Teaching

Improvising Shamrocks

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I can’t go to Dollar Tree anymore.

I end up walking out with piles of craft foam shapes, treat baggies, stress balls, decorations, storage bins and a thinner wallet anytime I go there. I purchased some shamrock shapes at least two years ago and hadn’t come up with an idea for them yet, so I put them to use with some improvising practice this past week.

My 4th graders just learned eighth-two sixteenths – “ta-dimi” we call it – and we are in the process of introducing some improvising methods to my second graders, so I was able to kill two birds with one stone with this activity.

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I took four shamrocks at a time and created beat charts – I chose to laminate them because the sparkles on some of the shamrocks got everywhere, though is did make the charts a little warped in some cases. We paired these with dice I made on foam blocks – I made one set with quarter note, two eighth, four sixteenth, and eighth-two sixteenth and another set that just had quarter note, two eighth, and quarter rests for my 2nd graders.

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In groups, the activity started as a way to practice clapping rhythms. One student would roll the dice, arrange them in the pattern of their choosing on the board, and clap the pattern before passing it on to the next student. But after a while, I’d take one dice away, and then the assignment changed – it was time to improvise! The last beat, now blank, would be filled in with a rhythm of that student’s choosing. After a few minutes of getting comfortable improvising one beat, then we could take two dice away and improvise two beats. Continuing this process, we can wade in to the deep, scary side of improvising slowly and get used to the water rather than just demand the students to make music on the spot in front of their classmates.

We’ll continue using these beat charts this week and adding some Irish folk dancing and games to wrap up before spring break, and a couple of grades will do a “write the room” activity where they have to hunt around the room for flashcards I’ve hidden and copy them on a worksheet. Hopefully the spring weather will warm up and help the trees be as green as our classroom before St. Patty’s day!

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