Friday, February 7, 2014

Don Gato

I love being a student teacher mentor because it keeps my curriculum fresh. As my student teachers explore books and materials from my shelf, they discover songs and poems that I have overlooked for years! Last fall, I had my first student teacher for just 8 weeks. Ms. Morrison discovered the Mexican song "Don Gato" in an old textbook. (Grade 3, Music Connection from Silver Burdett & Ginn)  The book suggested students play the chord roots on Orff instruments along with the recording. However, the chord progression was very challenging for many of the students in the short amount of time provided in the lesson. Also, the instruments were so loud it was very difficult for the students to hear the recording and stay with the tempo of the song. Although the lesson didn't go as well as planned, it was a great teachable moment and allowed for Ms. Morrison to practice self-reflection.

This fall, I had the pleasure of mentoring a second student teacher for an entire semester! Ms. Moreman and I cotaught "Don Gato" with some modifications. The original goal of the lesson was to teach about a ballad. The students would still learn about a ballad, but we decided the main focus of the lesson would be chord building. We had just studied the order of the musical alphabet with some relay races and small group games. (Click here to learn more about the staff games!) We wanted to reinforce this concept because some students were still struggling to remember that A follows G. We also decided to use Boomwhackers instead of barred instruments. The Boomwhackers were much more quiet and did not overpower the recording. The students LOVED  this lesson!

Lesson Sequence 

  1. Discuss the term "ballad". Play one verse of "Don Gato" at a time, asking students what is happening in the story and how the plot has changed. I display the words of each verse on the flip chart as we discuss it.
  2. Display the slide with "tempo" and "dynamics" definitions. Ask the students when they hear these musical elements change and how that was related to the story. (The music gets quieter and slower when Don Gato dies and louder and faster when he comes back to life.)
  3. Review the definition of "harmony." Using a xylophone, demonstrate how to build a chord by skipping every other letter. Give the students a starting letter and ask them to spell the chord and build a triad (diatonic). Play each triad on the xylophone and ask them if it sounded major or minor.
  4. Divide the class into 4 groups, one for each chord in the song (D minor, C major, G minor, and A major). Each student will play one or two Boomwhackers from their chord.  Ask  to play with a steady beat and then ask them only to play when you point to their chord grouping on the board.
  5. Display the harmonic progression to accompany the song.  Practice the progression in tempo without the music and then try to accompany the recording, remembering to change tempo and dynamics on the appropriate verse. 
  6. We also tried to sing the song without the recording so we could hear the Boomwhackers more clearly. I was able to conduct the groups and Ms. Moreman changed the slides to display the lyrics. (this could easily be a job for a student helper) The students' favorite part, by far, was singing "meow, meow, meow" in each verse.

Music Recording

I used the textbook CD to accompany the Grade 3 Music Connection by Silver Burdett & Ginn. If you don't have that textbook series, you can use the audio from this YouTube video.

How Many Boomwhackers Do You Need?

When I taught this lesson  I used 5 sets of diatonic Boomwhackers and 6 Octavator caps. The small black rectangles represent the octavator caps which lower the pitch of the Boomwhacker a full octave. When teaching the lesson, I challenged the students to guess what the small black rectangles would represent. There was at least one student in each class who remembered the Octavator Caps from a previous lesson.

If you only have diatonic Boomwhackers, the A major and G minor chords will feature only the root and the fifth of the chord. 

If you have 24 kids in a class, each group would have about 6 kids. So, you would need:
  • Group 1: DFA, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 2: CEG, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 3: GD, 3 of each pitch, 3 Octavator caps on G 
  • Group 4: AE, 3 of each pitch, 3 Octavator caps on A
I have since purchased 2 sets of chromatic Boomwhackers. So, next year I plan on using this set up:
  • Group 1: DFA, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 2: CEG, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 3: GBbD, 2 of each pitch with 4 Octavator caps on G and Bb
  • Group 4: AC#E, 2 of each pitch, with 2 Octavator caps on A
 For this set up, you would only need 4 diatonic sets, 2 chromatic sets, and 6 Octavator Caps.

I also purchased a set of bass diatonic Boomwhackers and plan rewarding one student in each group with the big Bass Boomwhackers. These sound best when you place an Octavator cap on them, hold them vertical, and tap the cap end on the carpeted floor.

 ***In the uploaded flipchart, both versions are available (with and without Bb and C#). You can choose which version to use according to your available resources.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Free App Alert! Rhythm Cat Pro

I posted about the Rhythm Cat app in 2012. To read that post and learn more about the app, click here. I had downloaded the Lite version which was free. To unlock more levels, you had to purchase the Pro version for $4.99. Thanks to AppShopper, I have just been notified that Rhythm Cat Pro is currently marked down and is FREE to download! ENJOY!

Click here to learn more about AppShopper so you can make your own wish list and be notified of future price drops!