Note to the Teacher
Core has revised its curriculum, and the 1998 revision for music includes the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts" as a song for Third Grade rather than Second Grade. This gives the students the opportunity to link the tune with Aaron Copland's rendition of it as a theme in his ballet Appalachian Spring, which is part of the required listening for Third Grade. For some third graders, learning this song will be a review (see Second Grade, Music Lesson 17). We have notated it here with a time signature and note values (quarters, eighths, and half notes) that they have recently studied, so it can become part of their learning how to read music. In Lesson 10 they will listen to the section of Appalachian Spring in which Copland presents 5 brief instrumental variations on the song.
Sing the Shaker tune "Simple Gifts."
Identify 8th, quarter, and half notes in the song.
Locate the treble clef sign.
Work with the 4/4 time signature.
Recall the names of the lines and spaces in music notation.
Text for "Simple Gifts," to write on the board, attached
Music for "Simple Gifts," used for a transparency, attached
Krull, Kathleen. Gonna Sing My Head Off! New York: Knopf, 1992.
This is probably the best collection of American folk songs available for young people, with illustrations by Allen Garns plus guitar chords and simple piano arrangements by Krull. (In her introduction, she reminisces about the 1947 Fireside Book of Folk Songs for Children, illustrated by the Provensens, and she has created a good update of that book, including important songs not available in that collection. "Simple Gifts" is titled "'Tis a Gift to Be Simple" and is found on pp. 122-123.)
Begin the class by writing the title and text for the song on the board. Ask someone to read the title of the song to the class. Tell them they will first look at the words of the song, then at the kinds of note values and musical signs they see in the notation of the song, and then they will sing it. Ask those in the class who already know the song to raise their hands, and tell them that they can help teach it to the others.
Ask for volunteers to read the text of the song to the class; have each person read a line. Ask them: How many lines are there? (8) Have the 8 people read their lines, and give help if necessary. Tell them this is a Shaker tune, and that the Shakers were a group of people who came to the United States shortly before the Civil War. They were looking for religious freedom. Many people had criticized them for all the dancing and movements that went into their kind of worship, for dancing was not a part of most church services. Draw their attention to the 'Tis, and tell them it is an old-fashioned was of saying It is, or the contraction It's. Ask them what they think 'Twill means. (It will.) Tell them that the word simple had a special meaning for the religious groups called Quakers and Shakers. Say to them: In the days when the Shakers and Quakers began their religions in England, many people liked to show off their wealth and class by dressing up in fancy clothes, having fancy wigs and powdered hair. The people who liked to show how important they were also liked the idea that poor people should bow to people who were rich and important, just the way they would bow to a king or queen. Shakers and Quakers encouraged their people to be simple--to dress very plainly and to bow to no one, because everyone was equal. That was part of their idea of freedom. (If anyone asks about the lines, "When true simplicity is gained, To bow and to bend we won't be ashamed," tell them that bowing and turning are a part of this dance, because, if all people are simple and equal, then there's nothing wrong with bowing to one another in respect.)
Next, show the song to them, projected on the overhead. Ask the following questions:
What is the name of the first musical sign you see? (treble clef)
What are the names of the lines on the staff from bottom to top? (E, G, B, D, F)
(Review: Every Good Boy Does Fine)
What are the names of the spaces? (F, A, C, E)
What does the time signature say? (4/4)
Which are the bar lines that show the divisions between the measures? (vertical lines)
How many beats are in each measure? (4)
What kind of note gets one beat? (quarter note)
What word is under the first quarter note in the song? (gift)
How can we tell the difference between the eighth notes and the quarter notes? (quarters are solid black notes with stems; eighth notes have little flags or tails on their stems or are joined by a single horizontal line)
How many eighth notes = a quarter note? (2)
How many quarter notes = a half note? (2)
How many half notes = a whole note? (2)
Congratulate them and then go through the piece, simply having them call out the names of the notes as you point to them (starting at the beginning, as 8th, 8th, quarter, 8th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 8th, 8th, and so on). Try having them read the words in rhythm next, reminding them that the 8th notes will move twice as fast as the quarters. If you clap the first beat of each measure for them, it will be easier for them to stay together.
Finally, have them sing the song, asking any of them who know the song to sing it through with you for the rest of the class the first time. Then sing each full sentence for them (not line, but sentence so they hear each complete musical phrase), and have them sing it back with you.
