, workshops, and curriculum development. She serves on the music staff at her church and volunteers for an after-school children’s program. Terri is an active musician in the community, performing in a local Big Band, pit orchestras, and various events.

More Ways to Connect – Instagram, Facebook, YouTube.

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