Image Map

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Korean 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!

I'm bringing back this series I started back in 2016 to share some lesson ideas for another country I shared with my 4th graders last year: South Korea! In the past I have focused on China with this grade, but students were so interested in Korean culture because of K-pop groups like BTS. 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.

I introduced students to the unit with this video with PSY. Not only does it depict modern and traditional elements from South Korea, but it also includes both traditional and modern music and dance styles:

To give them a quick sense of what life in South Korea is like, we watched this video. I also explained a little bit about the history of the Korean peninsula- most of my students are at least familiar with North and South Korea, but many don't know about the DMZ, or the history of the Japanese occupation, etc. I don't get too much depth with it but I do point out that Seoul, and many other parts of South Korea, have been rebuilt very recently literally from the ground up because of having everything demolished during the wars. I also tell them what I learned while living in Seoul, that South Koreans see North Korea as part of their family and long to be reunited. Many organizations work hard to provide humanitarian efforts to support North Korean people- my students often haven't separated the government from the citizens in their minds, which is an important distinction to make. I use the generic term "Korean" when I talk about traditional music, because those were all before the war and originate in both sides of the peninsula!

Once we had a basic introduction to the country, we dove into Janggu drumming! I showed students the first 3 minutes or so of this tutorial video, then (since this was the 2020-21 school year when I was on a cart going into classrooms) we practiced by using 2 sides of their metal desks as the drum and a pencil as their drum stick- it actually worked pretty well! When I do this again in my music room I'll place a drum on its side on a chair for students to play with their hand, then tap the edge of the chair on the other side with a stick or pencil. Once we learned the basic pattern demonstrated in the video, we practiced playing along with this recording of Arirang.

I emphasized the importance of the song Arirang in Korean culture by showing several versions with students, including this one and this one from North Korea. There are so many other ones you can show though! Then we learned to sing the first verse of the song in Korean, and practiced playing the janggu part while singing. 

We also learned about Korean traditional dancing by moving along with the dance at that starts at the 15:52 mark in this video, then I shared this example of sword dancing, this one of ribbon hat dancing, and of course, this example of fan dancing. If I can get my hands on some decent fans, I will have students try a few of the most common formations used in fan dancing, including the circle (front of the circle is crouched down low, back of the circle is holding their fans up high) and the wave (everyone stands in a line holding their fans out in front, overlapping each other, and then they make a "wave" with them). The students are always so intrigued by this and many of them have at least heard of it before.

One thing I like to talk about with my older students is the different ways different cultures have handled the preservation of tradition and modernization/ globalization. I introduced students to the musical group Leenalchi with the video below, and we talked about the modern and traditional elements that they combine in their music. They are definitely not the K-pop that most Westerners are familiar with but they are quite popular and well-known, especially in South Korea. This video is also one part of a series they did with the Korean Tourism Organization to showcase different parts of the country- I shared the entire playlist of all the other cities in my google classroom for students to watch on their own and see all the other parts of the country outside of Seoul.

Those are just some examples of lesson activities I've used with my students to explore the music of Korea. 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:

No comments :

Post a Comment