Oh boy, centers!

So simple a kidnergartner could do it..right? We see them all the time in the normal classroom being used by teachers to help students become independent thinkers and learners with only a minimal amount of guidance. I took on the challenge of integrating centers into my classroom this year after attending the General Music academy at MEW2010 hoping to come up with some creative ideas to keep my students engaged and independently reinforcing music concepts. The following is a list of centers I have used this year so far categorized into four groups, Instruments, Games, Technology, and Creative station.


Boomwhacked!- For this station simple folk songs are set out for students that I have laminated and instead of notes I use just simple letter notation (Some of my students are not strong enough to read notes on their own just yet. This at least gets them playing and helps them with taking a note and bringing it to the instrument) Students are allowed to get into groups or play by themselves and play the simple folk songs using the boom whackers.
*Sometimes students decide to walk around and frustrate others with the instruments, create a set area and volume they may play at.

Drums- I have a large set of Remo World percussion for kids. At this station students choose an instrument and a handful of popsicle sticks. I have 4 colors and each color represents a note or rest (For me Yellow=Quarter note, Green=Quarter Rest, Blue=Half note, Red=1 set of eighth notes). Students can play by themselves or in small groups and put the popsicle sticks in a pattern then try to play it on the instrument.

Xylophones- This station is similar to Boomwhackers but first students are asked to create a 3 note melody and share it with a partner before taking one of the simple folk songs and playing them on the Xylophones (I have the letter notation and normal note notation at this station to accommodate students who are not yet comfortable with note notation yet)

Creative Station

Books- Students are provided with a large selection of books I have in the classroom that have something to do with music. They read through a few and choose one. As a center group they find all the characters in the book and choose a small percussion instrument. One student reads through the book and they switch out the names of each character for the percussion sound. (Stretch activity with this is to have students find the action verbs instead of the characters and do the same). This activity is based on a storyscape.

Chord Contraption- I got this idea from a Quaver Music episode (www.quavermusic.com). Students have a basis for what a simple chord is before entering this station. (I let students know it is a group of 3 notes played at the same time.) Students look at the picture of Quaver’s chord contraption which is a large bar with 3 equally spaced legs. They try to make their own using a box of Knex. After they are done I have them test it out on a piece of paper with a piano drawn out on it. If their contraption gives them the C, F, and G chords successfully they can make their contraption bigger and better.

Nascar Notes and Rests- This is a game I came up with to help students learn notes and rests, the instructions are here: https://celticnovelist.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/nascar-notes/


Ipads- I acquired 3 ipads through a grant and so far have used them for 2 stations. The first is using them for simple notation. The students bring up Symphony Pro and will compose a melody using notes and rests they have learned so far. They can play back what they compose instantly and save their work for a later time. The other app we have used has been Garageband where students create loop songs and those songs get sent to PE class where students test their heart rate against the tempo of the song.

Netbooks- I have access to computer carts on wheels. Each student is required to log in using their library log on information. (You may have a couple of desktops in your room students use instead.) I set out a website that I want students to go to and a guideline for what they should be doing. A majority of the time when I do this station I will have them enter Quavermusic.com and create in their Q studio.


Short Story- I have done one short story prompt this year and with it I asked students to use as many dynamic and tempo words as they had learned and put them into the craziest story they could think of. (I got some crazy ones!!). Remind students they need to be appropriate but remember they need to be creative too. I don’t give them a minimum or maximum for their amount of writing s long as they are on task and moving a long.

Writing Prompt- Set a list of possible writing prompt suggestions out for students and provide paper. Make sure the possible prompts have something to do with music. This center really can get students thinking deeper about the subject we teach.

Describing a song- I have used Stars and Stripes Forever for this station. Set out a CD player with the song and paper with pencils. Ask them what instruments they hear, how loud or soft the music gets, how fast or slow, or even how the music makes them feel. You would be surprised about the answers you receive. After they are complete I usually have sticks set out so they can conduct with the music until time is up.

Graphic Notation- Inspired by Michael Colgrass’ way of graphic notation students use lines and dots with a large instrumentation and show where they want each melody to progress through the dots and lines. If they want the melody to go up then the lines go up and the same with down. After students finish I ask them to sing it in their head then share at least one instrument line with a friend. I have an example out for them that I have done myself so they can fully understand the assignment.

I have 40 minute classes and see my students twice a week. With four centers set out I divide each class into 4 groups and they get 15 minutes at each station and set of centers lasts 1 week.

These are some centers I have done, if anyone reading would like any help, any of my tools, or has any other great center ideas comment, email, you know where I am 😉

4 thoughts on “Oh boy, centers!

  1. […] Centers: Post 1 Frosty MIOSM Post 2 I post a lot of center ideas, check out some different ideas for your own […]

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