Engine, Engine #9 is always a staple in my elementary music classroom. I use it every year, but needed a refresh this year. Check out my first post about this song to see how we started and what we did with rhythm reading.
After doing the “Trains” with the Tubanos and rhythm cards we transferred this same process to solfege.
First I had to work with my students to find and play So-Mi patterns on their barred instruments. I teach my 1st graders how to take off bars in a safe manner. This way we can set up the barred instruments with only the So and Mi bars and space around them. I think it is important to teach the students to do this not only because it gives them ownership, but it saves me SO MUCH TIME, setting up the instruments in different ways throughout the day.
Once we set up the bars then we do a little warm up. The students echo me in both playing and saying: “G is So, So So So So So” or “E is Mi, Mi Mi Mi Mi Mi”. Not only is this a warm up for their bodies, it’s a warm up for their brains so they know what notes are each solfege. Then I have the students echo patterns after I play them. I work towards patterns that we be using in our activity as well.
That would be one whole day, just warming up and doing patterns at the barred instruments. The next day I would have the instruments spaced around the classroom like I did with my un-pitched percussion instruments. I am fortunate enough to have wheeled carts for my barred instruments in my classroom. This makes it easy to move them around the room, and safe for the kids to move themselves around the instruments. But, you can just as easily set up your instruments on the floor and have the students move extra careful around the instruments.
Then we sing Engine Engine as the students “train travel” around the room. The first person in the train then lands at a barred instrument. This student then will play the pattern on their barred instrument. After playing, they pass the mallets to the person behind them and then go to the end of the line. Repeat as many times as desired. I also have the students write their own patterns using white boards and dry erase markers.
This really helped keep my lessons fresh for me as the teacher, and also created more opportunities for my students to demonstrate their skills. Use and enjoy as needed!