Somebody. Who? You!

By Karen K. Benson, AOSA Professional Development Director

Yes, you! You are the educator who will benefit from taking your AOSA Teacher Education Level Courses. What’s that, you say? The American Orff Schulwerk Association approves an average of 50 courses a year that provide professional development in Orff Schulwerk commonly referred to as “taking your levels”. A frequent phrase heard from teachers after taking Level I is “Orff Schulwerk has changed my life and how I teach!” 

Oh, you’ve already taken them. Guess what? Countless educators who have completed all three levels of the AOSA Teacher Education Curriculum, return to courses and retake their levels for a deeper understanding, a chance to reinvigorate their teaching, to learn from another instructor’s perspective, and to once again engage in the collaborative, active music-making and movement found at AOSA courses. 

You might be thinking that you only need Level I since you only teach little kids. Not true! The AOSA Teacher Education Curriculum is a comprehensive journey that takes course participants from the simplest forms of elemental music and pedagogy to advanced concepts of understanding  the modes, chord changes, and complex forms. Improvisation and creativity are woven throughout with a primary focus of how to make this happen in your classroom with your students. Learning or strengthening Orff Schulwerk concepts will make a difference for you as a music educator, but the real impact comes when you are able to transform the important work you do with children in your classroom. Being able to take a simple set of rhythms and develop age and skill appropriate experiences for your students allows you to customize your teaching for the needs of your students.You become the designer of your learning environment and facilitate growth and learning in your students. 

Below are lesson ideas for a speech piece I composed. First, I share how it can be used with very young or inexperienced learners using concepts that are learned in a Level I AOSA Teacher Education course. Following that, I demonstrate how the same material is developed for slightly more advanced students using concepts found in Level II. Finally, I give you strategies to extend your instruction even further utilizing concepts from Level III. Completing or repeating your Levels gives you the tools to generate and tailor instruction to meet the needs of your students wherever you and they may be on a musical journey in Orff Schulwerk!

Somebody Who?

Level I

Explore the two rhythms through speech, different order, different voice timbres, etc.

Create rhythmic chains using the blocks 4 times in various patterns.

Ex: Somebody, Who? Who? Who?

Refine to this pattern:

Somebody, Somebody, Who? __________

In the 4th pattern, substitute someone’s name. Then play a game where the chant is spoken by all while patting a beat. The person whose name was used gets to call the next person’s name, etc.

Ex. Somebody, Somebody, Who? Jason!
Somebody, Somebody, Who? Jamara!
Somebody, Somebody, Who? Isabella! Etc.

On another day, transfer the words to a short-range melody using sol, mi, and la.

Add a steady beat simple chord drone and have the students sing the names using sol-mi.

Extensions might include:

Transfer to a DO pentatonic melody or pentatonic mode.

Level II

Model the text using the following rhythm:

Divide into two groups and speak antiphonally.

Once the antiphonal speech is secure, speak the chant in unison, then speak in canon exploring options for the canon entrances.

Transfer the rhythm to patting and then to tubanos, playing while saying, exploring where the natural accents occur which can then become “tone” and “bass” on the drums. When secure, play with the chant internalized in unison and canon.

Other options at this point might be:

  • Have the class create a diatonic melody based in one of the modes. Lydian works well!
  • Also a great time to talk about what makes a good melody.
  • Add an improvisation section either over a drum or barred percussion ostinato. Consider rhythmic word chains as a structure for improvising.

Level III

Review the speech activity from above. Explore creating a melody that uses an I-V accompaniment. Adapt that melody to use an I-IV-V accompaniment.

  • Extend the form to Rondo by adding contrasting sections developed by the students. Consider a Body Percussion version, a movement adaptation, recorders, etc.

Click here to download a pdf of Karen’s post.

Are you interested in taking an Orff Levels course with Karen? She will be teaching at Level III at Baker University in June 2023 and Level II at University of Nebraska-Lincoln in July 2023.

Karen K Benson

Karen K. Benson is the Professional Development Director for the American Orff Schulwerk Association. She is a Past President and former National Conference Chair of AOSA. Karen taught music for grades PreK-5 for 29 years in the Millard Public School District in Omaha, Nebraska. She also directed the school’s choir and the district’s Orff Schulwerk Honors Ensemble. Karen teaches AOSA Teacher Education Level Courses and Masterclasses in Orff Schulwerk, presents at AOSA chapter workshops, guest lectures for collegiate music education classes, and serves as adjunct faculty for the University of Nebraska-Omaha. Her work as a performing musician includes playing recorders, saxophone, violin with The Intergeneration Orchestra of Omaha, and singing in the Sing Omaha Master Chorale.

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  1. Lucy Andersen Parsons on July 5, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    Could this be used in the form of getting to know the children. For instance
    “Somebody who.. dances” they step forward and the names are added, “Claire, Matt, Jenny etc,
    Then the class continues. Maybe the students, prior to the activity, has handed in slips of paper telling something they “do”

    • Karen on July 11, 2023 at 6:54 pm

      You are welcome to tailor the lesson to fit your needs and the needs and skills of your students! Try your idea out and see what ideas your students might like to try as well.

  2. Lisa Shockey on May 27, 2024 at 10:10 pm

    What a great lesson! I am trying to take Orff Level 1 this summer in Alvin, TX. I see you are listed as an instructor. Can you or someone advise me on the status of the waitlist? There are no contacts listed, and I am traveling from central Texas (this is the only course that works with my district’s summer training). I love your posts!

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