Issue 123: A Recent Wider Opportunities Samba Lesson

A 40-minute year 4 samba lesson, lesson 5 of a series of 10 at this school. I was being observed, so as well as teaching what I planned to teach, I also wanted to make sure that plenty of boxes were ticked! This is roughly how it went;

The children were led in by their teacher and sat, as usual, in a circle. I made some welcoming noises – Hello everyone, did you have a good weekend, etc. My “Observer” sat discreetly to one side.

We started with the pulse game that I posted last week (warm up activity, improvisation/composition boxes). I eyed up a couple of lads and asked them if they thought I was going to be happy to let them stay together. They shifted from foot to foot, looked at each other and stopped poking each other for a bit.

Then, using the laptop and projector, I put up a rhythm grid for the children to clap. The sound had worked perfectly when I checked it out before the lesson, but now failed completely, so I beat out the pulse on my very loud repinique drum. (Technology box ticked – and I survived the inevitable technology fail as well)

Singing – warmup – some shaking of arms and legs, zzz and sirening sounds, and general vocal warmup, and on to a couple of African songs. Funmje Alafia sung in unison and two groups with the last line used as an ostinato, and Kalele, sung three times (“normal”, soft, and loud) to demonstrate dynamics and teach the words “forte” and “piano”.  (that’s ticked vocal warmup, singing, singing in parts, singing with expression. The class topic is Africa, so that’s another tick)

Distribution of instruments ready for samba; I explained the procedure, including NO PLAYING PLEASE! The children came up in their groups to collect their instruments and sit down, ready, in their places.Monster in the castle

We revisited the rhythm grid with the samba instruments by way of a warmup, and tried allocating different lines to different groups (linking activities together, extending an activity). The lads were now messing around with their boom whackers; I game them the Evil Eye, and their class teacher wandered across to loom over them. The lads subsided, without anything being said.

I’ve been using a call and response song called “Kumala Vista” and transferring it to samba instruments; we sang it through with me leading, and then played it through with the surdos leading and each group taking turns to reply. The first time they tried, I realised I had sung it too fast for them to play at that tempo (observation nerves will out!); but of their own accord they tried it slower and it worked much better.

Finally, we worked through samba reggae; introduction, clave break and ending, playing the whole samba for the first time. It was pretty untidy but I left sorting that out for another time. Those lads turned out to be wholly committed to their clave rhythm, keeping all the rest of their section firmly in time. I was able to give them a big grin and thumbs up! The surdo section was a bit feeble to begin with this week, but responded to nods of encouragement and thumbs up signs, and got into the swing of things eventually. In the meantime I kept things going by beating out their rhythm on my repinique.

The children put the instruments away, except for the ganzas; they were given the challenge of taking their ganzas over and putting them in the hold-all without anyone hearing a single sound – this ensured total silence.

I briefly talked through the high-lights of what we had covered in the lesson – reminding them of the words “forte” and “piano” – and the children were led quietly away. (Plenary session at end of the lesson, reminding them of what we had done).

And Breathe.

In due course I received some useful and constructive feedback identifying what went well, and where I could improve. Breathe again! Until next time…

Flying birds divider

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