My second grade students have completed the third step in their composition process–translating their rhythms and pitches into standard music notation. They began by writing 16 beat rhythm compositions, using quarter notes, pairs of eighth notes, and quarter rests. Then they added solfege pitches of a pentatoic scale (do, re, mi, so, la) to their rhythms. Now, they’ve used their solfege pitches to place their rhythms on a staff.
Most of the students have grasped this process quickly, but there are still a handful who are finding it very challenging. Although I suspect that a part of the challenge for some of those is a lack of listening to directions, I’m working to find better ways to help them understand. It’s always a delicate balance to use lessons that aren’t overly frustrating to those who don’t catch on right away, but that are exciting for those who do.
One method I’ve used on this assignment is group work. Although the students are working on their own compositions, they are responsible for everyone in their group completing their work. I made sure that there were students who were already finished transferring their own compositions into standard notation, students who understood but were taking a little longer to complete the assignment, and students how did not understand what they were supposed to be doing in each group. As it turns out, second graders can be very helpful and gentle teachers to their peers. The added element of unspoken competition between groups is also a good motivator!
I wasn’t sure how this would go over; it’s sometimes hard to avoid predicting how kids will feel based on my own, adult reactions to similar situations. If I were one of those who didn’t get the assignment, I might feel very self-conscious about being the slow one in the group. Generally, I don’t see that reaction in my students. In such a small school, the students seem to know and accept each others’ strengths and weaknesses without question. Everyone might know that a certain student always struggles in math, but it’s not worth making fun of him because everyone also knows that he’s great at reading and sports. They also accept, better than adults who are learning something new, that they are in the learning process. There are exceptions, but overall, this method seems comfortable and effective for this assignment. Those who caught on more quickly took pride in being able to help their peers, and some were very good teachers. I may have learned some new teaching methods from listening in on their group work!
I’m looking forward to the second graders adding tempo and dynamics to their compositions, and eventually, performing their works!