The Year 1 class enter the Music Room and sit down in front of me very quietly. I think about possibly talking to them about something or other just to break the ice. In the end I just hum a simple little two-note melody. They hum it back. I vary it a few times and it works as a little warm-up.
I tell them that I’m going to sing ‘Hello Everyone’ three times. I explain that it might be high pitched, low pitched or in the middle. As I say this I encourage them all to show these different pitches by holding a hand up high or in front of their chest or down near the ground for low pitch.
I sing Hello Everyone three times and most of the class sing back with accompanying hand gestures to show the pitch. Not everyone sings and not everyone shows the pitch. I draw attention to this by saying, with mock horror, “That was not everyone!” I ask them what order we sang the pitches in. A child replies correctly. This encourages them to use the vocabulary of high, middle and low pitch and, now they know I will be asking, motivates some to pay closer attention. These basic high/middle/low hand-signals are a rudimentary form of the solfa hand signs that are probably the most well-known aspect of a Kodaly approach to music learning. By the end of Year 1 I will introduce this class to just two hand signs for the pitches of ‘so’ and ‘mi’ (G and E in a C major scale)
I hum the melody of ‘Hello Everyone’ and ask if it reminds them of a song. A number of children recognise this as the start of See-Saw, a song they’ve been singing since they were in the Nursery two years ago. “How can we show the beat?” I ask. Somebody suggests tapping on the head so we all sing the song tapping our heads to the beat. The next suggestion is to rock to the beat with our arms out like see-saws. Again, we’ve been doing this since the Nursery; although back then we were just doing it, there was no talk of anything being ‘to the beat’. The experience must always come first and then the concept can be named.
I ask if anyone can clap the rhythm. This differentiating between the beat and the rhythm is something I had given them as a class challenge for the week. One girl volunteers to clap the rhythm but, after all the work on the beat, she claps the beat. A second volunteer claps the rhythm but it is a little wayward and then a third volunteer claps the rhythm very clearly. I invite all the class to do this together. I ask them to repeat this activity in their Thinking Voices i.e. singing internally and not out loud. At first their clapped rhythm is not very together. We practise a few times until it “sounds like one person clapping”.
I ask the class to sit down and I show them a soft toy dog. I sing Bobby Bingo nodding the head of the dog to the beat and then clapping its paws to the rhythm of B-I-N-G-O.
“There was a farmer had a dog
His name was Bobby Bingo
His name was Bobby Bingo!”
Having been working on beat and rhythm it is the perfect time to ask them what they have just seen the dog doing. This is an opportunity to express an understanding of a relatively new concept but can anyone articulate it? Eventually some individuals are able to describe accurately what the dog was doing. I ask the class to copy the dog’s actions; then they must do it without the dog ‘helping’. Then I introduce the ‘body percussion’ clapping for the rhythm of B-I-N-G-O: a clap to the right, a clap to the left, two leg pats and a final clap.
The class remains focused; one boy, who has not been able to join in all year – needing an adult to sit with him and occupy him – is sat in the middle of the class now and has, more or less, followed everything we’ve been doing.
I walk around behind the group so that those at the back are now at the front. It’s just for variety. I hold up a picture of a woodpecker. Several children recognise it as a woodpecker. I sing them a song they learned in Reception last year called Ole Mister Woodpecker. Most are joining in by the end. I ask them to make one arm into a tree and the other hand into the sharp beak of a woodpecker. They have to say ‘peck’ in the rest at the end of the two phrases in the song. Once they are good at this I instruct them to change this ‘peck’ to a silent finger on lips. I emphasise how quiet it is. Next I explain that this silent moment in the music is called a ‘rest’ by musicians and I show them how to indicate a rest by holding their hands together and then opening them. We do this a few times.
I immediately put this new knowledge to the test by asking them to show me the rests in a new song (indicated with *): “Sally go round the sun *, Sally go round the moon *, Sally go round the chimney pot every afternoon *.”
It’s interesting to see those children who get this straight away; it’s mainly girls. I ask one of them to demonstrate to the class.
We end by changing the words to ‘Tinker Tailor’ so that the class can include jobs they’ve been learning about in their ‘Jobs People Do’ topic. We end up with ‘Postman, Doctor, Policeman, Firefighter, Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief’.
And all of that in thirty minutes!
This lesson is the 17th Lesson in ‘Jolly Music Level 1’ by Cyrilla Rowsell and David Vinden. I started out using these books to support my planning. These days I still use the structure of progression and varied materials contained in this excellent series.