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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Rain Songs Around the World: Es Regnet, Wenn Es Regnen Will (It Rains When It Wants to Rain)

I've been having so much fun finding children's songs about rain from around the world, and this one from Germany is a great addition to the list because it can be sung in a round! This is a good one for the middle elementary grades when they are working on canon singing, but it's also an easy one to add orff ostinati to as well.

This song is called "Es Regnet, Ween Es Regnen Will", which means "It Rains When It Wants To Rain". The German lyrics to the song are:

Es regnet, wenn es regnen will
Und regnet seinen Lauf
Und wenn's genug geregnet hat
So hört es wieder auf.

Which translates roughly in English to:

It rains when it wants to rain
And it rains its fill
And when it has rained enough
Then it stops again.

Here's a recording (the first time with one person, then in 3-part canon):

I love comparing the attitude towards rain that is communicated in each of these rain songs around the world, and this one, both in the lyrics and the melody, seem to communicate a contented, happy acceptance of the rain. The first thing I do when I teach the song is to have them listen to me sing it (or a recording) and try to guess how the singer feels about the rain based on the music. I ask them to try to pinpoint what musical elements gave them that impression, which leads to a great discussion of how music communicates meaning, and is a great way to review music vocabulary (whether they're right or wrong about the meaning)! Then I teach them the lyrics and the translation and we discuss how they think the music fits or doesn't fit with the words.

Any time I'm teaching students a song in a language with which they are not familiar, I try to find ways for them to hear and try singing it over and over while doing something else. Sometimes that's movement, a clapping pattern, a dance, or a game. In this case because the whole song alternates between a tonic and dominant chord harmony, I like to teach students some simple ostinati on different instruments and have them play while I sing. 

Depending on how much time we have to spend on the song, I will use a combination of unpitched percussion, barred instruments, and maybe boomwhackers to get some rhythmic and harmonic ostinati going. I use mostly metal instruments like triangles, finger cymbals, wind chimes, and glockenspiels, along with boomwhackers, egg shakers, and ocean drums, to mimic the sound of the rain. Sometimes I ask students to think about which instrument timbres will fit well with a song about rain, and sometimes after they have put the instrumental arrangement together I ask them if they can guess why I chose the instruments I did. 

The instrumental ostinati are also a great place to throw in some rhythm notation review. I usually do canon singing in 3rd grade, which is also when I introduce whole notes, so I'll usually have the ocean drums play whole notes (I pretend, for the sake of the lesson, that the song is in 4/4 although sometimes I see it notated in 2/4). I also add in parts with whole and half rests, which are the other new rhythms for this grade. 

As I add each ostinato, I have students copy me with body percussion to learn it, then have them all pretend to play (while some play on the real instruments) while I sing. Then we do the same thing again, adding a new ostinato each time, until they can layer all the parts in one at a time and keep it going while I sing. This gives them plenty of time to hear the song (and a lot of them will naturally start singing along if they're comfortable with their instrumental part), and then I go back and review the singing and challenge them to sing while playing. It's so magical when it all comes together!

Of course the final piece of this is to sing it in canon! I don't try to have them sing in canon while playing instruments, but once they've put the whole instrumental arrangement together they've usually had enough time to get used to the song to be ready to try it in canon. I use the same exact process every time I teach students a song in canon- you can read about how I teach canon singing in this post. One of the key steps in teaching canon singing is incorporating motions, and in this case I use motions that help communicate the meaning of the words ("rain" fingers for the first line, etc).

That's everything I did for this song- I'd love to hear other ideas you might have for incorporating this song in elementary music lessons! I've also been sharing my favorite lesson ideas using rain songs from around the world in my previous posts: you can see my lessons for a song from Japan here, Ukraine here, and Morocco here. I highly recommend those! If you've ever used this German song and have more lesson ideas, or if you have other rain songs that I should add to my unit, please share in the comments!

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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Dance Playlist 2024

I love finding upbeat, school-appropriate, modern songs to use in my music classes for dance parties, slideshows, field day, and general merriment, and these last few years it has felt especially important to share with all the stress and negativity we're all dealing with. Here are my new picks for this year- be sure to check out my posts from previous years to find more awesome music my students and I love linked at the end of this post! 

I lost track of time so I'm putting this out a little later than I normally do- hopefully it's not too late for you to use it in all of your end of the school year fun! Don't miss the playlist at the end of this post that includes these songs plus all of my picks from previous years' playlists (this is year 9 of me putting these together, so there are a lot)!

To make it easier to find all my dance party playlist songs in one place, I've put together a YouTube playlist with all of the songs from all of my previous year's lists including this one! Here's the link to the playlist.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Rain Songs Around the World: Дощик (Rain)

I'm so excited to add this Ukrainian song to my collection of songs about rain from around the world, and this one has some musical elements that are part of both my younger and older grades' curriculum, so it will work well with a wide range of ages!

The title of this Ukrainian song is Дощик, which translates to "Rain". Fits right in with the rain theme! Actually I found a couple of fairly widespread Ukrainian rain songs, and both of them use the same onomatopoeia word for the sound of the rain that is quite fun to sing. In the verses of this song you'll hear the word of every line:

I love using songs in different languages that have a repeated word or phrase that is quick and easy for students to learn without knowing the language, so this song definitely fits the bill. After we listen to it one time, I ask students to tell me what the Ukrainian word is for the sound of raindrops and they can immediately identify the sound! Then I play the recording again and have students sing along with just that word. Here are the lyrics for the first verse:

Дощик ллється цілий ранок - кап-кап-кап!                It's been raining all morning, kap-kap-kap! Не виходимо на ґанок - кап-кап-кап.                          Let's not go out on the porch, kap-kap-kap! Раптом бачим під кущем                                           Suddenly we see under the bush,
кап-кап-кап-кап-кап!                                                    kap-kap-kap-kap-kap! Мокне зайчик під дощем                                             The bunny gets wet in the rain,
кап-кап-кап-кап-кап!                                                    kap-kap-kap-kap-kap!

