My teaching career started way back in 2001. At first, I was a substitute (casual) teacher, and I remember, on very first day, being thrown in the deep end and having to teach a lower ability Grade 7 Music class, without any resources being left to use!
I floundered, it was horrible. I had to quickly think of something to do or else the class would deteriorate into a state of chaos. Luckily, I remembered that I carried a collection of CD’s, because that’s what we used back then, no IWB’s in the room with internet access! I grabbed a CD, asked a student to choose a song, then we listened to it. After listening to the song, the class and I came up with some questions to answer together. What a relief, I survived my first day of teaching!
Let’s fast forward about 3 years. I was now working as a temporary teacher and had a block of teaching for a whole school year. My first-year teaching classes from beginning to the end. It felt good. I knew that I could now take my students on a learning journey. I loved it!
I was lucky enough to remain at this same school, as a temporary teacher for another 4 years, and later became a permanent member of the staff. But, I never forgot how it felt being thrown in the deep end, not having resources or lessons left, and I never ever wanted to be “that” teacher!
In those first few years I learned a lot. Not only about teaching, but about preparing and making sure that the learning sequence flowed from year to year for my classes. Now not everything was smooth sailing, I had difficult classes, I had wonderful classes, I had talented music students, and I had some students who had to really work to find their talent!
However, what I did learn very early on in my career, was to have a logical learning sequence for my classes. It was about 10 years ago that I had that “aha” moment. I was talking with a colleague, and we were discussing the results from our Year 12 classes. We were both trying to work out how we could help our students improve. It was then that it dawned on us that we needed to overhaul how we taught where our students were lacking. Our students were great at the practical parts of our subjects, but not the written part. I decided that I needed to work out where I needed each class to be at the end of each academic year. Little did I know that I was “Backward Mapping”!
Off I went searching for the resources that I needed to teach my classes. Guess what, I couldn’t find any that suited the needs of my students. I realised very quickly that I needed to develop my own resources. And I did!
It was then that I started to refine how I taught listening skills in my music classes. I developed sets of questions for each grade level that I taught. It started basic, and each year I added more questions that required deeper understanding of each Element of Music. Eventually, I created resources that worked for my students, and the results were really pleasing. In fact, my senior classes were now getting the best results in the school!
I use the questions and resources in The Elements of Music Bundle for all my classes. These resources have proven themselves to my students, and I know they will to yours too. And the best part, all the hard work has been done for you – you just have to print and teach! Below are the steps I use to teach the Element of Music – Rhythm. All the resources you need to teach using these strategies are included in The Elements of Music Bundle, or you can purchase the Elements of Music – Rhythm and the Super Six Listening Response Worksheets separately. Link to my store here.
Step 1 – Making Connections
Before teaching anything about the Element – Rhythm, complete the “Three Things I…” activity. This quick activity is meant to get students thinking about what they already know about this element. You will need to guide students a little, and I can guarantee that you will get some weird answers to the following three questions
- 3 things I know about Rhythm are …
- 3 things I would like to know about Rhythm are …
- 3 things I think I will learn about Rhythm are….
Step 2 – Monitoring
This is the longest part of teaching the Element of Rhythm. This is where you need to teach the Glossary of Terms. Luckily, I have done the hard work for you and have not only included all the terms and definitions, but there are also link to music and video samples to help students gain a better understating. When I teach the terms, I like to go through and use the “Concept of Definition Map”. This part takes time, and try not to rush this part. The better understanding of each term that a student gains in the beginning will save everyone’s sanity later! Each term we work through together, and my students write straight into their books, I don’t print out this page. An example of what I write in each part of the map is below
- Term – Vivace
- Category or categories to which it belongs – Element of Music Rhythm
- Properties or Characteristics – tempo term, means to play fast and lively, Italian term, it is a very bright sounding tempo
- Examples – Bach Double Violin Concerto Vivace (I ask students to find other samples and add to the list independently)
Step 3 – Predicting
Now comes the fun part. In the resource are included links to music that you can use to study this Element of Music, you just have to choose one! Once you have chosen the music, tell the class the performer/composer and the title of music. Next you ask them to think about what they might expect to hear in the music. You might want to have a brief discussion, especially based around the element that you are focusing on – Rhythm. The first time through you might want to guide your classes by telling them you want them to predict on particular musical ideas. For this activity try using the Elements of Music Predictions – Music.
- First write in the Elements I Predict will be in the music column – beat, tempo, time signature, isometric/multimetric and rhythmic ostinatos.
- Students now write their predictions in the column
- Listen to the music
- Discuss their predictions and correct as needed
Step 4 – Answer the Listening Questions
This is probably the easiest part – answer the listening questions! In the resource there are increasing levels of difficulty of listening questions. BUT, if you would like a FREEBIE, you can have the Level 1 Question Cards. Just click the link below to get your FREEBIE today!
The Level 1 Rhythm questions are below. In the lesson, put the music on a couple of times to make sure students have enough time to answer. You could ask them to work as part of a group or independently, the choice is yours
- What instrument/s perform the beat?
- Describe the tempo using the correct Italian term.
- What is the time signature of the music?
- Is the music isometric or multimetric?
- Are there any rhythmic ostinatos in the music, if so what instrument performs it and in what section?
Step 5 – Visualise
This is a fun activity that makes a great lesson closer. It is a great pairs or small group activity. Please not that this activity can be done at any stage of the lesson, it is flexible!
- Listen to the music and make some quick sketches of the images that come to your mind
- Share your thoughts and images with your partner/group
- What is the same? Different?
- Listen to the music again, what other images come to mind?
- Compare your ideas
- Draw your final and most memorable image from the music
Step 6 – Questioning
It may seem a little strange to ask students to write questions, especially if they have already answered some, but it does work well to complete this activity at this stage. The reason I like to do this activity at this stage of the lesson is because I can usually get some better questions out of the students, they need to dig a little deeper to come up with original questions, it will be hard at first for them. The activity that is best is the “Thin and Thick” questions. Thin questions are ones that can be answered straight from the text (music) and think questions require information from outside the text (music) to answer. Below are some student example questions
- What is the tempo? (I needed to guide the class to come up with original questions from here!)
- Does the bass guitar keep the beat?
- Are there any rhythmic ostinatos performed by any other instrument that the drums?
- Do the drums perform the same ostinato all through the music?
- What other piece of music do you know that has the same tempo?
- How is this song’s use of Rhythm typical for the genre?
- How does the music use the Element of Rhythm?
- How does the composer create variety in Rhythm in this song?
Step 7 – Summarising
By this stage, the students should be really familiar with the piece of music that you have selected to study. The key to consolidating the information that they have learned is through Summarising. The activity I like to use is the 1 Important Idea/3 Key Details. For each Important Idea the students are to come up with 3 details related to the idea. Below are two examples from the song Funky Town by Psuedo Echo
- Important idea – Tempo.
- Walking pace
- Doesn’t change
- Important idea – Time signature
- 4/4 – 4 crotchet beats per bar
- Very common time signature in pop music
Step 8 – Paragraph Writing
This step is optional, but I consider a very important one to make sure that students can put on paper all their understanding of the Element of Music we are studying. For this you can use the T.X.X.X.C. or P.E.E.L. Paragraph Writing Templates, both are available in my store. Both are also included in the Elements of Music Bundle.
I sincerely do hope that this information helps you to teach the Elements of Music to your students. Don’t forget that you can have the Level 1 Question Cards for FREE, just click here for more information.
Until next time
Julia from Jooya