Monday, May 6, 2013

3rd Grade Compositions

Every year I like to give each grade level composition experiences.  Whether it is group, centers, or individual experiences with composing, I find that it is so impactful.  You can see students putting everything together.  It's the light bulb moment.

In 3rd grade we have talked a lot about time signature, bar lines, measures, note/rest values, etc.  To wrap up the year, I gave my students a chance to compose within guidelines.

I gave each student a small piece of paper (I use colored copy paper cut into quarters).  We review what a measure is and discuss that they will be composing a measure of music in 4/4 time.  Their paper represents the measure, so they don't need to worry about bar lines (for now anyways!).  Before composing I give them a list of notes/rest they can use.  Here are their choices:

  • Beamed Eighth Notes
  • Quarter Notes
  • Half Notes
  • Quarter Rests
  • Half Rests
Although they already know whole notes/rests I leave these out because they are too easy for a one measure composition.

After composing their measure, I give each student a number (1-4) and ask them to keep it on their fingers.  I use 1-4 because it means ultimately my groups will end with 4-5 kids.  Once every student has their number, I ask them to move to specified locations around my classroom.  After everyone is seated with their group I explain that they will be arranging their measures into a longer composition.

I show them how to place them in 1-4 measure order.  Step 1 is to decide on an arrangement.  They may not pick one until I have seen them playing it together.  Once they have decided, they raise their hands to let me know.  I then tape the composition together and have them move on to Step 2.  In the second step they need to practice in order to play their composition together.  I have them play the entire thing together because I want them to have a longer reading experience.

After completing Step 2, students raise their hands again to let me know they are ready to move on.  Step 3 is picking an instrument to perform on.  Most pick drums but every once in a while some rhythm sticks or boomwhackers sneak their way into a performance.  Step 4 is practicing the composition with instrument.

After everyone has practiced playing their composition with instruments, we perform for each other.

The final step is transferring our composition to traditional notation.  We add the time signature, bar lines and an ending.

This takes a full lesson to complete (45 min.).  In another lesson, we will extend our composition by adding melody and use it as a notation activity with the staff.

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