Friday, January 18, 2013

Hampton and Cameron off to Great Start 2013


At Hampton we are off to a great start in 2013. The students at Hampton are not singing the Blues. They are hard at work learning all there is to know about the “Call and responses singing of spirituals”.  Hampton students are discovery and exploration singing to get ready for their Opera. To get started in there exploration of their voices, we are studying spirituals.  At Hampton we are eagerly learning all about the history of the folk song style of Spirituals. Originally monophonic and a cappella and were antecedents of the blues- spirituals have a simple melodies and repeated text, get learning tools for new singers, needing practice with their instruments. Spirituals sometimes provided comfort and eased the boredom of daily tasks. They were an expression of spiritual devotion and a yearning for freedom from bondage. Sometimes they were a means of releasing pent up emotions and expressing sorrow. But at Hampton we are studying the “Call and Response” relationship of the singing of spirituals. My teaching partner Lisa Golda and I began each class with a performance for three spirituals, “Wade in the Water”, “My Lord What a Mornin”, “Sometimes I feel Like a Motherless Chil” Then we performed each song in call and response, no matter what line I sang as the call, Lisa sang it as a response. As always we had to have fun with, so we changed the rhythms and pitch of ‘call and response’ to keep the class interested, and they wanted to take part right away.

Take a look at this Game for classroom: Tap Your Feet
Students will practice following a pattern and become familiar with the concept of beat in music. They will be introduced to tempo. They will gain experience playing the beat on non-pitched rhythm instruments, at various tempos. This activity will culminate in the creation of a rhythm piece.
  • Students will listen to, analyze, and describe music.
  • Students will gain experience performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
  • Students will gain experience composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
  • Students will gain experience in speaking and listening as tools for learning.
  • Computer(s) with Internet access will be used for online activity
  • Available non-pitched rhythm instruments
  • Picture cards of non-pitched instruments with the names of the instruments written below the picture
  • Big book stand, music stand, flannel board-anything to arrange cards in sequence from left to right
  1. AccessPBS's Bandleader. Have the students work in the first level to gain experience with following a pattern.
  2. Have the group find their individual heartbeats by placing their hands on their chests. Have them tap along with their heartbeat.
  3. Do a few simple exercises/movements with the children to raise their heartbeat. Immediately following this, have them find their heartbeat again. Ask them what they notice. Is their heart beating faster or slower? (Tempo) Explain that music can also have a fast beat or slow beat.
  4. AccessPBS's Bandleader. As a class, create a composition. Listen several times and help the children keep the beat with the created composition using a different type of body percussion (pat, tap, clap, etc.) each time. Students will attempt to follow a pattern.
  5. Continue to develop the concept of beat in music, creating a "beat" composition using a variety of non pitched instruments. Have the children select an instrument (i.e. hand drum) and play a group of four beats. Allow children to take turns as necessary, while others practice with body percussion.
  6. After the students have practiced groups of four beats on the various instruments; ask them to suggest a sequence for the instruments to play in. Arrange the picture cards in the sequence the students have selected from left to right. Guide them in playing this rhythm composition.
  7. Compose a variety of these compositions. Play at various tempos. Try having children play instruments in combinations (i.e. hand drum and maracas together, triangle and claves).
  • Students should actively participate in all activities.
  • Teacher assessment of student's ability to keep a steady beat through observation.
Extensions and Adaptations
  • Continue to develop the beat by using it with picture books and poems. When reading to children, look for text that is rhythmic. Help students select appropriate places to insert beat patterns in the story/poem.
  • Listen to a variety of music with children and have them determine the beat and play along.
Relevant National Standards:
Performing on instruments, alone and with others, a varied repertoire of music.
Composing and arranging music within specified guidelines.
Listening to, analyzing, and describing music.
Language Arts
Demonstrates competence in speaking and listening as tools for learning.


At Cameron we are off to a fresh new start for 2013. In the afterschool program at Cameron, we now have a new day of the week( Wednesday) and a new time, so students can take a fresh look at Opera for all at Cameron. I don’t want to Jinks us, but we had more than twenty students this Wednesday, at some point or another. Already to explore opera, staging and acting and improv games for fun. The group of five 3rd graders, ten 5th and 6th graders, and five 7th and 8th graders, loved Zip ZapZog and “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha. This semester students will focus on singing in groups and their cultures, to develop a story for the Sharing at the end of the year. So getting the students to connect with the inner opera singer and not be shy, was the Challenge of the Year. Check out the video below of class.

Call and Response models ways to read fluently and with meaning and invites students to participate in an aesthetic reading of a text. For those students who have difficulty with reading, Call and Response provides an opportunity to practice reading a text as a community without being singled out. The activity Call and Response comes out of traditions in the African American church and hip-hop concerts, where vocal participation is encouraged.

Duration: 10 minutes

Preparation: Before class, select a list of key phrases or sentences from the designated text. Virtually any lines can work, though the best choices are lines that carry an emotional or aesthetic punch and that are essential to an understanding of the text.

Procedure:  The class gathers in a large circle. Everyone in the room needs to be able to make eye contact with one another. Ask the students to pull their shoulders back, take their hands out of their pockets, and avoid crossing their arms during the vocal warm-up. This will help them to open their voices, to speak with conviction and clarity. Next, walk into the center of the space and call out lines of text. The students repeat the lines back in chorus. Read with emotion, matching the tone of the text and encouraging students to match the energy and quality of the reading.

You might then playfully point to individual students and challenge them to match your level of energy. The warm-up continues with many lines, moving back and forth between you, individual students, and the entire group.

This activity can become a daily ritual in the classroom. As students become comfortable, they can take over the lead, calling out the lines to the rest of the group. It’s important for student leaders to review the text carefully beforehand, choosing, marking, and practicing the lines they will lead the class in reading. This makes an excellent and purposeful homework assignment. 

In Daniel and Kurt’s final performance at Brown Summer High School, the Call and Response became the opening event. An entire class stood on the stage in a U formation. Standing in the center, three student leaders called out lines from Whitman. The class, and eventually the entire auditorium, repeated the lines in response. The class then added a Brazilian choral melody, accompanied by a guitar, between the calls and responses: “I celebrate myself . . . and sing myself.”

Reflection: Based on the lines you heard in the Call and Response, what predictions can you make about the text?  What was your favorite line of today’s Call and Response?

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