Updated: Jan 4
Creating band lesson plans for beginning band and even 2nd year band members can be a challenge at times. Band typically lends itself to direct instruction (or basically lecturing), but what if I could tell you that there are many activities you can add to your beginning band lesson plans to create active learning. These activities are easy to use and implement in almost any setting.
Beginning Band Games
Playing beginning band games can get kids excited and embrace that competitive fun atmosphere that the band rehearsal lends itself to (this can be external or internal competition depending on how you deliver the game).
Mess up Stand Up
This beginning band games is pretty simple and a ton of fun to include in your band lesson plans! It doesn’t take much to implement this into an already planned lesson. This is also great for the last 5 minutes of class activity. Here are the rules:
Everyone plays a section of the beginning band music - it’s ideal that it’s the same line or melody so that it can be more fair. But you can also try and implement this with concert music and select a section that everyone plays in. I would keep it at 8 measures or so.
Everyone plays at a reasonably slow tempo (I normally start at 70 bpm).
As you play through the music selection, if a student plays the wrong pitch, rhythm, misses a rest, doesn’t cut off, etc - they MUST stand up and stop playing. They become officially out of the game.
If there are still people sitting and playing at the end of the beginning band music selection, you bump up the tempo.
I normally go 20 bpm more each time. So, after each round and there is still multiple people sitting, you keep bumping up the tempo.
Ultimately, there should be one person left standing which means they won!
TIP: Now, if you want it to be more internal reflection, have the students try to remember how many rounds they made. Then give them the night to practice and see if they can beat their record. Do the same exact line the following day and have them analyze their progress after the second time doing the game. My kids love this game.
This beginning band activity essentially has the students go down the line in a row and play a song a measure at a time. For example, the first student will play the first measure of the line, then the 2nd measure will be played by the 2nd person, etc. This is very easy to incorporate into your band lesson plans, specifically doing it after learning a line and needing to review the concept of phrases.
If you are only doing 8 measures and you have more than 8 students, have the kids continue to repeat the line.
If you mess up, you start over - but don’t make it a big deal and try not to lose tempo.
THE GOAL: Keep tempo and make the transition from one student to the next as seamless as possible.
Why is this a good activity?
Train really forces the kids to listen to others and not just focus on themselves. This is obviously an important skill to have when playing beginning band music. Constantly listening and evaluating to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Classroom Management and Morale
Beginning Band classroom management with 30 kids or 100 kids can be overwhelming while they are holding $1000’s of instruments. So, keeping them accountable and helping build community is SO important and easy to put into your lesson plans.
Allowing beginning band students to encourage others is important in a lot of ways. Giving them a way to do so without distracting others during a lesson can also help class run smoothly while also keeping students aware of others.
I have done an Affirmation Wall in my classes and categorized for each instrument. Flutes get their own poster, trumpets get their own posters, etc.
On the posters, I put Library Card Envelopes for each kid and label it with their name. This provides a space for encouraging words.
I have an envelope dedicated to blank pieces of paper for students to grab whenever they want to compliment another student on a job well done.
This leads into a conversation of HOW to actually write a word of encouragement - specific, positive and kind. These should be VERY SPECIAL moments to congratulate, not moments of typical behavior. So, make sure to be clear on your expectations of what going above and beyond should look like to receive a note of encouragement.
We also talk about there are going to be times you might not get a note that week, and that’s ok. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do well. Not everyone will get notes all the time.
When a student gets done writing an encouraging note, they put it in my “mailbox”, it’s literally a tin container labeled mailbox (nothing special).
From there, I review the notes to make sure they are positive and kind, I either initial them or stamp them (this lets the receiving student know that I have reviewed the note).
Kids love finding new notes the next day and boosts the band community, which I love.
I normally tell the kids when they want to write something to wait before or after class to collect the blank paper and write the letters (it’s not really a class time activity).
I have had so many kids be uplifted by these notes. I even write notes myself and place them in the envelopes throughout the day if I see something extraordinary. If you want some already made slips of paper that are organized for this project, just click the button below to access it.
Bathroom and Water Breaks
We have all been there before with kids CONSTANTLY interrupting our lessons to go to the bathroom or needing a water break. They either walk up in the middle of your band lesson plan to ask this question (mind you, you’ve already set procedures for this but they don’t seem to stick).
Using sign language in the beginning band classroom can be a HUGE lifesaver. A simple hand gesture can make the transition seamless with very little interruption. I have my students sign the letter “T” and shake it a little side to side, instead of raising their hands and asking.
You can continue to teach and nod your head if you approve. It’s simple but an amazing classroom management tool. If you need the kid to hold on a minute, it’s a simple hand signal for “wait a minute”. But remember to always go back to the kid and let them know they can go when there is a break to do so. This small gesture of coming back to them gives them a reason to trust you and to be seen. It might seem silly, but it can be a big deal to a kid.
Fun Ways to Test Your Students
Tests can be a scary time for a kid, but if you give fun aspects to the test, it’s a great way to get them engaged and to make sure they are prepared to show off their skills.
The Wheel of Misfortune
Another part of band lesson plans is having to take playing tests for a beginning band games. “The Wheel of Misfortune” was actually dubbed by a former student of mine. I never liked the concept of band kids being told what line they are being tested over a few days before the test…because all they practiced was that one line. So, I made up the Wheel of Misfortune to give kids more to practice for the test, but the test is still only going to be roughly 8 measures instead of an entire age in the method book (which would take awhile).
Rules to Wheel of Misfortune
Normally, my classes can get through an entire method book page with beginning band music in roughly a week. So, I say that we are testing over lines 1-5 (for example) but they will only get 1 of those lines to play for the test.
I tell them the test plan a few days before the actual test - this gives them several days to go practice the lines at home before the test.
On test day, I have my students line up at the smart board and spin the wheel that states lines 1-5.
When they spin the wheel they are selected to play only one line. I write their numbers down on a piece of paper so I can keep track of it.
I give them a few minutes to practice their line before the test.
I go down the row and they play the lines that they were assigned for their playing test.
TIP: Make sure the lines are the same difficulty level. If there is a line on the page that is WAY more difficult than the other lines, don’t put that in the line up.
Have a Testing Apparel Item
When I do tests in the beginning band classroom, I make sure I have a testing item that I wear. Mine was a “testing tiara”. You read that right. I bought a Dollar Tree tiara and wore it everyday there was a test. It was a great reminder to the kids and it was a great way to let the kids have some fun seeing me look ridiculous. You can also have a testing tie or a testing t-shirt - but make it something really bright and colorful or funny so the kids can immediately recognize what it is that you are wearing.
I hope these tips for an effective band rehearsal helps in your beginning band lesson plans for the future! Let me know if you ave any other beginning band games to add to this list, because I know there is a lot!
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