February 6-10, the Week in a Nutshell; Intermediate

Third Grade

Third grade received their recorders this week along with  a new folder to be used solely for their recorder materials.  This folder can go home with their recorder for practice.  I ask them to keep their regular music folder at school, so they’ll always have what they need on music day.

We began with basic rules:

1.  Do not play unless instructed to play.

2. Stop immediately when asked to stop.

3.  Left hand on top, right hand at the bottom.

4.  Practice (at least) 5 minutes per night. (For now.  The amount of time will increase as their music grows more difficult.)

While demonstrating what I want them to do, I asked the students to hold their recorders at the bottom with their right hand, so that they were looking at the side with only one hole.  Then they were to place their left thumb over the hole and press firmly, as they brought the recorder down to where they could see the front, always keeping that thumb planted firmly over the thumb hole.  I then instructed them to place their index finger over the top hole.  I was really pleased when I asked them if they could remember from playing their arm recorders the name of the note they were fingering.  They all answered, “B!”  (Thanks Elissa!)  I asked them to breathe, not blow into the recorder, and demonstrated what it should sound like.  As they played a continuous B I walked around, listening to each one, adjusting fingers when necessary, either because they weren’t getting the correct pitch, or had the right hand on top, or BOTH hands on top.


In this particular group, everyone stopped immediately.  (Miraculous.)

“Remember: left hand on top.  The recorder is resting on your right thumb at the bottom of the recorder.  Let’s go over this again.  Hold your recorder with your right hand at the bottom, so that you’re looking at the thumb hole.  Place your left thumb firmly over the hole.  This time, place your index finger and middle finger over the top 2 holes.  What is the name of the note you will play in this finger position?”

Once again, they all answered “A!”

I demonstrated and then had them give it a try.  this time I made adjustments to slanted fingers, and had them check thumb holes to be sure they were covered, etc.  I always have to remind myself that they are 8, their fingers are small, and some of them still don’t have such great fine motor coördination.


Ah, this group is good.  They stopped!

“Let’s take it from the top.  Hold the recorder in front of your face with your right hand, and place your left thumb over the hole.  Watch what you’re doing; get that hole completely covered.  Place 3 fingers over the top 3 holes.  What is the name of this finger position?”

“G!” they respond.

“Press firmly with your thumb and fingers.  If the holes are completely covered you should have a complete circle on each of your fingers and thumb.”

Lots of oohs and ahs as they check.  They are still children, thrilled and excited by the smallest things.

G is the hardest of the three to play because of everything that I mentioned above: partially covered holes, small fingers, slanted fingers, right hand on top instead of left, and over blowing.  I make as many corrections as I can, knowing that what they really need at this point is practice.

Now for a short drill.  I have out 3 flash cards from Artie Almeida’s “Recorder Classroom”.  After review which lines and space are B, A and G I have them play whichever one I hold up.  I give them plenty of time to find the right finger position before changing the card.  This is the beginning of what will become Artie’s “Recorder Hike”, which will come a couple of lessons down the line.

That’s all we do on the first day.  They each take out their “Critic’s Corner” assessment sheet, also from “Recorder Classroom.”  For today, if they understand how to play B, A and G they can give themselves a 3, even if they weren’t 100% successful.  I allow this because it’s only fair: they haven’t had time to practice yet.

This will be the first, and so far, only paper for their recorder folder.  When they put it inside I have them take a couple of quiet minutes (which I need at this point),  and copy  the rules into the inside of their folder, reiterating that if they will take just 5 minutes each night to practice B, A and G they will be able to play them next week.

“If you’re doing it correctly it should sound like the beginning of  ‘3 Blind Mice.'”

We took the last 10 minutes of class to read and listen to “The Jazz Fly” by Matthew Gollub.  ISBN 1-889910-17-1.  I will temporarily divert from Haydn in order to teach some lessons on Jazz this month:  Black History Month.


(Mine will be for sale next week.)

This book is a great way to introduce young children to the style of jazz and the idea of improvisation.  It comes with a cd of the author reading the book, set, of course, to jazz music.  I will be using it in first and second grade as well.

Fourth grade

In fourth grade we again picked up our study of 6/8, having taken a break last week to review some of the principles and vocabulary of sound.

After their warm up they learned two 6/8 rounds by reading the rhythms, then reading the words in rhythm.  I taught the melodies by rote. (They had both songs in front of them, notated, on a song sheet to keep in their folders.)
Sing Me Another
(TTT=triple 8ths, l.=dotted quarter.)
Sing me another before we depart.
 (melody) DDDRRRRDT1D      (rhythm) TTT TTT TTT  l.
Sing to the praise of our musical art.
Sing, sing, sing, sing
l. l. l. l.
Do do do sol sol sol sol sol sol do.
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell is buried and dead.  Ho, Ha, buried and Dead.
TTT TTT TTT  l.  l. l.  TTT l.
We took the time to practice “Sing Me Another” as a round.  I usually do this by having them sing part one while I sing part two, then gradually adding students to part two by calling them up to the piano to sing with me.
I had them take out a sheet that I had placed on their chairs before they came in.  On one side I had them copy the rhythm of “Sing Me Another”….rote learning on how the notes are written, where to place the bar lines, how many beats in a measure etc.  Once this was finished I had them put their song sheets into their folders, where they couldn’t look at them.  On the other side of the paper I had spaces and bar lines marked 6/8, so that I could dictate “Oliver Cromwell” to them.  They’ve had enough experience with 6/8 by this time that they really had very little trouble.  I simply warned them ahead of time that they needed to overlook the words and the melody, and translate the rhythm into doo’s and doo-day’s.  Next week I will dictate something to them that they’ve never heard before, and then move on to 6/8 when the dotted quarter is replaced with a quarter and an eighth.  (doooo  di).
Fifth Grade
Fifth Grade, meanwhile, has moved on to trying to decode unfamiliar rhythms.  I say trying because not every class is having an easy time with it.  I used the last phrase of “We Come From Pluto”, found in MusicPlay, grade 3, dividing the phrase in half for two dictations.  It’s not a difficult rhythm:
Because I’m playing a melody they’ve never heard before on the piano it completely throws some of them.  After giving enough time and repetitions for those who understand to write the first set, I sing it using “du dah dee and du.  Then, of course, the light bulb goes “ding.”
“Ohhhhh! they exclaim.
The second set goes a lot more easily, but we’ll be needing more practice taking dictation from unfamiliar  rhythms.
“We Come from Pluto” is a song that they enjoy because of the idea of being “Number One” and because of the nonsense/sound effect words.  Denise Gagne has also made the recording appealing  with the sound effects that she’s added at the beginning and end of the song.  We read as much of the rhythm on the page as we can in order to learn the song.  (They do have some experience with 16th notes, which occur right before the refrain.)  Then we do “2 things at once” by reading the words and rhythm at the same time.   They listen to the recording of the song and read along.  Finally, I teach them the music by rote.
Now we head to the carpet in front of my chair, because I want to introduce them to the sound of  a quarter and an eighth note.

Row Row Row Your Boat

Gently down the stream

First we look at a rhythm chart of “Row Row Row Your Boat”.  I have the eighth note beat running underneath the rhythm, so that I can give them a visual of how many beats each note will have to get to create the rhythm.  They understand ties, and intellectually, I think they do understand what I’m getting at.  Performing it is another matter.  So, we go next to a set of flash cards, and just do some rote learning of how the pattern is supposed to sound.  I speak the rhythm to them, they echo it back to me.  Next week we’ll start trying to read it and put it into some songs.


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