Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tuneful, Beatful, Artful . . . and Play

First Grade playing with movement levels to
create a "Dragonfly Sculpture"
for Poor Little Bug on the Wall.
For about 20 years, I've studied the work of Dr. John Feierabend, who could honestly be called a music education guru at this point in history. His many followers around the country have started a professional development association complete with teacher trainings, conferences, a website, and a Facebook forum. It's a great group and I'm happy to be part of it, but the most exciting thing is that as I spent a couple weeks last summer training to use his curriculum. The part for younger children is called First Steps in Music and the older kids (starting in second grade) use Conversational Solfege.

I'm doing the full implementation with the younger children, and working the older students in gradually as they're ready. TK, Kindergarten and First Grade do activities like "Move It!" where we mirror beautiful movements to match beautiful music in order to feel the artistry the composer shares with listeners. We clap and sing rhythm and pitch patterns with syllables to train brains to understand the language of music so that reading and writing music will be easier later. All of this builds the primary music skills: keeping a steady beat and singing in tune. I'm trying to encourage children to become . . .

Tuneful - able to sing in tune, because everyone who can speak can sing unless there's a severe hearing loss (and even then I've heard people who sing beautifully)

Beatful - a word Dr. Feierabend made up that means to make music with good timing and to be able to listen and stay together with the group

Artful - able to feel the expression of a variety of musical styles and to communicate with musical materials
Kindergarteners playing with
 short and long sound.

These skills build musical independence.

Here is the TK class in Rockwell City demonstrating
beatful and tuneful with the simple song Pitter Patter. They learned it the same day I recorded this.

TK singing Pitter Patter

Play is the other vital piece this year. For years experts have said, "play is the child's work" and "children learn from play". There are so many ways to play in the music room, and this year I'm determined to use as many as possible. Already we've played singing games at every level and student-directed activities for exploring concepts. It's a fun way to teach and learn, but more importantly, the children are becoming more tuneful, beatful, and artful, which means they are gaining musical independence!

Fifth graders did some beautiful work with accelerando, the musical term for speeding up the tempo. Here are a few examples of second grade playing with patterns as they create "Human Machines" in preparation for working with sound patterns called ostinato. Each child used the negative space created by the other people's moving parts and worked together to create a final product that moved together like a machine.

Machine #1

Machine #3

Fourth Graders playing with
sixteenth note rhythms.