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How to Create Elementary Music Composition Templates – Structure for Success

Elementary music composition can be frustrating. Digital, printable, or manipulative-style templates provide structure, success, and fun.

Music composition in the elementary grades can be difficult for teachers to teach and cause frustration for many students. When you use templates, you create composition projects which are much more successful for beginning musicians. And, there are many different ways to design music composition templates for the elementary music classroom.

Templates may be digital activities, printable paper activities, or they may be designed for use with manipulatives. Below are several different factors you will want to consider when you design composition templates for your elementary music lesson plans.

Music Composition Templates for Elementary Grades | Online & Digital

How to Design Your Own Composition Templates

Follow the steps below to create fun, unique composition templates for your elementary music classroom.

Choose a Theme

There are an infinite number of ways you can design music composition templates for elementary students. What themes would resonate with your students – pets, farm animals, exotic animals, weather, seasons, habitats, holidays, sports, musical instruments?

Use a favorite book as a theme. Brainstorm a list of ideas and choose what resonates with your students. Maybe, you could even use your school mascot or other special themes unique to your school.

Choose a Format

Will your composition templates be DIGITAL or PRINTABLE? The most common types of templates are below.

  • Drag-and-drop digital templates
  • Cut-and-paste paper templates
  • Fill-in-the-blank printable templates

Or, may use other types of 3-D manipulatives, such as rhythm blocks or popsicle stick notation?

Structure for Success

Whatever theme and format you choose for your music composition templates, ensure they follow these basic music notation rules.

  • Convey a sense of beat. Provide some type of “container” for notes and rests.
  • Convey a sense of meter. Group the “containers” on your templates.
  • Create templates for different meters to help students internalize the concept of various meters.
  • Consider iconic notation for early elementary students who are not yet reading standard music notation.
  • Size Matters. Match the size of the music symbols to the containers on your templates. Match the value of each note/rest to your templates to ensure student success.
  • Provide a certain amount of predetermined structure. Limit the number of elements you include in each composition. This prevents students from creating an entire composition of one single element (such as rests).
  • Add lyrics. This can be trickyIf students add lyrics to their compositions, your lesson should guide students through matching lyrics to rhythms. Depending on the level of your students, you may want to provide preselected lyrics with multi-syllable words already hyphenated.

See below for examples of easy-to-use composition templates.

Printable Music Composition Templates as Manipulatives

If you need help creating your own templates, download this FREE Printable Cut, Color, Compose Primer. Then, take a look at the more advanced sets below.

Printable, worksheet-style activities do NOT mean boring, far from it! And, the building block format ensures success and increases engagement.

Differentiation for Multiple Grade Levels

The blocks are perfectly sized to fit the templates. Students select the notes they want to use and arrange them to create their own compositions. When they’re satisfied with their composition, they may glue it to the template. Four different templates with nine differentiated sets of rhythms make this activity perfect for grades K-5.

You may want to print and laminate the templates and rhythm blocks for use as centers or stations.

Versatile Templates for a Variety of Compositions

Printable composition templates are also versatile. They may be used for the following types of compositions.

  • Basic Rhythm Compositions
  • Melodic Compositions
  • Compositions with a Focus on Phrase Form
  • Add Lyrics to Create Songs or Chants
  • Extended Compositions

If you have rhythm blocks, you may want to create templates to match the size of your blocks. These templates have also been sized to match duplo-style blocks creating a whole new activity for use in centers.

Farm Animal Composition for Early Elementary Students

Composition templates may be created with any theme. An animal theme is perfect for young children. More theme ideas might include transportation, ocean, foods, space, school, fairy tales, a favorite book, etc. The possibilities are endless.

Remember if you create printable cut and paste music symbols and/or lyrics, size your elements so only one element fits in each “beat box.”

The theme for our sets below is farm animals. We created two sets, one with iconic notation and one with standard notation.

Start Youngest Learners with Iconic Notation

Students who are not yet ready to read and compose with standard music notation may use icons to create compositions. Then, when your students are ready, you can complete the same activity with standard notation.

This reinforces the concepts for students who may not have “cemented” their learning the first time. All students benefit from repeating the activity in a different manner.

The resources below include both printable and digital versions. Both versions provide the same structured success.

Animal Compositions – Iconic Notation

Animal Compositions – Standard Notation

3 Composition Activities Included in Each Resource

Both of the Farm Animal Compositions (standard and iconic notation) include three separate compositions in each 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

Spiral Learning

When you spiral around again with another separate composition, you give students another opportunity to cement their learning and express their creativity. And, you catch any students who may have been absent and missed an activity.

Step it Up – Composition Templates with Written  Responses

Once students are comfortable with manipulative-style activities, you may want to increase the degree of difficulty. Use the exact same template but with written responses instead. Display the template and student choices on the whiteboard as students write in their responses to create a new composition. It’s fun to add new lyrics if your students are ready.


Note: Depending on the level of your students, your lesson plans will be much more successful if you begin with printable or digital manipulatives. Then after adequate practice, you can check for comprehension with the written response format.

Create Sequential Activities Which Build Upon One Another

Repetition is important for long-lasting learning. If you only complete one composition one day of the year, this does not give students enough experience with music creation. Structure your lesson plans so you include activities that build upon one another. All of the resources shown here each include 4 levels of sequential activities which build upon each other. Each level includes 4 separate compositions.

These leveled sets may be used at various grade levels or for differentiation within classes.

Each Chapter has a Different Focus

Each leveled resource includes 4 chapters each with a different focus.

  • Composition Chapter 1 – Focus on Meters of 2, 3, and 4
  • Composition Chapter 2 – Focus on Phrase Form
  • Composition Chapter 3 – Focus on Lyrics
  • Composition Chapter 4 – Final Project

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.

Available in Google Slides or PowerPoint Versions

These NO-PREP digital composition activities are available as an easy-to-use Google Slides BUNDLE for schools with Google platforms and as a PowerPoint BUNDLE for Microsoft Schools.

Click to preview the set which best fits the needs of your students.

See Music Composition Templates in Action

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million words. Take a peak at the video clip below to see Set 4 in action.

YouTube video

Take the Frustration Out of Music Composition

Music composition can be difficult even for adults. Templates make composition projects much more successful and fun for elementary music students. Whether you decide to use digital templates or printable manipulatives, your composition activities will be more enjoyable for students and teachers alike.

Happy Composing!

Take a Minute to Preview These Templates

Don’t have time to create your own templates? Click to preview any of the sets included in this post. I will post more composition templates as time allows.


More on Developing Music Literacy in the Elementary Grades