Music in First Grade: How to Practice Sol and Mi (Part 3)

Sol and Mi are the first of many melodic intervals our students will learn with us. In past posts, we’ve looked at:

Finally, we’re on to my favorite phase - the practice phase. 

In this step, students use everything they’ve learned so far and apply it consciously to sol and mi. Let's look at three ways to practice this interval.

 
Practicing Sol and Mi_1-8 Sol mi Practice.jpg
 

1. Use Activities from Preparing Sol and Mi

Some of the most natural ways to practice sol and mi are from the preparation post. These activities are natural because students have already done them, but sol and mi were been called something different. Now the only thing to do is keep the same activities, but use the real names for sol and mi.

Here are some of my favorite ways to practice sol and mi:

  • Games (like Apple Tree)
  • Improvising a Melody
  • Writing Down the Melody
  • The case of the missing notes

 

Read more about these ways to prepare and practice sol and mi here and grab the free worksheets in the library.


2. Dictate the Teacher’s Melody

Dictation is a great way to make sure students know the theory behind an interval. To complete this activity students need to be aware that if sol is on a line, mi is on the line below it. If sol is on a space, mi is on the space below it, and we call that a skip in music.

Manipulatives for dictation:

One great manipulative for dictation is a bag with two pieces of string and a few bingo chips inside. When students get their bag, they lay out the black string to create two parallel lines. When they’re done, everything gets thrown back in the bag and you’re good to go for the next class!

If your students use the full staff to dictate sol and mi, consider laminating a class set of staff paper to use again and again with your bingo chips.

Dictation activities with sol and mi: 

There are several forms that dictation can take in the music room. Whatever the dictation activity, I always have the students sing the pattern back to me before they write it down - especially at the beginning. I want to make sure they have aurally deciphered the melody before they dictate it.  

  • Sing and Sign Sol Mi: This is the easiest one. The teacher literally sings and signs the pattern, “sol mi sol sol mi” and students write it down exactly as they heard it. (While it might seem as though you're "giving the answer", this step shows that students understand the basic concept of this interval being a skip apart. If students are confused about what line and space to use, the rest of your dictation activities will go awry.)
  • Sign Sol Mi: This is similar, but the teacher does not sing. Students need to watch the signs closely to get the pattern.
  • Hum Sol and Mi: When students have had enough practice with singing and signing, the teacher may change to humming. No words, no hand signs, just the interval. This really challenges students to pay attention to the melodic contour instead of relying on clues like solfege names and signs.
  • Play Sol and Mi on an instrument: Similar to humming, when a teacher plays sol mi on an instrument there are no words or signs for the students to follow. They just have the melodic interval! It’s possible for a change in timbre to throw students off, so I like to use this one toward the end of our practice.

Students as Teachers:

These activities are great, and students get even more value out of them when they are the ones giving the pattern! Consider handing over your teacher role to a student once they’re comfortable with this way to practice sol and mi.


3. Improvise an Answer

Improvising is one of the best ways I have found to show how a student understands the material. It takes a real understanding of the element to be able to use it on the spot, effortlessly, in an improvisation.

Improvisation is something that can bring adult musicians to tears if they’re not used to it! Students, however, can easily improvise easily, without nervousness, if they have enough structure.

Improvisation activities with sol and mi:

  • Question and Answer: The teacher asks a “question” and students improvise an answer. I like to have students copy me a few times at first. Then I say, “great! This time, instead of copying me why don’t you make something up!”. Since they’re in a group, this is a non threatening way for students to try out new ideas.
  • Use text: Some students need extra help to create a new melody. In these cases I like to use text. Sing a very basic question to the student (“What’s your favorite dinner?”  “How are you today?”) and allow him or her to sing back an answer. One danger I’ve found in this approach is that students may sneak “la” into the response. The first time it happens, I wouldn’t address it - congratulate the student on responding. The second time it happens, I address it by saying we should only use "high and low" in our response.
  • With a song: Another very natural way to make something up is through a song. Choose one phrase that students improvise - either vocally or on an instrument - in a song they know well. This can be done as a group first and then as individuals later.

The practice phase is my favorite of the three because I really get to see what students know, and what they can do with all the information of an element. I love watching their process of developing as young musicians and I’m always so proud of the skills they’re developing in the practice stage!

There are even more sol mi songs in the Sheet Music Library. It's totally free, so sign up and get singing!

What are your favorite ways to practice sol and mi?  

 

A Free Orff Arrangement for Practicing Rhythm vs Beat

Miss White had a fright
In the middle of the night
Saw a ghost eating toast
Halfway up the lamp post!

Here's a fun arrangement to use with your young students, just in time for Halloween!

 
 

About the Arrangement

The name of the game here is simplicity! 

I can't even begin to tell you the number of times I've looked at an arrangement and thought "Oh yeah, we can learn that in time!" and grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take to put the arrangement together. 

This arrangement is designed for simplicity. This is made to be able to be thrown together in a few lessons if your students have already been practicing rhythm vs beat. 

Instrumentation: 

For this arrangement I've given the steady beat to the metals (finger cymbals and triangle). Membrane instruments have the rhythm (congas and bongos). This was to give just one more layer of differentiation of the rhythm and beat through the texture of instruments. The wind chimes add some spooky ambiance to make this perfect for halloween.
That said, you could use whatever instruments you have available in your classroom as well! 


A Learning Plan: 

Rhythm vs Beat

Before students play this arrangement they should already know the terms rhythm and beat, and be comfortable speaking and playing both

They'll also need to be very familiar with the rhyme, Miss White


Rhythm vs Beat

1. Speak and Clap

Have one half of the room speak and clap the rhythm of the words while the other half speaks and claps the steady beat. Make sure to switch the groups so that all students can practice both parts.

Be sure students speak this in their spookiest, most expressive, whisper-like voices!

2. Audiate and Clap

This flows very easily after students are comfortable speaking and clapping rhythm and beat. Simply ask them to "speak the rhyme in their heads" and repeat the activity from step 1. 

3. Put on instruments! 

Now the fun begins! The transition to instruments should be an easy one but always take time to remind students about how to treat the instruments with respect (remind them instruments are not toys).

They'll simply have the instrument "speak for them" while they speak the rhyme in their heads. Lastly, you can add the wind chimes. 

For an Extension: 

For an extension of this arrangement, have students create some ostinati they make themselves. Something like "Ah! A ghost" or "Ghost eating toast" would be perfect. These can even go on instruments if you have time!


Click to download the arrangement! 


More Rhythm vs Beat Practice

Miss White is one of the songs included in this Rhythm vs Beat resource. If you're looking for ways to practice this concept with your students I'd love for you to check it out!


Happy teaching!