Friday, October 28, 2016

Year 7: Week 10 – Hoedown

I spent a good chunk of my 3rd grade classes this week, galloping around the stage pretending to chase cows.

Welcome to music education.

My school periodically has sharing assemblies. These are opportunities for people to share with the school what they are learning about in class. The nice thing about these presentations is that they do not need to be big polished productions. Previous sharing assemblies have featured 1st graders demonstrating how they practice their handwriting. This is a good opportunity for sharing musical things that don’t fit into our regularly scheduled performance.

This year, I’m really committed to doing more movement in my music classes. Movement activities and dancing is one of the most important ways for students to understand musical concepts and interact with music. Most of all, learning about music through movement is a lot of fun. The more I teach, the more I realize that problems that I hear in songs can be best addressed through movement activities. For example, my 5th graders are learning a song in ¾. They aren’t feeling the beat and they song keeps slowing down whenever they sing it. Simply having them clap a three-beat pattern while they sing has given the song a sense of pulse and immediately fixed the problem of the piece slowing down.

While I'm doing all of these movement activities and I keep thinking back to this dance that I learned six years ago during a music education workshop. One of the teachers was really into movement activities and folk dances. She taught us a dance that went along with “Hoedown” from the Copland ballet Rodeo (most people know it as the Beef commercial song). I could only piece together parts of this dance so I went through my old class notes, found her email and asked her for some help. She responded within a day and sent me the choreography she had created.

The majority of the music education community is like this. They help when they can without asking for monetary compensation. It’s been six years since I work with this teacher and I had not kept in touch, but she was more than happy to help me out. I try to do the same for others as I freely share ideas and arrangements that I create with other teachers.

I made some changes to the choreography and we got to learn the dance to this song. Yes, 3rd grade is kind of borderline for galloping around the stage and pretending to lasso and chase cattle. However since my kids had gotten so into doing movement activities earlier in the year and got to know how fun it could be, the vast majority of the kids went for it. It helped that without any shame or hesitation, I did the steps along with them.

This week we did it on stage with each class separately and next week I get to practice it with the whole grade followed by a performance the next day. Yes, sixty 3rd graders galloping around a stage. I never thought I would be doing something like this as a music educator, but I’m making it happen. Even if the performance doesn't happen, I’d still feel satisfied with the work we done and the fun we had in the process.

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