This month we started talking about High, Middle, and Low sounds in first grade. I always find this is a hard concept for them to learn because they connect loud with high and soft with low. To counteract this I like to use the story of Goldilocks and the 3 Bears. The students have heard the story 5 million times in their lives so they can help me with it. Before telling the story we talk about how the 3 bears voices would sound. I have the students practice the 3 voices so they can hear the difference. Then we get out the instruments.
I set up 3 instrument stations around the room (papa, mama, and baby bear). In each station I place the corresponding xylophones/metalophones and drums (tubano, djembe, bongos) to match the different bears. For example; the bass xylo goes with papa, mama bear gets the alto, and baby bear gets the soprano. I don’t use glockenspiels for this activity because I want them to see and hear the difference between instruments that are within the same family. Once we talk about the sizes of the instruments and which character they represent, the students go to the instruments and we read the story. Anytime one of the characters talks, the students improvise on the instruments for a couple seconds afterward.
Once we get done with the story we talk about what they heard when each group played and how it sounded higher or lower. Then I briefly talk to the students about the words Soprano/Alto/Bass. My instruments are labeled so it was easy for them to see how the soprano instruments were smaller and the bass instruments were the big ones.
The next time I saw them we reviewed the Soprano/Alto/Bass words and talked about them in the context of singing. I showed them 2 videos about high and low singing. The first from Sesame Street. The second video is from my Quaver collection of DVDs. It is the pitch episode. The entire pitch episode is above most 1st grade heads so I only pick and choose which parts of the episode I show them.
I hope that this introduction of Soprano, Alto, Bass will help the students grasp the concept of high,middle, low better. Having my instruments labeled will help I think because they can refer to it throughout different lessons. Have fun teaching H/M/L!!