In this playful activity, students will warm up their bodies and voices and get to know each other, building skills centered on dynamics and crescendo.  


Contributed by Laura Borgwardt


In this playful activity, students will warm up their bodies and voices and get to know each other, building skills centered on dynamics and crescendo.  


  • Invite students to form a circle.
  • A crescendo is when something starts really quiet and small and gets louder and bigger. You can use these visual images to guide learning.
  • Start by saying your name quietly and doing a very small physical motion/gesture. 
  • The next person will repeat the name and gesture, but they will make it a little bigger.
  • As the name/gesture moves around the circle, it will grow bigger and bigger until it reaches the person whose name it is, who then says it in the biggest way.  
  • Then move on to the next person with their name and a new motion.
  • Try going as quickly as possible to build momentum. 
  • Reflection: Ask the group the following questions.
    • What skills did we practice in this game?
    • Why was it important to pay attention to the person before you?
    • What would happen if someone started with a really loud/big sound and motion? Would there be anywhere for it to build to?

Transition Into Activity

Have everyone be as quiet as they can. Shush them dramatically and gesture for everyone to form a circle. 

Transition Out of Activity

Say to the students: “Move to your next spots in the biggest body you can. Make sure to watch out and give each other space as we move through the room in this way. Then we’ll decrescendo as we go from big to small to sit down.”

Classroom Arrangement

Level 1: Circle

Building on the Activity: You could try one long line and have the person at the end circle back to the other side of the line as a way to make it clear which side is piano and which side is forte (it would also make the game more physically active).

Supports/Adaptive Materials/Tools

  • If you have a small group, try sending the same name around the circle twice to really build it up, before moving on to the next person.
  • Side coach the students as it goes around: “A little bigger, a little bigger, the biggest you can possibly be!”
  • Option: Instead of names, you could do a sound and movement. Or you could try an emotion and have it start as the tiniest “sad” until it grows into a big, bawling “SAD.”
  • Draw a crescendo on the board or use a dynamics meter, and have a Classroom Professional or student point to the different dynamics as the names/gestures go around the circle. You can also call out dynamics (piano, mezzo, forte, fortissimo!) as the sound moves around the circle to emphasize this vocabulary.
  • For students with less movement and/or students for whom this might be sensory overload, have students draw their name and a feeling and make the drawing bigger and bigger. 
  • If loud noises pose a problem for students, scaffold volume levels (e.g. 1-5) and start out with a whisper and only work up to a 3. It might also work best to have only a few students share their name and sound so that the crescendo is not repeated so many times for those students who could be negatively impacted by this. 
  • You might want to introduce a soundscape instead and apply the crescendo to one to three sounds instead of a whole group of names.

Possible Roles for Classroom Professionals

  • Model 100% participation.
  • Point to the dynamics on a chart.
  • Ensure that students are not being overwhelmed by the level of noise.

Adjustments for Remote Instruction

If it is available to the group without tech issues like feedback (which might be painful and/or overwhelming for some students), you might lead this activity for one or two sounds with everyone off mute. It might also work to place students in breakout rooms to practice this in a way that might cause less issues with feedback, etc.

Art forms

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10 mins