Parts of a Whole

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Exploring the Language of Instruments

During our first day the teaching artist uses her musical instruments to engage the students. Everyone is invited to explore music making materials. Students experiment with the feel and sound of the ankle bells examining it and making predictions about what materials the it is made of.

Moving the Rhythm Into Our Bodies

The teaching artist introduces the art form in more complexity. To practice maintaining a steady beat, the students tap their feet to the same time as the bells. Later the students are able to maintain the beat with their feet, while clapping their hands to a different rhythm. In this way the class distinguishes between beat (the steady pulse) and rhythm (a specific pattern that repeats). One student comments, “It takes practice. I get confused when I’m hearing other peoples’ rhythm. It’s hard to beat out 5 over 6 beats.” The team observes students struggling to maintain a steady beat. We haven’t developed the skills yet.

We move onto a Call and Response activity to help us pre-assess the students’ skill level with basic rhythm making, to determine where each student is at musically and then fill in the gaps. The students learn to play this activity using body percussion. They listen and repeat patterns of claps, snaps, thigh slaps, and stomps in different patterns while keeping the beat by tapping the foot. The students are noticibily engaged but as we progress to more challenging rhythms, some students remain active while others struggle to keep up. This public forum for learning allows students to gage each other’s abilities. Leaders emerge. As students reflect on the day’s activities, they process their discoveries noting where they need to improve.

At the end of class, the students respond in their journals, noting any ideas or questions that come up. Their experience of the process and their discoveries along the way are very important and useful to share.

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