During the first 5 minutes of music class for 4th and 5th grades, we spend some time learning about our Composer of the Month. The first week, we usually read a story about the composer (my favorite is Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times, and What the Neighbors Thought). The second week we recap the facts that we learned from the story and following weeks we listen to (and watch!) various compositions by the composer. To help focus student listening, I created a game called "Pass the Pen" which is a version of SQUILT (Super Quiet Un-Interrupted Listening Time).
While the students listen to the piece, they take turns writing words and phrases on the SMARTboard that describe the music they are hearing. They list the instruments they hear, how the music is moving, the mood or emotion of the song, the style of the composition, what it reminds them of, or any other adjectives that come to mind. It is a great way to utilize music vocabulary and it also gets some great discussions going. I think this technique really focuses their listening on the details within the piece and helps them to recognize and remember the music later. Our 4th and 5th graders enjoyed playing "Pass the Pen" while listening to "Mood Indigo" by our composer of the month, Duke Ellington: