In November, we worked on a few projects. We solidified October’s work by practicing and performing the short compositions with tempi and dynamics. Audio is here (first picture below): https://goo.gl/2BXdWN
Then, we had a lesson based on Ternary Form. We started with a kinesthetic warm-up and created ‘same-different-same’ series of movements. The students volunteered their own suggestions as we moved quickly. Then, we brought the concept of same-different-same into the visual world with drawings. Students created their own same-different-same drawings while listening to a short melody on the flute that followed the same ABA format. Students then learned the term ‘ternary form’ and labeled their drawings as such. Next, as a class, we created short rhythmic motifs and put them into an ABA form, practicing the piece as a whole with both our feet and our hands. Last, we assigned notes to the rhythms and played them on the recorder. As a reflection, students listened to Debussy’s Syrinx on the flute and drew their ideas about what was happening in the beginning (A), middle (B), and end (A) as the piece was progressing. Older classes also wrote an accompanying sentence for each section. To end the class, students shared their drawings and writings.
The Wednesday before Thanksgiving break, we had a visiting visual artist, so we did a joint lesson plan. First, we listed all the things we’re thankful for and put those words into our 1-7 kinesthetic warm-up. Then, we took a moment to be more serious and reflected on everything we’re thankful for while listening to Bach on the flute. As the piece was ending, students drew their thoughts in their journals while listening to more Bach flute music from the speaker. Both TAs (music and visual art) walked around and helped while students drew (older students again wrote a sentence as well). To reflect, we created an ‘art walk’ where students left their drawings on the desk and everyone walked around the room and looked at their classmate’s work. To end the class, I mentioned that I’m so very thankful for music, sound, and hearing… so I taught students how to say ‘Thank you’ in sign language. We left talking briefly about the Philadelphia Orchestra concert they attended the day before, and I mentioned that we’ll do a complete reflection lesson plan the week following Thanksgiving.
Throughout the month of October, students at Cooper’s Poynt Elementary School in Camden learned about the fundamentals of music through composition. We started with learning simple rhythms (quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes for the 2nd and 3rd graders, with the addition of eighth notes and sixteenth notes for the 4th graders). As a class, we created a rhythm that we liked and would keep working on for the remainder of the month.
The next week, we learned about how to read notes on the staff (treble clef). Classes made up their own ‘lines of the staff’ sentences. Some of the favorites were “Eagles Get Better During Football” and “Erik Got Bananas During Funtime.” Next, we took the class’s rhythm from the previous week and figured out where to put the notes on the staff to create a simple melody using notes we know on the recorder.
The week after that, we took those simple melodies and put them to different tempi, making sure to use the Italian musical terminology. We created a parade around the room, marching to the different tempi and playing our piece on the recorder. Students picked their favorite tempi and wrote it in their journals. We learned the terms Largo, Adagio, Andante, Allegro, and Presto. Some classes made sure to learn about Prestissimo also. Finally, we put dynamics to our piece, once again using musical terminology. Classes learned about how our dynamic terms came from the piano’s original name: pianoforte. Classes learned about and experimented with the whole range of dynamics from pianissimo to fortissimo, including mezzo piano and mezzo forte, of course. Within that dynamic conversation, we discussed the meaning of prefixes and suffixes, and how they change the meaning of a word.
Classes then practiced playing their piece at their chosen tempi from the prior week, this time adding dynamics. Students discovered that it can be hard to play the recorder at a loud dynamic without squeaking, so they learned how to drop their jaw in order to allow more air to smoothly flow through the recorder.
All of these musical concepts and skills will be used throughout the year as we continue to delve into music exploration and composition.
Here's audio of a 4th Grade Classroom's composition with different tempi (as in the 3rd picture below): https://goo.gl/9vT5wx
Teaching Artist Susanna Loewy has been working in the Philadelphia Orchestra's School Partnership Program since 2009, and has been at Cooper's Poynt Elementary since 2010. More information about SPP is available: http://spp.philorch.org