Monthly Archives: February 2018

Children’s Singing

Video 1: Masai children singing

The song they are singing seems to be a call and response with one of the children being the leader that calls something out and the rest of the group joins in and repeats.  There are two parts to the song, with the change indicated by the leader calling out quicker and while the response is happening and the second part has an addition to what was already being called out.  I think that this connects to what Ysaye Barnwell led in that this group of kids became a community that worked together and didn’t need a conductor or anything, they were listening to each other and found a way to work together to have a musical and community experience.  Their voices are all high, but that is to be expected with younger kids and having the higher pitch makes it project more.  They all sound like one, and they are able to stay in tune with each other.  Their voices are not very sing-songy but they are very clear.  They all seem to be enjoying themselves, they are moving and singing together and look like they are just having a good time.

Video 2: PS22 Chorus “EMPIRE STATE OF MIND Pt. XXII” Jay-Z & Alicia Keys

This song was probably chosen for these kids because it is something that they can relate to and are able to enjoy singing.  As the song goes on I noticed that they had movements for the chorus and as they kept singing it they were getting more into it.  The song is getting them excited, and I think that is because it is a motivating song.  The leader is at the piano, and as he is playing he is giving them cues on coming in and cutting off, and just to get them excited and more engaged.  I think that their singing was really good, they didn’t sound like inexperienced kids, they like what they are doing.  It was getting more in tune as it went on, and it was most in tune in the chorus, especially when they were dancing to it and the range was higher, where everyone was comfortable.  At the end everyone was getting excited and everyone was moving, and they ended it and everyone was happy, there was even a kid that did a happy dance and the leader was very encouraging.

Video 3: Children singing at Carden Academy Huntington Beach Music. Carden Academy Performing Arts

The children sing the refrain best because it is the only thing that repeats.  The melody is the same with different words, but they don’t always catch onto that so the teacher does a lot of the singing for them and they just jump in when they get to something that they recognize.  They sang the beginning with a lot of confidence and that kind of went away with each verse.  This shows me that children’s music should be very repetitive so that they can learn it and feel confident when singing.  The students in the video did a good job staying with the teacher, so they can learn it, but they did much better when they knew what was coming up.  Their voices are all very high, and the teacher did not choose an appropriate key because it was a little low for them and she was basically singing to them the whole time.  At the end they were all together, because it was the refrain, and there was a kid that was imitating the teacher and hung over the rest of them just a little.

Video 4: Cantare Con Vivo: Instructor Lydia Mills teaches South American Folk Song

I think that the children are likely to enjoy the song because it has a cool beat and a funny story that they can imaging and (possibly) relate to.  It is repetitive, even within itself, and it is short.  It is like a story, so if they need a way to learn it you could just ask them what would come next.  They would sing it well because it is very simple and the melody is repetitive and it does not require a large range.  Like we do in class, I would ask them to listen as I sing it a few times and each time ask them something to listen for, like “what kind of cat is he?” and “what does he like to do?” until they are all the way through and are singing it because they have already heard it multiple times.

Video 5: Phoenix Children’s Chorus National Anthem at Diamondbacks Game – August 29, 2015

The children’s ages looked like they ranged from elementary to high school, but they were all wearing different shirts, so they were separated and then put together for the song.  They all sounded really good, considering the age range and pace of the song.  The SSB is a song that you start to learn in elementary school, so the kids probably didn’t have a hard time learning it, but it was different because it was a choral arrangement.  The melody was not sung as if it were a soloist, but there were independent parts, and I was a little surprised that the younger kids were able to follow everything (I think they were singing the melody, and the older girls and low voices had different parts).  I don’t think that I have ever heard of this group.

Video 6: Ah Poor Bird!

The children are doing an okay job at first with following her, but then things get a little weird and the kids change it to major when she stops singing.  I think that they do this because a lot of songs are in major and if they aren’t looking for that difference they aren’t going to notice it.  As they become more independent they are gaining confidence, but it is wrong, and once she says that it is a sad song some of them seem to get it and at the end it’s not perfect, but it looks like they are actually trying to make it sound minor.  I think that she was more worried about getting them to sing together and in a round than tonality, and once they were able to focus on the big picture (singing the round).

