Issue 61: The Three Little Pigs

This half of term I have been looking at “timbre” with a year 1 and 2 class, working towards performing a “musical” version of the Three Little Pigs. This fitted in nicely with their class topic of “Traditional Stories”. We also managed to connect with their literacy unit on “Writing Instructions” along the way.

The wolf blows down the straw house in a 1904 adaptation of the story. Illustration by Leonard Leslie Brooke (wikipedia)

Every lesson also started with a movement activity, either linked to listening to some music and moving expressively, or a singing game.

Here is a write up of the lessons as a mixture of fact and fiction: what did happen, what could have happened, what should have happened as a starting point for anyone who would like to try and create their own version.

Week 1

I took quantities of three or four categories of percussion, so that I could divide the class into several groups of similar instruments. For example, shakers, tambourines, claves (sticks), jingle bells.

I demonstrated each instrument, discussed the “right” way to play (carefully, not banging them on the floor, watching what you are doing), and we talked about the sounds they made.

The instruments were handed out (“and when you get your instrument, you will put it on the floor in front of you and NOT play yet”) and then we played together, keeping the beat in time to a song, or taking turns (“just the jingles this time”)

Week 2

The same selection of instruments, and roughly the same process. This time the children were asked to arrange themselves into instrument groups, and the idea of “conducting” – hand signals for which group should play when, and louder and softer, introduced.

Week 3

A more varied selection of instruments was used (but avoiding the really “exciting” big drums, steel pan, giant cymbal for now!). The idea of notation, using whiteboards and pens, was introduced (a cross for claves, circle for tambourine, etc). Children followed the signs on my whiteboard, and then were paired off, with two different instruments and a whiteboard each to notate and play their own music. As I went round all the groups, I encouraged them to consider elements such as loud and soft, fast and slow, and find ways of notating them.

Week 4

The wider selection of instruments was brought in, and we discussed what they were made from, and described the sounds. The children grouped themselves according to different categories: wood, metal, something else; or loud, soft, both loud and soft, for example. There was more conducting to compare the different effects of different groups.

At the end of the lesson, after the instruments were put aside, talked about the first part of the “Three Little Pigs” and which sounds would work for straw, sticks and bricks.

Week 5

Now that the children were settled into the term, and I knew most of their names, and had a rough idea of their behaviours, I felt ready to risk the really exciting percussion. So we emptied the cupboard; the children took slit drums, an old guitar, the Big Cymbals (and a soft stick!), xylophones, mini steel pan, the giant bass chime bars –  in fact every sound-maker that wouldn’t be too heavy for them to carry.

Each instrument was played and discussed in turn, and then all the children had an opportunity to play everything (it was a very noisy lesson). I took the view that the children were all desperate to play all the instruments, and it would have been very hard for them to have a sensible discussion when their hearts were yearning to have a go at the Really Big Cymbal. A bit like holding out a biscuit

We did manage to leave enough time to play all the instruments again, one at a time, and describe the sounds some more.

Week 6

Back on track for the “Three Little Pigs”. I had written a little nursery-song style verse for the story, and sang it to them, recording myself on my lap-top in front of their eyes. Bonging a “C” chime bar four times makes a useful and easy introduction, and I have includied an optional chilme bar part under the words. I would have taught the song, and used it, earlier in the term, but I hadn’t thought of it then. The children were fascinated and absolutely silent for the recording and playback, and very enthusiastic about the idea of learning the song and being recorded. When they were singing it confidently (after about three verses, it is that simple!), I recorded and played back their singing.

We were now ready for the grand performance. I sorted out the groups for straw, sticks, bricks, the sound of the wolf “huffing and puffing”, the sound of the house falling down.

We discussed the requirement for silence when recording. I even went as far as recording us all being silent, and playing it back. Every last jingle, thump and shuffling noise was there for everyone to hear, and we agreed that we would have to be Very Careful during the recording!

Part 1 used the song, and the groups playing straw, stick and bricks music, directed by a conductor. I stopped the recording and played it back.

Part 2 was briefly rehearsed, before being recorded. It consisted of half the class playing the wolf “Little Pig, Little Pig, let me come in”, the other half playing the pig “No, no, by the hair on my chinny chin chin”. “Then I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in”. The huff and puff sounds followed (rainstick) and the crashing of the house (Really Big Cymbal)

Part 3 was a “vocal sounds” section; as I narrated the wolf going down the chimney, landing in the fire, and shooting back up and away, the children made appropriate sounds, following hand signals.

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