For the first time in quite a few years I am teaching 1st grade music in the afternoon again. I still have one section of first that meets in the morning though. I knew when I looked at the schedule over the summer that I would have a huge difference in classroom behavior with my 10 a.m. class and my 1:30 classes. Unfortunately I was still unprepared for exactly how ACTIVE tired 1st graders need to be! So frustration ensued for both me and the kids as I tried to find something, anything really that would help them learn music and stay focused.
Sometime around January I hit on it! (Yes it took me half the year to find something that worked)
My first graders LOOOOOOVE the BoomWhackers and they behave well with them because they don’t want to lose their turn to play. I focus on mastering basic rhythms in first grade. So BoomWhackers work nicely and I get a little iconic note reading worked on as well.
What is a BoomWhacker Mystery? Well, it’s a bit of Name That Tune and ear training with a little story telling worked in.
What I did:
1. Prepping the song for the SMARTboard. I created a square and a rectangle (twice as big as the square) and saved them in the “My Content” gallery in Notebook. Then I took the song Mary Had a Little Lamb and notated the first half of it iconically using my square and rectangle color coded to match the BoomWhackers.
2. Prepping the students. The next week I told the kids that I was getting these mysterious emails from the “BoomWhacker Master” challenging me to figure out a song on the Boomwhackers. All I had was the colored squares and I couldn’t quite figure out how to use Boomwhackers with that. I couldn’t play all the BoomWhackers on my own anyway. What I really needed I told them was some other people to help me out. The excitement in the room was palpable! The kids couldn’t wait to get started.
3. Figuring out the song. I would pull the Notebook file up and we discussed whether we needed the big or little red BoomWhacker to play this. So we talked a bit about high/low on the BoomWhackers and in the icons. We also had to figure out why some shapes where squares and others were rectangles. Each student would then get a BoomWhacker. I had like colors sit together. We would play the song through once and see if we could figure out what song it was. Some classes got it right away. If not, we would rotate to the next color of BoomWhacker and play it again. (This kept the kids who played the less frequently used pitches from complaining and made it more interesting to play the song repeatedly.) I served as the “conductor” and pointed at the the icons on the board to keep us all together and in rhythm. All classes figured out the song by the time each child had played all the colors.
4. Figuring out the end of the song. Now here’s the real kicker! Once the kids knew what the song was they quickly figured out that the whole song was not there. Luckily the “BoomWhacker Master” had given us a few extra icons to use so we could finish out the song. I was concerned my kids would not be able to maintain the focus to figure out the rest of the piece but for the most part they were so invested by this point that they kept working till we got it done. We would sing the song and listen carefully to decide if the next note was moving up, down or repeated to narrow down our choices. Then we would try our test note on the BoomWhackers to see if it sounded right.
5. Proving we had it to the BoomWhacker Master. I told the kids the email I got from the BoomWhacker Master stipulated that we had to prove somehow that we knew the song and could play it correctly. So we decided to make a video and post it on our school’s Schooltube.com page. I let the kids be the “conductor” for the video. Of course once we got the video posted we had to watch all the other first graders to see if they figured it out as well.
All of this took about 3 or 4 music classes. And as soon as we had gotten our congratulatory email from the BoomWhacker Master the kids wanted to know if I had gotten another one!