What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

In this grade band the focus shifts more to the recognition and performance of rhythm rather than just simply moving naturally to the beat. Students are ready to absorb more complex musical concepts. They start to become interested in finding out about music on their own by the end of fifth grade. When their imaginations are engaged, they will stay interested. The following is a quick look at the behaviors you are likely to encounter.

Third graders

Third graders are beginning to refine their listening skills, which makes this a great time to teach them to sing rounds and partner songs. By this grade they are usually able to identify line and space notes of the treble clef, and they enjoy doing musical spelling activities. They are curious to know how sounds are produced on instruments and enjoy making simple instruments of their own (shakers using cardboard tubes and beads or beans, stringed instruments using tissue boxes and rubber bands, etc.). They are highly social, which can make for successful collaborations at this grade level. Make sure to give detailed and clear instructions because, as mentioned earlier, they are listening to every word!

Fourth graders

Fourth graders are becoming more self-aware, which can mean that at times they withdraw or hesitate to speak out. To draw them out, plan group musical activities and be supportive. Some younger students seem completely uninhibited, but by the time fourth grade approaches some of that openness begins to fade. On the other hand, once a fourth-grader is interested in and confident about a new idea or activity, he or she will dive into it with full energy and enthusiasm. Try working in groups to create music through rhythmic and chordal accompaniments on classroom instruments. The excitement from a group activity can often result in voices escalating; however, students will cooperate if you ask them to quiet down and focus because they enjoy working together to create music. This could be a good time to reinforce some of those earlier ideas about music dynamics, and to make a connection between singing and speaking, loud voices and soft ones.

Fifth graders

Fifth graders are making their very first steps into adulthood, physically. Because of this, they may sometimes experience unfamiliar feelings and this often affects their mood. They show a heightened interest in the larger world and begin to wonder how they fit in. They enjoy teamwork, so this is a great time to have them sing two-part and partner songs. Songs from other cultures are also well received in this grade level as they help students discover the world’s vastness and diversity. Independent study can
be introduced at this grade level, as well. Have them research the background of their favorite musician and then speculate as to how that musician achieved his or her current status. This is also a great time to discuss the importance of discipline in a musician’s life.

What Students Can Do at This Level

The learning outcomes below are based on the Scope and Sequence, which builds instruction sequentially across these levels. Keep in mind that students of different ages may be at the same level.
Grade 3 Students Can… Grade 5 Students Can…

improvise simple rhythmic accompaniment to familiar songs

differentiate between 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 meter through movement and playing classroom instruments

identify the names of line and space notes on the treble clef staff

identify the key signatures in known selections of music

listen to and identify pitches that move by steps and leaps in familiar songs and musical selections

listen to and describe the tone color of instruments from a variety of cultures

identify various genres of music in our society

compare and contrast musical styles from various cultures

investigate connections between music, drama, art, and dance in theatrical productions

distinguish how the element of harmony relates to visual art, theater, and dance