Spring Break is almost here already! And that means so is competition season.  My students and I are busy prepping for competition at our local festival.  Our kindergarten to grade 5 students are set to perform, each classroom singing two songs.  This is the first year in quite some time that so many classrooms from our school have entered, and we are all excited and a little nervous for our moment on the stage.  The grade 4/5 class is attempting 2 part harmony and a different language.  We’ve found some challenges trying to memorize music that is a definite step harder than what has been done previously, but with a lot of rehearsing the songs are starting to come together, just in time!

This term I have been really working towards rhythmic literacy when playing and reading music.  The grade 2-5 students have been working on recorders as well, and rhythm is a big part of playing an instrument musically.  This has proven quite the challenge at times, getting our breath, fingers and tongue to all work together to play a beautiful recorder melody, but they are rising to the challenge beautifully.

To help with rhythm, I introduced a new instrument into our classroom – the Cajon, a South American box style percussion instrument.  All of my students found it fascinating that they had to sit on the instrument to play it properly, which added to the excitement and appeal (not that a new instrument doesn’t already!).

To introduce the instrument, and give each student a turn to try it, my grade 4/5 class did a cakewalk.  Each student was given a number, we started the music and away we went.  As a number was called, the student had to come up, was given a 4 beat rhythmic pattern to play on the Cajon, and when done, they got a huge cheer from the class and a treat.  It was a huge hit, let me see where each student was at quickly, and really, who doesn’t like cookies?

With my younger classes, the Cajon was demonstrated and then added into our Orff instrument rotation.  Having a new instrument kept the energy up, allowed for quicker switches on the instruments and also really made for an exciting time as each student got to try it, and be our beat leader.  Later it was added into small group centres for both drumming and as a rhythm practice.  It has definitely become the new favourite instrument in our classroom, even beating out the handbells.

The Cajon was a new instrument to me, which left a lot of room for experimentation.  After watching tutorials to learn proper hand technique, I was expecting this one to be a little bigger, but for the younger students playing it was a good size.  It has a very unique sound that was noticeable easily in a loud music room (because the best music rooms are always loud ones, or so my students would say!)  Overall I was very impressed with this instrument, and am hoping to add more to our instrument collection soon!  We are attempting to work it into a bucket drumming unit next, and preparing folk music for our final performances of the year.

But first, a well deserved rest.  Spring Break here we come!

Written by Mandy, a k-8 music and art teacher in the Interlake School Division.

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