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make your day dance

Music for Dancers — 1st & 2nd Grade

February 16th, 2009 · No Comments · Tags: ·····

January was all about music, by way of percussion (see my previous post on Arts Worriers).

In planning classes (dance, theatre, or music), I keep in mind the 3 categories of Vocabulary & Concepts, Skills, & Ensembles.  It helps me keep track of my goals and our progress toward them. In a specific lesson, these categories should figure into every activity.  If they’re not, the activity shouldn’t be included, without some serious reflection and a real reason.

In a 2-week session on Music for Dancers for 1st & 2nd graders, here’s the scope of my goals…

Vocabulary & concepts: beat, rhythm, tempo, pitch, scale, silence, ensemble + instrument names & bass & tone strokes (and any other words that the children have questions about).

Skills: keeping a beat with voice & percussion, changing tempo, hearing pitch, creating silence, etiquette around instruments, using bass & tone strokes, taking turns & working in ensemble

Ensembles: Various songs & structures, both composed & improvisational including Echo, my “Keep the Beat” chant, ZoMeNaMeNa (a song I learned from resident percussionist Geoff Johns), Sansa Kroma (a stick-passing rhythm game from Africa), Monkey Monkey Moo (a rhythm based on words), and Circle Beat.

Day 1:

Anticipatory Set — Picture File Sort: Small groups of students receive about 10 laminated pictures of all kinds of instruments. I ask them to sort them any way they like and then explain their categories.  Students variously sort by size or type (strings, winds, percussion), and in the process we identify the instruments and share knowledge.

Introduction of Vocabulary — Keep the Beat chant: Students echo me doing the chant, and we say it several times, with boys & girls on various parts.  Then students identify and vote on the vocabulary words that they don’t understand or want to know more about — which lays out the territory we need to cover.

Day 2:

Vocabulary: We do the chant together, and then we talk about 3 vocabulary words they wanted to know more about. This first day we use past knowledge and predictions — I don’t tell them the definition, but ask them to look at the word and discuss it in order to determine or guess at the meaning. I write down all versions, and we go on with our class.  This is a GLAD technique for developing a Cognitive Content Dictionary, for English language learners, of which I have many.

Skills: I introduce the drums (quinto & tumbao conga drums), teach them how to respect the drums (e.g., they’re not footstools), & we practice bass & tone strokes. I have them listen to the bass & tone strokes, as well as the quinto vs. tumbao, for pitch differences.  They can usually hear the difference, but it takes practice to determine high vs. low.

Ensemble: We learn the song Sansa Kroma & practice a simple beat pattern with it — 1, 2, 3, pause.

Day 3:

Vocabulary: I give definitions for the words in our Cognitive Content Dictionary (which sometimes affirm their guesses), and students make sentences using the words. The “Keep the Beat” chant makes more sense now, and we say it, changing the patterns of voice each day, as they take over leadership from me.

Skills: Practice bass & tone strokes again, this time with 4 of each, which sets up the 4-beat measure. We play “Echo,” in which they copy my rhythm. Some of them even notice the difference between basses & tones, echoing the pitch changes as well as the rhythms.

Ensembles: We play Sansa Kroma with stick-passing and accelerating the tempo.  Students learn the song for ZoMeNaMeNa.

Continuing: Classes continue to unfold according to the needs of the students…

Vocabulary: We review what we’ve learned or add new vocabulary to our Cognitive Content Dictionary. With each day, I introduce names and playing strategies for 1 or 2 new percussion instruments (cabasa, agogo, sticks, woodblocks, tambourines, maraccas, & triangles if I can stand the “clang”).  We have 14 drums, which I arrange in a circle, with cushions in between for students using other instruments. Students’ hands aren’t tough enough to stay on the drums comfortably for a full 40 minutes, so they rotate around the circle, changing instruments every 5 minutes or so.

Skills: “Echo,” or “Pass the Beat” (each student around the circle plays for one 4-count measure), and eventually I introduce “Rhythm & Rest” — take any 4-count rhythm, play it 3 times, and rest (SILENCE!) for one measure. Kids love to play “elimination” on this, which is helpful, cause they really start paying attention to the rhythms & rests, if they get eliminated for making noise during the rest. It’s a great way to convince them that they are responsible for both playing their instrument and keeping it quiet!

Ensembles: We build structures and play them together… Sansa Kroma with sticks in a cirlce, ZoMeNaMeNa with instruments during certain sections, Monkey Monkey Moo & other words rhythms, and Circle Beat (I keep the beat… as I pass in front of each child, s/he can begin to play a rhythm with the beat and continue until I pass again, at which point s/he stops. This is the time they really get to improvise– it starts out as noise, but gradually they begin to listen.)

Final Day: We just play our ensemble pieces together. Hopefully, when we do the “Keep the Beat” chant this last day, they own all the words.

Keep the beat chant

by Meg Mahoney, copyright 2008

Music is a kind of play.
People make music every day.
Sounds and silences make a song.
Loud and soft, we sing along.

Rhythms… keep the beat!
Rhythms… keep the beat!
Listen so you… keep the beat!

We play songs both fast and slow –
How fast we play is called tempo.
Notes have pitch both high and low –
Up the scale by steps we go.

Rhythms… fast and slow!
Rhythms… high & low!
Listen so you… keep the beat!

Resources I couldn’t live without:

D.R.U.M. Discipline, Respect, and Unity through Music by Jim Solomon. Belwin-Mills Publishing, 1998.

World Music Drumming: A Cross-Cultural Curriculum by Will Schmid. Hal Leonard Corporation, 1998.

Geoff Johns — cross-cultural percussionist who taught me a LOT during his few weeks of residency at my school years ago!

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