Orff for Middle School Strings? Yes!

Here is a HUGE “THANK YOU” to Tinder Burris from M-DCPS for sharing a great lesson plan that uses the NGSSS with an “Orff Inspired Twist” for our middle school and high school strings teachers!

Improvisation in the String Class  

For: Heterogeneous and Homogeneous Instrumentation

Grade: 6-8

 NGSSS that can work with this lesson:

MU.68.O.2.1 Create a composition, manipulating musical elements and exploring the effects of those manipulations.

MU.68.S.1.1  Improvise rhythmic and melodic phrases to accompany familiar songs and/or standard harmonic progressions

MU.68.O.2.2 Demonstrate knowledge of major and minor tonalities through performance and composition.

MU.68.O.3.2  Perform the expressive elements of a musical work indicated by the musical score and/or conductor, and transfer new knowledge and experiences to other musical works. 

Duration: The following lesson plan should be implemented over a period of time.  It is not intended for one or even two lessons.  I use to spend the first 10 to 15 minutes of a 50 minute middle school orchestra class warm up covering scales, rhythms, bowings and tuning activities.  Incorporate the following lesson in your warm up. 

1)      Have lower string players play sustained open fifths, ie,: G or D strings.  (can segue into tone production discussion about bow pressure, contact point, bow speed). Or, you may also want to invest in “Cello Drones” download.  It costs around $10. Keep it on your desktop.  This frees up your cello and bass players to participate in the improvisation. 

2)       Make sure your students are able to understand and perform a natural, harmonic and melodic scale one octave.  I have found writing the letter names on the board helpful.  I have also written the notes as whole notes in the treble clef on the board (especially if you are tight on space). 

3)      Write the letter names (or notes) to the dorian scale (a natural minor with a raised 6th).  As an example, model a simple melodic line on your instrument starting on the raised 6th with the open fifth drone.  Use a half note pattern at first.  You may want to point to the letters or the notes on the board that you just played.  

4)       Point to letter names (or notes) on the board.  As you do, have students perform the notes you are pointing to accompanied by the open fifth drone on their instruments.  Make sure you are creating a pleasant melody.   Always remember to start on the raised 6th.

5)       Most students, at this point, should feel comfortable creating their own simple melody.  Ask for volunteers. 

6)      There is never a wrong note or wrong rhythm when improvising.  Let students experiment.  They will, innately,in most cases, play a complete phrase and end on Do without any explanation.  Some students, very few, may need some guidance, but rarely.    

7)       Variation:  Call & Response, Teacher-Student. Question & Answer. 

8)      The next step is to repeat the above process with the Lydian scale.  The Lydian scale is a Major scale with a raised 4th

Thanks for sharing this great lesson, Tinder! This can work on so many different levels with modifications for any area.  If you have a lesson to share that uses the NGSSS, please send it to me and I’ll publish it on the blog!  The more ideas we have, the better!



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