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How to Develop and Assess Music Reading Skills with Boom Cards

Music Literacy Boom Cards are a valuable addition to your music lesson plans providing FUN authentic assessment of music reading skills.

Boom Cards don’t teach and assess REAL music reading skills, do they?

YES, they do! Multiple series of Music Literacy Boom Cards are available to help teachers develop real music reading skills. These sequential sets are leveled similar to instrumental method books.

And, because the bundles are sequential building one upon another, many of these activities may extend into middle school, high school, and even to adult beginners.

Boom Cards are perfect for the music classroom, private studios, or homeschool. Boom Cards are self-checking and they provide students with instant feedback. Boom Cards are an important addition to a well-rounded music program.

Developing Music Reading Skills with Online Boom Cards
Develop a Well-Rounded Music Literacy Program Which Includes a Variety of Fun Activities

Sequential Steps to Develop Independent Music Readers in the Elementary Grades

Introduce your students to one specific element at a time using simple songs and games. Practice each activity at least three times and use at least three different activities to reinforce learning. This gives students plenty of time to practice and master each musical element. Once your students have mastered the designated learning target, they are ready to use the targeted elements in composition and improvisation activities.

Follow this same pattern as you introduce sequential music reading skills one at a time. Below is a simple overview of this path to develop music literacy.

Elementary Music Reading Sequence Infographic
Step 1 Teach Music Elements with Song-Based Music Literacy Activities and Games

See this post for tips on how to sequence and introduce various elements of music.

Step 2 Reinforce Melodic Skills with Solfege Warm Ups

This is an optional but helpful step. See this post to learn more about using solfege warm ups as a part of your music reading strategy.

Steps 3 and 4 are Interchangeable Depending on Teacher Preference

After students have been introduced to the targeted musical elements Boom Cards can play an important role in the development of their music reading skills. I prefer to teach Music Dictation Boom Cards first and then use the Music Pattern Identification Boom Cards as assessments. You may prefer to do the opposite.

Another option is to use the dictation sets for practice and then allow students to submit their best scores as an evaluation. You will need to determine what works best for you and your students.

Step 5 Composition and Improvisation

Once students have mastered reading music patterns and simple songs they’re ready to use those patterns to improvise and create original compositions.

See the posts below for more information about improvisation and elementary music composition tips.

Let’s Talk About How You Can Use Boom Cards to Help Develop and Assess Your Students’ Music Reading Skills

Are You New to Boom Cards?

Do you need to see a set of Music Literacy Boom Cards in action before you read any further? See 6 Simple Steps to Get Started Using Boom Cards in Elementary Music. You will be hooked. Then, come back and create your plan to develop your students’ music reading levels.

P.S. Boom Cards aren’t only for the elementary grades.

How Can I use Boom Cards to Build My Students’ Music Reading Skills?

Boom Cards may be used MANY different ways to develop and assess students’ music literacy levels. Your approach will depend on several factors.

  • How old are your students?
  • What are your students’ current music reading levels?
  • Are you a 1:1 school with every student having their own device?
  • Do you want to use Boom Cards to deliver a whole class lesson?
  • Will you assign Boom Cards as activities to be completed outside of class?

Sequential Music Literacy Boom Cards Bundles allow for simple differentiation. You can assign different sets to different students or you can allow students to work their way through a series at their own pace, inside or outside of class. This is a good way to challenge students who may be taking private lessons.

We have outlined different paths for various grade levels and abilities.

Don’t Let Your Students Skip this Critical Step

Making mistakes is part of learning. When your students make a mistake, require them to listen again and fix the mistake. This is an important step to develop solid music reading skills.

What Order Should I Teach Each Music Reading Series?

Initially, it may be a little difficult to know where to start. But, our Music Literacy Boom Cards are SEQUENTIAL and FLEXIBLE. They’re designed to “meet your students where they are”.

Take a peek at the suggested sequence and each sequential series below. Then do a quick informal observational assessment to determine where your students should start in this sequence. Students may repeat sets when needed.

Start at a level where you expect all or most of your students to be successful. Remember, the first time you teach a new activity you also need to teach how to use the technology. You want your students to have a positive experience and enjoy the process.

Suggested Sequence

  • Same/Different | Higher/Lower | Melodic Direction (Beginning Musicians)
  • Music Staff Skills | Video Lessons (Beginning Musicians)
  • Rhythmic Dictation*
  • Identify Rhythmic Pattern*
  • Melodic Dictation (Keys of C, F, G)*
  • Identify Melodic Patterns (Keys of C, F, G)*
  • Treble Clef Note Names (Sets 1-6)
  • Bass Clef Note Names (Sets 1-6)

*As mentioned earlier, you may decide to teach the Music Dictation sets first and then the Music Pattern Identification sets or vice versa.

About Teaching Various Keys

The order in which you present the different keys of Melodic Boom Cards sets will vary according to the level of your students. If your young students are not yet reading ledger lines, begin with the Key of F, then the Key of G.

Teach Key of C sets when students are ready to read ledger lines.

Lay the Foundation with Basic Music Reading Skills for your Youngest Musicians

These sets are perfect for your youngest musicians and absolute beginners. These activities are simple, easy to use, and intuitive to facilitate limited reading abilities. These sets are simple enough for students in the early elementary grades.

