Archive for the ‘arranging/composing’ Category

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Folk Song Arranging (and my first TPT upload)

April 8, 2013

When you look at the cognitive domain of the revised Bloom’s Taxonomy the most complex level of critical thinking involves the creation of something new, utilizing the recently acquired  knowledge. In Music, the learning activities that best allow students to engage in this mode of thinking are those that involve improvisation, composition and arranging.  Improvisation is often overlooked as too difficult or set to the side in the interest of time. (There are already so many concepts and performances to squeeze into the curriculum!) It is vitally important that we give our students opportunities to improvise…but that is for another post.

Composition activities are more often completed in class. They can be as simple as writing a four beat rhythm pattern to play on a hand drum, or as complex as writing a song in Rondo form in la pentatonic on the music staff with lyrics based on the current Social Studies unit.

Song arranging falls through the cracks so often that, when I mention doing an arranging project at my school, many music educators look at me with surprise. Why is this?  Arranging a know song or songs into a unique performance is a wonderful way to get your students’ creative juices flowing and gives you a chance to see how well they are synthesizing the elements you have recently worked into the curriculum.  An arranging project can highlight and enable you to assess a multitude of musical elements:

  • form
  • texture
  • the use of the singing voice
  • the ability to sing and play simultaneously
  • effective use of dynamics
  • the ability to write and perform a specific rhythm through the creation of ostinati
  • steady beat (while performing the arrangement)
  • ensemble skills
  • part singing…

The list could continue on and on.

Recently in my own classroom I have had my 3rd graders working on a group project arranging three known folk songs into a new performance. They will be performing the three songs (Rocky Mountain, Dinah, and Great Big House in New Orleans) in the Spring Concert. What better way for the kids to become deeply acquainted with the songs? Each group consists of three or four students. Their goal is to create and perform the three folk songs in a new and different way.  They must have a bordun and an ostinato in their performance, and all group members must sing. They can sing in unison or layer the songs to create harmony. The beauty of using do-pentatonic folk songs is that when sung simultaneously they create a lovely sound. To help the students to achieve their musical goals as smoothly and successfully as possible, I created a packet.  Each group would receive these materials at the beginning of the project when I explain what they need to accomplish. Each step is laid out for the students so that they know exactly what to do and in which order.  I have created manipulatives to assist the students in developing the form of their piece.  There is a graphic organizer to use in the planning phase, and which will act as a map of their arrangement.

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I have led students through projects like this in the past, but this year is the first time I am using these materials. The students have a much clearer understanding of what they need to do in class and I am freed up to assist more with the creation process.  While I am using those three particular folk songs, the forms I created do not specify the repertoire, leaving it open for use with different grade levels and selections of repertoire.

If you are interested in downloading these materials, please visit my new TeachersPayTeachers store. Since this is my first item posted on the site it is FREE! Check it out and please let me know what you think.

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The manipulatives were made using graphics from My Journey to 5th Grade.

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