When Mr. Blumenthal’s 5th grade students entered the music room they were delighted and surprised by a prominent new addition to the classroom: a skeletal model. The model on loan from the science department was used to integrate and build on the 5th graders’ knowledge of the skeletal, muscular and respiratory systems during their newest music lesson.
At the start of class, the students participated in a series of breathing and melodic solfège* exercises. The warm-up exercises helped students connect the anatomy and mechanics of these body systems with their own breathing and singing. The students were amazed to see, for instance, how adjustments in their posture could improve their ability to sing. The students practiced standing tall, lengthening their spine and planting their heels and toes firmly, to position themselves to articulate and project when they sang.
The students then performed several rhythm exercises, which required them to listen to, think about, repeat, sight-read and identify syncopated rhythms using the syncopation builder method. The process of breaking down and reconstructing the syncopated rhythms they heard helped when the students began their next singing endeavor.
Students were divided into five ostinato* groups and assigned segments of the song “On the Bus” to practice, perform and record. After recording the five groups, who sang both in rounds and in unison, the class listened to and evaluated their performance, discussing the ways in which their ensemble could be more successful.
Throughout the lesson, students were actively participating and making valuable contributions to the class discussion. By the end, students were not only able to connect the movement of their diaphragm to their ability to sing, but also had successfully demonstrated knowledge of rhythms, accurately sung pitches, analyzed various musical situations and confidently defined key musical terms. These terms—which are highlighted in the body of this report—were added in colorful chalk to the “Music Wall’s Word of the Week” collage and joined musical concepts from prior lessons, such as ‘interlude,’ ‘cresendo,’ and ‘staccato.’
In all, through building their musical skills and knowledge, students were learning another important lesson: cooperation and coordination—which is essential when singing as a unit! We’re confident that the students’ hard work will be apparent in their upcoming—and highly anticipated—spring concert.
Building effective lessons requires access to instructional materials and supplies. This lesson, for instance, utilized a projector, ActiveBoard applications, SMART ® Board technology, a stereo, piano and percussion instruments to involve and engage all students.
We thank you for your support in helping to make the learning moments evident in Mr. Blumenthal’s 5th grade class possible, and ask that you consider sharing this project with others who might like to support music education too.
*Solfege is a pedagogical technique that assigns special syllables to each degree of the musical scale to facilitate intonation, pitch memory and sight-reading (do, re, mi…).
*Ostinato is a short musical phrase or set of notes that repeats to create a sustaining pattern or to interact with other musical ideas.
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