Art of Teaching Children Music Assignment 1

Assignment 1- “Horace Mann Schoolyard”/”Derek”

Directions: For this assignment, read “The Horace Mann Schoolyard,” pages 21-29 and the story of “Derek” on pages 161-165.  Answer the following questions. Aim for a short paragraph for questions 1-4.  

1.  What do these children know about music? What can they do?:

In “The Horace Mann Schoolyard” there are many things that the children know about music. This is evident through the many musical activities they display throughout their time on the playground. They have an understanding of pitch relationships of mainly minor thirds, but also those of major seconds, perfect fourths, fifths, and octaves. They also have understandings of basic rhythms as well as some more complex rhythms utilizing dotted rhythms and triplets. They know how to listen to each other, and this is evident when they perform patterns that include ostinato or call and response. They also know how to keep and follow a steady beat, which is most evident in the jump rope activities that the children engage in. In the story “Derek”, the student, Derek, has a deep understanding of rhythmic concepts and how those relate to movement. This is all very obvious in how he bases the movements in his breakdancing on the rhythm and the beat of the song. He explicitly mentions the importance of beat in his dancing, and what is particularly impressive is his ability to audiate when he performs his dancing on the playground without having any music to follow. He also displays understanding of pitch relationships briefly when he sings the “La La Song” by Lil Wayne.

2.  How did they learn what they know, or how are they learning?:

In both stories the children do not realize all of this understanding that they have of music, but they simply know it through experience. For example, they would not necessarily be able to perform these rhythms and pitch relationships from written and notated music, but they can, nevertheless, perform them. This is due to the way in which they have learned these skills and are continuously learning these skills. It is likely that none of these children were taught these skills through formal training from notation, but simply by rote through exposure and listening. The students from “The Horace Mann Schoolyard” are simply repeating what they have heard elsewhere, either at home, at school, or in other social situations. Derek, in the story “Derek”, has an inclination to breakdancing and has sought out music recordings and videos of dancing to help him develop these skills. He watched, observed, and listened in order to develop his skill sets.

3.  What surprised you, if anything, about these children? What did you learn from them, or what reactions or responses did you have as you read?:

I think what surprised me the most about the children in “The Horace Mann Schoolyard” was the prevalence of music in the children’s play. I knew that there was a lot of music-based activity in children’s play, but I never realized quite how much there would be. It is rather incredible to me that they used pitch in so much of what they did. I expected that they would use pitch in song-based games like those for jump rope or circle games, but they seem to use it in much more than just those activities. Pretty much everything about “Derek” surprised me. I was amazed by his audiation skills and his ability to learn such complex dance moves through nothing more than observation.

4.  What are the implications for your teaching or therapy practice, based on what you’ve read?:

What these two stories have taught me about how to approach teaching music is to utilize exposure and emphasize listening. Children soak up information like a sponge, so exposing them to music and music related activity is one of the best ways to get concepts across to them efficiently and effectively. I also think that it is very important to teach the students to listen and how to listen, because, as both passages demonstrated, this is how many children learn so much about music, and this will help them in any musical practices they will experience in the future. Then from there I would relate what they have learned by rote and through listening and experiencing to notation. I would keep it very basic at first and then build up to traditional notation, but I think it would be effective to use what they already know and build on that to teach how these pitch relationships and rhythms could be notated.

5.  Pose two questions of your own for prompting conversations in class. Questions might have to do with something you are curious about, something you want to know more about, something that troubles you, or anything else that interests you.:

1. The beginning of “The Horace Mann Schoolyard” explains with some detail the community of the school. Do you think that the author’s observations would have been different if the school community would have been composed of different cultures and socio-economic backgrounds? Why or why not?
2. There is some background information about Derek’s behavior explained in the beginning of “Derek”. Much of his behavior could be a challenge for teachers to manage. If you had Derek as a student, what are some ways you could manage his behavior without discouraging his lively spirit and his passion?

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