Even with the first graders I always begin class with warm ups. I do this primarily because I believe that singing the same thing week in and week out helps develop their ear. By the end of second grade, most of my students can match pitch. (Sometimes I have to make a point of asking them to do it, but they CAN do it.) Last week we worked on pitch using the Singing Fingers app. For more info on “Singing Fingers” see
I knew it would hold their interest…trouble is, some tried to match my colors, while others tried to see how many different colors they could create. One thing I discovered late in the week, though, was that it’s a great incentive for singing alone. If I’d had more time I’ll bet I could have gotten every student in the class to sing by themselves. (Unfortunately, about half way through, the one’s who’d already sung would start finding other things to do.)
I introduced Sol and Mi this week in first grade. I began by reading “What Makes Music” Betty Schwartz. ISBN 158117139-0. This is a cute pop-up book which introduces each note and which you can sing to the kids in your grown up voice as well as baby bird’s voice. They think it’s hysterical. (Rolling my eyes, heheheh.)
Next I taught them the hand signal for “sol” and asked them to sing it on my pitch every time I use it. I had them sing it about 30 times, (no joke), in rapid succession. Next I showed them a chart which had mostly steady beats with S’s underneath them, and asked them to sing sol every time I pointed to a beat line with an S, but not to sing when I pointed to a rest. l=quarter note, Z=rest.)
l l l l l l l l
l l l l l l l Z
l l l l l l l l
l l l l l l l Z
My next comment is how boring I think a one note song is, and that I think we should add a second note. I show them the hand signal for “mi”, noting that the sign is made at a lower level than “sol”. We show both hand signals while singing “Sol is higher, mi is lower” several times. Then I use the same rhythm chart, but alternate the S’s and M’s. So far, so easy. “Let’s add some doodays to the rhythm!” I say. TT=eighth notes.)
l l l l l TT TT l
s m s m s mm ss m
TT l TT l TT TT TT l
ss m ss m ss mm ss m
The last step is to add words:
“Star light, star bright. First star I see tonight.
Wish I may, wish I might have the wish I wish tonight.”
I follow up with a ragged old pop up book called “When You Wish Upon a Star.” It’s a very brief version of “Pinocchio” which includes “Star Light, Star Bright.” Unfortunately it’s out of print, and mine is in bad shape….too bad to offer it. You might find it on ebay.
The last 20 or so minutes of class I spent on a book called “Orchestranimals.” Also out of print, and apparently hard to come by, it was published by Scholastic and came with a cassette tape of the story. I need to tape a few pages back into the book, and have Audacitied [is that a verb?] the cassette into an mp3 and burned it onto a cd in case the tape breaks or stretches or whatever it is that ruins tapes. I wish that Scholastic would re-issue the book with the recording. (Amazon has a number of used copies. Whether or not they include the recording I don’t know, but I kind of doubt it.) Each and every instrument is heard, and since this was before midi files, they’re the real instruments. The book holds the kids’ interest because of the mystery surrounding the whereabouts of “Crash.” “Who is Crash?” they want to know.
We reviewed “The Muppet Show Theme” and began work on “The Rainbow Connection.” If you have any ideas on how I can connect these songs with dialog in the program PLEASE comment. I like the basic idea, but I haven’t yet figured out exactly how I’m going to make a program out of Muppet songs, nor how I’m going to dress the kids.
In music reading we worked on do-mi-sol by learning “49 Bottles on the Wall.”
49 bottles on the wall. (dd d m s d d d Z)
49 bottles on the wall. (mm m m s m m m Z)
Take one away from them all, (s ss s Z m m m Z)
48 bottles on the wall. ( dd d m s d d d Z)
I use a complete staff with the tones as space notes, bottom space, second space and third space. We read the rhythm first, the tones separately, and then put the two together. Once the song is learned it’s great for subtraction practice. The teacher sings “Take 3 away from them all”, or however many you want, and the kids answer, until there are no bottles left.
Second graders read/listen to “Remarkable Farkle McBride” as a review of instruments. It was written by John Lithgow, and there is a cd called “Farkle and Friends” which has a recording of him narrating the book, again with the sounds of real instruments separately and as sections of the orchestra. Mine is now officially for sale, with the cd for $15, shipping included, unless you happen to be in Canada, in which case I’ll need to ask for some help with the shipping cost. I must tell you that the fold out picture of the orchestra at the end of the book has some creases around the edges of the pages. Other wise, it’s in great shape.
For all grades next week our quiet listening music will be “The Surprise Symphony.” I found a nice clip of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Andante on YouTube. We won’t watch the whole thing, but it’s a great tie in to our study of instruments…lots of close-ups.