How to Introduce or Teach 8th Notes in Group Setting

So I want to talk briefly about the eighth note question here, how do I introduce eighth notes?

There’s nothing particularly special about introducing eighth notes. I treat it just like another concept in the book. When I get to that part in Fabre, on page 10, I’ll say, “Hey, we have a new kind of note.”

Of course, this is second-nature language for kids. So you know, whereas I might introduce notes and rhythm very, very differently at the beginning of primer, I’ll introduce it a much different way. So we take for granted that we use that language all the time.

Then I continue, “It’s faster, and I’m just going to show you how it works. It’s pretty simple. Look at Line A here on page 10.”

And so these are those four rhythm drills there. And I will say, “Running walk and play the first line.” And then I literally look at the kid and say, “Okay, I want you to say running walk and do that.”

And they do Line A, Line B, and all of it. Sometimes if it’s a younger kid, I’ll say, “Okay, you clearly understand how to do Line A, I want you to do Line A three times, Line B three times, Line C three times…”

I might demonstrate each line and say the “running walk” words over and over again. But this is the extent of how I introduce eighth notes.

And then I will give them an opportunity to play it through a couple times each line and I’ll say, “Put your card up when you’re done.”

I walk away to work with another kid, their card goes up, I walk back over to them. And again, this is one of the situations where it is so rare for a kid to actually struggle on that page or get it wrong, that I might go a year without a kid struggling that page, or two years. I can’t remember the last time a kid struggled on that page.

So we’ll do that. I will then move on to page 11, which is the Famous People song, and I’ll have them play the first two lines only and I’ll say, “Play the first two lines and say ‘running walk’ while you play it.”

Most of the time, like 8/10 times, I’ll have them get those first few lines around, I won’t even demonstrate it and I’ll walk away.

I’ll say, “Just make sure you’re saying ‘walk’ on these notes and ‘run’ on these notes.”

And again, we don’t need to go into the whole intellectual edifice of what eighth notes are and what that means and duple and triple and all this stuff. I only care that they can physically do the action, and then lagging behind their ability to physically do the action – which I talked about in the six principles (there’s a lot of research that backs this up).

And once I kind of figured this out, it was a game changer for my studio. Intellectual knowledge is more easily assimilated when they’re actually already utilizing the concept physically.

So the intellectual comes after the physical realization. So I teach the child physically. So they did that on page 10. I’ll teach them physically this song. We have no trouble identifying the notes, where their hands start, all that stuff. That’s a given – I won’t even talk about that stuff.

“Show me where your hands go… yes. Okay, do this like five times. Put your card up when you’re done.” When you come back, it’s never wrong.

Second set of lines for page 11 is a little more challenging. They just have more eighth notes in the bottom. So I might demonstrate that bottom line for them or play it along with them when I come back. “Hey, watch how I do this last line, running, walk, running, walk, running, walk, walk, walk… watch carefully here… running, running, walk.”

Just make sure you say ‘running walk,’ and we’ll get this. And again, I walk away. They play it a bunch of times. The older kid might get it faster. But the important thing is, by 2a, they’re so independent, they don’t need me to hold their hand on this stuff. I come back. It’s perfect. And that’s that.

Then we just kind of move through as many songs as we can in the hour, you know, in that unit.

A lot of times we’ll get to that unit and I will say, “Do page 12 and 13.”

We have the cloud song on 16 and 17. A lot of times, we’ll get up to like page 19, I’ll skip over 18. I’ll go to 19 first, and then I’ll come back to 18. But that’s preferential – that really doesn’t matter. That’s just the way that I prefer to do it.

As I go through it, and I see the songs kids struggle on and the ones that they don’t, even when they’re good… I will change the order in which I teach the book, but this is personal preference for me. I’m not going to tear apart Fabre books and rebind them together. But I know I will do the same order for every single child.

So I will skip 18, go to 19 first, then come back to 18. I don’t even teach transposition right away. I just haven’t learned the songs and then after all the songs are learned, then I actually go into what transposition is. By that time, they already know the song. So it makes sense to them, since they can actually physically play the song so much better.

So, hope that helps in terms of how I introduce the eighth notes, but I kind of walked through the first third of the 2a book, honestly. But it is a very rare child that actually struggles with eighth notes. And I will tell you, 10-12 years ago, that wasn’t the case. Most kids struggled with eighth notes. And as I changed from the intellectual approach to the more physical-first approach, then intellectual later; or physical, and then I just use the language of music and I refer to things in certain ways. So I might say, “Hey, these are eighth notes,” and that’s all I say. And then we go to page 10 and 11. But I continue to use it. There’s no child that gets to the end of the book that can’t explain to me what an eighth note is. It comes up naturally. It’s a very holistic, ecological way of teaching, as opposed to this very heavy eighteenth/nineteenth century way of teaching that persists.

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