Great Big House

The month of February brings many celebrations; Groundhog’s day, Valentine’s day, President’s day, MY BIRTHDAY!!!, and sometimes Mardi Gras!!  Although my birthday is my favorite holiday in this month, this week we are working on a song I use to “celebrate” Mardi Gras.  I like to use the first verse from Great Big House in New Orleans only during this lesson.  I use this lesson with 2nd, 3rd and 4th graders.  They all do different things, but it is nice to bring the song back again and again.  It is a favorite of mine and theirs.

For all the classes we start by learning the body percussion accompaniment.  I start with the students doing a simultaneous imitation of me stomping on beats 1 and 3.  Then I add the single clap on beats 2 and 4.  If students feel comfortable with it, I give them the option to move the motion back and forth, stepping to the side and then clapping when their feet come together.  For the older grade levels, if they have a handle on the basic stomp clap, I add the option of a double clap on beat 4 ( it’s really the up beat of 3 and then beat 4).

From here, students do the body percussion and I sing the song.  Then we go through the process of teaching the song by rote, echoing parts back and forth.  Finally, students try to sing and do the body percussion all at the same time.

Sometimes I stop here with 2nd grade or I do the rhythm composition coming up next, it depends on the grade level and their abilities.  If I stop here, I just use it as a fun song with some body percussion to get them up and moving.  We talk about New Orleans and where it is.  I give them a watered down version of Mardi Gras (it’s a big party with parades, food, and dancing).

For 3rd grade (or even 2nd grade depending on your student’s ability levels) we do some rhythm composition and then even some melody composition.  Students used different kinds of pies to create rhythm sentences.  My pies are 2 beats long, and they end up doing 4 pies, for a total of 8 beats.  I have my students create their sentences in either ABAB or ABAC form.

If desired students then compose melodies to their pie rhythms.  We have been working on playing simple melodies on the barred instruments.  Students accomplish their goal in 2 ways.

  1. Write melody notes underneath their rhythms.  Then figure out how to play the melody on the instruments.
  2. Play around on the instrument, experimenting with different ways to play their rhythms.  Once they have found one they like, then they write it down.
Depending on the time of the year, and the grade level I am doing this with, will determine what melody notes they are using.  If I do this with 2nd grade, 90% of them keep to using Do Re and Mi.  I only let a few choice students add So to their melodies.  This is a great easy way to differentiate for the high kids.  In other grades, maybe doing the whole pentatonic with the added High Do for the advanced kids.  It just depends on where your kids are.
Finally when we come back to this in 4th grade we add some more composing to the mix.  I start with reviewing the song and body percussion.  Then I add a B part about the pumpkin pie.  We do the song in ABA form.  Then I ask the students what else they might want to bring to this Mardi Gras party.  We work as a whole class to create w short, 4 beat sentences about whatever they are bringing.  This becomes the C section.  We perform the piece in ABACA form.  Then we repeat and add one more section for D.
The next class students work in small groups to create their own sections of what they are bringing to the party.  I don’t have the kids write down the rhythms associated with their sentences.   I just have them write out the words and make sure it fits into 8 beats total.
I love the feel of this song, and how many times I can do it with my kids. Feel free to use as you wish!  Or check it out on my TPT (for Free!!):  Great Big House