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4 Fun Ways to Teach Elementary Music Classroom Rules

Back-to-school season means teaching rules and procedures. Use rhythm activities to make learning elementary music classroom rules FUN!

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Why should teaching music classroom rules and procedures be BORING? Teachers and students shouldn’t dread this vital step to establish a positive classroom climate and set the stage for a productive school year.

One of my FAVORITE classroom activities to teach is our rules. I even enjoy using instruments with Kindergarten kiddos on the second day of class. The look of DELIGHT on their faces lets me know these kids are hooked. And the silly stumbles we have along the way are even fun for me.

Keep it Simple and Limit Your Classroom Rules

Teaching your rules and procedures through Rhythm Rules Activities lays a musical foundation and teaches music skills on the first day of school and beyond. But, don’t overcomplicate things. After all, you’re teaching young children. Choose rules that are broad, simply worded, and direct. I have successfully used these four rules in my classroom.

  1. Follow directions the first time.
  2. Kahfooty (Keep all hands feet and other objects to yourself.)
  3. Be nice. Respect others.
  4. Do your best.
How to Teach Elementary Music Classroom Rules with Orff Rhythm Patterns

These four rules cover almost anything that may happen. They’re easy to remember especially when set to rhythm patterns. Teaching your classroom rules in a variety of ways will help students internalize them.

Get these FREE Printable Rhythm Rules Posters when you subscribe to our email list. Mount them on colored paper to match your classroom decor if desired.

Lay Down the Foundation with a Funky Drum Beat

Use a drum beat app or recording to establish a beat and keep the group together. There are LOTS of options available. I use Drum Beats+ because I can run it from my phone which is synced to our sound system. There are many options to add rhythm loops. You probably already have Garage Band.

If you need more ideas for iPhone/iPad and android backing tracks check out 12 Best Drumming Apps That You’ll Actually Use (2022).

Day 1 – Teach Rules Using Body Percussion Activities

On the first day of school (or the first day you have each class), teach rules using body percussion. Throughout the year, students will inevitably need rule reminders. Instead of repeating the rules over and over, perform the body percussion patterns without words. When students realize what you’re doing they will join in and they will supply the words themselves. If they don’t understand, prompt them by saying -” What rule goes with this rhythm pattern?”

Teachers do not enjoy nagging students. And students do not like being nagged. They will tune you out if they’re not actively engaged and the reminders are not given in a positive manner. Draw them back in with gentle reminders delivered with fun body percussion prompts.

Day 2 – Teach Rules Using Classroom Rhythm Instruments

On the second day of music class, review your rhythm rules using body percussion. Then add unpitched percussion instruments. For kindergarten and first grades, I like to use the same instrument for every child. I have enough rhythm sticks and egg shakers for everyone.

Even if you do not have the same instrument for all children, have ALL students play ALL rule patterns on their instruments at once. It is HARD for young children to wait their turn to play, especially at the beginning of the school year.

For older students, divide your class into 4 groups and assign each group one rhythm rule to play on one specific instrument. If the class is ready, layer the rhythm rule patterns in 2 or 4 parts to create “harmony”.

Day 3 – Teach Rules Using Boomwhackers

This is my favorite rule rhythm day! Kids LOVE using Boomwhackers. For early elementary, give each student two Boomwhackers (if you have enough) and play in “unison.” At this point, you only want students to match the rhythm. We do not worry about pitches.

Create simple 2-note melodic patterns for upper elementary students. They should play the notated patterns for each rule.

Tips for Creating Melodic Rhythm Rule Patterns

Don’t have Boomwhackers? Create a similar activity using barred Orff instruments. Plan carefully to create an attainable and interesting “arrangement” of your music classroom rules.

  • Use only two different pitches for each rule pattern. This is important because using two pitches per rule allows one student to play an entire rule pattern on Boomwhackers. (If you’re creating your rules to be played on melodic Orff instruments, you can ignore this suggestion.)
  • Do NOT use the same pitch again in any of your rhythm patterns. This makes it possible to perform all rules at once. (Again, ignore this suggestion if you are creating for melodic Orff instruments.)

