Saturday, March 6, 2010

Sight-reading made fast and easy...

Hi, everyone. As we approach spring break (here in Arizona, at least, where the weather is already quite spring-like) life has gotten busy. So, since I missed posting last week, I'm going to do two entries this week to make up for it. Visuals have been on my mind this week because I just had a Promethean board installed in my music room on Tuesday, which excites me more than you know. I'm just beginning to learn how to use the thing, but can envision how much easier it will be to keep visuals and manipulatives visually on a laptop. Yahoo. Too bad we got the boards about 2 months before the end of the school year.

My 4th graders are moving right along learning how to play their recorders, but every year I get frustrated by the students who simply memorize the songs instead of truly learning how to read the notes. If we practice the song enough times in class, they can memorize the sound of the song and the matching fingerings for that song, but are at a complete loss when a new song appears in front of them. So, every year I think about new ideas or new ways to get them to practice sight-reading. This year I have been using a set of recorder sight reading cards that I can adjust for difficulty and tone set by using velcro (or in my case, now, by using the Promethean board). Maybe this idea will be helpful to you as well.

♫ Go to the website linked at the right of this block and download my sight reading card templates. I wanted a short sight-reading time to begin almost every music class, but don't want it to take up very music class time, so I only chose to make 12 rhythm cards. As you can see, you can print out the rhythm pages on card stock and then cut the rhythm cards in half (2 cards per page). Then print out the letter name pages and cut the individual letters apart.

♫ Buy some stick on velcro, or the stick on velcro dots. On the rhythm cards put a piece of velcro underneath every note of the rhythm card (use the rough part of the velcro). On every letter name card put a piece of velcro (use the soft part of the velcro).

♫ When beginning with students, place only one letter name at the beginning of each card, so if the first card says B, they will play the entire rhythm card on the note B. Give them some think time between each card to determine the correct note and fingering before the class plays. Each time they come to class and they read through these cards, swap around which note is played for which card so they can’t simply memorize the cards like many of them try to memorize the songs.

♫ If they get very good at doing this simpler sight-reading activity, then challenge them by having one rhythm card using 2 different pitches on it, then 3, then 4. You can make use of whatever tone set they happen to be working on, so start with BAG at first, and add in other new notes as they progress. You can always add in more difficult rhythm patterns as well if these become too familiar for them.

♫ If you have access to it, I make all of my rhythmic things for visuals using Finale. The newer versions of Finale have a graphics tool that allows you to create music, click on the graphics tool, put a box around the music you want to save, and then it lets you save it as a tiff picture file. I am then able to take these tiffs of individual rhythmic notes, rhythmic patterns, songs, etc., and put them into Publisher to make worksheets and visuals easily.

Try the sight-reading with your students and let me know how it goes. If you discover anything that makes it work better in your classes, or you have any great additions, let me know! Have a great weekend. Spring break, here we come!

♫ Using the velcro letters means that you can use whatever tone set they currently are working on (BAG, BAGED, BAG C’D’) and you can increase or decrease the difficulty as needed.

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