It’s been several months since I wrote a blog post, so I’ll write about a favorite song that I just posted under Resources for Teachers, Solfége and Rhythm examples.
Who’s That Tapping at the Window is a folk song with amazing potential. The source listed in my song collection is 150 American Folk Songs, but being a folk song, it is performed a few different ways. Let’s take a look at just a few of its uses.
1. Game: One child hides his/her eyes. The whole class sings the first two phrases, “Who’s that tapping at the window, Who’s that knocking at the door” while two soloist tiptoe to the front. The other members of the class can walk in place to disguise the direction of their progression. One soloist sings, “Mammy tapping at the window” and the other sings, “Daddy knocking at the door.” Personally, I like another version in which both soloists sing, “I am” rather than making one female and one male. It allows for a more challenging game. They tiptoe back to their places and the child hiding his/her eyes looks around and guesses whose voices they heard. Typically I allow 4-6 guesses, but the teacher should decide on a number in advance.
2. Half Note: Although Who’s That Tapping at the Window is not my target song for teaching half note, it’s a wonderful song for reinforcement. I’ve used it for kinesthetic preparation and what I consider “light” aural preparation. For kinesthetic prep, students pretend to stretch out taffy as they sing, making the half note words much longer that the eighth and quarter notes. Another week they use slinkies to perform a similar action, and let me tell you, the slinkies are highly motivational. Finally, we might sing and play another day and the students find the words that are drawn out and last the longest. Sometimes there’s confusion over the word “window,” which is actually two quarter notes. It’s the perfect opportunity for a teachable moment!
3. Solfége – do to so: Students need to sing do and so without mi between them sometimes. The perfect fifth is an important interval that is often overlooked in elementary school. My question is, why? It isn’t hard to make the connection, because students begin playing simple bordun accompaniments using do and so even before they know what the pitches are called. In my classroom, we constantly make connections between solfége and letter names, but if the solfége hasn’t been made conscious yet, we just use letter names. Then they experience an “aha!” moment when they put the two together. This is part of the discovery method that I use at my school. The entire solfége tone ladder is not filled in. Only the pitches students have studied are visible and the other steps are blank. Who’s That Tapping at the Window is a wonderful song to reinforce do to so.
4. Solfége – re and the pentatonic scale: Do songs always use mi re do or do re mi? No, of course not! Students will be delighted to sing a slightly unusual pattern once they’ve fully grasped mi re do and do re mi. Students seem to especially enjoy the ending: re re mi mi do. Many connections can be made to the end of Mama Buy Me a Chiney Doll, Go Tell Aunty Rhody, How Many Miles to Babylon, etc.
5. Composing: My second grade classes create a class composition each year in May. Before we begin and during the process, students are reminded of folk songs they already know and their form. Bringing back a song like this one and pointing out the similarity of the phrases seems to help the students to create a well-crafted song. If every phrase is drastically different, it’s difficult for them to sing and doesn’t feel cohesive. They create amazing songs, especially when they use the musical tools they’ve studied.
6. Recorder: My fifth graders loved playing this song on the recorder this year. Some students needed additional practice with high D, so they played the song in the key of G, needing only to finger D, B, A, and G. Isolating a few pitches in a song was just what they needed, and some of them experienced nostalgia for earlier years.
What are your ideas? I love this song and would love to do even more with it.