Sunday, February 4, 2018

Music Teacher Coffee Talk Episode #7: Favorite Beat and Meter Songs

Here are four songs and games referenced on the podcast Music Teacher Coffee Talk Episode 7: Favorite Beat and Meter Songs and Activities. You can listen here.

Button You Must Wander Circle Passing Game:
Students sit in a circle. One student sits in the middle of the circle with eyes closed or blindfolded.
The students pass a button around the circle while the song is sung. At the end of the song, the child holding the button keeps it hidden in a palm. After the song is done, the center child guesses which child has the button.

3 Games for Apple Tree:

Game 1:
Students sit in a circle and pass an apple around the circle, on the beat.
The student who is holding the apple on the last beat (“out”) is out.
The “out” student leaves the circle to play the beat on a small percussion instrument
or a bourdon on an Orff instrument.
The game repeats until all the students are “out”.

Game 2:
Students stand in a circle, and the teacher makes a tree with one student, (the student stands inside the circle and the teacher stands outside while they join hands in a high arch. All sing while the circle rotates counterclockwise  and the students move their feet to the beat. On the word “out,” the teacher and the student (the tree) bring their arch down, “catching” a student. The caught student now makes an arch with the teacher and the “tree” student goes to an Orff instrument to play a simple bourdon. Game and song repeat until all students are at an instrument.

Game 2 Variation:
Students stand in a circle, and the teacher makes a tree with one student, (the student stands inside the circle and the teacher stands outside while they join hands in a high arch. All sing while the circle rotates counterclockwise  and the students move their feet to the beat. On the word “out,” the teacher and the student (the tree) bring their arch down, “catching” a student. The caught student now makes an arch with the first student and the teacher pairs with another student to become a new “tree.” Game and song begin again until all students are trees.

Thank you for listening and/or reading!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Music Teacher Coffee Talk Episode #6: Older Grades Tips and Tricks

In our latest Music Teacher Coffee Talk episode #6 Carrie and I discuss several strategies, specific activities, and songs that appeal to 4th, 5th, and 6th graders.
You can listen to that episode here: 

Poison Pattern Aurally (Melodic or Rhythmic)
  • The teacher writes a four beat melodic pattern on the board using solfege and stick notation, (or displays a melodic flashcard,) This is the special pattern. The class sings the special pattern with hand signs.
The Game:
  • All students stand. The teacher sings a four beat melodic pattern, (using solfege and hand signs,) Students are asked to echo each pattern except the special pattern. Students who echo the special pattern are “out.” “Out” students sit and hand sign patterns but don’t sing.

Advanced rounds:
*The poison pattern is erased from the board.

*The teacher sings on a neutral syllable but shows hand signs. Students must sing the solfege and use hand signs.

*The teacher sings on a neutral syllable but without showing hand signs. (It’s helpful to let the students know that you will begin each pattern on the same note.) Students must sing the solfege and use hand signs.

My Poison Pattern games for rhythmic reading are called Watch Out for the Cheetahs and can be found here (4 sixteenth notes), here (eighth sixteenth notes, and here (half notes.)

Go Fish (Rhythm or Melody cards)
  • Students stand in a circle. Each card is reviewed as a class and then tossed into the “pond,” face up.
  • When there are several cards in the “pond,” the game begins with the teacher vocalizing a card. The class must repeat the pattern. Once the pattern is repeated by all, the students can indentify the card with that pattern by placing a hand on the card. (Not a foot.) The first student to touch the card wins it.
  • The student with the most cards at the end of the game (after all cards have been said,) wins.
Caution: Students tend to get overly aggressive in this competitive game. Set-up rules for safety. (Ex: If you leap into the pond before the pattern is repeated you are eliminated from the next 2 questions.

King of the Mountain (Rhythm or Melody Cards)

·      Students sit in a circle, each student is given a rhythm flashcard to place in front of them.

·      Warm-up: Each student takes a turn speaking his own rhythm plus the rhythm of the student to his right going counter-clockwise around the circle. (The teacher keeps a steady beat using a small percussion instrument.)

The game:
·      The “King” or “Queen” is the student with ta ta ta ta   , (or another rhythm chosen by the teacher.)

·      The “King” or “Queen” starts by saying his card plus any other card in the circle.

·      The student whose card was called then says his card plus any other card in the circle.

·      Play continues until someone fails to speak his or her rhythm correctly, stumbles saying the rhythm, does not stay with the beat, or fails to come in at all.

·      The student who falters leaves their spot on the mountain and then goes to the bottom of the mountain, (to the direct left of the King or Queen.)

·      When students move towards the top of the mountain, their first rhythm card stays in his or her spot, (everyone now has a new rhythm.)

