One of my piano teachers, the one that taught me through to my Teaching Diploma, was fanatical in demanding accuracy in subdividing the pulse. So much so, that when I heard a subway busker playing Bach on her flute, it took all my self-control not to stop and give her some hints about subdividing her crotchets, quavers and semiquavers with more precision. And as for church organists who don’t give the last note of each line of the hymn its full length…
Anyway, here’s how I have started this topic with my year 4 djembe class.
First of all, I had a track with a strong, moderate tempo beat – I used ‘Cyborg Chase’ from this book/CD combo
which is tailor-made for this kind of pulse, rhythm and pitch work, (and entirely well worth the money in my view!)
Anyway, whatever you choose, listen to the music, and clap on the first beat four times, then on beats one and three four times, then on beats one, two, three and four, and finally on beats one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and-
The next stage is to show them how to move their arms, like walking, first on beat one, then on one and three, and so on.
All this preparation is well worth the time – as well as reinforcing the learning, it prevents chaos at the next stage, which is Movement!
Now, choose a couple of children (I’m working in a small space so I chose just one) demonstrate moving to the music like this; take a single step on beat one (four times, as before), then a step on each of beat one and three, a step on each of beats one, two three fourth. Before you let them go, make it ABSOLUTELY CLEAR that when you get to one-and-two-and-three-and-four-and, they MUST run on the spot..’No travelling’ seems to be the magic phrase, which I took from a PE lesson.
If all has gone well, you can let the whole class join in together. Because of my space issues, I chose ten children, and then let the final twenty loose.
I’ll be introducing the notation for semibreves (whole-notes), minims (half-notes), crotchets (quarter-notes) and quavers (eighth-notes) later on.