Saturday, October 23, 2010

Week 7: Twinkle, Twinkle and Up Like a Rocket!

Glacier Valley Kindergartners Practice Bow Hold with "Up Like a Rocket" Exercise
Before the Abreu Fellowship ended last June, Katie Wyatt of KidzNotes shared with me all of her Suzuki tips and exercises for young children.  One of them focused on building bow hold strength while maintaining correct hand position.  Here it is:

UP LIKE A ROCKET (sung to Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star)

Up like a rocket           (lift bow above head)
Down like the rain        (lower frog to belly button)
Back and forth            (move bow side to side)
Like a choo-choo train  

'Round and 'round         (circle bow around your head) 
Like a great big sun
Tap your head             (tap frog on your head)
Bumpy thumb              (show your thumb knuckle out)
Pinkie push-ups, 1,2,3     (tap your pinkie on bow 3 times)
Bow to your side,          (rest bow on shoulder)
Now watch me.            (watch to take a bow)


This week we put bow to paper violin by playing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.  To help support a continual "up, down" bow direction, we adapted Shelley Gill's Twinkle, Twinkle Northern Lights from her book The Alaska Mother Goose and created our own Alaskan version.  Here it is:

An Alaskan Twinkle
Twinkle, twinkle little starlight
Sparkling in the arctic clear night
Up above the mountain ridgeline
Blue-green ribbons dance with spruce pine
Twinkle, twinkle little starlight
Sparkling in the arctic clear night

Right now the kindergartners are singing the bow direction "down, up" rather than the lyrics, but our hope is to invite the audience to sing along with them as part of their finale piece for the concert. Here is a short video clip of the students "playing" Twinkle, Twinkle with Mr. Xia.  You see their kindergarten teacher, Miss Hickman, moving through the group helping individual students make adjustments.  I can't emphasize enough hoe important the collaboration between classroom teacher, music teacher and community artist has been to the success of our program.


One question I have for folks out there using paper violins as a pedagogical component of their strings program is, "Does theis process help students stick with the important, but oftentimes boring, steps needed to master bow and violin holding positions?

My initial thoughts are "Yes."  Each week the students see progress as we add another piece to their paper violin, which logically corresponds to a skill they mastered.  They seem willing to stay the course knowing that with each new skill, they are getting that much closer to the real thing.  I don't know if they'd have the same attitude and patience if the violin was handed to them the first day.  They might expect to be able to play right away and then become frustrated with the process when our eager kindergartners learn the realities behind playing an instrument.   Any thoughts out there?

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