I'm as Free a Little Bird is a fun and active lesson that provides an easy way to introduce syncopation. It's always a big hit with 2nd and 3rd grade music students.
Introduce the music term syncopation. It may be enough to say that syncopation is a music term that means "jazzy rhythm". In fourth or fifth grade you can define syncopation a little more in depth.
Teach I'm as Free a Little Bird to the students as a chant first, working through it phrase by phrase, and then introduce the melody.
Write the syncopated rhythm on the board. Tell them, "I will clap this rhythm for you, and then I'd like you to clap it back to me." Clap rhythm. Check for understanding and accuracy. Repeat if necessary.
Tell your students, "This jazzy rhythm is played and sung several times during this song. While I perform the song for you I'd like you to count how many times you hear it." You may need to help them understand that they are not counting each note, but instead the four note rhythmic motive. Play the syncopated rhythm one more time to show them the motive, and then perform the song.
Ask students, "How many times did I play the syncopated rhythm?" Students will respond, "Four times."
Tell students, "This time I'll play the song while you clap the syncopated rhythm each time it occurs in the song. You don't have to sing it this time." Check for understanding. Repeat if necessary.
Tell students, "This time I'd like you to sing and clap." Students clap the syncopated rhythm and sing at the same time. Check for understanding. Repeat if necessary.
Teach the Orff orchestration. You may prefer to have one half of the class play the G chord (G-B), and the other half of the class play the C chord (C-E).
Teach the actions. Periodically quiz the students as you teach the dance, asking them to define the term or read and clap the rhythm written on the board.
I'm as free a little bird as I can be, (Little bird flys around the inner edge of the circle flapping arms like a bird.)
I'm as free a little bird as I can be, (Little bird continues flying.)
I will build my nest in the sour apple tree, (Little bird stops, faces a student, and forms a circle with arms to make a nest.)
Where those bad boys will never bother me. (Little bird shakes index finger from side to side while facing student as if saying 'No.')
Divide the class into "Action" students and "Orff Keyboards" students. Choose a little bird, and perform the song. Choose another bird and switch instrument students. Perform again.
Ask the classroom teacher to join in when they arrive.