PS/IS 686 | Brooklyn, NY

January Music (1st through 5th grade) Update!

Hello BSI Families!

Here’s what has been happening in music…

Grades 1 & 2:

In grades 1 and 2, students are starting to learn how to read music! We looked at some basic notation: whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, whole rest, half rest. Students learned the length of these notes and how they “feel” in time. Whole notes feel like HUGE steps and last the longest; half notes feel like BIG steps; quarter notes feel like our REGULAR steps; eighth notes feel like QUICK SHUFFLES. We know there are more notes (even FASTER!!), but we are not going there quite yet.

We learned two songs by Laurie Berkner to help demonstrate the length and feeling of these notes. We first read The Story of My Feelings and We Are the Dinosaurs in order to learn the LYRICS for these songs. Then, we looked at the actual sheet music, pointed out the different kinds of notes that were being used and finally, we practiced moving our bodies/singing to the rhythm.

Last week, students used rhythm sticks and egg shakers to play the various note lengths. They first practiced in small groups and then they put their parts together to play!


Grades 3 & 4:

In grades 3 and 4, we have begun a study on instruments! The classes brainstormed and listed all of the instruments that they knew, and then sorted them into groups. Some groups chose to sort the instruments according to the way they look, the way they sound, or the way they are played. After taking a class gallery walk, and checking out how their classmates had organized the instruments, I introduced the 4 main instrument families: Percussion, String, Brass and Woodwind.

Students then heard musical examples played by some of the instruments from each of the instrument families. They heard sounds clips of the trumpet, trombone, tuba, bassoon, double bassoon, flute, piccolo, harp, cello, double bass, viola, violin, kettle drum, snare drum, and marimba (to name a few!)

As we listened, we talked about our noticings. Which instruments were higher or lower? Which instruments were larger or smaller? By the end of our last lesson, students recognized that the larger the instrument, the lower the pitch.

We will continue talking about instruments in the next few weeks as we explore a game created by Carnegie Hall. It is based on Benjamin Britten’s Young Persons Guide to the Orchestra. So far, students seem to be having a grand time!

Below is one example of the instrument list that a 4th grade class came up with.

401 Instrument Wordle

Grade 5:

In 5th grade, students have been introduced to the 6 main elements of music: melody, harmony/texture, expression, rhythm, form and timbre. As a class, we discussed the meanings of the overall categories. We discovered that some musical terms are commonly misunderstood or confused (rhythm vs. beat, dynamics (loud/soft) vs. pitch (high/low).

Our current project in 5th grade focuses on two of these elements: form and expression. Students will be writing their own songs in groups, following a simple AB (verse/chorus) form. They are focusing on lyrics first. We will then turn our attention to expression (dynamics, tempo, articulation and mood) to create the actual music around the lyrics. Students will make choices in melody, instrumentation and the overall “sound” of their songs to create a mood that suits the lyrics.