Music Teacher Tip #33:
I'm often asked the best way to present a new song. While there is no best way that applies to every piece of music, there are definitely some best practices. I'll give one specific example of how to break down new material here:
1. Almost every song/piece has a hook (motive), or a part that repeats. Ideally this musical idea has elements that are known as well as some that provide a learning opportunity for your students. For example, the song "Shake the Papaya Down" has a rhythmic idea that repeats throughout: ti ta ti ta ta (eighth quarter eighth quarter quarter) If reading a syncopation is new to your students, extract it and present it first during "Teacher Input" separate from the score.
2. Show one measure of this rhythm - no need to repeat it YET.
3. Have students identify what they know and then introduce them to what they don't know.
4. Have them try it out together. Allow them to say it, move to it, etc. (It's always a good idea to let your students experience music via the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.)
5. Once they're comfortable with the new rhythm, ask them if they could still make that rhythm, but now do it on solfege pitches. Introduce the patterns in the song one at a time, but still not in the actual score. In this particular song this same rhythm occurs using many different pitch patterns, for example: mi, sol, mi, do, do and re, fa, re, (low)la, (low)la; etc.
6. If you make the above part like a game, students will have a great time and will be learning the score in digestible chunks without feeling overwhelmed and without feeling like it's work.
7. I prefer to give students the starting pitch, then have them audiate the solfege as I slowly show the handsigns (in the new rhythm, of course). Allow them to see each pattern and audiate silently as they imagine the notes in their minds.
8. Then have them phonate each pattern by singing with handsigns. When I play this game, I tell students that it's me against them. If they get it right, they get a point, but if they miss, I get a point. I'm always amazed how fun they think this is. They definitely love to beat me!
9. After they've proven the ability to sing the existing syncopated patterns, then I put the sheet music up using a doc cam (or whatever works for you). Remember that most young students find scores overwhelming at first. It's best to introduce new content this way so that you can point, follow along, and help them navigate the new music.
10. Now for my favorite part... you know all of those patterns that they just sang using handsigns? They're all right there in the sheet music! Now you ask students if they can find what you sing. It's like a musical scavenger hunt! I always color code the patterns ahead of time so that students can call out the answers in unison by color. It's way easier than making them find measure numbers. (Obviously, if your students are more advanced, you can use measure numbers.)
11. Be sure they know where "do" is either by having them identify the key and then figuring it out (if they're advanced enough to do this) or just draw in the score where "do" goes.
12. There are many ways to have them find the patterns. I like to use a combination of all of the following: a. I would say, "Now look for this pattern and when you find it, don't tell what it is, but raise your hand. I will pick someone who has raised their hand silently." Then I sing one of the patterns on solfege. If the student is wrong, I don't tell them; I just sing what they said and ask if they think it matches. Hopefully, this way, they come to their own conclusion and may choose to change their answer. b. I would also try having students find the answer silently and then give them time to "Think, Pair, and Share." Basically, this is exactly what it sounds like. They think and try to find the matching pattern; then they pair with a neighbor to share which one they think it is. I would always ask the pairs to raise their hands if they agreed and then call on the pair to call out the color. c. You could also allow time to think and then on the count of 3 let the whole class say the answer of the right color together. Always follow up by singing what they've found to reinforce it. d. Lastly, (and now you will know how truly goofy I am), I like to play it like a game show. I ask students to hold up their hands if they thought it was a certain color (You can also make cards for them to hold up indicating their answers.) Once their hands are up I say, (in my best game show hostess voice)... "If you said red you are..... right!" They always cheer or say "yes!"
13. Once they've done all of the patterns out of order, try having students sightsing them in order with solfege handsigns. They will feel so accomplished that they can read the music!
14. NOW you can add the words. Yay!
Always look for what students can read. It's OK to use rote teaching for the few elements are beyond their capability to read. BUT, there should always be more elements in the music that they CAN read. If not, then the music is too hard for them and you should pick another song!
I hope this helps you.
Happy teaching! ❤️🎶