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Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Colombian Music in Elementary Music Class

Although I use music from a variety of cultures and traditions regularly in all grade levels throughout the school year, I spend about a month focusing on the music from a particular culture in each grade. I think it is so important for students to have the opportunity to really experience and appreciate the music (and, by extension, other elements) of a particular culture rather than always just including cursory overview lessons in elementary music (such as a "world music" lesson where students listen to, perform, or otherwise learn about music from a bunch of different cultures all in a short period of time). It can be difficult, however, to teach music from an unfamiliar tradition at more than a surface level if you as the teacher don't have experience with the culture yourself! I hope that these resources and ideas will give you the courage to delve deeper with your students- it really is a valuable learning experience for both students and teacher when you do!

Today's I'm bringing back this series I started back in 2016 to share some lesson ideas for another country I'll be sharing with my 1st graders this year: Colombia! Obviously with the Encanto craze I couldn't pass up the opportunity to change up our usual focus on Bolivia with them this year. If you haven't seen my previous posts on music lesson ideas for music from other cultures, I'm including links to all of my other articles with focuses on other countries / cultures around the world at the end of this post so be sure to read to the end!

To make the connection to the movie, I'm starting by playing the song, "Colombia, Mi Encanto", then showing them this short interview with the Colombian singer Carlos Vives and composer Lin Manuel Miranda. In the interview, they both mention that the song is written in the style of a Vallenato. To introduce students to the genre, I'm showing them the first 2 minutes or so of this video:

Then we'll watch this short example of a traditional Vallenato, and review quarter note/ eighth note/ quarter rest rhythms by having students play the top rhythm on the ridged rhythm sticks (like the guacharaca) and the bottom rhythm on a drum (like the caja) with the recording.

Another famous style of music from Colombia is Cumbia! We will learn some basic Cumbia dance steps with this tutorial to try along with the audio for the full song mentioned in the video or this Cumbia song for younger ages (there are a lot more tutorials for different instrument parts available in the same playlist with the dance step tutorial if you want to take this a step further, especially with older grades). 

We will also be playing the game, Juguemos En El Bosque. We will sing the verses in Spanish but the call and response part, where the class asks the wolf if they're there and the wolf responds, we will do in English. This would be perfect to connect to the song "We Are Dancing In the Forest" too, as the idea is very similar! Basically everyone sings the song while going around the circle, with the "wolf" in the middle. At the end, they sing to the wolf, "wolf, are you there?" and the wolf either answers, "I'm putting on my pants/ shirt/ shoes", or says "I'm ready to eat you" and tags someone. To review sol and mi, students will sing "wolf, are you there?" on sol-mi-sol-sol-mi. You can see an example of students singing like this (and a variation on a different game you can use in the classroom if you don't want everyone running around as much) in this video:

Those are some of the ideas I plan to use to introduce my 1st graders to the music of Colombia, but there are so many other great ideas out there, especially since the movie came out! If you have other ideas that you've used in elementary music class, please share them in the comments below. If you want to see my other posts on lesson ideas for exploring music from other cultures, here are those posts:

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