This week, all of the Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders will either be composing short rhythms and melodies, or performing their compositions from previous weeks. Synthesizing what we're learning about sounds and silence (notes and rests), tempo, and pitch into compositions allows us to truly make sense of the discrete elements of music. The most challenging part of the process is transferring the written compositions to the instrument in a way that truly portrays the melody, so we will use a variety of options to make these compositions sound like the music in the students' minds. I may even bring out my violin and play the students' compositions so they can hear what it sounds like on a "real" instrument - if that's what they choose, that is. After all, composers get to choose not just what is played, but how and on which instrument, and I wouldn't want to minimize the students' compositional experiences.
With Thanksgiving this Thursday it's a short week at school, but that doesn't mean music class will be any less full of activity than usual! In Kindergarten, students who have established the concepts of beat and tempo will start exploring rhythm using a "Musical Turkey." This visual will provide them with a clear way to show four beats, and it's up to the student how to fill each of those beats, whether with sound or with silence. Then, of course, they will have the opportunity to design their turkey as they wish in preparation for our festive holiday!
First and second graders are continuing to work and play with Boomwhackers and bell sets, exploring high and low pitches through composition of simple (and sometimes not-so-simple!) melodies. We hope to perform some of our compositions in class, and with the time remaining we might watch some performance videos and learn game songs.
Third graders will embark upon a composer study where they will choose and study a composer from one of three genres (classical, jazz, rock'n'roll/pop), listen to their music and learn about their histories. The goal is for this to be a self-directed activity where students are free to explore and learn at their own pace and suiting their own interests.
Last week's introduction to pitch with the first and second graders was successful and fun, albeit limited in time. This week we will spend more time on the topic while playing with Boomwhackers - colorful tubes depicting the musical scale. Combined with the visual aid below, students will begin exploring pitch by creating their own melodies, to be performed by the entire class on our instruments.
Many of the kindergarten classes did not have music last week due to the changes in our schedule and days off, so this week we will continue our practice of steady beat through reading Tiki Tiki Tembo and accompanying it with rhythm sticks. Next week, they will have an opportunity to compose their own three-part rhythm stick song using fast and slow and will perform it for the class. Third graders will continue finding ways to listen to and describe unfamiliar music from around the world using our musical vocabulary.
All too often, our understanding of a particular concept is hampered by our inability to name it, define it, or describe it. One of the goals of music education is to provide students with the vocabulary necessary to describe and fully comprehend what they're hearing in order to identify what it is they like about a piece of music, what they dislike, or why one song might remind them of another. Girded with the vocabulary needed to describe music, students can begin to explore it at deeper levels.
This week, Kindergarten students are exploring fast and slow steady beats with all parts of their body, which will lead us to future discussions of rhythm and provide them with the necessary tools to compose their own pieces. First and Second graders will be focusing on pitch, a concept which many students are able to demonstrate but which some still have a hard time defining. Using Boomwhackers to show pitch through sound, color, and size, students will define pitch and then explain how the size of an instrument affects the pitch. Finally, Third graders will put their understanding of pitch, beat, and instrumentation to use in analyzing recordings of music from other cultures, learning both how to listen to music respectfully and how to compare and contrast it using the vocabulary we know.
Each of these lessons are providing the foundation for future opportunities in composition and music evaluation, the latter of which will support our continuing rehearsal of our Winter Show music.