Keeping A Beat with the Man in the Moon
Until I started teaching junior primary students, there were certain things about music teaching that I took for granted. The ability to wipe your own nose or tie your own shoes, for example.
Another thing I definitely took for granted was a tacit understanding of what it meant to keep a steady beat. But this is not guaranteed. The beat, just like anything else, is something which must be consciously taught to our students, and the earlier we can teach them, the better.
So how does one teach the beat? Well, let me show you!
We begin with lots of experiential learning - by telling students clap along with me, to walk in time with me to songs like Engine, Engine, to use a parachute or lycra sheet to sway back and forth to the beat with songs like "Two Teddies on a Trampoline" (this is EXCELLENT for students who are struggling to feel a steady beat and keep time with one. We let the strength of the group keep the beat and they get dragged along into keeping time with them!) I'll be posting about this song in more detail in the near future, so keep an eye out for it!
When it comes time to consciously present the concept of Beat, I like to use the song "Good Night".
I sit down all my students in a circle and pull out my Man In The Moon puppet - usually pausing to pass him around as the kids love the opportunity to learn with their fingers and hold the puppet for a moment!
I put the Moon puppet on my shoulder and pat him gently to a steady beat, as if cradling a baby off to sleep. I ask the students to pat their invisible moon puppets and make sure they are tapping at the Same. Time. As. Mine. Same. Time. As. Mine (I repeat these words a few times over to the beat to help students hear where the beat is).
We then sing Good Night a few times over before I ask the students what part of our body we'd be tapping if the moon wasn't there? Our hearts! And what do our hearts do? They beat!
When musicians keep in steady time with the music, we call it keeping the beat.
We then practice keeping a steady beat in a wide variety of different ways - clapping, stomping, tapping knees, tapping noses, a free choice way where the students see what they could come up with (that was an interesting segment!)
After a while (as in several lessons' worth) we introduce a visual component to the idea of beat. This visual beat-tracking encourages the connection that symbols can represent sound - great for ticking off those Literacy boxes! - and is great prep work for rhythm as you are unconsciously suggesting that one or more words or syllables can fit within one beat.
I like to keep the "Good Night" theme going by using moons for a visual beat-tracking exercise. I might project this image on the whiteboard, or print out individual sheets for students. There is also a similar and fantastic activity within the Take Note student books. If you haven't already, I highly recommend checking them out as a classroom resource.
Students point to each moon picture for each beat of the song. You can test their comprehension by asking which moon has the word "sleep" on it? (Moon #3) Which moon has the words "Friends will" on it? (Moon #5) etc.
I also love puppets that keep on giving. In this case, I use my Man In The Moon in later years for the song "I See The Moon" which I use as part of a unit presenting do.
You can download all of these great lesson ideas plus the pattern to sew your very own Man In The Moon at my Teachers Pay Teachers store here.
Are you keen to have a moon of your own and put these ideas into practice but lack the time or the confidence to sew one yourself? Never fear, because you can now purchase custom-made Moon puppets through my Etsy store! Click the link to visit.
Happy singing, happy sewing!