About ‘Read the Episode’: Sometimes we would rather skim visually instead of listening to a podcast! That’s a great way to learn too! The transcript to episode 008 of The Crescendo Music Education Podcast is below.
Episode 008 Transcript
Here is the Crescendo Music Education Podcast Episode #8. Hi everyone, in this episode, we’re going to be talking about batching again. I thought I’d start just talking about rhythm activities first. Teachers tend to feel a bit more comfortable when teaching rhythmic elements. It’s a bit easier in some ways than pitch elements. So I thought, ‘Look, let’s just ease into this and let’s have a chat about batching rhythm activities’. If you haven’t listened to episode 2, it introduces the concept of “batching” as I will refer to it. It’s just really getting into the flow of thinking about planning in one specific area, getting a whole lot of ideas down, keeping them in storage so that you can bring them forward when it’s time to plan.
When I’m looking at teaching rhythm in your classroom, not in this episode anyway, I’m not looking at a strategy or steps to teach something new. I’m not going to talk about teaching something from scratch. I’m going to assume that your students know the rhythmic elements. We’re going to talk about ways to practice those known elements because I know sometimes I get in a little bit of a rut.
Do you get in a rut?
Okay, I’ve got to do something with echo, I’ve got to practice ta and ti ti or I’ve got to practice semi quavers or like whatever you’ve done, and you go, ‘Okay, what will I do? I have no time. I don’t know, I’ll do echo. I tend to fall back on echo sort of activities. Clever echo, which is when I clap something, they clap it back and add the rhythm. I tend to fall back on that.
No, of course I don’t only do that, but I’m not nearly so creative when I’m under pressure trying to do the whole lesson plan. I’ve left it till the last minute and what will I do? If I’ve done this work ahead of time, I can refer to where I’ve got that stored and oh, what do you know? Here’s a whole lot of really fabulous ideas that I can stick in my lesson plans. Let’s add some interest by doing some batching in specific areas.
The other advantage of doing this is that you’re catering for varied learning styles and you’re going to help the students focus because it’s something new and it’s something exciting. The penny will drop at different times for different students. For some activities, all of the children will understand. Others you’ll think, ‘Oh, okay, I’ve got that’. Another one might need something more kinesthetic, something more on the oral side. Every student is different. By practicing in a whole lot of different ways, you’re catering for all of these children. Let’s not forget that it also keeps the teacher entertained because we really have to be interested and excited. Isn’t it fun if you can do something new and different with your students and not the same thing all the time?
I start by listing a whole lot of practice rhythm activities, brainstorming, basically. Now this is very, very much like a complicated family tree. One activity can spawn several ideas, which then can have offshoots of ideas so that they branch into different ways, in different areas. There’s subgroups and sub subgroups and it’s just not simple to organize, but give it a go. Just start with points and if you do go down a bit of a rabbit hole, that’s fine. We’re just thinking of new ideas, just list them out. I thought what I’d do is I’d start with one of my little rut issues. I’m actually going to start with Echo because Echo is more than just Echo. It’s more than just ‘I’m clapping something. Clap it back to me’. Right? It’s a lot more than that. I clap. You clap. Let’s look at ways that we can vary this.
Now, if you’re driving or on the treadmill or washing the dishes, don’t panic about writing all of these down. They will be in the show notes. Also, what the team and I are trying to do is to turn the transcription into a blog post. At the bottom of the podcast page on my website you will see a transcription, but you can also find a blog post version of this, so don’t panic about writing them all down. They are all there for you. You can copy and paste.
All right, so how can we make Echo into a whole lot of interesting activities? Let’s start by varying the length of the echo. Make them two beats, make them three beats, especially if they know three meter. Even if they don’t, it can be unconscious. You can do four beats, you could do eight beats, you could try six, make it as difficult as you like so you can vary the lengths of the echo. You could echo with the whole class. You could divide the class. Put your hand in the middle, say “this half, this half”. This one side of the room can echo the first rhythm, second rhythm the other side of the room and alternate half class. Make little groups, indicate which group is going to echo you. They all have to be listening and ready. You could do individual echos. Just by going whole class, half class, small group, individual. You have four different ways to just do echo. I really like that division, the whole class, half class, small groups, individual almost every activity you can vary by having those different groupings.
