Ms. Weber will only be with me for a month, and had a great 10 week teaching between January and the beginning of March, so she jumped right in with both feet this week.
I wish that I had a big enough room to set up my mallet instruments and leave them up year round, but I don’t. Earlier this year we had them out for a month or so for the intermediate students, but the primaries haven’t had an opportunity to play yet. Rebecca set up the stage with enough mallet and classroom instruments for each student to be playing something at all times. She set them up in a circle, and rotated the kids around the circle so that they got to play several instruments during the class period.
Her first step was to make sure that they could read the chart that she wanted them to work on. Since the instruments were set up out on the stage, which adjoins our room, she was able to review “Rain Rain, Go Away” with the students at their seats. She began with the rhythm, then added Mi, Sol, and La. She did not tell the students what they were singing ahead of time, so in effect, she was giving them a mystery tune. They sang and listened, then identified the song with no trouble.
Her next step was to teach about the mallets and instruments themselves. She showed them a mallet, named it, and explained that its use is to play instruments with bars. Sounds overly simple, but the fact is, that many first graders don’t know the term “mallet”, and need the explanation. Then she explained that a xylophone is an instrument with wooden bars. “What kind of bars do xylophones have”?
“Wooden!” they exclaimed.
“The biggest xylophone is called the bass. So, when I say ‘big’ you say bass”.
“Bass”, they answered.
“When I say bass, you say big. Bass”.
This was a very quick exchange, but solidified the concept in their little brains, so that later, when she showed them the biggest xylophones and asked which ones they thought they were, the immediately responded “Bass!”
” The medium sized xylophones are called alto. So when I say medium, you say alto. Medium”.
“When I say alto, you say medium. Alto”.
She carried this on down to the sopranos.
” When I say small, you say soprano. Small”.
“When I say soprano, you say small. Soprano”.
“Some instruments have metal bars. These are called metallophones. What kind bars do metallophones have?”
” Metal bars!”
“What kind of bars do xylophones have?”
Once all of this was covered Ms. Weber lined them up and led them out to the stage. They’d been instructed not to touch anything until told, the penalty for doing so being a check mark. 3 checks would mean having to sit out and not play. (There was not a single child all week who had to sit out). Once every student was seated at an instrument, Ms. Weber showed them how to hold the mallet, ( pinch, wrap, turn, as if holding onto handlebars on your bike),
and then how to bounce it in the middle of the bar. They spent a moment bouncing their mallets on the bars, and she then quickly explained what each of the classroom instruments is, and demonstrated how to play it. Everyone practiced playing a steady beat on whatever instrument was in front of them. Almost without fail they rushed the beat, so when this happened, she made them watch her feet and only play when she took a step. She took a couple of slow steps, then several more, then gradually sped up until the kids were playing HER steady beat. Then she had the students stand up and rotate around the circle to the next instrument. The entire process was repeated 4 or 5 times.
That much took up her entire 45 minutes, so she saved the rest of the lesson for the next cycle of classes, which began on Friday. This cycle will take us through Wednesday of next week, when we close for 5 days for the Easter holiday.
Before going out onto the stage this time, she had the students use their hands as if they were holding mallets, to the tune of “Rain Rain”.
R L RR L
Then she had them do this with their feet. (She called it the “Ms. Weber Shuffle”, and they loved it! )
Once out on the stage she reviewed everything they’d done previously through several rotations, and then asked them to play the rhythm of “Rain Rain, Go Away” on G. (She removed all bars except E, G and A). Classroom instruments played along as well. Rotate. Once everyone had the opportunity to play the rhythm on G, she reviewed R L RR L and had them apply it to playing G E GG E. Some are coordinated enough to do this straight off, but others really struggled. As soon as possible she had the classroom instruments play along, then everyone moved over to the next instrument. She continued to follow this procedure, until they were able to play all of “Rain Rain, Go Away”. Finally, she had the classroom instruments play the steady beat, while the mallet instruments played the melody.
A successful first week for Ms. Weber!
Jane Rivera, march 29, 2012, All Rights Reserved