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Tuesday, March 20, 2018

My Favorite Lesson for Teaching Sol / Mi

One of the most fundamental concepts in general music teaching is melody/ pitch. When I'm creating my scope and sequence for all of the grade levels I teach, I always start by mapping out the rhythm and pitch elements I'll be introducing in each grade level. Although there are variation within different methodologies for the exact sequence in which specific pitches are introduced, I wanted to share some of my favorite lessons for introducing each pitch set in the order that I teach them. Today I'm starting with the first two notes I introduce in first grade: mi and sol.

Of course before I introduce the specific notes mi and sol, I spend a lot of time in kindergarten teaching high and low, along with other fundamental musical concepts. If you want to see the lessons I use to teach high and low, here is my post on that:

Once we get to first grade, it's time to start identifying specific pitches. I like starting with sol and mi because when we talk about notation it's easy to see the higher and lower notes and practice writing them on lines or spaces, and because so many playground chants are sung/spoken on mi and sol. I start by teaching students the song, "Rain, Rain, Go Away":

I like using this song, even though it has other pitches besides mi and sol, for 2 reasons: 
  1. It uses quarter and eighth notes, so I can review those rhythms with the same song, and
  2. I can have them repeat the song several times and keep it fun by changing out the name in the second line ("little ___ wants to play") for different students' names.
After using the song to practice steady beat and review rhythms, I have students sing the first measure and have the class identify which notes are the "high note" and which are the "low note", then have them sing the measure with the words "high" and "low" for the corresponding notes. While they are singing it that way, I use the Curwen hand signs for sol and mi to show "high" and "low". Then I have them practice identifying the difference between the high and low notes by having students echo me as I sing 3-note patterns on the two notes. I ask them to show the high and low notes with their hands while we do it. After the first few patterns, I hum the notes and have students sing it back on "high" and "low" to see if they can hear the difference.

Once I'm confident that the majority of the students can differentiate the two pitches aurally, I introduce the names of the notes: mi and sol. Then we go back and repeat the process: identify which notes are which in the first measure and sing the notes on "mi" and "sol" with hand signs, then echo 3-note patterns on mi/sol. 

Once students can identify mi and sol and sing them with the correct names and hand signs, I show them how to write the notes. I use a floor staff (masking tape lines on the floor) and have students place bean bags on the higher or lower lines to match the notes I sing, then have them stand on the matching lines, then repeat the process putting mi and sol in the spaces. I tell students that mi and sol are partners- they always follow each other to be either space notes or line notes- but sol is always one spot higher than mi. Once they get some practice writing the notes in different ways, it's fun to turn it into a race! I'll sing a 3-note pattern and have the the students race to place bean bags on the correct lines/spaces. 

There are of course plenty more great songs to use to practice mi and sol- 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)! I'll be sharing more favorite lessons for other pitch sets in future posts, so be sure to stay tuned ;) And if you want to see the full lesson plans for how I teach mi and sol throughout the year in first grade, along with all the materials I use, you'll find them in my 1st grade curriculum set here.

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