Film Friday – Teaching Piano and Forte!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I LOVE using videos to reinforce concepts that I’m teaching in class. Videos grab the attention of students and inspire them to look deeper and connect. I especially love it when I can use music videos of contemporary artists to explain or elaborate on the concepts that we’re learning in class. Kids love to see music videos that speed up (accelerando), use classroom instrument (recorders, xylophones, etc.), involve speech components, or apply other concepts that they’re learning. REAL people are using these concepts! It’s not just something we learn about in our classroom. What a revolutionary concept for little minds!
The video for “It’s Oh So Quiet” by Björk is by far one of my favorites. This video is perfect to demonstrate contrasting dynamics/volume as it switches very distinctly from loud to quiet. I teach the concepts of piano (quiet) and forte (loud) for a lesson or two with my students and use different songs to help flesh out the idea. The song “Sweetly Sings the Donkey” is perfect for this because you start by singing quietly like a little donkey just waking up and end the song with a loud “hee-haw” where the donkey is upset. Learning about classroom concepts through song and movement is fun. We use new ideas in songs and games, we learn the definition, we apply.
One of my favorite things to do when talking about dynamic opposites is teaching kids to say “piano” quietly and slow and then to say “FORTE” with their loud or shouting voices. I make them take their hands and say it “like an Italian would! Since Italian is the language of music, you can’t say their words in a wimpy way. Get out your Italian hand and say forte FORTE!!” Wow, do they love that.
After kids understand the terms and how they’re used in context I pull out this video by the artist Bjork. In this video called “It’s Oh So Quiet,” Bjork walks through a town and has alternating passages where she sings very quietly (and even says “It’s oh so quiet, shhhhh”) and also sings very loud. The pattern of loud vs. soft repeats several times and makes a very clear distinction between the loud and soft passages.
Students love the pageantry of the video and the crazy way that things come to life within the forte sections. Usually the first time we watch the video I let kids enjoy and identify on their own that things are loud or quiet. Sometimes I’ll have them actively listen and when the song changes I’ll ask them to signal or say that they hear the change. You could have them raise their hand when they hear a change from one to another or use some other non-verbal cue to show that they have noticed the change.
I use this song every year with students and they never cease to be entertained and excited about it. Björk’s video was directed by the famous Spike Jonze and is just one of his many fantastic music videos. I don’t think that either Jones or Björk intended for this to be used with elementary school kids, but I think that it’s perfect for our purposes. Do you use this video in your classroom? Leave a comment below about how you incorporate it into your teaching and what you love about the video!