Friday, Nov. 4, The Week in a Nutshell, Intermediate

Time for Mallets!

These are pictures of my two different teaching situations. In one building my room adjoins the stage, so I can just set up out there and leave it. In the other building I have a large room, but everything must be set up and taken down in the same day.

I arrange the instruments in a square. I have enough mallet instruments to have partners on each instrument. I switch partners VERY often during activities, so that no one has time to get bored or restless. We also switch instruments every few activities, by having each set of partners rotate to the next instrument on their left.

I have no formal Orff training, so “Mallet Madness” and “Mallet Madness Strikes Again” have been invaluable to me. Both books are by Artie Almeida and are chock full of ideas for getting started on mallet instruments, technique practice, classroom organization and Orffestrating children’s literature. Highly recommended.

Today’s lesson was largely review for 4th and 5th grade, although we did a few things that were new to them. I began by reviewing the note value pyramid yet again….something we’ve been concentrating on for the past several weeks.

After having the students clap and speak the note values in order, I play them on a C chord on the piano, just so they can more easily relate the mathematics to musical sounds.

I take a moment to review the rules: 1. Don’t touch anything until you are asked to.
2. Do not play unless you are asked to. When we are not playing your mallets are at rest against your shoulders. The consequence of not following this rule is a lost turn. The consequence of repeatedly not following the rule is a lost opportunity to play for today.
3. When we are playing, we do so appropriately and with correct technique…which we will review before we do anything else.

Before we play anything, we review the proper way to hold and use the mallets: pinch between thumb and index finger about 2/3 of the way down the stem. Wrap the rest of the fingers loosely around the stem. Position arms as if holding handle bars on a bike.
Bounce the mallet in the middle of the bar. The mallet cannot lay on the bar or the sound will be hindered. (Good review on vibration and what happens if you keep something from vibrating.) If you hit the bar too hard, or don’t hit it in the middle, you risk knocking the bar off of the instrument, which will not make Mrs. Rivera happy AT ALL. I briefly remind them how expensive Orff instruments are. We practicing this bouncing technique on my steady beat, on any bar, for several measures. Switch partners.

The next step is play specific bars on the steady beat, hands together, and hands alternating. Since one of our targets for the day is play a C Major scale, I ask them to play low C and high C. (Good science review….which one will be the low one? The bigger one.) “Mallet Madness Strikes Again” has some great exercises for practicing hands together and alternating. I break them down into individual phrases, switching partners after each phrase, and finally, playing a complete exercise. At this point, we rotate to a new instrument. I have them set up so that we can rotate 4 times before they’ll get to an instrument they’ve already played.

Now the note value pyramid comes into play. I tell them that I am going to show them how to “roll” a whole note. “How many beats will I roll?” “FOUR” they shout. (sigh.) After demonstrating a 4 beat roll on low C, I give each partner a chance to try it. I then demonstrate a C Major scale on rolled whole notes, and again, give each partner an opportunity to play. So far so good. When I play the scale on half notes, (again, making sure that they actually know how many beats a half note gets,) I do not roll..I simply play. Each partner takes a turn. Next, quarter notes and partner turns. Finally we do 2 eighth notes on each bar. Time to rotate to a new instrument. By the way, “Mallet Madness”, (book 1) has some different instrument set ups for your room, and some great ways for transitioning to a new instrument.

Now that we have played our C Major scale, we are going to work on intervals. It’s pretty easy to identify 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths and octaves, because all they have to do is count the bars. 2nds are played: c d c d c d c d

c (Half note)

c (Half note)

roll c (Whole note.)

The same is done with 3rds, 4ths, 5ths etc. switching partners every 2 intervals and making sure they go back and play them all.
By the time we’ve done 2nds and 3rds I don’t have to tell them which notes to play. I just say, play a 4th etc.

Next week we will play intervals starting on notes other than C. (Find G and play a 3rd.) We will also work on arpeggios. There is a method to my madness. :0)

At the end of class we returned to the room and recorded what we did in our music journals. We then took entries from various journals and crafted a blog entry for our music room blog, which I later posted.

In 3rd grade we worked on “I Count My Blessings” from the current issue of Music K-8 magazine. It’s a country style song, so my first question after they’ve listened and read along is “Did Bach write this?” Their immediate answer is “no”, which gives me the opportunity to discuss style with them, beginning with how they know that Bach didn’t write it.

Their chart for the week is called “Kansas Boys.” It uses do, re, mi and sol, half notes, quarter notes and eighth notes.

“Come along girls, listen to my voice.
d d d m rrrr d
Don’t ever marry no Kansas boys.
d dd mm m r r d
If you do your fate will be
s s s s m m m
Hoe cake, hominy and Sassafras tea.”
d d mmmm rr r d

l=quarter notes
TT= 8th notes.
o/= half notes

TT l o/ TTTT o/

l TTTT l l l l Z

l l l l l l l Z

l l TTTT TT l l Z

You know, one of these days I’ve got to find out if there’s a way to make a music font work on WordPress. Anyway, my usual process is to have them read the rhythm first, read the melody using Curwen hand signals, and then read the melody from the staff.
(This is notated on a staff when I teach it….I just forgot to take a picture before I left yesterday. :0( Sorry.

As with the younger students, I put on some music by Tchaikovsky, (either something from The Nutcracker or from Swan Lake), and read to them selected paragraphs from “Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times and What the Neighbors Thought.” Of course, I show them Tchaikovsky’s picture. They always think that these caricatures are a hoot, but it gets them to look!

Lives of the Musicians: Good Times, Bad Times and What the Neighbors Thought.

That’s it for this week. Talk to you soon!




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