Composing a Musical
Teacher: Chris Thrasher
Teacher: OK let’s go back to Twinkle. Can you turn your knees and nose this way please. Now we’re going to sing it very traditionally. How do you remember Twinkle, Twinkle? One, two, ready and …..
Teacher: Are we awake yet? OK, now let’s do that quick variation. What did we do to change the melody? Jeremy, what would we do?
Student: Added more notes.
Teacher: Added more notes, so ….
Creative process happens when the children are allowed some variety, some choice in what they do. So my role is to teach them how to do a song, a variation of a song, how to do a soundscape, how to do a movement or dance piece; give them some structure with that, and then allow them to do some variations on that in that structure.
Student: Well what I was working on was a soundscape. It’s like music that’s supposed to symbolize something. For example ours was like a busy street so we were trying to find things that are like walking and bells and horns and things that symbolize that.
Student: Right now we’re doing a musical and we’re using ___ rhymes and I enjoy that because we can change how the song is and make it rap or something like that, and it’s fun.
Teacher: Here we go, ready …..One ….
[Variation of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star]
When I’m integrating the arts I never say I’m integrating the arts. They started this project in music class so I’m their music teacher, so they’re coming in and I’m saying OK you’re going to create your own musical today. I say I’m going to teach you the steps, that’s my job. I can teach you the steps to get to your musical, and we’re going to start one step at a time. Once they go through the different steps all of a sudden they’ve got a whole bank of material and things to pull on to create their musical. It’s giving them that scaffolding, that background, so that they can take it into their own thing.
Teacher: All right so we’ve got three versions here. We have the version, the traditional …
Teacher: Then we did what one? Yes, Tim? We added more melody notes to it. So we slowed it down and stretched it out. Then what did we do? It’s another variation on Twinkle. Rachel?
Teacher: We rapped it, and by rapping it or chanting it, what did we put in it to help give the flavor of that genre; what did we do? We put ….beat boxing in and we put … a wicka-wicka, some other sound effects in. Good job over there.
They need to be taught how to do the basic structure first. So I do that and then allow them creativity and choice in lyrics and movement and sound after they’ve got the basic structure.
Teacher: So right I want you to choose only beat numbers, don’t choose anything else. And I want you to choose one beat number and every time your beat number comes up I want you to click or clap, click or clap. One, two, three, four …..
Creative process happens when the children are allowed some variety, some choice in what they do. My job as the teacher is to guide and facilitate, and in doing that I’m allowing and pulling from the children their creativity and their excitement, their enthusiasm. It’s all about the kids being excited and if they’re excited they’ll do it.
Teacher: That’s cool ….
Teacher: OK, what they’re doing is I’ve asked them to work with counts of eight to help them with the focus. So they are working through some stuff, I hear them counting to eight, I see them doing some units and things ….
Student: I’m not really into performing and stuff but sometimes it’s fun
Students: The techniques that we learn when we’re in a group is like expressing yourself, making your own music with your group, and we’re learning how they do drama, like the different ways people do it.
What makes the group work really well when we’re doing this kind of assignment is the personalities and dynamics of the children that come together.
Student: I like working in groups because we can put our ideas together to make one really great idea, and if it’s individually you can have good ideas, but the more people the more good ideas.
And if the teacher chooses the groups, for me personally I find that then it’s my problem if the group fails, because I’ve put this group together thinking it would work – and it’s not.
Student: I don’t like working with all boys all the time because we would just mess around a lot. So if it’s a mixture then you would stay on task more
And doing this kind of integrated arts assignment they have to be able to listen to each other, they have to accept each other’s suggestions and ideas. They have to be critical and critical in a way I mean by being able to say OK this is going to work but this isn’t going to work and how are we going to change it. And that’s hard at this age because a lot of them have ego issues and would like their idea to go forth, and if it’s not then they feel hurt.
Student: I think when I was younger I noticed that people would tell me that I was kind of taking charge and now I can just tell myself that I’m taking charge and I should back off a bit.
