Fall is a magical time in the elementary music room. We’re wrapping up the first quarter of school, so routines are in place and kids are settled into their routines. The sweltering days of summer are behind us, and we are welcoming the cooler temperatures with open arms. But just because things are finally starting to feel “normal” at school, it doesn’t mean we should let down our guards! While the kids are certainly becoming more comfortable in our classrooms, they’re also gearing up for Fall Break, Halloween, Thanksgiving… and then… SANTA! Finding a way to use their seasonal excitement to our advantage is key to our success in the fall. So here are a few ideas to get you through the season!

Veterans Day can be a big event for music teachers. Although this event doesn’t occur until November, if you are one of the many who are are expected to direct a show or ceremony honoring those who have served, you need to start getting ready early. Even if you don’t have to put on a big show, you may also have to deal with adjusted schedules to accommodate assemblies or special guests. If you are looking for some fresh ideas for Veterans Day, here are a few options.

If you’re getting ready to put on a show, check out this Veterans Day Starter Pack from Sweet Sounds. The starter pack includes Veteran bricks to make a wall of honor, plus other printables to make decor and bulletin boards for Veterans Day such as a missing man table and Medal of Honor display. The kit also includes sample letters to send home, a veteran invitation, and a set of questions to interview a veteran at an assembly.

If you are looking for a music classroom activity for Veterans Day, look no further than this Veterans Day Rhythm Write the Room Activity from Hutzel House of Music. Students will be up and moving around the room while they search for the cards and practice their notation and rhythm skills as they copy each rhythm and apply it to a phrase about the branches of the military. This is a great activity to help your students learn more about the functions of each of the military branches. 

OK… so now that we have Veterans Day in order, let’s take a look at some activities that are just all-around fun for the fall season! It’s always fun to acknowledge the seasons in our classrooms, and it really DOESN’T have to be tied to holidays! I have many students in my school community who don’t celebrate holidays, but their parents have always been accepting of seasonal activities, even taking their time to share how thankful they were that I provided fun learning opportunities for all students, regardless of their religious beliefs and cultural norms. Here are a few stand-out favorites!

I am always looking for great ways to introduce composing to my students, and I just LOVE this Fall Composing set from Mrs. Stouffer’s Music Room. Giving the students parameters for composing can be just what they need to get past that creative block. Students can draw their own OR paste the provided pictures, write words, or even use a dice (created from a printable template) rolling activity to get their composition going. This type of activity takes the fear our of composing and allows the creativity to flow!

Another fun composition activity is the Creative Story Compositions- Fall Fun from Jennifer at Music Educator Resources. This activity allows students to kick off the composition process in a creative way. There are three options to choose from. All three options encourage students to create a short story. They can write their story out and have options to improvise or compose music to accompany the story. There’s even a video option included that allows students to record their narration and music to moving slides. You can see samples of student videos on the product page.

Get the kids up and moving with this Falling Leaves Rhythms Movement Activity to Sing, Move, and Play from Hutzel House of Music. Students will be up and out of their seats, moving around the room while they sing a song that can be adapted for four different learning objectives (say, clap, sing or play rhythms). Each time, the students will choose a new card and new rhythm to practice each turn. These rhythms can be performed by saying, clapping, singing, or playing on an instrument. It’s a great activity to practice rhythm reading individually without the pressure of being judged by their classmates, since everyone is reading their own unique rhythms at the same time. There is also an assessment option included!

Here’s a fun activity that I just came up with today after visiting the beloved Target Dollar Spot! These pumpkin bulletin borders are just adorable, and you get 15 strips for just $1! I immediately started to envision my kiddos creating their own rhythms on these bad boys… and then noticed these little mini-erasers that were perfect for the task! I will cut down the border strips into 4-pumpkin long strips, then give kids the chance to compose their own rhythms using the mini-erasers (60 count for $1) to show quarter note and eighth note rhythms. Then they can each bring their strip to this spiderweb table runner (also in the dollar spot for $3) and we can all perform their rhythms together as a class!

Make sure to check out this Squirrel Fun! Dynamics Matching Game from Sally’s Sea of Songs this Fall! Students will enjoy matching the dynamics vocabulary terms with their symbols and definitions. Dynamics range from pianissimo to fortissimo, and also include crescendo and decrescendo. This activity also includes instructions for both large and small group instruction!

I guess those spider webs really lead us down the path that everyone is ready for towards the end of October… Halloween! The Music Crew has tons of great Halloween activities available… it was hard to choose just a few to showcase here. Hopefully these will be a fun addition to your classroom for some spooky options this time of year.

