Teaching composition in the elementary grades 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 the elementary music classroom.
Templates may be digital online activities, printable paper activities, or they may be designed for use with manipulatives. Below are several different factors you will want to consider when designing and adding composition templates to your elementary music lesson plans.
Designing You Own Composition Templates
Choose a Theme
There are an infinite number of ways that you could 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?
Consider using 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? Will they be fill in the blank, drag or drop, or cut and paste type of templates? Or, will you use other types of 3-D manipulatives, such a rhythm blocks or popsicle stick notation?
Structure for Success
Whatever theme and format you choose to use for your music composition templates, make sure they follow these basic music notation rules.
- Convey a sense of beat by providing some type of “container” for notes and rests.
- Consider iconic notation for early elementary students who are not yet reading standard music notation..
- Convey a sense of meter by grouping the “containers” on your templates.
- Create templates for different meters to help students internalize the concept of various meters.
- Size Matters. Match the size of the music symbols to the containers on your templates. Matching the value of each note/rest to your templates helps to ensure student success.
- 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).
- Adding lyrics can be tricky. If students are adding lyrics to their compositions, the lesson should guide students through matching lyrics to rhythms. Depending on the level of your students, consider providing preselected lyrics with multi-syllable words hyphenated.
See below for examples of easy-to-use composition templates.
Using Printable Music Composition Templates with Manipulatives
If you need help getting started, download this FREE Printable Cut, Color, Compose Primer. Then, take a look at the more advanced sets below.
Using printable, worksheet-style activities does not mean boring – far from it! 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 are 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 consider printing and laminating the activities for use as centers or stations.
Versatile Templates for a Variety of Compositions
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 Early Elementary 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, foods, space, school, fairy tales, a favorite book, etc. The possibilities are endless.
If you are creating printable cut & paste music symbols and/or lyrics, remember to size your elements so that only one element fits in each “beat box.”
The resource below uses a farm animal theme. It includes both printable and digital versions. Both versions provide the same structured success.
Farm Animals Compositions | Standard Notation
Start Youngest Learners with Iconic Notation
Students who are not yet 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.
Farm Animal Compositions | Iconic 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
By limiting the number of elements in each 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. And, you catch any students who may have been absent and missed an activity.
Step it Up – Using Composition Templates with Written Responses
Once students are comfortable with manipulative style activities, you may want to step up the lessons with a higher degree of difficulty. Use the exact same template but with written responses instead. 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 each include 4 sequential activities that build upon each other.
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 inGoogle Slides or PowerPoint Versions
Click to preview the set that 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.
Music composition can be complex, even for adults. Using composition templates will make composing projects much more successful and enjoyable for elementary music students. Whether you decide to use digital templates or printable manipulatives, the activities will undoubtedly be more fun for students and teachers alike.
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 on Developing Music Literacy in the Elementary Grades
- 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