Sunday, October 12, 2014
The Kodály philosophy is widely known as being very sequential. Kodály-inspired educators teach simpler rhythms and solfa first--those rhythms and solfa common in folk songs of the students' mother tongue.
The sequence of a Kodály-inspired classroom was very appealing to me as a new teacher. It wasn't until several years into my teaching, though, that I began to understand the sequence within the sequence.
After students learn ta and ti-ti, for example, we could immediately start throwing improvisation and instrumental activities at them...but they may not be very successful. By first starting with easier practice activities, such as reading rhythms and copying patterns, then sequencing to more difficult practice activities, such as composition and improvisation, students can be much more successful. Here is a typical order in which I practice rhythm. For this list, I'll use the example of ta and ti-ti, but it could be used with any rhythm:
Reading rhythms: After presenting ta and ti-ti, I have students simply read from rhythm flashcards, or read a rhythm of a known song from the board. I do this immediately after presentation, as well as in the beginning of the next lesson, to review with students what they just learned.
Writing rhythms: Students can use pencil and paper or dry erase boards and markers to copy rhythms from the board or from flashcards. This isn't dictation yet--they are simply copying rhythms that you either show them or speak. Much like a Kindergartener writing the letter "a" several times, this gets students comfortable with writing the rhythms.
Playing rhythms: Students can use non-pitched percussion to play patterns from flashcards, or can use barred instruments in C pentatonic to play the rhythm patterns on any bars they want. Sometimes students can say and clap patterns, but having a wood block in their hand is a bit different! Being able to transfer their knowledge to actually playing an instrument is a needed step.
Identifying rhythms: Students can either encode a pattern by hearing it then saying it aloud, saying the rhythm of a known song or chant back at you, or hearing a pattern then choosing which pattern it is (from a list of three patterns, for example.) This is almost dictating, but not quite, as they may be choosing from a list--like a multiple choice test--or may be identifying the rhythm without actually writing it down.
Dictating rhythms: Now students can finally hear a pattern, then either write it with pencil and paper or dictate the pattern with rhythm manipulatives, such as popsicle sticks.
Creating rhythms: Students now can transfer their knowledge and can create rhythm patterns of their own, perhaps by improvising spoken rhythms, or perhaps by composing their own 16-beat piece with known rhythms. The possibilities are endless!
This is not to say that you have to start at reading and work your way to creating in that exact order. In order to differentiate for your higher learners, you will want to have some challenging opportunities in early practice, and for your struggling learners, you will want to have some simpler opportunities in late practice. But having this order in my mind has really helped me unpack exactly what I want my students to do, and when. I just created this set to use with my own students when practicing ta and ti-ti; each week, I will add the next level of complexity.
Do you have any other steps in your sequence within a sequence? Feel free to comment below with any more ideas, and have a great day!
Sunday, September 28, 2014
Wednesday, September 24, 2014
Game: line game with a leader (I always am the first leader to model the game). Everyone follows the person in front of them, holding hands. The leader leads the group around in a spiral shape so that eventually the leader is caught in the middle. This is all the while singing the first verse. During the second verse the leader leads in the opposite direction in order to unwind yourself.
Here are a couple other variations you could play:
* One of the children could be the leader and go around in any direction with the children following
* In a circle, walk in one direction. At the end of the song, all jump and sing verse two walking in the opposite direction.
* In a circle, ask the students to walk to the right as they sing but when they hear a signal, such as a drum played by the teacher, they should change directions and go the other way.
* This little song, too, works well with an open 5th bordon on the xylophone.
Now, if you've been around the Kodály world long enough I'm sure you've run across this gem quite a few times:
"Applesauce Rock" is also a fun song that you can find in the Amidon's book, "I'm Growing Up." It's sung to the tune of "Peanut Butter and Jelly" and was made up by Andy Davis. For copyright reasons I'm not including it in this post, but do check out that book by the Amidons and Andy Davis. It's a fabulous early childhood resource!
I hope you all have a fruitful and fun fall!
Sunday, September 21, 2014
- Step the beat as they sing the song
- Step the beat and clap the rhythm at the same time
- Inner hear the song as they march the beat. At a given signal, have them sing the song out loud.
Sunday, September 14, 2014
Like others, I did have concerns. I read several blog posts about concerns (like the posts here, here, and here, although I should note that these blog posts are written about the draft, not the final standards; a newer blog post about the final draft can be read here.)
I could write about my concerns here, but honestly, since the standards are final, and I'm a half-glass-full kind of girl, I'd rather move onto the acceptance phase and talk about how we can use them in a Kodaly-inspired classroom. I am not required at this point to align my lessons with the national standards (as my school district uses Ohio's learning standards) but I decided to align my lessons with the standards as a way to really start to understand them, and I can honestly say they've made my lessons more deliberate and creative. So that's a good thing, right?!?! Here are three strategies for understanding the standards within a Kodaly context:
Even after reading the standards, though, it was hard for me to really comprehend what exactly they meant until I typed up a list for each grade level and each strand. Just like writing out folk songs for retrievals help us learn that folk song, writing or typing out the standards by grade level and strand helped me wrap my mind around each standard.
And here is an example of the more detailed alignment:
By looking specifically at each of my lessons and how it is aligned to the standards, it has helped me not only understand the standards better, but make small changes to my lesson to better align (more on that in a minute!)
Here are three strategies for using the standards to improve your teaching:
There are opportunities for alignment, making small changes, throughout all of the standards. Whether it be giving students a list of known songs to decide which they'd like to perform (and then explain why), or after listening to Haydn's "Surprise Symphony" for ta and ti-ti, having students describe how the music sounds, the standards are full of opportunities for reflective and thoughtful discussions, as well as opportunities to give students choices.