'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be free,
'Tis a gift to come down to where we ought to be.
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we won't be ashamed.
To turn, turn, will be our delight,
Till by turning and turning we come around right.
Third Grade - Music - Lesson 10 - Appalachian Spring
Listen to 2 short sections of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring.
Recall other ballet music.
Recognize a theme in Appalachian Spring.
Improvise 2 short dances.
Classroom-size map of the U.S.
Recording of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring, see Suggested Recording
Transparency of "Simple Gifts" from Lesson 9
Aaron Copland: Rodeo/Fanfare for the Common Man/Billy the Kid/Appalachian Spring, Naxos CD 8.550282
This inexpensive CD ($4.98) would be a good school investment, since 3 out of the 4 selections on it are part of the Core and BCP music curriculum. The students listen to Rodeo and Fanfare for the Common Man in Second Grade; Appalachian Spring, in Third.
Background for the Teacher
The students have already listened to at least one ballet (Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, First Grade, Lesson 9), which you may want to bring to their attention by having them recall a few of the pieces (or scenes if they have seen a video or a live performance). Review the fact that music written for the ballet was intended as dance music and comes to life best that way. They will have heard other music of Copland in Second Grade, but should be reminded that he is an American composer who lived for nearly the entire 20th century (1900-1990) and wrote music for the dance, for films, and for orchestras.
Start the class by playing Section #7 of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring for the students. (It takes 4-5 minutes, depending on the performance.) Ask them if they recognize anything of the music they just heard (tune or theme is the same as the song "Simple Gifts,"
which they sang in the previous lesson). Have them stand and sing the song with you, using the overhead so they can see the words and music. Ask them: What's different about what you just sang and the music you listened to on the recording? (Accept any answers. The most obvious difference is that one has words and is sung; the other has no words and is played by instruments, but there are others the students might notice.)
Tell the students that what they just heard in the recording was written by an American composer named Aaron Copland, and Copland wrote it for a ballet called Appalachian Spring.
Ask them: Who remembers another ballet we have listened to? (Nutcracker) What is ballet music? (for dancing) Ask them what kinds of dances they saw or listened to from Nutcracker. (Accept all answers.) Ask what kinds of costumes they think of when they think of ballet (tutus, pink ballet slippers, and so on). Tell them that Copland's ballet is about a young man and woman who lived in the mountains of Pennsylvania and have invited their neighbors to their wedding celebration. (Show them where the Appalachian Mountains are on the map.) It takes place about a hundred years ago, at a time when all the people living there were farmers, and so the characters in this ballet are dressed as farm people. Ask them: What do you think the male dancers were wearing? (overalls, pants, shirts, maybe bare feet) What do you think the women dancers in Appalachian Spring would wear? (simple cotton dresses, quite long and full, maybe hats or bonnets, probably bare feet)
Tell the students you will play it for them again and you want them to listen to the way the composer keeps making little changes to the melody. The first time we hear it, a solo clarinet is playing it. What family is the clarinet? (woodwind) Then we hear it played much lower by cellos. What family is that? (strings) Later the horns play it loud and like a fanfare. The very last time, Copland uses the whole orchestra to play it, and they play it twice as slow as all the other times. Say: While you listen to these different ways the melody sounds, think about what kinds of dance steps might be going on and how they might change as the instruments change.
While they are listening a third time, have the students all spread out around the room and tell them they are to be the dancers this time, and each person can do the dance they think fits the music. Remind them that they can also think about the words they sang to the song, if they wish, and the things those words suggested--such as bow, bend, turn, come down where we ought to be, and turn some more.
If there is time, you might tell them that a hundred years ago families who lived in the mountains of Pennsylvania had another kind of dancing they did on Saturday nights for entertainment. It was square dancing, and the instruments they played would be country fiddle (a violin), sometimes banjo and plucked base, sometimes jugs and other homemade instruments. A man who was the caller would tell the dancers what to do, what kinds of steps and turns to make. Say: Another part of Appalachian Spring is that kind of square dance music, but without the caller. Listen to what the music sounds like. Play section #4. Again, it takes only 4 or 5 minutes, and you could ask them to imagine what that part of the ballet might look like. When they have heard it once, have them each take a partner and improvise some square dancing to the music.