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Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Teaching Do / Re / Mi and Pentatonic

I'm returning to my series on melodic teaching strategies from years ago today with my favorite lesson ideas for focusing on the do/ re/ mi pitch set. If you sequence your teaching by starting with these 3 notes, you can use these ideas to work on just do/re/mi. If you, like me, start with mi/ sol/ la and add do and re afterwards to make a pentatonic scale, you can use them that way as well.

After focusing on mi / sol / la in 2nd grade, I add do and re in 3rd grade. There are TONS of pentatonic songs using do, re, mi, sol, and la from all over the world that are perfect for practicing those pitches, but to first introduce do and re, especially in relation to mi, I like to use the song "Zudio" because it's a great way to get students moving actively with the song and repeating it over and over again!

There are so many super fun movement games to do with this song! If you are going to devote enough time to the lessons to do the full song, this game is so much fun (I like teaching just the one part in the beginning of the year with a quick game and then coming back to this full version at the end of the year- this game is perfect for the pre-summer wiggles)! This kind of movement is also really fun and much faster to learn, especially if you're just focusing on the 2 parts of the song notated above. I like to have students partner up and do a simple 4-beat clapping pattern (clap your own hands on beats 1 and 3, cross to clap each other's right hands on beat 2 and each other's left hands on beat 4) for "here we go" and do a simple hand jive for "step back Sally".

If you're following the pitch sequence to introduce do re mi first, this song works great because you can focus on the last 3 notes of the phrase where it says "all night long" and identify just those pitches. If you have students learning mi sol and la first and are then adding do and re, which is what I do, I still start with "all night long" but then go back and identify the solfege of the first line, "here we go Zudio" to have students identify the sol and la in the melody as well.

Once we've practiced singing the note names in the song, I introduce the "me dodo" game. If you have seen my previous post on mi/ sol/ la, then this game works the exact same way the "salami" game does: I sing a 3-note phrase with hand signs and students echo it back, but if I sing mi-do-do (which sounds like I'm calling myself a "dodo") then they are not supposed to sing it back. I of course mix all 5 pitches into the phrases they echo so that they get plenty of practice with all of them! Once they can consistently sing the pitches with correct hand signs, I up the ante. First I sing the notes with hand signs but humming instead of singing the names, and they have to sing them back with the note names. Then I take away my hands and continue humming and have them sing and sign the notes back, and then I use just my hands and have them sing and sign the notes back. It takes quite a bit of concentration!

As with the other solfege pitches that I introduce, the last step is to practice notating. To practice with all 5 notes (which can be pretty overwhelming at first), I bring back the monster magnets that I introduce in 2nd grade, and then later have them use solfege stickers, color-coded to match our boomwhackers, to practice translating a rhythmic composition to a melodic one. If you haven't already, be sure to read about both of those DIY manipulatives in the posts below- they are so effective in helping kids see the different pitches more concretely and keeping them engaged while they practice notation! 

In my case, since students now know the 5 pitches of a pentatonic scale after introducing do and re, this is also when we first talk about the word and concept of "pentatonic" music. The best way that I've found to have students grasp the idea of pentatonic melodies and see how versatile that set of pitches can be is to have them improvise with pentatonic notes on barred percussion. We get out the xylophones and remove the F and B bars (the "burgers and fries") and then take turns making up whatever they want for 4 beats each. They're always surprised at how they can use those notes in any order or combination and still sound like "real music"! 

After those lessons, the rest of the year is spent practicing and reviewing do, re, mi, sol, and la and learning lots of pentatonic songs! If you missed them, be sure to check out my previous posts on introducing sol/mi in 1st grade and introducing la in 2nd gradeAnd if you want to see the full lesson plans for how I teach the pentatonic pitches throughout the year in third grade, along with all the materials I use, you'll find them in my 3rd grade curriculum set here. All of my posts on teaching melodic concepts, including solfege, pitch letter names, and more are compiled in this post.

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