I am a member of the MusicEd Blogs Community on Facebook. We are collaborating for the month of February to share our best ideas for teaching melody! If you are not already following us on Facebook, you should click the link above.
For today's post, I am sharing a lesson on how to introduce melodic improvisation with a picture book. I love using children's literature in the classroom. Books are magical and can capture the attention of even the most challenging class. about the book "Leap Back Home to Me" by Laruen Thompson. This book is featured in an old post from 2012, but I have updated my lesson procedures after many years of refining.
If you are not already familiar with this book, watch this short video:
When singing with solfege, I always call do home base. I use this book with second grade to introduce melodic improvisation on the Orff instruments and ending on do.
The book is very rhythmic and is set up in stanzas of 4 lines. In each stanza, the first 3 lines are different places that the baby frog leaps when playing and exploring away from the momma frog. The 4th line always repeats the phrase "leap back home to me." Here's an example:
"Leap frog over the lady bug,
Leap frog over the bee,
Leap frog over the tickly clover,
Then leap back home to me."
I start reading the text in a speaking voice. But, on the last phrase, I sing "mi, mi, re, re, do." The students soon catch on to the form and anticipate the recurring phrase to join in the singing.
After finishing the book, we read notation of the phrase on the board and sing with solfege and hand signs. I also review the form of the poem asking how many places the frog leaps away from the momma before leaping back home. (Answer: 3)
We move to the Orff instruments and set up our instruments in C pentatonic, removing F and B. The students echo short melodies I create with mi, re, and do. We compare these melodies and I ask them which phrases sound finished. We conclude together that it sounds more complete to end on do. Then, we learn the phrase for "leap back home to me" (mmrrd) and perform it again while reading through the book.
To begin melodic improvisation, I have students echo this short phrase with a speaking voice and clicking their mallets-"leap away, leap back home". The rhythm is ta ta ta rest, ta ta ta rest. I instruct students to choose new notes on their instruments for "leap away" but play mi, re, do for "leap back home". We practice this phase several times together and in small sections. Then, I ask them to choose new notes for "leap back" as well. The only note we must play together is "home". We take turns sharing as small groups and then I offer individuals to perform as well. If all the students feel eager to solo, I will provide a steady beat bordun on C and G as we take turns performing quickly, one after the other.
The students always enjoy the book and are eager to explore the instruments and improvise. By the end of the year, I introduce rhythmic building blocks and to get students comfortable improvising with rhythms using quarter notes and paired eighth notes.
I hope you and your students enjoy this lesson! It is one of my favorite activities I look forward to each year. If you would like more ideas about teaching melody, don't forget to follow our MusicEd Blogs collaboration for the entire month of February.