January 18, 2011

Crescendo the Crocodile

This is Crescendo the Crocodile.  My daughter, Brynn drew him for me.  I admire people who can draw more than just stick figures.  I just can not make what I see in my head come out on paper, or chalkboard, or dry erase board:)  Brynn knows I've tried!  She gets a great laugh out of my effort and takes pity on me.  He is drawn on green poster board & is about 20-22 inches in length.

I teach piano and I love it.  I love teaching the children & I try to make learning fun, yet a bit realistic as well.  When teaching about crescendo and diminuendo definitions, I have found that if I compare the symbols to the jaws of a crocodile, they never forget what they mean.  The picture below is Crescendo the Crocodile with his jaws open, showing the children that they need to progressively sing a short phrase louder.  They have 4-6 beats to go from the volume they're at to an increased volume, appropriate for that phrase.  That means they have to watch the conductor (me!) to know just how loud to increase.  

I taught them the 3rd verse of "If I Listen With My Heart" using this method.  I chose to teach them through teaching dynamics because this verse is the most beautiful & spiritually touching verse.  I want them to crescendo on the phrase, "He testifies of Christ".  The trick is to teach them how much volume is too much for that phrase.  No ugly yelling.  And then also help them understand & learn what "gradually or progressively" means.  Once they understood all of that, we learned diminuendo.  This is when Crescendo the Crocodile gradually closes his jaws, they gradually reduce their volume.  This concept was used with the next phrase, "He speaks to me in quiet ways that fill my soul with peace".  It is a bit of a quicker decrease in volume here because I want them quiet by the time they sing "me in quiet ways".  They then just continue to finish the phrase in a peaceful manner.  They did a FANTASTIC job!  I don't think I'll need to stress out in September to get them to add dynamics to the song.  Learn it the first time & save yourself the pains!  And the kids really, really love putting those affects into the music.  

So this is the back of Crescendo the Crocodile.  Normally I wouldn't have details drawn on the back.  But I didn't pay close enough attention to the direction Brynn drew him for me.  I even cut him out before I realized he was facing the wrong way.  So I flipped him over & retraced the teeth & outline.  Brynn drew me another eye.  I used one of those thingies that poke through the papers & allow papers to turn.  Hey, it's almost midnight right now & I'm out of brain power!  I'm sure you know what I'm trying to say:)  Then I place 2 dowels I had in my craft closet on each jaw & taped them in place with clear packing tape.  I held a dowel in each hand to open & close his jaws.  His jaws always pointed to my left.  The kids would take turns with him & practice crescendo-ing and diminuendo-ing at all sorts of parts in the song.  But they got the concept & then had fun with it!


  1. This is a GREAT idea! I'm going to use it this week. Thanks for sharing. Your ideas are the bomb!

  2. A great lesson on dynamics, thanks Tifany! I think the kids really benefit from the time we take to actually teach them things about the music and why. You are so right about it paying benefits later when it time for the program.

  3. Thanks, Kathleen. To teach the children more about "music" has been a goal of mine since I was first called as a chorister. I think it's the piano teacher in me:) I use "p" and "f" (pianissimo & forte) picture signs for the soft & loud as well as "quarter rest" & "formatta" sign pictures for review activities. The children enjoy it!