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Sunday, May 15, 2016

After the final concert - What to teach?

It always feels so good to finish the last concert of the school year.  Mine was last week.  I usually have my final concert sometime during the 2nd week of May.  That leaves about 1 1/2 weeks of school where students will still need to learn and play in class.  One student came to my class after the concert was over and said, 'Can't we just watch a movie every day until school ends?'  Students are feeling done with school, but I have to keep them busy or the last 2 weeks will be torturous.  Sometimes, it gets hard to fill the time.  Last year, I had students work as a class and in small ensembles from the Fiddlers Philharmonic and Jazz Philharmonic books to learn new styles.  This year, I am having students work on sight-reading skills.

To begin, I show students the SRMachine App (using my iPad) by projecting the app on screen in front of the room using a projector.

I tell students that sight-reading is RHYTHM reading.  If the rhythm is wrong, the music will not sound good, even if you play the correct notes.  I demonstrate how to maneuver the settings of the app to adjust the music to our desired skill level.  As a class, we pluck the rhythm on open D.  It's super easy to do a few different examples and pluck the rhythm - and all students can do the rhythm, even if they don't read the clef that is used.  If the settings are for violin, I next have the violins pluck the notes/rhythm while the rest of the class (who do not read treble clef, yet) plucks the rhythm on open D.  I change the settings so that each section can take turns playing the notes while the other sections still participate by plucking the rhythms on open strings.  My hope is that students will enjoy this enough to go purchase the app themselves and practice sight-reading at home.  

After using the app, I gave students a worksheet to create their own sight-reading example.  I told them to pretend that they were app developers and their job is to create sight-reading excerpts.  They had to write it for their stand partner to perform.  After completing the exercise, they would assess each other on their sight-reading abilities using the rubric at the bottom of the page.  I walked around the room and made sure students were accurately writing rhythms, etc.  Students seemed to enjoy the activity.  For a follow-up, we practiced sight-reading orchestra music in class.

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