"Kristen does a great job of engaging the kids balanced with a command of the group. She incorporates educational aspects of music that are particularly appropriate for PreK kids - it's very exciting to watch! She uses active and quality songs that kids continued to sing, even after the class is over. The children are SO excited when they realize it is Ms. Kristen (music) day! I think she provides a balanced and exciting musical experience for the kids and is an asset to The Chapel's preschool program."
One of our oldest claims to music in America is folk. Storytelling passed orally and musically between generations does a body good! It gives even the youngest child incredible vocabulary, pre-reading skills, rhythm, melody and a sense of belonging. Folk music is quite family oriented. -----> Think Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie. Folk music has been drawn up through the ages, and often students get to experience a lot of it during the month of March - St. Patrick's Day and all of it's glorious Celtic wonder. Cue William B. Yeats, one of Ireland's most beloved poets.
Down by the Salley Gardens might evoke a sense of comfortable yearning if you are a fan of Yeats. The words are almost 150 years old and the music rearranged by Yeats himself. The tune is quite simple in composition. As Yeats acknowledges, the melody is much older, that he heard sung by a village woman in Sligo years before his attempt at reconstructing it. Understanding the genius of Mr. Yeats, it's easy to see why his philosophy of simple integrity in music and poetry leads this song to be among the top Irish tunes to be recorded.
What does this have to do with music education?
Bringing folk music to the classroom is an incredibly rewarding experience! Here's how I manage to fit it into my class schedule within a 45 minute period:
1. Warm Ups (vocal exploration, stretching, breath, etc.) - I also use the time to take attendance visually, putting a mark by names of missing students. (6 minutes)
2. Movement/Listening - I love Move It by John Feierabend. I also incoporate listening maps if needed. I love the animated ones! (4-6 minutes)
3. Conversational Solfege - another goody by John Feierabend. This time incorporates rhythm and tonal patterns, games on those patterns, composing, etc. (12-15 minutes)
4. Repertoire - whichever song is being learned for an upcoming concert or just for literacy. I stick with octavos from JWPepper.com and rely on composers/arrangers such as Mary Lynn Lightfoot, Jim Pulopoulas, Ruth Schram, Victor Johnson, etc. to maintain choral standards. Instruments such as Orff accomaniment are included during this period. (10-12 minutes)
5. Folk Dancing - I like to save this for towards the end of class! Depending on where we are in the dance we often stick with a 'practice tempo' before branching into full music. To do this effectively the students learn the melody on a neutral syllable and sing while stepping, or we learn how to harmonize (older students) and they are given free reign to choose their harmonies (still using a neutral syllable or humming). The latter allows for quick assessment as a I walk around and listen in to their individual voices. Once older students know the dance without my help, I add in the Ukulele accompaniment by dividing the class into two or three groups and have the dancers accompanied by the ukes. Ukuleles are playing chord progressions and not the main melody! (8-10 minutes)
6. Exit Tickets - Sometimes these are tangible tickets for their homework, due by next class period (gives them one full week), other times is oral/aural dip-stick assessment: I sing patterns or perform rhythms for echo. Something chosen from the lesson that day.
This schedule brings you to a 45 minute class period that's quite full of movement, singing, playing, gaming, listening and assessments. Does it get much better?