Creating access points for music education is something that South HS is pretty good at. We have a beginner band and a beginner string orchestra that meet everyday for 55 minutes. That's amazing in the high school world! It makes sense....there are beginning language courses, arts courses, remedial math and language courses, and there is usually an entry point for choir, so why not our instrumental classes. Our beginning class meet the same time as the "youngest" concert band (Concert Band) so that when students are ready, they can just move to Concert Band. There is a great group of students in beginning band....25 to be precise. Twenty-five beginning band students in high school! The challenge is to keep them engage while dealing with the intricacies of individual instrumental needs.
I think I may have figured out how to do this....finally. Now, some folks may argue up and down about this, but until someone has figured out a better way to teach transposition to beginners, while reading standardized notation, rhythms, which end is up on an instrument...and all that goes along with something new, I think I will keep doing this. Not to mention, this is much easier for those students who are also learning how to speak English. This is part of the scaffolding process that will lead into reading standard notation, which will occur next week.
Last week the students started playing their instruments. Rather than teaching them notes and rhythms first (ie, theory) we started playing first. I taught the first three notes of each instruments B-flat major scale to each group, but I didn't assign note names, just 1, 2, 3. We played around with different melodies, the students even created their own melodies (no rhythms yet). Then we added in rhythms. The numbers underneath the rhythms represent the notes. Each student, regardless of their instrument, received this same paper because I taught them the transposed notes, but as numbers. For the most part, these melodies were recognizable to the students, so they were able to attach the rhythm with what they were playing. The best part about this is that the students were playing together and experiencing success as individuals and as a group-SO important in beginning band. I also have a "rhythm" deck, so students combined different rhythms and we played through them together. Lots of opportunity for students to create, thus reinforcing what we were learning in class.
Next week students will be delving into standard notation. I intend to discuss both clefs with the students, so that they understand how they both work. Then I will hand out sheets of music that have the first six notes of the B-flat scale (number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 to the students) and we will then connect the number with the actual note. I think it will work. I HOPE it will work!