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8 Tips for Teaching Treble Clef Note Names

Teaching treble clef note names can be FUN lessons for teachers and students. Take a peek at these FREE lessons, tips, and ideas.

I am not sure how many music teachers would consider teaching treble clef note names as some of their favorite elementary music lessons, but I do! There are so many FUN ways to learn and practice.

If teaching note names is not one of your favorite things to teach, or even if it is, check out the ideas below. You might just find another fun activity to add to your lesson plans.

Let’s get started!

8 Tips for Teaching Treble Clef Note Names in the Elementary Music Classroom

Tips for Teaching Treble Clef Note Names

1. Identify Notes AROUND Lines and IN Spaces

Before teaching treble clef note names, be sure your students can identify notes around lines and notes in spaces. I picked up this trick at one of our Missouri Music Educators state conferences. I believe it was Artie Almeida that recommended using this terminology.

When children are taught to write words on a line it looks very different than music notes on a line. Consistently using this terminology of notes AROUND lines and notes IN spaces is VERY effective and I highly recommend it. But it takes a little while to get used to saying and presenting it this way. So I embedded the directions into my PowerPoint lessons. This helps me to deliver a consistent lesson using the same terminology every time.

2. Introduce Spaces and Lines Separately

Our elementary music curriculum introduces treble clef note names in third grade. So I always teach these lessons early in third grade to give us LOTS of experience reading throughout the year. At the same time, I would review and expand the treble clef note names with fourth and fifth grades.

Starting with only notes in spaces allows students to “cement” that concept before moving on. Give students at least two class sessions to practice only the notes in spaces. Then on the third class session if your students are ready, introduce notes around lines.

3. Mnemonic Devices

There are lots of different ways to help students remember note names, but I believe the old standards are still the best. The acronym FACE works best for learning space notes because FACE rhymes with SPACE. Every Good Boy Does Fine works best for LINE notes because LINE rhymes with FINE.

When I initially introduce line notes, there are always a few students who mix up their mnemonic devices or tricks to remember the note names. A simple reminder of “FACE rhymes with SPACE” and “LINE rhymes with FINE” clears up any confusion.

4. Begin with Basic Note Names

Begin with the basic notes of the staff. Give students LOTS of time to master these notes before learning notes above and below the staff. Our curriculum introduces the BASIC treble note names in third grade, the EXTENDED treble clef note names in fourth grade, and bass clef note names in fifth grade.

5. Teaching Treble Clef Note Names – Group Practice

When introducing and practicing treble clef note names in a large group setting, require ALL students to respond to EVERY question and be involved by using sign language. As you practice have students hide their answer hand somewhere where no one will see it. Under their shirt is usually a good spot.

Then when you say “show your answer” ALL students should show their answer as quickly as they can, all at the same time. This ensures that all students are engaged and giving their own answers and not copying their neighbor’s answers. Be sure and give students a bit of “think time”.

Take a peek at this blog post for more Tips to Involve All Students All the Time.

6. Introduce the Ascending Scale

After students have mastered space and line notes, introduce the ascending scale. They are always amazed at the alphabetical pattern that reveals itself when we put the lines and spaces on the staff in an ascending scale-wise pattern.

At first, some students are baffled and they no longer recognize the FACE and Every Good Boy patterns they were initially taught. Circle the space and line notes in different colors to demonstrate that those patterns are still present.

7. Practice, Practice, Practice

Finding new and novel ways to practice treble clef note names helps keep practice fresh and motivates students. Download this FREE Self-Checking PowerPoint Game to try in your classroom. Use the games for centers or stations, group or individual practice, or have a little friendly competition. These activities are perfect for sub lessons as well.

Students may even practice in a flipped or hybrid classroom setting at home or in their homeroom classes for “fast finisher” activities.

Click to preview a few of the practice options below.

Interactive PowerPoint Games

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Important Note: These are Interactive PowerPoint Games. You MUST have PowerPoint to use these resources as intended. These activities are NOT fully compatible with Google Slides. The functionality of Google Slides has not yet caught up with PowerPoint. 

Interactive Treble Clef Boom Cards

The same sequential series is available as Boom Cards. Boom Cards are also self-checking and give students immediate feedback. However, Boom Cards also “keep score” for students. These decks are set to randomize so they so up in a different order every time students practice.

If you haven’t tried Boom Cards you do not know what you are missing! They are so fun and they can be used for assessments as well. Take a peek at this blog post for more on using Boom Cards in the Music Classroom.

8. Perform Treble Clef Note Names on Xylophone

Playing xylophones or other barred instruments makes the perfect pairing with learning treble clef note names. Having the note names labeled on the instrument helps students instantly connect reading treble clef note names with performance activities.

Start simple by reading and playing simple warmups and/or repetitive ostinato patterns. Use the following sequence to make sure students are actually reading and applying their new knowledge.

  • Read the rhythm.
  • Sing the treble clef pitches.
  • “Air play” above the xylophone bars while students sing the pitches.
  • Sing the note names while students play.
  • Think the note names while students play.

Do NOT skip the air play step. This step helps students be much more successful.

If you need Orff-style activities that lead teachers and students through this sequence, take a minute to preview these fun and attainable performance activities.

Conclusion Teaching Treble Clef Note Names

If teaching treble clef note names is not among your favorite lessons, try some of the ideas and activities listed here and enjoy the process. Life is too short not to enjoy every minute.

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