I love this song for sooo many reasons. It has a great feel to the song and you can cover so much curriculum across a bunch of different grade levels. Basically the main concepts that I worked on with my students were Low La, Whole Notes, and Improvisation. FREE lesson plan for this song: I Got a Letter Here is how it went down in my room:
I began by taking my students through some solfege echoing. We worked on MRD specifically and then I added in the Low La. They had not done Low La before, so we took a minute to talk about it. I make a point to show them a barred instrument set up when talking about Low La and Low So. I have the instrument set up in G Pentatonic, which is what this song is in. This is also a great representation of the Low notes as well. The students identify which notes on the instrument are DRM SL and then we talk about if the D and E at the top are So and La, why can’t the D and E at the bottom also be So and La. For some of my students this visual representation on something they are familiar with is really helpful for solidifying this concept.
After practicing and reviewing our solfege, I then teach the lyrics to the song. The next day we add some body percussion accompaniment to the piece. I have a couple different versions of body percussion I use depending on the year and what I want to do with the piece. If I want this piece to become a more instrumental piece I will opt for the body percussion with more choices, versus if I want to focus on improvising I will opt for the simpler single body percussion part. You can see the different options in my lesson plan (link above or below).
Once students have practiced the body percussion we can move it to the barred instruments, or you can just keep it as body percussion. The next step is to do the improvisation.
I based my improvising on the example from the curriculum series Purposeful Pathways. I borrowed the text Roger Sams wrote “What does your letter say?”, but I changed the melody. I opted for L, L, L ,L,L, D basically because I wanted more practice singing those Low La notes. Students would sing this phrase and then get 8 beats to improvise what they letter said. I never had my students say words, they just created the thought with the rhythms. We began by the students singing and me demonstrating the improvisation. Then we switched roles and I sang and the students did the improvising. If they were doing well I allowed them to improvise using various forms of body percussion (we started with just clapping or patting). Then I asked for student volunteers to do a couple solos.
The next class we reviewed the improvisations using body percussion, then we transferred it to drums and rhythm sticks. Same process different medium. Then again next class, or same class, transferred it to barred instruments. Same process different medium. Finally we put the whole thing together singing the song for part A, then having 4 improvisers for each different section. Always coming back to A to create a big rondo form.
Here are my kids doing it in their concert:
FREE lesson plan for this song: I Got a Letter
You can find all the lesson ideas used in this concert in these 2 posts:
Make sure to check out my other posts for awesome ideas and inspiration for your classroom!