On Sunday, my elementary bell team played "I Am a Friend of God" in the morning service. Things were not perfect, but the students enjoyed themselves and we received several compliments from members of the congregation. After the kids had this successful performance experience, I knew they were ready to work hard to continue to improve. I decided to begin introducing them to notation.
As a starting point, we began by learning about quarter notes, half notes, and whole notes. Students clapped, snapped, and tapped out rhythmic patterns written on the board. We actually had a lot of success and fun. I especially enjoyed watching adults learning alongside the kids!
To apply the rhythms to playing the bells, I had arranged a simple song using only these three note values. To overcome the students' issues with note recognition, I attached a card to each bell with its corresponding note. A problem arose that I didn't expect.
On the card, I notated the pitch with a quarter note. Students were unable to make the connection that the location of the note on the staff indicated pitch while the shape of the note (i.e. quarter or half) only referred to its duration.
This Sunday, I begin rehearsals for our Christmas musical which will become another arm of the church's music education program. Here's a synopsis of what I plan to do in the coming classes. After re-enforcing rhythmic values on Sunday, we will clap several rhythmic drills. To add to the fun and test students' understanding, different activities will correspond with each rhythmic value. Students will snap on quarter notes, clap half notes, and pat their knees for whole notes.
On Wednesday, we will introduce melodic notation, beginning with the spaces of the treble clef. The piece we are learning is in F major; the space notes comprise the majority of notes we will use. I am brainstorming activities now to drill the skills in class. The more fun I can make the learning, the more engaged the students will be. The more engaged they are, the greater their retention and THAT is the ultimate goal.