This is the half term where I focus on teaching pitch to Year 1 and Year 2. We do pitch almost every lesson but this is the time where I teach it in detail. All the children now know their Kodaly pitches and hand signs and have spent quite a substantial time on aural work so they are ready for something slightly different. Year 1’s will be taking a graphic score approach to pitch called “Magic Rabbit” which will consist of playing, writing and composing their own graphic scores on mini-whiteboards individually and in pairs. The Year 2’s will be learning to read music using 6 notes from middle C to A. For those children who find this easy I have designed a harder book with an octave of notes. This short course also involves music from China so we will be learning about Chinese New Year and making some music using pentatonic scales. The name of this course is “Dragon Pitch”.
Magic Rabbit is a story I have made up about a rabbit who lives at the top of the hill and likes to play. He likes walking up and down, skipping up and down and sliding up and down. How does he slide up the hill? Well he is called Magic Rabbit! Magic Rabbit is shown to slide using a diagonal line, walking using steps and skipping by little arrows. They start easy and then get quite complicated. The children play glockenspiels and xylophones to show how he moves and later on they write down how he moves and finally they make their own compositions that their partner has to play. The basic misconception many children make is to misunderstand the passage of time graphically along the x axis. So many children just do not get this and every lesson I talk about this misconception as the whole basis of notated music rests on this principle – you have to read horizontally and vertically simultaneously to read music properly. We also sing songs about rabbits to go along with the theme like “Little Rabbit Foo Foo” and “In a Cottage in a Wood”. At the end of the unit I assess them on how well they play and compose their Magic Rabbit pieces. We have the formative assessment of some pieces to play before they can leave so I can check their understanding. Magic Rabbit always works well but it only gives a simple understanding of pitch, basic high and low and the direction the music is played. This is appropriate for 5 and 6 year old children.
Dragon Pitch starts with simple music in four bar phrases where music starts with only one note and then goes up to six. Although there are no such things as learning styles I actually teach the notes kinaesthetically as it is good fun and they get to understand pitch in terms of up and down. Middle C is your toes, D is your knees, E is your waist, F is your shoulders, G is your head and A is hands above your head. We learn many tunes this way before we play them on xylophones and glockenspiels. Later on we take away the F’s and B’s and play some pentatonic tunes to fit into the theme of Chinese Music. The major themes of this unit are reading and playing from standard Western notation and improvisatory work using pentatonic scales. I want to put some more Orff work into this this year so I may make some changes. We sing a song I made up “It’s Chinese New Year”, “A dragons very fierce” and “Puff the Magic Dragon”. It is difficult to assess improvisation so I just ask the children to play some of the simple notated pieces and assess these. These tunes are also used for formative assessment using the exit ticket approach. Dragon Pitch works well but is quickly and easily forgotten. In units of work to come I will be revisiting Dragon Pitch as it pointless teaching it if the children will rapidly forget it. The most controversial element is explicitally teaching staff notation to young children. I have been criticised for it in the past but I just think being musically literate is something important for every child to grasp and makes life a lot easier for other teachers as they progress.
During this time I will not be forgetting rhythm, we will do our rhythms every lesson just like aural work and instrument of the week. The instruments of the week for Year 1 are Thai instruments as we are located in Thailand. We will learn about the ranat, khim, klui, ching and khong wong. The Year 2’s will be learning about some Chinese instruments such as the gesheng, erhu, pippa and dizi.