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  •   Teachers Guide
    Extension Activities: Episode Two

    Extension Activities for Episode 2:

    "Steamboat Soundings"

    "Miss Ferris"

    "Get Down, River"

    "Bluegrass Style"

    Poetry and Drumming

    Bluegrass Rhythm and Clogging

    Hambone Percussion

    After completing the introductory activities, use these extension activities to reach your curricular goals--and to have some fun! Some are designed for use as part of your daily lesson planning; some activities are better used as activities in which the student logs directly onto the internet for sound files and other enhancements. You will find these lessons and activities all listed in the activity index to this site. For some of these activities, you will need to consider purchasing the Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2-CD set that goes with the program. This can be a useful resource, in particular, for those teachers who want to explore more deeply the musical styles introduced by the program.

    "Steamboat Soundings"

    Objective: Students will learn how soundings were made on the Mississippi and how the results were relayed in song to the pilot, they will prepare an arrangement of a song
    • Discuss with the students how soundings were made on the Mississippi, using a knotted, weighted line; and how the results relayed in song to the pilot., in order to keep the boat from running aground.
    • Discuss how Samuel Clemons, who grew up in Hannibal, Missouri, worked on the river and learned the soundings and used one for his pen name (Mark Twain).
    • Sing the song.
    • Point out that the song changes from a I chord to a VII chord (with a flat 7 - Bb) in line 2.
    • Ask students to imagine that they are on the river -- how it looks, smells, the feelings that being on the river evokes. Then, try to express this in an instrumental setting for the song. For example: Tremolo on bass metallophone or a long held note on a cello (on low C in lines 1 and 3 and on Bb for line 2); water sound effects (an ocean drum, free improvisation in C pentatonic on metallophones or on an electornic keybaord); a boat whistle, birds flying overhead. A sunset, drawn on an overhead transparency projection and shown in a darkened room, would add to the effect.)

    "Miss Ferris"

    Objective: The students will sing a song about the Mississippi and steamboats, and will provide a chordal accompaniment to the song.
    • Have students listen to the song.
    • Discuss the story of the song and the feelings about the river expressed in it.
    • Sing the song.

    Miss Ferris

    Verse 1
    Now I had a teacher when I went to school,
    She loved the river, and she taught about it too.
    I'se a pretty bad boy, but she called my bluff,
    With her great big collection of steamboat stuff. Oh, yeah!

    Verse 2
    She had log-books and bells and the things like that,
    And she knew the old captains and where they were at.
    She rode the Alabama and the Gordon C. Green,
    As the Cape Girardeau, she was lager renamed, Uh-huh.

    B Section
    But her very fav'rite, as you all know,
    Was the Golden Eagle, Captain Buck's old boat.
    This old sternwheeler sank and went to heaven,
    When I was in the fourth grade, in nineteen forty-seven, Uh-huh!

    Verse 3
    Well, now, fast people in St. Louis society
    A-takin’ a trip on the Mississippi
    Sleepin’ in their bunks after an after-dinner drink
    They didn’t think the boat would sink. Oh, no!

    Verse 4
    Well, I know Captain Buck was a very sad man
    When that old wooden hull went into the sand
    And Miss Ferris was sad for sure
    But immediately, her mind went to work. Oh, yeah!

    B Section:
    Well, she did some politicking that was tricky and hard
    And she got the pilot house for the schoolhouse yard
    And so, instead of studying, I became a dreamer
    Dreaming ‘bout boats and the Mississippi River. Uh-huh.

    (The remainder of the song is on the CD, but not on the video.)

    Verse 5
    I had to work real hard to get my school work done
    ‘Cause you couldn’t fool Miis Ferris none;
    And, if I went to sleep or I weren’t supposed to talk
    Oh, she was a dead shot with a little piece of chalk. Uh-huh!

    Last B Section:
    Oh me, oh my, how the time does fly.
    Time and the river keep a-rollin’ on by.
    Now, I’m not a student and she’s not a teacher
    But, we both still love the Mississippi River. Uh, huh.

    Verse 6
    Well, I went to see her this Christmas last.
    We took a little trip back through the past.
    On the easy rocker we looked at pictures
    And we dreamed our dreams of the Mississippi River. Uh-huh!

