First-graders are at such a fun age. They are curious, but can follow directions a bit better than their kindergarten counterparts. They are excited, they are joyful, and they can really start diving into musical literacy! In today’s article, I'm writing my tips for teaching first grade.


In kindergarten, routine is essential, but with first grade, routine is still important. With kindergarten and first grade, I start with a singing game, such as "Apple Tree" or "We are dancing," and then we do the song "Here we are together," which is to the tune of "The more we get together." I use the words:

Oh, here we are together, together, together,
Oh, here we are together in music today.
With Macy, and Jenna, and .... (sing all students' names)
Oh, here we are together in music today.

After that, we do greetings, in which I listen to four students sing solos, and then we sing the first song of the lesson and do concentrated work with it, whether it be with rhythm or melody. However you structure your lesson, it's wonderful for there to be aspects of it that are routine, so kids know what to expect.

Try centers

Although I have tried centers in kindergarten with success, I feel like in first grade they are even more ready to work independently. They love the autonomy and being able to showcase their knowledge!

If you haven't tried centers and are wondering what they might look like in the music room, check out my YouTube channel to watch videos with specific examples of centers for first grade.

Challenge them

Even though they are only 6 or 7 years old, first-graders are ready for a challenge! Whether you have them keep the beat in their feet and the rhythm in their hands as they speak "Bee Bee," or have one half of the class read one rhythm with ta and ti-ti while the other half of the class reads another, they are so excited to show you what they are capable of!

...But don't forget that they are 6!

Even though they are ready for more challenging tasks, they are still six or seven, so they love a lot of the same activities that they loved in kindergarten. Think about which activities your kindergartners absolutely love, and then think about how you might adapt those for first-graders.

Give chances for small group work

At this age, first-graders are more ready to work in small groups — to create, to make musical decisions, and more! This past November at the AOSA conference, I found the book "Rain,” by Kalan and Crews, at the West Music booth.

I decided to use it with first grade, to assign a page to each small group, and then have them decide movement and/or instruments to accompany the reading of each page. Students were so creative with their choices, and had tons of fun performing!

To practice different voices (such as speaking, singing, whisper, and calling), I’ve also had first-graders work in small groups to choose a song or chant from music class, then choose a voice they’d like to perform that song or chant.

So, for example, one group might choose to perform “We are dancing” in a speaking voice, while another group might choose to perform “Engine Engine” in a whisper voice. Students get ownership with their decisions and they also get a chance to perform!

Whether you are having students work in small groups, centers, or simply providing them with an interesting challenge, I hope you have fun with your first-graders!