Teaching Procedures for

Learning Sequence Activities

Teaching procedures for Learning Sequence Activities have evolved over thousands of hours of practical field experience in diverse music teaching settings. The best way to learn how to teach Learning Sequence Activities is to take a workshop from a qualified clinician. See the workshops section of this web site for information about upcoming summer workshops and convention sessions.

Teaching Procedure Characteristics

Basic characteristics of teaching procedures for Learning Sequence Activities are described here. For more detail, see Learning Sequences in Music: Skill, Content, and Patterns, chapter nine; Reference Handbook from Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum; Jump Right in : The Instrumental Series, pp. 143-157; and Readings in Music Learning Theory, pp. 105-140.

Separation of Tonal and Rhythm Content

Gordon’s research indicates that children have difficulty conserving the tonal and rhythmic characteristics of music. Upon hearing the same tonal pattern performed twice with different rhythms, for example, they will often insist that the second pattern was a different tonal pattern. For this reason, tonal and rhythm content are kept separate in learning sequence activities. Tonal patterns are performed without rhythm and rhythm patterns are performed without pitch.

Teaching to Students' Individual Differences

Exhaustive research by Gordon and others has established the audiation difficulty levels of hundreds of tonal and rhythm patterns. During learning sequence activities all students are taught patterns that are easy to audiate. Students of average aptitude also learn patterns of medium difficulty, while high aptitude students learn easy, medium, and difficult patterns. The Tonal and Rhythm Register Books of Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum provide a convenient and efficient means for recording individual student performance on tonal and rhythm patterns. (Note that in Jump Right In: The Instrumental Series the same patterns are provided for all students. The instrumental teacher may, of course, choose to teach to individual differences by using the easy, medium, and difficult patterns found in the Tonal and Rhythm Register Books of Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum.)

Importance of Individual Performance

Finding the time to listen to students perform alone is a perpetual problem for music teachers, but Music Learning Theory tells us that individual performance is essential for the development of audiation. Too often, students who never perform by themselves learn only to imitate music rather than audiate it. A good example of imitation is the member of a vocal ensemble who is able to sing his part reasonably well if he is standing next to a strong singer, yet couldn’t perform his part in solo. In learning sequence activities it is essential for each student to perform patterns in solo and to hear other students do the same.

Modes of Instruction

There are three modes of teaching in tonal and rhythm pattern instruction. In the teaching and evaluation modes, individual students respond to the teacher’s patterns. A class pattern is one in which all students respond.

Teaching Mode

In the teaching mode, the teacher performs a tonal or rhythm pattern and gestures to a single student to respond, then performs the pattern with the student.

Evaluation Mode

Sometimes after a student has echoed a particular tonal or rhythm pattern in the teaching mode, the teacher repeats that pattern for the same student in the evaluation mode. The teacher’s actions in evaluation mode are the same as in the teaching mode, except that the teacher does not perform the pattern with the student. The student’s ability to perform the pattern correctly in solo indicates that the pattern is now familiar to him. It has become a part of his tonal or rhythm pattern vocabulary.

Pattern Delivery

Learning sequence activities should occupy from five to ten minutes of each class period. Concentration levels for both teacher and students are high, and more than ten minutes of tonal and rhythm pattern instruction can become tedious. When taught for an appropriate length of time by a capable and dynamic teacher, however, students find learning sequence activities highly motivating.

Each teacher should develop procedures for tonal and rhythm pattern delivery that suit his teaching style and the unique characteristics of his teaching situation. Described here are basic aspects of pattern delivery as commonly practiced by teachers of Music Learning Theory. The level of skill learning sequence is verbal association.

Class Patterns

A class pattern is one which is echoed by the entire class. Perhaps every third or fourth pattern should normally be a class pattern. Although class patterns do little to develop individual audiation, they are very useful for maintaining, reinforcing, and re-establishing tonality and meter.

Tonal Patterns

The teacher first establishes tonality. In major, for example, the teacher might establish tonality vocally, perhaps by singing so-la-so-fa-mi-re-ti-do (without rhythm), or by playing tonic-dominant-tonic at a keyboard. The teacher asks students to “Please repeat after me.” The teacher gestures to himself, then sings the tonal pattern with appropriate tonal solfege. The individual notes of the pattern should be sung with slight separation. On the last note of the pattern, the teacher’s hands are in a “ready” position similar to that used by conductors to begin a musical ensemble. The last note of the pattern is followed by a pause of perhaps one second. 

Then the teacher executes a preparatory gesture for the entire class, again similar to that used by conductors to start an ensemble. During the preparatory gesture, the teacher models the breath he wants students to take. It is during this preparatory breath that all students audiate the pattern. If the pattern is a class pattern, the preparatory gesture culminates in a way that causes all students to echo the pattern. If the pattern is to be an individual pattern, the teacher indicates so halfway through the preparatory gesture by shifting his attention in the direction of a single student. After the tonal pattern is sung, the teacher again gestures to himself and sings, without pause, the next pattern.

Rhythm Patterns

The teacher first establishes meter by chanting a four-beat macrobeat/microbeat pattern in the appropriate meter. In duple meter, for example, the solfege for establishing meter would be du, du-de, du, du-de. Students move their heels to macrobeats and patsch their palms lightly on their thighs to microbeats. Teacher gestures are similar to those used in tonal pattern instruction, but the timing differs. In rhythm pattern instruction it is essential to establish a rhythmic “groove” in the appropriate meter. Rhythm patterns are typically four macrobeats in length. The teacher gestures to himself, then chants the pattern. His arms go to the “ready” position on beat three of the pattern, then the preparatory gesture is executed on beat four. The student echo of the pattern (group or individual) begins on the macrobeat immediately following the last macrobeat of the teacher’s performance of the pattern. Likewise, the teacher begins the next pattern immediately following the student(s)’ echo.