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Title: Jam Circle (Music, Grade Ten)

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF IDEA: This is an improvisation activity designed for a secondary school music class, but could be adapted to work in earlier grades. Students will work in groups to quickly improvise new lyrics for a 16 bar blues chord progression. As a class, the students will vocally “jam” the blues. This activity gives ample opportunity for students who are new learners of English to interact with their English-speaking peers through collaboration.

EXPECTATIONS: Based on the Ontario Ministry of Education’s Expectations for the Grade 10 Open music course:

1. play or sing with tone quality appropriate to the exercises and repertoire being performed;
2. demonstrate leadership in rehearsal, performance, and audience etiquette (appropriate to the cultural context);
3. accurately play or sing rhythms as found in the exercises and repertoire being performed;
4. make effective creative choices in performance within musical parameters (e.g., call and response; ornamentation of existing melodies; improvisation of a melody; addition of dynamics, articulation, and tempi to existing music);

1. The students sit in a circle while the teacher plays a simple, 3-chord blues progression on guitar, piano, or he/she prompts the group to vocally create the chord progression.
2. The teacher directs the students’ attention to 16 bars of lyrics that are written on the board (any blues lyrics). The teacher begins by singing the first four bars and then prompts the student to his/her right in the circle to sing the next four. The singing moves around the circle, repeating the lyrics, until each student has sung one of the lines on the board.
3. Now, the students are encouraged to continue singing the blues, by creating their own lyrics to go with the chord progression.
4. As the song continues to move around the circle, each student is asked to perform 4-16 bars of improvised lyrics.

1. Encourage collaboration. Tell the students to take out a pen and paper and encourage them to work in pairs or small groups to write down and perform their improvised lyrics.
2. Give options. Encourage students who speak other languages to perform one bar in a language other than English. As a class learn a few bars in a language other than English.
3. Right to pass. Allow student the right to pass, so that students who are new language learners will have more time to plan their lyrics.
4. Help. If students get stuck while singing, help finish off the lines.
5. Prepare the students. Tell the students a class in advance that they will be improvising the blues, so that students who are new language learners have time to prepare their lyrics.
6. Be positive. Encourage the students to try their best, and reward all efforts with positive feedback.

Submitted by: Jeff Wolosewich

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