Reply To: Family Learning Night

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What a great opportunity for you and your parents! I like the idea of having the parents make rhythm cards with you. I have taught a “Parent University” class within my school district and one of the activities my colleague and I used for the primary parents was the rhythms of apples.

We had many different types of apples (Fuji, Golden Delicious, etc.). The parents clapped through the syllables with us. Then we showed them beat bars and they wrote the names of the apples over the beat bars. i.e. Fuji = Fu – ji with two bars. Then we translated the Fu-ji into ta-ta (quarter-quarter) which has one sound to the beat. Then we did Golden Delicious. Which doesn’t fit using all quarter notes, so we talk about how two shorter sounds to a beat = eighth notes or ti-ti. Then we wrote that rhythm out over beat bars = quarter eighth eighth quarter quarter or ta, ti-ti, ta, ta (of course had to have 4 beat bars for that one). Then had them take the other apples and do the same independently…they could rearrange the apples into different rhythms and clap them, write them, etc. It is great for syllables and for rhythm, plus the parents can have fun at home and introduce the whole idea of healthy eating but making it fun. (P.S. having the parents cut the apples to show the rhythm is great too…but you have to have lots of apples on hand). We told the parents they can do this with vegetables or anything they can find in the fridge for that matter or around the house. But the apples gave us a fun theme with which to work.

With the intermediate parents (you could still do the above activity just expanded into more difficult rhythm patterns), you can show them a handclap game that you have taught to the students in class so they can go home and perform it with their child. We have done various handclap games and sometimes I have the students make-up their own which can be really fun. You can discuss how the handclap keeps the beat while the students perform the rhythm of a speech piece or the rhythm with the melody in a song. A great dialogue can happen when you discuss a poem which is a speech piece vs. a song that has a melodic line. You could also have them do a tennis ball activity where they listen to a piece of music and they have to determine if it is in 4/4 time or 3/4 time and bounce the ball according to the strong beat (bounce catch right hand bounce catch left hand for 4/4, bounce catch toss for 3/4, or if you want to do 2/4 one hand goes behind the back). I have my students listen and try to figure out how they would do each time signature. They perform it independently. Then they try to figure out how would they do it with a partner. When the parents go home, they can turn on the radio and pass the ball back and forth on the beat and sing along with their child to the music. You can expand on this and have the parents/students figure out how the tennis ball would go if the tempo were largo vs. presto. I can’t take credit for this lesson–I took it from my lead teacher up in Fargo, ND. Shout out to her for being an awesome mentor/master teacher!

If you could, I’d love to hear what you end up doing with the parents. Sounds like such an exciting opportunity! Good luck!

Bridget James
Western Division Representative
National Council for General Music Education (NCGME)
National Association for Music Education (NAfME)