Patriotic Music

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  • #21012
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I’m trying to start a unit (probably four like 3 weeks or 6-30 minute class sessions) on patriotic music with my grades 3-5 students. I’ve done a national anthem lesson with about a 50% success rate, where we listen to the song and talk about places we’ve heard it. Then I read them a book, “The Star Spangled Banner” by Amy Winstead, which gives them some historical context for how and why the words were written framed in a way they can understand. Then I hand out envelopes containing the eight phrases of the song and we listen to it a couple more times and they put them in order, which I frame as a “challenge” that they need to complete. We’re going to start learning to sing the Star Spangled Banner next week.

    Half my classes are into it, half are so not into it. I’m worried about how this bodes for the rest of the unit. I’d like each grade level to learn another patriotic standard, such as God Bless America, This Land Is Your Land, You’re A Grand Old Flag, etc. Any suggestions on ways to improve this unit to make it more engaging and exciting?

    I’ve neglected the patriotic standards in the past couple years, and the 4th and 5th graders are going to a symphony children’s concert in a couple months that’s going to feature some of these songs, so that’s why I’m spending time on this right now. Again, any suggestions or fun things you’ve done would be much appreciated!

    #21053
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Find videos of pop stars singing the songs. ex. Beyonce lip-synching the SSB at the Inauguration, Alicia Keys at the Super Bowl. Get them to talk about how each version was the same song, but very different styles; how certain words were brought out / more dramatic. Other songs like Yankee Doodle or America the Beautiful, same deal – search YouTube for performances of these songs, possibly in Gospel or slightly more pop styles which the kids could relate to.

    I recommend http://www.mediaconverter.org if your school does not allow YouTube. You can convert the website link into a WMV or mp3 file, which can be loaded onto a disk and opened on your work computer.

    Years ago I found a worksheet online called the “Star Mangled Banner” – It’s the song typed out with missing words. The spots for the missing words were text boxes shaded in with no border. I have done this for other songs I’m trying to teach – or just as an extension of the material. …. Another activity is to put kids in small groups and give each kid a copy of the score to the piece. Separately or on the back have a worksheet which asks them to notice rhythmic and melodic patterns, time signature, direction of the melody in given measures, etc.

    … Or you can make it more interesting: a game. Separate the class into two teams, each in a huddle. You sing or play a line of the song; when you stop, the teams have to agree on the correct words with which to finish the phrase, then “ring in” with an aux instrument. One point for each correct line, or more if it’s a longer / harder line.

    If your students can read music, have them play the song on glocks, keyboards or boomwhackers. Hope that helps!!

    #21054
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I just reread your question. A couple years ago I taught “This Land is Your Land” as part of my Patriotic songs unit. I downloaded the original Woody Guthrie recording for a dollar on Amazon. I put it onto my iPod and played it for my classes. They enjoyed singing with the recording more than with the piano (me playing badly 😛 ). To be honest, I teach Grand Old Flag to my younger students – K-2. They sing then march to it. There’s not much you can do with it … it’s a march. Re: America the Beautiful, play them Ray Charles’ version then a more classical version. RC did an amazing job – very soulful.

    #21056
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    When I teach patriotic pieces, I begin with the musical concepts in the piece. For example, the pick-up notes in “America, the Beautiful.” The students will find the phrases in the pieces. Over the years, my students have learned that finding the content in each and every piece is important. Sticking with “America, the Beautiful,” we analyze the verses and what they mean. There are great books out there, but we dialogue about how Katherine Lee Bates wrote it sitting on top of the mountain in Colorado looking over our beautiful nation. I often do not bring in books that explain it–instead I describe it and then have the students think, pair, share with each other on the meaning of the words. Then, I will pull out some scarves, hula hoops, bean bags, etc. and have them create some movement to each verse. Sometimes I group them by verses, or sometimes I have them go in pairs and they have to do a creative movement for verse 1-4.

    Along this same idea, with “Yankee Doodle,” I will teach the melody and harmony parts, the fact that it was a joke by the British but the soldiers loved it. Then we discuss the time signature. We look at 2/4 vs. 4/4 and then we pull out tennis balls and have the students experience the meter by bouncing the tennis balls to the beat in 2/4 then in 4/4. You can also modulate it to a minor key (Share the Music series does this). You can pair them up and have them bounce the ball to the strong beat across to each other. And then try 3/4 with a creative piece. Of course, analyzing the words is great too–it’s a very creative piece.