Carrie and I also discus student favorite songs and games in episode #6. 

  • Color mix-up: A variety of rhythms are given out (green, blue and hot pink, for example) and students cannot call a rhythm that is the same color as their own color.
  • Clap/Don’t say: Students only clap the rhythm. (they really have to listen!)
  • Play/Don’t say: Students play the rhythm on small percussion instruments.
  • Play small percussion instruments
  • Play recorders: ta=B   ti ti =G , etc.
  • Play body percussion

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Introducing: Music Teacher Coffee Talk Podcast

Hi! It's been a loooooong time since I posted.

My Kodály inspired music teacher friend Carrie and I just posted our first episode of our new music teacher podcast Music Teacher Coffee Talk!

I love listening to podcasts and I've been wanting to create my own for a long while.

This is our opportunity to share songs, activities, and our experiences from the music classroom. (And more coffee time time for us! 😉)

For each episode we'll focus on a main topic. First up is a couple of our favorite holiday music activities. We also share highs and lows (successes and challenges,) from our teaching week, plus a coda section where we give professional and/or personal recommendations and random music things we love. 

Carrie and I seem to spend a lot of time "talking shop" and know we're just sharing our conversation with you.

We plan to upload an new episode every two weeks. If you are interested in keeping up with the podcast, please subscribe through iTunes!
Just search Music Teacher Coffee Talk.
You can also find us on Stitcher.

Find us on Facebook here.

We referenced a few books, song collections, and videos.
Here are the show notes for Episode 1:

First We Sing! Songbook One (song: Here Comes Mrs. Macaroni)

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy dance video

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy celeste video:

Christmas Foam Shapes Ideas

Revels Celebrate the Winter Song Collection

Cup Song Sleigh Ride


Sleigh Ride by Pentatonix

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Let me know if you like what you hear and if you have suggestions for show themes!

Happy listening!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Favorite website: Every Noise at Once

Hello! I wanted to briefly mention a favorite website I found a few weeks ago. It's called Every Noise at Once and I LOVE it! The site is a word map of hundreds of genres of music which include a sound clip of a song or piece typical to that genre. Click on a genre and you are linked to another map of artists and groups within that genre, plus a box of sub-genres. I've introduced my 5th and 6th graders to the site so that they can find more music to love.

As a super music geek/fan, I have loved exploring the worm-holes of this very extensive website. I found exploring the site similar to looking through a photo album of my life. The nostalgia of my childhood washes over me as I hear bits of Simon and Garfunkle, Gordon Lightfoot, and Peter, Paul, and Mary (my parents favorites.) The goth rock and new wave of my 1980s are represented well and I discovered several indie bands and artists I should be listening to.

Don't explore this site if you have to do anything in the nest few hours, (like go to sleep.) 
There, now you've been warned! Find this amazing site at

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

5 Favorite Pins of February

I hope you had a fun Valentine's Day and a peaceful President's Day.
Today I'm linking up with Aileen at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share my favorite pins of February.

#1: What Piano Etiquette Should We Be Teaching Our Students?
If you've read my latest blog post you know that my son Jude is preparing for his Suzuki Piano Book 1 Party. It's next Saturday. Today we had his run-through with his piano teacher and he seems ready and confident. I came across this helpful reminder blog post about the little etiquette rules that make a difference in piano performance. While I don't agree with every rule she lists, (I honestly don't care that much about which end of the bench my kid enters from, as long as he'd not hurdling over it!), these simple rules do make a difference in presentation.

#2: Denise Gagne Kodaly's Viennese Musical Clock. 
Cup movement active listening lesson
This is so simple and engaging! The emphasis on form, pattern, and beat is evident. I'm excited to try it with my second graders. Denise has several other videos worth checking out. Her youtube channel is denisegagne50.

#3: Thank God it's Monday! Creating Peace and Joy in the Classroom and Home
by Sally Ogden
So....I'm not sure if I've shared this but I'm an audiobook/radio show/podcast junkie. Most of the time I prefer listening to podcasts, audio books and lectures over watching television or videos. 
Several years ago I attended a 3 day Love and Logic for Teachers conference and Sally Ogden was one of the guest presenters. Full disclosure; Mrs. Ogden was my french teacher in high school. She was one of the most friendly, helpful, and funny teachers in school and her personality shines through on this recording. This presentation/lecture focuses on creating positive classroom environments and bulletproofing. If you are feeling negative about classroom behaviors or attitudes listening to this will brighten your outlook!

 #4: Dalcroze Eurhythmics, Bunny Story - Fritz Anders
Here's my friend Fritz leading his students through a story exploring high, middle, low, dynamics, and tempo changes. (I love his Peter and the Wolf musical quote when the wolf appears!)

