Monday, January 16, 2017

Making Sense of Major & Minor

Today, I'd like to share about a topic that I think is overlooked in music education: major & minor. 

Being in Iowa, there are very few opportunities for elementary music teachers to meet and collaborate. A small group of us started having a workshop day twice a year (late summer & winter) at a centrally located spot. Two of the teachers involved were gracious enough to host and plan it out the first time. From there, we've started tweaking certain things, but overall have had a wonderful day of sharing, planning and just being grateful for the chance to talk with others in our field.

I met up with a few of these teachers at our yearly state conference this past fall. One of them, Anne, shared with me (because she knows I love books in music!) about the story called "Fortunately" by  Remy Charlip. Each part has a good thing that happened followed by a not-so-good outcome. Here's a sample:


Anne explained how she used this book to present and review major/minor to her students. I had a eureka moment! The kids always catch on to when something is "happy" or "sad" but they need to know the terminology. I feel uncomfortable just springing stuff on them, so this kind of connection would be perfect! I also wanted to introduce my new handbell/deskbell sets. More and ideas kept coming to me and I was so excited!

I sat on this lesson for a bit. I wasn't quite ready to bring it to my kids just yet, as the holiday season approached and then program practice. 

Then, one day I was at Half Price Books with my mom (we love this place). I stumbled upon a cute book in the CLEARANCE section, no less called "Good News, Bad News" by Jeff Mack. Those are the only words in the entire book and it shares a similar idea as the "Fortunately" book.

Another eureka moment - I could introduce major & minor to my younger students with this book. Then, bring it back in the later years with "Fortunately." HOORAY!

I haven't been excited about lessons like this since I discovered Artie Almeida's movement activities. So, I wanted to share this idea and how I'm going about it with you all!

The ideas below are merely suggestions - I'm sure you all have your own way of teaching, additional materials, assessments, etc. You can use these ideas as a whole lesson or break them into parts and do other things. Click below for the freebies you can use with this unit! As always, make it accessible for your classroom.

Lower Elementary:
  • First day: introduce & read the story "Good News, Bad News"

  • Second day: project story (kindle version) and play major or minor chords for each page of the story - I'm a pianist so I'd just play it and click through the story as the kids watch.

    After the story, play the chords one at a time and talk about how it makes the students feel (happy, sad, mad, etc.)

    Stick up or project the two faces (without words) on the board; play sounds and have students use their own faces or point to the right picture

  • Third day: bring the faces out again and play examples (mp3 or piano) - can the children pick the right face?

    Let students create their own happy/sad face cards; attach to a pencil, popsicle stick, etc. for easier flipping!

    Replay the examples and have the students use their own cards

  • Additional ideas: add instruments; introduce terminology; create listening examples & place the identification cards at a center; introduce & practice borduns, use beat buddies with different examples; make half the group happy & other half sad - have them stand when they hear "their music"

Upper Elementary:
  • First day: introduce & read the story "Fortunately" - if previously talked about in lower elementary, bring up the faces & happy/sad idea

  • Second day: stick up faces and have the students identify as they listen to different examples

    Then, introduce the terms "major" and "minor" ; write the words on the faces or swap with terminology faces

    Identify the examples again, using the vocabulary

  • Third day: bring out "Fortunately" and talk about the different pages using major & minor

    Introduce the handbells/deskbells (from here, you can talk about scales, chords structure, etc. but I just group them for the kids already) and play the major sounds, then minor

    Read the story, having half of the group be major for fortunately & the other half be minor for unfortunately; switch groups

  • Fourth day: From here, I would use Linda McPherson's Major/Minor games. You can buy the games separately or as a bundle.

    First, the kids would make their own major/minor assessment tool and as I played the examples in her product, they would use their card to share their idea (instead of shouting it out)

  • Additional ideas: introduce scales, chord structure, etc.; create listening examples & place the identification cards at a center; written/aural test; mystery patterns & chords; students creating their own pattern or chord & having other students label major/minor

I know there are tons of ideas out there for teaching major and minor but none ever really spoke to me for introducing it. I love both of these books and my students enjoy using those two words to start describing music. They even use them as they talk about their favorite pop songs - it's awesome!

If you introduce or teach major and minor in a different way, please share below. I love having multiples ways to bring something to my students. Don't forget to click upon to get that freebie with the ideas and materials mentioned above!

1 comment:

  1. Great blog!!! I just put 'Good News, Bad News' on hold at my local library! I can't wait to see it! I always liked using Erie Canal when I worked with major/minor with my older students. I LOVE it that you get together with an area group of teachers--what a GREAT way to collaborate and learn from each other! Thanks for writing your blog!!! I learn from YOU! :>)