Reply To: Band teacher to add classroom music in Sept.
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Elementary General Music – John Feierabend has amazing stuff, but it’s $$. Here’s a basic out line of a lesson for PreK – Grade 1 in my classroom:
Come in, walk around the carpet and sit down in a circle. At my signal, sing the “hello song” (on sol-mi “he-llo, how are you, I’m fine, thank you,”” [sol, do re mi fa sol] “he-llo, hello hello” [fa mi re do] “he-llo to you”) Early in the year we practice tapping the steady beat and doing motions to kiddie songs, but by the second week of school and onward I start with a Mother Goose poem or a song with a simple melody (chanting first – I sing a phrase, they echo me) phrase by phrase, create hand motions to it. We go through the poem/song about three times. (10 minutes approx)
Movement: Stand and stretch. If there’s a melody for the song we just learned, I’ll play it on the piano and have the students march in place (first, in a circle later) while listening to it. This is sometimes hard for them, but I explain that I want them to listen to the melody. If they are having a hard time with this, I let them sing the melody on “la”. If I taught a poem, I have them march in place or move their arms (Dalcroze) while I play variations on a children’s song on the piano. Sometimes I take a song that’s in 4 and play it in 3 to encourage fluid movements. (5-8 minutes, give or take)
Cool down: If I think they got the song which we sang earlier, I’ll do some listening – have them tap the steady beat to music, which is fast or slow. If I don’t think they got it (this happened today) we return to the song. If I think they’re bored with it, I speed it up and have them tap their knees while singing; makes it more exciting. Sometimes during this time I do a fingerplay from one of John Feierabend’s books or let them play a game. (8 minutes give or take. My classes are 30 minutes, but factoring in …. well stuff happens, it’s never 30 minutes)
The hard thing is to NOT have them sing with a recording because it’s hard to tell if the kids are really singing. A capella singing is very good for young students. They are used to background music in society, but hearing themselves sing alone and with others (as the standard goes) is very important for vocal development. Ideally you would have a piano, pitch pipe or something nearby from which you could get/give notes. I bought a little 2-octave keyboard from Goodwill last summer for this purpose. The pitches are not fabulous, but it’s close.
Grade 2-3 are good for folk songs, cultural references and explanations, of course rhythm reading and singing rounds. Much of this you can get online or in your local library. Check for a Scope and Sequence for your district (a list of the skills each grade should be able to do by time the year is over).
Grade 4-6 I do a lot of music theory, history and listening exercises. If your district will buy you a magazine subscription, consider Activate! by Lorenz corporation and Music Alive. Activate is a teacher’s magazine with reproducibles and a CD with performance and accompaniment tracks, for K-6. About $100 for the year; fabulous deal! Each issue contains a few songs (one for each grade level + an Orff arrangement), a cultural song, a folk dance and worksheets about music theory, composers, etc. I got this for a few years and use the materials repeatedly! Music Alive magazine is individual magazines each month which contain articles on a variety of topics both current and historical. There’s a teacher’s guide and CD. Conceivably each student would have a folder containing the magazine and a response journal where they answer questions and/or write about the article they read.
Older kids don’t think we understand them and their music. (I teach inner-city, but I’m sure it’s similar elsewhere.) Hence current materials are a help. If you have no budget, get creative: purchase mp3s of current pop songs on Amazon mp3 downloader and create lessons around the song. I did this some years ago with a Christina Aguilera song “Beautiful” and one of my favorites, Bobby McFarin’s song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” I edited info from the web I found about each style (pop and a capella), then wrote comprehension questions. I also asked them their opinion and why (gotta substantiate a claim, especially inthis age of common core). I asked them if they ever heard something similar to this and where; where they thought this music would be heard; about the texture of the sound. From this you can have a discussion about the styles or put the kids in pairs/groups to complete a Venn Diagram to compare the styles and performances.
I’ve never gotten Grades 4 and higher to sing freely. By this age they are self-conscious, pre-hormonal and rather uncomfortable (except when it comes to acting cool of course). Re: choir, take only the kids who want to be there, if at all possible. If they schedule a choir rehearsal during the day, you may not have a choice. Then you really have to be creative regarding repertoire and motivating them. Also you’d have to be firm with rules. (You’re stuck here, no excuses. You will try, you will participate. Your grade depends on it! If you do what I say, you’ll sing beautifully. If not, you’ll embarrass yourselves.) I’m a bit of a toughie 😛 That’s how I’ve survived.
One thing about upper elementary choir – they love anything pop-sounding. Get an arrangement of a pop tune (and something classic / al to balance it out), have them create choreography or clapping to it. Aim for two part music, but see where they’re starting and go from there. Partner songs and rounds are your friend if they’re beginning to sing in two parts. Teach them how to stand and sit straight, breathe properly. (hands on lungs, feel them expanding, feel the diaphragm moving; do not take short breaths with shoulders!) See the choral boards for warm up ideas and such.
Congrats and good luck!!