Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Perfect Penguin Project....

It's been a LONG time since I've posted. But I wanted to share one class of my first graders and their Perfect Penguin Project (which will be coming out in my new book, in the hands of Plank Road Publishers.....)

Several years ago, I was inspired to create a penguin project when one of my first grade teachers used penguins as a theme and it's sort of created a life of its own. I've used a penguin poem I've written as a springboard for teaching ta and ta-ti, for pentatonic improvised melodies, and for inspiration for ostinati. The steps I took this year are as follows:


  • I displayed my poem on my Smartboard and asked the students to read it.
  • I isolated the first two lines, divided the words in to syllables, and used these words to introduce ta and ta-ti. This also reinforced what they were learning in the general classroom. I had one first grade teaching colleague who was very excited that I was using the word "syllable". 
  • I defined the word "ostinato" ("Ostinato, over and over") and told the kids the proper plural term "ostinati" (not that it's "naughty"!). Using this as a basis, we reviewed what describing words are (and the kids were just learning about adjectives). The students brained stormed words that described penguins. I divided this into syllables, we used the Smartboard to notate the rhythm, and practiced the speech pattern.
  • From here, the students used unpitched percussion to perform the rhythm of the ostinato.
  • When we used barred instruments, I taught the kids to set the bars in C pentatonic. They then improvised their own melodies with the rhythm of the first two lines of the poem, eventually learning to "think" or mouth the words to the poem so they weren't saying it out loud.
  • For a B section, the students not playing on bars played ostinati on woods instruments. 
  • Directing with my hand (one hand was for the barred instruments, one for the woods), the students learned to follow the cues of the conductor. I thought, for one class, I fooled them when I raised both hands, but both groups continued to play, even though a couple weren't sure I wanted them to play simultaneously! 
  • I defined the word "rondo" and showed them a Smartboard "map" that showed how we would perform for a video: Both groups playing together, speech pattern on the ostinati, both groups playing together, doing the movement to Sanna Longden's "Penguin Dance", both groups playing together.
The final result can be viewed here:


Thoughts? Ideas? Please feel free to leave comments and share your own ideas!