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, composing is an area where students really need support and framework to be successful. That’s why I love this Halloween Composition Activity Pack from Kim at Music Teacher Resources. This resource provides six different guided composition activities to choose from. You can choose to print them in color or B/W. Students can choose to use the given bars/measures of rhythm or can use those as a springboard for creating their own Halloween verse. This resource will help your students to develop their understanding of pitch, rhythm, and standard notation on the staff. Their finished products can also be used for concerts or bulletin board displays!

My students would never forgive me if I didn’t mention these two gems from I Heart Teaching Music- The Danse Macabre Guided Listening and Shake, Rattle, & Freeze! Skeleton Freeze Dance Activity are both favorites in my classroom! The Danse Macabre draws my upper elementary students in as they learn about the background of Camille Saint-Saens and the role of the Dance of Death in French Superstition. There is an animated listening map, guided listening worksheet, and a teacher’s guide included.

The Shake, Rattle, & Freeze activity is fun for all ages. I love to put on some spooky music like In the Hall of the Mountain King while the kids do a freeze activity with this set. They love to call each other out for missing the little details the skeletons on the screen demonstrate! I love to hear them call out what they notice about each skeleton pose. It gives a great chance for them to show their attention to detail! This is a great way to get kids engaged with listening to classical music, but also works well as a way to fill a few extra minutes if their teacher is late to pick them up from music class.

I’m a huge fan of everything I have purchased from Floating Down the River, and this pack is no exception! This 5 Little Pumpkins Song and Literacy Pack from Linda at Floating Down the River on the Ohio has tons of activities including a large and small reader for singing, a coloring book, visual aides, glove puppet figures, and even rhyming and math activities! My colleagues love when I support their subject matter during music class, and with activities like this, my kids love it too!

Halloween provides an unique opportunity for listening lessons, and this Halloween Listening Activities set from Sing to Kids is great! Explore the magic of different meters, tonalities, timbres, and expressive qualities. Included in this set are two sets of guided listening worksheets – one for lower elementary students and one for upper elementary students. Two sets of guided reading worksheets are included as well – one for the traditional music teacher and one for Music Learning Theory practitioners.

Wait… do you… hear something? That’s how I introduce my little friend, “Ghosty,” to my kindergarten and first grade classes. At first, they’re all like “No!” but then someone always says “Yeah! I hear it!” and then, they’re all in for the ruse. I go to my closet and bring out Ghosty, a shy friend who only likes to whisper in my ear. She loves to lead my classes in vocal play, though! I start by showing the kids the shape her mouth makes- perfect for singing- then leading them in vocal play (using the syllable oooh, of course) while they follow her path through the air with their voices going high and low like she does. After I’ve demonstrated, I will allow a few students who’ve been on their BEST behavior to take a turn helping Ghosty to lead the class. Would you believe it… sometimes she even whispers to THEM! Some of my favorite memories of music class come from this activity, when the kids tell me what she whispered in their ears when it was their turn to take the lead.

What else do we celebrate in the Autumn? Well, of course we have Thanksgiving! Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays that does not have a specific religious connection. I feel comfortable singing Thanksgiving songs with my students regardless of their religious background.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving activities is one I just discovered last year- this Thankful Mini Listening Unit from Elementary Etudes is a great resource to really use music to explore gratitude. This uses the beautiful message of thankfulness to your students via Josh Groban’s powerful ballad “Thankful.” There are a variety of activities included that will work with students in grades K-5, so you can spiral this lesson through all of the grades you work with.

This Speech and Rhythm Composition activity from Musical Interactions is sure to be a hit with your students! It includes 12 different rhythmic puzzles that work great in centers, a word sort activity where students identify the rhythm of Thanksgiving foods, two speech piece graphic organizers,  and a bulletin board set that includes an interactive expansion activity.

I hope you’ve found some good ideas that you can use in your classroom this season. Feel free to comment below with your own ideas or let us know how any of these went with your kids!


Chrissy @ Hutzel House of Music

Chrissy Hutzel

Chrissy Hutzel is a music educator in the Cincinnati, Ohio area. She teaches elementary music in a Title I school to about 450 blossoming musicians. Chrissy enjoys playing clarinet, tuba, and tenor sax in the Squeeze Play Accordion Band which performs at area retirement facilities and local Oktoberfest festivals. She loves spending her free time at home with her husband and their two adorable kitties.