One of my favorite grades to teach is kindergarten. They are young enough to be sponges, but old enough to understand many of the musical concepts that you teach. For the 2017 Chinese New Year (the year of the rooster), kindergarten decided to create a music piece using virtual Chinese instruments.
Setting the Stage:
I had pre-recorded music from the Erhu playing as the kindergartners walked into the room. As they entered, the music was soothing and at a slower tempo, which calmed them. As they sat and listened, I asked them what country they thought the music was from. There were various answers until China was revealed to be the correct answer. We continued listening as I asked the students how the music made them feel. The responses varied from happy to sweet.
Adding Movement and Exploring Rhythms:
I took out the small wrist scarves from Music is Elementary and showed them three moves that I learned from an assembly about Chinese dancing. We performed the rainbow movement (paint a rainbow in the air), the waterfalls movement (wave the scarf from high to low), and the waves movement (wave the scarf from side to side). I then played the recording of Gong Xi, a favorite song we sing around the time of the Chinese New Year, and we moved together with our small wrist scarves.
I do not have access to an Erhu and a Pipa. However, I do have iPads with the GarageBand app. I launched the app, pressed the + sign, tapped “Create New Song”, and then swiped until I found “WORLD”. I showed the Pipa and passed around the iPad for the students to explore by listening and playing the virtual instrument. With the Pipa, they were guided to perform one of the two rhythm patterns shown above. I would also quietly countdown from 5, so that they knew when their turn ended and they were to pass the iPad. We did the same for the Erhu. However, we further explored the different strokes of long and short, and the different melodic directions of high to low and low to high.
I told the students that we were going to create our own Chinese New Year Song to share with our parents on Seesaw (a digital student learning journal). We reviewed how we could play the Erhu with long and short sounds as well as low and high sounds. I turned off the metronome and pressed the record button in the GarageBand app. The students would perform on the Erhu as I quietly counted down from five. Each student would pass the iPad around, performing their short melodies. Once finished, we listened to their recording. I found loops labeled “Chinese Traditional” in the loop library. We listened to a few Chinese Traditional Guzheng loops and decided on one to accompany their melody.
Sharing to Seesaw
Once completed, I clicked “Select” in the My Songs menu in GarageBand. I then clicked on the song and tapped the share sign. In the share menu, I scrolled over to the Seesaw icon, clicked on it, found the class to share it with, and clicked the green check. Their song is now accessible on their Seesaw journal where their parents can listen to it, read the description or listen to their child speak about it, and leave a comment if they choose to do so.
The kindergartners were so proud of their musical creation. They felt like they owned the song and they felt that their song was beautiful enough to share with the Chinese teacher at our school. I was so proud of how well and musically they played the virtual Erhu. Here is a snippet of our activity:
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com