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Book Review: Jump Right In Grade 4

by David Birrow Birrow.David@MacPhail.org

One of the great books in the Community Partnerships Resource Library is Jump Right In: The Music Curriculum Level 4 by Cynthia Taggart, Beth Bolton, Alison Reynolds, Wendy Valerio, and Edwin Gordon. MacPhail owns the Teacher's Guide along with the four CDs that accompany the book.  Teachers can use this book to plan curriculum for general music settings and although intended for students in 4th Grade,  I've used this book successfully with both 4th and 5th graders and many of the songs can be used with younger students as well.  There is also a Student Book and Teacher Piano Accompaniment Book available for purchase, but I've been successful just using the Teacher's Guide.  

The book's 120+ song-based lesson plans are divided into four sections: Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer. The content in each section fits that season, ex. The Ghost of John is found in the Fall section, but most of the songs can be used anytime in the school year. There is an easy to read, yet thorough introduction to Music Learning Theory, which is an explanation of how we learn music when we learn music. Music Learning Theory offers a sequential, research based approach to teaching students to think music. But even if you aren't a Music Learning Theory teacher, the modes of performance: Singing, Moving, Chanting, Playing Instruments, Music Reading, and Listening will be familiar. In short, anybody can use this book.

I've successfully used this book for the past two years with the 4th and 5th graders at New City School.  The clarity and diversity of the lesson plans are the book's strongest characteristics.  Each lesson plan clearly labels the tonality, meter, range, keyality, resting tone, and activity type right at the top of the lesson.  So if you are quickly flipping through looking for an harmonic minor song in triple meter that involves movement, you can find one right away.  Each lesson plan then goes on to describe the teaching plan and finishes with some ideas for coordinating with Learning Sequence Activities (the major component of Music Learning Theory).  The steps in the teaching plan are well written and concise. Lesson plans vary in length between five and twenty minutes long.

The songs themselves represent a wide variety of tonalities and meters.  Aeolian, Mixolydian, Dorian tunes are found along with Major, Harmonic Minor, and (gasp!) pentatonic (but only three).  There are also three songs which are multi-tonal, containing segments is two different tonalities.  Duple and Triple tunes dominate the majority of songs, but multi-metric, combined, unusual paired(5/8), and unusual unpaired(7/8) meters are also found.   

Besides having easy to use lesson plans that contain a variety of musical the material, JRI Grade 4 has a staggeringly awesome index. As a self described Type A personality, I've found the index to be hugely useful during planning. The index organizes the book's content not just by song title and author but also by: performing activity type (ex. singing, moving), music concepts (ex. fermata, form), connections to other subjects, foreign languages, different movement types, National/State/Ethnic Origin, song types (ex. canon), tonality, and meter. So basically you can find the right song for your class very fast.

The publishers (GIA) website assert that the book:

  • is based on how children learn music, rather than how it has always been taught.
  • can be used with ease by teachers of any methodological background.
  • focuses on helping children learn to audiate and become independent, creative musicians.
  • allows teachers to adapt all lessons to meet the needs of individual children.
  • incorporates outstanding folk repertoire from all over the world.
  • conforms to the new National Standards.
  • includes comprehensive lesson plans for each song and activity.
  • features high-quality CD recordings of every song.
  • contains four components for each grade: a full-color, hardbound student book; a spiral-bound teacher resource guide with lesson plans, indexes, and scope and sequence information; a complete set of recordings on compact disc; and a piano accompaniment book.

Currently I have this book checked out from the Community Partnership Resource Library, but I won't need it for the next two weeks, so if you are interested in taking a look, just let me know and I'll drop it off in your mailbox.

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