Do you have enough Boomwhackers? I purchased 6 sets of Boomwhackers and 3 sets of octavator caps. This was enough for ALL of my students to participate using 2 Boomwhackers at once.

Boomwhackers have been one of the best purchases for my classroom right behind Orff instruments. Boomwhackers are much more affordable and kids always LOVE playing them in a variety of activities.

Day 4 – Teach Rules Using Rotation Stations

Now that your students know how to perform rhythm rules on body percussion, unpitched rhythm instruments, and Boomwhackers, you can set up rotation stations for grades 1-5. Kindergarten students are not ready for rotation patterns this early in the school year.

This activity is most successful when students continue to play the SAME RULE as they rotate to the different performance stations. I recommend using a rotation chant to guide students through the rotation process and keep the activity going.

Use the Same Rules with Differentiated Activities for Grades K-5

The activities and expectations you have for each grade level will vary greatly. Consider the following guidelines as you’re designing your rhythm rules activities. Customize them to fit your students’ music literacy levels.

Grades K-1
  • Follow director cues to start/stop at the same time.
  • Chant and play rhythm of words by rote.
  • Perform in unison.
Grades 2-3
  • Follow director cues.
  • Play rule rhythms with a steady beat in unison while reading rhythmic patterns.
  • Perform in 2 parts, if ready.
Grades 4-5
  • Play rule rhythms with a steady beat in unison.
  • Play rule rhythms with a steady beat in unison while reading rhythmic patterns.
  • Perform in 4 parts.

All grade levels should have FUN learning music classroom rules.

Do You Need Fun Ready-Made Music Classroom Rules Activities?

Are you strapped for time? Do you need resources to teach and implement these ideas? Click to preview our Music Rhythm Rules Back to School Music Activities.

This resource includes. . . . .

  • Projectable PowerPoint presentation which may be used as Google Slides.
  • Printable music rules POSTERS to display in your classroom.
  • EDITABLE rhythm rule templates to customize rules if desired.
  • Four days of activities to help you teach classroom rules for grades K-5.

That’s a lot of MULTITASKING!

Need to see what these differentiated activities could look like in your elementary music classroom? Take a peek at the videos below.

3 Videos to Demonstrate Differentiated Activities on Boomwhackers

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. Take a peek at these three videos of various grade levels performing our rhythm rules on Boomwhackers.

Keep in mind these recordings were made VERY early in the school year. These are not polished performances. This is REAL elementary school life. I’m proud of my students. Not only did we learn our classroom rules, we had FUN doing it.


Grade 1
YouTube video
Grade 2
YouTube video
Grade 4
YouTube video

Create Musical Memories and Hook Your Students for a Happy Musical Life

A tiny kindergarten boy bangs away 5-6 seconds after everyone else has cut off. A sense of accomplishment spreads across his face as he realizes “the music is over”. He returns his Boomwhackers to his shoulders smiling ear to ear. This is a priceless memory. 😊

Learning the rules of your elementary music classroom is a process. It can be an enjoyable, memorable activity for students and the teacher.

Are You Looking for More Back to School Multitasking Activities?

Do you need more ideas to integrate FUN music skills into every lesson (even the first day of school)? Check out these posts and the FREE resource guide.

Welcome your students back to school and celebrate diversity and inclusion. Set the tone on the first days of school. All are welcome here. ❤️

(Affiliate Links)

Boomwhackers Add a Fun Element to Any Activity

Boomwhackers (affiliate link) are incredibly versatile and always a hit with kids. Plus, they are budget-friendly. I bought 4 classroom sets but only added the octavator caps on 2 of those sets.

Octavator caps lower the pitch of the tube by one octave which allows you to have 2 full octaves of notes. But, they are VERY hard to get off once you put them on. My recommendation is to leave them on.

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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