Let's Sing 3 Column

Friday, November 13, 2020

Week 3 in Music

 Here is a synopsis of what happened in music - instructional Week #3.   With the specials schedule that we have at Gold Rush this year, four weeks equals 1 instruction week in music for all of the students.  This covers the time from October 19 - November 13, 2020.


In our third musical week together, our focus was building beat, rhythm, drum technique and playing as part of a percussion ensemble.  This was our first week back together full in person, too.
  • Kindergartners experienced beat and rhythm by responding through movement to basic steps of walk and run.  Students experienced contrasts in fast and slow with a movement response game, "Giants and Fairies/Gnomes" with the piece, Minoeska.  Using the poem, "Engine, Engine, Number Nine," students traveled to a steady beat, played the steady beat on sand blocks and patted the steady beat while saying the poem.  We discovered the number of beats in the poem and charted that in beat notation.  Using that as a basis, students discovered/uncovered the rhythm of the poem - which beats have one sound (tah) and which beats had two sounds on a beat (tee-tee).  The notation of quarter notes and pairs of eighth notes were introduced, although we will stick with using rhythm syllables until students have enough background knowledge of fractions to make sense of the traditional/mathematical note names.  Students used the poem to play a traveling game with lines of students as a "train".  The student at the front of the line had a set of sticks to play on buckets that were scattered on the carpet as our train stations.  Using the rhythm of the last two phrases of the poem, students said the words and then played the rhythm on the buckets (2x).  Each student had a turn to be the leader of their train.  
    • First Graders experienced beat, rhythm and hand drum technique this week.  We began with a welcoming song, (prerecorded so as not to sing together in the space, per COVID restrictions) - "I'm so Glad to See You".  We stepped to the beat during the singing phrases and then we were stationary, clapping to the beat for 8 counts.  This was then transferred from clapping to playing the hand drums.  In Kindergarten, students play all of the same size hand drums, but this week, 1st graders explored different sizes of hand drums and how that affects pitch - with the piece Big and Small.  Over the course of the week, students were reading and writing rhythmic patterns with quarter notes (tah), pairs of eighth notes (tee-tee) and quarter rests.  Some classes were able to make a video of their performance of the piece and you'll find that on the In the Spotlight page of this blog.
    • Second Graders experienced beat, rhythm and hand drum technique as we moved to various note values and learned two pieces for hand drums.  The first was a review from last year, Big and Small, highlighting two sizes of hand drums.  This was an opportunity to introduce the half note in notation (ta-ah).  In a 2nd piece, Three Plus, students read and performed 3 different rhythms.  This included an introduction to the use of bar lines and measures.  In addition to the rhythms of the other piece, this one introduced a half rest (2-beat rest). Three Plus is played on 3 different sized drums and all parts are layered simultaneously.  It is a big challenge to stick to your rhythm while others are going on.  This was our first experience in multiple layers and the level of musical independence that requires.  Videos of class performances are available on the In the Spotlight page of this blog.  Some groups extended the piece with an additional section using 4 beat improvisations of different sounds on the hand drums.
    • Third Graders experienced beat, rhythm and drum circle technique (playing for the first time on our school set of World Music Drumming tubanos.  Students learned two basic strokes - Bass and Tone.  Bass tones are played with a flexed hand / palm strike in the middle of the drum head, and Tone is played on the edge of the drum with all fingers, creating a higher sound.  We played some question / answer response activities and did some echo patterns.  Additionally, students learned all 3 drum patterns to the World Music Drumming curriculum Ensemble 1 - with 3 layered, complementary rhythms.  Third Graders also learned two Drum Ensemble pieces from speech patterns arranged by Jim Solomon:  Monkey, Monkey Moo and If You See a Monkey.  Using these pieces, students were introduced to a four sixteenth note pattern (tikatika), and a dotted eighth/sixteenth note pattern.  In addition to learning and performing these pieces, students practiced rhythmic dictation using quarter notes, eighth notes, half notes and sixteenth notes.  Check out the videos of class performances on the In the Spotlight page of this blog.
    • Fourth Graders experienced beat, rhythm and drum circle technique playing tubanos and congas.  We reviewed the two basic strokes of Bass and Tone and used them in echo patterns and warm-ups.  We did a question / answer activity with both words and drumming to introduce syllable to stroke playing.  We extended that question - answer pattern to include whole group echoes of individuals.  This helps to increase awareness of others in the drum circle.  In addition to reviewing Ensemble 1 from World Music Drumming, students learned a Drum Ensemble piece arranged by Jim Solomon, Old Dan Tucker.  This piece had a main rhythm based on a text, which included sixteenth notes patterns and dotted eighth/sixteenth note patterns.  Additionally, the other layers of the drum ensemble gave us an introduction to a dotted quarter / eighth note pattern.  Using these rhythms and others previously learned, students also practice rhythmic notation.  You can check out the videos of class performances on the In the Spotlight page of this blog.
    • Fifth Graders experienced beat, rhythm and drum circle technique playing tubanos and congas.  We reviewed the two basic strokes of Bass and Tone and used them in echo patterns and warm-ups.  We did a question / answer activity with both words and drumming to introduce syllable to stroke playing.  We extended that question - answer pattern to include whole group echoes of individuals.  This helps to increase awareness of others in the drum circle.  In addition to reviewing Ensemble 1 from World Music Drumming, students learned a Drum Ensemble piece arranged by Jim Solomon based on a traditional nursery rhyme, Jack Be Nimble.   This piece is in compound time (6/8) which means that beats are subdivided into is 3s, rather than 2s.  Learning the layered rhythms in this arrangement and decoding the main rhythm allowed for an introduction to reading and writing rhythmic patterns in compound time.  We used that reading skill to put together a 2nd piece, Lord of the Bodhran Dance, based on Celtic rhythms.  Students discovered the 8 measure phrase form for each of the 3 layers, but listening to the pattern while seeing the 2-beat compound rhythmic building block patterns.  Please check out the videos of class performances on the In the Spotlight page of this blog.
    Instruction for classes in quarantine was modified for online instruction - still focusing on the elements of beat and rhythm reading, but without the use of classroom percussion instruments.

