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Middle Years

Years 3 - 4

Taniwha by Emily Cater

Poetry and Stories

In the middle years we continue to feel the pulse of a poem and the rhythm of words with chant and body percussion that can be transferred to un-tuned percussion instruments.  We fill empty spaces (rests) in a poem with improvised sounds and movements.  Once we are confident working with words as our rhythmic anchor, we start to take the words away, internalising the rhythms and phrasing (saying them to ourselves in our head and counting/feeling the beats).  We challenge ourselves to perform the movements, body percussion or un-tuned percussion parts alone, while still keeping together as an ensemble group.  We also begin to create different speech ostinati.  These are are short rhythmic phrases taken from, or inspired by, the original text that are repeated to form an effective accompaniment.  Words and short phrases are used as rhythmic building blocks to create effective ostinati.  This means we start working as a more sophisticated ensemble group with people performing several different parts at the same time.  By year 4 we are thinking about the rhythmic qualities of our created ostinati and noticing how they can work together to make an effective accompaniment.  We use cup notation to support our rhythmic work with language.  Cups represent syllables in words; crotchet, quaver, and semiquaver beats (big, medium, and small cups).  We create 4 beat patterns that we can ‘read’ and clap along to.


We continue to use poetry and story as inspiration for improvised soundscape and movement work such as ‘The Patupaiarehe’ by Gloria Rawlinson (‘under the cover of dark, wreathed in mist and fog, came Patu-paiarehe folk, by lake and stream and bog...’) and ‘Whisper to Me’ by Patricia Grace (‘whisper to me while the spider spins’/’kōhimuhimu mai te rangirangi pūngāwerewere....’).


In the middle years we become more confident showing how the pitches move up and down in songs using hand gestures. We take turns to lead singing by pointing along with music maps, the song ladder and/or using hand gestures. By year 4 we begin to sing rounds or songs with a repeating ostinato bass line.  This introduces us to singing in parts.  In year 4 we also introduce some simple breathing and voice exercises to help us sing better.  We tell a story about opening a parcel to reveal a cake to eat and another one about bicycle tyres that go flat and need pumping up, lots of ahhhs, mmmms, hisssses, short sharp ‘sh’ sounds and more!


We continue to explore the element of energy by responding to different action words such as floating, exploding, melting, or growing and by moving through different imagined environments such as hot sand, sticky mud, or slippery ice.


We move in lots of different pathways such as straight, zig zagged or curved and explore body shapes by stretching, bending, and twisting on different body bases.  We explore different ways of connecting with a partner, such as hand to hand or hand to elbow, and experiment by moving while connected in this way.  Through these different movement activities we consolidate our understanding of the different dance elements and explicitly use these elements in creative movement sequences, thinking about how we can create contrasts and make our dances interesting to watch.


We play movement games such as the phrase game and introduce passing games where we pass an object around the circle on the beat.  We learn action songs with more challenging body percussion parts such as 'John Kanakanaka'.


We learn more sophisticated circle dances developing our skills of dancing as a whole class.  Diwali is celebrated by many children at Eastern Hutt and in year 4 we learn a simple garba dance where we dance in two circles with sticks that we click together in rhythmic patterns.  We dance around a candle in the middle of the circle to represent this festival of light.

Active Listening

We continue to listen and echo rhythmic patterns on instruments but also begin exploring how to improvise rhythmic answers to rhythmic questions. We call these instrumental conversations.  We explore different timings through movement by listening to a drum or to recorded music and making sudden changes in direction/level in response to accented beats such as ¾ (1, 2, 3,) 6/8 (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) or 4/4 (1, 2, 3, 4).  We also respond to music by doing mirroring activities with a partner where we take turns to lead movements in response to the phrasing and expressive qualities of a piece of music.  We try to lead carefully so that partners can copy accurately and if we are really good at this someone watching won’t be able to tell who the leader is. 


