As children come to learn more and more about how music is put together, they will begin to have new ears to hear any music. They add critical thinking skills to their musical experiences and will enjoy many kinds of music. They also come to understand and love music as they have hands on experiences creating their own music. They can have that experience through private lessons or by just doing some of the fun lessons that I will share.

The lessons will center on the Elements of Music: Beat, Rhythm, Style, Melody, Expression, Form, Timbre, Harmony, and Texture. You can watch as children become confidant at discussing these elements and hearing them in the music they listen to each day. They will enjoy using these elements to create their own music.

Monday, February 28, 2011

In the Hall of the Mountain King - Lesson 3

This activity is an early elementary activity for grades K-2, possibly 3. The whole purpose of this lesson is to develop the ability to hear music as a series of musical phrases.  This activity also develops an awareness of time and space.  You need two things in order to do this activity: troll dolls and a castle.  At school I had a collection of troll dolls that we used for this.  But when I was volunteering in a second grade class in Santa Rosa, California in 2007, we used the patterns below and in some ways it was more fun because the kids got to make and keep their own troll dolls.  In California I used a simple castle picture and duplicated it 4 times, pasted on the four sides of a cardboard box and made a castle.  At school I actually used a box and cut it out to look like a castle, painted and decorated.  It lasted for many years.

The object of the activity is to have each troll doll move into the castle - one troll per phrase of the music.  The troll begins with the first note of the phrase and ends by jumping into the castle on the last note of the phrase.  He cannot get there early and just wait by the castle.  Neither can he jump in if he is not all the way there.  So you have to really learn to time yourself and think about the phrase.  Halfway through the phrase you have to be halfway there, etc.

There are a total of 21 phrases in this piece.  You can count them on the charts from lesson 2.  I had that many kids in my classes at school so each child did this once.  You'll have to come up with your own plan for doing it.  Will you make 21 trolls?  Will you just use a few trolls and have them repeat?  There is no right or wrong but you for sure will want to do the whole piece of music because the fun begins as the music gets going.

Here are some patterns that you might consider: 

Friday, February 25, 2011

Genie in a Bottle (Swan Lake Ballet by Tchaikovsky) Lesson 1

 Once again we have a marvelous story whose conclusion will be found in a piece of music.  I did this lesson with first and second graders.  I told the story while we listened to the music, pausing after each section.  

Here is the music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1ea90L91eZk

Here is our story:

Once upon a time there was a genie who was living in a bottle.  He had been in that bottle a very long time - over a hundred years!  How do you think he felt about this?  Maybe he likes it there but maybe he doesn't.  Let's listen to the beginning of the music and see how he was feeling:  Listen to the first 30 seconds of the music then hit pause.(You can watch the timer on the youtube video)

What did you find out about the genie?  Yes, he was sad wasn't he. Can you even imagine what that was like?  Kinda like if you had to stay in your bedroom for a long time.

Now listen to the next part of the music and see if he stays sad.  Listen to the next 30 seconds, hit pause again).  Is he still sad?  What do you think is happening?  Yes, this music is hopeful and there is only one thing that makes a genie in a bottle hopeful.  What is that?  Someone is rubbing his bottle!  Let's listen once again and raise your hand when you hear the genie come out.

(This will happen in just a couple more seconds but this time talk as the music continues)  It is so exciting to hear him free at last. As you listen to the music you can just imagine how good he feels.  He is stretching his arms and legs and neck and back.  (1:04-1:35)  Then you can just see him dancing.  He is free.  He is free.  He is so happy. (1:35-1:55)  Then stop the music.

Something bad is about to happen. It is almost as if our genie has forgotten how to be free.  He is going wild and crazy and when that happens to a genie, the bottle will start to pull him back.  Let's see if we can hear the bottle start to pull.  (This starts at about 2:05.  Stop it by 2:15 so you can ask this question:  Who wins?  Let's listen.  Thumbs up the genie wins.  Thumbs down the bottle wins.  Stop when the genie goes back into the bottle.

I see a lot of thumbs up.  Our poor genie is in the bottle again.  But don't worry, he is going to try once last time to get away from that bottle.  Let's listen to the ending and see what happens.

Play through the ending.  Then the children can tell the ending.  Our poor genie has lost his chance at freedom and now he is sadly back in his bottle.

I like this version of the music.  Nothing going on at all.  Just music playing.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Genie in a Bottle (Swan Lake Ballet by Tchaikovsky) Lesson 2

This lesson is an introduction to dance via creative movement.  We have learned the story of the Genie in a Bottle and we know the music.  Now we are going to BE the genie and with creative movement tell the whole story.

I practiced this by myself until I knew it well and could make the changes in the correct places in the music.  Then when I did it with the children I just let them follow me.


1. Begin by curling up in a ball on the floor.  You are in your bottle.
2. You are up on hands and knees and start to wiggle as the genie feels somebody rubbing the bottle
3.  You burst forth from the bottle
4.  You stretch  your arms, legs, neck, etc. as you get used to being out of the bottle.
5.  Now dance around freely, floating with arms outstretched, just enjoying the freedom.
6.  The dancing becomes a bit wild and uncontrolled.
7.  Stop in one place now and put your arms out in front like something is pulling you, Then pull back and forth as you fight against the pull of the bottle.
8.  You slump down right back into the bottle.
9.  On your hands and knees you struggle one last time.
10.  End curled up just as you were at the beginning.

If you do this often enough, the children won't need to follow you any more.  They will know exactly what to do.