DMK 1/16: Stopping by Woods: Intervals, Dynamics, Beat

This was our first lesson back after the winter holiday break. I was thrilled that after the snow had almost all melted, a nice storm came in last night, so that when we awoke, there was a nice blanket of white covering the ground. One of the children in class today said that it looks like a white paper. I love hearing a child’s perspective! After a quick sharing of Peruvian music, I read a little poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost, using a book with wonderfully child-friendly with illustrations by Susan Jeffers:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening illustrated by Susan Jeffers

I told the children how one night during the holiday, my house was so quiet. I was sitting in front of the fire and it was dark outside with big snowflakes fluttering silently down. I remembered this poem, and I remembered that I had written a little melody to go with the pome. I sang the song/poem to them, using the book again.

(This is where the audio file will go when it is working again!)

I then taught them the first phrase (“Whose woods these are I think I know”), then the second (“His house is in the village, though”). Then we added them together. Next we learned the third and fourth phrases and added them onto the first two. That’s as far as we went. I used some impromptu actions, such as pointing to my head for the “think I know” part, showing a roof with my hands for the “house” part, and pointing out the window towards the homes in the neigbhorhood for “village, though”.)

Mrs. S. got the bells out and put them at each child’s desk. She dismissed the children to their desks, row by row, and I told them to practice an ascending scale (“Beginning on Daddy Do and going up to Baby Do.”) When everyone was there together, we started.

I showed the ascending scale, which we played. Playing in unison is the challenge of the year! Then we played by skips up and down the scale. I had the children perform by table. We did this for sometime until it was the end. We tried first singing the Solfa and then playing the Solfa of the first phrase of “Whose Woods These Are.”

We didn’t listen to another song about this poem or snow, but these could have been a good resource:

The beginning of “Winter” by Vivaldi:

Here’s an interesting video showing snow falling with New Age music in the background:

Here is Tchaicovsky’s “Winter Dreams” that could be a peaceful time for closing eyes and imaging snow fallings…for a minute…


DMK 12/11/15: Jingle Bells and Intervals

Reader's Digest Christmas SongbookBefore beginning my instruction, I told them that I wished we could do music every day because there is so much wonderful Christmas music that we could sing this time of year! I held up the Reader’s Digest Merry Christmas Songbook and explained how fun it is that in my home, my daughters come home from school and open this book up and start to play. And other children will join in singing, and it is SO FUN! I told them that there are so many books of music available to use, including free sheet music online.  I encouraged them to sing at home, to visit the library and check out music, to learn to play music so that they can have fun singing and making music at home.


Ascending scale Solfa dots

After singing our welcome song, I reviewed ascending…

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.13.40 PM


and descending scales. I showed them those visuals and asked them if they remembered what they were. They did! I asked them if the ascending scale was going up or down, and they answered correctly, and vice-versa for the descending scale. We sang and signed both.

Deck the Halls First phrase moving Solfa dots

Then I asked them if they remembered the song I taught them last week. Some did: Deck the Halls! We sang it together, and then I asked if anyone one would like to perform it. Two boys stood up and sand in front of the class. (Well, one sang, and the other one got shy.) Then more children got the courage to sing, and we had about 5 girls next. Then we had a third group of 6 girls and one boy. I had to move on after that, but I probably would have had the whole class be willing to perform it! I had several children wanting to sing solos, but I explained that while I would adore having them do that, we needed to move on, because I had another song to teach them.

Note: I always remind the children about performance manners.

I pulled out this visual and asked them if they could guess which song it is:

Jingle Bells Solfa dots first phrase screen shot
Click on the image to go to a printable PDF of this visual.

I sang it in Solfa using one hand doing the hand signs and the other pointing to the notes. I sang it slowly, and then I sang it faster. It was easier for them to recognize at a quicker tempo. I had them sing it with me several times (just this first line of the song, in Solfa, with signs).

Then I said, “Let’s map this song on the board so that it shows the movement of the notes, like this other song” (pointing to Deck the Halls moving notes visual).

