Play Script and Song
Article Archives - Music
Singing in science class? Songs are probably not the first resources that come to mind when preparing a science or math lesson. But adding an element of drama through music can spice up your teaching in all areas of the curriculum.
We all still enjoy singing the 'oldie goldies', which, for some reason seem to have a sticking power that carries down through the generations. Some of those old songs are often relegated strictly to music class for the younger set. However, with a little creative thinking, they can be mined for the content of their lyrics which can make a great launch pad for teaching of ideas and concepts to students of all ages.
More Than Meets the Eye... or Ear
For older students an interesting history research topic could be to find the origins of nursery songs such as London Bridge is Falling Down, Ring Around the Rosey or Rock-a-Bye Baby. They will find some theories that tell of gruesome beginnings for some of their favourite "ditties". In their digging around, students will encounter references to factual historical events that can open the door to further discussion. They could also be asked to search out all the versions of each song, decide which would seem to be closest to the original lyrics and then decide which theory of origin best suits the song. You now have an opening to make teams and work on debating skills.!
Research skills for younger students can be introduced with songs such as Over in the Meadow or Be Kind to Your Web-footed Friends. Both of these songs contain information related to a science study of animals (classification, adaptations, habitat, habits etc.). Making charts to record and organize information from each verse of a song helps students by focusing on a well-known selection of text and enables them to easily find the information for each heading, which appears in the same location in every verse. Children also enjoy writing their 'report'on another animal by writing it in the format of another verse for the song. Each student then prints up his or her verse on a page with a picture of the animal. These can be compiled in a class Song Book as a singing science report.
Five More Songs for Teaching
- Grandfather's Clock - math... a pendulum experiment... creative thinking
- Five Little Ducks - ESL... math... creative writing... drama
- A-Tisket A-Tasket - creative writing... drama... music history
- Bingo - spelling practice
- Down By the Bay - Social Studies... creative writing
These are just a few ideas to open the door to using songs for teaching in many subject areas.
For more ideas about integrating Songs for Teaching into other areas of the curriculum, visit the Songs for Teaching index page.
One of my favourite parts of a vocal or instrumental music class usually happens in the first five minutes. This is the time that can often make or break the rest of the lesson. Teaching time allotted for music is often at a premium, so whether the students are coming into your room on rotary or just changing over from another subject in the classroom, getting their attention quickly is important.
Short music activities that energize and focus attention while working on the elements of music can make the first five minutes both fun and educational. Some activities may have the students looking at you strangely at first (Teacher's gone over the edge!), but once they get the idea and join in, even the reluctant students come prepared each day to start with either a game or an active response to music.
These opening activities can be selected according to the focus of the day's lesson, as a review or just as a general development of music concepts. Of course there are those days when the main lesson is just going horribly wrong, the students are hanging from the lights (Day after Halloween perhaps?) and nothing is being accomplished other than the beginnings of a raging headache! On those days I would chuck the lesson plan and fall back on one of the energizing music activities so that the students could be very active and still get some value out of the exercise!
A few Ideas to Get Started
Echo Orchestra - Students stay seated and the teacher quickly splits the class into 4 or 5 groups as might be done for singing in a round. Starting with the first group, the teacher vocalizes a short melodic, rhythmic or sound effect pattern that the group begins to echo and repeat. Once that group is going, the teacher starts the next group with a different pattern and continues until all groups have started “playing in the orchestra. The teacher then conducts the group indicating crescendos, decrescendos and changes in tempo for the entire "orchestra". Individual groups should be quietened, raised or cut off and restarted so that they get an opportunity to listen to the others and hear the changing sound with different crescendos and decrescendos. This is also a great activity for working on crisp cut-offs!
The teacher should try to have the different patterns cover the ranges in pitch (high, medium, low) and perhaps have a percussion section. For a wacky day make the strangest melodic and rhythmic sound effects that you can for each group.
Once the students are familiar with the conducting patterns have them take turns being the conductor.
Moveable Beat - This one is fun for a very basic beat activity with younger children. As a selection of music is being played have the students "keep the Beat" in different parts of their bodies. The teacher calls out the part and students move the beat accordingly. E.g. "Keep the beat in your feet." (hands, knees, shoulders, head, toes, nose, everywhere)
Interpretive Movement - Have a variety of styles of music ready to play (recorded or live). Ask students to "move to the music" showing the beat, tempo, melodic movement and perhaps a repetitive rhythm. Depending on the age and experience of the children, you may want to introduce one element at a time. I don't use the word dance for this activity since some children freeze up if they think they have to dance.
Sol-fa Calisthenics - This works well with younger children for practising the concept of pitch. Assign the parts of the body to the notes of the scale. Start with do, (toes), mi (knees), sol (waist), la, (shoulders), do1 (head) and when the students are ready, add re (mid shin), fa (hips) and ti (ears).
To teach the positions, the teacher sings the notes and shows the positions as the students follow along. Once the students are familiar with the location of each pitch, the teacher could sing the notes and the students do the movements, touching the correct part for each note. For some groups it may be easier for the students if the teacher sings the pattern first and then the students sing and do the movements. For a better workout, put in several larger intervals. For example: do-sol-do1-do-sol. Give the students a break when they are tired. Have a leader perform the movements while the students sing the correct pitches. The concept of tempo could also be introduced. Before starting, tap and count out eight beats to establish the tempo of the exercise.
Major/Minor Freeze Dance - When working on the major and minor scales, this activity gives students a fun way to learn to recognize the sound of each. This works best if the teacher (or student) can play short rhythmic passages on a piano or some other instrument. As the music is playing the students may dance (move) as long as it is in a major key. As soon as the music changes to a minor key the students must freeze until they hear a major key again. Sometimes switch it around and allow movement with the minor key and freeze with the major key.
These are just a few ideas for energizing the first five minutes of a music lesson. For more music games and music activities for children visit the main music page.