In this job it is amazing how often I am in awe of my students! Yesterday and today I placed my first grade choir members into groups and gave them a set of Note Knacks. We had been singing “La” while dragging our finger across each block as a large group so that they could compare length of sound, as written in the Note Knacks Lesson Plans. With the boys on Monday, I modeled how to sing 2 consecutive sounds with a short breath in between. After a few times of modeling this, a student said, “Can we put the blocks together without any spaces in between.”. I said, “Of course!”. I was very interested in seeing what he and the group would do. They sang it as one very long sound. When I put the spaces back in, they easily took a short breath in between.
Today, I had the first grade girls. I did the same lesson, but I didn’t model how to sing 2 consecutive sounds with a short breath in between. Instead, I divided them in half and told them that they would need to put 2 or more sounds together and sing them. I wanted to see what they would do. One group started with the gray block, then put both blue blocks next, then the 4 reds and so on. They sang it as one very long sound. When I asked what would it sound like if I separated the blocks a bit, they easily put a short breath in between without coaching. The other group didn’t necessarily place the blocks in a specific order, but they did exactly what the other students did: they sang one long sound when the blocks were touching end to end, but took a short breath when they were separated. They understood immediately the concept of ties without me showing them a single symbol in conventional notation.
This is knowledge construction at its best. When we allow children to be a part of the conversation, it is amazing what we all learn! It never occurred to me to cover the concept of ties. Typically we introduce it in the later grades, but why? One simple act of placing blocks next to each other with and without a space teaches the concept quickly and easily. It is one of those situations in teaching when the students look at you like “Duh!”. I love it! It is a reminder that we do indeed underestimate our kids. Instead of going into class with our iron clad agenda, it is always a better idea to see where the students take us. It is so much more fun that way!!