First question to ask your students, "Do you want to learn how to read music, or do you want to sing along with the stereo?" You'll be surprised at their response!


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Grades 1 - 5 - Beginning General Music - one 55 minute or two 30 minute lessons

Objectives: Students will identify: beat, rest, staff, bar, double bar, time signature, beat divisions

Materials: Colored markers, samples of music (music textbook), yardstick/ruler

ASSESSMENT - or - Let's show them what we are going to learn.

"I'm going to draw some music symbols on the board to see where we need to begin. If you know the name of the musical symbol, or what the symbol is telling you to do, raise your hand. Don't shout out the name, just raise your hand." (Draw the following musical symbols on the board, in the order shown, pausing after each to count how many students know it's name or meaning. Do not give the answers at this time!)

  • staff
  • beat
  • rest (quarter)
  • bar
  • double bar
  • repeat
  • notes - whole, half, quarter, eighth
  • fermatta
  • 4/4 time
  • measure

The following promise should be made to each class:

"Before you leave today you will know SIX of these symbols, and, you will know what they mean." "DEAL?"


In music, we have sound, (make sound) or no sound (pause).
There are thousands of sounds we can make; hitting the board, snapping your fingers, clapping your hands, who can thank of others?

(drawing the symbol of a beat on the board) This is the symbol for a sound in music, say "beat". ("BEAT")
This symbol stands for any quick sound, or one beat of sound, like a second on a clock, a beat is quick and the sound for that beat looks like this musical symbol. Just as we can have sound, we can also have no sound. (drawing the symbol for a quarter rest) This is the symbol for a "beat" with no sound. In music no sound is called a "rest".
This is still a beat (demonstrate two beats by showing the class two taps of your foot) but on the first beat we have sound (clap) and on the second beat we have no sound (pause).
(continue to demonstrate until 100% of the students corretly clap a rest and pausing for a rest while chanting "beat-rest." For primary grades, this is a good time to reinforce the concepts of together and apart, by chanting 'together' and 'apart' in place of 'beat' and 'rest'.)
(while pointing to a beat)
What is this?
(while pointing to a rest) And this?
(starting at the far left hand side of the board, begin drawing beats and rest to make an easy 3or 4 beat pattern using 12 beats; ask the class to call out if you have drawn a beat or a rest)
(draw a double bar at the end) Who can guess what these two bars mean? (give class clue to it's meaning by drawing a stop sign)
So, what does this mean? How many lines are there? What is another word for two that starts with the letter 'd'? Or, if you hit the ball in baseball in make it to second base, what have you hit? (continue to give hints until the word double is discovered.)
(point to double bar) So, this is called?
(point to stop sign) And it means?
You now know three things you didn't know before.
In the upper right or left corner of the board, draw each musical symbol as class responds with the name. For reinforcement and team development, return to the 12 beat pattern and have the class chat the symbol names using a slow steady beat [teacher uses a pointer], clap while chanting, then clapping only. DO NOT move on until the class performs it perfectly, encouraging each member to do their best for the TEAM!)


In music we have more than one kind of sound. We can have high or low sounds called pitches.
When we read music, how do we know if the sound is going to be HIGH,
(sing high or play a high tone) or LOW (sing or play a low tone)?
We do that by using this, count while I draw. (draw staff on board, class counts lines as they are drawn from the bottom up)
Why is this one wrong? (draw staff from top down)
[wait for class to discover the second staff was drawn from the top, demonstrate again if needed]
Right! The staff has five lines, and the first line starts from..(class responds - "bottom")?

RELAY RACE - A great way to reinforce music symbols before or after a lesson, throughout the year!

(Students should be divided into two equal teams, no more than five to a row, with room for students to walk quickly between each row. If the class is not of an even number, the teacher can be the last player on one team.)

Time for a RELAY RACE! You are now going to come to the board and draw a staff from the bottom up, counting each line. We will do this playing a relay race. This half of the room will play this half.

> Upper primary math correlations - When naming the teams; "this 1/2" and "this 1/2" - ask what is another way to read the fraction 1 over 2?
(1 over 2 can also be read as ONE OF THE TWO. This can be demonstrated with the team divisions, indicating
that this 1/2 is one of the two halves, or one of the two. Thus another way to read the division line in English
would be - "of the." 3/4 = three of the four, 6/8 = six of the eight.)

