This week I had 3 days in the classroom. We were kind of between units. We finished writing our "Start of the Day Song" as a class and then had a couple days of introducing drumming activities that can be used in math class, as well as teaching the "I can solve a word problem" song. So a few odds and ends in the classroom.
I spent a lot more time figuring out the music portion of our next unit. I was coming up with a blank on how to relate the Animals unit to music. I just couldn't find a connection that seemed genuine. Rachel mentioned she heard about some teachers doing a unit based on Saint-Sean's "Carnival of the Animals" and wondered if we could write some music based on the animals the students were researching.
This took a lot of thought on my part because I couldn't figure out how the students would be able to write music. I consider myself to be a composer and I struggle! How can second graders compose music? Also, I wondered how related this was really going to what they are learning about animals.
I spent some time listening to the Saint-Sean and found a fantastic video of a performance at a zoo that has the animals the music is portraying on screen. I also spent a lot of time searching and reading for composition projects for grade school age kids. After I found a couple of resources, I started to come up with a plan.
We talked in our cadre meeting about lesson planning and how to do it, so I thought I'd blog about it for this upcoming Animal Unit. Basically, for me it is thinking about what do the students know now, and where do we want them to end up? Then just figure out all the steps between the two.
So the students know about animals from their research and probably previous knowledge. They also know in music about high vs. low pitch, soft vs. loud, and fast vs. slow, though they could use a refresher. I need to get them from here, to composing pieces of music about the animal they are researching. Here are the activities I suggested with Rachel's additions:
ACTIVITY 1: The idea of animals being linked to music is introduced. Students watch a video of Carnival of the Animals at a zoo. Students and teachers discuss how they thought the music related to each animal. Ms. Kelm helps students to list language concepts of nouns/verbs/adjectives relating to the animal- what do you think of when you hear this animal’s name? (We will use a similar strategy when we get ready to write our poems). Science concepts of characteristics of each animal (and how they are portrayed in the music). Dr. E will guide discussion on music concepts of high/low pitch, soft/loud dynamic, fast/slow tempo are introduced.
ACTIVITY 2:Watch elephants, kangaroos, and aviary from the same video. After each movement, discuss why the music sounds like each animal (review characteristics- especially highlight habitat, food source, finding correlations in the music). Discuss the pitch, dynamic, and tempo of each movement as applicable. Make connections to size of the animal (pitch), and how the animal moves (tempo).
ACTIVITY 3: Ms. Kelm reads the story of the tortoise and the hare to the class. Students will generate characteristics of the tortoise and hare- compare and contrast the two characters.
ACTIVITY 4: Dr. E writes a piece about the tortoise and the hare, using 2 boom-wackers and a shaker. Ms. Kelm and Dr. E perform the piece for the class. We discuss the piece as a class. Who was the tortoise? Who was the hare? What happened? How did the piece match up with our characteristics list?
ACTIVITY 5: The “music” Dr. E wrote is projected so everyone can see it. (This is a visual representation of the different techniques for each instrument, read from left to right.) Dr. E and Ms. Kelm perform the piece a second time. We discuss how the visual representation (composed music) represents what we play. (Together, separate, fast, slow),
ACTIVITY 6: Instrument exploration. A noisy day in the gym where we bring all available instruments that we will allow the students to use in their compositions. Be sure to introduce instrument names.
ACTIVITY 7: Based on their research of their animal, students pick ONE instrument to represent their animal. They should give a reason why that instrument is the best one to represent their animal. Answers written down and given to Dr. E.
ACTIVITY 8: Students are paired up by Dr. E and Ms. K based on the instruments they have chosen (2 different instruments in each group) as well as good working partners. Dr. E reviews the “sound list” from Tortoise and the Hare. Students are given a worksheet to write their own sound list and how each sound will be represented. We share our sounds with the class. (2 sounds per student?)
ACTIVITY 9: Students working in pairs are given their sound lists, and a new worksheet where they will compose their music. Each worksheet has a place for their animal names, title of the piece, composer names, and a box where the music will appear. Ms. K and Dr. E perform Tortoise and the Hare one more time as review. Students work in pairs to compose their music.