#5: The Beatles collage
I love the Beatles and this collage is simply very cool!

Thanks for reading, and a big thanks to Aileen for the linky party!
Be sure to read all the other wonderful music ed blog link ups over at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Today I'm blogging about individual practice habits. As we start getting into recorders at my school I'm reminded that all students need guidance when it comes to practicing at home. As their teacher I provide them with many tips an how to practice on their own.
This post is focused on how to guide practice at home from a parent's point of view.

Over the winter break my son and I started organizing his piano practice. He has been taking Suzuki piano lessons for a little over two years and we are approaching his Book 1 recital. In the Suzuki method students learn all of the pieces from the first book by rote and have a book party when they have perfected all of the pieces. There are nineteen pieces in Book I, seventeen of which he'll perform at the book party. He has played them all over the past couple of years but some pieces have been out of rotation and they all need to be performance ready. 

Also, while my son does enjoy playing, he does not always enjoy the hard work of practicing. He has reached the point where playing is not coming as easy for him as it did during his first year of playing. There have been some frustrations at the piano. Interestingly, I've noticed that he seems to be in a good mood after particularly challenging practice sessions.

Here are 5 tips for parent involvement in music practice.

1. Schedule practice time for around the same time every day
In our house, if it's not scheduled, it's probably not happening. While we are out of school, and on the weekends Jude practices in the morning. That way he doesn't have it hanging over his head all day, (and I don't have to remind him all day.) During a typical weekday we have to practice later in the day because we all have to be at school at 7:15am and I'm on duty supervising kids at 7:20am. Being at the same school definitely has advantages! On some days he practices in the music room after school if I know we're going to get home later. (If practice has to happen after dinner it probably won't be as productive!)

2. Develop a practice routine with your child
As a child I had a couple of years of piano lessons with a handful of mediocre piano teachers. One thing that was missing from my lessons was instruction on how to practice at home. I would half-heartedly play through my pieces, gloss over the more challenging measures and avoid working on them at all. (Or I would only try to tackle the hard parts after I had already been at the piano for a while and my concentration was spent!)

When Jude practices he plays a couple of warm-up scales, one or two easy pieces that he has mastered and feels good about, and then he focuses on his most challenging measures in a harder piece. I try to build his practice time the same way I build my class lessons: beginning with warm-ups and then alternating periods of high concentration, (pieces he has mastered,) with relaxation, (already mastered pieces that don't require as much concentration.) 

In December I created cards for him listing a separate piece on each card.  Each time he includes a piece in his practice we write the date in the top right corner. We draw a star if he can play it perfectly. If the piece is not yet 100%, I write in a different percentage of how far along it is along with the date. The percentage is not from a hard and fast number of mistakes, (I'm not a tiger mom who keeps those kinds of records!), it's just an idea of how far along the piece is. Jude responds well to the percentage idea. We have seventeen pieces he'll play at his book party and this way he can easily rotate through them. At this point his book party is in two weeks (!!) and he's playing most of the pieces in the order he'll play them for the recital. 

My son's book and practice cards.
(Can you tell that the book's been dropped in a puddle on a snowy day?) 
3. Stay nearby during practice
Part of the Suzuki requires parent to be actively involved in their child's practice. I definitely don't hover over Jude as he practices but I'm usually a few feet away making dinner or working on my laptop, (our art/music/play room is connected to the kitchen in our house.)  Like most kids, he can get side-tracked; those lego bricks are so close! I'm there to help and and get him back on track if needed.  

4. Don't watch the clock!
Practice time should be about working on the music, not a number of minutes sitting on the piano bench. Make a plan of what pieces to work on and stop when it makes sense or when your child shows that they are no longer productive and are just spinning their wheels. Sometimes it makes more sense to break up practice into two or even three shorter sessions during the day.
5. Encourage Your Child 
Give authentic and specific praise and encouragement. It is more meaningful to say, "I noticed you really brought out the dynamics in the second half of that piece!", then "great work!" 

6. Have fun!
Kids should have opportunities to have unstructured time with their instrument and just play whatever they what. I know free play in learning is not in-vogue in most public schools. There are so many tests and assessments to prepare for and the higher-ups don't acknowledge the value of learning through discovery, (at least in my district.) I want Jude to enjoy the piano and have fun figuring out songs by ear or making things up; even when it's cacophony, (especially when it's cacophony- that's a great release!)

There are a few ideas from me from my experiences as a mom.
At my Teachers Pay Teachers store I have some fun piano practice cards/records that I originally made for Jude. 

Do you have any helpful practicing tips you've stumbled on with your kids? Please share!