You will race to the board, draw your staff from the bottom up, counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 then run back and tag the next person saying "STAFF". The team that finishes first wins a point. Then we are going to check and see which side has the best examples and that team will get a point. So, you can receive a point for being fast, and a point for being correct. If one team wins the race and the other has more correct staff drawings then each team would get a point and we would have a tie.

Hold out your hand, tag yourself and say "STAFF."
Tag your partner and say "STAFF."
When I say "go" the first person will run to the board and draw a staff counting each line, then run back and tag the next person and say "STAFF."
You cannot go until you are tagged and the player before you says "STAFF."



Do we correct mistakes? NO.
Do we shout? NO.
Do we quietly encourage our teammates? YES.

DO NOT CORRECT MISTAKES DURING THE GAME! At the end of the game you will count which team has the correct looking staff drawings.

At the end of the race:

1) Give a point to the winning team, or award each team a point in a tie.
2) Check each staff for quality; even lines, even spaces. Have students count each line as you check each staff.
3) Count number correct for each team and award a point for the team with
the most correct.
(Remember to mark incorrect any staff that was drawn from the top down. Placing a dot above the incorrect staff during the game helps to remember when checking for accuracy after the race.)

Now, let's look at what we know.
(return to the symbols drawn in the upper part of the board and have students call out their name as you point
And, now we can add the..(draw staff)


(Draw a large clock face on the board using short lines for the minutes and a longer line for the hours. {show no numbers)
Ask the students,

  • "What does this look like to you?"  (Keep asking and wait for the right answer!)
  • "What does a clock measure?" (time)
  • "How does the clock measure time?" (seconds, minutes, hours)
  • "How does it group these?" (ones, fives)

(Draw a time-line using short lines for four (4) counts and a longer line for every fifth count, for a total of 60 counts.  It should look like number one (1) above but laid out straight, or a clock face made straight.)

  • "What does this look like?" ("a clock on it's side," or something close. You may need to write the numbers of the hours above the longer lines as a hint.)  Explain that, 
  • "This is what it looks like when we measure time in music."
  • "We measure music in all numbers of groups." 
  • "This example would be grouped in four with the long lines showing us how the time is being grouped." (Show the number of smaller lines = 4.)
  • "We call each of these smaller lines beats." (While drawing an 'X' under each small line, encourage the student's to say the word 'beat' with each 'X.') 
  • "Let's count these beats." 

(With the class counting along, put the number of each beat under each short line.  When passing the fifth long line say "bar.") At the end draw another bar and say, 

  • "Raise you're hand if you know what that might mean." (STOP.) 
  • "What do the two bars mean?" (Stop. Draw a stop sign.)

(Erase the numbers and do it again with the students counting along.
Get a yardstick.) While showing the yardstick ask, 

  • "What is the barline doing?" (may need to hold up yardstick, measuring)
  • "So, the barline is.." (show the yardstick, measuring)
  • "What is the barline measuring?" (point to beats, beats)
  • "In this example how are the beats being measured?" (fours)
  • "In music we can measure beats in any number.  The most common groups are in 2 (show example with short and long lines), or 3 (show example), or 4 like we did first." (point to first example)
  • "At the beginning of every song there are two numbers, one on top, and, one on the bottom." (draw a number 4 sitting on top of an 'X')
  • "This top number tells us how the barlines are measuring the beats."

(Using the examples on the board), 

  • "What would the top number be in this example?"  "This one""  "This one?"
  • "We also have a name for the space between each barline.  What did we say the barlines are doing?" (measuring beats) 
  • "We call the space between each barline, a measure.  Each measure groups time in so many beats." 
  • "How many measures are in this example on the board?"  "This one?"  "This one?"

(Get songbook or sheets of music),

  • "When I call a page number, you find the song.  When I say Show me, you hold up fingers to show how the beats have been measured in the song." 


  • Where did you find the answer? 
  • Which number was it? 
  • Where does the measuring end? 
  • How many measures are in this song? 
  • How have the beats been measured in most of the songs?  ("That's why we will sometimes see the letter "C" where the numbers are.  It is telling us the beats have been measured in 4's which is most "COMMON.") 
  • How many beats does the "C" stand for?

Now, let's look at what we know.
(return to the symbols drawn in the upper part of the board and have students call out their name as you point)

And, now we can add the..(draw bar, 4/4, bars on each side of the staff to indicate a measure)


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