Teaching high and low sounds is fun for kindergarten students and the assessment is naturally integrated into music class activities.
Teaching high and low sounds is one of my favorite early elementary and kindergarten music concepts. But, it is not as easy to teach as you might think. Children often mix up high and low with loud and soft.
As with all grades and especially kindergarten, music assessments should be integrated naturally into music class activities. Assessment should be a fun, learning experience.
Read on for tips to teach and assess high and low sounds using fun classroom activities.
Teaching High and Low Spatial Relationships
I like to introduce high and low sounds with drag-and-drop sorting activities on the whiteboard. Don’t take for granted that early elementary students know the meaning of high and low in terms of spatial relationships either. It is important to practice this step. A simple sorting activity paired with singing “high” or “low” provides a good foundation for learning the concept.
Don’t have access to a whiteboard? Consider using toys or other visual prompts. If you can’t find the toys you want in your stash, print off pictures of items to classify as high or low.
Teaching High Low Animal Sounds
I use a similar drag-and-drop sorting activity to introduce high-low animal sounds. I always make the sound as students place the animals. This gives children a reference point. Encourage them to make the animal sounds as well.
Instead of a digital activity, consider using stuffed animals or pictures of animals as visual cues. Or, even simpler, use sign language for each animal. Have students place their signs high or low as they make the corresponding sounds.
Teaching High and Low Vocalizations
Halloween is a fun time to integrate “ghost voice” vocalizations. Students love to use a flashlight and follow the light with their “spooky voices.” Shine the flashlight on the wall moving from low to high.
Vary your patterns. And, make sure to hold a steady pitch moving straight across the wall too. This helps to teach students to really follow the pitch and not simply bounce between high and low. You can even create staccato patterns by turning the flashlight on and off.
Using scarves and having students mirror your movements and echo your vocal patterns is another way to practice vocalizations all year long.
Make learning fun!
Teaching High and Low with Storybooks
There are several good storybooks to teach high-low. My favorite is “Up, Up, Down” by Robert Munsch. There is a YouTube video of the author reading, but he does not follow the words with the pitch and inflection of his voice.
I always believe it is better to read directly to students anyway. As you read, accentuate the pitches moving your voice upward more each time you say up and moving your voice downward each time you say down. Use your free hand to trace the high and low contour in the air.
Students will automatically begin to join in on the repetitive sections. If they don’t prompt them to join you and help tell the story.
I always read this book at least twice. The kids LOVE it and it is such a good way to reinforce the concept of high and low pitches.
Assess by Drawing
Consider having students draw a picture of animals that make high-pitched sounds and animals that make low-pitched sounds. Students should draw the high-pitched animals near the top of their paper. They should draw the animals that make low-pitched sounds near the bottom of the page.
Assessing High-Low with Movement Activities
After students have had many opportunities to practice high-low in different ways, it is time to assess. Try this fun movement activity I call “Tortoises & Ballet Dancers.”
Play simple melodic patterns using only the black notes of the piano (pentatonic scale). When you play low, students should crawl low like a tortoise. When you play high, students should move on their tiptoes with hands over their heads.
The first time you play this game, do it just for fun and just for practice. I never record it as an assessment the first time. Even when I am recording grades, the activity feels no different for students. To them, it is still just a fun game. See the activity in the video below.
These sweet kindergarten students loved learning and I enjoyed teaching them high-low concepts. Music assessment and learning should be fun and authentic.
Enjoy these cute Tortoises and Ballet Dancers!
More Early Elementary Favorites
When your early elementary and kindergarten students are ready, these have been some of our favorite rhythm reading activities. I have also used these for student-led conferences. Parents are always impressed when they see their children reading music using icons and standard notation. Each of these lessons includes Take it Home Pages to share at home.
More About Take Home Pages and Assessment
Take Home Pages are perfect assessment activities. They also build support for your music program by building music literacy skills and sharing those skills at home. Click to see this post for more on using Take Home Pages as Elementary Music Assessments with all grade levels.