Friday, January 27, 2012

Lesson Plans

It's important to plan instruction. However, you simply cannot plan everything that kids will learn; some might "get it" and some might not and kids will potentially learn much that wasn't even outlined in the lesson plan. Also, concepts such as dynamics and tempo terminology can be taught quickly if the children have already experienced the concepts musically (i.e. have sung songs in various tempos with variations in dynamics). Then, it's just a matter of naming what they already know first-hand. This reasoning can also apply to reading bubble (staff or "standard") notation in that students need to experience and name pitch patterns (solfege) prior to reading them or discussing things like rhythm trees and fractions. So, basically, identifying (naming) concepts is an important process, but can constitute maybe 5 percent of the lesson . . . if that much. The bulk of the lesson should be skill development--skills in singing on pitch and in rhythm, playing instruments, and moving/dancing ("rhythming"). Kids learn these complex skills over extended periods of time by singing/playing/moving to complex/engaging/memorable songs and singing games. This portion of the lesson (learning, exploring, and transforming songs) should take up to 80-90 percent of the time! The remaining 5-10 percent is some type of warm-up--something that focuses the children and drills skills. For example, echo rhythms, echo rhythm solfege, echo melodic patterns, echo melodic solfege, create rhythm patterns, guess songs from the rhythm or hand signs, imitate movements, or even engage kids in traditional choral and physical warm-ups. So, a typical 30-minute lesson plan for second graders might look like this:

Warm-up (5-10 minutes)

  • Echo teacher-led rhythm patterns (common time)
  • Answer teacher-led rhythm patterns (do something different from the teacher, still in common time)
  • Echo student-led rhythm patterns (common time); students initiate three rhythms and then choose another student to take a turn

Learn a new singing game or dance.

Explore the rhythm in a familiar song using classroom instruments. Discuss specific rhythm concepts (tempo, isolate specific rhythmic patterns, etc.).

Play a familiar singing game if there is time remaining.

It is not difficult to connect the musical actions in this sequence to skills and concepts in any given elementary music curriculum guide. The key, of course, is to find interesting, authentic, engaging singing games and to be creative in exploring songs (see 100 Ways to Repeat a Song).

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