Learning Resource Type

Learning Activity

Moving to the Blues

Subject Area

Arts Education


4, 5


Students will use creative movement to show the chord progressions in the 12 bar blues.

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

    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 4 - Music


    Demonstrate understanding of the formal structure and the rudimentary elements of music in music selected for performance.

    Unpacked Content



    • Conducting patterns in
    • Syncopation
    • Pitch set: Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, Ti
    • Treble clef reading (La, So, Mi, Re, Do)
    • Middle C through High B
    • Create melodic sequences
    • Half-step
    • Whole step
    • Canons
    • Chord components
    • Chord progression (I, V)
    • Crossover bordun
    • Phrasing: antecedent and consequent
    • D.C. al coda
    • Fine
    • pp through ff
    • Age-appropriate audience and performer etiquette
    • Orchestra instruments within the 4 families
    • Age-appropriate pitch matching (A3-E5)

    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?

    Skills Examples

    • Sing, move and respond to music from world cultures and different composers.
    • Sing a varied repertoire with accurate rhythm, pitch and expressive qualities individually and with others.
    • With limited guidance, Improvise and compose short compositions using a variety of classroom instruments and sound sources.
    Reading/ Writing
    • Read, write and perform using rhythm patterns that include syncopated rhythms, in 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4 meter.
    Responding/ Evaluating
    • Use the head voice to produce a light, clear sound employing breath support and maintaining appropriate posture.
    • Use student developed criteria to critique their own performances and the performances of others.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 4: Select, analyze, and interpret artistic work for presentation.
    Arts Education (2017) Grade(s): 5 - Music


    Generate musical ideas within specific related tonalities, meters, and simple chord changes.

    Unpacked Content



    • Pitch set: Do-centered diatonic
    • Treble clef reading (choral octavos)
    • Grand staff
    • Bass clef
    • Accidentals
    • Major scale
    • Part singing/ playing
    • Chord progression (I, IV, V)
    • Arpeggio
    • Descant
    • Level bordun
    • Rondo form
    • 12-Bar blues
    • Vibrato
    • Tremolo
    • Reggae
    • Blues
    • Timbre: soprano, alto, tenor, bass
    • Age-appropriate audience and performer etiquette
    • Age-appropriate pitch matching (Ab3-F5)

    Essential Questions

    EU: The creative ideas, concepts, and feelings that influence musicians' work emerge from a variety of sources.
    EQ: How do musicians generate creative ideas?

    Skills Examples

    • Improvise over standard folk songs using the pitch set: La, So, Mi, Re, and Do.
    • Improvise melodies in a major diatonic scale by singing or using a pitched instrument.
    • Compose melodies and accompaniments to songs, poems, stories, and dramatizations, using AB, ABA, and rondo forms.
    • Perform pre-written musical ideas.
    • Perform harmonic accompaniments using Orff instruments, Boomwhackers, electronic sources, or by any other appropriate harmonic instrument.
    • Notate simple rhythms and melodies within a specified meter and tonality.
    • Create a 12-bar blues song using appropriate chordal structure and lyrics.
    • Explore and identify musical instruments from different historical periods and world cultures.
    Reading/ Writing
    • Write an original blues song.
    • Identify elements of music including tonality, dynamics, tempo and meter.
    • Identify patterns of whole and half steps in a major scale.
    • Compose 4 or 8 measure pieces using appropriate notation.
    Responding/ Evaluating
    • Review and refine a composition.
    • Evaluate a performance, using appropriate vocabulary to describe strengths and weaknesses of the performance.
    • Listen to, identify, and respond to music of different composers, historical periods, and world cultures.
    • Identify terms related to form.
    • Recognize and identify longer music forms such as 12-bar blues, sonata form and theme and variations.
    • Identify vocal timbre as soprano, alto, tenor, or bass.
    • Write short self-reflections about his/her composition and the creative process.

    Anchor Standards

    Anchor Standard 1: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.


    Learning Objectives

    Learning Objectives

    Students will be able to hear and identify chord changes in the 12 bar blues scale. 

    The students will show understanding by moving in different ways for each chord.

    Activity Details

    • Review the chord progressions of the 12 bar blues using the visual found here.
    • The red hearts represent the I chord, the light green hearts represent the IV chord, and the dark green hearts represent the V chord.
    • Listen to an example of music that uses the 12 bar blues, such as "Johnny B. Goode" by Chuck Berry, "Rock Around the Clock" by Chubby Checker, or "Ain't Nothin' But a Hound Dog" by Elvis.  
    • Touch your waist on the I chord, your shoulders on the IV chord, and touch your head on the V chord.  
    • Continue the movements, but have them do it with their eyes closed so that the students have to listen for the chord changes without watching their friends. Observe the students to see if they move at the correct time.
    • Divide the students into three groups. The first group will choose a pose to do when they hear the I chord. The second group will choose a pose to do when they hear the IV chord, and the third group will pose on the V Chord.
    • Listen to another example of 12 bar blues while the students pose when they hear their chords.
    • Divide the students into smaller groups. Each group will be in charge of creating a movement to represent each chord.
    • After giving the groups time to practice, have each group perform their movements for the class.
    Assessment Strategies

    Assessment Strategies

    Observe students as they move to determine if they are moving during the chord changes.

    Variation Tips

    Have one group play the chord changes on instruments (such as xylophones, boom whackers, ukuleles, or guitars) while another group performs their movements.

    Background and Preparation

    Background / Preparation

    Students should be familiar with the 12 bar blues.

    Digital Tools / Resources