I've been a fan of creating movement for Schumann's "The Wild Horseman" and Rossini's "William Tell Overture" with my younger grade for awhile. Students love these pieces and they are a great way to incorporate some Dalcroze concepts.
This year, I'm incorporating some music-reading as well, using the song "Bell Horses". It isn't difficult for students to make the connection between all three pieces.
Basically, this is a mini-unit of about three to four lessons (which is about 1.5 to 2 weeks for me). I like to open the class with our usual warm-up (includes movement, our "hello song" which I change periodically throughout the year, rhythm and melodic listening, decoding, and echoing exercises, and vocal exploration and breathing). I then like to review the relationship between Mi-So-La, using my floor staff. The students love moving them around the staff, and then I can use them as a large pitch-ladder (I'll point while I sing and have students match with handsigns, then I'll simply point and the students must sing). Sometimes, I won't sing on the solfa pitches or I'll bring out an instrument and do some ear-training - the students have to label what was sung or played using solfa pitches. For some students, they have the confidence to label and compose with mi-so-la, but they lack the confidence to truly sing them correctly without any assistance (they don't fully understand their aural relationships). Taking time at the beginning of class to have these experiences, as well as weaving them into lessons and games later on, help students truly become sight-singers, and not just sight-readers.
Ok, on to the "meat" of the lessons. Mini-lesson one opens with a discussion about Robert Schumann. I project his biography from Classics for Kids which we read and discuss. Remember that these are 1st or 2nd graders, so the reading and discussion incorporates one paragraph at a time. I have students hypothesize how events in the composer's life or background information might affect their music. Then, I have the students listen to the piece. If you are gifted with piano skills, you can download the song here: Wild Horseman Sheet Music and perform it for your class. If not, try this youtube video:
1. Listen - describe and discuss with a partner, then as a class (3-4 comments/questions)
2. Listen while patting steady beat - point out minor and major sections (which sound happy? which sound sad?) - if you are watching the video, you can discuss how the hands switch roles (the right starts playing the minor melody while the left accompanies, then the left plays the major melody while the right accompanies)
3. Listen while patting the steady with puppeteer hands (limp wrists) moving to show the melodic contour of the song (moving up and down) and also dynamic level (larger movements for forte, smaller for piano) - discuss what you saw them doing
4. Listen while moving around the room (walking feet only) - students should make larger and smaller movements, or move at higher or lower levels - DO NOT do this with them, see what they can create - then discuss why they moved in certain ways
5. Repeat step four (some students needed to see others do this and have a discussion before they are comfortable truly expressing the music) - tell students that it is ok now to add in more "horselike" movement (so much fun)
Tell students that they will now learn to read song that talks about mechanical horses. You can get the powerpoint at my TPT store: Bell Horses
For the first mini-lesson, guide your students through the first 8 slides (lyrics to rhythm). They will learn about bell horses and carillons. Try this video out (it is lengthy, I only show a bit):
And finally the rhythm prep then rhythm page:
For the second mini-lesson, I begin with this biography of Rossini which we read and discuss. I love the lessons that Dr. Kay Edwards provides at Classics for Kids (click the link and then download the K-2 lesson) which include the William Tell Overture: Finale. It is VERY extensive and will require lots of prep and reading time on your part. Should you need the recording, you can find it on Classics for Kids or on Youtube (I like to show my students the live performance - how exciting - then use the classics recording for the listening map and movement):
You can also discuss the plot of the story (this is also a good time to discuss words such as "opera" and "overture":
After discussing the story and listening to the piece, I distribute this listening map (also from Classics for Kids) which the students follow while we listen.
We discuss the dynamics, tempo, and style of the music. We also discuss how it fits into the story. Most importantly, we discuss ways to keep the beat it. We try various ways to keep the beat while listening. (Further instructions are included in Dr. Edward's lessons). Then, I have the students stand up and we try these movements around the room (SO MUCH FUN - if a little silly):
Introduction: prepare our horses to ride (check hat, check shoes, etc)
A: 2 sets of 16 counts: Gallop around the room in a circle - for the ascending leap in the melody (beat 13), we pretend to leap over a hurdle (repeat)
B:Pretend to prance around quickly, while waving hands above head to show the shape of the melody - Beats 1 and 2 - hands up and over to the left, Beats 3 and 4 - hands up and over to the right, Beat 5 to the left, Beat 6 to the right, Beat 7 to the left, Beat 8 to the right (repeat 4 times) - during transition, we get our horses ready
A: repeat as above
To add variety for repetitions: If you have scarves, I love to use those in the A section as our reins and then in the B section we wave them above our heads like flags. If you've made those cute Funoodle horses, those are great too. I only have a hobby horse that I'll let the students take turns using.
After our listening and movement fun, I seat the students and give them this worksheet:
The students have to fill in the correct rhythms for the song "Bell Horses" - this is a great way to review their learning from the previous lesson and transition into teaching the melody. After we've completed and checked their work (using slide 8 from the powerpoint), I move into teaching the melody. Here are some slides for that.
Melody Prep Slides:
Then look at the whole song:
For mini lesson 3, we begin in a circle. I pass a bag that includes Bell Horse lyric cards, rhythm cards, and solfa cards. Here's and example and how we use them:
Note: This download will also be included in a new set of Mi So La lessons.