What Are Students Like at This Learning Level?

For most very young students, being in a music class is a new experience. They are likely to be excited or nervous about what’s expected of them. Focus their natural energy and enthusiasm on simple, highly structured activities that involve plenty of movement and games while guiding them to focus on the music itself. The following is a quick look at the behaviors you are likely to encounter.


Pre-kindergartners are usually adjusting to their first "classroom" setting, which may increase their naturally high levels of energy. At times they may find it difficult to sit or stand quietly, as they often have a tendency to fidget and speak out. Language is relatively new to them, and they enjoy expressing themselves in words. They learn best through their own play, and particularly enjoy simple activities that use music, repetition, and rhythm. They can learn to sing nursery rhymes and simple songs such as "Mary Had a Little Lamb" and "The Farmer in the Dell." One way to direct their natural energy and their natural inclination to move is to have them respond to music through hand-clapping and marching. They can also perform simple action songs such as "The Itsy Bitsy Spider."


Kindergartners have better self-control than pre-kindergartners and often respond well to rules. Like pre-kindergartners, they learn best through active play, such as singing or moving to songs. They particularly respond to songs that relate to home and community. This is a good time for children to discover their singing voices and the different ways they can use them, such as singing, speaking, whispering, and shouting. They can also discover steady beat through body movements, clapping, and playing simple percussion instruments. Kindergartners are generally cooperative and seek teacher approval, so group activities work well.

First graders

First graders have a strong desire to learn and often want to learn everything at once. They are excitable and enthusiastic, and they can be competitive. They may become excited, but they value and respond to rules and routines. They love to try new things. This is a good time to have them sing and identify high/low pitch movement, loud/soft dynamics, and fast/slow movement within songs. It is also a good time to break down the meter of music even further by having them identify and use percussion instruments (or clap) to perform the rhythms of quarter and eighth notes.

Second graders

Second graders start to get more serious about learning and life in general. But they are still young children who are fascinated by discovery and love to have fun. Singing familiar songs as a group is a great way to prepare for a new concept at this grade level: learning songs in another language. Regardless of what you are singing, encourage students to keep the beat, either on simple percussion instruments or through their own body movement as they sing. This is also a good time to introduce the musical staff, and the line and space notes of the treble clef.

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.
Pre-K Students Can… Grade 2 Students Can…

sing songs and demonstrate ability to sing loud/soft, high/low, and fast/slow

sing and distinguish between high and low intervals on the music staff

identify high and low through visual icons

follow music notation demonstrating upward and downward movement

differentiate between singing voice and speaking voice

listen to and identify pitches that move by steps and skips

identify appropriate audience behavior for listening to music

identify and exhibit appropriate audience behavior for style of music performed

paint a picture while music plays softly in the background

relate music note values to math