Monday, May 18, 2015

CRESCENDO II! Chants & Games for Music Foundation

Ms. Brigid here, from Merit School of Music  in Chicago, IL. This month’s post offers chants and games to further develop young children’s understanding of crescendo, as well as an update on a new recycled prop I introduced in the classroom – yogurt cups! Find last month’s post on crescendo instrument and book ideas here.

CHANTS – Crescendo Circles
Loud and soft are “comparatives” that children love to explore. The space between these two
dynamic extremes are what build a crescendo  (piano<forte) or a decrescendo  (forte > piano).
For my K+ kiddos, we make “V’s” with our pointer and middle finger, the turn our hand sideways, palms out, when talking about these dynamic levels. Please notice that these symbols used in music are the same as  “less than” (<) and “greater than” (>) in visual math language.

Rain on the Green Grass
My kiddos learn the traditional verse, Rain on the Green Grass, with feet to the beat, then clap the rhythm with their hands. Oftentimes, the big gathering drum comes out so the children can play the rhythm or beat (depending on their ages and abilities) while chanting the poem.  When the words are secure, we’re ready for a crescendo circle. Review piano and forte. Define crescendo – starting at piano and getting gradually louder until forte – loud!  is achieved. Label it: Crescendo!

Rain on the green grass,
Rain on the trees,
Rain on the housetop
But not on me!

Gather all your kiddos into a tight circle, and mark the beat with your feet (Note: The words in green mark a medium beat that works well with this activity.). Chant the poem softly

Take a small step backwards, making the circle wider. Chant again – a little louder.

Repeat several times, the circle getting wider upon each repetition and voices getting louder. Do not shout.

After the final repetition, throw hands in the air, over your head, and exclaim, Crescendo!

NOTE: Crescendo is pronounced Creh- shen- doh.  The “sh” sound of the 2nd syllable can be challenging for my pre-K kiddos, so before saying the word, I put my finger to my lips and say “shhhh!” I invite the children to join me. THEN we say “crescendo”  - a helpful intervention.

Mrs. Murphy’s Chowder
This is a fun and silly rhyme to share – but it will only work if the kiddos know what “overalls” are! I ask for ideas before showing them photos. “Chowder” is another word that may need explanation.  Ask kiddos to echo, using “rhythm hands” while chanting, for best results. When words are secure, repeat crescendo circle activity using the instructions for Rain.

Who put the overalls in Mrs. Murphy’s chowder?
Nobody answered, so she spoke a little louder!
These two lines came from a song written over a century ago by George L. Giefer. I was able to find an “Edison” recording from 1901(!), sung by Edward M. Favor, for your listening pleasure.

There Was A Man…
I’ve also had success with the following nursery rhyme, which I learned from my friend, Carole Peterson Stephens (Carole writes for this collaborative blog on the 16th of every month). The chant, called “A Windy Day,” is on H.U.M. -  All Year Long!, one of her many fine CDs for the young set. H.U.M. stands for “Highy Usable Music” – and it is!

There was a man in our town
Who went on a walk one day.
The wind it blew so very hard,
It turned him the other way!

Hold hands and walk, feet to the beat, in a circle. On “way,” turn the other direction.  Voices get louder on each repetition. For K+ kiddos, I write the words and musical shorthand on the board – in Italian, the language of music).
pp           pianissimo
p             piano
mp           mezzo piano
mf           mezzo forte
f             forte
ff             fortissimo

Of course, I have been known to slip in a pianissimo and fortissimo when speaking to my younger students. Why not? They are equal opportunity learners!  Why limit Italian vocabulary only to “pizza,” “lasagna,’” “venti,” and “cappuccino?”

Lucy Locket  - Crescendo Game
Lucy Locket, sung to the tune of Yankee Doodle,  works well as a “duck-duck-goose” game, but is even more fun as a crescendo game. Sometimes this group of games go by the name “hot potato.”
NOTE: I use a small organza bag (that a piece of jewelry came in) for this game, but anything the size of a small envelope will do – even a colorful baggage tag.

Choose a “hider “and a “seeker.” Explain the rules of the game: After the “locket” is hidden, the seeker tries to find it, guided by the volume of the childrens’ voices. The louder the singing, the closer the seeker is to the locket.  Emphasize that this is for fun!

Ask the seeker to stand in the corner, with eyes averted or covered. For older kiddos, the seeker can stand outside the door of the classroom – something too scary for many of my younger kiddles. The hider places the locket where she/he chooses. The locket must be partially visible, even if it’s only a corner that’s showing. We’re planning for success, here! I check in with the rest of the students – did they see where the hider put the “locket?” If they say “yes,” we’re ready for the seeker.

The seeker leaves the corner (or returns to the room), and guided by the voices of the children, looks for the locket. The louder the singing, the closer the object. The singing starts pianissimo
and becomes fortissimo as the seeker discovers the locket. Choose two more children by whatever means is best for your classroom and repeat! Often I’ll let children chose their successors, with a boy choosing a girl or a girl choosing a boy so that one gender isn’t frozen out. It’s up to you!


This year, small, sterilized 6 ounce Chobani brand containers (thank you, Costco, and college-going daughter with exquiste taste) came to my 3-5 year old classrooms. Each child received two cups - one for each hand - and were encouraged to find out how many different noises could be made with them. The cups were slid on the rug, rubbed, clapped together front to front and back to back, drummed on, and more! Finally we made a long and satisfying class crescendo combining our favorite methods. I will definitely continue to experiment with their use. There is great potential for beat and rhythm exploration, and I’m looking forward to ideas for use from my students!

Thank you for joining me. Tune in next month for more musical ideas, but in the meantime, if you’re searching for seasonal songs, please revisit my post from May 2014 – one year ago! – for Spring! Songs, Chants & Apps to Welcome the Season. There’s lots of happy, seasonal treasures with signing! Happy singing and happy Spring!!

Chicago Botanic Garden.  ©2015 Brigid Finucane
Call Me For Your Professional Development!
I’d love to help your school or community blossom musically!  My specialty is music and literacy teacher training (with a dose of technology), singing games and dances from around the world, and more! If you’re local (Chicago), I’m Gateways registered and IAC approved – at least for the next three years! See my contact info below.  Please look for my workshops through Illinois Children’s Home and Aid.

For Those in the Chicago Area
…Call on Merit School of Music! Our onsite school is in the West Loop. We work in the schools throughout the area providing band, orchestra, percussion, choir, early childhood, and general music instruction with project based units including Recorder, Music and Storytelling and Songwriting. We do great work! YoYo Ma is a supporter!

Chicago Families
Chicago Botanic Garden.  ©2015 Brigid Finucane
Please come to Merit’s Storytime sessions – the 2nd and 4th Mondays of the month. It’s free, fun, and facilitated by singers and storytellers Amy Lowe, Irica Baurer & me. Stories and songs start at 11am, and we end with instrument exploration and family networking.  Breaking news: Storytime will continue through the summer months, so come on down!

And in the End
My posts are historically archived below. Click a link to read about Chinese New Year, Pete Seeger, Music and Literacy, Listening Locally to Musicians from the Midwest, Great Lakes and Ontario! Then Pass It On!

I am continually inspired by The Children’s Music Network (CMN) community. an international group of socially conscious musicians, educators, librarians, families, songwriters and good people, who “celebrate the positive power of music in the lives of children by sharing songs, exchanging ideas, and creating community.” Please visit CMN, and find a gathering in your region.

©2015 Brigid Finucane  * 847-213-0713 *
Chicago Botanic Garden.  ©2015 Brigid Finucane


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