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I'm sharing this lesson in part so that those of you on supply lists can load it onto your MP3 player, throw a set of speakers into your car, and teach kindergarten or grade one music at the drop of a hat. If you find yourself in a classroom with youtube access, you don't even need the MP3 player.

Learning goal: students will associate various elements of music (tempo, timbre, pitch, rhythm in particular) with various animals according to the animal's characteristics. They will move creatively to the music, pretending to be the animals in question.

(You can find expectations to match this in the full day kindergarten curriculum. I suspect you can probably find expectations in any kindergarten program. Bonus points if you can get video of the kids moving, to leave for their regular teacher so she can use the lesson for evaluative purposes.)

Materials: A variety of music tracks or video tracks referencing animals, and the technology to play them.

Set: Who can tell me about hippos? Are they big or little? Are they slow or fast? (This is almost certainly a misconception - hippos are actually very fast. I'd let that go for this lesson.) As you play the song "Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud," ask the students to tell you what it is about the song that reminds them of hippos.

Play the song once. Get a few answers to the question: there are low notes, the music goes fairly slow, lots of talk about mud. Play it again, and this time invite the students to move like hippos. If they're having trouble, get right in there and move ponderously around the carpet.

Then ask the students about bumblebees: how do bumblebees move? Would you imagine high notes or low notes for bumblebees? Quick notes or slow notes? Tell them the next song is about a bumblebee, and when they're done listening, you'd like them to be able to tell you why it sounds like a bumblebee. Then play "Flight of the Bumblebee." (I used a version recorded by Perlman on the violin; this piece has been recorded on everything from a piccolo flute to a tuba, so make sure you choose one to start with that is played on a violin, otherwise you'll confuse the heck out of the kids.) Watch for the kids who move like bumblebees, buzzing and flapping and darting or running in place. It's only a little more than a minute long, so let it go to the end.)

Get answers about why it sounds like a bumblebee. If you're in the regular classroom and have a place for such things, this is a good time to make an anchor chart with pictures and words: a hippo with the words "slow, low", and a bumblebee with the words "high, fast."

Lesson part two, probably during a second class period:

Remind the students of the previous work and the anchor chart. Tell them that this time, they're going to listen to the music without knowing what animal it's about. They get to move to the music and then guess what the animal might be. You can give them some examples: if the music is slow and low, they're going to move one way, and if the music is jumpy, they can jump, and if the music is calm and flowing, they can glide smoothly.

I used several pieces from the Carnival of the Animals, by Camille Saint-Saens. Some of the recordings had a poem about the animal at the beginning, so I set it up ahead of time to skip that part. I played the kangaroo first, and the kids quickly realized it was jumpy music with some calm parts. When asked what they thought it was, I got one kid who said it was a cat, because sometimes cats prowl and sometimes they jump on stuff; that's a level four answer. Another kid guessed a bunny, and another a kangaroo. After that I played the elephant one, which is played on double basses; they got that one quickly, too. Then I played the swan one, and they had more trouble with gliding movements; I got a lot of ballet twirls from the girls for that one, but the answers were about fish and birds, because it sounded like the animal was gliding calmly.

Wrap-up: Students can contribute to the anchor chart about elements of music, and talk about how music can represent movement in different ways. Since the point of the lesson is to explore movement rather than language, it's up to you how much you want them to talk about what they did or learned. It might be valuable to get them to draw their perception of one of the pieces of music, for an art/music connection; perhaps use the Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals for a drawing connection.

It was an awesomely fun lesson to teach and I got a lot of good information out of it.

June 2017

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