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Grade: Middle
Subject: Music

#4442. Teaching notation to low literacy students

Music, level: Middle
Posted Fri Sep 3 17:47:31 PDT 2010 by Shirley (Shirley).
NSW, Australia
Materials Required: Drum sticks, drum pad
Activity Time: 20 weeks
Concepts Taught: rhythm, reading

This is a summary of a 20 week program for children with low literacy abilities and probably not very mathematical either! This is a failsafe approach but half a year later I have my students playing a drum score. They never read music, never touched an instrument before this. They couldn't even spell tambourine.


Week 1. Introduction to class behavioural expectations, rules etc. Meditation: Pretend you're not here today at school, what would this room be like? (5 mins), list down everything students hear.
Assign numbered drum sticks to each student. Learn to play the "paradiddle" exericse which is LRLL RLRR (rpt). Do call and response exercises, learn to stop at the same time after 4 bar phrases.

Double paradiddle: LRLRLL RLRLRR
Triple paradiddle: LRLRLRLL RLRLRLRR

Week 2: Demonstration of holding the drum stick properly - like you're riding a Harley Davidson, wrists facing the floor, 2/3 way down the stick in a bouncing motion. Get students to bounce the stick against the wall to understand technique.

Remember to lift the stick and drop it rather than wedge it through your drum skins!

Instrument Spelling test - students will love this one, introduce word bank of percussion instruments, demonstrate a real version of the instrument and get students to label as you talk about each one briefly. Have 10 minutes for them to test run the gear! History of claves rhythm is very interesting...give meaning to the sticks.

Week 3. Introduction to quarter note, sixteenth notes (in fours), the quarter note rest and the half note. If children struggle with reading fractions, use a name that reflects the symbols.

Quarter note - Bugs - they look like one

Pair of 8th notes - Horses, with the saddle

Half note - mushroom - white with a stem

the quarter rest - as is.

Music maths - provide maths worksheet where students add up, subtract, divide these symbols.

Sight reading - Get students to sight read these not use bar lines or time signatures. They will read bar lines as an I or something.

Visually reinforcing time - this activity, you have a picture of a ruler, get students to shade in the rhythms, e.g. quarter note will be 1cm, the pair of 8th notes will have a gap but still 1cm length.

The previous activities are basically repeated everytime you introduce a new rhythm. Here's a general timeline of how we introduce notes to the students.

Weeks 1-3 Quarter, pair eights, half, 1 beat rest

Weeks 3-5

four of sixteenth notes - are called caterpillar.
whole note - called a "Great big cheese ball"

By this point, there is a lesson teaching students how to read "upside down" notes with the explanation that they mean the same value.

Students label and identify drum parts, for every new drum/percussion they learn about they label and have spelling tests regularly (for low literacy only!)

RHYTHM DICTATION - Students have weekly rhythm dictations, they have to write out a 1-2 bar rhythm.

STAVE - Reading drum kit notation. Do not give them ALL the notes yet. We teach them to use locators, such as L1, L2, L3, L4, L5, S1-4. The first activity is to locate the note, e.g. the mushroom note is on L3. etc. Put a variety of symbols, such as an X (used for cymbals) as well.

Repeat the rhythm dictation activity, get students to notate simple rhythms that switch from say a quarter note on the bass drum then a quarter note on the hi hat.

NOTE: Do not use 2 notes at once yet. So don't have the hi hat playing with the snare at the same time. Focus on becoming familiar with the notes themselves.

Students learn to play a very easy rock beat on the drum kit. This will take a while.

Week 6-8 Introducing time signatures.

Show students a rhythm with bar lines and time signature. Explain the bar lines divide the nots up in groups. Then ask them to use their music maths skills to add up all the notes between each bar. They will work out what 4/4/ means very soon.

Clap rhythms in 4/4, 3/4, ask students how many bars have you clapped or when a certain rhythm occurs.



If this is of help let me know and I'll post a continuation of this program. Cheers