So there’s a learning skill where that child has to be able to work with the group, move in with the group, accept the fact that it’s not just about that child, it’s about the group. It’s not a one-person show. So I see a lot of learning skills being developed through this.
Teacher: The movement I want you to work on right now is I want you to choose eight …I’m going to give you eight beats. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, and in your group I want you to get movements going for that eight beats. And I want you to choose something maybe you haven’t done before.
Student: When you dance it’s really fun because you get to dance how ever you want and you have your own creativity.
The arts meets the needs of all students including special needs students because they are allowed to be creative, allowed choice, allowed variety – without being told they are wrong – and because of that, and that allowance of not being wrong I think that’s what’s really important. That they can experiment and they’re not wrong. Then they’ll share and they’ll go even further. They’ll extend that experimentation.
Student: I don’t think you always have to get it right because a lot of great things were mistakes. So if everything was always right then it would be kind of boring and you would never have new things.
Teacher: I want you to hold your drums so that your knees are holding the bowl of the drum. If you’ve got a bongo I would think it’s going to go sideways, your style of drum is a little bit different. Yeah ….
Teacher: So I’m going to do the call …..and you’re going to do all that and you’re just going to lift the ceiling OK?
I work in a portable. Portables are a smaller space. I always have my room so there is space for some kind of movement. So having my desks in groups helps. Sometimes I set my desks up in L shapes around the edge of the room so it’s like a rectangle but there are separate L’s so the middle of the room would be empty. I can make as much noise as I want out here, and I don’t bother anybody and that’s really kind of cool. The only issue in a portable that I found is the sound is different. I’ve noticed when I’ve rehearsed a drama presentation in here, then gone into the gym to present to the whole school the sound in a gymnasium is quite different and my children, they’ve reacted to that sound. So it’s really important if you’re going to be in a room like this that has this sound, to also perform, take them into their performance space once or twice so they get the feel of it.
Having specially selected anchor charts on the wall will help the children focus on the task they are required to complete. I like to use anchor charts for the students because it’s good as a reference. They have helped develop the anchor chart and then I can say ah, have you looked over there to see where you’re at, or if you’re not sure of a definition where might you go. But sometimes you’ll get a child that maybe missed a class or maybe didn’t quite get it at first, and you can just refer to that. Sometimes we get too many anchor charts in our rooms so I’m very specific as to which ones I want up when, and because I’m a small space I have to be careful where I place things and how I place things.
Basically I have a chart that I’m looking at and I’m seeing if their plan is being followed and if their plan is being followed and I see them using the things in the plan to create their musical, then I know they’re on the right track. I’m not necessarily looking for the perfect singing voice, I’m assessing if they are trying to use that and trying to get better at it.
I will watch to see if the child is analyzing what they’ve done. So they’ll sing something and they’ll go, ah, that wasn’t so good; or they’ll move and they’ll go well, we weren’t together so let’s do that again. So I listen for that critical analysis part coming into what’s going on.
I know the children are successful when I see smiles, when I see them doing something that I’ve showed them how to do and them creating something on their own, and they want to come and show me. That’s when I know I’m successful.
The arts make you a somebody. Because being part of the group everybody has a role and they have to play their role. If they don’t play their role then their group is let down. When we sing in music, especially at the Grade 6, 7 and 8 level, their voices are changing, they’re very insecure about putting their voice out there. So getting kids to sing is a challenge.
Student: When I’m getting feedback I’m thinking about empathy because you don’t want to say something did terrible because you know that would feel really bad. Instead you could say what they could improve on, and give positive thoughts.
I think any teacher who loves the arts and is comfortable working with children, allowing them creativity, can create a musical. I think some of us have ideas in our head about what a musical should be and we have to take them out of our head and take it back to the basics.
We want children singing and dancing and moving and being creatures, doing drama, speaking.
Student: I like it when we all get to be different and so our different ideas. Because uniqueness is really important.
And it will work. And as soon as you have them do that the children feel awesome, and so do you.