All right. You could play your pattern on an untuned percussion instrument. It makes it very different than just clapping. Use claves, use a castanet, a triangle, or finger symbols. Just by using a different instrument, you’re changing the activity as well as teaching a timbre of untuned instruments.
Now, we could get really tricky. You could perform your rhythm on a tuned instrument. Now I’m just going to say “tuned instrument”. It depends what you’ve got in your music room. I tend to pick up the recorder, which is usually sitting around me somewhere. Go to the piano, set up a xylophone, whatever you’ve got handy. If you happen to be a violin player, pick up your violin, your flute, whatever you’ve got. Any tuned instrument. We could break this down to 5 different ways, off the top of my head, that you could use Echo with a tuned instrument. One, just play a single note, the children clap it back. Now, that sounds really basic. Maybe some of you are thinking, well, what’s the difference? I might as well clap it. Well, it is actually different. The students are hearing pitch and they have to draw the rhythm separate out of the pitch. I’m not saying that very well, am I? But you know what I mean. It is a very different activity. They have to clap it back to you.
All right, they could clap it back to you and add the rhythmic pattern spoken. If I played a note on whatever doo doo doo doo doo. The first one I talked about, they’ll just go. (clapping) The second one, doo doo doo doo doo. Ta ta, ti, ti ta. Even putting it into spoken, we’ve gone from pitch to spoken and that’s more difficult than it sounds. You could get the students to echo and they have to sing the rhythm on that pitch. I’m playing, doo doo doo doo doo. They will sing back. Ta, ta, ti ti, ta, clapping or not clapping, just singing back. Singing back on that pitch. We’ve got three or four different ways of just playing on one note, different rhythms, different ways that students can echo.
Now, if we play a little melodic motif on your instruments, this is really difficult. I think students ignore your melody and just clap back the rhythm that they hear. If I played, oh by the way I’ve said played but of course I’m talking voice, it could easily be voice as well. Obviously that’s one of your tuned instruments. I should have put that up in the list. All right, so let’s stick to ta ta ti ti ta just to make it super easy. If I played doo doo doo doo doo, I want them to go (clapping). It sounds so easy, it’s not. It’s really pushing their little brains, especially the younger students. You play the melodic motif, students ignore the melody and clap back the rhythm they hear. You could also play that melodic motif and the students sing back the rhythm to the melody they’ve just heard. Doo doo, doo doo, doo. Ta ta, ti ti, ta. Now I should also make this clear that you don’t do all of those different things in one lesson. Just choose one way to echo and do that. Eight or nine things there that we’ve gone through that you could do for eight or nine lessons, which is just all varied Echo. I have not finished yet.
Let’s look at body percussion. When I say body percussion, clap tap. Now I never know how to say when you hit your leg. Pat, Pash, P-A-T-S-C-H. Now what is it? Oh, you know what I mean. When you tap your legs. All of that different tapping, hitting your chest, your shoulders, any body percussion. The teacher uses body percussion and the students echo your rhythms using the same actions. They’re still echoing rhythm. You are just putting it the pattern in different parts of your body. You could also do exactly that same thing, but as the students do it, they add the rhythm names. That’s certainly a lot more complex, especially if you’re varying the body percussion a fair bit.
You might use body percussion, but the students have to echo by clapping the rhythm. You could do body percussion. Students echo by clapping and add the rhythm names. Teacher could clap the rhythm and the students use different body percussion to echo the same rhythm. I did this one recently and it was really fun. Some of the kids really got into being creative with where they put their rhythms, it sounds fairly simple but the kids really enjoyed it. Using all different body percussion. You could do just that, you clap a rhythm, they echo using different body percussion, but they have to add the rhythm names. Just looking at how we could use Echo in a different way has given so many different ideas. Make your lessons interesting.
