Improvise, Improvise

Many of our NGSSS involve improvising.  I know that when I started teaching, and before I took a levels course, I didn’t know how to teach improvisation.  I was also scared of improvisation (I can thank my traumatic stint in the HS jazz band for that).  Little did I know how easy it is to teach improvisation early.  You can find most of the improvisation benchmarks in the MU.S.1…. area of any NGSSS grade.

I saw this poem on a handout that a teacher copied for me.  I don’t have it anymore and I’m not sure where they got it from.  If you know the author, please let me know!

Improvise, Improvise, everybody improvise!
Make it up, as you play, it’s your turn now play away!
There are a few lessons you can use with this poem based on your comfort level and the grade level you are teaching.  I’m going to present some options below.
Option 1:
Teach the poem by rote, talk about what it means to improvise.
Have students sit in a circle, say the poem as a class, teacher improvise a 4 beat body percussion pattern, and students echo the pattern.
Once the students are familiar with the form, allow different students to be the leader, let the class echo.
Considerations:
Use simple 4 beat patterns with only one or two body percussion levels at the beginning.  Make it more difficult as students get more proficient.
Take volunteers first and don’t force a child to “do whatever” until they are comfortable.  That may take a time or two.
When it’s time to move on and each child needs to participate you can create a few “safe” patterns that are on the board.  If you get to a child and they don’t know what to do, forgot what they planned, or need more guidance, they can select a pattern from the board.
I like to  do this in a circle with a carpet square or special place designed as the “improvisation station.” We walk around the circle saying the poem and when it gets to the end, we stop.  Whoever is “parked in the station” gets a turn to improvise and the class echos.
Option 2:
Put a drum or other NPP at the improvisation station, use instruments rather than body percussion.
Option 3: Make more improvisation stations around the circle, allowing multiple students a turn at the same time.
Do you have an easy way to introduce your students to improvisation? Please comment with your idea!

 

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