Friday, January 15, 2016


This reaction/warm up activity has brought a quick burst of creativity, ear training, and JOY to my classroom!  As always, try adding your own twist/characters/verbal cues and sequences into your classroom. 

I work hard to have a climate of creativity and safety in my room in order to incorporate non-traditional themed reaction activities to achieve learning targets in my room.  I love watching ear training skills improving on a daily basis using these types of activities.  I wish someone had done these with me when I was their age! 


Model and demonstrate Star Wars characters to the students (allow students to add creative suggestions to take ownership of the activity).   Utilize pitches on the piano while demonstrating each character so that the students are attaching the character with the specific pitch.  At first, you will need to guide the students through the pitches and characters.  Aim for slowly starting to back away and let the piano and pitches do the leading.  On day one you may want to utilize only ascending and descending pitches.  On following days, challenge the students with other intervals and melodic lines.  Trust your process of what you already use and what melodic intervals are best for your students in your room and your methodology.

DO: BB-8: Students curl up in a ball for character BB8

RE: REY: Students crouch down in a lunging pose with hands propped up for RE hand sign position to imitate the character Rey from Star Wars.  I remind students that RE has lots of tension because it wants to go back “home” to DO.  Their position shouldn’t hurt but their bodies should feel tension from wanting to go back to DO.

MI:  DARTH MAUL:  Students crouch down with arms and hands out flat (similar to MI hand sign position) and act as if their hand extensions are light sabers. (Students should be slightly higher than RE)

SO: C3PO: Students stand upright with arms in SO hand sign position while imitating C3PO.  Take this one further by adding a verbal cue of “oh my” or any similar phrase that C3PO would say.  (Note, this verbal cue is meant to be a reaction and not a distraction, make sure the students are prepped to give a quick and animated verbal cue with their motions)

LA: CHEWBACCA: Students raise arms into LA hand sign position and imitate Chewbacca.  Get ready for JOY!

  • Utilize this activity with diatonic scales and intervals and add more characters.
  • Break students into small groups.  Have them come up with their own theme and characters and have them try this reaction activity with their own creations.

VERSION 1: I immediately transfer this activity to a vertical pitch stack on my white board with students echoing patterns to aid my visual learners

VERSION 2: : Have students echo something different than what you sing.  Take it slow and stick to one combination at a time for greater student success and comprehension.

  • Teacher sings solfege, students echo numbers.  
  • Teacher sings numbers, students echo solfege.
  • Teacher sings note names, students echo solfege.  
  • Teacher sings solfege, students echo note names.

    VERSION 3: Try kicking this activity up to a higher DOK by switching your student/teacher echo (similar to version 2 but with a quicker pace).  Consistently switch versions (solfege-numbers, note names-numbers, etc) when singing patterns to students.  Get ready to watch their brains sweat and total student engagement!

STUDENT LEADERSHIP:  Pick a Han Solo or Princess Leia to lead echo patterns for the class.

JAM SESSION: I then transfer students to either recorders, Orff instruments, or both for some improvisation using the C pentatonic scale (don’t forget to transfer this knowledge to other pentatonic scales….higher DOK….on future days!).  I lead students using the guitar to create a “jam session” climate.  A quick reminder for students (SUCCESS CRITERIA): Starting and ending on Home Tone (DO), next door neighbors (steps and skips), and have a plan (keep it simple and show that you are not just wasting your time by hitting random notes), and as always add ARTISTRY/TELL YOUR STORY THROUGH SOUND!

COMPOSER'S CORNER:  My students transfer this knowledge to written compositions in their portfolios.  More to come on their compositions in a later post! 

As always, feel free to leave questions and comments below or send them to

May the force be with you!

Holly Baier 

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