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The Parachute

By Andy Mullen 

MLT, Practical Applications, Tunes for Teaching

Friday was a good day teaching.

The Wifi went out, and I was suddenly bereft of a plan. I asked my principal if we could go to the library and use the parachute. Due to COVID, I was expecting a hard no. To my surprise, she said Yes! (As long as the kids sanitized before and after.)

It'd been a year since we used the parachute. Without missing a beat, I launched into my two go-to parachute games, and we had a blast! 

In case your principal says YES, here are my two go-to parachute routines. 

The Parachute Song

This routine works with any song, but a jaunty 6/8 works best, in my opinion. I use this song, lazily called "The Parachute Song" because I wrote it to accompany this activity. 

The routine:

The Parachute Song

•Spread students out around a large parachute with each student grabbing a handle.

•During the first A Part of the song, students walk around the circle counter-clockwise.

•During the second A Part, students walk the other way. During the B Part, students raise the parachute for eight macrobeats, and then lower it for eight macrobeats. Repeat.

•As an extension, during the B Part when the parachute is raised, have two students switch places underneath the parachute. (Thanks to Natasha Sigmund for this fun idea!) For even more fun, then have those two students choose two others to switch with. And so on. Make sure there are still some students holding on to the parachute!

The Parachute Song

You can see this routine in action in this teaching video, Out In The Field With MLT: Adding Some Parachute Fun to Songs Without Words!

The Duke of York

First, I teach the song and chord roots to students using Rote Song Procedure. Then, on a subsequent period, we do the parachute game. Here are the basic procedures (which I learned on a Facebook post many years ago by an educator named Tammy Keorkunian):

The Duke of York

The famous duke of York, he had ten thousand men

•With the parachute outstretched, have students march around the circle in a counter-clockwise manner for eight macrobeats.

He marched them up to the top of the hill

•Face the middle, and lift the parachute up for four macrobeats.

And he marched them down again.

•Bring the parachute down for four macrobeats.

And when they’re up, they’re up

•Lift the parachute up for four macrobeats.

And when they’re down, they’re down

•Bring the parachute down for four macrobeats.

And when they’re only half way up....

•Bring the parachute half way up and shake it until the teacher gives the students a cut-off gesture. This will need to be practiced!! I usually pause dramatically here.

They’re neither up nor down!

•Bring the parachute up quickly and then down following the words of the song. 

•Resume marching around the circle. The teacher can sing a marching bass line (DO SO, DO SO) and resume the song at their pleasure.

The Duke of York

In case you can't sing due to COVID, here is a YouTube video of the tune. 

I hope you enjoy these two tunes, and that you are slowing but surely getting back to normal!

Fifty Tunes for Teaching

Check out this book which contains 50 new songs with and without words for use in the general music class. Sequenced according to Gordon's Music Learning Theory. 

About the author, Andy Mullen

Andy Mullen is a teacher, folk musician, multi-instrumentalist, recovering singer-songwriter, and lifelong learner. He has taught all levels of students in a number of subjects, and is currently a middle school general music and choir teacher in Burlington, Massachusetts. Mr Mullen holds Masters degrees in Music Education and School Administration, and serves on the faculty for the Gordon Institute of Music Learning (GIML) in Elementary General Music and Choir. He is the author of "MLT Any Music Teacher Can Du...De," "The Literate Musician" and "Fifty Tunes for Teaching," and the composer of the children's album, "Chucka Chucka Wawa."

  • Thank you for the ideas! We just acquired a parachute for my classroom and I wasn’t sure how to use it. I was a performance major and I now teach K4-8th General Music/Band/Choir at a small private school. Needless to say, it’s been a big (but wonderful) learning curve over the last couple years! Thanks for the inspiration.

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