When I taught language arts in a first and second grade split classroom in Cambridge, MA, we paid special attention to how we introduced a book. We read the title and asked students to predict the subject matter. We looked at all of the pictures and modified our thoughts on the story line. The idea was to think as much about the story as possible before we read it so as to engage the students and get them excited for the story ahead. As our choir begins new music today, I am reminded of these techniques and am thinking about how to modify them for what we do.

My first thought is to put the image of the music on a wall using an LCD projector and ask the kids some questions. First, what do you notice? Second, where does the music (pitch) come from and how do we know what words to sing? Are all of the notes the same? Are any of the words the same? ….and so on. I want to see what predictions my students have about the music they will sing. What information, even if they do not read fluently, can they extract from the “features of print”. Music is straight forward in that high notes are high on the staff and low notes are low. Will they catch this? What will they think about the speed. Will they think it will be a fast song? Or slow? What will they notice about the notation? Some are colored in. Others are not. Some of the stems are pointing up and others are down etc…. I can’t wait hear their thoughts!

This step is important in that it prepares the musician for what lies ahead. Don’t we all do this when we receive new music? I may not read through the whole piece, but I certainly look through to see the time signature, key signature (any changes in these) and possible difficult spots. We are preparing our students for the necessary skills for independent reading. We are giving them a good place to start!

I will let you know our young choir member’s (first through third graders) thoughts and how it impacts their ability to read. I will model how to read both the words and the music, so that all students will learn where the pitch comes from and where the words come from. As they learn to sing the music, why not show them how we, their teachers, know what to sing and play?