Imagine if you did that with other ideas you’ve used for ways to practice rhythm. This is all I’m thinking about, just different ways of doing Echo. There was about 13 or 14 different things there to do with rhythmic echo. I’m not even counting using different instruments as different ways of practicing. You go ahead, plug one of those in each lesson and you’ve got all these different rhythm activities for a whole term. Of course I would not want to do 10 echo type activities in a row for a term. You want to mix it up. You’ve got to look at it as different ways of practicing rhythm.
Don’t forget that there is batching that goes across the year levels. You can use the same type of activity to practice the elements for each year level, but it varies slightly according to the year level. Your year one is the end of the year. One might be just practicing ta and ti. Your grade threes, maybe they’ve got tika tika and maybe your grade fives have tika and tika ti, but you could use the same sort of activity in the same week. That really streamlines your lesson planning. If you know you’re using flashcards across the whole school, it’s going to make it easier for you.
What I think of is the ‘sausage factory’ of our job. One class comes in, we squeeze it off, they’re out, the next class is in. And we’re just like doing this sausage factory all day. How much easier is it to know that the rhythmic practice activity for this week is basically something to do with flashcards? It’s a matter of grabbing the other bundle, so that’s easier than grade 2 doing something with flashcards, grade 3 doing something with whiteboards and running, grade 1 doing something with paddle pop sticks. When you’re doing your batching and looking at your planning in chunks, try to do the same sort of activity across the year levels. It really will help your sanity.
Alright, now before you even start your brainstorming for all of these activities, I want you to think about how you’re going to record your ideas. I’ve already sort of alluded to that, I said just dot points, big lists. Alright, you need some sort of a ‘chuck those ideas in’, but you do need something that you can add to really easily. Mine now is basically in an Excel file. If you use Google you’ll want Google Sheetes, that way I can have headings across the top and down the side and different pages and it can sort of grow with me and I can find things easily. That works for me. Excel works but obviously you have to do what works for you. Try to set it up so that if you get a few new ideas or you sit down and you want to just work in one area, you can open it and find it really easily.
Let’s have a look at some more rhythmic activities for your batching because I don’t want to leave you with the impression that I just do echo. I also don’t want you to have the impression that I only ever do ta ta ti ti ta. I just decided to use that as an example, that is actually a rhythm that really annoys me by the way. Those of you who have been in a school where the classroom teachers do that as their behaviour management to get attention and they clap this loud, fairly awful ta ta ti ti ta and the kids clap it back. It’s not musical and it’s often rushed as it’s clapped back and it’s just, oh, I don’t know, you know, I’ve sort of developed a bit of an aversion to ta ta ti ti ta, I don’t know, hands up if you’re with me.
All right, just so you don’t think I only do echo, let’s have a little skim over the surface like this lovely bird gliding over the ocean, dipping into the water. Let’s look at a few other things you could stick on your list for rhythm practice. By no means is this exhaustive. I just noted a few down and I’m sure you could think of plenty more. Like those things with Echo, I think you could take each of these and then go further down and expand each idea. Alright, so here we are, little birdie fly. Are you ready? Okay, let’s take a little exercise. You’ve got some sort of exercise, I like the Kodaly exercises or one of the lovely Denise Bacon books, you know, something like that. Take an exercise one, you could just read the exercise or exercises. You could write them up on the board, they could be on video or whatever. Simply read the rhythm.
You could then inner hear specific elements within that rhythm. Clap the rhythm through but every time there is a ta, please use your inner hearing (by inner hearing, I mean, we put the sound inside our head without saying it out loud. I also don’t encourage them to make the shape with their mouth. I just want them to hear it inside their head). They inner hear specific elements. Let’s read it again, this time I want you to inner hear all the ti ti’s. I want you to inner hear all the tika ti’s or whatever it is. You could perform the rhythm backwards. Let’s start at the back, let’s perform the rhythm backwards. Let’s have half the class clapping the rhythm forwards while the other half claps the rhythm backwards. That’s loads of fun.
