My Sound Song

Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.A.1

What You Need: Markers or crayons, paper

What to Do: Creating and recognizing patterns is a fundamental skill for both emergent readers and those being introduced to mathematical functions. Patty Hurlburt, an elementary music teacher at the St. John School in Old Saybrook, Connecticut, works on sound songs with her students to have them create musical patterns and think critically about patterning.

To begin, Hurlburt, who blogs at The Music Clef, preps a sheet of paper as a sound-song template for her students. She creates two sections on the sheet—one for the “verse” of the sound song and one for the key. Each student receives a template for designing his or her sound song.

Hurlburt explains to her students that they will be creating their own sound songs: four short patterns based on various sounds they create. (The example above has six patterns for the verse.) She then has students come up with four or five sounds they want to use, such as humming or buzzing, or body percussion sounds like tapping, snapping, or clapping. Next, students create a symbol for each sound and add it to the key section of their sound-song template. The symbols are then added to the verse sections to create the complete sound song.

“The students add their sounds to the song, mixing them up or making patterns. It is a great idea to add meter to the song by making each box have the same [number] of sounds, either two, three, or four symbols. Once they’re done, they really enjoy performing them for the class,” says Hurlburt. As a follow-up activity, have students write lyrics to their songs!

Beat of  the Drum

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.K.1.a

What You Need: Chart paper or whiteboard, hand drums (optional)

What to Do: “Music stimulates every area of the developing brain,” says Carole Stephens, an early childhood music specialist who works with children of kindergarten age and younger in multiple educational settings in and around Park Ridge, Illinois. “Early literacy skills such as rhythm, steady beat, pattern, and sequence are a natural part of drumming—and the children think it’s fun and cool!” she says.

To begin, Stephens, who blogs at PreK + K Sharing and Macaroni Soup, gives out hand drums. (If hand drums aren’t available, students can tap on their desks or clap their hands.) She then goes over the safety rules, making sure kids don’t sit too close to one another and that they keep their drums placed on the floor or between their legs rather than in their laps. 

Next, she guides students by introducing different beats that she’s named walk, jump, run, and tiptoe. The walk beat is medium tempo and steady. The jump beat is two quick beats with a slight pause and a galloping tempo. The run beat is much like the walk beat but faster. The tiptoe beat is like the quick run beat but quieter. She sings and plays this song with the students: Walk, walk, walk, when the drum says walk/When the drum says stop, you stop! [pause] /Jump, jump, jump, when the drum says jump… and so on.

After playing the different beats, engage children in a discussion. Have them consider the sound of the beats and the way in which they are labeled. Do the labels fit the beats? Why or why not? How would they change them?

Animal Opposites

Standard Met: CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.1.2.a

What You Need: Computer speakers or a stereo, Internet access, scarves, paintbrushes, chart paper, marker

What to Do: Fundamental music skills have a lot in common with fundamental reading skills. Clare Eggleston, who teaches K–5 music at High Shoals Elementary in Bishop, Georgia, works on teaching musical opposites with her first graders: fast/slow, loud/quiet, high/low, and, in particular, long/short.

Eggleston, who blogs at We <3 Music @ HSES!, begins by playing a piece of music that showcases fast/slow, loud/quiet, high/low, and long/short sounds. Carnival of the Animals, a 14-movement suite by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, showcases all these musical attributes. Share one or two movements—“The Royal March of the Lions” or “The Elephants”—with your class if time does not allow you to play the 25-minute suite. 

Eggleston has students actively listen, with eyes closed. Whenever they notice tempo or volume changes in the music, they note them on a piece of paper. She then has the kids play games that help them identify the changes. To reinforce fast and slow, students move quickly to quick music and slowly to slow music. For loud and soft, she has them lie on the floor and pretend to be sleeping bears. When the music is soft, children “sleep”; when it gets loud, they wake up, growl, and roar. To reinforce the difference between long and short, she hands out scarves or paintbrushes and has kids “paint” long and short sounds.

As a follow-up activity, discuss or revisit the difference between long and short vowel sounds. Have students “paint” along to frequently used words that have long and short vowel sounds.

“I have found that my students learn best when my lessons are interactive and involve lots of movement, manipulatives, and games,” says Eggleston. 

Two, Four, Six, Eight

Standard Met: CCSS.Math.Content.1.OA.C.5

What You Need: Computer speakers or a stereo, Internet access, chart paper, black marker, plastic baggies, foam or construction-paper flowers

What to Do: Counting beats within a recognizable rhythm is a wonderful way to get students working on their foundational math skills. Lindsay Jervis, who teaches K–5 music classes in Wichita, Kansas, uses a mixture of active listening and mathematical notation to get students recognizing beats within a rhythm. 

Jervis preps manipulatives for the activity by writing the musical notation of the nursery rhyme “Two, Four, Six, Eight” on precut foam flowers. (If foam flowers are unavailable, cut flower shapes out of foam sheets or construction paper.) Jervis uses stick notation or simple vertical lines (with a single line indicating a whole beat and a double line indicating two half beats) to show the rhythms for each four-beat phrase: four single lines for the first phrase; four double lines for the second; a single line, one set of double lines, and then two single lines for the third; and four single lines for the fourth and final phrase. She places one of each of the four phrases of the rhyme into plastic baggies (four flowers in total) to hand out later.

To begin, Jervis shares the nursery rhyme “Two, Four, Six, Eight,” asking kids to listen to the beats within the rhyme. They can clap or tap along to the beats while listening to help them recognize the pattern. (Write out the phrases in musical or stick notation on chart paper as students sing along.)

Jervis then divides the class into small groups and passes out the foam flowers. Students work to put the song together. Once the song has been notated or put in the correct order, Jervis has each group perform the song for her. She encourages them to double-check their work by singing the song and clapping the rhythms on the foam flowers to see if they are in the correct order.  


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