Contemporary NZ Music

In our listening activities we respond to excerpts from:

  • ‘Overture Aotearoa’ by Douglas Lilburn which paints pictures in our heads about our NZ landscape

  • ‘Clouds over Pirongia’ by John Rimmer which uses lots of percussion to create soundscapes that represent cloud formations and

  • ‘Other Echoes’ by Eve de Castro-Robinson which has melodies based on native birdcalls played on traditional orchestral instruments such as the violin playing the call of the extinct Huia and the cor anglais playing the call of the endangered Kōkako (who has the call of the goddess of music Raukatauri).

In year 3 we listen to Humoresque by Dvorak and learn a set movement sequence from the resource ‘Move It!’.  The movements embody the phrasing and expressive tempo of the piece where it slows down in an exaggerated way at the end of the phrase, also called bubblegum stretching.  We map out the form of this piece together with the movements to help us identify the returning parts, there are 3 different parts that keep coming back at different times (AABACCAB). 


In year 4 we watch a performance of an orchestra playing Peter and the Wolf, by Sergei Prokofiev, so we can match the sounds of the different characters to the orchestral instruments.  We become familiar with the four main sections of the orchestra and the characteristics of the instruments in each section.  We continue to work with the ‘My First Orchestra’ book to support this work.

Percussion Instruments

We continue to transfer rhythms from speech and poetry to body percussion and then to un-tuned percussion instruments.  We use our developing knowledge about the qualities of the different instruments to start justifying our instrument choices in creative work.

Barred Instruments

In the middle years we develop our playing technique on the barred instruments by using alternate hands.  We play scale songs on the instruments that help us learn how to control our mallets in this way.  We work towards playing simple Orff style arrangements with a bass line and one or two musical ostinati underneath a melody, all anchored by a song and/or speech rhythms.  Everyone learns all the parts in an arrangement before choosing what part they want to play and repetition provides lots of opportunities to try different parts.  The arrangements often have an A part where everyone plays together and a B part that can provide opportunities for individuals or small groups to improvise.  In year 4 we learn how to make ‘la’ our home note to change our tonal palette and improvise minor, mysterious sounding melodies, still using the pentatonic five note scale.  We play with form a lot in the middle years deciding how to put a piece together.  For example layering ostinati by introducing one at a time to build a piece up and then fading out one part at a time.  We mix and match different components of speech work, song, body percussion, soundscape, and instrumental arrangements to develop artistic judgement and to create unique arrangements in each lesson.


There are opportunities to share the role of conductor and we learn how to conduct traditionally in 4/4 timing.  There are opportunities to share instruments being learnt outside of school through playing with the rest of the class ensemble or sharing a favourite piece with the rest of the class as an informal performance.

Te Ao Māori

In the middle years we focus on waiata, stories, and musical arrangements that reflect the domain of Tāne, Māori God of the forest, and the creatures that dwell there.  We perform simple instrumental arrangements about tūī, ferns, ruru, and native trees.  We learn that kata means the chirp/twitter/chirrup of birds and insects and we use this idea to improvise soundscapes to illustrate stories about Tāne’s forest dwellers.  We create rhythmic building blocks using the Māori names of native trees, insects, and birds.  We use these rhythmic building blocks to create ostinati rhythms that we can perform with body percussion and on un-tuned percussion instruments.  We use these patterns to support improvisation.


We continue to work with poi and rākau to accompany waiata and to feel the beat.  We also develop more kupu, vocabulary in te reo Māori through waiata and particularly action songs.  Favourites include Pūngāwerewere, Te Rere a te Ngaro, Koromiko, and Papatūānuku.


In year 3 we explore through music and movement the legend of ‘Tāne and the Three Baskets’.  In movement and soundscape work we dramatise this legend including Tāne’s battle with the insects sent by his brother Whiro as he climbed to the heavens to get the baskets of knowledge.  In year 4 we explore through music and movement the legend of ‘Rata and the Canoe’ and learn about the hakuturi: the birds, insects, and patupaiarehe (spirit people) that protect the forest.  We also work creatively with designing graphic notation for the legend of Kahukura and how he learns to make fishing nets from the patupaiarehe.

Tūī - Parson Bird by Emily Cater

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