LAST: Takeaways

I learned that children can actually sing, that you can expect them to try and be successful.  The songs that they sing have to be fairly repetitive so that they can remember both words and melody, but they can do it.  Even if it is just getting them to sing a chorus/refrain while the teacher sings the verse, they can eventually sing the song and be a part of something and successful in what they can do.  They can even move with music, it would make it more fun and easier to remember. It is important to be supportive of children singing, negativity will not get them anywhere, and you have to scaffold it in a way so they always feel like they are actively involved in what it is they are singing.  I like the questioning strategy that we use in class.  It is not good to just throw a song at students, especially in a non-musical way like having them say the lyrics then putting them to a melody, because they won’t get anything out of it, or to get upset with them when they can’t figure something out.  I think that the strategies we have used in class of constant repetition and asking questions are really good ways of teaching students, and not letting them get lost, or making them feel like they are doing something wrong.  It is also good to give students the opportunities to make choices, in class and their songs, because it can make them feel more comfortable in participating and actually singing.  Singing for them is fun.  I don’t think that most of them really care all that much about being accurate, they just want to have fun and create something.  I have forgotten about this aspect of music over the years, and watching these videos reminded me of that.  When a student is trying, they should receive constructive feedback and encouragement rather than get scolded for not doing it 100% correct, like the “Ah Poor Bird!” leader.  

Principles/Ideas

  1. Get the children involved in the learning process:  It is important to get students interested in what they are learning, and making it more accessible to them by having them participate rather than telling them to do something.  At each level they can get more involved, so it always seems like they are doing something and learning more, and the more you see them learning and participating, the more you know about how they learn and their abilities.
  2. Teach them something that they want to know: Teach them something that they want to learn and that they can take to other aspects of their lives, so that they enjoy learning about music and develop an actual interest in it and become more independent.  When you teach them something that they are interested in or related to what they like, you have students that are actually willing to learn from you.
  3. Know yours and your students’ abilities: It is important to start teaching where students are at in terms of skill and knowledge so that you are not boring them or making them not like music, and you keep them at a level where they are confident enough to participate.  You have to know what you have the ability to teach, and learn from the students and what they are like so that you can be confident in what you are doing in your classroom, or work towards learning something that you can teach.
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The Lakeshore Zebras

The children were all doing their own thing, not really thinking about making music or doing a musical activity that they were taught.  One girl was talking about dancing at a party and sang a melody in a dance-style, probably just going off of what she has observed and copying it and using a princess as a descriptor so that her friends could all understand what she was talking about.  A group of girls were playing with props and singing songs and topics like Pocahontas, not necessarily thinking about what they were doing.  There were a variety of different chants going on, with individuals and groups using fixed pitches, but they were all unique in what pitches they used and going off of each other.  In one case there was a kid pretending to play a stick like a guitar and singing a syncopated rhythm in complex meter, and there were a couple of chants and songs that the children were coming up with that had meter changes and complex meters in there because they were just doing what felt natural.  According to the author, this is because for them the text is more important than the melody and they will do what feels right with the words, and described them as having “musical spontaneity”.

I don’t think that a lot of people would see what they are doing as completely musical or organized, because from the way they interacted with each other and just went with what they were doing, it seems like they do this kind of stuff a lot.  I see children doing things like this all of the time because it is just natural to them, and while they are not singing a long fancy song or playing in an orchestra, they are using the tools that they have to enhance their experiences, such as rhythmic chants and limited pitches to do things together and express themselves in a fun way.  To most these chants and little melodies are normal for playing children so they might not be viewing it as entirely musical, but they are continuously making music.  Some “I can…” statements that might be applied to them are “I can make my own song”, “I can make a melody with a group”, “I can remember a song”, “I can make a rhythm”, “I can rhyme”, “I can make changes to a melody”.

2. After reading about the Lakeshore Zebras’ informal musical experiences, how might you create formal (teacher-facilitated) musical experiences with and for children in this age group (3-5 yrs.)?

Everything that they do is to enhance what they are already doing, so I think that a teacher can take the things that they like to do and bring that into a formal activity.  The teacher can have them do a simple activity and ask them to find a way to describe what they are doing, and use an example of what they were doing in the playground and I think that they would catch on and come up with a melody or rhythmic chant with no problems.   This could also be turned around and have the teacher come up with a melody or chant to describe something and have them join in, or just any simple melody/game that they might be interested in learning.  A fun thing might be to give them fake instruments or little percussion instruments and have them work together to make something.  This could be a little chaotic but they would be in the presence of a teacher and might come up with something unique.  I think that with this age group it might be hard to come up with a lot of songs with words that they would have to remember, so it would be good to have them create things that they would remember.  One thing that the reading said was that a teacher can blend their music with the teacher’s music, and I think that the teacher can serve as an example of having different music for different things and sharing a musical experience with them and teach them how they can take their informal music experiences and turn them into something purposeful.

Bruner Exploring

Bruner’s theory of development is based on his three stages/modes of representation: enactive (actions), iconic (visual), symbolic (words).  The enactive stage is what children will experience in the first year of live, where everything they learn is through motor manipulation, like muscle memory with no words or anything to describe it.  The iconic stage takes up the next five years, and is where everything learned is learned and stored through images in your mind, like diagrams, and is not necessarily a purposeful thing.  The next stage is symbolic, which starts at seven years and continues.  At this stage all learning is stored in code, where what you know is not limited to a picture or motion, and you can express it and manipulate it to what you need.  There needs to be some system for representing knowledge, like language or a set collection of symbols, and learning just needs follow the right process and can happen at different levels.  These stages are not set in stone like some theories, they can be applied to different ages, because learning is always happening, we just don’t necessarily always have the right tools at every stage to show how complex learning can be.  Learning is always happening, and according to Bruner the purpose of school is to teach how to learn, to break up everything from its most basic level and build up from that.  This is his spiral curriculum: that even the most complex things can be broken down and continuously revisited and built on as things get more complex and you are learning how to problem solve on your own.

He had the idea of discovery learning, a bit like scaffolding in that there is someone that is helping the learner go from where they are and giving them what they need in order to get to the next step but not spoon-feeding them everything and basically having them memorize a bunch of stuff.  The child is in charge of their own learning, they should want to learn, and the teacher should help foster curiosity so that the learner can take charge in their own learning.  They start with very hands-on methods to get involved and explore, then graduate to having visuals.  These visuals can be any sort of image that they can associate with what they are learning, like a diagram.  These visuals can then be associated with symbols and words, where everything starts to come together, and how they come together is up to the learner, in the way that makes sense to them.  According to this website even numbers are very abstract symbols that don’t actually mean anything, but to us they represent something.  Eventually we are able to discuss something using language and symbols for our images that we can recognize.  Everyone learns in a different way, and these three stages that Bruner has can help explain that there are some people that are kinesthetic learners, they learn by doing, some are visual learners, they have to see it in some way, and some are auditory learners, they can learn by hearing it.  Each of these learning styles can be connected to his theory, because his theory is all about learning how to learn through individual exploration and giving everyone the opportunity to learn how they learn best.  This doesn’t mean that everything is going to be neat and organized all of the time, but it is a more effective way of teaching than having rote memorization of a bunch of facts.  This is boring, and learning should be interesting and motivating.

Sources:

McLeod, S. (2008). Saul McLeod. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/bruner.html

Bruner’s Stages of Representation. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://bruners-stages.wikispaces.com/Bruner%27s Stages of Representation

Penner, J. (2016, February 01). Jerome Bruner. Retrieved February 12, 2018, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JcREBRo1kM

Song Teaching

Lesson Plan: 6 Feb 2018

Understanding Statement:

Music is about being creative, and sometimes that means taking a song that is already written and changing something about it.  This can be taking the lyrics away from a melody and making up your own, in their entirety or in small parts.  “Take Time in Life” is a Liberian folk song that has characters in it, and is meant to have one of the characters be changeable, and that will be up to the students.  The students will memorize the song and be able to change the name of the characters as a group and individuals as it repeats.

“I can…” Statements:

  • …improvise in a song
  • …memorize a song
  • …sing in a group
  • …sing with accompaniment

Materials:

“Take Time in Life”

I was passing (EM) by, my [brother] called (AM) to me, and he

Said (EM)  to me you better take (BM) time in life (EM)

Take (EM) time in life, take (AM) time in life,

Take (EM) time in life, ‘cause you got far (BM) away to go (EM)

Procedure:

  1. Make sure iPad and speaker are set up and sit in a circle on the ground
  2. Listen for how many times you can hear the word “take” in this song, show me with your fingers
    1. 4
    2. Sing with iPad
  3. (No iPad, 2nd part of the song) Echo me:
    1. Take time in life
    2. Take time in life
    3. Take time in life
    4. ‘Cause you got far away to go
  4. I’ll sing all of it together, then we’ll do it as a group.  Can we try singing all of that together?
    1. Sing second part
  5. Who are the people in the song? Tell the person next to you
    1. First part only
    2. I/me and brother
  6. We can change who it is that is talking to us, does anyone have someone in mind?
    1. Change it to what a student says and sing again
    2. Sing whole thing with iPad
  7. Does anyone else have someone they want to include?
    1. Change it to what a student says and sing again
    2. Students should be singing some of it, if not the whole thing
  8. Do we think that we have that memorized?
    1. Yes, move on
    2. No, sing it again and get the students to continue listening singing
  9. Sing song a few times more, changing characters each time

Assessment Statement:

I will be looking for students at each step, making sure they are doing what I ask and responding to my questions, and are singing each time that we sing the song as they are learning it.

Assessment
Musicianship (4 pts): I really liked the song that I chose, because it was somewhat repetitive and but still interesting because there was a lot that you could do with it.  It was easy to follow and easy to learn.  I didn’t always do everything perfectly (some mishaps with the iPad/guitar, but I quickly recovered from that and didn’t dwell on anything.  I was trying to focus on making this a fun song, even as it was really simple.  I also think that the key I chose was comfortable for everyone, and would be good for working with children.  I need to work on my singing a bit, because I am not very comfortable singing in the treble staff (I am an instrumentalist) and am working on singing in a range that is good for children.

Leadership (5 pts): I was really looking for making eye contact with everyone, and I think that definitely helped with me staying confident and making sure that everyone was getting it.  I felt that even though I was calm most of the time, I was still encouraging and engaging, though I think that I need to work on projecting a bit more.  It was fine for the small group, but in a larger setting I need to think more about saying everything a bit louder and clearer.

Preparation (5 pts): I felt very confident in my plan, I was a bit nervous at the beginning, but I did have the song memorized and pretty much all of the steps.  I had to compose myself a couple times when I was having trouble with singing because it was a little high for me and there was some difficulty with the iPad (GarageBand guitar, the app closed) but I knew how everything else was supposed to go and adjusted quickly.  I forgot to add the iPad in the first full run-through of the song, but it was still a success.  I had all of the things that I needed ready to go.
Facilitating the Experience (9 pts): Overall I think that this was a very good teaching experience.  I felt comfortable and was having fun, and I think that carried through, because even when I or someone else messed up we laughed it off and moved on or we just pushed through it and didn’t make it a big deal.  I did make some changes to my plan (I was originally planning on adding some sort of movement, but when I was getting to that point I just decided that we could still have fun sitting as we were) and it all still went well.  I think that I could work a little on how I question, and not have it sound so scripted/forced and work on incorporating better questions than yes/no things (or just don’t do it), but overall I think that the questions I did ask were good and productive.  I think that the pace was good, for the group I was working with, but maybe the sequence could use a little work, like not having the second part be the first thing we learn.  I didn’t really have a closure, mostly because I didn’t have any actual opening statements other than “we’re learning a song” and I just didn’t think about it.  I should work on giving specific feedback and find the appropriate time to give it.  Overall I think it was a success in terms of having success in the lesson for both the learners and me.

