How to Prepare La

Our songs have been picked out - now it’s time to prepare la! Here are some of my favorite ways to get this melodic element in students’ ears.

We’ll explore this new element through listening, singing, and moving!


 
How to Prepare La
 

1. Sing Known Songs and Play Games

The easiest way to prepare any element is by singing songs!

Any of the songs I used in this post work great, or you can find plenty more in the Folk Song Index.

Don't Rush This Step!

It might seem like this is a step to move through quickly - after all, aren’t we just singing and playing games? But this step of the process is crucial for students.

As we sing and play games, students are internalizing our target melodic element. They are becoming familiar with the material so they can have a true understanding of it later.


2. Discover a Note Higher Than Sol

After students have had experience with la through singing, it’s time to make them aware of a note higher than sol. You can follow a script like this:

Apple Tree We Are the Music Makers
  • Students sing Apple Tree

  • Students aurally decode the first four beats of the song (“apple tree, apple tree”) and sing on solfege (“sol sol mi, sol sol mi”)

  • Students sing the next four beats of the song (“will your apples fall on me”).

  • Teacher asks students how many beats we just sang (4)

  • T: “Which beat had the highest sound?” (beat 2)

  • T: “Was that sol, or a pitch higher than sol?” (higher than sol)

  • Tell the class that we’ll call that new high note, “high”.

  • Sing those four beats again with “high” for the mystery pitch

But Don't Stop There! 

Repeat this activity using several different songs from this post, or some of your own favorite songs!

I also love to go back to games like Apple Tree or Bluebird and have students replace the word on la by singing “high” instead.


3. Create a Visual Representation of What You Hear:

After you’ve sung and played several different songs, and discovered “high” in several different songs, students may be ready to create a visual representation of what they hear.

Start Away From the Staff

A great place to start with notation is actually away from the board, using hand signs.

  • Ask students to figure out the sol, mi, and “high” to the first eight beats of apple tree. (The first four beats should be easy, especially if they have used this song before to explore sol and mi.)

  • In the next four beats, they’ll discover the new note, “high”. At this point you can introduce a hand sign for high.

I always have my students use body solfege at this age, and then switch to the traditional curwin hand signs later (around 3rd or 4th grade).

 

From Hand Signs to the Staff:

We start with hand signs because we always want students to connect what they see visually to what they feel and hear kinesthetically and aurally. Once they’re comfortable signing known material, we can transfer it to the staff.

Students “guide” the teacher write the melody on the staff using their knowledge of sol and mi. When they get to the new note, “high”, I simply use a question mark, since students don’t know the real name of the element yet.

Lindsay Jervis

Lindsay Jervis

By the way, if you're not familiar with "Solfa Street" you should check it out. It's a great way to help students visualize the steps and skips of the solfege sequence. Lindsay Jervis has a great product on Teachers Pay Teachers - you can take a look here.  

 

With the first eight beats of Apple Tree done, students can go on to write down portions of their other favorite la songs in another lesson.



These teaching strategies are perfect for any teacher looking for a step-by-step sequence of how to train young musicians in this melodic element.

I love that they are rooted in moving, singing, listening, and thinking, and I love that the process calls on our students to be curious about what they hear. We have the best job in the world.

Happy teaching!

How to Prepare Quarter Rest

In this post we looked at some great songs for teaching quarter rest. Now that we have songs picked out, we’re ready to move on to preparing this rhythmic element.

 
Preparing Quarter Rest_1-23 Quarter Rest Prepare.png
 

Experience first!

One of the first tasks we have when preparing a musical element is letting students experience it without a label through what they feel, what they hear, and what they see. We do this through singing games.

Tinker Tailor

Each of the songs in this post has an accompanying game or dance that works great for preparing quarter rest, but my favorite is Tinker Tailor.

Tinker Tailor is ball passing elimination game sung on a two note chant (that’s right, this song can double for Sol Mi practice!).

There are three specific ways this song helps prepare students:

  • Kinesthetically: Students keep a steady beat on their knees while they pass the ball. Since students are out when they get the ball on the quarter rest, they are feeling the beat without a sound because it’s a crucial part of the game.

  • Aurally: Having the “out” students reinforce the steady beat on instruments allows students hear a beat being played without a sound.

  • Visually: Students watch the ball being passed around the circle and see that the ball doesn’t stop with the singing. It continues with the beat. Students can see that there is a beat even when there isn’t a sound.


Describe what you hear.

The next step is for students to describe what they hear in the song. We do this by asking guided questions to get the students thinking about the specific rhythmic element.

After playing the game to Tinker Tailor, ask students to keep a steady beat on their laps while they sing the last phrase of the song ("rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief"). Then, follow a script like this:

T: How many beats are in this part of my song? (8)
T: What word do I sing on my first beat? (Rich)
T: What word do I sing on my last beat? (There’s no word)
T: Does our voice make any sound on the last beat? (no)

These questions guide students to describe a beat without a sound.


Match known phrases to sound / no sound on a beat

Students are aware that there can be a beat without a sound, so it’s time to identify a quarter rest in known songs.

Using the songs in this post, as well as some others your students know, have students listen to specific phrases to determine if they contain quarter rests. For this example, I used Cobbler Cobbler, Tinker Tailor, Rain Rain Go Away, and Bell Horses.

Start by listing out the phrases on the board (lyrics only - no rhythms) and writing four hearts. We want students to do the actual determining of sound / no sound by ear instead of by sight.

Steady Beat Hearts-06.jpg
  • Cobbler cobbler mend my shoe, have it done by half past two

  • Rich man, poor man, beggar man, thief

  • Rain rain go away, come again some other day

  • Bell horses bell horses what’s the time of day

While you point to the hearts to keep the steady beat, students may sing the phrase or clap the rhythm of the words.

Have students help you group each of the four the phrases into two categories: “beat without a sound” and “sounds on all the beats”.


Notate it!

After students can describe what they hear and aurally identify it, they’re ready to see it represented visually.

Steady Beat Hearts-06.jpg

Using a song like Bow Wow Wow or Bell Horses have students help you notate the first 8 beats. Start by placing two lines of steady beat hearts on the board, then ask students to clap the words and tell you how many sounds they heard on each beat. (This is great review for quarter and eighth notes!)

Since we’re in the presentation phase, we’ll use a question mark for the quarter rest - students have not learned the proper notation yet.

You can do this as a whole class, or use these printables for individual or partner work. They’re available totally free in the Folk Song Index. Just scroll down to “Activity Sheets”.

Quarter Rest Worksheets-03.jpg
Quarter Rest Worksheets-02.jpg

Next time, we’ll look at how to know your students are ready for presenting a quarter rest, and peek at some awesome ways to practice!

Happy teaching.