How to Setup Small Ensembles in the Classroom




How to Setup Small Ensembles in the Classroom

System I use with Grades 2, 3, 4, & 5

What started off as an activity I needed the kids to do while I recovered from my post-concert burnout quickly became the activity my students looked forward to the most.



Look at your classroom and your instrument inventory.


I have 30 ukuleles, 14 xylophones/metallophones, 15 keyboard pianos, 1 set of push bells, and 1 set of resonator keys (I think that's what they're called. I'm not sure because I ordered them off of a Japanese catalog!). 

My classroom is half-moon shaped, so I set up all of the groups on the curved side of the classroom. 
Each group can host 3-5 students. 



Decide how many groups you can build


My biggest class has 33 students and my smallest class has 23. 
With those numbers I decided that it would be best for me to create 7 groups.

For my class with 33 students:
    • Group 1 - 5 students
    • Group 2 - 5 students
    • Group 3 - 5 students
    • Group 4 - 5 students
    • Group 5 - 5 students
    • Group 6 - 4 students
    • Group 7 - 4 students

    For my class with 23 students
    • Group 1 - 3 students
    • Group 2 - 3 students
    • Group 3 - 3 students
    • Group 4 - 3 students
    • Group 5 - 3 students
    • Group 6 - 4 students
    • Group 7 - 4 students



    Set Up the Groups!


    This was the funnest part for me. I decided that I wanted all groups to have at least 1 piano, but some would have 2. (I had decided that I didn't want all the groups to have exactly the same instrument choices).


    Here's what each one of my groups has:

    • Group 1
      • 2 Keyboards
      • 1Bass Metallophone
      • 1 Soprano Xylophone

    • Group 2
      • 1 Keyboard
      • 1 Alto Metallophone
      • 1 Soprano Xylophone
      • 1 Soprano Metallophone

    • Group 3
      • 1 Keyboard
      • 1 Bass Xylophone
      • 1 Alto Xylophone

    • Group 4
      • 1 Keyboard
      • 1 Alto Xylophone
      • 1 Soprano Metallophone

    • Group 5
      • 2 Keyboards
      • 1 Push Bells Set (played by 2 students

    • Group 6
      • 1 Keyboard
      • 2 Soprano Xylophones
      • 1 Resonator Keys set

    • Group 7
      • 3 Keyboards
      • 1 Alto Metallophone






    Select Repertoire, Copy it, & Laminate it.


    I first tried the small ensembles in November, so we worked on Christmas music. 
    My students worked Silent Night first and once they passed their group playing test, they moved up to Jingle Bells. 

    Click here to get the Christmas PDF sheet music


    Scaffold the music

    For me it is very important that all students feel like they can make music. 
    The beauty of using the sheet music I mentioned above is that it includes the harmony part (chord part), the melody, and the tablature.

    I present the three levels that students can choose from.


    • Level 1 (Students who have a difficult time with piano or ukulele):
      • These students drone on the chord notes on the boomwhackers, xylophone or metallophone

    • Level 2 (Most of my students):
      • Play melody on piano or tablature on ukulele
      • Play chords on ukulele

    • Highest-achieving students (The students who need an additional challenge):
      • Play the melody part with their right hand and the harmony part with their left on xylophone, metallophone, or piano.



    Make your students perform for each other

    I give the students 10 minutes to practice as a team before they must perform for the class. 
    Once the 10-minute bell rings, I ask the students if they would like 1 more minute to fine-tune their performance. Almost everyone in the room shouts, "yes!" so I give them an extra minute. (I have noticed that the students will do more with that minute than they did with the 5 minutes before it). 

    Grade 2 student ensemble groups must perform one line at a time. 

    Grade 3 student ensemble groups must perform two lines at a time

    Grade 4 student ensemble groups must perform three or 4 lines at a time.   


    Students who are not performing must be good audience members. 
    Good audience members:
    • Actively listen to the music
    • Position their bodies to face the performers
    • Watch the performance or listen to it with eyes closed
    • Clap at the end
    • Keep hands, feet, instrument, and mouth quiet during the performance
    • Never laugh at mistakes, but encourage others at the end of their performance


    CONVERSATION

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