#1: Composing with picturesI first happened upon this idea at a workshop with Jay Broeker (who is an AMAZING presenter, if you are looking for a clinician.) He had us composing patterns with bee pictures, and I had an a-ha moment: you can compose without specifically knowing rhythms and melody, AND without writing the composition down with paper and pencil! Inspired by Jay's idea, I created a set for composition with "We are dancing." First, students sing the song and play the game, shown below:
Afterwards, I had students clap and say the words "forest" and "tree," then compose an 8-beat pattern using the pictures in whichever order they wanted. This can be done as a B section, and you could perform ABA (sing the song/ perform the composed chant/ sing the song.) This could also be done with partners or in centers. Easy way to have students create and prepare ta and ti-ti! You can download the composition visuals for free by clicking the picture below:
#2: Composing with cards
After students learn BAG on recorder, I love using the cards below, which you can download for free by clicking the picture:
I have students work in small groups or partners to arrange the cards in any order they want. You might tell them to only compose 8 beats. Then, they play through their composition with their partner or small group. Again, easy way to have them compose, but they are creating AND improving their recorder skills. You can also make them aware of their role as the composer: if they don't love what they've composed (maybe they've decided they don't like the composition ending on A, or on a ti-ti), they can change it!
#3: Composing with rhythm
To have students compose rhythm, you could give them a few parameters, like 1.) Compose 16 beats, 2.) Use certain rhythms, and 3.) End on ta or rest. I know it seems restricting to have rules, but composers sometimes do have to compose within a framework, and I find having some kind of framework can be helpful.
I have a rhythm composition worksheet for free on TpT; simply click the picture below to download it.
#4: Composing with melody
In my district, we talk a lot about transfer: the ability of students to transfer their knowledge from one setting to another. Melodic composition is a great way for them to apply transfer, as they are composing rhythm, then adding solfa or note letters, then transferring their melody to the staff! Here are some pictures of my students working on their melodic compositions in class. First, they wrote a rhythm and played it all on B on their recorders:
Then, they copied the rhythm again and added B, A, and G:
Then they added noteheads onto the staff:
And then they added stems to the noteheads:
If you are looking to do a project like this, I just posted my recorder set to TpT, as well as a grade-level sets for each grade level. Below is the recorder set as well as the bundle:
#5: Free composition
Although having guidelines can be very helpful and beneficial for expanding students' understanding of musical concepts, it is also beneficial to have students compose without as many guidelines. I was first inspired to try something like this after reading the book, "Can I Play You My Song? The Compositions and Invented Notations of Children" by Rena Upitis, shown below:
It is a wonderful read, with detailed ideas for having students compose without rhythmic or melodic guidelines, and having them create their own notation. I've done something like this with my own students--giving them instruments and few guidelines in a small group--and have found that they LOVE this. We talk about how bands don't just sit down with their instruments and stare at each other as they play; they have conversations! So it gives us a good chance to talk about the songwriting process. They often compose music that they haven't learned notation for yet...but that's okay! I firmly believe it's important for them to have both types of experiences.
What are your favorite ways of having students compose in the music room? Feel free to comment below, and have fun with your students!