Musical Road Trip: Part Work (part 1)

Happy Wednesday everyone! I hope that you've been enjoying the "Blog Hop" that's been progressing over the past couple weeks!

 I'm so excited to be the 4th stop on the Music Road Trip!!  

I'm excited about the topic that I'm blogging about today and it's something that has been a goal of mine to incorporate more and more in my elementary music classes: PART WORK!  Now, for the purposes of this blog I'm only going to concentrate on rhythmic part work.  (I'll be honest, I started this post and it got REALLY long, lol!)  So, next week I'll finish it up with some melodic part work.

When I first first started teaching and heard part work I was a little overwhelmed.  And let's face it, part work, in which the students are performing independently in two or more parts, is a little daunting.  But, there is definitely a sequence and a hierarchy in which part work can be taught with success.

Before a teacher can expect students to be successful at part work they MUST do a couple of things. First and foremost, the teacher must sing FOR the students, not WITH the students.  This is the hardest skill, as a teacher, to do!  I know there are times when I want to jump in and "save the song" while the students are attempting to perform a song but it's so important to resist that urge.  By singing FOR them and NOT WITH them a teacher encourages musical Independence, which is the other key to teaching part work.  

These two concepts and practices, singing FOR the students and musical Independence, should be introduced when students are very young.  I begin this the first day of kindergarten with students echoing what I say.  Now, you could argue that a very simple echo or an echo song is not part work, but in a very primary way  it is: one part is the leader and one is the echo.  This starts to lay a foundation and set an example that the teacher and the students are separate.  (When you sing WITH the students the students not only aurally become dependant on your vocal model but subconsciously make a connection that the teacher's voice is NEEDED for them to be able to sing as a group).)

As your kindergarten students, or students in any grade level, begin to learn song literature the simplest way to start incorporating part work is to have them keep a steady beat while singing a song.  This is a very primary way to incorporate part work but there are two things happening at the same time: singing and beat keeping.  This then progresses into the students tapping the rhythm as they sing a known song.

Once the students can sing a song and keep a beat and sing a song while tapping the rhythm it's time to combine the two.  I first do this by having the students sing the song and pat the beat while I tap the rhythm as they sing.  I like to have them pat the beat first because it is a bigger gross motor skill and for my visual learners (while they should in internalizing the beat) can also see the beat better than then rhythm and stay together as a group.  Once they can do this we switch, they tap the rhythm and I keep the beat.  From there, the teacher steps out of the picture completely, except to start the group, and one have taps the rhythm while the other pats the beat.  When this is done it's important to switch parts so that all students have the change to pat the beat and tap the rhythm.  Once students can do this, small groups then tap the rhythm and pat the beat or perform them on various non-pitched percussion instruments.  The more experiences and exposure to these types of activities early on the better!

After much practice of beat vs. rhythm I move into rhythm ostinatos.  The easiest is via body percussion with quarter notes (pat-pat-clap-clap, or some other simple beat pattern alternating between body parts).  The next is to incorporate rests into the pattern (ta-rest-ta-rest) and then add eighth notes (ti-ti ta ti-ti ta).  Once the first rhythm patterns have been presented, late practice is a great time for students to read rhythm ostinatos while singing known songs.  This is a great use for your 4 beat flashcards.  Pull one out that has a known rhythm

Rhythm canons are next in my sequence.  I start these by saying chants in canon with the students.  They start and then I come in second.  We do this numerous times before I start and they come in second.  The reason for this is that they need to hear when their entrance is by me modeling it.  After that we will use a song for the basis of our canon.  These are a little trickier.  Here's how I break it down.  The students will sing a song and then I start tapping the rhythm of the song that they're singing 2 or 4 beats after they start.  We then switch, but this is harder because they're hearing me sing and tapping something different.  From there, we do like before and split the class.  This can be done with known songs and with reading new, unknown patterns from a visual.  There are MANY variations that you can do with rhythm canons and Ann Eisen and Lamar Robertson go into it in great detail in their book, An American Methodology.

From there, we go into putting two songs together. One of my favorites is to have the students sing Apple Tree while I chant "I Climbed Up the Apple Tree."  We then switch and then the class divides in two and perform it without me performing a part.  Another example would be "Busy Buzzy Busy Bee" and "Burnie Bee".  

With all the skill listed above, as the students have more experience, the levels of difficulty can be increased.  This year I made a couple of files just for practicing part work.  The first one was the "Broken Hearts Club" and it was a cumulative exercise where first students would read small 4 beat patterns individually and then at the same time: 

After 4 beat patterns, they would read 8 beat patterns together (practicing them individually first):

And then finally 16 beats, individually practiced first and then we would put them together:

The thing I LOVED about this file is all the patterns are songs that we did in class: you'll notice above all the slides are the same songs- the blue is "The Canoe Song" and the red is "Black Snake."

The next file I made was this spring and my 2nd graders couldn't get enough of it. I'll admit, it was challenging though!  These are my Every Birdie Loves Rhythm Files.

Here they chose between a solo, duet or trio of rhythms.  If they chose a solo it was just a single 8 beat line.

If they chose duet there were two parts.  They'd practice part 1:

Then part 2:

Then put them together:  (This is Paw Paw Patch (purple) and Dinah (Orange.)  They LOVED figuring out which songs the rhythms belonged to):

And the trios has three parts.  Part 1:

Part 2:

And part 3:

And finally they put them together.  With the trips I started to mix known songs with contrived rhythms to keep them on their toes.  I had 3 of my 4 classes want to do only trios!  

I'll blog next week about some melodic ideas for part work.  If you have a blog post or product that talks about or supports part work (flashcards, etc.) please link up below!  All products linked up below are 25% off through Sunday morning.

My Broken Hearts Club BUNDLED SET will be 25% off in honor of this sale!

Thank so much for visiting the previous stops with Aileen at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room, Karla at C Major Learning and Jena at Sew Much Music.  Next Sunday we'll stop with Malinda at My Musical Menagerie before we come to our final stop (at which all the bloggers listed will blog about a little surprise!).


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1 comment

  1. I realized as I was reading your post and linking up that part work is something I need to do a lot more of! Thank you for your post. Lots of great ideas that I am going to try to incorporate this year!


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