Developing Music Literacy

Three Processes for Developing Music Literacy
A little every day goes a long way!

  • Learn songs or parts by rote
    • Whole song—demonstrate the entire song giving children something to do and/or listen for on each repetition (see 100 Ways to Repeat a Song)
    • Phrase by phrase—invite the children to echo short and then longer phrases of the song
    • Listen to the song or part from a recording and then sing along (given the lyrics—like karaoke)
  • Echo short rhythmic or melodic patterns (including solfege patterns)
    • Demonstrate rhythms with body percussion and invite the children to echo
    • Demonstrate melodic patterns on neutral syllables and solfege and invite the children to echo
    • Vary tempo, dynamics, timbre, meter, etc.
  • Echo patterns while viewing signs, symbols, or notation
    • Write patterns on the board in standard bubble notation or other symbol system. Point and say/sing and invite the children to echo.
    • Include hand signs and clapping along with rhythmic and melodic solfege
    • Use the hand staff with solfege and/or note names

  • Assign solfege to aural patterns
    • Present a short rhythmic or melodic pattern on neutral syllables or instruments (including body percussion) and invite students to echo back in solfege; Find an appropriate level of challenge for the students, of course
  • Sing from symbols (hand signs, numbers, etc.)
    • Present short melodic patterns with hand signs (no singing) and invite students to sing it back (including hand signs)
  • Guess the song from hand signs and/or rhythm
    • Present a song with hand signs (no singing) and have students guess what it is. If they know it they can raise their hand (no talking or singing). After someone guesses have the entire class check and see if that song fits while they watch the teacher demonstrate again (no talking or singing). If the class concurs with the guess then have them all sing the song in solfege. If they don’t concur, then take another guess until there is agreement.
    • Let the students present songs for others to guess.

  • Standard notation and forms of tablature
    • Flash cards—have students read measure by measure melodic and rhythmic notation. A background beat can be added.
    • Grid notation—write rhythm notation using a 4 X 4 grid
    • Lines—for pitch notation start with two lines (so, mi; do, la; mi, re, do) and then add lines as needed. Place a marker for the tonal center (do or la, for example).
  • Applying note names or solfege syllables
    • For any of the foregoing use note names, numbers, and/or solfege syllables
  • With neutral syllables, lyrics, body percussion, or musical instruments
    • Sight-reading, basically.