Have you ever had one of those weeks (or months) where no matter what you do, your students just can’t find the beat? My Kindergarten and First Graders are there this year!
I am a Level III Orff trained instructor, and I had to go back to the basics to finally get my students to find the beat. Here’s how I did it.
I have been using a series of songs that require not just steady beat activities but playing/moving/singing with a rest (ta ta ta sh).
I started with many steady beat activities, walking on the beat as I played the drum, walking on the beat in a circle, marching to Sousa marches, etc. When I thought that they were ready, I moved on to a simple pattern of ta ta ta sh. (quarter quarter quarter rest).
One of the activities I used was the nursery rhyme Rub a Dub Dub. This song and activity was first introduced to me from Randy Delelles and Jeff Kriske during my levels training.
Pick three barred instruments (I used a bass, an alto and a soprano xylophone, but you could use any three instruments). Instruments are placed in a circle in the middle of the room.
Instruments are set up in C pentatonic (no F or B). Students line up in twos at each instrument. The ultimate goal is for the students to be able to play the pattern with a chord bordun (C and G at the same time). This was NOT the first time that they had played the barred instruments, so they already knew how to hold the mallets, where to hit the bars, how hard to hit the bars, and how to share the instrument with a partner.
Process goes like this:
1. Teach the poem/song by echo. 2. Students pat the pattern on their legs/knees. 3. Students SING and pat the pattern. 4. Transfer to the instruments.
The set up at the instruments looks like a small circle of instruments with 2 children ready to play and a line of students behind the players. (looks like a sunburst formation).
Students sing the song and play the pattern.
Rub a Dub Dub, Three men in a tub and who do you think they are?
The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, throw them out all three.
Students yell GET OUT!
Once the class yells GET OUT!, the players hand their mallets to the next children in line and go to the back of the line at their instrument. An advanced way of doing this on another day would be for the students who played to switch to the line of students at the next instrument (especially if you picked different size instruments).
Repeat until everyone has had a turn.
Now, this was all fine and dandy, except that the students were not always playing on the steady beat, even with me directing them and helping with the beat. The students wouldn’t play with both hands at the same time (they would alternate), or they wouldn’t play the right notes (not critical until you really WANT them to play C and G).
Also, the students in line started goofing around and talking and not staying on task – focusing on their friends rather than on the song and the beat.
SO, I came up with this modification. All the students who are waiting their turn were asked to gently tap the shoulders of the person in front of them. This solved all the problems! Everyone was practicing keeping the beat and playing the pattern, they all had many chances to practice and they were ready to play the instrument when it was their turn!
Very successful lesson and everyone was able to play the pattern correctly, on the right notes at the right time by the end of the class.
Don’t you just love it when the lesson works the way you envision it?
Now, you could use ANY nursery song (make up your own SML melody), and add this pattern. Remember, changing small details can make any activity seem like something completely different. The more times they practice, the better they get!
Hope you get a chance to try it!