    Friday, October 9, 2020

    Week 2 in Music

    Here is a synopsis of what happened in music - instructional Week #2.   With the specials schedule that we have at Gold Rush this year, four weeks equals 1 instruction week in music for all of the students.  This covers the time from September 14 - October 9, 2020.


    In our second musical week together, our focus was building melody and pitch.
    • Kindergartners experienced pitch by responding through movement to high and low sounds, and music going up and going down.  We began  to focus on two contrasting pitches (soon to be named Sol and Mi) which we currently are referring to as high and low.  Students demonstrated their understanding of those pitches with body solfeggio (high - shoulders / low - waist) and pointing to those words on individual pitch cards.  We played singing games with those two pitches (pre-recorded to honor the Return to Learn No singing in the Elementary school guidelines):  See - Saw, and Hey, Hey, Look at Me which involves making statue shapes to copy in movement.  Students also experienced pitch through a story of Mr. Wiggle and Mr. Waggle - two friends who live in a very hilly town (traveling up and down to visit each other).  Asynchronously students had some interactive listening games to practice the concepts of high and low and moving up and moving down.
    • First Graders experienced pitch through work at the xylophones in class this week.  We got used to protocols playing instruments in this time of no shared materials.  Students learned how to care for and set up the instruments (removing bars without damaging the nails).  We used a pentatonic tone set (Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La).  Students had some "mess around" time to explore the instruments and get used to the mallet hold and playing with alternating hands before we zeroed into particular pitch patterns.  We worked primarily with Sol - Mi patterns and then expanded to Sol-La-Mi patterns.  Students echoed short patterns and read some from a 2-line staff.  Students also created their own short patterns to share with the class.  The soloist had to know their pattern well enough to repeat it so that everyone else could echo their pattern.  Students also experienced Sol-Mi patterns in a new movement game, Hey, Hey, Look at Me.  Leaders each created a new shape for others to copy.  We noticed and discussed whether the created shape was a high shape or a low shape.  Asynchronously, students had some interactive listening games to practice recognizing the melodic patterns of Sol - Mi and Sol-Mi-La.
    • Second Graders experienced pitch through work at the xylophones in class this week.  We got used to protocols playing instruments in this time of no shared materials.  Students learned how to care for and set up the instruments (removing bars without damaging the nails).  We used a pentatonic tone set (Do, Re, Mi, Sol, La).  Students had some "mess around" time to explore the instruments and get used to the mallet hold and playing with alternating hands before we zeroed into particular pitch patterns.  We worked primarily with Do-Re-Mi patterns, then Sol-La-Mi patterns, and then expanding to the full pentatonic scale by combining those two.  Students echoed short patterns and read some from notation.  Students also created their own short patterns to share with the class.  The soloist had to know their pattern well enough to repeat it so that everyone else could echo their pattern.  So that students begin to recognize the patterns using solfeggio rather than associating particular pitch / letter names to the syllable, we reset the instruments for different tone sets.  Initially C was Do, but we also worked with F as Do and G as Do.  Asynchronously, students had some interactive listening games to practice recognizing the melodic patterns of Sol-Mi-La, Mi-Re-Do and Sol-Mi-Do.
