Today in Mrs. S’s class I brought in a small lever harp. Seeing it in it’s black zipper case, the children wondered what it was. Some children knew. “How did you know?” I asked. “Because of it’s shape!” a little girl volunteered. It is fun to see what music children have been exposed to in their young lives.
We began class singing the DM theme song, and then we sang our Solfa scale “up and down the mountain” (an ascending and descending scale, beginning with middle C as Do). I sang slowly, as they had just begun learning the hand signs two weeks before. I took one girl and one boy volunteer to perform in front of the class. If a child does a sign wrong, I sometimes take the time to correct it–just in a little way to help them learn it. For example, if their fists are up high, I’ll say encouragingly, “Move your fists down by your belly button. Good job!” Or if “Ti” is difficult, I say, “Make some glasses in front of your eyes with your hands. Now POP the first finger up! And then move your hands back out in front of you. That’s right!”
After our scale, I reminded the children how we talked about each note having it’s own name and it’s own voice, just like each of them have their own unique voices, like we talked about last week. Some notes are higher and some are lower. I picked two notes (starting with “Daddy Do” and “Baby Do”) and asked which sound was higher and which one was lower. Daddy Do! I pointed out that “Daddy Do” is taller than “Baby Do” and showed them this by pulling the individual bells out and standing them up next to each other in front of me for the children to see.
I told them that each note sings its voice and we hear different notes because of the vibrations. (One little girl reminded us that “sound is vibrations that travel through the air to your ear that sends a message to your brain.” (I am always amazed at how much young children can remember even with such few repetitions and so much time elapsing in between lessons.) I explained that vibrations can travel at different speeds. “What is speed?” I asked. I ran fast across the front of my teaching space, and ran back the other way. Then I walked slowly back and forth. We talked about fast and slow. I asked them if they had ever seen a speed limit sign (I forgot my visual of one). It shows how fast you can drive your car down a road. “Do you ever say to your Dad or Mom, “Dad! You’re driving too fast!” (I always like getting the children to smile.) We tell cars how many miles per hour they can drive. We can also tell how fast or slow vibrations are going, and that is what gives them their PITCH. I had them repeat that word two or three more times. Pitch is how fast or slow the vibrations are going per second. Middle C (“Daddy Do”) is 256 Hertz, or oscillations per second. So there are 256 sound waves passing by in one second. Wow! That’s fast! Some pitches are a lot slower, like 80 Hertz, or a lot faster, like 440 Hertz. Symphonies tune to A at 440 Hz or above (A above middle C).
I took the cover off of the harp and pulled it to the front. As some of the strings were out of tune, I got out the tuner and started to tune them. One of the children guessed that the red strings were Do (C), and she was right! I showed them how each of the red strings had the same pitch, except that some were lower and some were higher. I meant to show them that the longer strings had the lower pitches and the shorter strings had higher pitches, but I think I might have forgotten that! (You can ask your child.)
I showed them a glissando going up the harp from low to high and going down from high to low. I told them that harpists do not use their pinkies to play the strings–only their thumbs through fourth fingers. I had them all come up and play a glissando on the harp. Then they sat back down and watched “Chanson dans la nuit” (French for Song in the Night) by Carlos Salzedo and played by Yolanda Kondonassis (video here). I told them that the song was describing sounds that you might hear at night, such as wind. I asked them what they hear at night. They answered crickets, ants, birds, trees, dear (“reindeer”), bears. So we listened and they loved it. “Can we watch it again?” one little boy asked. I wished! We were out of time, and we sang our goodbye song.
(Glissandos begin at 3:00. Lots of technique talk until then.)
Tip: If you don’t own a harp (what are the chances?!) or know someone who does, you can Google “Suzuki harp teachers” or “harp teachers locally” or “wedding harpist” and see what comes up! Or check with your local university to see if there is a harp teacher in your area. Inviting teachers or students to come demonstrate their instruments can be good advertising for them and good exposure for your students! (Plus, you don’t have to haul it around!) It is always so beneficial for the students to get to see and touch different instruments, because it influences them on future choices of what they might learn to play later.
Today was a blast! It was week 2 of teaching Mrs. S’s AM kingergarten class, and the children were bright and beautiful and wiggly: perfect for music time!
