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Music for Dancers — 3rd & 4th Grade

February 18th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Tags:

January was all about music, by way of percussion, at all grade levels (see my previous post on Music for Dancers — 1st & 2nd Grade). At my school, grade levels are mixed in most classes… kindergarten & 5th grade are stand-alone, 1st-2nd graders are together, and 3rd-4th graders are together. The grade level mixes aren’t always ideal, but you get used to it. Planning has to encompass a 2-year cycle, so the 2nd & 4th graders don’t get the same lessons two years in a row. Mostly, my lessons change from year-to-year anyway.

I’m a huge believer in lesson plans — the more detailed the better, although I don’t always have time for more than a sketch and the material-gathering. In the midst of a lesson plan, I may diverge mildly or wildly, according to student responses, but the plan keeps me on track for my goals. When I was building my program, of course, everyone in the school had to have roughly the same lessons, because they were all beginning movers.  In my 12th year now, the grade-levels are differentiated, with the caveat that there are always kids transferring in from the Land of No Dance, and they need to be brought along. In my annual sessions on Music for Dancers, I build on some of the same structures and songs each year, and the kids enjoy adding new parts to familiar songs.

In a 2-week session on Music for Dancers for 3rd & 4th graders, here’s the scope of my goals…

Vocabulary & concepts: pulse, rhythm, tempo, scale, dynamics, qualities, measures, accents, notes [whole, half, quarter, eighth, sixteenth], melody, form (and any other words that the children have questions about)

Skills: making rhythmic patterns with voice & percussion, changing tempo, using pitch, creating silences, etiquette around instruments, using bass & tone strokes, taking turns & working in ensemble, hearing & using contrast in dynamics, creating & reading rhythmic patterns

Ensembles: Various songs & structures, both composed & improvisational, including Echo, my “Beat is the Pulse” chant, Sansa Kroma (a stick-passing rhythm game from Africa to which we add drum accompaniment), Concentration, Rhythms & Rests, Circle Beat, and a song or 2 such as Kookaburra or Boom Chicka Boom, with percussion accompaniment.

Highlights throughout the 2-week session:

I start with the “Beat is the Pulse” chant [see below], which gives me a chance to assess the students’ knowledge. As in 1st-2nd grade, I ask them to identify the vocabulary they want to know more about.

We also do some instrument identification, from the same pictures the 1st & 2nd graders used. I spend some time helping them classify the instruments according to their sound (ideophones, membranophones, aerophones, etc.) or according to how they’re seated in an orchestra.

I introduce hand drums, hand-drumming techniques [I’m not great at it, but I did take drum lessons for awhile), and other percussion instruments, using them in rhythmic games such as “Echo,” “Taking Turns,” and “Rhythms & Rests with Solos.”  [One of the thing I hate most in the world is writing procedures, but if anyone is actually interested in knowing how these games go, don’t hesitate to ask. I can go on & on if prodded!]

We play Concentration and add drum parts to Sansa Kroma. Then we learn a song or 2 and start building percussion accompaniments for them.

One of their favorite structures is Circle Beat, where I lay the beat and they add a complementary rhythm. I walk around the circle, and each percussionist starts when I pass him/her the first time, and ends when I pass the second time.  If they get in a rhythmic groove, where they’re actually listening to each other, I let them go on for quite awhile.

Final Day:

We play our ensemble pieces together. Hopefully, when we do the “Beat is the Pulse” chant this last day, they own all the words.

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!

Action Songs Children Love, Volume 3: Grade 2-5 by Denise Gagne. Themes & Variations, 2000.

The chant I use for assessing and front-loading vocabulary (GLAD technique):

Beat is the pulse

3rd / 4th grade — by Meg Mahoney, copyright 2008

Beat is the pulse.
Beat is the pulse.
It never stops
Goes on and on.

Rhythm is the pattern of sounds
That plays around the beat –
Short and long, gentle and strong
The song becomes complete.

Tempo is the speed of the beat,
It carries you along.
You’ll match the tempo of your beat
To the feeling of the song.

Pitch goes high, pitch goes low,
The notes can climb the scale.
Pitch can make a rhythm,
But as a melody tells a tale.

Dynamics are the qualities
Of delicate and strong.
Forceful sounds and gentle rounds
Carry a listener along.

Measures give the music form,
With accents on the way.
Musicians count together,
So together they can play.

Use dynamics, rhythm, pitch, and beat,
Keep your count and tempo clear!
Listen as you play and sing,
And your music will please the ear.

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