Jingle Bells notation on board

I wrote m m m m m m on the board, and they sang the notes as I wrote them. (I just wrote the letters first, then circled them as I sang it after we had figured out all the notes.) When we got to the first move to sol, I asked them if we were going up or down. They said up, and I wrote it above the mi with a gap between. “Which note is in between these two notes?” Most of the children didn’t know until we sang an ascending scale, and then they could hear that it was fa. I taught them then that when we skip over a note, it’s called a “skip.” (Later, when we were playing the bells, I explained that skips are intervals.) We continued to figure out each note in the first line, if it was up or down, and if it was a skip or a step.

I told them to think of being on a set of stairs. Were they going to the next step, or did they have to skip a note in the scale? If they had to skip a step–kind of like a jump–then there needed to be a space to show it. I had them stand up. If the notes were the same as we sang, we didn’t move. If we were stepping up a note, we marched in place once. If we were skipping, we hopped up once. So I tried to help them conceptualize the movement of the notes this way.

I also drew, so they could see, with a dry erase marker on my ascending scale page (that is in a plastic page protector, so the marker wipes off with a tissue), ho if we skip from “Daddy Do” we will land on mi. If we skip from mi, we go to sol, etc. In the end the page looked like this:Skips

Then we went to our bells and played an ascending scale and a descending scale. Then I had them move do, mi, sol, and ti up into the top part of their case. We played skips a few times, and then we played skips on re, fa, la, do a few times.

Then I pulled out the Jingle Bells music again and had them try it once. It was hard for them. We did it table by table, and I helped individually those children who weren’t getting it.

It was challenging for them. I wish I had music printed out for each child. I wish I could help each child. I wish each child could take a set of bells home with a music book and practice at home. What a difference that would make! If wishes were horses…

DMK 12/4/15: “Deck the Halls” Part 1 (Scales and Dynamics)

Today I taught the children that this:

Ascending scale Solfa dots
Click on the image to go to a printable PDF of this scale.

is called a scale. Specifically, it’s an “ascending scale.” I also put this up on the board next to it:
Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 3.13.40 PM

and told them it is called a “descending scale.” We repeated the words “ascending scale” and “descending scale” several times and motioned the meaning, by bending down by our toes and reaching up to the sky saying “ascending scale” and then bending back down to our toes, saying “descending scale.” We also sang and signed the scales.

Then, since we were down by our toes, I asked them if they remembered the growing pumpking game, and if anyone ate any pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving. We did the growing pumpkin game. After, I asked them if they remembered how we write “piano” or “forte” (as well as the other words, pianissimo, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, and fortissimo). I wrote “pp, p, mp, mf, f, ff” on the board as they named the terms. They did a pretty good job remembering after not meeting for two weeks!

Then we sat back down, and I opened up Deck the Halls illustrated by Norman Rockwell. I went over each page in the first verse, explaining the meaning of these unfamiliar words:

deck= decorate
boughs= branches
holly= tree with pointy green leaves and red (not for eating!) berries
’tis= it + is (taking away the first “i”)
season= time of year
jolly= happy, like Santa Claus!
don= put on
gay apparel= bright, festive (i.e. Christmas) clothes
troll= sing
ancient= very old
Yule tide= Christmas time
carol= song

We sang the song again, using the pictures in the book. Then I went over each line with them by diving the class up by rows, telling them that they were a “choir.” The first two rows on my left sang, “Deck the halls with boughs of holly,” and then I invited the whole class to sing the “fa la la” part. The next two rows in front of me I taught, “‘Tis the season to be jolly,” adding in the rest of the class again for the “fa la la” part. “Don we now our gay apparel” was the final 2 rows on my right, and then the “Troll the ancient Yule tide carol” was the whole class. Then we stood up, turned around and sang for the teacher.

After our performance, I sent the children to get their bells and go to their desks.  We practiced ascending scales and then descending scales. It was hard for some of the children to remember to begin at “Baby Do” (High Do) for the descending scale. It’s also hard for them to not play the bells in between repetitions or during my instructions. (I can only imagine! I would have been bored as a child, always waiting in between, too!) They did a good job.

After we practiced both scales, I taught them the first part of the first phrase:

Deck the Halls First phrase moving Solfa dots

I showed them how the notes go down for scale for the first part, then back up, and then down again. We drew the shape of the phrase in the air with our hands/arms. We sang and signed the phrase. Then we played the first part, sol fa mi re do, 3 times before we had to end our day.

We sang goodbye after we put away our bells.