One of the best ways to assess how well the children are able to read music notation is to get them to compose their own music.
Last week, I did “mini-beasts in the Pease Pudding” with a class of year 3 beginner recorder players, reading and playing the notes G A B C and also crotchet, quaver and crotchet rest notation. This week, I revisited the same piece. I put the musicjungle page up on the class whiteboard so that they could see the original “Pease Pottage” song and the mini-beast version, and we played both, discussing the differences.
The next step was to go over how the notes are written on the stave, and write up a few phrases to copy, emphasising the position of the note heads (blobs) for each letter. At this stage I didn’t go into the intricacies of time signatures and bars – my focus was to ensure that the children could read and write pitch and rhythm notation accurately.
I didn’t use the “aliens” method on this occasion, but if “space” is your topic, this might be a good method.
There was an eager rush of hands in the air when I invited children to write a little tune for the class to play, and a chorus of disappointed “aw”s when, after just two examples, I called “time” on that activity. However, the appearance of a pile of sheets of music paper was greeted with great enthusiasm, and after that the lesson ran itself, if rather noisily.
Resources – creating MS paper for children
You can enlarge ordinary MS paper on the photocopier. Got no MS paper? To create it in Word; make a table consisting of four rows and one column, make sure that “spacing” is set to “No Spacing” and the font in the table is 5. Copy and paste the table down the page.
Always remember to ask “Why should we always use a PENCIL when writing music? Why is a pen a Very Bad Idea?” before handing out the paper….
The children settled down to writing and playing their own music, and I circulated. I was able to spend a few minutes with each child, encouraging them along, playing what they had written, and explaining exactly how to place the notes in the couple of cases where they obviously hadn’t understood the relationship between position on the stave and fingers on the recorder.
Once the initial enthusiasm had died down, I suggested that they play each other’s tunes, which lead to a renewed frenzy of writing and playing.
It was lovely to see how these scraps of paper were saved and treasured to be taken home to show to their parents.