Sunday, April 14, 2013

Low La Improvisation/Composition Activity

As the school-year draws to a close, I'm trying to incorporate a variety of skills that the students have learned through-out the course of the year.

I'm currently working on a large unit of improvisation lessons to use in late May.  I've taught a very successful jazz unit before (complete with student composer posters) and I think I'll be incorporating that this year (I usually do it during February for Black History Month, but haven't gotten to it yet, ack!).

If you have any good websites or blogs to read about improvisation, please list them in the comments.  I'm in the middle of "researching" - we'll see.

My 4th graders will be working on getting the be extending their do pentatonic scale learning before the end of the year (adding low la and low so).  This is only my second year at this school, so my older kiddos are a little behind where I'd like them to be, but we're trucking along nicely.

After my Rabbit-themed lessons, the students will progress through the "Corn Grinding Song" and Hosisipa lessons.  They are also working on syncopated rhythms, dotted quarter-eighth, and sixteenth note variations.

In keeping with the nature/native american theme, I'll be using "Canoe Song" and "Land of the Silver Birch" next.  Singing these as partner songs is a lot of fun and I love the tunes.  You can check them out here: Low La Improvisation and Composition Minilessons

Because the kiddos are working on recorder and a variety of other things, I'll be using 5 mini lessons (about 15 to 20 minutes).

For the first lesson, they'll learn, "Canoe Song" using our familiar format (lyrics-steady beat - rhythms - melody  - instrumentation/movement):
I like to have the students make small "canoes" of three or so kiddos.  They sit on the floor and row to the strong beats (great time to review that concept).  Sometimes, I'll give them boomwhackers which they hold horizontally as their "paddles".  A few students are assigned to keep the strong beat on the drum (we review how many row-boats use a similar method to get the people rowing at the same time).

For the second lesson, students learn the song, "Land of the Silver Birch".  We live in a desert, so we have to discuss the meaning of the song (with some visuals):
Kids love the "boom didee boom" part.  The students also progress through adding the steady beat, discussing rhythms (check these out):

And of course we'll need to add our melody.  Afterward, the students dramatize the words while others play drums and tambourines.

For the third mini-lesson, the students learn to sing these songs as partner songs. Be sure to tell students that, "partner songs are songs that can be sung together - they have a similar musical structures".  Then, students sing one song while I sing another.  Then we switch.  I repeat this with two groups of students.  Then, the two groups switch.  It gets really fun when we add back in the movements and instrumentation.

We'll also add some body percussion improvisation using these slides (first, the students have to match the correct lyrics to the correct rhythms):

We can clap these rhythms.  We can create our own form (pattern 1, pattern 2, pattern 1, ABA, etc).  Half the class can chant and clap one rhythms while the other half chants and stomps the other rhythm.  Lots of possibilities.

For mini-lesson four, we take the exploring and improvisation to the instruments:
The students need to create their own form using the patterns (AABB - pattern 1, pattern 1, pattern 2, pattern 2) and transfer it to a melody on the barred instruments.  I use pitches E-G-A-B because I want the students to be able to use their recorders as well, and those are the four pitches that all students are very comfortable with (many students know and play other pitches, but we've ALL got these down).  Further instructions are included in the download.

Last, for mini-lesson 5, the students create their own composition using this worksheet:
The students can only use pitches E, G, A or B.  They must begin and end on E.  They can put the rhythms into any order they want on the staff.  I grade the students using E, S, N, or U (that is how their report cards are printed - I don't really care for it, but tis life).  With as many SPED/ELL kiddos as I have, I know that they will need me to model completing the worksheet and that they may also need special assistance from me to complete the worksheet:

E (excellent): Worksheet is neat and complete.  The student followed instructions without teacher assistance.  90% or more of the  pitches are drawn correctly (note-head and stem) on the music staff.

S (satisfactory): Worksheet is neat and complete.  The student followed instructions (teacher assistance is ok).  75% of the pitches are drawn correctly (note-head and stem) on the music staff.

N (needs improvement): Worksheet is not neat and/or complete.  The student did not follow instructions (teacher assistance is ok).  Less than 75% of the pitches are drawn correctly (note-head and stem) on the music staff.

U (unacceptable): Worksheet is not neat and/or complete.  The student did not follow instructions.  All pitches are drawn incorrectly.

I can't wait to do these series of lessons in the next few weeks.  How do you incorporate creativity, improvisation, and composition opportunities for your students?

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