One of my favorite ways to have students use manipulatives is solfa manipulatives. I first came upon the idea of solfa manipulatives when I was studying in Hungary. My friend Bonnie presented about it to our level III class; she had learned about them in a previous level. I adapted the idea she presented a bit, and came up with laminated circles. Here is a picture of my students working with solfa manipulatives; usually I have them work individually, but this class was so big they had to work with partners!
What I really love about the manipulatives is that the students don't have to worry about the staff-they just think about which solfa they hear, and then whether there are steps, skips, or leaps in between each note. It's like a precursor to working on the staff. I've also noticed that for many students, rhythm comes much easier than solfa, so I love having a strategy to really focus on melody!
Even though I don't have them work on the staff, some of my students found my floor staff and wrote it on there. Love it!
I made mine by using an ellison die cut and construction paper. Once I cut out the paper, I wrote the solfa on each, then laminated each circle and cut it out. It was a very time-consuming process, but totally worth it, as I'm still using mine from 12 or so years ago! I have included a set of solfa manipulatives in each of my melodic sets, like "Songs and Activities to Teach Do," shown below.
Here are a few ways in which I've used solfa manipulatives:
- Put magnetic tape on the back of a set of the manipulatives, like shown below (click on the picture to buy the magnetic tape on Amazon; I think it's one of the best inventions EVER!)
- After putting tape on a set, sing a pattern to students on solfa, then have them "write" the pattern with the circles, then put in the contour, remembering the steps and skips.
- Next, you can do the same as above, but you play the pattern on the recorder or "loo" the pattern.
- After students work with the manipulatives on the board, they are now ready to work individually or in pairs. You can start with the same process-singing a pattern on solfa and having them write, then, when they're ready, play the pattern on the recorder or "loo" it.
- Have students work individually or with partners to compose their own pattern, then sing it aloud.
- Work in learning centers and assess students in small groups. This is eye-opening, because you can really tell whose melodic understanding is where it needs to be and who still needs a lot of help!