    (Repeat last B section)

    Written by John Hartford/John Hartford Music, BMI

    • Have students accompany the song with chording instruments. Violin and Viola players may wish to hold their instruments “banjo-style” and strum chords. On the recording, the accompaniment consisting mostly of the root and fifth of the chords, resulting in drone accompaniment . (See chords used on music score.)
    • Guide students to figure out the scale used for this song and for Steamboat Soundings (mixolydian, because of the flat 7th - Bb in the key of C). This is a mode commonly used in southern American folk-style music (For example, Old Joe Clark)..
    • Assign students to learn more about stringed instruments used in bluegrass style (fiddle, mandolin, acoustic guitar, electronic guitar, Hawaiian guitar, bass)

    "Get Down, River"

    Objective: The students will sing a song about the Mississippi river.
    • Listen to "Get Down, River"
    • Discuss the way that the music reflects the importance of the Mississippi to the lives of those living along its banks.
    • Perform the song as notated in the score, using available chordal and percussion instruments. Note that the 16th note rhythm in the score can also be played by chordal instruments.

    Bluegrass Style

    Objective: The students will sing a bluegrass-style song and learn to duplicate a bluegrass-style accompaniment
    • Listen to John Hartford's comments on the origins of typical bluegrass rhythms (program 2, 4:10).
    • Sing a bluegrass song, using one of the songs from the program or one from a basal series text. Click here for a sound sample.
    • To learn the bluegrass-style accompaniment rhythm pattern:
      • Sing, first patting only the beat.
      • Sing again, patting straight eighth notes with finger tips only (alternating hands).
      • Finally, sing with this rhythm in the accompaniment (again, with finger tips only and with alternating hands).
      • Play the accompaniment on autoharp (This can be done with two people --- one pressing down the chord buttons, the other strumming or tapping the strings with alternating hands or with 1/4” dowel rods, called “fiddle sticks”).

    Poetry and Drumming

    Objective: The students will learn about African-American drumming, will learn the names of some musicians and artists important to the African-American community, and will accompany the recitation with their own percussion.
    • Have students listen to CD 1, track 14.
    • Have them list and discuss musicians and artists mentioned in the poem by Eugene Redmond that they may recognize (Miles Davis, Tina Turner, Karerine Dunham, and so on).
    • Learn the following ostinato and pat it along with the recording (CD One - Track 14).
    • Take turns playing the pattern on drums with the recording. Some students may be able to improvise on other drums over this pattern.

    Bluegrass Rhythm and Clogging

    Objective: The students will learn about clogging, and how the steps relate to bluegrass rhythms.
    • Have students watch the program segment, which includes an example of clogging. Explain that clogging is an Appalachian style of dancing, still often done by square dancers and others. It involves small steps, kept close to the body. It is probably related to Irish step-dancing.
    • Have students try some basic steps:
      • The Shuffle: Brush one toe forward and back and step firmly on that same foot. Repeat with the other foot. Continue, alternating feet.
      • The Double Shuffle: Same as the shuffle, but add: “back - step”
    • Have the students practice the steps with any bluegrass number from the program, listening for the sixteenth-note rhythm in the accompaniment.

    Hambone Percussion

    Objective: The students will learn to use "hambone" body percussion.
    • Watch the segment of the tape in which "Hambone" percussion--and percussion in general--is discussed (Program 2, 39:40).
    • Explain that "Hambone" is a name for a particular way of using body percussion to accompany songs with very rhythmic combinationds. It involves many body percussion sounds, in addition to the usual stamp, pat, clap and snap. Some of these are:
      • Patting the chest with alternating hands
      • Patting one's open mouth or cheeks (amount of open area in mouth determines pitch)
      • Patting the front, back and sides of the legs.
      • Slapping for arms and elbows
      • Alternately patting one thigh with one hand, then coming up and patting the palm of the other hand which is being held, palm down a few inches above one's thigh.
      • Alternately patting one hand with the other hand (Clap right hand on left palm, then left hand on right palm).
    • Have students try this hambone pattern with "East Virginia," by the Bob Lewis Family (CD 1, Track 13), or with one of the bluegrass songs in the music textbooks suggested below. Then, encourage them to create their own 4-beat patterns.
    • With either right or left hand: [ Rhythm of this pattern: 4/4 ||: q e e e e e e :|| ]
      • Beat 1: Palm pats side of thigh
      • Beat 2: Palm pats top of thigh
      • &: Palm pats chest
      • Beat 3: Palm pats top of thigh again
      • &: Palm claps other hand
      • Beat 4: Palm pats top of thigh again
      • &: Palm pats chest again

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