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Transcript of Improvisation
of musical creation
in the elementary music classroom
Dr. Ruth Gurgel
do we improvise?
Teaching musical improvisation
Growing as an improv teacher
Resources for Improvisation
What is improvisation?
How do we improvise?
1. We conceive of what we want to communicate.
2. We draw on our musical grammar and vocabulary.
3. We sing, play, and move to express our ideas.
hear some music
respond to a friend's idea
Material we already possess:
What we like
Create within guidelines
we facilitate understanding
we have conversations
we create together
Why do we improvise?
1. Improvising promotes lifelong music making by encouraging the God-given gift of creativity.
2. Creates a classroom culture that is collaborative as opposed to competitive. CRP!
3. Develop skills such as audiation, playing by ear, and facilitates interaction with music.
4. Advances 21st century skills of collaboration, communication, and innovation.
1. Students' musical discursive communities.
2. Their musical experiences in and out of school.
What do they like to sing?
How do they prefer to move?
How do they interact with each other musically?
What do they listen to?
What is their "classical" knowledge and skill?
What are their positive and negative experiences with music?
students' storehouses of musical "vocabulary" and "grammar" by SCAFFOLDING
new instrumental, vocal, instrumental, rhythmic, melodic material
styles and genres
imitate, explore, create
the learning activity for success.
Provide constraints on the activity that facilitate an accurate challenge level for students (use your inventory!)
and divergent thinking! Remember, the student isn't improvising if all his ideas came from you!
Don't be afraid to just "see what happens."
If a student has an idea, try it!
Tips to remember:
Create a climate of trust.
Start with improvisational activities that draw from students' current musical storehouses, then expand.
low constraints on new melody, rhythm, and harmony.
Pitfalls to avoid:
Too many "Rules" and "Guidelines"
Too many elements outside of students' comfort zones.
Trust must be strong to risk.
Mode of improvisation:
Instrumental (pitched or unpitched)
Vocal (speech, song)
Context for improvisation:
Students' current musical vocabulary
Response to stimuli (music, idea, poem, etc.)
Interactional mode (individual, partner, group; responding to partner, co-creating)
Working within a form, genre, style (or not)
Materials for improvisation:
Something they generate
Something a classmate generates
What are we moving towards?
Why is this activity important, interesting, relevant?
Clear, action-oriented, measurable/observable
1. Build comfort levels with using movement, vocal sounds.
2. Create culture of collaboration.
3. Promote the understanding that notation is a method of remembering what you did.
1. Using a forest fire event as a stimulus, students will individually improvise movement and vocals that express the fire and the aircraft.
2. In groups, students will create a group "fire" or "fire-fighting aircraft" improvisation that includes movement and vocals and also displays a sequence of events for how a forest fire is fought.
3. As a class, students will create a visual representation of their improvisation using symbols.
4. Students will select unpitched percussion to improvise "fire" and "aircraft rescue" sounds, using these sounds to accompany their improvisation.
Lesson Sequence/Teaching Process
Indicators of Learning
Next Steps: Where will we go next?
How can we keep the students' challenge level high by building on the skills/experiences/knowledge developed in this lesson?
How do students get from where they are to the objective?
Scaffold (imitate, explore, create)
Be logically sequential
Did I teach well enough so that the students met the objective?
How do I know?
What is the evidence?
IMPROV IS A PROCESS, so assessment involves carefully observing behaviors.
Assessment in improvisation is more about assessing the teacher than the students. If the student did not join in the process, ask:
Was there a point of discomfort I need to address?
Did I give confusing instructions?
Were there too many/too few parameters?
READ: how does interaction work in improvisation?
Augusto Monk, "Symbolic Interactionism in Music Education: 8 Strategies for Collaborative Improv" 2013, MEJ.
RESEARCH: How does improvisation work in Gregorian Chant, Western European Baroque, Indian raga, etc.?
CREATE: lesson plans
Continue to expand your own improvisation vocabulary.
Hickey, M. "Can improvisation be taught?" 2009, International Journal of Music Education
Brophy, T. "Developing Improvisation in General Music Classes," 2001, Music Educators Journal
Whitcomb, R. "Teaching Improvisation in Elementary General Music: Facing Fears and Fostering Creativity," 2013 Music Educators Journal
Azzara, C. "An Aural Approach to Improvisation," 1999 Music Educators Journal
Burnard, P. "Into Different Worlds: What Improvising and Composing Can Mean for Students?" 2002, Orff Echo
Kratus, J. "A Developmental Approach to Teaching Music IMprovisation," 1995, Internationa Journal of Music Education
Sivan, N. "Improvisation in Western Art Music: Its Relevance Today," 2010, PhD diss., Juilliard School of Music
Improvisation: Its Nature and Practice in Music,
1992, Dorchester, UK: Dorset Press.
Higgins, L., and Mantie, R. "Improvisation as Ability, Culture, and Experience," 2013 Music Educators Journal
Beckstead, D. "Improvisation: Thinking and Playing Music," 2013 Music Educators Journal
Volz, M. "Improvisation Begins with Exploration" 2005 Music Educators Journal
Thomas, J. "Orff-Based Improvisation," 1980 Music Educators Journal
Riveire, J. "Using Improvisation as a Teaching Strategy," 2006 Music Educators Journal
Gary Burton speaking on improvisation www.youtube.com/watch?v=t2txO_u2eNg
"My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts." Is. 45:12