This winter, I started to introduce the idea of improvising to my kindergarteners. We had done some readiness activities earlier in the year, like being able to tell when two patterns are the same or different, and even giving students the chance to explore that idea and sing or say a pattern that was different than mine, but this was the first time I had formally worked on all students improvising a 4 beat rhythmic response for me.
Step 1: The Song
The song you pick doesn’t really matter. I used the song “I Got a Letter This Morning.” You can use whatever song you wish, however, please make sure that if you want you’re students to improvise in duple meter, the song should also be in duple meter. Move around and get a good feel of the song. Maybe the first time you introduce the song, take ideas of ways to move to the beat. That way, students will be feeling the song in their body and brain, which will help a lot when it comes time to improvise.
Step 2: Provide a Vocabulary
So next, I would have students echo rhythm patterns led by me. This way, they are being reminded of all the different options they have when they are given the chance to improvise.
Step 3: Time to Improvise
At the end of the song, I added this little musical question. Students were able to volunteer to clap a rhythm during the 4 beats of rest.
I would make sure to point out really good examples and talk about how it filled in the space and not just clapping as fast as they could.
Once we had the chance for a couple leaders to volunteer, the next week, I would have every try clapping a rhythm.
Step 4: Add Instruments
For the last week, I added tubano drums and students got to have turns playing their improvised solo. However, I will warn you that you should remind them about how to play musically – filling in the space, not just playing as fast as possible – because for some reason when you pop a drum in front of the kids they just want to wail on it as fast as they can and then we lose all the musicality we’ve been working on. Maybe even have a student give a clapping example and then you show how to transfer that to the tubano. Then you will have a lot more success with getting some good improvisation out of them,
I really loved this activity and plan to do it again in the future because it so seamlessly guided my students to successful improvisation. The kids had fun and loved the song and created some great improvisations by the end.