October and the Spookies!
October is chock full of opportunities for some fall and mildly spooky fun. We've enjoyed reading stories, exploring unpitched percussion instruments, and even having our first performance of the year!
Kindergarten is working on instrument technique using a variety of unpitched percussion instruments. We read the story "Pete the Cat: 5 Little Pumpkins" so we could add woodblocks, tambourines, maracas, triangles, drums, and more. We are beginning to read rhythmic patterns of sound/no sound and perform these rhythms on instruments. Students are continuing to work on steady beat and developing a strong singing voice through vocal explorations. To help reinforce phonics, we include an animal song as part of our welcome routine and they've had a blast meeting Dancing Doggie, Ellie Elephant, Fin the Fish, and Grumpy Gorilla.
First grade students learned a folk dance from Russia called "Sasha" and got to practice with several partners as it is a mixer dance. We focused on some singing games "Cut the Cake", "Lucy Locket", and "Nemo's Game" to practice our singing voice and reinforce classroom expectations. They read "The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything" and added sound effects for the shoes, shirt, pants, etc. with our woodblocks, drums, castanets, and more. We got to explore some more unusual instruments like vibraslap and bell tree for our spooky song "Old Mother Witch". Combining simple choreography with lyrics makes for an easy transition to instruments! Can't forget a seasonal twist on a beloved favorite "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!" and it was lovely having the students sing along while I handled the book.
Second grade students are working on rhythmic compositions for ta (quarter note), ti-ti (beamed eighths) and introducing quarter rest. They had a blast using Halloween shaped erasers to connect syllables to rhythms. A classic spooky song is "Skin and Bones" and it tells the tale of an old lady who lives down by a graveyard. There is a repeating descending melodic pattern at the end of each verse that was perfect to add Boomwhackers to. Since one of our expectations is to "be responsible with materials", we enlisted the help of Wendall the Narwhal to show us what rest position vs playing position looks like. They're his favorite instrument because in rest position we all look like narwhals! Then we brainstormed some new rhyming verses for our song "There's a Spider on the Floor" and acted it out with our plastic spiders. Did know you there's a spider on my arm and he's eating Lucky Charms? HA!
Third grade learned what a round is and practiced it with the folk song "Ghost of John". Folk songs have to be regional, learned by oral tradition, and have different versions. What better way to demonstrate how oral tradition can change a song than to play Telephone! The original sentence of "Purple Unicorns are eating tacos" definitely got twisted around but it brought to light how music ends up with different variations. Students are practicing how to read solfege syllables on a staff, focusing on Mi-So-La patterns. They did some detective work to justify their thinking and then worked with partners to solve the candy corn mystery. We are continuing to work on rhythmic patterns of ta, ti-ti, and quarter rest and used our Jack-o-Lantern with a steady beat game and rhythmic fluency.
Fourth grade kicked off our performance season last week on October 25th with their show "How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World". They did a FABULOUS job! It is not an easy task to pull off a performance only 7 weeks into the school year, let alone being the first year with a new music teacher. I'm so proud of the work they put into it. The instrument crew and narrators met at 8:15 for many mornings rehearsing as a separate group and were dedicated to their task. Thank you to the teachers who brought your classes to see our dress rehearsal; I know the 4th graders enjoyed having an audience to perform for!
Fifth grade had a history lesson about French composer Camille Saint-Saens and learned this inspiration for his spooky piece "Danse Macabre". We took a virtual field trip courtesy of Google maps to check out the Paris catacombs, see a few other Paris landmarks, and reinforce some map reading skills. This story served as inspiration for Walt Disney's Skeleton Dance from his Silly Symphonies and we found parallels between the story and the animation including string section, the harp ringing as the clock tower, skeleton bones turning into xylophones, and the oboe cry of the rooster. We also learned the legend of "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg. Adding a body percussion pattern challenged our bodies and brains to keep up with the accelerando. Then we extended this piece into a percussion play-along from the YouTube channel Musication.
Orchestra is making great progress on pizzacato technique and has started work on their first winter concert piece, Cactus Collision. We're digging into finger tapes and how to chance the pitch of an open string by adding our left hand. Left hand technique is tricky and it'll take time for it to feel comfortable on our hands but we're watching for tabletop knuckles and a wrist that doesn't collapse into the body of our instruments. Their first performance will be on Thursday, December 13th preceding the 2nd grade musical.