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As a Classical Education teacher, I am in the business of Training the Affections – teaching children to love that which is good, true, and beautiful from the youngest of ages. It is my mission to take little hearts and shape them toward that which is truly lovely, and I love finding engaging and joyful ways to do so.
I also teach at two local preschools where I have music classes with children as young as 18 months. I believe children are never too young for classical music, and – in fact – it’s when they are young that you have the best chance of tilting their hearts toward the beautiful.
It’s doable – I promise!
This year I have been doing Vivaldi at my preschools, and today I am going to break down exactly how I use role playing to engage them in this great music that has stood the test of time. The Four Seasons is perfect for preschoolers because they are naturally already learning about weather and seasons. Adding a music component is an easy addition to what you are already doing.
First, some facts and how I break them down for my preschoolers:
- The Four Seasons is a set of concertos by Antonio Vivaldi. A concerto sounds like a fancy word, but it is actually pretty simple: one instrument gets to be the star, and the rest of the instruments are the helpers. In The Four Seasons, the violin is the star.
- In The Four Seasons, Mr. Vivaldi took poems about the seasons and wrote music to match the words. He wanted the music to make you think of different things that go along with each of the seasons, like birds, bugs, and rain.
- Some of the songs are fast and some are slow. Want to learn some fancy words for fast and slow? Allegro means fast, and Largo means slow. (Then have them practice saying the words.)
Okay, let’s listen and learn!
Role Play Vivaldi’s Spring
For Spring, I use the first 75 seconds only. Really! That’s a perfect amount of time for a preschooler, especially when you are just getting started.
We start by pretending a sleepy birdie is waking up in his winter nest. For the first 30 seconds we pretend our birdie is hungry and eating off the ground (make a bird shape with your hands and pretend he is eating worms out of the dirt – they love this!). At the 30 second mark, you will hear the music shift. At that moment I make a “branch” with one arm and have the “birdie” (your other hand) fly up to the branch to sing his song. You will hear how the violin sounds like a bird singing (exactly what Vivaldi intended). We listen to the birdie sing, and then at the 1:07 mark (when the music shifts again) we fly birdie back down to the ground for more food.
This is fun for kids because they are engaging their imaginations, but it is also quietly effective for training their ears to hear shifts in music and repeating themes. My two-year-olds know exactly when birdie gets hungry again and needs to fly down from his branch for more food 😉
This process takes only 75 seconds. I do it almost every week, and my students love it!
Role Play Vivaldi’s Summer
The 2nd movement of Summer is so fun for preschoolers. I set the scene by having them imagine they are by a beautiful lake or their favorite swimming pool. During the languid part, I describe in vivid detail the sun shining warm on their skin, the breeze blowing on their faces, the smell of blooming roses. I tell them everything is perfect…except for One. Terrible. Thing.
You will hear the swarming bugs ruin the perfect summer day three times in this piece. Your preschooler will love listening for the bugs – pretend to swat them away when they begin attacking!
Role Play Vivaldi’s Autumn
The 3rd movement of Autumn is intended to represent a hunting scene. You can hear how the music feels like you are riding out on a horse, so — of course — that’s what we pretend!
Note: I don’t talk about the actual “hunting” part of the story…no need to discuss animal death with your preschoolers 😉
We start by waking up Mr. Horsey from his stall and then we pretend we are riding out looking for his animal friends. I have the children tell me what animals they see (they love pretending this), and we wave to all manner of creatures that show up — everything from cows, to elephants, to our birdy friend from Spring.
At the end of our ride, we put Mr. Horsey back in his stall (there is slow part at the end where we put him to bed — find it at 2:43 in the video below), then we run back to the house for dinner, all the time shouting what we think mom is making for supper (Oatmeal! Pancakes! Pizza!).
Role Play Vivaldi’s Winter
Ah, Winter. Your kids will love the others, but YOU will love this one. It is intended to represent a cold winter’s day…cozy by a warm fire while a cold rain drips on the roof. (Listen for the plucking strings – that’s the dripping sound!) This one is so sweet for little ones. Gather all the snuggle supplies, pretend to drink hot chocolate (or make the real version), and hunker down for a winter’s nap. Bonus points for gathering all your favorite stuffed animals and putting them down for a nap as well 🙂
I hope you give these ideas a try! Need a book to bring The Four Seasons to life even more? THIS ONE is fantastic.
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