It’s October, a Composing Activity
It’s October is a composing activity for early elementary and young beginning students. It has been a long time since I posted a composing activity and I have never posted one for this time of the year. The one I am posting today is easy enough for students who just started lessons.
Students can compose this on the black or white keys. Below the rhythm there are some “leaves” for students to write in finger numbers to compose their melody. Depending on the age, it might take more than one week, so take your time. Please feel free to use both hands. Each line can be labeled right or left hand. At first I had some of the stems going down, but I changed it so the young composer can make that decision!
This also helps students learn their finger numbers!
Lots of Goofs!
Have you ever worked on composing with your students and noticed how much trouble they have with all the little rules about symbol placement? Sometimes students ask me why it is so important to put everything in the exact place, and I remind them that music notation has been around for hundreds of years and used by people all over the world. We are very precise so it will stay that way.
This sheet will also help students who are preparing for theory exams. As a state theory grader for many years, I noticed in particular that students put whole and half rests on the wrong line, stems on the wrong side and in the wrong direction, accidentals after the note, and flags are all over the place!
I made this for students who are about 9 and 10 years old and taking level 4 of the Texas State Theory Test, but one of my younger students asked if I would make an easier version because he thought it looked like fun. If you have any ideas of what should be on an easier version for 6 and 7 year olds, leave a comment and I’ll see what I can do!
Front BackEaster Egg Hunt
You might have seen this game last year, but I am posting it again for teachers new to this site. You will have to print on both sides, so be sure to adjust your printer settings carefully before you start. Cut them out and hide the eggs around your studio. Your younger students will be so excited when you tell them they are going on an Easter egg hunt! When they find an egg, they clap or tap the rhythm. If your students can’t clap 8th notes, print only the first side and write in the rhythms you want to use. It is a fun diversion and a nice treat at the end of a lesson. Plus, students get to practice reading rhythms! If Easter eggs are not appropriate for your students, give me a suggestion and I might be able to come up with something else.
As an aside, and coming from a music education specialist, *quarter, quarter, two eighths, quarter*, is the easiest rhythm pattern for children to clap. It is the first rhythm clapping pattern I start with. Just because eighth notes are not in beginning piano books doesn’t mean you have to wait for the second or third year of piano to learn them. Students can learn all sorts of rhythm patterns before they actually play them in their music, using syllables or words to clap the rhythm.
Here are some more Easter season activities from my website, including two composing activities for beginners. In the Music section of my website, www.susanparadis.com you can also find some beginning hymns you might be able to use. I also have a Mother’s Day composing printable.
Staff Paper for Student Compositions
Over the weekend I had a bunch of student compositions that I promised I would engrave in Finale. It took me a very long time as I shuffled through different size copies that I could barely read. Some didn’t have student names and I had to guess who they belonged to. As I was working, I reminded myself that a few things would help make it easier:
- Write their name, date, and the title of their piece on each page.
- Number each page.
- Always give their piece some sort of title.
- Remind students to always number their measures.
- Staple their pages together so they won’t get lost.
- Use pencil, but go over it with a darker pencil so I can read it and photocopy it.
It was at this point that I decided to make some new staff paper for them with a grand staff, bar lines, the measures numbered, and a place for their name, title, and date. I posted it here in case other teachers are interested. Perhaps some of the other web sites on my blog roll have paper like this, and I have to admit I forgot to check. I was working in Finale at the time and this just popped right out!
I’m going to try this out with my students and see how it goes. Over time, if I see some changes that need to be made, I’ll revise it.
There are actually two pages to this PDF. If you don’t want the measures written in, but still want the grand staff, print only the second page. I also made another set exactly like this with a larger staff for younger children. For those of you who want plain, ordinary blank staff paper, I have previously posted several sizes, so do a search to print out what you want.
Fourth of July Composing Activity
If you have summer students or a summer music camp, you might be interested in this Fourth of July composing activity. This activity may take too long to do in a lesson, so students can do some at home, or you can work on it for several weeks in the lesson.
As an introduction ask the students what instrument they would like to play in a marching band. Ask what is the difference in a band and an orchestra? Often children have never thought of that.
First learn the rhythm by saying and tapping the words. Find the syncopation and circle it if necessary. For younger students you may want to cross through the tied notes. Ask if they know why there are two notes over the word “band”.
Students can write their music in any key; this does not have to be in middle C position. Beginning composers can write just a melody and alternate using the right and left hand on each staff system. Older students will want to write a melody with harmony. If they know tonic and dominate chords, even the 2- note variety, they will want to use them. Encourage all students to play a drum pattern in 5ths as an introduction. They can also improvise a coda using the same rhythm with the drum getting softer as the band marches away in the distance. It might be old hat to us, but not to the student. Elementary children think very concretely.
Remember good composing techniques such as repetition or sequence. I have already built in rhythm repetition. There is nothing wrong with some lines being the same. It is usually safe to use some sort of question and answer form. Often I will tell them to repeat one line and we decide that before we start to compose. This piece has the same rhythm in the first and last line. Show students how the melody can be the same except for the last few notes. The first line can end on the dominant and the last line on the tonic. It is OK to set some limits, like only use steps and repeats, or steps, skips and repeats. This actually helps the students.