I have been working on this “unit” in my classroom for many years. Tweaking lessons, adding things, and trying new stuff out. This year I finally felt like I found a set of lessons that clicked with my students and the goals that I set out for them to learn. I have loved doing this with my kids over the past month.
This Star Unit has 5 different songs/activities that go with it. This will end up being a 5-part blog post to accompany that. I do not have all the lesson plans finished for sharing, so those will all come out together on Friday!
I did this unit with my 2nd Graders, but it could easily be adapted for 3rd or 4th grade as well depending on your students level. The main concepts I was covering included:
- Steady Beat
- Moving Bass notes, with emphasis on Low So
- Pentatonic Melodies – Sing, Write, Play, Compose
- Movement Composition
- ABA form
- Rhythm – Read, Write, Perform
- Connects to Other Subjects
Make sure to check back over the next couple days to see the different lessons in this entire unit. First up we have John Kanaka a fun little sea shanty which helps tying into all of our stars coming up next.
Students begin by describing different jobs that sailors do on a ship or even on a pirate ship. Some examples may be: hoisting sales, scrubbing the boat, walking the plank, and/or turning the wheel. We turn those into steady beat movements that we can do while I sing the song and the students are learning the response. I teach the students the call and response through rote echo but also have the words available on a PowerPoint if that is more desired for you. Once students have mastered singing the song with the movements we then transfer the steady beat to patting. Using various body percussion, or even tapping on the floor, I have my students begin to show the change in the bass notes.
I had my students transfer their patting to Tubano drums, because I have them available in my classroom. If you don’t have them available you could always use hand drums or even just go straight to a barred instrument. This could also be done singing with solfege, I just chose to do it with instruments for my students.
Students can then sing the song while doing the changing bass notes. This is a great time to have a discussion about low so and low la. I find that it just clicks for my students especially when they look at the barred instruments because they can see that there are two of the same letter and one sounds higher and one sounds lower. Then we talk about how the low one happens below whatever Do is and then it just clicks for the kids!
Another great thing I love to do with John Kanaka is have the students do some call/response improvising. We talk about how this song is a call/response song and how the response is always the same. I begin the same way I did with doing the singing, by teaching the students the response first. You can do the rhythm on a drum or other un-pitched percussion instrument or you can go straight to the barred instruments. The teacher is the caller first, with the students always doing the same response. Then switch and have the students try to improvise their own call.
I spread this lesson out over three or four days for my students. I did bits and chunks along the way so that I could all connect within this big unit. I liked starting with John Kanaka because it’s a great easy piece that you can do a lot with but also connect to all of these next songs because sailors follow stars in the sky. You’ll also notice in a day or two that John Kanaka does come back and a bigger piece that we put together so be on the lookout for that coming back up
There is no lesson plan for this yet but there is one coming. I’m waiting to finish my lesson plan for the final part of this unit and then release all of them together so you have them all and one large chunk. Check back over the next couple days to see what else we did in our stars unit.