Teaching Crescendo and Decrescendo

Picture of sheet music with a crescendo, with the text, "Teaching crescendo and decrescendo"

Dynamics in music are an essential element of creating a powerful and engaging sound and they can be taught to children of all ages. Teaching children crescendo and decrescendo, two of the most commonly used dynamics, can introduce them to the basics of musical expression. By using engaging songs and activities, students can understand the concept of dynamics and begin to apply them to their own music. In this blog post, I'm outlining songs, activities, and resources that work well for teaching crescendo and decrescendo.

Songs & Activities

Here are some of my favorite songs and activities for teaching crescendo and decrescendo:

Grizzly Bear

This is a favorite for teaching loud and quiet, but it also works well for crescendo, since we get louder and louder on the last phrase.

Game: A student is chosen to be the bear and “sleeps” in the middle of the circle while the students sing and walk to the beat to the right. On “please be very quiet,” students stop walking and put their fingers to their lips to “shh.” On “if you wake him, if you shake him,” students get louder and louder. After they yell “roar,” the bear stands up and chases the children until he/she catches another child. That child becomes the new grizzly bear.

Apples Peaches Pumpkin Pie

I learned this chant during my student teaching, and it's great for crescendo and decrescendo, as well as teaching partwork skills! First I teach the chant, then in the next lesson, I teach the first ostinato, then in the second lesson, the second ostinato. For the first ostinato, I have students clap twice, then snap, and for the second ostinato, I have students stomp as they say it. Then you put all three parts together!

Thump Thump Rat a Tat Tat

This book, by Lois Ehlert and Gene Baer, is wonderful for teaching crescendo and decrescendo. In the book, a marching band gets closer and closer, as they march towards the parade audience, and then they get quieter as they march back to the bus. This year, after teaching crescendo and decrescendo, I had my second graders add hand drums for “rat a tat tat” and “thump thump thump thump,” which are repeated throughout the book…but they had to play quietly or loudly depending on where we were in the book!

Introducing the Symbols

Once students have sung, spoken, or played from quiet to loud and loud to quiet, then you can introduce the symbols. I simply write a crescendo on the board, and explain that when we go from quiet to loud in music, we call that a crescendo; then I also write the word on the board. Then I show them the opposite with decrescendo. You could also compare the symbols to a less than or greater than sign in math, but say that these typically look longer and have a different purpose.

Practice activities

Here are two of my favorite practice activities, once students know crescendo and decrescendo:

Linda McPherson's cresendo games

Linda McPherson has several crescendo and decrescendo games in her store. My students love this one, where the raccoon dances if you are correct! This could work well as an assessment.

Crescendo and Decrescendo coloring worksheet

In this set, I have several sub plans, including one for crescendo and decrescendo, in which students review the terms, as well as piano and forte, and then have to color with certain crayons, depending on the musical symbol. Here is a picture of the worksheet, colored in:

And here is the set in my store:

I hope this is helpful for you, as you explore how to teach crescendo and decrescendo in your music room! Happy teaching!

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