Once we've sung through the song, singing just the rain sounds, I ask students to identify the 2 different sections in the music. It's easy for them to notice that there is one part that has the "kap" sound in it and another section that doesn't. This is an easy way to review form/ same and contrasting sections, and identify the ABABA form.

For younger students I stop there, and we compare and contrast this song with other songs about rain. For older students this is a great song to introduce or review major and minor tonalities! After identifying the form, I ask them what makes the 2 sections sound different from each other. The B section (chorus) lyrics are:

Ой ти, зайчику сіренький, ой ти, зайчику маленький! Oh you gray bunny, oh you little bunny! годі мерзнути, дрижати, ти ходи мершій до хати,            You're freezing and shivering, go home! ми дамо тобі морквину ще й велику капустину,               We will give you carrots and cabbage. понесеш їх у лісок годувати діточок,                                 Take them to the forest to feed your children бо маленькі зайченята вже давно чекають тата.              The babies have been waiting for their dad.

There is a clear switch from minor to major between the A and B sections, and it's interesting to discuss with students why the composer may have chosen to put the verses in minor and the chorus in major (maybe because the bunny is getting some food to take home to his family?).

After comparing and contrasting "Rain, Rain, Go Away" with the Japanese "Amefuri" and talking about the differences in attitude towards the rain in the two songs, this is a great follow-up song because of the switching back and forth between tonalities. This could be a great jumping off point for a composition activity with older students, when they're learning to write melodies in major and minor tonalities, to compose one song about all the positive things about rain in major and another about all of the negative things about rain in minor. It's a great way to get the ideas going!

I've been sharing my favorite lesson ideas using rain songs from around the world in my previous posts: you can see my lessons for a song from Japan here, and Morocco here. I highly recommend those! If you've ever used this Ukrainian song and have more lesson ideas, or if you have other rain songs that I should add to my unit, please share in the comments!

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Rain Songs Around the World: آ شتا تاتا تاتا (Achtatata)

I was looking for some songs in Arabic to add to my teaching that would be accessible for young students and tie into concepts I want to reinforce in my teaching, and came across this lovely song about rain from Morocco that I can't wait to share with my students! I am thrilled because it ties in perfectly with the other songs from around the world that I already use in my teaching around the theme of rain. There are so many possibilities for using this in elementary music- here are some of my favorite ideas.

If you, like me, did not know this song until now, here is a fun video demonstrating the song with an introduction in English as well:

First of all, just like many other languages spoken across a wide range of countries, Arabic is spoken and written in slightly different ways in different countries. This song is specifically in Darija, or Moroccan Arabic. Here are the lyrics (for the first, repeated section) in Darija:

آ شتا تاتا تاتا                             A chta tata tata
آ وليدات الحراثة                         A wlidat lherata
آ المعلم بوزكري                         A lmaalm Bouzekri
طيب لي خبزي بكري                   Tybli khbzi bekri

The words basically mean "Oh rain, rain, rain, Oh peasants' children, Oh Mr. Bouzekri, Bake my bread early". My research shows the song was originally written as political commentary but has been used more recently as a plea for rain as well- as of right now in 2024, Morocco has been in a 6-year drought. It's also a very common children's song that is widely known in Morocco.

This song is perfect for practicing steady beat and quarter notes and paired eighth notes with my Kindergarten and 1st grade students. After having students copy the woman in the video above to pat the steady beat with the song while they listen, I'll have students practice singing the song while keeping the beat with new moves that the students come up with. First I'll get students to suggest motions that are like rain, then motions that show different parts of making bread. Using themes from the song like this is a great way to get students to solidify the beat while expanding their movement vocabulary. 

To practice quarter and eighth notes, I have students sing just the first line (teaching them the word for "rain"), and the clap with the rhythm of the words to identify the rhythm. I like having students practice notating simple rhythms using rhythm cards like these that I made a few years ago. After we clap with the words, I split them up into small groups, give each group some rhythm cards, and have them place the cards on the floor to match the rhythm of the first line.

Once they can notate the rhythm of the first line, I have students take turns using the same rhythm cards to notate their own 4 beat rhythm pattern, then they choose an instrument to use to play their rhythm as an ostinato while the rest of the class sings the song. I use this to talk about timbre as well: I tell them to think about which instrument sound would match best with a song about rain and try to choose an appropriate instrument to accompany the song rather than choosing an instrument based on what they want to play.

This would also be a great song to practice do, re, and mi, or even to introduce ti. The first 2 lines of the song use only do, re, and mi, and the 3rd line adds ti as well- here is the notation for the simplified melody (without the extra sixteenth passing notes in the last 2 lines):

I've done similar solfege practice with other rain songs by cutting out raindrop shapes in the colors that match my classroom instruments' solfege colors, have students aurally identify the solfege and use the raindrop colors to first put them in a row, then put them on the staff. This also makes it possible for students to then play the melody on an instrument, which is a really great way to show students how solfege skills can apply to real world music making in a concrete way!

I hope you are as excited to use this song in your classroom as I am! If you've used this song before and have other ideas please leave them in the comments. If you want to use this as part of a thematic set of lessons on rain songs around the world, here is my post on lessons with a Japanese rain song:

Stay tuned for more lesson plans using rain songs from other countries coming soon!