Develop Music Staff Concepts and Skills for Beginning Music Readers

Short, interactive VIDEO CLIPS teach the concepts for each of these individual sets. Then, the self-checking Boom Cards give students plenty of practice to develop their skills and demonstrate mastery.

Teachers may choose to use the video clips as a whole class activity and then assign the Boom Cards as independent work. Or, the entire lesson may be completed as a whole class group activity, as centers, or as independent work.

These versatile lessons are easy for nonmusical subs to deliver.

What Do You Hear? Rhythm Pattern Identification Series

The Rhythm Pattern Identification series is often the easiest place to begin. Because this series does not include any cutesy clipart, it may be used for middle school, high school, or even adult music students.

Rhythmic Dictation Drag & Drop Blocks

This series of Rhythmic Dictation Blocks is one of my favorite online music activities to develop rhythm reading skills. Students may listen as many times as they want. Then, they drag & drop blocks to “build” what they have heard.

If they make a mistake, students should listen again and fix it.

Advanced Rhythmic Dictation

Per teacher request, we created three sets of Advanced Rhythm Dictation Boom Cards.

  • Set 1 has been designed to help students discriminate between eighth notes vs. triplets.
  • Set 2 helps students identify different sixteenth note patterns.
  • Set 3 helps students discriminate between syncopation and dotted rhythm patterns.

I do take requests when I’m able to work them in. The wait time for requested sets is several weeks or longer. If you have a specific need for which you cannot find resources, email me at [email protected] and I will try to help.

Melodic Pattern Identification Series – Key of F

Changing stem direction and notes below the staff often confuse young students. With these task cards set in the Key of F, those elements are removed. If you need STEMLESS NOTES for younger musicians, this Melodic Pattern Identification Series in the Key of F is perfect.

Melodic Dictation Drag & Drop Blocks – Key of F

These Melodic Dictation Blocks are another favorite Boom Cards series. They’re set in the Key of F with stemless whole notes and blocks are labeled with solfege pitch names.

As always, students may listen as many times as they wish. Then, they drag and drop the blocks to build the melody they hear. If they make a mistake, they listen again and fix it.

Note: The pitch blocks match the colors of Boomwhackers, but since they’re in the Key of F, the pitch functions are not the same, i.e. Do = F.

Melodic Pattern Identification Series – Key of G

Per teacher request, all of the resources in this series are set in the Key of G with STEMLESS NOTES. Students who are not yet ready to read ledger lines can be successful in identifying melodic patterns on the staff in the key of G.

Melodic Dictation Drag & Drop Blocks – Key of G

This melodic dictation series is similar to the sets in the Key of F. This set was created in response to teachers who wanted a “recorder-friendly” dictation series in the Key of G.

Once again, the colors match Boomwhackers, but the function of the notes is different, G = Do.

MELODIC Pattern Identification – Key of C

These sequential Melodic Pattern Identification Boom Cards are set in the Key of C with standard notation. These sets should only be assigned to students who are ready to read ledger lines below the staff.

Melodic Dictation Drag & Drop Blocks Key of C

These Melodic Dictation Blocks are set in the Key of C using quarter note notation. Blocks are NOT labeled with pitch names.

As a bonus, the melody blocks match the colors of Boomwhackers.

Treble Clef Note Names Practice

Boom Cards are perfect to practice note names. This Treble Clef Series includes 6 separate scaffolded sets. Learning all of the notes at once can overwhelm many students. When you break learning up into manageable chunks it becomes more fun and students are much more successful.

With activities set in a soccer theme, these Boom Cards hook even reluctant learners.

Bass Clef Note Names Practice

We designed this Bass Clef Note Name Series with the same scaffolded sequence as the treble clef sets and the same fun soccer theme.

Your Action Step – Take Your Favorite Set for a “Test Drive”

Take a minute and scan back through this post. Which of these activities would best meet the needs of your students right now?

  1. Download the link to a FREE set.
  2. Then, set up a FREE account at BoomLearning.com.
  3. “Play” through the set yourself.
  4. Give Boom Cards a test drive with your students.

If your school is not currently in session, try them out with your children or friends. You will be glad you did.

Digital Tools Can Build Music Reading Skills

For better or for worse, education has entered a new era. It is our job as teachers to not only keep up but to improve and pave the way for new methods of teaching and learning. Music Literacy Boom Cards are important tools for a well-rounded music literacy program.

Boom Cards are NOT just games. They teach REAL music reading skills.

Save BIG When You Invest in the Boom Cards Mega Bundle

All 81 decks of our sequential bundles are included in this Boom Cards Mega Bundle. And, you will save over 35% when you invest in these versatile resources as a bundle.

Need help getting started? Take a peek at our Boom Cards Video Tutorials designed especially for music teachers.

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.


  1. I am a preschool music teacher. Our elementary music teacher quit unexpectedly. I am stepping in until a new teacher can be hired, which may not be until the 2021 school year. Thank you for these great activities to help me start this journey.

    1. Frau Musik says:

      You are VERY welcome Christy. In these unprecedented times, we all need to support each other. Best wishes!

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