Teaching composition to young students can be tricky. When you use templates, you make composition projects much more successful for beginning musicians. And, there are many different ways to design music composition templates for elementary grades.
Templates may be digital online activities, printable paper activities, or they may be designed for use with manipulatives. Below are several different ideas you may want to consider when integrating templates into your music composition lesson plans.
Designing You Own Composition Templates
There are an infinite number of ways that you could design music composition templates for elementary students. What themes would resonate with your students? Brainstorm a list of ideas and start from there. Maybe, you could even use your school mascot or other special themes unique to your school.
Whatever theme you choose to use for your music composition templates, make sure they follow these basic music notation rules.
- Templates should convey a sense of beat.
- Templates should convey a sense of meter.
- Structure templates for success by matching the sizing of the music symbols to match the meter of the template.
- If students are adding lyrics to their compositions, the templates/lesson should guide students through matching lyrics to rhythms.
Read on for examples of easy-to-use composition templates.
Using Printable Music Composition Templates with Manipulatives
Using printable, worksheet style activities does not mean boring – far from it! Take a look at the building block format below.
The blocks are perfectly sized to fit the templates. Students select the notes they want to use and arrange them as they choose. When they are satisfied with their composition, they glue it down. Four different templates with nine differentiated sets of rhythms make this activity perfect for grades K-5.
Printable composition templates are also very versatile. They may be used for the following types of compositions.
- Basic Rhythm Compositions
- Melodic Compositions
- Compositions with a Focus on Phrase Form
- Creating Songs or Chants by Adding Lyrics
- Extended Compositions
If you have rhythm blocks, consider creating templates to match the size of your blocks. These templates have also been sized to match duplo-style blocks making them a whole new activity for use in centers.
Farm Animal Composition for Primary Students
Composition templates may be created with any theme. An animal theme is perfect for young children. Other ideas for themes might include transportation, ocean, seasons, foods, holidays, pets, weather, space, school, fairy tales, a favorite book, etc. The possibilities are endless.
If you are creating printable cut & paste music symbols and/or lyrics, be sure to size your elements so that only one element fits in each “beat box.” You can provide a certain amount of predetermined structure by limiting the number of elements that you include in each composition. This prevents students from creating an entire composition of one single element (such as rests).
The resource below uses a farm animal theme. It includes both printable and digital versions. Both versions provide the same structured success.
Start Youngest Learners with Iconic Notation
Students who are not ready to read and compose using standard music notation may create compositions using icons. Then, when your students are ready, you can spiral back around to the same activity but with standard notation. This reinforces the concepts with students who may not have quite cemented the learning the first time. All students benefit from repeating the activity in a different manner.
Both of the Farm Animal Compositions (standard and iconic notation) include three separate compositions in one resource. Each activity uses the same template but adds another element or degree of difficulty.
- Composition 1 – Quarter Notes/Quarter Rests
- Composition 2 – Quarter Notes/Eighth Notes
- Composition 3 – Quarter Notes/Eighth Notes/Quarter Rests
By limiting the number of elements in the activity, you automatically increase student success. By spiraling around again with another separate composition, you give students another opportunity to cement their learning and express their creativity.
Step it Up – Using Composition Templates with Written Responses
Once students are comfortable with manipulative style activities, step up the lessons with a higher degree of difficulty. Use the exact same template but with written responses. Display the template and student choices on the board as students write in their responses to create a new composition. It is fun to add new lyrics if your students are ready.
Note: Depending upon the level of your students, your lesson plans will probably be much more successful if you begin with manipulatives. Then, you can check for comprehension by using the written response format.
Create Sequential Activities Which Build Upon One Another
Repetition is important for cementing learning. Completing one composition one day of the year will not give students enough experience with music creation. Structure your lesson plans so that you include activities that build upon one another. All of the resources shown here include 4 sequential activities that build upon each other. The different sets may be used at various grade levels or as differentiation within classes.
Each of these resources includes 4 units with a focus on meter, phrase form, and lyrics. The final project allows students to CHOOSE their own meter, phrase form, and lyrics for a truly unique composition. The final project could be used as an assessment or performance activity.
Like the printable manipulative projects, these drag & drop lessons are structured for success. They also have been designed with a limited number of each element requiring students to use a variety of music symbols.
Click the video below to see one of the sets in action.
Composition is a complex project even for adults. Using music composition templates for elementary students will make the project much more successful and enjoyable. Whether you decide to use digital templates or printable manipulatives, the activities will undoubtedly be more fun for students and teachers alike. Happy composing!
Don’t have time to make your own templates? Click to preview any of the sets included in this post. I will be posting more composition templates as time allows.
More About Developing Music Literacy
- How to Integrate Music Reading into Every Lesson
- Music Literacy | Sequential Lessons which Build on Prior Learning
- Assessment in Elementary Music | Take it Home Pages