    • Third Graders had an introduction to full treble clef staff notation and to playing the recorder this week.  On our first in-person day we went outside to the bus loop where we could safely unmask and learn to play (with added distance).  Students learned how to hold the recorder (with the left hand on top), the warm, gentle air flow needed to produce a good sound, the way the start and stop the sound and basic articulation (tonguing with a "doo").  Students learned their first two notes - B and A and how to plug the appropriate holes to get the desired sound.  While we were outside that first day, students experienced 4 different pieces:  B Ready, B Funky (rhythmic echoes on B), The Sheep May Safely Graze Tango, and Will You?  At the end of this very abbreviated introduction to playing the recorder, students were given a packet of additional music and their own personal recorder to take home.  These recorders will remain at home and be used for practicing in not only 3rd grade, but also 4th and 5th grade.  This was an important first step to a lot of great music making to come.  On our 2nd in-person day we went through a process of sight-reading music that aligns well with any instrument - including recorder.  For this we used the xylophones.  We worked with the layers of music to learn a new piece - 1) clapping and saying the rhythm, 2) naming the pitches/letters of the notes in order 3) combining the pitch names and rhythm to say the pitch names in rhythm, then playing the piece.  Students created their own E-G-B-D-F sayings during their asynchronous learning and then we shared those in person and chose a favorite to display in the hallway.  Other asynchronous e-learning helped students practice the note names of treble clef notes.  
    • Fourth Graders reviewed the lines and spaces of the treble clef that they learned about in 3rd grade, and using the pattern of the music alphabet students learned about notes outside of the staff.  We extended our range of known notes from the B below the staff to the B above the staff (15 notes in total).  Our 2nd in-person day, students took the 50 in 5 challenge for the first time.  This is a timed note-naming challenge.  Fourth graders experienced scale-wise melodies at the xylophones with a piece called Double Barreled Canon by Shirley McRae.  The Double Barreled refers to two melodies which stack together and can each be played in canon (like a round).  This piece got us back to playing the xylophones and it was a good piece to work on alternating hand technique.  Check out an in-class video performance of this piece on the In the Spotlight page.  Asynchronously, students reviewed Recorder Basics and the notes B, A, G and low E.  They were introduced to a piece for recorder called Toasted by Jim Solomon.  With the help of some interactive games students had the opportunity for additional practice on recognizing the lines and spaces of the treble clef.
    • Fifth Graders reviewed the lines and spaces of the treble clef in preparation for the 50 in 5 challenge.  We reviewed the music alphabet and the way that pattern helps in figuring out notes  outside of the staff.  Students are becoming familiar with all of the treble clef notes from the B below the staff to the B above the staff (15 notes in total).  Our 2nd in-person day, students took the 50 in 5 challenge for the first time this year.  This is a timed note-naming challenge.  Fifth graders experienced a piece featuring octave jumps with a syncopated rhythm and a scale-wise melody (ascending and descending) at the xylophones with a piece called Syncopation Step-Wise Motion by Roger Sams.  This piece got us back to playing the xylophones and it was a good piece to work on alternating hand technique.  We tried this piece in canon with some measure of success.  We also used this piece to explore different modal scales by changing the scale, using each possible variation on the xylophones (all without sharps or flats added).  The original scale from C-C' is known as the major scale, but can also be called Ionian in the Greek modal scales.  We played from D-D', known as the Dorian scale, from E-E', known as the Phrygian scale, from F-F', known as the Lydian scale, from G-G', known as the Mixolydian scale, and from A-A', known as the Aeolian scale,  Students identified which scale was their favorite.  Students seemed to be very drawn to the sounds of the various modal scales.  Asynchronously, students reviewed Recorder Basics and the notes B, A, G and low E.  They were introduced to a piece for recorder called Toasted by Jim Solomon.  With the help of some interactive games students had the opportunity for additional practice on recognizing the lines and spaces of the treble clef.

