Progress in the schools!
  • This is a message I received form Chris Sarti, a list member, my comments in italics. Posted with her kind permission.

    Dear Noel:

    Thanks. I'll just look for your e-mail updates. I liked the way that you handled (no pun) the Joy to the World approach to reading square notes.

    This last Christmas in my classroom for my Christmas bulletin board I used Christmas ribbon and little bows and put up the refrain from Venite Adoremus and then put the latin test with it. I had to smile when I saw what you were doing in the book because I disassembled it I took away various components leaving the staff and "notes" only. Just thought I would share.

    Cool! What level do you teach?

    I have kindergarten through 8th Grade and float up to the high school from time to time. And I have an adult choir as well.

    The teacher's version of the coloring book is attached. The explanatory panels at the bottom are filled with artwork in the student version.

    How generous of you.

    I thought I would share a little more of what I am doing and hope that it doesn't amount to gregorian chant heresy.

    I took your idea of butcher paper and the children drawing punctum and I stole your idea of using Twinkle Star. I am in the process of putting all this together so it still in the hit and miss design phase, but I have a living laboratory to test things.

    I purchased some medium grade clear vinyl that your might use as a cover. I have some small tables in my classroom that are 4 ft. by 2 ft. Using a Sharpie marker I have the four line staff. Most of the current buzz words in educational circles (and what my principal looks for is tpr or total physical response). I decided to use fun foam (it comes in large sheets in a paintbox full of colors). I made templates for punctum and the "C" clef and cut them out. I can put my vinyl on the tables with the ink portion down to prevent rubbing off, and then my students can manipulate punctums (is this the right plural?) on that. They can work as individuals or in small groups. I am trying to work out the physical aspects of putting together a magnetic board with a staff and then using magnetized notes and clef, so that we can read the large board together as a group and the students can come up and use it as well.

    I also worked as a reading specialist for a couple of years in Federally funded Title X. program Some of this work was with slow readers and much of it was with Second Language acquisition before a lot of the more commercially based materials that are available today were packaged. Another big educational word is "integrated instruction" meaning that content should cross over subject lines and find application across several subjects.

    When I first tried to teach reading notation to students it was so frustrating, especially younger students. So I tried to observe all my failures and theirs (because of my poor methodology) and learn from those experiences. As I have studied more about the mechanics of teaching Kindergarten through Second grade reading, writing and Math, I have noticed what to change and link to their particular experiences in the class room.

    I have a stack of 9 x 12 white board slates in my room with dry erase markers. I ask my students if they know what a staff is. They give me all manner of answers. Then I tell them they need to work with a partner who only has a phone and you need to tell them with no demonstration how to draw a staff. (If the class is particularly difficult I made hear phones out of pvc elbows and they can use those as phones) The other student has to draw according to the verbal instructions. You can imagine the frustration in these attempts. Most students just want to draw it and show it to the other. I ask one of the students to call me and direct me as to how to draw a staff. We have a great time with this because the vocabulary just wasn't there. Finally I came up with my instructional definition of the staff after we talk through a few math concepts like parallel and equidistant. I then instruct them to draw four, equidistant, parallel lines of the same length. And I wait to see what happens. It takes some time initially, but once I am over that hurdle I rarely have to revisit what I want and I get it from them 99% of the time.

    Then I observed that I need to explain music mapping. I would imagine that you have seen that very young children cannot always grasp the concept of high and low or the difference between singing and talking voices. We play around with writing on lined paper. I demonstrate that our teacher tells us that we have to write on the line. So I put my musician's hat on and I sign my name with the line going through my name. I ask if this is right. They all shout "NO". So we spend some time talking about musicians talk what it means to have things on a line and in a space.

    Just this week I made up a game to instruct and assess if they understood what I was talking about when I wanted notes in the space or on the line AND which one. We talked about numbering our paper 1 through 7 and then talked about how the pattern repeats itself, BUT unlike numbering your paper for your spelling test, from the top and proceeding down, we are going the other way, from bottom to top. So I have them write those numbers in the left margin of the board in descending order. I mention over and over again that in music, when I instruct them to put the symbol (note) on the line, the line must go through the center of the symbol and I demonstrate that once again. I then put a number 1 on the bottom line and so forth for the lines. Then we talk about space and we number the spaces. Then we play art in music.

    I decided rather than restrict them to square or round notes I would choose different things. I instructed them to put a star on the first line. About half put the star above the line in the space, but those that understood I called out that they were right. Pretty soon they were helping one another and everyone had a star on the first line. Then for Valentine's Day I wanted a heart in the third space. A spider on the second line, a car in the space above the staff, a pentagon on the third line, etc. They begged me to let them play this game for our next class. This was Second Grade. They even drew their own staff!

    When I tried this with Sixth grade they liked it too, but then I extended it and related the number column on the left to the scale degrees of Do, Re, Mi. I asked them to put small case letters of the first names for the notes. We then went through the paces of placing a 1 below the staff, a six on the third line, and then a couple more and then asked them if they could spot the pattern and fill it in. Some saw it immediately and a few didn't quite wake up to it all. When I was satisfied that they understood the concept I told them to choose a symbol and worked from the assumption that the Do clef was on the fourth line (although it was absent). I had them write the numbers 1155665.4433221. under the staff, refer to their key at the left and using their chosen symbol place then on the appropriate places on the staff. When I was satisfied that they had the gist of it I told them the next challenge was to see if they could decode by singing what the tune was. The all struggled with it, but by the end of class two students had discovered what the tune was by reading. They were so excited about that.

    This gave me a good look at how they were processing the information and manipulating it and so I have a better idea of what I need to reteach, reinforce and where I can go ahead.

    Well, I'm sure that your little question of what grade didn't include all this. But I find that some of these basic concepts that we take for granted have to be isolated and specifically taught, regardless of the age of the student.

    Thanks again.
  • Wow! This is great stuff! Thanks to both of you!