Lightboxes in the Music Classroom

Oct 20, 2019 | Uncategorized

If you use a lightbox in your classroom, you’ve probably used it to display quotes and fun sayings for your students to read, such as these:


Last school year, I bought a lightbox for my music classroom and I did just that… I used it to display sayings like “Music is fun!” and “We love to sing!” etc.  But I never remembered to change the letters on a regular-enough basis and the students stopped looking at it.  Part of the reason I never remembered to change the letters was because it became tedious to organize the individual letters each time and I never seemed to have time to think about it.

This year I tried something new… I like to play a game called POISON! with my students.  It’s a game where I either sing tonal patterns or chant rhythm patterns for them to echo.  My job is to sing/chant the pattern and their job is to echo the pattern.  However, if I sing/chant the ‘poison’ pattern and students echo that, then they are out.  I don’t know what they love so much about this game, but they ask for it every single class period!  I often alternate between major/minor and duple/triple to keep it interesting. 

This is where the lightbox idea came in.  I have been using mine to display the “pattern of the day” and now I’m extending it to other activities.  All of a sudden, it’s being used as an effective learning tool.  Students enter my room to read the pattern.   We talk about it and decipher it’s meaning.  How will we use this pattern today?  Will we hear it in the next song we sing?  Can we use it as an ostinato to accompany a particular song?  Let’s see where it takes us…

Here are some ways I incorporate the “pattern of the day” into my rotation:

  • After our welcome song, we’ll play a round or two of POISON! using the “pattern of the day” as the forbidden pattern. Sometimes, I’ll chant/sing it for the students, but as the students become more familiar with the task, I will ask them to decipher the patterns without my help.
  • If I am teaching a specific ostinato pattern as an accompaniment for a song or chant, I will display that pattern in the lightbox and ask students to incorporate that pattern into an activity I have planned for the day.
  • When I want students to identify a tonal pattern in a song I have planned for that class (such as finding the tonic pattern in “Love Somebody”), I’ll display “do – mi – sol” as the tonal pattern of the day and ask students to identify how many times they hear in the song.
  • If I’m displaying a rhythm pattern, I may ask the students to use body percussion to perform it. I’ll then extend the activity by inviting one student to create a body percussion rhythm and then having the rest of the class copy them. 
  • If I’m displaying a tonal pattern, I may ask students to sing the patterns using hand signals.

It’s always great when an item traditionally used as decor becomes a useful tool.  I’m glad I found a purpose for my lightbox that goes above and beyond what it was originally intended to do.  I’ve created four “Pattern of the Day” sets that I rotate with my students: Duple MeterTriple MeterMajor Tonality, and Minor Tonality.

While it takes a little bit of prep work to get these patterns ready for your students, they are easy to rotate in and out of your lightbox once you get going.  All you need is high quality transparency film, a decent paper cutter, and (of course), a lightbox.

If you use lightboxes in your music classroom, leave a comment letting me know how you use them!

Thanks for reading,

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