Musical Alphabets – latest developments

We had an excellent day of music lessons on Friday. The Musical Alphabets project is coming to fruition, and the performance piece is looking and sounding very strong indeed.

Here is how we are working with it:

We have a Chorus, which is first chanted, then ‘spelt’ using the dance moves (BANANAS! BANANAS! I LIKE BANANAS!) and we have four groups, each with a different fruit (chosen by the students) to spell. (PEAR, ORANGE, APPLES, WATERMELON). We practised the Chorus all together, and arranged ourselves into rows. They then worked in the small groups to practise spelling their fruit word while the three adults (class teacher, Melanie the Melbourne Uni intern, and me) moved from group to group, offering encouragement and assistance, and keeping them focused on the task.

We experimented with a couple of structural ideas. I liked the idea of layering the different fruit words together, so that two might be performed at the same time. However, the students found this confusing; they felt much less confident about performing their own word if others were performing a different word at the same time, in the next row.

So we tried a different arrangement, where each word was spelt four times in a row, one by one. While the groups waited their turn they remained in formation and waited in ‘T’ position (crouching down on the ground, in our alphabet).

The final structure is in ternary form:

A: CHORUS (chanted 2x, then danced)

B: SMALL GROUPS (one by one, pre-planned order)

A: CHORUS (chanted 2x, then danced)

In an earlier post I was questioning how much of this task the students understood.

When we performed the alphabet from A-Z, did all the students understand that these were ‘letters’ we were performing? And would they make the connection when we started to spell out different words?

Friday’s lesson suggested that this connection had been made by all the students – even one who had only been in the school less than a week. They took to the challenge of working in their small groups to spell out their chosen fruit word with great enthusiasm and focus. It was exciting for me and Mel to see them so engaged and absorbed by the task. The children self-corrected when they missed a letter in their spelling, they added performance flair (strong arm shapes, open body language, confident eye contact) as they repeated their words, and they watched each others’ work with equal interest and enthusiasm.

The two boys performing APPLES were a beautiful study in contrasts. Both are in their second term at the school. One is very engaged and determined to learn, likes to be first in line, likes to win, likes to play the biggest and loudest instruments. He comes from a background of very disrupted schooling and long periods in a refugee camp. The other is often quite vague and disengaged in school. He frequently uses his own language rather than English, when talking to other students or to himself. Mel and I often wonder if he is in fact bored in most of the lessons. However, his lack of engagement means that he does not often take a leading role among the students, even if he is more competent. He is also physically kind of ‘floppy’, and this kind of movement work is a challenge for him.

But these two worked so hard! The first boy led the way, and was determined to memorise the spelling and the movements. The second boy seemed happy to be led, and they worked together extremely well as a team. We congratulated them on how well they had worked together and both showed real flushes of pleasure.

We discussed the task as a class at the end of the lesson, and what more needed to be done to prepare for their end-of-term performance. One boy raised his hand and said, “Is just like spelling, like we do in class, only not writing. But is just like spelling.”

Spot on, Hassan!

Their regular class teacher wasn’t at school that day (which makes their fantastic focus and work ethic even more impressive!) so I didn’t have the chance to chat with her about some of the literacy benefits she might be seeing this task have with the students in their other learning areas, nor to consider with her ways that it could further reinforce class work. I have been thinking about how we could use alphabet dancing to reinforce knowledge and memorisation of words on the weekly spelling test. We could create the alphabet dance at the start of the term, and then learn a new word each week to spell, for example.

Other thoughts?

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2 comments so far

  1. simmone on

    The Rules of this tag:

    Gill – I have tagged you with the super8 meme:
    Here are the rules:

    1. Link to your tagger and post these rules. 2. List eight (8) random facts about yourself. 3. Tag eight people at the end of your post and list their names (linking to them). 4. Let them know they’ve been tagged by leaving them a comment on their blogs.

    ps – I left out rules 3 and 1.5 because I am an outlaw!

    Eight Random Facts:

  2. […] for them last year on my Alphabet Dance project idea (which I also described in detail on this blog here, here and here, if you want to check it out) and today’s workshop was to introduce the […]


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