How To Teach Music Without Singing

Continuing our series from last week about teaching music when singing is prohibited, Polina Mann is back to recommend a wide variety of supplies you can gather across all budget ranges.


plastic egg to be filled with rice for rhythm shakerIndividual Student Music Kits 


This one took a while to do but paid off immensely while teaching in two schools on a cart last year. I created individualized music kits for the students. In the kits, I gave them rhythm sticks, egg shakers, laminated music staves, and bingo chips. I bought the rhythm sticks in a pack of 50. I bought plastic eggs at a craft store on sale and then filled them with rice and taped them up. I bought bingo chips and then printed out and laminated music staff sheets. I then purchased plastic bags to hold everything and created individualized music kits for my students. (If you can make enough for two classes worth of students, you can sanitize the bags from the previous class while your second class does independent work.) 


ukuleles on pink backgroundUkuleles and/or Guitars


I was very fortunate this year to win grants to purchase ukuleles for both of my schools.  I had enough ukuleles to teach one class per day. Using the Music Play Online software as well as Youtube, I created fun and meaningful lessons without having to modify anything to accomplish this. The same can be said for guitars (Music Play Online has units for both!) but unfortunately, I do not have guitars in my classroom yet. Check out last week’s post for several free and cheap music programs you can use online. 


assorted boomwhackers for music classBoomwhackers


I cannot recommend these enough! Boomwhackers are some of my students’ favorite instruments! I have used them along with Musication videos on Youtube to teach about harmony and musical form. Students have also been exposed to not only their favorite pieces of music but famous works in a fun and interactive way! One of my favorite lessons is to have students compose in Chrome Music Lab for boomwhackers and then play their own compositions! 


multi-colored bellsHandbells


Bells are another wonderful way to engage students! While this is not the same thing as having real handbells, they can be used much like the boomwhackers to play along with Musication videos and make a great addition to any holiday concert.


child drumming on 5 gallon bucketsDesk/Bucket Drumming


I had done bucket drumming before but this is the perfect activity to do with your students if you cannot sing! You can acquire buckets for free either from Home Depot/Lowe’s or a paint store. I wrote letters and called stores until I acquired enough to have a classroom set. I bought drum sticks and, on a tip from another teacher, I found a way to make the drumming quieter. If you purchase rubber pencil grips, cut them in half, and then put one end on the tip of each drum stick, the sound volume is drastically reduced. And everybody’s eardrums said, “Ahhhhhh!”

If you do not have buckets then you can also use desks to do desk drumming. I followed the Music Play Online curriculum for bucket drumming. Another great resource is I have used the bucket drumming curriculum for desk drumming, simply substituting desks for buckets. 


books with headphonesBooks


As someone who uses books frequently, I have found that the best way to drive momentum and engage students is to use books! While this is primarily something I use with my younger grades (PreK-2nd grade) it works wonders in creating lessons that do not require singing. Whether it is a lesson on a historical figure or a rhythm lesson, I have used books to help supplement my teaching. 


white puppet with black nose, child holding an orangePuppets


Children love puppets and I have often used puppets in the beginning, end, and in the transition of the lesson. Some of my favorite puppets are the owl, squirrel, alligator, and narwhal puppets. I buy most of my puppets from the Folkmanis brand on I have used the owl puppet for classroom management procedures, the squirrel for a movement activity, and the alligator to emphasize and practice steady beat. The narwhal puppet is a great way to teach conducting for the puppet goes along with a book about Wendell the Narwhal who became a conductor. For more information on this topic, please visit my blog to read more in-depth on how I use these puppets. 


brightly colored scarves on a blue backgroundScarves


Another great addition to the music room! Movement is very important and was instrumental in keeping my students engaged and focused in a year when they were limited in movement. Adding scarves created opportunities for creative play while moving in the classroom. I used Youtube videos for guided scarf movement. 


child playing a recorderRecorders


While this one may not seem pandemic-friendly in the classroom, recorders can be used at home to teach music literacy and have students practice playing melodies. I used the Flipgrid software to set up an online group for each class. Then I pre-recorded each piece as well as putting the sheet music into Google classroom for my students. In class, we went over sight-reading the music, and then we would watch my video while reading along with the music. When students went home they were instructed to watch the video and practice recorders based on that, and then submit their video to me. 


I hope that this is helpful to you as you begin the new year! Happy Music Making! 

about the author box free teacher resources

Leave a Comment

Share this post!