Teaching Form to the Very Young

Kindergarten is a year of preparation. It’s a year to teach a variety of repertoire and allow students to experience a mixture of songs, games, instruments, folk dances, and other activities. Every concept seems to stem from the idea of same or different: singing vs. speaking, fast vs. slow, loud vs. quiet, higher vs. lower, steady vs. unsteady, long vs. short. It makes sense, then, that students can begin learning about form through listening examples and folk songs from class. Below are three examples of folk songs I use in Kindergarten.

Hot Cross Buns is a wonderful example to introduce form in short, four-beat phrases. Here’s my process:

  1. I sing the song as students keep a beat with me.
  2. We draw the phrases together, from left to right. (The teacher always demonstrates backwards.) I tell them that when we draw phrases, they can imagine drawing rainbows in the air. For each phrase, we put up one more finger.
  3. After we identify that there are four phrases, I sing the first phrase and draw an apple on the board. We determine that the first letter of “apple” is “a.” I write that next to the apple.
  4. Then I sing phrase two and ask if it sounds the same or different. Since it’s the same, I draw another apple under the first.
  5. Starting at the beginning of the song, I sing the first two phrases while pointing at the apples in turn, then point at the blank space below the apples while singing phrase three. Is it the same, or different? Hearing that it is different, I draw a banana and label it with a “b.”
  6. Finally, I sing through all the phrases and ask them if the fourth phrase sounded like an apple or a banana. I draw and label the apple and “a.”aaba form for Hot Cross Buns

Cut the Cake is another great song for Kindergarten students, and it uses a “c!” apple_banana_cherries_abac1

The song All Around the Buttercup could be taught with two eight-beat phrases, or four four-beat phrases. Personally, I like to teach it in four-beat chunks even though I analyzed it as eight-beat phrases in my collection. With that in mind, think about the phrase “one, two, three” and “just choose me.” One moves up, do re mi, while the other moves down, mi re do. When drawing the bananas on the board, I always ask students if it is exactly the same. Usually they recognize that one pattern goes up and the other goes down. I draw the second banana backwards. It can also be labeled b’ (prime). As I sing those phrases, I trace the contour of the bananas to further reinforce the melodic contour.
One more thing to note about using fruit as a bridge to form. If a song has an a’ (prime) phrase, I usually draw a green apple instead of red and tell the students it is still an apple, but it’s a little different.

How do you teach form to your youngest students? 

Happy Teaching!