Issue 103: Pitch – year 3/4

I have decided to spend the first half of term exploring pitch with my year 3 and 4 class (7 and 8 year-olds). The year 4s spent last year doing a Wider Opportunities Djembe programme, so didn’t have much time with pitched percussion over the year. The year 3s had general classroom music which covered most of the elements as we went along.

What I want to do is to see if I can get most of the children able to read and write simple musical notation on a real manuscript paper. I’m kind of following the same sort of ideas as the year 3 “Wider Opportunities” keyboard class I’m teaching at another school, but using chime bars and xylophones.

I am starting from note letters, in direct contradiction to how I plan to teach keyboards, simply because the chime bars already have the letters printed on them.

So far, after two lessons, I’m really pleased at how it is going.

In lesson one, after a bit of prep about pitch, and high and low notes, and higher and lower notes, I taught the song “Miss Mary Mack”, making a really big deal of pitch movement. We sat on the floor, and as we sang, we tapped the floor for “Miss”, knees for “Ma-“, shoulders for “-ry” and head for “Mack, Mack, Mack”. We repeated the movements for the next line, and then for the third line the movements are head, shoulders, knees, shoulders, shoulders, shoulders. The last line is the same as the first. After we had sung and shaped all the verses a couple of times, I showed how the movements related to the note letters, C D E F (“The LONG chime bar is the LOWEST sound and goes on the LEFT”. We spent the rest of the lesson working in groups of three bonging, away at the tune – a pleasantly mellow sound with 10 sets of chime bars and medium soft beaters all hard at work.

Lesson two started with a condensed repeat of lesson one, except I handed out little notebooks (half-a-dozen sheets of A5 paper stapled together) and pencils, and set them the task of writing the letters for the tune as well as playing it. This was slightly more problematical, but most children succeeded. I encouraged them to “work together”, or in other words, copy from each other; after all, this isn’t an exam!

I then taught “Funmje Alafia” (starting on F, not G is in the link), so each note is one letter lower). Most of the children remembered the song from last year. We added the pitch movements for just the first 3 lines; head head, thump my hands onto the floor, knee knee, floor. I was very encouraged to see how many children suddenly scrabbled for their pencils; clearly a Very Large Penny had suddenly dropped and all the lights went on in their heads.

We’ll finish off Funmje Alafia ( for the last line, AA,G F, G will be hands up-a-bit above the head, A will be stretch up high) next week. I’m also planning to do Bee, Bee, again starting on F instead of G (F, D, FFD, FFGGFFD, FFDDFFD, FGFD) next week (head, knees, head head knees, head head, up-a-bit, up-a-bit, head, head, knees etc).

I’ll keep you posted regarding the next steps…

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