I never follow my lesson plan exactly, but today was pretty close. We didn’t get the name song made last week (I had to teach a 20 minute lesson, so I saved that until this week). After I reviewed the ascending and descending Solfa major scale on the bells with them singing, and then I put the notes up on the board to show the change in pitch. The resulting image looked like a “mountain,” I pointed out, so we stood up and “hiked” up the mountain by marching in place, singing up and down the scale as I pointed to each note. Then we “ran” back up and down. It was a nice movement to music in the middle of the exercise.
(The only challenge about moving to music is that the children can sometimes be wigglier at the end than when you start, so it kind of has to be used with that in mind.)
One little girl asked when we are going to write our own songs? “Soon!” I told her, but we were going to write our own song right then with our names. I showed them a piece of sheet music that had lyrics, and how the notes on that music were just black, whereas ours were colored(!) (More fun!) and how the lyrics were written in a line below the notes. Then I got out Mr. Owl and we sang “Whoooo are you?” a couple of times and then started writing the children’s names under the notes. I told them which note they were so that after we sang it once, I had them pop up and sing their name when we got to their note. By the end of the song, everyone was standing.
After doing the name song, in which I started learning their names, we moved to “I Got Rhythm” played by Joshua Bell (album: Romance of the Violin). We contrasted that with “Nocturne,” (from the same album) and discussed which song was slower and which was faster, and how one was kind of chipper and upbeat and the other slower. We did a little ballet to “Nocturne.” I just go with the movement–whatever seems appropriate. We have a good time.
Then we talked about what music is. One child said, “A note!” I agreed and said that we did that earlier when we put notes up on the board to create our song. “Notes all together makes music! But what makes the sound of each note? How do we hear sound?” Then I explained using the visual that I had put up on the board. We repeated “Sound is vibrations that travel to my ear that sends a message to my brain to tell me what I hear” several times until they could almost say it without my help.
I showed them the little wave demonstration from the OMSI online exhibit where you can click on a circle to make a sound and waves emanate out from the circle. I didn’t have time to do the rubber band or pebble dropped in a bowl of water. (I’ll save that for next time!)
We had a little impromptu addition to our lesson somewhere in all of this. I told them I wanted to teach them a song (“My Grandma Has a Green Thumb”), and somehow we segued to what a “solo” and a “performance” are. So I told them what a solo is, demonstrated briefly, and explained what audience manners are when someone performs: “You have to sit quietly with your lips zipped and your eyes on the performer. Then, at the end of the solo, you give wild applause, and the performer bows.” We had a little girl volunteer to sing a solo for us. She announced her piece: “You are my sunshine” and proceeded to sing it beautifully! We gave her an enthusiastic round of applause, and she bowed, just like I had demonstrated. It was terrific! I love spontaneously delightful moments like that!
I taught the children the “Green Thumb” song quickly, sang “Adios Amigos” twice, and said goodbye.
I might have some videos to share along with this post. If you are interested, check back later!
Last Friday (I missed posting on 3-13-15), I taught the children about the science of sound, shared some percussion music with them, and followed up on their first week with the practice bells.
I began by asking them if they remember what makes sound. I used a rubber band stretched out between two fingers and let them pluck it to make a vibration.
We talked about other stringed instruments that you can see the vibration easily, such as the harp or cello. I had them repeat this: “Sound is vibrations that travel to my ear that send a message to my brain to tell me what I ‘hear’.”
We talked about how volume can hurt your ears and why, and I told them about the little hairs in their ears that can be permanently damaged if they listen to music that is too loud for too long.
We watched a video about how our vocal chords (folds) vibrate as they are stretched and air passages by them. I encouraged them to take care of their ears by not listening with earbuds on and the volume too loud and to take care of their voices by not screaming or yelling, so that they can enjoy their instrument their whole lives long.
I also told them about Evelyn Glennie, world-famous deaf percussionist, and how she learned to play her instrument by feeling the vibrations through her body. She feels them through her feet. We talked about how fast those vibrations have to move for her to feel them and be able to play along with other instruments, such as an orchestra or a band.
I took off my sock and shoe and placed it on the ground to show how she did it. I showed them a small clip of her playing the xylophone.
We listened to one of her songs, and I asked how fast they thought she learned how to play like that. We came to the conclusion that it didn’t happen in a day or a week, but after lots of practice.
I asked the children how their practicing at home on the practice bells was coming along. I enjoyed hearing their reports. I promised them that those who practiced a song 5x every day could perform it in front of the class at our next lesson.