In my (almost) three years of teaching I have realized that musical transitions are vital. They say in college that if you have a great plan you won't have discipline problems. While that is not necessarily true, I do believe that good pacing and good transitions will keep students busy, and excited about music, and they will have less time to misbehave. Transitions are something I love to use and enjoy thinking of. I almost never just say something like "ok new song! walk back to your seats" My students are always singing to a new position, playing a game to transition, or not even realizing we are transitioning because I sneak it in :) We sing, we dance, we sight-read, and play games and often the 55 minute class goes by too quickly!
Transitions can be:
Rhythm Games- that contain elements from two songs such as Rhythm TIC TAK TOE (a different rhythm in each square- students must memorize and say CORRECTLY to get to put their X or O on the square), Poison Rhythm (students repeat all rhythms EXCEPT the noted poison rhythm), Sneaky Snake, etc.
Rhythm Flashcards- end on a rhythm that is in your next song. You can make flashcards more fun by changing them faster and faster so students have to look ahead.
Rhythmic Ostinato- Use a measure of a song and turn it into a rhythmic ostinato (repeated pattern) that fits with more than one song. I typically lead the class to come up with an ostinato that will be utilized within the next song.
Dictation- Similar to Flashcards, students do rhythmic dictation (on dry erase boards, with popsicle stick manipulatives, silly putty, etc) and end with a rhythm that is in the next song.
Melody Games- Similar to the rhythm games but with melodic concepts instead- Sneaky Snake, Melody Tik-Tak-Toe, and So-La-Mi (similar to poison pattern in the rhythms, but the pattern is always So-La-Mi. A teacher can hide the pattern inbetween other notes. I typically start by singing syllables and showing handsigns, then move to singing a neutral syllable while showing handsigns, and finally just singing a neutral syllable. I always hide song patterns with-in the game.
Melody Flashcards- Same as above- end on a card that has a pattern in your next song
Melodic Ostinato- Same as above again :)
Dictation- Same as above :)
Solfa Ladders and Human Pianos- These activities are similar- one I have a solfa ladder on the board and point to notes as students sing using handsigns. The other, the students are "piano keys" each holding a sign that has a note written on it. I tap heads and the students sing the note that I "play". Sometimes, I just have them read from handsigns as well.
Other transitions I use are:
*Having students sing to their seats while I partner with a new song (singing or on instruments). *When students are walking to a pulse I will tap the rhythm of a song on the conga.
*When learning low la we play a game called Major or Minor and I like to end with our next song. *Mystery songs are a great transition as well. Example "our last song was about an animal- our next song will be too- I will sing the so's and mi's of the song- you tell me which animal song it is".
*Sometimes I also ask things like- all of our songs today had something in common. Can you think of another song with that same element?
*For younger students (1st and 2nd grade) I often use story transitions and weave all of the songs together in a lesson- one lesson might be about animals, one about friends, places to look for a dog bone, etc.
Do you have any transitions that you go back to often? I am always looking for new transitions to keep my students engaged and ready to sing, say, dance and play! Leave them in the comments!