ALEX Learning Activity


Playing Letter Names of Notes on Treble Staff Using Barred Instruments

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  This learning activity provided by:  
Author: Kristy Lott
System:Jefferson County
School:Clay Elementary School
  General Activity Information  
Activity ID: 1685
Playing Letter Names of Notes on Treble Staff Using Barred Instruments
Digital Tool/Resource:
Web Address – URL:
Not Applicable

Students will demonstrate knowledge of the names of the notes on the treble staff by using barred instruments to play skipped notes up and down the instruments. Connecting the letter names of the notes to the instruments helps students understand how line and space notes skip when moving line to line and space to space. This further reinforces their understanding of how notes are arranged on the staff.

This activity was created as a result of the Arts COS Resource Development Summit.

  Associated Standards and Objectives  
Content Standard(s):
Arts Education
ARTS (2017)
Grade: 2
Music: General
9) Read and perform rhythmic and melodic patterns using iconic or standard notation.

Unpacked Content
Artistic Process: Performing
Anchor Standards:
Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.
Process Components: Analyze
Essential Questions:
EU: Analyzing creators' context and how they manipulate elements of music provides insight into their intent and informs performance.
EQ: How does understanding the structure and context of musical works inform performance?
Concepts & Vocabulary:
  • Eighth note, eighth rest, half note, half rest, whole note, whole rest
  • Strong/ weak beat — 2/4; 3/4 meter
  • Accelerando/ ritardando
  • Pitch Set: Do , Re, Mi, So, La
  • Five-line staff
  • Treble clef
  • Names of lines/ spaces (treble staff)
  • Melodic ostinati
  • Partner songs
  • AAB, AABA, Rondo
  • Verse/ Refrain
  • Orchestral instrument families
  • Piano (p), forte (f)
  • Crescendo/ decrescendo
  • Orchestral Music: programmatic
  • Indigenous music: Native American
  • American music: slave songs, colonial folk songs
  • Age-appropriate pitch matching (B3-D5)1
  • Mallet/ drumming technique: alternating hands
Skill Examples:
  • Perform age-appropriate music with attention to expressive markings indicated in the printed music.
  • Perform an improvised interlude to a known song, matching expression and rhythmic/melodic themes.
Reading/ Writing
  • Identify expressive markings in printed music.
  • Identify meter marking in printed music.
Responding/ Evaluating
  • Notate from dictation 8-beat rhythm patterns using standard notation.
  • Perform short melodic patterns from standard or iconic notation.
Learning Objectives:

Students will be able to read letter names of notes on the treble staff and perform corresponding notes on barred instruments.

  Strategies, Preparations and Variations  

The students will perform letter names of the staff on barred instruments.

  1. Begin the activity by doing a session of echo-play using barred instruments.
  2. Play and sing a rhythm pattern for the note E, and allow students to sing and play it back as an echo. Continue up the instrument in skips using G, B, D, and F.
  3. Ask students to describe the notes they played. If needed, prompt them by asking the following questions: Are the notes moving higher or lower? Do the patterns use steps, skips, or leaps? Do you recognize the notes played?
  4. Using a poster or projection, show students the line notes of the staff. If you need a visual representation of the staff, you can find a free poster here
  5. Point to the E and do the echo-play activity again. Continue with G, B, D, and F.
  6. Ask students what they can tell you about the notes on the staff. 
  7. Give students a steady beat and ask them to play the steady beat on their instruments beginning on E. 
  8. Point to the E on your staff. Ask students to change notes while keeping the steady beat as you point to different notes on the staff.
  9. Go back to step 1 and complete activity again using space notes of the staff: FACE.
  10. Ask students if they noticed anything special about the space notes in relation to the line notes.
  11. Students should recognize that the space notes rest between the line notes on their instrument, or that they skipped the space notes when playing the line notes.
  12. Using a poster or projection, show students how the space notes on the staff also rest between the lines and are skipped by the line notes on the staff.


Assessment Strategies:

Observe students playing notes as you sing, play or point to them on the staff.

Ask for students to identify by singing or calling out note names as they play them.

Advanced Preparation:

I recommend teaching students the note names of the staff using a slogan such as "Every Green Bus Drives Fast" and the word "FACE" prior to this activity. Practice identifying notes on the staff using the slogans.

Make sure you have barred instruments available such as xylophones and glockenspiels, with note names labeled on the instruments. 

Variation Tips (optional):

If using a slogan to help students identify note names, reinforce the slogan by having students play or point to the notes on barred instruments as they say the slogan.

Notes or Recommendations (optional):
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