Mary Dagani | August 2017

Welcome Back… Already?

While packing for a long awaited trip, I realized I needed a few travel items so I quickly dashed over to my neighborhood drug store and was hit with the most peculiar sight – back to school sales.  Already?  Yep, right there in the middle of the store: pencil cases, glue, binders, crayons, markers, folders, etc… you know the scene.  I  literally  had to stop and pinch myself.  Was it August?  No, it was only the middle of July!  It was then another big revelation hit me: one more month and I will be back at school.  Hey wait a minute, what happened to my vacation?  I wanted to throw a tantrum right there in the middle of the aisle, but I’m sure it wouldn’t have been good for business.  So I did the next best thing – I thought about a creative idea that would make me want to go back to school and share with my students.

Music hath charms

If you have been involved with the Arts Integration movement or have taken any of Susan’s courses here at EducationCloset (which, by the way, I highly recommend you do!), you are probably aware that music is one of the most challenging areas to integrate.  Now, to be completely honest, I realize I have a bit of an advantage over most of you in this area, however I sincerely feel that with the right support and strategies, anyone can teach the basics of music.  You see, music is a language.  And the steps of language acquisition parallel that of music.  For example, in language, the steps are:  listening, speaking, reading, and writing.  And for music they are: listening, singing/playing, reading notation, and writing notation.

What does this all have to do with going back to school and teaching music?  Bear with me.

Here is the part you’ve been waiting for.  One of the best strategies to teach young students is a technique known as “call and response” (AKA: echo, copy-cat, or repeat-after-me songs).  These types of songs have been around for centuries.  You may be more familiar with these in the forms of African-American work songs, sea shanties, or military cadences (“jody calls”).  Essentially in a call and response song, a leader sings a phrase and others echo or sing the exact phrase back or a variation of it.  Here is a excellent example of a traditional African call and response song.  I can’t think of any better way to work on developing listening skills, pitch awareness, good vocal habits, oral language skills, and form than by using these songs with your kiddos.  Your English Language Learners will truly benefit from these.

But What If I Can’t Sing?

Fortunately, Sally Albrect and Jay Althouse have got you covered. In their books (links below), Albrect and Althouse provide you with a CD. (If you decide to order these, make sure to order the book and CD together). The CD is doubled tracked for each song. The first track is sung by a professional singer and you can actally practice along with your students. Then when (or if) you feel a bit more confident, you can sing the leader part on the second (music only) track.

I Sing, You Sing

I Sing, You Sing, Too!: 30 Echo Songs for Young Singers

I Sing, You Sing: Holiday Songs

Give it a Go!

These songs can provide you with quick and exciting ways to introduce music to your students AND have fun. Students absolutely love these easily accessible melodies, and the content is just as exciting.  For example, any time one of my students wears a brand new pair of shoes to school, we sing the track entitled “New Shoes” as the student shows off their new shoes like a runway model.

Summer is coming to a close, but it’s not too late to take a peek at this wonderful resource and give it a try.  Besides, if you aren’t feeling like you are ready to do some solo work, you can play the professionally recorded track and tell you students that it’s you – ha! (Don’t worry, your secret is safe with me!)

About the Author

Mary is a STEAM TOSA, Project Lead the Way Launch Lead Teacher, and an Orff Schulwerk music specialist. Her eclectic background, along with her 28 years of elementary classroom teaching, gives her a unique perspective on Arts Integration.