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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Teaching silence with a candlestick

Today I'd like to talk about my saa presentation strategy. In case you're not too familiar with Kodaly methodology, the "presentation" segment of a unit happens only once in one lesson, and usually only lasts about 2 minutes.

It's the moment where we tie together all of the aural and visual information we have about a sound and finally name it. Kids love this moment and by the time we get to it, they're usually falling over themselves to find out what it's called! (Or, in the case of those with older siblings, some have already been told what it is and are quietly reveling in their own cleverness. Rather than spoil the surprise, I tell them they can keep the name a secret while we're still learning about it, then when we present it, if it turns out they were right, they get to do the " I am a genius dance" - which looks oddly like the Bus Stop).

For saa presentation, I like to use the song Candle Burning Bright:

Candle Burning Bright sheet music

In the preparation lessons, I like to use this battery-operated candle and invite a student or two to come and try blowing it out. The first two attempts, it will just flicker, but on the third one, I tell them to take a really deep breath and then I switch off the candle as they blow it out.

Battery-operated candles

My students also think it's hilarious that the song says "gently blow you out" and then they blow out the candle with an almighty gale of wind!

In the previous lesson, I will have put 16 candle magnets on the board (4 x 4 to show each line of text) and the students have to tell me how many flames to put on each candle; one flame for one sound, two flames for two sounds and no flame if there is a beat of silence. This gives a clear visual representation of the rhythm. Plus, the best bit of the song (blowing out the candle) is drawing attention to the silence.

Candle magnets

These candles will be left set up from the previous lesson (though in reality I've actually packed them up and then reset them because, you know, 26 other classes have happened between then and now!)

I ask the students how a musician would write the first beat, would they use a candle and flame? No, they'd use a ti-ti! Then, I say the following phrase:

When musicians perform a beat of silence, they call it "saa" and they draw this symbol:


For the high flyers and students learning instruments outside of school, I make sure I include an actual crotchet rest so they can make the connection to their instrumental studies, but explain that as musicians are sometimes lazy, we also see the simplified symbol.

Crotchet rest

And, just like that, presentation is done!

I always make sure I repeat a presentation segment in the following lesson, usually with a different song, so that

A) Any students who were absent the previous week get the new learning

B) Students who were there get a refresher, because a lot can happen during the week between lessons, and

C) It allows students to gain understanding of the rhythm in a new context and allows them to apply the knowledge to other pieces of music.

Some other great songs to use include Pease Porridge Hot, Mary Mack, Five Fat Frogs or Hot Cross Buns.

If you like the look of the candle magnets, you can purchase a ready-to-laminate set on Teachers Pay Teachers along with a song analysis as part of my Candle Pack.

There's also a great song in there for simple & compound time contrasts!

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