Students dancing doing fun movement and music activities in the classroom

Easy Movement and Music Activities to Keep Elementary Students Engaged

As the back-to-school season approaches, I know that every minute counts for dedicated elementary music teachers like you. You may be looking for easy movement and music activities to keep your elementary students engaged and kick off the upcoming school year. You know that to feel well and learn well, students need to move. And that’s why I wanted to share with you these magical, tried and true, movement and music activities that will help you create fun music lessons not only for the back-to-school season, but also all year long. 

I always try to include a music and movement activity in my lesson plan because it is a great opportunity to connect with my students and develop deeper relationships with them. By implementing movement and music activities I’m  actually improving my students’ focus and helping them to learn better.

But let me be clear, movement and music activities are not about replacing our music instruction. They are mostly about developing a love for music and the joy of learning through multiple playful experiences in the music room. The movement and music activities I will present here have a twist and/or an academic element so that you can plan meaningful and fun music lessons for your students.

Here are 10 super easy movement and music activities you can try this year in your elementary music classroom that can help you plan fun music lessons.

Students dancing doing fun movement activities

1. Opposite world freeze dance.

This is a fun and creative movement activity that will be helpful when your students need to refocus or for just 1st day of school fun. 

Grade Level: K-5 however, I tried it in the past with 6 graders and they loved it.

Materials: Computer or device to play music, upbeat music list (variety of genres) 

How to play: Turn the music on, then, students dance or do any movement of their choice, while showing the tempo and the beat of the piece of music. When the music stops, students freeze. If you catch students moving, they become part of the opposite world. Basically, they have to freeze when the music starts to play again, and when it stops, they can move as they would like. Your students may go back and forth between these two words as you catch them moving when they aren’t supposed to. 


2. Answer singing and dancing this.

This is a very silly music and movement activity, where the sillier the responses, the more fun the game will be!

Grade level: 3-5

No materials needed

How to play: Ask a question to your students. Then, each of them has to improvise and give one word that makes sense with the previous words, so they can create a complete sentence as an answer to your question. The musical twist is that, they must sing and add a movement to the word they choose.

Example, ask them: How did the elephant get its trunk? (of course you have to sing and move as well 😉

A: Long ago the elephants had allergies.

Fun movement idea for the elementary music classroom

You can ask them to sing a so-mi melodic pattern for example, or just let them improvise their own.


3. Name that tune and move.

Have students listen to short clips of popular songs and try to guess the title and/or artist while moving to the beat. Make it a competition by dividing students into teams and awarding points for correct answers and the team with the most kids dancing. 

I love this music and movement activity because it helps my students develop listening skills, and exposes them to a variety of musical genres. It’s always a great game to kick off the school year!


4. Musical chairs with a twist.

Put a musical twist on the classic game of musical chairs by incorporating musical concepts and maybe not using chairs at all. However, in my classroom I do not use chairs at all, so I had to adapt it to our needs.  Instead of removing chairs, remove musical elements or instruments. Set up around the circle pieces of papers or cardstock with musical terms, music genres, music symbols and instruments printed on it. For example, when the music stops, students must find a partner, grab a word from the circle and discuss a musical term or identify a specific instrument. This activity not only reinforces musical knowledge but also encourages collaboration and communication among students. 

I like to add a timer for each discussion time. 


5. Dance Party.

Grade level: K-5

Materials: Computer or device to play music, music list (variety of genres) 

How to play: Have your students dance a simple routine to a popular song. We love DJ Raphi and his “Follow the leader” dance.

Dancing is the obvious way to get students moving and having fun in no time. If you are not using any YouTube follow along dance video, choose a popular song that the students are familiar with and teach them a simple dance routine. Maybe they can create their own dance routine. Break down the steps and practice them together as a class. Once the students feel comfortable with the routine, have them perform it for the rest of the class. This activity is always a fun and memorable way to get students excited about music.

Students dancing and moving on stage

6. Animal movements.

Grade level: K-2

Materials: Computer or device to play music, music list (variety of genres) 

How to play: Assign each student an animal and play music. Students must move around the room, mimicking the movements of their assigned animal. This music and movement activity encourages creativity and imagination. I love to use these visuals in my classroom. 

If you would like to add some more fun and classical movement activities, check out “10 Fun Carnival of the Animals Movement and Listening Activities” by Sunshine and Music Blog.

 Students in a fun music lesson using ribbons

7. Props dance.

Grade level: K-2

Materials: Props as scarves, ribbons, hats and puppets. Computer or device to play music, music list (variety of genres) 

How to play: Provide students with props such as scarves, ribbons, puppets, or hats. Play music and encourage students to incorporate the props into their dance routines. This is one of my students’ favorite movement and music activities. One of my best fun music lessons they would ask for it all the time.  

Another amazing idea using a prop is waiting for you HERE! by the incredible Artie Almeida. I use this parachute routine every year when we are back in August.

8. Rhythmic mirror dance.

Grade level: K-5

Materials: Computer or device to play music, music list (variety of genres) 

How to play: Pair students up and have them take turns mirroring each other’s movements and clapping rhythms. This music and movement activity encourages communication and collaboration.


9. Pattern freeze.

Grade level: K-5

Materials: Short rhythms, Computer or device to play music, music list (variety of genres) 

How to play: Play music and have students dance freely. When the music stops, clap rhythms from your board, and students must clap back that same rhythm or pattern. This activity is a great addition to any fun music lesson that reinforces listening skills while keeping students engaged and active.

If you would like to add a twist, make a poison rhythm, which means, when you clap an specific rhythm your students won’t clap back. We like this poison rhythm game from “Rhythm Recess”.


10. Body percussion.

Grade level: K-5

Materials: Computer or smart board  to play video.

How to play: One of  the all time favorites in my elementary music class, from kindergarten to 5th grade, is the classic “body percussion”. No matter what music I play, they just love body percussion activities.  My students have so much fun tapping, clapping, and stomping to the beat that I had to add to my lesson slides this fun video from “Musication”.  The play along is originally for percussion instruments, but we adapted it by assigning to each symbol a different movement. You can encourage students to create their own sequences. This music and movement activity helps the kids to express themselves and boosts their confidence.


I hope you liked these ideas. I can’t wait for you to share with us your experience in the classroom this year!


If you would like to extend your students’ creativity and implement more fun music lessons and ideas this school year check out “11 Fun music activities for elementary students”.


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Hi there!

I’m Lena Leon and I help elementary music educators incorporate game-based resources and strategies into their lessons to support and engage their students, no matter what type of learner they are.


Learn more about me and how I can help you here!