This week kindergartners and first graders were introduced to “music story time.” This is a time (at the end of music usually) where we relax, after all of our dancing around, and read a book together. Not just any book though- in music, we read “story songs”- songs that have been made into picture books! This week we listened to a song called Sweet Dreams by Jewel, as we looked at pictures from the book.
The book and CD are available at the Manomet library, and you can also find it on amazon.com here.
This song is gorgeous and the kindergartners who had music twice this week loved singing along with it the second time we heard it!
There are many “story songs” that are favorites here in the music room, with kids of all ages. Here is a list of just a few of the stories I present throughout the year. Most of these come with a CD, are all available on amazon.com, and many can be found in one of the Plymouth Public Libraries.
Third and fourth graders started out the year in music by getting to know their classmates…. musically! Students had to find kids in their class who fit different musical descriptions- someone who was joining band, someone who was in chorus last year, someone who could name a note on the staff, someone who could name an instrument shown in a picture, etc. It’s a great way to get the kids talking about music in their lives and their knowledge of music, while at the same time getting re-familiarized with the music room and getting to know new friends!
Fourth graders are learning about the composer Leroy Anderson, who composed light orchestra pieces such as “The Syncopated Clock” (which we learned about in 2nd grade) and “Sleigh Ride!” Leroy Anderson grew up in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and many of his songs are still played by The Boston Pops today. We watched a video of John Williams conducting the Boston Pops playing “Sleigh Ride” and talked about all the instruments we saw and heard. Then we sang the song! Fourth graders will be singing “Sleigh Ride” at our school sing-along assembly in a few weeks, so it was good to start practicing now. After singing the song, fourth graders learned a special rhythm, which we then translated to cups. We began learning the rhythm on cups. We will be playing this special rhythm ALONG with “Sleigh Ride” next week! Here is the routine we will be doing:
Fourth grade students are working on a composing unit. Students begin by drafting a composition using a plain piece of paper folded into 16 small boxes. Each box represents one BEAT. If a note is worth four beats, that note must take up four boxes. Students are using xylophones and glockenspiels to work with partners to draft their compositions. A finished draft looks like this:
Students label each note with a letter on the xylophone. The downward and upward arrows signify whether a note is a higher (smaller key) note or a lower (larger key) note. The notes A and B do not need arrows because each xylophone has only one A and one B!
When students are finished their drafts, they then transfer their composition onto real staff paper. The finished product looks like this:
The final step in the process is to enter our compositions into a music writing website! We will be using the website http://www.noteflight.com to transform our compositions into masterpieces! Students have been encouraged to check out the website at home and create their own free account. Students use a checklist to make sure they have finished all the steps…
Students in third and fourth grade played the singing game “Draw Me a Bucket of Water.” The tune and lyrics go like this:
Four students start out by two holding hands standing across from each other, and the other two holding hands over the first two students hands. While singing the song, students walk in a circle to the steady beat. Each time you sing the song, you increase the number IN the bunch and decrease the number OUT the bunch. Every time you increase the number IN the bunch, one student goes “under” into the inner part of the students arms, until everyone is in the bunch! At the end we all shout “FROG IN THE BUCKET! HOP HOP HOP!” four times, and everyone has to hop on the “hops”! The rule is we have to sing it in our nicest singing voices (and of course you can’t sing while laughing) but luckily you CAN sing while smiling, and everyone definitely smiles during this activity!
In fourth grade, we learned about the life of famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven. We then listened to the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and realized Beethoven used the same short rhythmic and melodic pattern throughout most of his piece. Think (dum dum dum DUMMMMM!) The pattern is , with a fermata (or hold) over the last eighth note in many cases. We learned that this repeating pattern is called a motive. We also noticed the first three eighth notes were usually the same pitch, and the last one usually went down. We listened to the first 25 or so seconds of the piece to see how many motives we could count: 14 in all! Fourth graders then used xylophones to create their own motives. When they were finished, they got to make their own composer biography, in which they described the motive they came up with.
Listen to Ryan’s song using his motive here:
Listen to Abby’s song using her motive here:
We all played our songs for each other (a motive isn’t song, their songs had to repeat the motive many times), and then watched this AWESOME graphical score of The Fifth Symphony. I only intended to play the first minute or so, but they wanted to watch and listen to the entire 7 minutes 38 seconds!!! See the cool graphical score we watched below.
In fourth grade, we have been learning about a type of song called a “spiritual.” The term “spirituals” refers to songs that were created by enslaved African people in the United States. Our primary focus was on learning the song “Follow the Drinkin’ Gourd. We learned to sing the song, watched a wonderful Reading Rainbow movie, and performed a skit of the story as a class.
Wade in the Water
Another spiritual we learned to sing was “Wade in the Water.” It is one of the fourth graders’ favorite songs to sing every year! Wade in the Water features a “call and response” figure, where a soloist sings, and then the chorus “responds” with a phrase.
“Wade in the Water” tells of a method of escape- by treading through rivers and streams. Slaves chose this route whenever possible, because the water would erase their scent, throwing off the dogs used to track and capture them. “Israelites” and “Moses” refer to men and women who would show them the way to freedom. The song promises also that God will trouble the water: stir it up, giving it a power that would shield them from slave catchers.
Here are some audio clips of classes singing the song.
Wade in the Water: Sung by Mrs. Morrison’s Class (Soloists: Brady, Sophia, Julia, and Melissa)
Wade in the Water: Sung by Mrs. Morrison’s Class (Soloists:
Wade in the Water: Sung by Ms. Keeley’s Class (Soloists: Hannah, Connor, Kyle, Celia, and Mary)
Wade in the Water: Sung by Ms. Grattan’s Class (Soloists: Megan, Eryn, Kayla, Abby S., Sam, Cam, and Ryan)
To accompany the unit, students also learned the African children’s song “Tue Tue,” a song from Ghana, which is sung in the Ashanti language. Here are the lyrics:
Tue tue, barima tue tue
Tue tue, barima tue tue
Abofra ba ama dawa dawa Tue tue
Abofra ba ama dawa dawa Tue tue (hey!)
Of course everyone wanted to know the translation of the lyrics, but it is very tricky to find! After a bit of internet research, it seems that the song is an apology song: an apology to an elderly man for accidentally tripping him and causing him to fall flat on his face. Not a very exciting translation in the end! 😛 Despite the translation, it’s a very fun song to sing, and there is a clapping game that goes with it. Pictures to come soon!