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K-2: Instruments in action

by Jeanne Anderson, Learn NC

Students will demonstrate mastery of eight measures of four beats by speaking, moving and playing. They will classify instruments metals, woods, scrapers, ringers, shakers, etc.

A lesson plan for Grades 1–2 Music Education

Students will:

  • read the eight measures with others and alone, and demonstrate them using locomotor and nonlocomotor movements.
  • classify instruments according to categories such as ringers, shakers, scrapers, with beaters, woods, metals, membranes, etc., acknowledging instruments that fall into more than one category.
  • begin playing the measures with appropriate music.

Time required for lesson: 3 Days


  • Class set of five or more different rhythm instruments: drums, tambourines, guiros, sticks, wood blocks, triangles, maracas, and the like.
  • Eight simple notated measures using mostly quarter notes, two eight notes, half notes and quarter rests — five sets of each, perhaps different color for each set. I write each measure on a separate sheet of construction paper.
  • At least three (tempo appropriate) music selections of varying styles: folk, pop, baroque, etc.


Students may already recognize and be able to demonstrate quarter note and quarter rest, two eight notes, and a half note. Students will need to have experienced locomotor movements such as walk, gallop, hop, and jump as well as nonlocomotor movements such as swing, bend, twist, and turn. Previous experience playing the chosen instruments would be expected but not necessary.


Day 1

1. Review quarter note and quarter rest, half note, and two eighths by whatever method you normally use. I use two methods:

  • saying the note value (quarter, quarter, two eighths, quarter)
  • the Gordon method of “du” for quarter and half and “du-de” for two eights.

2. Practice each of the eight measures together, by groups, and individually as you determine necessary.

3. Review movements (locomotor and nonlocomotor) by asking students to demonstrate when movement is named. Teacher demonstrates a few measures with movements (appropriate and inappropriate ones) that “work” and those that do not “work.” Ask students which movements “worked” best. Students practice with you as the leader. Give time for students to practice certain measures that you designate. Allow them to practice in a new way (their way) and share with a neighbor.

4. Allow two or three students to lead the class in their measure(s). You may want to divide into 4 or 8 groups and each group practice 1 or 2 measures to demonstrate for the class.

Day 2

1. Introduce the chosen instruments. Ask questions to involve students in classifying them into categories such as: “Which instruments are played with a beater? Which instruments are shakers?” Do this until all are categorized.

2. Assign student groups and instrument groups. Give time for students to explore (play) before continuing. Distribute strips. Each group receives a set of a different color, but each set has the same notation. Spend time with each group as they practice the eight measures, helping with the measures (strips) that need it.

3. After enough practice time has been given, each group demonstrates the eight measures for the class. The advantage of each measure on a different strip is that the measures can then be rearranged. They can be used for many other lessons also.

4. If time allows, practice with music. Arrange measures of eight so that students can see (maybe on the board or you may have a chart already arranged) in any pattern you desire. Use all five colors. Lead students through this arrangement without the music until satisfactory. Lead through with music accompaniment and watch the smiles!!

Day 3

1. Review classifying into categories. Review measures at random. One way to review is to play “question and answer.” One student plays a strip as the question and another student plays another strip for the answer. Review movements. You may keep the same instruments or you may want to change or add. You may want to keep the same groups of students (yellow, green, etc.), or you may want to mix them from last class.

2. Practice the arrangement from last class without music and with music. If you did not get to the music, follow the steps.

3. After satisfactorily playing with the music a few times, rearrange the measures and play with new music. Continue through the class period. Some students may want to do the movements while classmates are playing instruments.


The teacher will be making assessments each step of the lesson plan, especially:

  • during practice time
  • while classifying instruments into categories (answering questions)
  • during movement segments
  • during “question and answer” review
  • while playing with music

The teacher will also determine understanding by asking students to demonstrate measures (strips) not practiced in class. The student decides in which mode to demonstrate. The teacher may find that some students are able to demonstrate better in one mode than the others (speaking, movement, playing) but the goal is for all students to demonstrate all three modes.

Supplemental information

Example of eight measures of four beats:

  • quarter, quarter, quarter, quarter
  • quarter, quarter, two eights, quarter
  • quarter, rest, quarter, rest
  • two eights, quarter, two eights, quarter
  • quarter, quarter, quarter, rest
  • two eights, two eights, two eights, quarter
  • half note, quarter, quarter
  • quarter, quarter, half note

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