Welcome to the third blog post in this series about using the Super Six while teaching the Elements of Music. This post is all about the Element of Music – Dynamics.
Dynamics in music refers to the volume of sound. There are terms to describe the level of sound as well as changes from loud to soft or soft to loud, as well as anything in between.
The Super Six are reading and comprehension strategies that are designed to help students not only understand the text they are reading, but also transfer what they learn into meaningful ways for them. The Super Six include
If you would like to know more about these strategies, check out some of my previous Blog posts by clicking each of the Super Six above.
Below I describe the ways that I use the Super Six while teaching the Element of Music Dynamics. What is described below is taught over several lessons, and even though I double up on some strategies, I do this because it helps the students and it works!
Step 1 – Making Connections
My favourite way to start anything new is to use the “Three Things I…” strategy. I like to give my students a chance to complete this activity independently first, then we discuss their answers and complete the activity together, filling in any gaps and answering questions as needed. You will find that if you do this activity with different classes, each class will come up with often very different answers to the same questions! The three prompts for students to make connections to are
- Three things I know about Dynamics are ….
- Three things I would like to know about Dynamics are …
- Three things I think I will learn about Dynamics are….
Step 2 – Monitoring
The Super Six strategy of Monitoring is all about the understanding of vocabulary used in the text. I have found over 17 years in the classroom, that this is probably the most important strategy to use in Music. So much of the language we use in Music is not used in usual conversations, unless you are of course speaking to other musicians! If you want your students to really understand the music they play or listen to, then you must ensure that they know their music terminology.
A good strategy for this Element is to use the “New Word” strategy. For this activity, for each new Dynamics term that you want your students to know, they write the following:
- New word
- Sentence or question
Now in the Elements of Music – Dynamics resource that is available over at my TPT store, I have included links to demonstrate each of the terms used when describing the use of Dynamics within a piece of music. You can check it out here.
Step 3 – Predicting
For this part of teaching Dynamics, you need to choose a piece of music. In the resource I have created to help you teach this element of music, I have included links to pieces of music that use dynamics in interesting ways – all you have to do is choose one!
Once you have selected a piece of music, tell the students the name of the music and the performer/composer. Then have a quick discussion about the genre or style of the music.
Next you need to give the class some time to complete the Predicting Brainstorm worksheet. For this activity you might want to help the students be giving them a little more to go on than just what the worksheet provides.
For example, the worksheet just gives the prompts – Who, Where, When, What, Why and How. You might want to add the following, or ask the students to come up with their own questions before listening and combine the two Super Six strategies!
- Who controls the dynamics in the music?
- Where does the music suddenly get louder?
- When does the music become forte?
- What instrument performs the loudest?
- Why would the composer make the chorus louder and the verse softer?
- How does the piece end with a crescendo or a decrescendo?
Of course, you would need to change these questions depending on the music. Once they have their questions, play the music so the students can answer, then check their predictions and answers.
Step 4 – Questioning
For this activity, choose another piece of music to listen to. If you are completing this activity straight after the previous one, it would be a good idea to have a similar piece of music for the students.
Again, this one sort of combines Predicting and Questioning and is – Questioning Before, During and After.
- Before the music students write down two possible questions they could answer about the music, and have a go at answering them.
- Play the music and during the listening, they write another two questions and answer them.
- Now is a good time to discuss their questions and answers so for.
- Lastly students write another two questions and answer them
This is a great small group activity as it promotes discussion and focus on the music itself and how to come up with a question. The theory behind having a student write a question is simple – if they can write the question, they already know the answer! Isn’t that we as teachers do all the time???
Step 5 – Listening Questions and Making Connections
Now is a good time to have the students complete the Listening questions on their own. You can choose which level you want them to complete, the Level 1 Questions from my Dynamics resource are below
- Is the music mainly loud or soft?
- Are there any changes in dynamics in the music, if so in what section and what does it change from and to.
- What emotion does the music make you fell because of the dynamics and why?
If you would like a FREE copy of the Level 1 Listening Question Cards, click the link below.
To extend your students beyond these questions, they could also complete a different Making Connections activity. For this one they need to combine what they heard with what they know. Some of these questions are quite hard to answer and your students will need some guidance to dig a little deeper with their knowledge!
- What do you now know?
- What are some of the problems or weaknesses?
- What new ideas do you now have?
- What is your gut feeling or reaction to this?
- What connections have you made to the music?
- What have you learned?
Step 6 – Visualise
This is easily a step that can be skipped, but, if you want your students to have a little fun, then do this one! I like to use the Visualising Y-Chart for this activity, and I have two pieces of music that I like to use – In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg, or 2001 a Space Odyssey (Also sprach Zarathustra) by Richard Strauss. Simply put the music on, both pieces are quite short, and let the students complete the activity by writing/responding/drawing to the following prompts
- Looks like
- Sounds like
- Feels like
Step 7 – Summarise
This activity can be completed with any piece of music, at any stage of teaching this Element of Music – Dynamics. It is any favourite of mine as it asks students to combine a few different ideas – Retell, Relate, Reflect, Renew. Students respond to the following prompts in response to the music selected for listening
- Musical idea
- Retell – explain what the musical idea is about
- Relate – make a connection to the musical idea
- Reflect – explain how the musical idea and your connection helps you understand the music better
- Renew – explain how the musical idea and your connection inspires a NEW idea
As you can see with these prompts, you are really asking your students to respond to the music at a much deeper level than simply answering questions. It is helpful to give your students a music idea to focus on during this activity, otherwise they seem to get lost coming up with the musical idea themselves!
All of the activities that are mentioned here are in either the Elements of Music – Dynamics resource, The Elements of Music Bundle or the Super Six Listening Response Worksheets. You can check them out by clicking here.
Don’t forget if you would like your own FREE copy of the Level 1 Listening Question Cards, you can click here for more information.
Until next time
Julia from Jooya