Create and Improve:

Engineering Design Process Lessons 4 and 5

In my next two lessons at Edgemont Elementary we continued our adventures in fun integrative music/science lessons! This time we focused on the fourth and fifth steps of the Engineering Design Process: CREATE and IMPROVE. Because these lessons were so closely connected- even more so than the other lessons in the Engineering Design Process series- I chose to include them in one blog post.

For this lesson, I combined two elements that had been introduced in previous lessons: Music Mapping (as we first learned it, not with icons) and the song “I’ve Got a Car.” After learning about Mapping and becoming very familiar with the song, it was time to put the two of them together and let the kids create their own Music Maps for “I’ve Got a Car”!

Click HERE to see my lesson plan for Lesson 4, or click HERE to see my plan for Lesson 5.

Before asking the children to make their own Music Maps, we took some time to review the concept and procedures for Music Mapping, as it had been a few weeks since we last did this. We traced Dr. Brittany May’s Music Map for Brahms’ Hungarian Dance and discussed again the way the lines and shapes on the Map LOOK the way the music SOUNDS.

A Music Map, we decided, is like a treasure map: if nobody can read it, it’s not going to help anyone find the treasure (in this case, a better experience with and understanding of the music). Then the class went through a carefully crafted process of learning to create their own Maps.

After this, I showed them several different Maps that I created, all illustrating the song “I’ve Got a Car:” I avoided doing this until after the students had already had a few simple tries at making their own music maps to this song, because I wanted them to try if for themselves and not just copy what they say me do. Here are the simple Maps I created:

For simplicity’s sake, we only Mapped the first part of this song.

As we traced these maps, I asked the students to evaluate how easily or how well they felt they were able to read each one. When we reached the last two maps, it was very clear to them that something wasn’t right! These maps were not easy to follow at all; they didn’t look like the music sounded like. I used this activity to help the students understand by experience that there are LOTS of different and equally good ways to create a music map, but in order to be successful it must LOOK the way the music SOUNDS. Random scribbles do not a Music Map make.

One thing that really helped the kids succeed in this lesson was being able to easily make, erase, and refine drafts of their Maps. Each student had a small personal size whiteboard and marker at his of her desk, and these were very helpful in the Music Mapping process!

The students clearly worked hard that this assignment; it was fascinating to watch them as they sang the song together, traced their maps, sang the song on their own or even audiated it, working and working on their designs. It was the most focused group of first graders I’ve ever seen!

One of the best things about this lesson in my mind was how clearly it integrated both Music and Science. The first-grades were literally creating and testing their own DESIGNS; this is exactly what the Engineering Design Process is meant to do! After refining their own music maps, each student copied his or her design onto a piece of paper and gave them to me for safekeeping until it was time for the next lesson: SHARE.

Here are a few of the things they came up with:

The children clearly worked hard at this lesson, but they also seemed to have a lot of fun. “I’ve Got a Car” is a surprisingly versatile folk song, especially for being so short and simple, and its fun actions always make it a crowd pleaser with children at this (or really any) age. Everyone was looking forward to the next and final lesson in this series.

%d bloggers like this: