Being in the Room
To begin with I sang ‘Hello Everyone’ with variations of so/mi. The only rule is that the last pitch will be the starting pitch of the next time. At first quite a few children don’t join in. I cajole them in a lighthearted way; it’s the afternoon, they look like they’d rather go home!
Next I hold up a rhythm-card that the class read, again it takes some encouragement and insistence before all the class are doing this. Perhaps it would have been better to have started with a game, or at least a song instead of, effectively, two exercises in a row. I hold up a sequence of rhythm-cards (Jelly on a Plate). I have three titles on the board: Jelly on a Plate, Pease Pudding and Hot Cross Buns “Which one was it? Talk to the person next to you?” I write it out on the board (just the rhythm sticks on a plain board, no stave) and I we read it from this. Someone recognizes it as Jelly on a Plate. I repeat this with the other two songs. All are recognized. The point here is that they are all songs with rests in. I will introduce the excellent ‘See the Candlelight’ song next week to continue this focus.
Having introduced a game that was too hard last week we play a simplified version this week. I had hoped we could play a ‘knock-out’ game in a circle where each person holds out two hands and with the beat of Hot Cross Buns being tapped on these hands your hand is withdrawn if you are tapped on the rest. It proved too complicated for many, although I have played this with Year 2s before. My simplified version involved each person only putting out one hand. At first there was still a little confusion; I used the written version of the rhythm on the board to assist understanding. To my astonishment, some children did not hold their hand out for this game; it was just too much like hard work! The game is a good one because everyone is excited to know who will win.
I then took out a lightweight football and we bounced the ball (from teacher in the middle back and forth) to the beat of ‘Bounce high bounce low, bounce the ball to Tokyo’. It’s a simple song with three pitches (la/so/mi). Soon the class will be introduced to the new higher pitch ‘la’. A surprisingly high proportion find the ball-bouncing to the beat difficult. The quality of the beat-keeping improves as the game progresses.
For both these songs/games I draw attention to the quality of the overall sound, we sing it very softly and this helps to bring out the melody and raise listening sensitivity. The song is repeated round and round. I occasionally hold the ball at the end of the song and the class must all stop singing. It’s a great concentration/focus/self-control/awareness exercise and a musical one too. I just thought of it while we played the game!
I have made great use of the Jolly Music* series of books over the last few years. The have proved invaluable. The lesson described here is a variation on a Jolly Music lesson. Time and again I have noticed that ‘slow and steady wins the race’ thanks to these books. The songs and activities may strike some as too ‘babyish’ and others might think there is rather too much repetition. Actually, if you only have 30 minutes a week for music these books are a great foundation, the progression is carefully built in. It helps a novice to keep a steady pace to the learning.
Now I am finding my own approach because every teacher needs to respond to their own context.
*Jolly Music for Reception, Year 1, Year 2 and Year 3 are all available to buy and make an excellent introduction to a Kodaly-inspired music curriculum for this age-group. The authors are Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden