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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

My Favorite Lesson for Teaching Do / Re / Mi and Pentatonic

I'm continuing my series on melodic teaching strategies today with my favorite lesson ideas for focusing on the do/ re/ mi pitch set. If you sequence your teaching by starting with these 3 notes, you can use these ideas to work on just do/re/mi. If you, like me, start with mi/ sol/ la and add do and re afterwards to make a pentatonic scale, you can use them that way as well.


After focusing on mi / sol / la in 2nd grade, I add do and re in 3rd grade. There are TONS of pentatonic songs using do, re, mi, sol, and la from all over the world that are perfect for practicing those pitches, but to first introduce do and re, especially in relation to mi, I like to use a verse from "Camptown Races":


When I have taught the song to introduce do, re, and mi without teaching mi, sol, and la beforehand, I teach the song as a call and response song: I sing the first two measures of each line, and the students respond with the "doo dah" parts in the last two measures of each line. Once they have learned the song, we review the concept of home/resting tone and identify the last note as the home/resting note and label that as "do". Then we listen to the last 2 measures of the song and identify the high/ middle/ low notes in the phrase, and label those as mi/ re/ do. Then we practice singing the two "response" parts with solfege names and hand signs.

Now since my students already know mi, sol, and la when I teach this song, I teach my students the whole song rather than singing it in call and response form. Then we review mi, sol, and la by talking about the notes in the first 2 measures and practice singing those notes with solfege names and hand signs. Then we look at the last 2 measures: hey, there are notes that are even lower than mi! From there I introduce do and re and we practice singing the last phrase with solfege names and hand signs as well.

Once we've practiced singing the note names in the song, I introduce the "me dodo" game. If you saw last week's post on mi/ sol/ la, then this game works the exact same way the "salami" game does: I sing a 3-note phrase with hand signs and students echo it back, but if I sing mi-do-do (which sounds like I'm calling myself a "dodo") then they are not supposed to sing it back. I of course mix all 5 pitches into the phrases they echo so that they get plenty of practice with all of them! Once they can consistently sing the pitches with correct hand signs, I up the ante. First I sing the notes with hand signs but humming instead of singing the names, and they have to sing them back with the note names. Then I take away my hands and continue humming and have them sing and sign the notes back, and then I use just my hands and have them sing and sign the notes back. It takes quite a bit of concentration!

As with the other solfege pitches that I introduce, the last step is to practice notating. To practice with all 5 notes (which can be pretty overwhelming at first), I bring back the monster magnets that I introduce in 2nd grade, and then later have them use solfege stickers, color-coded to match our boomwhackers, to practice translating a rhythmic composition to a melodic one. If you haven't already, be sure to read about both of those DIY manipulatives in the posts below- they are so effective in helping kids see the different pitches more concretely and keeping them engaged while they practice notation! 



In my case, since students now know the 5 pitches of a pentatonic scale after introducing do and re, this is also when we first talk about the word and concept of "pentatonic" music. The best way that I've found to have students grasp the idea of pentatonic melodies and see how versatile that set of pitches can be is to have them improvise with pentatonic notes on barred percussion. We get out the xylophones and remove the F and B bars (the "burgers and fries") and then take turns making up whatever they want for 4 beats each. They're always surprised at how they can use those notes in any order or combination and still sound like "real music"! 

After those lessons, the rest of the year is spent practicing and reviewing do, re, mi, sol, and la and learning lots of pentatonic songs! You can find more ideas for teaching those and other pitches, along with tips for teaching melodic concepts in general, in the MusicEd Blogs melody ebook (download it for free right here)! If you missed them, be sure to check out my previous posts on introducing sol/mi in 1st grade and introducing la in 2nd gradeAnd if you want to see the full lesson plans for how I teach the pentatonic pitches throughout the year in third grade, along with all the materials I use, you'll find them in my 3rd grade curriculum set here

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