Total: 23 pts

Reflection: I think that this lesson went well for me because I didn’t stop.  One of my big issues is getting stuck with memorizing the plan and trying to make everything happen like it did in my head, but this time I just went with it and kept my confidence.  I think that not taking it too fast and being very clear on what it sounded like and what I needed them to do, and that helped the group to be confident.  I stayed encouraging and I think that was helpful in recovering from any mistakes.  As we went on and my pitch got better (mostly trouble with starting pitches and counting in, things started to sound better and by the end everyone knew the song and was able to sing with confidence.  There were a few moments where things didn’t quite match up, but they didn’t seem to care all that much.  I think that I need to mostly work on being confident in my singing, and think a bit more about the sequencing (learning whichever part first that fits the best) and having a bit more energy.  This has been my main goal from my first teaching and I think that I am slowly improving.  I think that if I were to teach this again I would keep the iPad in the whole time so that everyone stays on pitch and make it more interesting (because I altered the words and suggested chords a bit to make it all mix together) and everyone sang out more when they were confident in the key.

Goals for next time:

  1. Project more, be even more confident in singing and giving directions.
  2. Take some time to do more individual assessment and include some sort of closure.

Songs in Their Head: Ramona, James, Rundale Cafeteria

In the Rundale School Cafeteria, the children were making their own rhythms, chants/songs, and movements while they were eating.  There wasn’t a lot of singing or organized play and interaction, the children were just doing what came naturally to them, such as reenacting a fight and having a rhythmic way of telling the actions, and other children followed what he was doing.  There were some children singing, one calling out to her friend and a boy and a girl singing something to themselves.  There were a couple of girls that were having a hand-clap game and some boys drumming on a bench and table, and during clean-up there were some boys calling out in response to their sweepers.  To most of the teachers there it didn’t seem like there was any music-making going on, until it registered as too much noise.

After looking at the kinds of things the children were coming up with, I would think about these “I can…” statements: 1. write my own rhythm 2. sing a song with another person 3. move to a song in my head 4. make my own song about life.  With these children and with the “I can…” statements, I think that I would have the children do a lot of creating.  There’s not a lot that they can’t do, so I would like to have them make a song about what they are doing, and see if they can do it with someone else.  I would also teach them some basic hand-clap games that they can do with each other to make them have fun in a group setting.  I think they would like something with a combination of a set pattern or song that they can have turns changing something about it to make them feel like they are doing as a group but also have their own thing that they are doing.  These would be things that they can do at lunch, some of these things would just feel natural and they kind of do them already, or they could be games that they can take from the music classroom to recess.

I found it interesting how Ramona and James viewed music in their everyday lives, they both had some sort of music making and their own ways of classifying each type.  They looked at the world as having music, in a natural way, by doing things that everyone else does and things that they liked.  They already have their own musical preferences, and their own skills and goals that they are already aware of.  I don’t remember knowing what kind of music I liked until I was already in junior high.  I think that it is great that they had a plan for music in their lives, Ramona wants to dance (which she said would require music) and James wants to play the trumpet and keep learning songs.  Looking at their responses to what they do that is musical in their lives shows me that you can make almost anything they do musical.  James saw saying the Pledge of Allegiance as a musical activity because it was something that everyone does together with the help of a director.  Ramona was already seeing that music can help with any situation and is a social activity.  Children can see the world how they please, and all you have to do is ask them what they are thinking and they can find an answer for you.  Both of these children had a lot to say about the music in their lives once they had a starting point.

What stood out to me the most about these two children was how similar they were, when coming from completely different backgrounds.  These backgrounds shaped the way that they experienced music and knew about it, but they still viewed music as music, something natural.  This makes me think about asking students what they already know and what they like about music, so that I can gauge their abilities and find activities that they will enjoy doing and are able to do well.

If I had students like Ramona and James I would try to give them tools that they need to be able to share what they know about music.  Both of them were able to make connections with their personal lives when they had something to guide them, and in a music classroom you can give them the tools they need to share it with others.  With a student like James that already has a lot of songs that he knows, I would try and give students the chance to show off for their peers and even try and teach each other, because when he heard something that sounded familiar to him he helped his brother to figure it out.  I think that being able to make connections would be a big focus, something that I didn’t really think about before.  Students like Ramona that have music at home, it would be nice to find songs that can be done at home, with or without instruments.  It would be nice to be able to give students the vocabulary to be able to describe what they hear in music, and also be able to talk about the effects non-musical aspects (like lights) have on the music, and be able to do this in a musical way rather than having them memorize a boring list.