Friday, November 18: The Week in a Nutshell: Intermediate

I made a couple of new animations this week, since we’ve now switched composers, from Bach, to Tchaikovsky. I try to get the basic information that I’d like the kids to learn into the video. So far I’ve posted one of them on our music room blog, and have asked the kids to watch it as many times as they need to and then write a comment telling me what they know about Tchaikovsky so far. It’s part of my professional goal of integrating writing into music class.

Grade 3

The 3rd graders really love “I Count My Blessings” from the current Music K-8 magazine. 2 weeks ago we learned part 1, last week we learned part 2. (Just on the verse, even if they could hold their own on the chorus it’s too low for them.) This week we started by singing part 2 along with the voices on the recording, then dividing the class in half. The part ones had no difficulty, and I was able to sing with the part twos to help them along. We switched parts mid song.

Our chart reading this week was a song called “Marching ‘Round the Gumstump”. I always start with hand signal exercises. Last week we read “A Noteworthy Tale”, a story whose characters are named do, re, me, fa, sol, la, ti and do. (Please see )

With the kids seated on the floor in front of me we sang up and down the scale using the Curwen hand signals. Then I asked them to audiate everything except the two do’s. I explained to them that no one can match pitch without being able to first hear the correct pitch in their head. So, using the hand signs, we sang do, but thought re, me, fa, sol, la, ti, and then sang high do out loud. It took them a couple of tries to sing high do correctly, but when I asked them only to sing re out loud they had no trouble. Mi was also easy for them. Fa, for some reason, causes problems, but sol isn’t too bad. Next I asked them to sing the scale, but I only wanted to hear do and mi. We followed that up with do mi and sol. The hand signals help them to think the tones together. I hope this is clear….if I need to re-explain it would someone please comment and let me know? Thanks.

From the hand signals we moved to the chart.

I know the picture is difficult to see. The melody is:

do do do do do mi do do do do.
Marching ’round the gumstump one at a time

mi mi mi mi mi sol mi mi mi mi.
Marching ’round the gumstump one at a time

sol sol sol sol sol mi sol sol sol mi.
Marching ’round the gumstump one at a time

mi mi mi mi re re re do do do do do.
Hanging all together like grapes upon a vine.

We note that do mi and sol are all space notes….we skip the line notes, re and fa, just like we did with the hand signals.
They don’t have too much trouble reading this. In fact, I don’t even have to go over the rhythm separately. They just do it! :0)

I teach the words by rote, send them back to their seats, and walk between the rows singing the song. When we get to the word “vine” I stop. Whoever I’m in standing front of gets behind me, and we march 2 at a time. Repeat the procedure, but this time whoever #2 is standing in front of gets on line. Once we have the third student I go play the piano and let the kids do the marching. I only go to about 10, but you can sing and march as long as you want.

For listening I showed animation #1. And read a short paragraph about Tchaikovsky from “My First Classical Music Book”.

My First Classical Music Book

The paragraph speaks about Tchaikovsky’s sad temperament and how he poured his emotions into his music. I put on “Swan Lake” and ask, “How do you think Tchaikovsky was feeling when he wrote this?” They never miss. :0) And, they are now set up for next week’s animation on Romantic music.

Grade 4 and 5

As we did in 3rd grade, the 4th and 5th graders go through the audiation process using a major scale. For 5th grade this is review. For 4th grade it is new material.

We move from the hand signs to the staff in exactly the same way that we did for “Marching ‘Round the Gumstump”. They had previously worked on 16th notes using the note value pyramid. (16ths are said “doo ta day ta” in the Gordon system.)

Step one: Speak the rhythm. (doo-ta-day-ta doo-ta-day-ta doo-ta-day-ta doo-day, doo-ta-day-ta doo-ta-day-ta doo-day doo.)

Step 2: Add simple body percussion: 16ths are brushed, 8ths are clapped, quarters are patsched in the lap.

Step 3: Have the students clap the rhythm while keeping the syllable solely in their head.

The song uses do, mi, sol, la and high do. The students learn the melody by reading the tones from the staff, probably following a hand signal reading exercise using the tones involved.

I teach the words by rote:

Chattanooga, chattanooga, chattanooga choo choo,
Chattanooga, chattanooga choo choo train,
Chattanooga, chattanooga, chattanooga choo choo,
Chattanooga, chattanooga choo choo train.,

Oh that chattanooga choo choo
Oh that choo choo train.
Oh that chattanooga choo choo
Oh that choo choo train.

Once the students know the complete song, have them line up behind you. The line can only move on the 16th notes since they are performed by moving the feet.(Forward.) Eighths are still clapped and quarters are still patsched, but the feet must not move on the 8th or quarter notes. We start slowly and repeat several times, getting faster on each repetition.

I had just enough time left to take them out on the stage and station them around the mallet instruments. I quickly had them play 1,3 1,3 1,3, 1, 3, 1 1 1, then 1, 5, 1, 5, 1, 5, 1, 5, 1 1 1, and finally 1, 8. They remembered these from working on intervals 2 weeks ago. From there it was an easy step to have them play 4 sixteenth notes each on 1, 3 and 5, then 5, 3,2. (The first phrase of Chattanooga Choo Choo.) We worked out each phrase using numbers and they finished the lesson having played the first section of the song.

Once again, I’m hoping this makes sense. It feels complicated to write out.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone. Ellie, you are in my prayers.




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