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4 Reasons Why Animals Help in Teaching Music Tempo and Articulation

4 Reasons These Animals are Teaching Tempo and Articulation Better Than Most | composecreate.com

Recently, I gave the new “Have You Forgotten What It’s Like to be a Child?” presentation in Oklahoma City.

[I’m also giving it at MTNA, so please come if you’ll be there!] I was so excited with how energized teachers said they were about learning what it’s like to be a child so that their teaching could help students actually apply what they learn.

What I love about giving this session is that teachers go away with scores of practical ideas that work, but then they frequently email me with ideas of their own. And that’s what Christy Kiespert did when she emailed me her idea for teaching music tempo and articulation! I’m so excited she gave me permission to share it.

When you really start understanding what it’s like to be a child, you can be creative about teaching all kinds of musical concepts.

The Goal Is Not What You Think

But the goal is not being creative (can you believe I said that?). The goal is to help students apply what it is they are learning, not just understand a concept.

So here’s an example of putting a little of the “Have You Forgotten What It’s Like to be a Child?” session in practice.

Teaching Music Tempo with Animals

Animal Erasers for teaching music tempo and articulation | composecreate.comChristy heard me mention these adorable animal erasers and thought they might be great for teaching music tempo and articulation. Here’s why her idea works:

  • Christy wisely recognized that the terms we use for tempo are very abstract.
  • Kids need something concrete with which to associate abstract concepts.
  • Teaching tempo with only words like, “Allegro means fast” will mean that she will have to say this over and over again in multiple lessons over a long period of time before the student will retain this information. What wants to do that when we can teach it in a more interesting way with better student retention?

Teaching Music Tempo and Articulation with animals | composecreate.comSo Christy researched the running speeds of each of the animals and then asked the students to help her assign an Italian tempo to each of the animals. Here’s what she came up with:

  • Presto the Cheetah: 70 mph (168-200 bpm)
  • ​Allegro the Giraffe: 37 mph (120-168 bpm)
  • ​Moderato the Bear: 30 mph (120-108 bpm)
  • ​Andante the Cow: 25 mph (76-108 bpm)
  • Adagio the Pig: 11 mph (66-76 bpm)
  • ​Lento the Turtle: 0.17 mph (46-60 bpm)

Teaching Music Tempo and Articulation | composecreate.comTeaching Music Articulation with Animals

Christy went on to help her students understand and apply articulation to notes by finding interesting animals for staccato, non-legato, and legato. Here’s a picture, but be sure to read all her other great ideas!

Why do these animals help in teaching music tempo and articulation?

Teaching music tempo with animals now probably seems like such an obvious thing to do, but so many of us just don’t make the effort and take the time to do it. The reason Christy’s students are going to remember these Italian terms better than most and the reason that animals teach better than we do (by our lonesome) is because:

  1. The children related something abstract to something concrete AND something with which they were familiar. What child doesn’t like animals?
  2. The children were able to handle the animals with their hands while learning. Kids are kinesthetic!
  3. The student were asked to contribute to the learning process which gave them autonomy and ownerships of the concept.
  4. The students had to make decisions, thus their minds were actively engaged. Telling a student something only engages their minds passively.

Read all of Christy’s ideas she has posted about using these animals!

It’s Been a Long Time for All of Us, but There’s Hope!

I love how when we really start understanding what it’s like to be a child, we can be creative about teaching all kinds of musical concepts. I know. It’s been a long time since most of us have been a child. But I firmly believe that even younger teachers and teenagers have forgotten about as much of what it’s like to be a child as a 70 year old!

Don’t worry. I’m passionate about this, so you’ll see more posts and even an opportunity to watch this workshop in your area! Stay tuned!

In the meantime, care to leave more ideas about how you teach tempo and articulation in a way that connects with kids?

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Wendy Stevens
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4 Comments

  1. Linda Wilson February 9, 2016 at 10:13 am

    I love Christy’s ideas too! Goodness, I didn’t dream of the exciting new ideas that I would be receiving when I woke up this morning. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you Wendy for sharing these posts with us. I have just visited Christy’s website. What cute ideas! I love the little puppies and their houses practice ideas. I’m adding them today!

  2. Rosemarie Penner February 12, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Wendy, I always enjoy reading your posts! While I often will move like animals with my students for articulation, I LOVE the idea of using it to teach tempo as well … I’m thinking that purchasing animal erasers will be a great idea! A cardio workout is great, but not sure if I want to be running as fast as a cheetah at lesson.

  3. Dynamic and Tempo Meter – Piano Pantry March 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm

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  4. James March 25, 2016 at 1:49 pm

    That’s a pretty fun tip, thanks for sharing.

    I always emphasize that my adults learn like they were children. Adults try too hard to learn all the theory and take in all this information and then get frustrated and quit.

    Children learn by having fun and just playing around, and eventually they’re an accomplished player!

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