      Friday, September 11, 2020

      Week 1 in Music

      The first four weeks of school have come and gone!  With the specials schedule that we have at Gold Rush this year, that equals 1 instruction week in music for all of the students.  That's why this post is called - Week 1 in Music.

      In our first musical week together, our focus was building community - classroom culture and climate and establishing ways of working together in learning and making music - including establishing classroom routines.  Our musical focus was on steady beat and aesthetics -  noticing the way music impacts feelings, mood and emotions.
      • Kindergartners experienced beat by walking and running as they took turns in "Let's Go Walking".  The sound of the tambourine matched their footsteps and each student's names were added to a chart, designating how many claps (or syllables) are in their name.  In addition, students explored the movement space with different steps, accompanied by tambourine or piano.  Students also learned a finger play / speech piece, Here is the Beehive".  Asynchronous learning focused on moods in music / favorite pieces and an introduction to the songs for our Friday Sing-Together session.
      • First and Second Graders experienced matching their footsteps to the sound of the temple blocks in a listening/movement/reaction game called move and stop.  They learned a new song called "Welcome Back to School".  We added some movement - including traveling on some phrases, not moving, but adding body percussion - filling in the gaps in the song, and greeting one another with eyes and a wave.  We added an extended ending with body percussion in a 4 beat sound and silence pattern.  I told the students a story about Giants and Gnomes & Fairies.  We matched the characters movements to a piece of music, Minoeskja.  We also explored various styles and moods in music while following a beat leader (beat coordination follow), listening for instruments and discussing the way various pieces of music felt.  Asynchronous learning focused on moods in music and learning the songs for our Friday Sing-Together session.
      • Third, Fourth and Fifth Graders all began with the movement/listening/reaction game Move and Stop - exploring the space, with various steps and tempos, directed by the sound of the temple blocks.  We developed a piece by Percussionist / Composer Jim Solomon title "Greeting"  which is performed with body percussion.  All classes learned the A section and the B section.  Some groups had enough time to create their own movements for a C section and we put the piece into a form to showcase each of the created sections.  On one of our two in-person days, students each took as a turn as the leader in an assessment - A Circle of Beat Leaders.  Students were to discern the underlying beat, or pulse, in the music being played and lead a motion demonstrating that beat for their circle to follow.  Additionally, students were encouraged to change motions on the phrase and put beat motions to together in a way that showed the meter (beat groupings) of the piece.    Asynchronous learning focused on moods in music and learning the songs for our Friday Sing-Together session.
        In the coming rotation 'week 2' (September 14 - October 9) the Musical Headline will be Melody and Pitch.   



        Sunday, July 21, 2019

        Ready, Set, Go!!!

        Return to Learn!


        It's so exciting to be at the start of a new school year here at Gold Rush!
        I trust it's going to be an amazing year - full of learning and making great music together.    
        I am delighted I can continue to be a part of such a great school community!

        I  plan to post a new blog at the end of each four week cycle
        with the highlights of those weeks in music - including details for each grade level.

        Along the way I'll add pages with links to the work we're doing in class 
        (video, audio and photos)
        and ways you can continue your learning at home

        Cheers to a terrific school year.  Whoo-hoo!
        It will be so good to see you all and be together again.  ☺