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Musical Form, Movement, and a Parachute

Magic happened in my music classroom when we combined a study of musical form, movement, and a parachute.

Anything large and colorful always brings excitement! Bright colors beg to be noticed, and BIG things demand attention. After my students spent some time listening to different pieces and discovering the difference between Binary form (AB) and Ternary form (ABA), we used a parachute to illustrate and feel the musical form. One of the students’ favorites was the theme to “Star Wars.”  The form is: intro – A – B – A – B – A – ending, an extended Ternary form.

This is the version that I used: Reader’s Digest Music: The Best of Henry Mancini – The 1981 Reader’s Digest Recordings, Vol. 3

Here is a peek at the fun we had together using the parachute in the big music room.

Musical form, movement, and a parachute really made the class time magical.

Students worked together on the SMARTBoard to label each section. Once they agreed on the form, I brought out the parachute and they were beyond excited to come up with movements for the A section and B section. “Again, again, again” is all they have said when I pass them in the hallways. “What piece can we analyze next?”

As much as I love integrating technology in my music classroom, I love the  joys of simply enjoying music together even more!



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Cherie Herring

Music/Technology Integration at Hammond School
I teach elementary music, am passionate about integrating technology into my teaching, am obsessed with my SMARTBoard and iPad, and enjoy creating lessons and sharing ideas. I love technology almost as much as I love cheesecake, and with more energy and ideas than I know what to do with, I can't wait for the sun to come up each morning! I'm wife to Prince Charming and mom to three incredible girls who keep me balanced. . . sort of!

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{ 16 comments… add one }
  • Shannon March 27, 2013, 10:47 AM

    This is so great! You mentioned the Star Wars theme. Could you share the other pieces that you used for these lessons?

    • Cherie Herring March 29, 2013, 8:25 PM

      Hi Shannon! I’ll film the other pieces next week when we return after Spring Break. We’ve had the best time. I’ll be happy to share what we’ve created.

  • Noreen March 29, 2013, 7:55 AM

    How wonderful! We’re just finishing our unit on Form and Design and the students will love this as a finale.

    I have to share a funny story – we did one of Artie Almeda’s parachute form lessons and the parachute got caught on the sprinkler head on the ceiling. I held it until someone could come with a ladder and gently remove it, so as not to set off the sprinkler and flood the music room.

    Needless to say, we’ll do this routine in the gym!

    • Cherie Herring March 29, 2013, 8:19 PM

      Noreen, that’s funny! I have similar fears when we “toss” the bean bag. Yikes!

  • Noreen April 2, 2013, 6:48 PM

    HI again Cherie,
    Hope you had a good spring break. I’m trying to find the same version of the recording you used – I found a couple but they’re not clearly A-B-A-B-A..

    • Cherie Herring April 2, 2013, 7:10 PM

      Noreen, I used the Star Wars (Theme) / Henry Mancini / Reader’s Digest Music / The best of Henry Mancini// That version is JUST the theme. 2:16sec

      • Noreen April 3, 2013, 12:43 PM

        Got it Cherie! Thanks for pointing me in the right direction.

  • Terri Talley May 21, 2013, 8:21 PM

    Thanks for posting your video. I used it with 2nd and 3rd grade and they loved it. Look forward to your other posts.

  • Janet Stephens April 21, 2014, 4:00 PM

    This is fantastic! I create and sew the stretchy band and connect–a-band, another type of movement prop. Will share this for a new activity idea!

  • Kerri January 27, 2015, 12:18 PM

    I LOVE this lesson idea! Did you make the Smartboard activity or find it somewhere? I’d love to see it! Thanks!

    • Cherie Herring January 29, 2015, 9:08 PM

      Hi Kerri, I never made a SMARTBoard lesson for this activity. I have a “Form” SMARTNotebook file that just has different letter patterns. We used that as we listened to the piece and discovered the form together before we used the parachute. . . nothing complicated at all. The kids just love to move to the music and wanted to do it over and over until everyone got it right. This is the kind of activity that they learn more from doing than talking about it. We did revisit the piece and talked about form more then. – Cherie

  • Suzanne May 2, 2015, 10:42 AM

    Hi Cheri,
    I love this lesson! I’m definitely going to do it with my students! I do a simple parachute activity to teach phrase, having them all hold the parachute and walk to the right, and then change direction at the end of the phrase. After they are successful with this, I get a little silly and put a few small stuffed animals on the parachute, telling the kids that they want to go for a ride. They repeat the phrase activity, and at the end they get to try to make the animals fly off… it cracks them up!

  • Calli March 12, 2016, 6:06 PM

    I’m going to do this at my music camps this summer! Thank you for your brilliant ideas and your willingness to share.

    • Cherie Herring May 27, 2016, 11:24 PM

      Calli, I would love to see or hear how it goes with your campers this summer. We just ended the year repeating our favorite activities, and the students all asked for the StarWars parachute activity.

  • Jimena Gallardo September 2, 2016, 11:05 PM

    Hi! i absolutely loved your activity! i was wondering though, what size is your parachute? Thanks for sharing!

    • Cherie Herring October 26, 2016, 10:54 PM

      Hi Jimena, I have a very large parachute (24 handles) that I used in this filmed activity. However, I just did the same activity with 4 classes using one large parachute and two 12-person parachutes. The lift is incredible with the larger parachutes but not so much with the smaller ones. Go large!!

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