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Music makers and shakers

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By Brenda Williams — poet

Feel the rhythm in a lively poem about children making music

Illustration of children making music

The poem, ‘The Music Makers’, (see Activity sheet) is about just that – making music! It is fun to make comparisons between the more serious musical instruments and ‘little Kate’s’ improvised ones, but throughout the world, and history, people have made music by using what is available to them, including their own voice.

Poetry and music have much in common. They both encourage children to develop a sense of beat and rhythm. The music of poetry is as much concerned with its flow and pace as instrumental or vocal music.

Activities

1. Exploring sounds

  • Read the poem and assemble as many of its instruments as you can, including little Kate’s collection. After enjoying the poem together, invite the children to name the instruments and identify which part of the poem they are mentioned in.
  • Let the children experience listening to, and discussing, the sounds made by the real instruments, and then use each of little Kate’s ‘music makers’ in turn, to demonstrate how they can generate sounds and rhythm. Does the ‘blowing through a comb’ sound like any of the real instruments? Or does the ‘rattling pots of peas’ remind them of maracas or other shakers?
  • Use the poem’s ideas for clapping, tapping, ticking, beating and stamping as a group activity, encouraging children to vary the sound, from soft to loud, or fast to slow.

Poetry and music both encourage children to develop a sense of beat and rhythm

  • Ask the children to ‘tick like a clock’ while also moving one hand rhythmically in time to their beat. Can they clap, tap, beat, and stamp to a beat of four?
  • Invite children to sing the poem with you, or chant it as a rap. Perhaps one group could sing the first two lines of each verse, and another the second two as a chorus.

2. Music poems

  • Explain to the children that ‘The Music Makers’ is written in the form of a quatrain, which has verses of four lines. In this quatrain, the rhyming words are in the second and fourth lines. It is also in the style of a ‘list’ poem as it lists various musical instruments.
  • Invite any musical relatives the children may have to come in and play different instruments for children to listen to and compare. Alternatively, play a variety of music, such as jazz, reggae, pop, or classical. Ask the children to describe how the music makes them feel (happy, sad, sleepy, calm, excited).
  • Show the children how to map out a ‘list’ poem by using a ‘word web’. Start by writing what will be the repetitive line ‘Music makes me happy’, in a circle, in the middle of the board. From this circle, draw arrows to several ‘satellite’ circles. In each one repeat ‘Music makes me happy’, and then add another line underneath saying, for example, ‘It makes my feet tap’ or ‘I like the drum parts’. Highlight the repetitive line in a different colour, to add emphasis, as given to the ‘little Kate…’ line in the poem. From these ideas, select just four to create a four-line verse.
  • Ask the children to repeat the activity, writing ‘Music makes me sad/sleepy/or excited’ on a large sheet of paper, and to use the sentences to create their own poem. The poems could be used to create a longer, whole-class poem.
  • Invite the children to try and create a ‘shape’ poem. Provide each child with a large piece of paper, shaped like a musical instrument, such as a trumpet, violin or guitar. Ask the children to write a poem about the instrument, filling the paper. How would they play it – with a bow, their fingers or by blowing? What kind of music would they play? Would they play loudly/softly/in a band/an orchestra/on its own?

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