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Your third grader and music

Third graders sing, move to music, and begin to play simple melody instruments. They also learn how instruments work together in an orchestra.

By Miriam Myers , GreatSchools Staff

In your child's classroom

Exploring music

Third graders work to develop their understanding of pitch, melody and rhythm by singing, playing instruments and exploring creative movement. You can expect your child to learn about famous musicians and the instruments in an orchestra. Through these activities, she develops her understanding of the artistic, cultural, scientific and mathematical foundations of music.

Research has shown that the benefits of music education include improved reading and reasoning ability, self-esteem and vocational preparation. Paul Bakeman, our teacher consultant and award-winning music teacher, adds: "Recent research done at the University of California, Irvine, indicates that young children involved in consistent music instruction have a greater ability to grasp concepts that are also essential to the understanding of math and science."

Music may not be taught as a separate subject in some schools, but most states require that it be included in the curriculum. Most states have music standards that are based on the Most states have music standards that are based on the National Standards for Arts Education.

Singing

Your third grader is likely to sing traditional and folk songs. Many songs will be connected to the holidays. Others will reinforce what your child is learning in class. Typical songs include "America the Beautiful," "Yankee Doodle" and "Rocky Mountain." Your child sings alone and with a group, blending his voice with others and singing in rounds. He sings expressively, on pitch (high and low) and with correct dynamics (loud and soft). He sings an increasing number of songs from memory and with improved accuracy. He may create songs based on a poem or nursery rhyme.

Playing and listening to instruments

Third graders play musical instruments. They can begin a simple melody instrument such as the harmonica. Some, but not all, are ready for the recorder.

They can play more complex melodies on xylophones, individually and in a group. You can expect your child to work with rhythm to find a steady beat. He will be able to maintain a steady beat as he plays an instrument alone and in a group. He can improvise short melodies on a xylophone to the rhythm of poems or chants, given a set of pitches to work with.

You can expect your child to learn the characteristics of the musical instrument families: string, woodwind, brass, percussion and keyboard. He listens to the instruments and learns how they work together in an orchestra.

Moving to music

Your child gets many opportunities for creative movement. She may invent hand and body movements to accompany songs, showing her understanding of rhythm, beat and the mood of the music. She will also learn dances from other cultures or eras. "Third graders love to participate in folk and traditional dances," Bakeman says. "It is often interesting to watch these students practicing their socialization skills as they attempt these dances that usually involve pairing up with someone else."

Using the vocabulary

In a rich music program, third graders learn to use the vocabulary of music, using words such as pitch, meter, rhythm, tempo and melody. They also learn to understand how music communicates feelings. Your child will use words such as happy, sad, excited or scary to describe the emotions portrayed in music.

Learning notes

Third-grade students are able to develop recognition of musical notation. They begin to read music from the treble clef staff, identifying and writing individual pitches. "Third graders also practice drawing the treble clef symbol, staff and other musical symbols," Bakeman adds. "They can identify these symbols and explain their purpose and usage."

Studying famous musicians

Students should be exposed to music of various styles, eras, genres and cultures. They learn about famous musicians of the past, such as Frédéric Chopin and Ludwig van Beethoven, as well as contemporary musicians and those from various cultures. They learn that being a musician or composer can be a career choice.

What to Look for When You Visit

  • Musical instruments, such as recorders, harmonicas, drums, cymbals, triangles and rhythm sticks
  • Sound recordings from a wide variety of cultures, styles and eras
  • Music-related books
  • Puppets or other props used for singing or movement games

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

03/1/2011:
"I teach music in an elementary school. It is the joy of my life. My school is stocked full of all kinds of instruments from xylophones to thunder tubes; melody makers to sound makers. The kids and I have a blast everyday with these sophisticated toys. However, I never forget the significance of the one instrument we all possess, our bodies. In addition to instruments, my students and I enjoy singing and creating body percussions (snapping, clapping, etc.)When we sing and add body sounds first, we play our instruments and read music better later. It takes concentration to do it all well, but kids grasp music easily when it is unfolded to them in a comprehensive way that appeals to their nature. It is wonderful to behold something as academic as music proving to be rewarding and fun at the same time! Motivation is a huge factor in helping children learn, and a teacher's pedagogy chops and creative practices go a long way in making any subject fun and relative. "
05/14/2009:
"As a music teacher at an elementary school, I believe that music education is an essential part of a well-rounded education. I think that we must keep in mind that while a quality music program does improve student performance in other subject areas, that shouldn't be the sole reason for wanting to teach kids (or learn) about music. At the risk of speaking in cliche's, music really is a universal language. Music can be found in every culture, during every time in histroy. It gives humans the ability to express what words cannot. While we may not always realize it, music is as much a part of our daily lives as any other subject, so we should want to explore it as much as possible. Don't misunderstand me, the research supporting the 'benefits' to other subject areas is wonderful news, but I think that if this is the ONLY reason to support a music program, it diminishes the artisitic and academic qualities of music itself."
05/13/2009:
"As a music teacher at an elementary school, I believe that music education is an essential part of a well-rounded education. I think that we must keep in mind that while a quality music program does improve student performance in other subject areas, that shouldn't be the sole reason for wanting to teach kids (or learn) about music. At the risk of speaking in cliche's, music really is a universal language. Music can be found in every culture, during every time in histroy. It gives humans the ability to express what words cannot. While we may not always realize it, music is as much a part of our daily lives as any other subject, so we should want to explore it as much as possible. Don't misunderstand me, the research supporting the 'benefits' to other subject areas is wonderful news, but I think that if this is the ONLY reason to support a music program, it diminishes the artisitic and academic qualities of music itself."
04/22/2009:
"Music and Art is part of every culture and should not be optional in schools. I believe that children who learn through the arts make better rounded individuals. My son who is a 3rd grader is fortunate enough to go to a magnet school in Delaware, where the Arts are a very important part of the curriculum. There is one hour of some form of art each day (dance, vocal music, instrumental music, drama and art), and the arts are incorporated into all the learning they do. I feel the children who attend this school thrive through this form of learning while also being prepared academically. "
11/26/2007:
"many schools in northern CA don't have music or art programs/teachers at all. i hardly have time to teach them to read & write in English & understand how to read word problems in math so they will hopefully do OK on the STAR tests."
11/1/2007:
"If over 50% of the schools in So Cal don't have a music program, who is teaching this to them? Also, if teachers are being squeezed for time already in the core-subject areas, when would an average third grade teacher have time to teach music?"
04/12/2007:
"Thank you for such an informative article. I am considering piano lessons for my granddaughter, just about to turn nine. Your article reassured me that the timing is right. "
04/12/2007:
"I have custody of my granddaughter who is a third grader and she loves the school choir. A couple of months ago, I started her in piano lessons. I felt that she should know what notes she is singing. It is too early to tell whether this has improved her scholastically. I believe that music is a great foundation for any child to build their self-esteem and confidence. Surprisingly, she likes listening to classical music because she states it is relaxing. "
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