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  • Writer's pictureJenny Ferris

Older Beginners

If you are starting at a new school that is new to the Kodaly approach, it can be difficult to know where to start. Obviously your prep students are brand new just like you and you can start with them as you normally would. But what about your older students? They may have had several years of music education (albeit not using the same language and methodology as a Kodaly-based program) and so you can't just teach them the same thing as the preps.

But then again, you can't just jump in and teach your Year 4's what you would teach them if you'd had them since prep. Argh! What to do?!

Older Beginners Unit

Older Beginners can be tricky. They are caught in the difficult position of having a certain degree of maturity and life experience (not to mention faster processing speeds and independence than preps!) but without having the musical knowledge and experience to back it up.

It is therefore necessary to carefully craft a separate program for your older beginners (I usually tailor this to my Year 5/6 classes, possibly even Year 4s) to get them up to speed in a way that is appropriate for them.

In my first term I blitz through several rhythms in the initial lessons - much like a secondary Kodaly class would - as the students have more sophisticated listening skills, not to mention an awareness of things like syllables from their English classes.

We typically cover beat vs. rhythm in the first lesson and present taa/ti-ti and saa in the next week. I like to bring out my favourite practice activities like celebrity heads to ensure the students have a solid grasp of these concepts.

I then craft a series of pitch discovery lessons based on the tone set of do-re-mi rather than so-mi. Students in upper primary are often beginning to develop a sense of self-awareness and the need to appear "cool" in front of their classmates becomes paramount. Therefore, not only getting them to sing, but getting them to sing so-mi songs like See Saw is suddenly embarrassing and babyish.

The process is ostensibly the same as for so-mi discovery with younger students:

- We start by building repertoire (some top songs I use include Hot Cross Buns, Closet Key, Babylon's Falling and Goin' Round The Mountain)

- Students build awareness that there are three distinct pitches: high, middle and low and start to show these by "pitch-patterning" along as they sing. I get them to put their hands on heads for the high note, shoulders for the middle note and knees for the low note.

- We then see some visual representation on the whiteboard - I have a great set of Hot Cross Buns magnets that the students have to arrange to show the pitch contour.

- Once they can accurately pitch pattern and recognise the contours of these known melodies, we're ready to present do, re and mi.

We practice in all the usual wonderful ways - echoing short patterns of solfa, reading flashcards, transcribing known melodies, doing dictations and improvising circles, spotting the errors in known songs and playing these melodies on instruments like xylophones.

For my selected songs, lesson plans and practice activities you can check out my Teachers Pay Teachers page.

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