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Lesson 2: Creating Circle Songs in Small Groups


Original Lesson Plan:

Edited Lesson Plan:

After teaching the first lesson, I realized that I didn't do much to accommodate my students who were learning virtually at the time. I also wanted to include a checklist to benefit my students to help the understand what they were being graded on. I decided on a checklist instead of a rubric or criteria sheet because I feel that those options allow the students to do the bare minimum and get away with it, but the checklist encourages them to complete as much as they can.

I changed the grouping from small groups and individuals to just small groups because I felt like the collaborative process for this context would be easier to do together so the students could help foster creativity in each other.


*this lesson was mainly the students working on there own. Though I did walk around and assist them by answering any questions they had and/or listening to some of their ideas, I did not film it.


Group 1

I love the file name "the good one" haha. Starting the loop with percussion was a great idea, you establish the tempo immediately and it makes it easy for the other parts to line up. I also loved how you explore the tonal lanscape in terms of the ranges of each part, it helps our ears understand where the music wants to go. One thing you might want to try is experimenting with using different vowels. That would help the listeners and learners figure out what the different elements are. Nice work on this!

Thank you, Mr. Dade.

Group 3

This song is so catchy! The exploration of rhythms while also locking into the percussion taps on the floor gives the listeners something nice to ground themselves to. I woul dtry to explore the different types of vowels you could use to separate the elements to make them more easily found in the song. Very creative, very catchy. Awesome work on this!

Thanks Mr. Dade. So like something along the lines of changing one or two of the parts to doh's or dah's?

Yes! Exactly that!

Group 2

Hey all, this is awesome! I love that you decided to start the whole song off with your contrast harmony. That small change actually makes a huge difference with how unique this circle song is. Great work on exploring the different ranges and where each element lies in the song, that makes it super catchy and very fun to sing. I will say that because your contrast and your interlock change notes at the same time, it is a little hard to decipher between the two parts. Try changing the rhythm slightly to experiment with this.

Hmm, which part do you think we should change?

Experiment with both! See what you like and don't like.

Group 4

I love how singable and loopable this is. Your chords make for an interesting and unique take on the tune and it works very well. I would caution though, your "second interlock" is more of another interlock harmony since it is using the same rhythm as the original interloick. A second interlock would be more defined if you changed the rhythm even slightly. I'll put an example into the file here. Great work on this!

Second Interlock Example

Thanks for the comments!

This last group I'm sharing an example of originally had some issues with recording their song. Mainly timing issues, but they had reached out to me for help to make sure their song sounded exactly how they wanted it to sound.

Group 5

Hey all, *Student 1* had reached out asking about the loop. I see that in *Student 2's* original recording, there is a slight bit of space after he is done singing (if you zoom in it is easier to see). This is because the loop isn't actually right on beat three and it is on beat 2 of measure 3 (otherwise known as 3.2 in the software). Try cutting the recording right on beat 3 and looping it from there. That should allow the other loops to work properly. (I also see that *Student's* loop is also looping on beat 2 of measure 3).

Student 1

Okay, so I've been playing around with it and I tried what Mr. Dade said, but if we do that, me, *Student 4 and Student 3* will have to re-record because we based ours off of trying to match up with *Student 2's* original recording so I don't know what to do. The first measure sounds great but then somehow our timing gets really wack.

Student 2

Yeah I re-recorded mine but it sounds weird because someone is listening to me as they're recording so you can hear the off beat version.

Student 1

Okay, I think that might be *Student 3*. Try to re-record using your headphones.

Student 3


Gotcha. I would try re-recording with headphones, but before you do that *Student 3*, I would work on fixing the loop issue with *Student 2*. If that works out, you should be able to re-loop the other ideas to make it line up properly.

After working through the timing issues for their recording, I was able to give them proper feedback on their circle song.

This is such a cool circle song! Great job incorporating different rhythms in each part to give the song some rhythmic context even without the snaps. It is very clear to hear what the different parts you have in the circle song are and it makes for a very unique piece of music. Great work on this!


Creating a soundtrap account/

using soundtrap

circle singing checklist


While preparing for lesson two, I actually changed my lesson plan quite a bit. Originally the lesson was more interactive between me and the students. I would start by having a volunteer from each section create an element/idea of the circle song to teach to their section and we would perform the circle song as a group. Then I would explain the assignment and give them time to work on their circle songs. Reading through this lesson plan, it is really solid for my in person students but I definitely lacked accommodations for my online students (we are in a hybrid model). When I came up with my redesigned lesson plan, I focused more on how my online students would interact with their in-person counterparts. This allowed me to create a lesson that facilitated the collaboration that I feel we have been missing all year. I borrowed computers from the school and put the students who were online into different breakout rooms and let the in-person students log onto zoom with those computers and sent them to the breakout rooms with their group members. The students then spread around the auditorium and began working on their circle songs.

Fostering an environment that encouraged the online students to unmute and participate with their in-person group members took quite a bit of preparation to make sure things went smoothly, but the outcome was great. The auditorium became this noisy soundscape with students singing the ideas that just came to them. While most students were able to get their foot in the door with improvisation, others seemed to be struggling. I walked around the room to check in with each group to see how they were doing in the process, for the students who were struggling, we talked through the process of writing an essay. English teachers will always have you write a rough draft first, then to revise it, thinking about how meaningful or important the words on the page are and if they take away from the subject or add to it. I had told the students that when I write essays now, I will usually just “word-vomit” into my notes app and write down anything that comes to mind, then go back through it and find what I like to expand on. It was nice to see that this relation between writing and improving helped the students who felt stuck or lost start to get into an idea and began to create music. If the students didn’t like the idea, they would start to think of a new idea. If they liked the idea, they would keep it. If they weren’t sure, they would call me from across the auditorium to ask for help. All of a sudden, the students who were stuck were now throwing out ideas left and right and deciding whether or not to include a specific idea in their unique circle song.

Another thing I added as a way for the kids to understand what they were being graded on was a checklist. Originally I had crafted up a criteria sheet, but that was looking more like a rubric the closer I was getting to finishing it. The checklist served as a way for the kids to know what they were required to have in their circle song, while also giving them ideas of what they could add. I think this addition to the materials needed for this lesson helped the students immensely with creating ideas to make their circle song more unique to them.

I thought the lesson plan seemed pretty sound and would give them enough time to create their songs but quickly realized that 25 minutes to experiment with improvisation with a goal for the first time ever is pretty difficult. This lesson ended up turning into a two day lesson, with the second day giving the students the entire 70 minutes to work on and begin recording their circle songs. Adding a second day to work on their circle songs really helped the students and their confidence with creating more ideas and solidifying their circle songs.

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