    If you do “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” you can have the students create movements to the piece. It is interesting that most classes will come up with very similar movements and then you merge them into one for the performance. You can add a stick passing game to this piece–(tap, tap, pass, pick-up is my favorite ostinato pattern)–everyone has blue sticks and there is one red stick. Whomever gets the red stick has to give one fact about the United States like “What is our national flower?” Or going on the musical lines, they have to answer a musical trivia question.

    The thing I have found most enjoyable about our patriotic pieces is that they have so much great content in them regarding verse/refrain, pickup notes, vocabulary that is not common now days (’tis & thee), and it links so well with literacy and understanding the story that is being told. But the best thing you can do to make it enjoyable for the kids is think of creative activities to go with the pieces. My students LOVE showing off to the parents that they can not only sing the piece, but also bounce the tennis ball. Then we change tempo and have added a new musical element.

    Good luck!

    #21077
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I’ve taught patriotic songs for Veteran’s Day and gave a program in order to motivate them a bit more. I’ve also included “Proud to be an American” in addition to the songs mentioned above. I usually give one song to each grade level so that eventually they learn them throughout their elementary years. This new district is not in school during V-day, so I didn’t do a program this year, but thinking about it close to the date for next year. You could also add sign language to any of the songs; it might help them remember the words. I do lots with charts with words written on them, and then start to cover up lines the more we work on a song until most have it memorized. Just keep pushing for memorization; I like the idea about working in pairs discussing the words. I also recommend the Kelly Clarkson performance of America the Beautiful. I have never heard it sung that way and think she did a fantastic job singing it, LIVE, I might add.

    #21103
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    if you search online you can find lots of games to reinforce the vocabulary and history of the SSBanner—I play a jeopordy game on my smart board, then a bucket game—in teams with rotating “captians” they answer the questions by writing the answer on a page protector– each team with the right answer gets a chance to throw a ball into the bucket for points, Their favorite game is getting into a circle and I say the first word, point to each student in order and they must say the next word, if they are wrong or late, they sit down–the kids still up at the end of the game are the winners. I teach the words and vocab starting in 3rd grade–review in 4th grade with worksheets–and review in 5th grade and add the games. Each year I show youtube examples…I probably wouldn’t spend whole lessons for any length of time on patriotic songs, I would add them as parts of lessons and keep reviewing.

    #21144
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    I love that you are spending time teaching patriotic music. If the kids don’t learn the songs in music class, I’m afraid they won’t learn them at all!
    A fun activity that my students always enjoy is the Star Spangled Banner beach ball game. We pass a beach ball around a circle and each child says the next word in the SSB. When someone makes a mistake, we start at the beginning. This reinforces the words for everyone. I play this game with grades 1 to 5 in varying levels of difficulty.
    Our whole school also sings a medley of America, God Bless America and God Bless the USA for Veterans Day. Look at youtube for some good examples of patriotic songs to show and inspire the kids. The kids also enjoy singing a medley of the military songs from each branch.
    Good luck!

    #33566
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    THere are some BEAUTIFUL picture books for a lot of these songs. Star -Spangled has a book with many incarnations of the flag, and they have to find the flag in each picture which is a historical picture, so you can go through it line by line like that. By then, they usually want to sing it. Teach about the war of 1812. Also, if you dare, teach that the tune is an english pub tune.

    America the Beautiful has 2 beautiful picture books.

    This land also also a nice descant in some of the series books.

    Yankee Doodle – the original is from the Rev. war and has interesting vocabulary and LOTS of words.

    #33595
    nafmeadmin
    Keymaster

    Look into war period songs, that is where most of the songs are from. History channel had a program a few years back called 1812 that had about 10 minutes of it devoted to the SSB. I have played a lot of Civil War with brass bands (Look on Youtube for videos. Olde Towne Brass, 2nd South Carolina String Band, and 1st Brigade Band) Why not have do a folk dance from this time period. I would also look into music of WWII with Glen Miller and USO stuff. Show them part of a Bob Hope USO show. These will really bring home why these songs are patriotic.

    For your older students have them create and perform a USO type show. I can be a lot of fun.

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