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Cross-Visitation field notes, 3/6

dharris's picture


March 6th, 2013


Ms. Gander’s class – 5th grade music


I arrived for my visit with fairly few expectations, feeling open.  I knew I'd be with 5th graders (a new age group for me) and that we'd be doing music, and that was about it.  We jumped right in: the class entered, and Jim, my classmate, led them in an initial name game. The children went around in a circle and said their name along with a gesture (a swoop of the arm, a snap, jumping into in “x” shape, etc.).  Momentum built as they went around the circle; laughter bubbled up as the kids (obviously very comfortable with each other) shared nick-names, made gestures more active, and generally had a good time with it.


Ms. G then did an exercise with a song called “Tumbai”.  She sang the melody out along with the words.  But she asked the children to count the number of times “tumbai” came up in the song.  This seemed strange to me at first, but then I began to realize: this was simply a method of getting the children to pay close attention to exactly what she was saying (content) and also implicitly hearing the musical goal (melody).  The song begins with “tumbai” repeated seven times, it then goes on to a melodic part with “fa” and “la” as the only syllables used.   It’s fairly challenging for me to get it the first time, but I, as well as most of the students, have it by the 3rd time around.  Now we’ve heard the song three times already, but we feel like we’re just getting a handle on it.  Only then does she explicitly mention melody (paraphrasing): “Now I’m going to sing the melody alone and you’re going to sing it back to me”.  She begins to do so and inevitably a child starts singing along at which point she stops and glares in that friendly, comfortable way that people who have known each other for a while can do.  “First just me.  No thank you.”  She sings.  The class sings.  She breaks it up into small sections (the first 2 bars, then the next 2, and so on).  Gradually, the number of off-pitch notes decreases, and the class becomes something of a chorus.