I had to read that a few times over to understand what it meant, and I'm in my sixteenth year of teaching music. I really wish the committee had included simpler language for those music teachers just starting out. I wish they had thought about "student-friendly language," a term that I have often heard in my district.
The essential questions are also very wordy and at times, confusing. I found that going through them one by one and thinking about how I would word the questions to students was a very helpful process (I created this Essential Questions set with student-friendly language for others AND for me!)
Lastly, the cornerstone assessment they've included on the website has many good ideas about how to transfer the standards into reality...but they are also, in my opinion, complicated and overwhelming. I've always been taught to keep assessments focused and simple, and the assessments they included seem like they are trying to do way too many things. However, since I am a half-glass-full kind of girl, I'm going to look at the ideas and songs presented and make them my own. I love the idea of giving students a list of known songs and having them choose to perform one, then explain why they chose it. I love the fact that the assessment calls for students to sing on pitch with proper performance etiquette. There are a lot of great things that can be pulled from the information they've presented.
Think about how what you've read can be simplified and adapted. I'm not encouraging anyone to make the standards easier--instead, simply to reword the standards and assessments as needed to make them accessible to both you and your students.
I know the standards can be quite overwhelming, but I hope this has helped you figure out how you can integrate them into your own teaching. I feel like the work I've done so far with them really has made me more intentional with students, to integrate more creativity and reflective questioning into my Kodaly-inspired lessons. I plan on blogging about more specific lesson ideas as they relate to the standards in a future blog post. I have also heard that information about specific musical skills, and where they fall within the standards, will soon be coming from NCCAS.
How have you used the new standards in your Kodaly-inspired classroom?
Sunday, September 7, 2014
I hope that, by now, you have all enjoyed a fabulous start to your school year! I know that the excitement and energy that accompany the first days of school are among my very favorite things!
I don't know about you, but I know that I always approach the school year feeling totally on top of things, and then that feeling begins to... fade... far, far away. Assemblies, safety drills, field trips, committee meetings, conferences, reports cards and so many other things cloud my mind and result in a never ending battle to stay organized and prepared. However, staying organized is SO critical to your student's success in the Kodály sequence. Christopher wrote an awesome post discussing the importance of reviewing what you have done (among other things!), but that can get tricky if you don't know which class did what! So, today, I am going to share...
Like most Kodály teachers, I carefully craft year-plans, concept plans and daily lesson plans. However, that doesn't mean that things always go according to plan! There are many times where, for one reason or another, classes get on different lessons, activities work in one class but not another, students need extra time for an activity, etc., etc., etc. With hundreds of students walking in our door each week, I sometimes find it hard to remember who did what and when. However, I have found a few handy tricks that have made a big difference in keeping me organized and ready for each class!
I assign all of my lessons with a number rather than labeling them by date or weekday.
I have a binder for each grade level, where I keep my lessons in numerical order. In order to keep track of where my classes are, I created a table that I laminated to write down which lesson each class is on. I use a dry erase marker so that I can update it every day.
At the end of each day, I update my chart so I know exactly what lesson we left off on. This way, if a class was gone for a field trip or had to miss music for another reason, I know what lesson I need to turn to.
I absolutely adore To-Do lists. I write them during staff meetings (I mean...I always pay attention during staff meetings), color code them by activity, keep them on my phone, ipad, and computer, and love the satisfaction that comes from checking off one of my boxes. However, I have found that keeping a "Done" list is extremely helpful when it comes to staying organized. I use my song-list and concept plans to check off activities and songs as we cover them in class. That way, I don't accidentally repeat a song or activity with a class.
When doing activities from activity books or other resources, I will put a sticky note on the page with the date and grade I used it for. That way, I know exactly what I have used when I go hunting for a new activity to teach!
You've read it here before... year plans are awesome. I am a HUGE fan of having a year plan to use as a guide as you design your sequences and plan your lessons. However, it can be hard (if not impossible) to design a year plan when you are new to a building, new to Kodály, or even just beginning your career.
That being said, even if you can't plan your whole year in detail, you can do a few things to keep the big picture in mind. The core of my year plan is my melodic and rhythmic content. However, I totally love all the cute things, celebrations, and other fun that comes with working in an elementary school. So, I have a crate in my classroom that has a binder or folder for every month of the year where I keep different activities that I want to be sure to include in that month. For example, in my March Binder I have...
- A list of my favorite St. Patricks' Day children's books
- A St. Patrick's Day song and dance
- Shamrock rhythm flashcards (printed and stored inside a sheet-protector)
- St. Patrick's Day beat strips
- A "Music in Our Schools" poster that I like to display
- A reminder to sing "No More Pie" on Pi Day (3/14)
- A list of recordings of my favorite Irish Music
It seems that every school year is crazier than the last, but I hope that these ideas can help you keep that "beginning of the school year calm" going throughout the year!
Thursday, September 4, 2014
That’s general, so let’s look at how this plays out.
Source: Erdei, I., Knowles, F., & Bacon, D. (Eds.) (2002). My singing bird: 150 folk songs from the Anglo-American, African-American, English, Scottish, and Irish traditions. Columbus, OH: Kodály Center of America.
Source: Erdei, P., & Komlos, K. (Eds.) (1974). 150 American folk songs to sing, read, and play. New York City:
At this point in my lesson, then, they're moving onto the next activity, which will usually will include some sort of movement -- a singing game or play party, folk dance, or instrumental practice activity.
Happy lesson planning!