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First grade pre-literacy music!

January 18, 2023 | Aiko Mauldin

What do first grade students do in music? Why do they sing so much in music class? Are they just singing songs and playing games in music classes?  If you’ve ever wondered about any of these things, I’m here to answer some of the questions today!

First grade students get music twice a week, 30 minutes for each class. In that half-an -hour, the typical music class structure may look like this:

  1. A game
  2. Greeting – hello
  3. Another game
  4. Another game
  5. Another game
  6. One more game
  7. A song
  8. Greeting – Goodbye

That does not tell you much! Let me go over a typical lessons with a little more detail.

  1. A movement game (often improvisational) to warm up our voices and bodies. Something familiar so that the students can do it at ease. This a good moment to review the class covenant through action.
  2. Greeting. Each child gets a solo moment to sing “I’m glad to see you…” to one of the friends. Everyone gets a turn, everyone sings, and everyone gets greeted. (Also right now we are practicing our first solfege syllables sol and mi hidden in the greeting song!)
  3. A game that will transition us into the circle. Something familiar, something we enjoy! Short and quick.
  4. A game – this is where our focused learning happens. We could be working on loud and soft. We may be working on high and low. We could be working on discovering quarter notes and eighth notes. Right now we are ready to discover sol and mi, so we are using instruments, hand signs, voices, and our whole body to hear the interval of sol and mi.
  5. After hard focused work, a relaxation game – a dance? A familiar game?
  6. This could be where we work on memory. Guess What Song is a game we often play.
  7. Then we will sing a song, just standing up. Working on posture, breath support, voice quality, memory, diction… so much learning, but also just to delight in our voices creating beautiful music together.
  8. Then it’s time to SING our goodbyes and depart!

So you can see, we do so much in music class. At Mustard Seed, we use a method called Kodály method – which is an approach that music education comes through experience. This means the children are learning to read and write, perform, and appreciate music by experiencing it. We also emphasize that our first and utmost important instrument is the voice. So we spend a lot of time singing.

I hope this gave a little glimpse of what we are doing in music class each time. If you want to learn more about the Kodály method, you can find it here.


Aiko Mauldin

Coleman Fung Chair for Music; Director of Songsters, Choristers, and Music Educator for Grades K-5; Worship Leader

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Aiko Mauldin started her musical training at the age of three when her mother enrolled her at a piano studio next door so that she could have peace and quiet for 30 minutes a week. Ms. Mauldin soon fell in love with Beethoven, Mozart, Debussy, Liszt, and especially Bach. She had her first official debut performance at the age of 11 at the Royal Festival Hall in London, England. At this time, Ms. Mauldin did not speak any English, but she soon discovered the power of music as a language permeating all cultures and nations. Through her love of music, she has made lifelong friends.

Since her childhood, Ms. Mauldin has moved from place to place, including Tokyo, London, San Francisco, New York, New Orleans, and of course, New Jersey. Her favorite thing to do when not teaching or playing the piano is to cook food from different cultures and to enjoy it with her family. Her favorite quote is from her mother: "I never dreamed that you would be performing recorders at Carnegie Hall!"

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