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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Bring Spring to the Music Room!

I know I'm a little late to the party, but I just have not been able to get into the spring spirit with all the snow and freezing temperatures we've had this year! Now that the sun is finally out and the flowers are starting to bloom, I'm ready to talk spring.

It can be hard to keep students' (and your own!) attention on a lesson when the weather finally starts to get warm. One way to keep everyone engaged is to incorporate elements of springtime into your lesson. Today I want to share some of my favorite ways to bring spring to the music room- I hope you and your students can revel in the beauty of spring while learning and having fun!

1. Rain songs and soundscapes

One of my favorite themes to use in my springtime lessons is actually the thing I dislike most about spring itself: rain! Of course "Rain, Rain, Go Away" is a great song to use for teaching and practicing steady beat, quarter and eighth notes, sol, mi, and la, E, G, and A on recorder, and so much more (here's my lesson on sol/ mi and here's my lesson for beginning recorder, both using this song). I also love comparing and contrasting "Rain, Rain" with the Japanese song "Ame, Ame", which is in 6/8 time and talks about music in a positive way (here are my lesson plans and materials for that song).

Besides songs, I also like to incorporate rain as an introduction to the concept of soundscapes. We create a body percussion rain storm by having students first snap their fingers, then gradually change to rubbing their hands together, then gradually change to patting their legs, then gradually change to stomping, then go backwards through the sequence until they get back to snapping. It always gets lots of oohs and ahhs from students, and it's an easy way to help students understand the concept of setting a scene using sounds. 

2. Flowers

Of course it wouldn't be spring without talking about flowers! I absolutely love teaching my students the song, "Sakura" on recorders and/or barred instruments. Having grown up in Japan myself, the song is near and dear to my heart, and I find students consistently respond well to its simple beauty. The song is also perfect for talking about the pentatonic scale, triple meter. and introducing low C and F on recorder- here are my lesson plans and materials if you want to see what I do.

Flowers are also an easy element to use in composition. Flower mini erasers are great to use as composition manipulatives (read more about manipulatives here), and it's also fun to use flower names as the basis for a speech composition, or to use to create rhythms (lily = two eighth notes, sunflower = eighth-sixteenth-sixteenth or quarter-eighth-eighth etc). 

3. Spring manipulatives

Besides flowers, I have mini erasers in other spring-related shapes like frogs and umbrellas that I like to use as composition manipulatives. I've also cut out raindrop shapes and used those for all sorts of visuals- small ones can be used as note heads in composition, large ones can be used to write 1-measure rhythms or solfege patterns for students to read (put a bunch in a rainboot and have them take turns pulling one out to read!), or I've also cut them out in a few different colors to have students visually represent the form of the music (like Handel's Water Music!)- A section = red raindrop, B = blue etc.

4. Holidays

Of course there are plenty of spring holidays that are great to incorporate into the music room. I have taught Irish music for St. Patrick's Day (see my lessons here), used rabbit songs like John the Rabbit, Rabbit Ain't Got No Tail, and Santoki for Easter, and taught students a Maypole dance for May Day.

Spring seems to get shorter and shorter every year.... is it because I'm getting old or is this really happening?!? I hope you and your students find lots of ways to soak up springtime while you can!

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