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When it comes to rhythm, especially in the younger grades, some things are easier to teach than others. Making rhythms that match songs– easy. Repeating rhythms– easy. Even reading rhythms– easy. But what about improvisation and composition? That’s a little harder. I talked about improvisation and how I set that up in my Rain v. Llueva lesson (which was fabulous!). Today I’m going to talk about composition. Specifically, Christmas composition.
Because it’s time for Christmas lessons!
In this lesson, I am going to talk about how I set up the Christmas composition activity. I took parts of this and broke them apart over a few lessons, supplemented with some Christmas lessons like Arre Mi Burrito.
If you are looking for some other Christmas lessons, you can check out my 2-3 grade lesson/game Oh Christmas Tree (which has a free lyric sheet and coloring sheet!) or 4-5 grade lesson/game for the 12 Days of Christmas. If you want something more comprehensive, you can get 6 different lessons for different grades in my Christmas in the Music Room Bundle (or follow the links and get one of the lessons out of the bundle).
A few notes:
First, my students have already learned about rhythm at this point. Kindergarten knows ta and titi and my first graders know rest. You definitely want them to know rhythm before doing this activity. If you need help, you can check out this post or this lesson.
Second, I am using the rhythm manipulative and worksheet in my TPT product here. You can certainly make your own, and do not have to use the product that I’m talking about. I am also using the ornament composition cards from this TPT product.
So here’s the lesson:
- Start with singing a song that is only ta’s and titi’s (mine had a rest– oops!). I like to use a song that the students already know as a warm up. In this case, we are working on the song Arre Mi Burrito.
- Write the rhythms on cards or on the board (I print them off of my computer) and go over those. Because we just started using rhythm names and reading rhythms, I do this as a call and response first. We sing the song. Then I will sing and point to the rhythm or one of the lines. Next I will point and we will do just ta’s and titi’s. Then I will have the students say it with me while I point. That sounds like a lot, but it takes all of 30 seconds.
- Then, tell the students that we are doing an activity and we need some words. Ask if anyone could tell you a holiday word (and give a few examples). Write a ta and a titi on the board. As kids give you a word, sort them between ta and titi. I usually say the word a few times and have the kids “help” me figure out whether it has one syllable or two (ta or titi). I will say the word and clap or snap and let the kids try and tell me whether it is one syllable or two.
- After they have told you some holiday words, guide them towards the words that you are using for the composition activity. For me, for Kindergarten I am using elf and stocking, and for first grade we are using tree and reindeer.
- Once the kids have “come up with” those words, tell them that you have some cards you can use to make rhythms with those words.
Also read: Free Music Lesson: Bate Bate Chocolate
- Then I grab four cards and make a rhythm. The kids say it. Then I make another one and the kids say it. Then I ask if anyone else could come up with a rhythm. A few kids will say a rhythm with the words. Then I tell them that all of them get to make me a rhythm. (This modeling is really helpful with the younger students and getting them to understand the concept of what you are doing.
- Break the students into groups or two or three depending on how many students you have. Have on student make a rhythm and have the other student read it.
- While they are doing this, walk around the room and listen to student reading. Help when needed. I also take grades while I walk around the room listening to students read.
- Next, I give kids a sheet that has boxes and lines (in my Christmas Rhythms Manipulatives product) and have them write four rhythms. They write the rhythms on the line and then draw pictures of the words we used in the boxes. (There is also another line underneath that the students can write the words on, but I find there’s not enough space for the younger students to write in them so we left them blank.)
- Give out a small percussion instrument (like rhythm sticks or jingle bells if you are feeling festive) and have students play other people’s rhythms. I had one student stand up and read one of their rhythms and everyone else echoed it back with their instruments.
- In the next class period, we review the composition aspect. Then we used the templates form my Ornament Composition Activity to make rhythm Christmas ornaments! You can use any template you already have to this. Students just made a rhythm, and then colored it in, and they went up on my bulletin board!
Also read: Christmas Music Lesson: 12 Days of Christmas
So there we go! Manipulatives, writing rhythms, instruments, sharing compositions, and coloring. That’s a lot of stuff.
My kids had so much fun doing these activities. Like I said before, I actually spread them out through a few different days and supplemented with other songs, books, and games.
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What are your favorite Christmas lessons? Any tips for Christmas Composition? Let us know in the comments!