Experiment 2 in collaborative learning

The following week, I wanted the students to start figuring out how to play the melody of the chorus of Fireflies on glockenspiels. First, I had written out the four phrases of the chorus as ‘pianola scores’ – pitches and rhythm indicated with coloured-in boxes on a grid. “These four grids represent the four phrases of the chorus,” I explained. “Your task is to figure out what order they should be in. Which one is for the first phrase, which one for the second, and so on.” Again we divided into groups, and each group had one copy of each of the four grid-scores.

I wandered from group to group and gave clues. The main clue was to ask them why they thought some squares were coloured in and others weren’t, and why some were wide rectangles, and others just squares.  Why did they think this was?

Most of them were quick to suggest that long shapes might depict long sounds. So then I got them to sing the chorus, and notice which phrases had “words held for a long time”. Which phrase had lots of long-held words? Does one of these grids have more long shapes than the other one?

Once they grasped this, they moved quickly to ‘testing’ the grid pages by singing the words of the chorus and pointing to the squares and rectangles on the page in turn (one per syllable), to see if they matched up. Once they’d done this it was easy to move the grid-scores into the right order.

When I planned this task, I wasn’t sure if it would be too difficult for them to do. But all of the groups had solved it within 10-15 minutes, and they were really pleased with themselves too. Both the 3/4 class and the 2/3 class were able to solve it and enjoyed figuring it out.

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