A good way to get children to perform music from notation is through the use of graphic scores. Here is one I have prepared for Year 2:
And another example:
I normally model the activity with four children and get them to play through their part while the whole class chants from 1-8. After we have performed each part individually, we put them all together. It seldom works first time so I spend quite a while getting it exactly correct before putting the children into groups of four. If the class is not divisible by four, an extra child plays one of the parts, normally the triangle part on a cymbal. I set the groups beforehand and tell the children which instrument they are playing so we don’t get any arguments. I get all the children to play together as I count to eight and then hear them group by group to check all the children are on task. It requires concentration and knowing exactly when to play – some of the most important skills in music performance.
The pieces get a little harder each time. In the next one we have some instruments playing twice to a beat:
And later on we have four to a beat:
This task can then be made into a composition where each child individually makes their own graphic score using the same symbols on a grid like this:
It’s best to keep the composition with only one note to a beat to start with but as the children get used to it, there is no reason why they can’t do two or four notes to a beat. I use the words “spider” and “caterpillar” so the children can fit the notes in correctly.
I normally do not start any composition task until the children are very comfortable with the notation system and have played through quite a few pieces first. I ask them to put their name on their composition, attach them on a clipboard and then play the piece on a music stand in their small group. I think it is important to play with a music stand as it gets the children to stand correctly and have everyone looking in the same direction.
I have made some simpler graphic scores for Early Years. The only difference is that these pieces start with only four beats and then get progressively harder to six beats:
Starting with just the four beats is preferably for a few weeks then just add an extra beat to make it a little harder and check they are reading horizontally. You can make this into a composition task if you want to.
Towards the end of this half term I will also be adding some dynamics into the graphic scores so the Year 2 children learn the Italian terms pianissimo, piano, mezzo piano, mezzo forte, forte and fortissimo as well as crescendo and diminuendo.
I haven’t made any graphic scores for Year 1, because in this term they are making musical stories. I will blog on those another time. To perform my graphic scores you will need a set of tambourines, woodblocks, lollipop drums and triangles. For a class of 32 children that will be eight instruments each. You will also need music stands. Here are the pdf’s for both Early Years and Year 2.