How to Teach Form Using Groove Pizza

Teaching form to older kids is rough. Traditionally, we either teach form at a very basic level (think having your Kindergarteners move to Twinkle Twinkle) or at a very high level (remember learning about different types of rondo in college?). I’ve found that our upper elementary and middle school students, who often need the review of (or introduction to) form, often get left out. Luckily, there are engaging ways we can teach form without either sounding too baby-ish or too adult and out of touch. Enter: Groove Pizza.

What is Groove Pizza?

Groove Pizza is an easy to use online drum machine. Simply fill in the boxes, representing the hi hat, snare, and kick drum, to create awesome beats! You can even change the instruments’ genre, tempo, and swing. Your creation can be between one and four sections long. The best part: it’s free!

What Makes Groove Pizza Good for Teaching Form?

Groove Pizza makes it easy for students to both see and hear examples of different forms, like binary or ternary form. Receiving immediate visual and auditory feedback makes form less theoretical and more concrete.

As I mentioned, you can create between one and four sections in your Groove Pizza composition. When you click to add a new section, it automatically duplicates the section before it. Say you have an A section and you want to add another section; when you add this section, it will automatically populate as another A. You can, of course, change it so you now have a B section instead.

How to Teach Form with Groove Pizza

Create Background Knowledge

Although not 100% necessary for using Groove Pizza, it’s nice for students to know some drum kit basics. After all, Groove Pizza is a drum machine.

One fun way to start laying the foundation is to follow along with beatboxer Butterscotch’s beatboxing tutorial. (I go up until the 3:28 mark.) The tutorial walks you through a basic beat, demonstrating the connections to the drum kit along the way.

Learn to Use Groove Pizza

Next, create a meaningful connection between beatboxing and the drum machine by having students dictate Butterscotch’s “boots…cats” pattern. This not only reinforces the concept of high, middle, and low sounds, but also teaches students how to use the tool. 

Students may notice that their dictation sounds a bit “off”. Often times, I find that they don’t leave any empty space (rests) in between the notes! See if you can guide them to figure this out on their own. (Sometimes, it takes a little more hands-on guidance.)

This is also a good time to let students explore some of the other features, like changing the genre or the tempo. (Ding ding ding – a great opportunity for some music vocabulary review!)

Create Your Own Beat

Now that students are comfortable using Groove Pizza, give them your parameters. I like to limit my parameters to a few different forms (like ABA or ABAB) but let them be creative with other settings, like the swing and genre.

If you want this to be a bit more complex, throw in a C section. I’ve found some students initially struggle to see the difference between a B section and a C section. This is a great opportunity to differentiate the two.

Share Your Composition

Thankfully, Groove Pizza lets you save your creations. Phew! To do this, go to the left hand toolbar, click “Share”, and then copy the link. My school uses Schoology, so I just have students share the link with me there. You could also have students email you their links or create a Google Doc, Form, or Sheet for them to submit their creations.

Important note: Anyone with the link to a Groove Pizza composition can edit it! So if you’re worried about students editing each others’ work (on purpose or on accident), I might recommend a Google Form so that you’re the only one receiving the links.

Putting it All Together

Groove Pizza is such an awesome tool for teaching and reviewing form. I’ve used it with students as young as 3rd grade, and if you have tech-savvy kiddos, I bet you could even try it with 2nd!

Maybe it’s due to inconsistent school experiences these last few years, but I’ve noticed that my older kids often struggle with form as well. That’s why I designed this lesson plan: to hook my older kids with music tech that can be applicable to their lifelong participation in music while reviewing a concept that would otherwise be too baby-ish or too theoretical.

I ran this lesson several times before I finally got it down to a science. Don’t have time to waste? No worries! I packaged it up into three 30-minute lessons so you don’t have to! I even included detailed lesson plans (good enough to turn in to your admin!), Google Slides lesson slides, and digital and printable student work sheets.
Be sure to grab the done for you lessons here!

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