The children enter the Music Room noisily and full of excitement because they’ve just had playtime. I have a good way to tap into this liveliness: a funny call and response rhyme that is always met with smiles and laughter (each line is announced by the teacher and repeated by the class):
“Hey, Hey, Bob Diddly Bob (clap hands four times)
I’m gonna get back to my job (point with thumb over shoulder four times)
With this pizza in my hand (hold up ‘pizza’ with flat hand)
I’m gonna be a pizza man”
(other verses: with this steering wheel in my hand…I’m gonna drive my little van; lotion…get a wicked tan; these quiet creeping hands…be like Spiderman)
There are a number of reasons I like this simple rhyme so much:
- its syncopated, bouncy rhythms are immediately attractive
- each verse has a different type of voice (pizza man – very low; little van – very high/falsetto; wicked tan – exaggerated squeaky voice; spiderman – whispered)
- Extra verses can be invented by the children
Today the class think of ‘With this cake in my hand…I’m gonna be a baker man’.
In my usual call-and-response ‘Hello Everyone’ routine I have to draw attention to some lack of involvement in an effort to have 100% engagement. It is usually boys who do not sing, even at this young age. I don’t know why this is. I encourage all the class to use their ears while they are singing so that we’re really listening to the sound we make.
We’ve been sat down for 10 minutes or more by now so I ask everyone to stand up. I show the actions for a song that is quite new called ‘Juba’. A lot of people recognise the song and I ask for a volunteer to sing it with the actions. It’s always good to encourage solo performance but I have to be careful not to choose the same few very enthusiastic individuals each week. Having sung it a couple of times I ask how many phrases it has (four). I also ask how many beats there are in each phrase.
Next I draw attention to the actions in the second phrase, stroking a cat, because this has to be done four times on the beat. The first phrase has actions that mean both your arms are sticking out at the end of it. Therefore we have to move quickly to be ready to ‘stroke the cat’ four times if we are to truly begin on the first beat of the second phrase. Not everyone can do this. Next I have to address the fact that there is a significant minority singing the fourth phrase as if it has the same tune as the other three phrases. It doesn’t.
“What happens to the pitch in the fourth phrase?” I ask.
A few hands go up. “It goes lower” someone replies. This is correct (it descends A – F# – E – D) but it still takes a few attempts for the whole class to sing it accurately. By this time the quality of the singing is really good.
I hold up the rhythm-cards for the song Copy Cat and ask the class to read them. Not many can do this! Reading simple rhythms was new at the start of Year 2 and progress has been interrupted by end-of-term Christmas shows and the holidays. I take time to help them with it. One girl sings the rhythm with the Copy Cat tune and this prompts a few to recognise that this is the rhythm of that song. I remind them that this is the same rhythm as ‘Roll the Ball’ and we all make a circle.
With everyone kneeling we sing ‘Roll the ball, roll the ball; Roll the ball to…someone’. Each time a name is sung out by the person with the ball who rolls it to that person. The children enjoy the game and it gives me an opportunity to find out who can match the pitch of the song and who cannot. In this class about two thirds of the children can. It’s also useful for encouraging the skill of accurate participation. After all, the name has to be sung at the end of the second phrase. No pause is allowed!
Finally, we end with more rhythm reading. This time in the form of a simple recognition game. Five children hold up one four-beat rhythm card each. I clap one of the rhythms and the class have to work out which rhythm I clapped. It’s a good level of challenge and, for some reason, the fact that individual children are holding the rhythms makes it more attractive and engaging for the class. Again, I use this game as a chance to note down who can read simple rhythms. By now we’re 45 minutes in and the lesson has to end.
Perhaps the lesson seems rather functional and dry? Here are some criticisms that could be made:
- There’s no instrumental playing
- There’s no poppy songs with groovy backing tracks
- There’s no chance for the children to compose (unless you count the invention of an extra verse or two for the ‘Bob Diddly Bob’ rhyme)
- There’s no opportunity to listen to a more substantial piece of music.
My response to these criticisms would be as follows:
- There is instrumental playing if you regard the voice as an instrument and the body as an instrument (clapping)
- We do sing pop songs with backing tracks (often sourced from the excellent www.singup.org) in weekly Singing Assemblies
- I do consider the invention of new verses for ‘Bob Diddly Bob’ as the very start of developing a creative approach to music-making
- There is an ongoing program of visiting musicians to the school. This means the children are exposed to good quality live music on a regular basis.