Now, this is something I did in Sunday School in church this morning, but before you skip straight to the next post because you are not interested or involved in church, stay with me just a moment longer. My “topic” happened to be Pentecost, because today (19th May) was Pentecost Sunday, but you could actually do this lesson using any topic that you wanted. I had about ten children aged 6 to 8 years old, and a couple of adults in the group.
I chose the C, D, E G and A boomwhackers, as they form a pentatonic scale and would all sound reasonably OK together. We had the usual discussion about what you were allowed to hit with a boomwhacker (your hand, your leg, your head but don’t blame me if you hurt yourself, the floor, the chair, the table) and how hard you were allowed to hit things with (don’t hurt yourself, and don’t damage the boomwhacker), and what you were NOT allowed to hit with a boomwhacker (anyone else at all, ever, and if you do that’s the last time you get to use a boomwhacker in this session).
I then gave each colour a rhythm based on a phrase to do with our topic – e.g. reds played “Pentecost, Pentecost”, yellows (E) “Holy Spirit Holy Spirit”, greens “tongues—–of flame” and so on. On the count of 4, we all started to play our rhythms. Gradually everyone settled to a steady pulse, and the rhythmic patterns became established. Then, as we played, I explained that on the count of four, everyone could chose a new pattern, or make up their own one based on words and phrases to do with the topic. I counted us in, and a new pattern emerged. We repeated this a number of times, and I could see the members of the group listening, keeping time with each other, and noticing the way that the rhythms and melodic fragments emerged, stabilised, changed again.
If I hadn’t had enough boomwhackers for everyone, I would have added other percussion (my car is full of bags with rice-in-juice-bottle-shakers, sawn-and-smoothed-claves and tambourines)
So, whatever your class topic, you might like to try this out. As well as reinforcing topic based learning, you also hit composition, improvisation, pulse and rhythm, listening with attention to detail, and you could add changing pulse, dynamics and texture as extra elements to extend the activity.