In Grade 2, I do a focus on the elements of music, reviewing many familiar terms (tempo, dynamics, pitch) and introducing new musical terminology as well. It’s the common PYP cycle of analysis and synthesis: We break the music down into its building blocks, and then manipulate the separate blocks in order to express something new.
Throughout the unit, each class has kept a running list of the feeling and emotion words they’ve used to describe some of our listening examples. These lists include typical words like “happy” and “sad”, but also some more interesting ones like “mysterious” and “aggressive”. I put these words on separate slips of paper and stuck them in a box. Then we put our musical descriptors (fast, loud, low, soft) into another box. In small groups, the students chose one paper from each box, and their challenge was to compose an instrumental soundscape that fit both descriptors. The students come up with some very expressive music, but what was even more interesting was the conversations.
It was enlightening to hear how students used the terminology, made connections to Drama or literature, and translated their thoughts into sounds. I think my favorite part was a class discussion we had about different kinds of anger, thanks to the group that drew both “angry” and “soft”. They started out by claiming they couldn’t do it, but we came together as a class to imagine situations where anger might sound “soft”, and they probably had the most expressive soundscape in their class!
There are so may ways to work with the elements of music, and I’ve had great success as well as great failure. What are your most creative approaches?