Monday, August 29, 2011

Elementary Music Curriculum: Simple or Complex

Keep it simple! What can be simpler in curriculum planning than teaching children a singing game like Bluebird or A-Hunting We Will Go? On the other hand, playing the singing game is a very complex activity for the children with so many interesting things that can happen while interacting with others and a delightful song to sing over and over until they know it "by heart"--a beautiful thing! In other words, simple curriculum planning can lead to the musical/cognitive/kinesthetic complexity that little brains and bodies crave. I think this principle works the other way around, too. Plan a detailed curriculum addressing concepts like high and low, fast and slow, syncopation, pentatonic scales, and so forth in a sequential manner and end up with simple, boring musical engagements for children. For example, a lesson addressing fast and slow tempi might require the students to draw a circle around the turtle or the bunny on a worksheet while listening to a musical excerpt--a simple, boring task that will be more likely to prepare children to someday work obediently on an assembly line than to collaborate with others in creating something new or solving a real-life problem. Set up the curriculum and the classroom like a factory and prepare factory workers (low wage employment nowadays for the factory jobs that haven't already gone overseas). Set up the curriculum as a creative, interactive space and prepare children for an engaging world of work and life. The nice thing is that interesting musical activities abound--they grow naturally as musical practices take shape and continue because they satisfy real needs for real people. In sum, look for the naturally occurring and complex musical practices in outside-of-school contexts (singing games, for one) and bring them into the classroom. It's easier than making up your own stuff from scratch and likely more engaging for the children. And it's fun. And that's okay.

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