ACTIVITY 10: Practice and performance. Students can practice and refine their piece. (Might need to do this in 2 groups) (Might be good to do in the gym?) After each group has a chance to practice, everyone performs their piece for the class.
This is probably about 7 days worth of content, so it is a pretty extensive lesson. But each activity builds on the one before and ends up with the students composing a piece in a way that is (hopefully) accessible to them. I'm sure we will modify this as we go (we've already made a couple changes) but I think the bones are pretty good.
As for the connection to the animal unit, I think its going to be stronger than I initially imagined. I think that writing and performing a piece about their animal based on their research is going to synthesize a lot of that information, and get them to think about their animal in a new way. We shall see! I'll blog about the implementation next week.
Well, now its time to teach! I spent my first week in the classroom this past week and had a blast. 2nd graders are pretty awesome.
Overall, things went fairly smoothly. We hit our daily learning objectives everyday so I feel like our planning is pretty on point. There was a little trouble with a worksheet I made on Friday, but Rachel saved the day by giving the kids the right kind of introduction to the activity and they managed pretty well. I'm definitely learning a lot about what 2nd graders are going to be able to do, and for the most part the answer has been at least as much as I expect, and often, more.
Rachel is a pro. She really knows how to reach the kids and I'm learning a lot from her. She has pretty good ideas about how she'd like to implement music into her class and I'm getting the hang of breaking things down into small workable units. I think so far that everything we've come up with, she would be able to incorporate into her classroom in the future without me there.
We also agreed that we stumbled upon doing a more "fun" activity the first time I came in the classroom to introduce me to the students. We did an activity where students had to say their first name rhythmically, to a beat, and then come up with a rhythmic gesture to go along with that. Bonus: I learned the kids names really quickly. The students picked it up very well and I think Rachel will continue to use this in the mornings as part of her community building. (I'll be interested to hear if this has a lasting impact on her classroom or not.)
I wrote a song about solving math problems for sometime in the future. I also created motions to go with it that emphasize the steps of solving a word problem, which Rachel told me her students struggle with. I'm planning to publish it under a creative commons license on my website at some point, thinking that maybe other teachers would like to use it. It will be available with MP3 recordings for classrooms that do not have access to a piano. Maybe Rachel can help me turn it into a smartboard thing... I'll update this blog and link to it once I have it up on my website.
We're planning a big animals unit where the kids will compose music. Somehow. Not totally sure how this one will work yet but it should be fun! Erika.
This was the first week of school for Rachel and our 2nd graders. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting the students yet, but Rachel tells me that we have a great group and she is really excited about the school year.
I'm not scheduled to be in the classroom until Sept. 15 and since our first unit plan is in good shape, I've been using my prep time to think about the bigger picture and search for various arts integration projects, techniques, concepts and activities. I have found some really interesting games and projects, like Drums Alive and various books on integrating music into core subjects.
The focus of this grant is for the teaching artist to co-teach with the classroom teacher and ultimately teach the teacher how to integrate our art from into the classroom. Rachel is already a very accomplished musician. She's played clarinet, sings, and I think plays the piano. In fact, I think that at least some of the arts integration activities I have found online, she could already implement into her classroom without assistance from me. I think my challenge will be to create (really co-create) meaningful arts integrated projects and units that truly help the students grasp the concepts or assist in learning material, especially material that Rachel marks as needing additional reinforcement. These projects need to be teachable by Rachel in the future, or I'll need to teach her the missing steps in the process so that she can reuse them on her own, or I'll need to find a technical work-around so that she is able to use the project in the future on her own. (For example, finding sound samples as opposed to playing music live on a piano.) At this point in the year, my impression is that meaningful unit creation is going to be the challenge, and teaching Rachel to implement the lessons in the lessons in the future will really be the easy part. In fact, thinking about this as I write it, I'm pretty certain I will learn as much or more from Rachel about teaching 2nd graders as she will from me about integrating music into the classroom. We shall see! I'm excited to get into the classroom soon!