I gave some of my students the option of doing the Shamrock Composing Activity that I posted yesterday. Since they had all done the Valentine composing activity, and the Christmas Train, I thought maybe they would decline. However, they were enthusiastic about it so we gave it a try. Young children love doing the same thing over and over. That is how they gain confidence and why, the younger the child, the more material you need. Eventually they do want to move on, which is why I asked them if they were interested.
I noticed that the students who have been using my composing activities this year are getting a lot better at composing. They all knew it would sound good to start and end on the key note, although I just called it the 5-finger scale. One student wanted to write her piece in one of the new pentascales she had learned, and was very proud she added the sharps on her own. She is a beginning student and hasn’t even learned sharps in her lesson book, but has seen them in the games we’ve been playing.
Another student wasn’t quite sure he wanted to do it. He said the Valentine song he wrote was too hard to play. In that piece his notes were all over the place, leaping from top to bottom. This time I suggested he write only steps and repeated notes, no skips. He is a very young student and hasn’t really learned how to play skips. This time he stepped up and down, like his 5-finger scales and discovered how much easier it was. He liked this piece a lot better because he can play it with ease. He was having a little trouble with the ending, so I suggested 3 different endings to help him out, and he had very definite ideas about what he thought sounded good. I think it is perfectly acceptable to help the students out with ideas, because that’s how they are going to learn. It was also interesting that each student wrote the top line for the Right Hand and the bottom line for the Left Hand.
The first time I did a composing activity with these students in the fall, it seemed to take forever. Now they know what they are doing and are quicker. They are also enjoying themselves more. I’m getting better at directing them, too. I’m also excited that if I follow through on these composing activities I might have more composers in my studio. It really makes music come alive, to write your own.
After using the Shamrock Composing Activity with my students, I decided I needed to re-do it, so if you print it out today you will notice some differences from the previous post. First, I fixed the font so the Celtic “D” doesn’t look like an “O”. I added some dots on the “i’s” and did a few other alterations to the font. Next time I’m not going to get *fancy* with fonts for little children. I also made the shamrocks lighter so that students could actually see what they wrote. On the old handout, we had to go over each letter with a Sharpie because the shamrocks were too dark to read what they wrote.
The next step, for students who can actually read notes, will be to write their song in musical notation. I’m going to post a handout for that as soon as possible, I hope.
Eventually I want to have a composing activity for all the special days of the year, with a corresponding activity so they can write their song on a staff.