We are encouraged to teach by introducing concepts and skills that will relate to life outside the classroom. So, as the grip of autumn tightens and apples begin to fall from their branches, collecting a windfall to serve as a prop in the classroom can be the perfect way to incorporate a bit of real life into a lesson. With any luck, children will go home and start singing the song the minute they see an apple in their fruit bowl, or next spot an apple tree!
Here's a snapshot of a hugely successful Year 2 lesson this week where the children passed the apple around the circle to the pulse perfectly. The concentration on their faces was intense but that was nothing compared to the sense of accomplishment on realising what they had achieved.
Using this short rhyme:
Apple tree, apple tree,
Will your apples fall on me?
I won't cry and I won't shout
If your apple knocks me out!
To achieve full success, we went through most of the following Steps (these are written in a way to encourage you to use them in your music-making space):
- Say the rhyme out loud while clapping the rhythm (where the clapping matches the words, including each syllable).
- Say the rhyme out loud while clapping the pulse (where the steady pulse is maintained throughout the rhyme).
- Say the rhyme out loud and clap/tap/stamp on the final word of each line.
- Use Thinking Voice* for everything apart from the final word of each line.
- Sing the melody with eyes closed.
- Split into 2 groups and sing the chant as a round.
- As with Number 3 but singing the melody instead of saying it.
- Sitting in a circle, sing the chant and pass the apple around from person to person on the beat, aiming for a steady Pulsepass all the way round.
- Reverse the direction.
- For a real challenge, add an additional apple in the same direction!
*Using the Thinking Voice encourages children to maintain a steady pulse in their heads. Remind children that it is not a race to reach the end. The challenge is to arrive at the end together at the same time!
These options are endless, and you will no doubt have many of your own. I find this is a helpful starting block, and am constantly amazed by the amount of mileage one short and simple rhyme offers. For example, I haven't even mentioned adding any percussion yet!
The importance of reinforcing this pulse work can not be underestimated. Ultimately, we are aiming to give each child the tools to feel the pulse. It should become second nature in order to build a secure platform for the musician to work from. Ensuring any rhythms played are accurate is equally important. We do a lot of clapping and tapping at this stage (as well as using the voice of course) simply so that when children pick up an instrument, their hands already know what to do. We have essentially already trained the brain to feel the pulse without having to do any extra work, and just like that, one potentially soul-destroying hurdle is removed.
And all of this just from an apple. Sir Isaac Newton would be impressed!
Apple image courtesy of <a href="https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/apple-colorful-vector-design_38655651.htm#query=apples&position=6&from_view=search&track=sph">Image by BayuGondrong</a> on Freepik