You could even have them doing two different sounds. One could slap their legs and one could clap, or you could use percussion instruments. Go down that rabbit hole, you could probably write ten different ways to do forwards and backwards, you know, together. Lots of fun. You could memorize. You could put different rhythmic elements in different parts of your body. You could put the ta’s on your shoulders, the ti ti’s on your head. Okay. That’s what I mean.
You could change one beat. You could perform it for the students and say, I’m changing one beat, identify which beat it is, it could just be oral. You could get them to come up to the board and change it. You could then do it another beat and another beat until you’ve changed the whole pattern. You could just do it once, you could perform with a rhythmic ostinato, you could perform one bar or one beat each around the group. Now, this is really hard to do musically, so you’ll tend to have things very disjointed.
Say to the students, now I want this to sound beautiful legato. Let’s go around. It’s lots of fun just clapping the rhythm, going around the group. Don’t forget, you can derive the rhythmic pattern of known songs. You can identify songs and rhymes from their notated rhythm. Here’s the rhythm on the board. Which song is this? You could identify songs and rhythms from their heard rhythm. Which song am I thinking of? (clapping a rhythm)
You could compose. Oh, good heavens. We could go to town on composing. You could give them the number of bars and what elements to use. You could give them the parameters you wanted. You could use a template or a worksheet of some type. You could use manipulatives, paddle pop sticks are great, match decks I really like to use with slightly older children. With younger students, you could use paper plates to represent the beat. I love doing this when they first learned about one and two sounds on the beat, it really solidifies that there’s two sounds on this one beat slash plate, so it works really well. Paper plates are wonderful to use. You can use the students themselves to represent the rhythmic pattern.
You could get out some chairs and you could work out what the pattern is, then get students to sit on the chairs. Each chair is one beat. It certainly works super well for one and two sounds on the beat and even no sound on a beat. You can get the students to sit on the chairs and then clap that back. I like using their arms so you get them to stand up and then they put their arms on each other’s shoulders to make the beat so you can actually make the human rhythm. I also like doing this when I first teach about flags and how quavers.
I’m just trying to think for my American friends the nights, what are they? 8th notes. Okay, so eighth notes or quavers, when they’ve got their arms on each other’s shoulders. That’s the beam but when they’re not holding hands, they have a flag and the arm just is down out to the side. I like using arms for beams and flags, that really helps them understand that and all of those things with the children using their bodies. Use another child to do the composing. Now you decide how many children you want on beat number one on this chair so that the students can actually compose themselves.
That’s a few ideas for ways that you can practice rhythm. I’m sure I have only just scratched the surface. I’m hoping that you get the idea of what I’m trying to communicate to you about batching. If you can get all of these ideas down, how much easier it will make your planning and how much more exciting for you as well as your students. Get all of those ideas down for rhythm, then the next time you do it, do it for pitch activities or for dynamics. You will end up with these amazing lists to which you can refer as you are doing your planning. It will make it so much more exciting and engaging for your students and for you.
I hope I have given you a little bit of food for thought, maybe even a rhythmic practice idea you hadn’t thought of. Even if you’ve thought of every single one, maybe just the concept of getting them all down in one place instead of racking your brains when you’re doing your planning. I hope that has helped some of you guys. Thank you so much for listening to my batching rhythm activities. I will talk to you next time. Bye.
Thank you for joining me for this podcast. Don’t forget that you’ll find the show notes on crescendo.com.au/podcast/008. You can find the transcripts there so you have all of the details that you need. If you’ve found this podcast useful, I’d really love it if you share the link with a colleague. Remember, “All I can be is the best version of me. All you can do is be the best you.” We’ll meet again. I hope we will. Bye.
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Links Mentioned in the Episode:
Episode 2: Introduction to Batching
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