My Grade 7 and 8s are working towards composing and performing their own piece of music this year. The first step of their composition is to set up their music by including the following:
The second step of their composition is to create 8 bars of a playable rhythm. To get them prepared for this I found a really neat idea in the book Composing with Boomwhackers by Denise Gagne. As a class, we used one of the rhythm composition folders (see below) to create a 4-bar pattern. I put the rhythm cards in a pocket chart with four beats in each line. That worked really well as everyone was able to see the composition no matter where they were sitting in the room.
Before I even handed out a boomwhacker I went over the rules. There are only two.
(1) Do not hit people.
(2) Do not play before I say
Most students were able to handle those rules. With one class, though, I had to have them put the boomwhackers on the floor when I was giving instructions or I was going to lose my mind.
"Composing with Boomwhackers" includes a list of 10 ways to use boomwhackers. I chose 7 ways that I thought would work with my class and put them on the Smart Board. We started with the first one - play the rhythms in your hands - and played our class composition in that manner. I demonstrated first and then the whole class tried them out.
I left blanks in the second and fourth "Ways to Play" (which actually bothered a few students) because I wasn't sure which rhythms we'd come up with. I would then say, "Play all the whole notes and half notes on your hands and everything else on the floor". Playing the boomwhackers as a canon was tricky so I may leave that one out next time since I just wanted to give students a taste of what they could do. The students were really impressed with #7 - playing the fourth line as an ostinato while all the other colours play all four lines together. I had to shift the composition around a bit to get a good line for the ostinato and combined it with #5 by assigning each colour a single line to play. The best was when we had 4 quarter notes as the ostinato. It makes me so happy when music can impress 12 and 13 year olds!
Creating the 4-bars of rhythm and playing the class composition in seven different ways took up the whole period. The next step with this lesson is to split students up into groups of three. Each group will get a Rhythm Composition Folder and will create 2 bars of rhythm. I will then combine them with another group of 3 students and they will put their composition together. They will choose one of the 7 "Ways to Play" and will perform it for the class.
The most time consuming part of this lesson was creating the Rhythm Composition Folders. "Composing with Boomwhackers" has a whole bunch of different rhythms to photocopy. I kept it simple and just used whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes, half rests and quarter rests. What I really love is the fact that the rhythm cards show exactly how many beats each rhythm is worth. That is helpful for my students who are still struggling with rhythms. The book recommends copying 100 but I did not do that. I copied three of each page of rhythms on different colours of cardstock and made 10 folders since the students would be working in groups anyway. Each folder has at least 6 quarter notes and when they combine with another group they have the potential for 12. That's good enough for me.