Friday, Nov. 11, 2011: The Week in a Nutshell

I had to change lessons mid-stream this week. On Monday I mistakenly thought that I could rely on the students remembering all of their solfege from last year without reviewing it, and would be able to quickly review “Chattanooga Choo Choo” and have the students play it on Orff instruments.
( See
Duh. We had Tuesday off, and on Wednesday, in a complete change of plan I went back and reviewed all of the solfege hand signals and their corresponding pitches so the kids will be able to read the notes from the staff next week. We also reviewed playing arpeggios on the mallet instruments.

I reviewed by reading “A Noteworthy Tale” by Brenda Mutchnick and Ron Casden. ISBN 0-8109-1386-0. The characters in the story are Do, Re, Mi, Fa, Sol, La, Ti and the other Do. Every time these characters appear in the story I have the students sing them while showing the hand signs. The other characters are Notso Profundo, Konrad Troubleclef, Rose Transpose, Melisma Tonecluster and The Soundcatcher. (Great for vocabulary and definitions.) Most of the action takes place in the city of Slurr, where music is not allowed. It’s a 20 minute story that gives the students plenty of practice with the 8 notes of the scale and their corresponding Curwen hand signals. The kids, by the way, love this story, and ask to hear it again from time to time. Reading to children…one of life’s great contentments.

Following the story we sing the notes following a C scale that I have written on the board. We sing the scale degrees using solfa and numbers, since, last week, the last thing we did was play 2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths and Octaves.
They’ve been used to singing “do mi sol mi do” as a warm up for years, so when I erase 2 and 4, ( re and fa) 1, 3, 5, 3, 1 sounds quite familiar to them. We then spend a few minutes on the Orff instruments. We quickly review mallet technique and playing hands together on a steady beat, the interval series, in the key of C, ( c d c d c d c d C. C. C. , c e c e c e c e C. C. C. c f c f c f c f C. C. C. etc). The next step is to have them find 1, 3 and 5 starting from C. I ask them to play in quarter notes, 1, 3, 5, rest. We progress to 1, 3, 5, 3, 1, and finally, 1, 3, 5, 8, 5, 3, 1. I name the pattern for them: arpeggio, and we are NOW poised to play Chattanooga Choo Choo next week. (The song uses do mi sol la and high do.)

In 3rd grade we reviewed “I Count My Blessings” from the current issue of Music K-8, and learned a bit of part 2. (The verse). I call it a “back up part” since it is a country-style song, and they can easily relate it to some of the things they hear on the radio. Next week, we’ll discuss what harmony is. We also read “A Noteworthy Tale.”

In 2nd grade we reviewed “The Turkey Tango” from Music K-8 vol. 8 #2. Instead of having them do the tango during the movement part, I have them point one arm to the left, with the other arm across their body pointing in the same direction. We stomp 8 beats, and switch the direction of our arms, all from a sitting position. (Great for practicing/assessing steady beat). Once we’ve sung through the song, we get out our pencils. I have them sing the first paragraph, (verse), on la la la and then have them write a capital A next to the paragraph. We sing paragraph 2 on la la la, and I ask them whether it is the same melody or a different one. Having determined that it is the same, I ask what we should label it. When they stop to think about it they are able to figure out that if the tune is the same the letters shoUld also be the same, and label it A. We follow the same procedure for paragraph 3, but this time the melody is not the same, and the easily know that they should label it B. The next part is the movement section. We sing it on la la la while doing the motions that we’d previously done while singing the song. In this way they are able to hear that the melody is A, and we write it next to the single line that identifies the movement section. The last 2 sections are both B, and they have no trouble hearing that. When we have completed the whole song, I write the form on the board: A A B A B B. I explain that this is a diagram of the patterns of melodies in “The Turkey Tango”, and that patterns of melodies in music are called FORM. I call form patterns that you can hear. I go to the piano and play random notes, to show than that, without a pattern, the tones are very difficult to remember. However, when the notes are arranged in patterns that our brains can recognize, the sounds are much easier to remember. Well written music usually has recognizable patterns.

In the coming weeks I will have them moving in patterns in response to patterns that they hear, so that when they hear an A melody, they will move in the A pattern of motion, B motiOns for the B melody, etc.

First grade learned “Over the River and Through the Wood” by comparing two books that were written to illustrate the lyrics of the song. The song was written by Lydia Maria Child, and the first book I use was illustrated by Iris Van Rynbach. ISBN 0-688-11839-9 It’s a “back in the day” version with horse, sleigh, snow, ice skaters, river and woods, etc. the old fashioned version. I use the illustrations to ask the students when they think the song might have been written.

Over the River and Through the Wood

Over the River and Through the Wood - illustration Rynbach

Most of them are familiar enough with the song to know the tune and a few of the lyrics. We go through the song, phrase by phrase! Discussing each illustration as we go. Once we’ve been through the whole book, we go back to verse one and I teach them the lyrics And melody by rote, one phrase at a time, still looking at the book. The second book is illustrated by David Catrow, and is a comical, modern day version of the song. ISBN 0-590-63578-6 I begin by explaining the kinds of balloons that are displayed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade : so huge that it takes 10 or 20 adults to hold onto them and navigate them through the streets of New York.

Over the River and Through the Wood

Over the River and Through the Wood - Catrow illustration

In other literary adventures this week, I also followed “I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed Fly” from last week’s lesson, with “I know an Old Lady
Who Swallowed a Pie”. (Thanksgiving version). Again, the illustrations are hysterical, and if you call them to the students’ attention they are drawn right in and sing along. ISBN 0-439-10667-2

I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie by Alison Jackson

I know that I still need to post about the choral pieces that I’m using this year. Look for a post mid-week on that.

Hope your weekend is going great!


3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. joekent
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 02:57:01

    Great Ideas, I’m using some of these in my classroom, with great success. Thanks again!
    –Joe from Hawaii


  2. Jane
    Nov 16, 2011 @ 05:32:01

    Great! Thanks for letting me know, Joe! Sounds like a great place to work, too!


  3. Trackback: Friday, November 18: The Week in a Nutshell: Intermediate « Tuesday Music

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