Teaching grade 1 music high and low? An essential but often overlooked fundamental music concept in the Ontario Curriculum for grade 1 is Pitch: high and low sounds.
Although I have been teaching music for 15 years, I’m always shocked by how many students begin grade 1 not having any idea what the words “high” and “low” actually mean. Most of the time, they confuse them with loud and soft – a boat horn for example, although low in pitch, will often be described by my grade 1 students as “high”, mistakenly trying to refer to the volume.
How Do you Demonstrate High And Low In Music?
The key to teaching young students what the words “high” and “low” mean is by connecting them to both the sound as well as the physical space. Students need to understand that high sounds are associated with being high up physically, while low sounds are associated with being low physically.
In kindergarten and grade 1, students don’t need to learn this in relation to the music staff. Even something as simple as singing a high note while standing on their tiptoes and singing a low note while crouching down will begin to build this basic association in their minds.
Tips for teaching grade 1 music high and low:
- Be careful with non-music examples. I’ve seen a lot of worksheets and activities that use animals as examples of high and low sounds. But this can be confusing. Many animals, like humans, can make a range of sounds. A cat, for example, is capable of making a high-pitched mew, or a lower-pitched yowl. This can feed into the confusion between high/loud and low/soft. It is better to use examples that can only make a single sound.
- Use actual sound examples. Another issue with real-world sounds as examples of high and low is that unless you are listening to examples, you’re relying on a child’s pitch memory more than you are measuring their understanding of pitch. For example, if you show a child a picture of an ambulance and ask them to identify whether it makes a high sound or a low sound, you’re assuming that a) the child has heard an ambulance before and b) remembers what it sounds like. Use recordings whenever you can.
Prodigies Music Video Suggestions:
These videos from the Prodigies library will help in teaching your Grade 1 class.
Low C & High C (Preschool 2.1)
No bells needed – ask students to hold their solfege sign for “do” up high while singing high C, and down low while singing “low C”. Pause partway through: How do you know which ones to sing high and which ones to sing low? (Hopefully, students can connect that because the notes that are high are high on the screen, the low ones are low)
Listening C vs c (Preschool 2.3)
Ask students to “vote” for which bell they think is coming down the pipe by voting with their high C or low c solfege signs.
Low & High – Do do (Performance 2.1 Track)
Sing along with the track while continuing with high/low hand signs.
More Videos for Teaching High and Low
- The Doodlebops 116 – High and Low
Main focus of the episode is looking for “real-life” sounds to add to their High and Low song.
No Prep Lesson Plans for Pitch
Need a little more help teaching Pitch? The Music-By-Month series helps teachers meet all music expectations easily – at grade level, with minimal prep, and can be done in just 30 minutes per week.
Also available to download on Teachers Pay Teachers