This year at Folsom we were lucky enough to be offered the Hand Chime Loan Grant from the Handbell Musicians of America. This organization sent us two sets of hand chimes for our classroom, and we put them to good use! Unfortunately not all that we did could be documented, often a teacher needs to be in the moment with students instead of stepping back to document- but I think this blog post will give you a good sense of how we used our chimes. We used them throughout the year in all grades. Only in the 5th and 6th grade did we really do what I would call a Hand Chime Unit, which only lasted about 4 weeks-one day a week. But the end result of that was a very cool hand chime piece read from notation. For the rest of our students we used them to enhance learning and music making in other aspects of our curriculum.
In Kindergarten, just as we learned to keep a steady beat, or a bourdun, using the 1st ad 5th scale degrees on a xylophone, we did this with chimes as well. We sung tunes like “John the Rabbit,” “Pitter Patter,” and “Snowflakes Falling,” while playing our bourdun.
In the following video at 1:05 you will see the First and Second Graders playing the hand chimes as part of our Human Piano! There is one piano player in this video, but sometimes we had two or three piano players playing at once. We did this as the First and Second graders were learning about Sound. They organized themselves from lowest to highest pitch, which they knew from their work in science class that the bigger the chime, the lower the pitch would be.
In First and Second grade we also used the chimes to easily see how sound is made with Vibrations. The bravest students touched the chimes to their noses to feel a major tickling vibration!
We made the following video on Halloween in the third and fourth grade. We learned “Ghost of John” as a round, then added what we affectionately named the, “Spooky Hand Chimes.” Students then came up with an arrangement that included movement, (start hidden, on the cue of a chime slowly enter the shot, move around room, at end sink to the ground,) and a combination of chime playing and singing. We used this as a way to get everyone to the same place in knowing how to properly play the hand chimes. You can see that there are some students who still struggle to keep the chime vertical.
In fifth and sixth grade we followed the same process with “Ghost of John,” but as one of their classroom teachers is named “Tom” we went to his classroom, circled around him in the dark and sang, “Have you seen the ghost of Tom..” and then left without a word. It was sufficiently spooky.
In fifth and sixth grade many students were ready to read music with the chimes. After only about 10 minutes of rehearsal we worked up an impressive chime piece that I’ve unfortunately lost the video of. Students reflected after, “That sounded SO cool!”
In our 3rd-8th grade spring concert we used the hand chimes in a few pieces.
The third and four graders had given much focus to recorder, so we enhanced our two recorder songs “Gently Sleep” and “Hot Crossed Buns” by adding chimes and fingers cymbals to one, and chimes and xylophones to the other. Students were given the option of what they would like to play in the concert- some who may have felt less comfortable playing recorder were able to play chimes, cymbals, or xylophone- or they looked at it differently, if they were bored of those songs on recorder, they opted to play the other instruments! It worked out great for all!
As we learned to read more notes on recorder, we also read the notes with hand chimes. This way we were reading the notes while singing, playing recorder, and playing hand chimes. Here students are reading “When the Saints Go Marching In.” After I’d lead them through the music once, I asked student volunteers to lead it. This provided an extra challenge in music-reading and listening to these students.
In fifth and sixth grade we learned the folk song “Liza Jane,” and used it to create an Orff-style arrangement on xylophone which we enhanced with percussion and chimes. Students that play in band were given the opportunity to solo over the arrangement using the C concert pentatonic scale. Soloists were able to select which instrumentation they would like behind them as the soloed which allowed us to play with the interesting sound of different combinations.
To end our concert the middle school chorus taught THE AUDIENCE the round, “Now It’s Time to Go.” Once the audience had gotten to know the tune, we sung it as a round, and the middle schoolers brought hand chimes out to audience members to play. Watching their reactions were great, some jumped right in, others were too nervous to play the chimes so they handed them off to others!
The following video includes excerpts from the concert and the 3/4 reading music while playing the hand chimes.
We are still raising money for our own set of these chimes, it’s a project that we’ll continue on with as we’ve had so much fun at all age levels! Thank you endlessly to the Handbell Musicians of America for your generosity, you’ve played an important part in our learning at Folsom this year!