Saturday, November 30, 2013

Winter Rhythms- Half Note Practice


Well, It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! I have been enjoying the week off with my family, I hope you have had a great Thanksgiving holiday.

I have been teaching for many years and it's amazing to see what we can do with technology these days. Honestly, the first school I taught at had just a couple of computers in the library for student use, I would handwrite my lesson plans in a spiral notebook, (color coded by grade-level,) and I created rhythm, melody, and lyric reading pages on butcher paper. Now I have SMARTBoard files, PowerPoints, Sibelius notated songs, and iMovies I can use with my students. We've come a long way, baby!

I recently created a PDF slideshow for my second graders to practice reading half note rhythms. At my school, most students celebrate Christmas but some don't. I wanted to use some of the great winter clip art I've found to create a rhythm reading activity that is winter themed and not Christmas centric. I also like that I'll be able to continue to use it in the winter months following Christmas!

I have a small Teachers Pay Teachers store and my Rhythm Reading Half Note Winter Theme is featured there. (This is when I usually apologize/explain my small inventory of products on TpT, but I'm going to skip that today...) 

What I really like about these slides is that each half note rhythm is shown as 2 tied tas (quarter notes) and as a a half note. My 2nd graders are not at the present stage yet (where we show the rhythm and call it a half note,) so for now, they'll read the red slides, saying "long" for each 2 tied tas group.

They will read and vocalize this rhythm: "long ti ti ta"

Later, they will read the blue slides and vocalize this rhythm: "too ti ti ta" (I know other teachers use "taaaah" for half note which makes a lot of sense if you've prepped students with 2 tied tas. I have found great success in using "too". After presenting the half note, students can identify it as a different rhythm when you give it a unique name. Bonus: "Kids, how many beats is too worth?" "TWO!"

After I made the slides, I couldn't resist making it into a memory matching game. 
(I love memory matching games! They are great for centers.)
Students can match the 2 tied tas rhythms to the half note rhythms. 

("2 tied tas" is tedious to say. Say it 3 times in a row quickly right now, I dare ya. Maybe I should turn it into a choral warm-up. Hmmmm.)

Everything in my TpT store will be discounted 10%!

Have a relaxing weekend!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

2 Things I'm Doing in My Music Room: 2/4 Tuesday Linky Party

It's been a hectic few weeks but I'm eeking out a blog post tonight to contribute to
Steph's 2/4 Tuesday Linky Party.

1. Old Brass Wagon - Song and Dance

I just got home from my annual 1st Grade Singing Games Night. 

It is a slightly chaotic evening of singing games and dance with 1st graders and their families. It's a wonderful night but a bit tiring.(Mental note: next year stick with the Danskos rather than the cute high heel boots!) 

The very last dance I lead the 1st graders and their families in is the song and dance Old Brass Wagon from the Book and CD Down in the Valley by the New England Dancing Masters, (otherwise known as the Amidons.) The students love the dance and sing along without any urging from me. This dance includes moving as a large group (circle to the left, circle to the right,) and also moving with a partner. The CD track includes guitar, piano, and sung dance directions. It was really lovely to watch the 1st graders share this dance with their parents. You know you can't go wrong with the Amidons.

2. Two Rubble Tum

Two Rubble Tum is a very fun song and game that is appropriate for this time of year.

I learned this song from Lamar Robertson at a ROCKE workshop many years ago. He was so animated when teaching us this song; it compelled me to use it in my classroom the next week and it's been one of my favorite Halloween songs ever since! My 2nd graders are practicing mi sol and la and they are in the preparation stage for do. 
Melodically, this is just what they need right now.

Why I love Two Rubble Tum:

  • speaking and singing solos!
  • call and response on sol la! 
  • one big, fat, emphasized do! (great for do prep)
  • suspense!
  • dramatization!
(This notated sing is also included in my Songs with Games Section.)

Game: Students stand in a circle. A solosit (the "witch") stands in the center. The group sings the first four measures, clapping their hands on "to" and bringing hands down to knees while bending knees on "buy." (This varies from Lamar Roberson's: make fists with each hand on "buy.")  

Students put their hands up to their hands up to their mouths and call: "Hey, Old WItch, what o'clock?" The witch points to a student in the circle who says "1 o'clock going on 2", then to another student to say "2 o'clock going on 3," etc. (I encourage students to use a scary, spooky voice.) 

The class asks the questions, ("Where are you going?") while the witch answers (solos) and pantomines the actions of going to the woods, picking up sticks, building a fire, and boiling water. For the last phrase the players close their eyes and covers their faces while the witch replies (in a scary. spooky voice), "To cook one of you.......CHICKENS!" and grabs on of the students in the circle.  The frightened students becomes the next witch.

This is such a fun game, the 2nd graders love the mounting suspense!

Thank you to Steph at Stay Tuned for the extra motivation. Don't forget to stop by Stay Tuned for more ideas from your fellow music teachers!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

4 Things I'm Doing in my Music Room

Today I'm joining the 2/4 Tuesday Linky Party hosted by Steph over at Stay Tuned.

Here are 4 things going on in my music room this week.

1. 1st Grade Chant: Way Up High in the Apple Tree

Many apple, pumpkins, and leaf songs and chants are being heard in music rooms this time of year. Way Up High in the Apple Tree is one that the 1st graders are learning this week. (How can I resist that extra vocal exploration as the apples come doooooooown?)

2. Book : The Tailor and the Mouse 

I love reading/singing picture books to all the grade levels I teach, even 5th and 6th graders.
This John Feierabend adaptation is beautifully illustrated and there is enough sub text in the pictures to really engage the older kids.

The Tailor and the Mouse is the first dance my 5th graders learned this year. They love the natural minor song and enjoy singing the "Hi diddle um kum feedle!" response. After a couple of class periods of singing and playing the game, we read the book. 
(For the song and dance, please visit my website The Kodály Aspiring Music Classroom.)

3. Yan/Jean Petit: a french cummlative dance 
Sanna Longden's multi-cultural dance resources are a must have. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in one of her workshops, you should go!  (While I love the Rhythmically Moving series, nothing beats hearing authentic instruments play these pieces.)

In this simple french dance, the children add on "showing off" moves after parading in a circle. Yan/Jean Petit is on Sanna's 1st CD and 2nd DVD.

4. Flashcard Game: Read and Remember
This is one of my favorite flashcard games and I'm doing this game with 3rd-6th grade this week. (I would not recommend this game for K-2.) You can find many variations of this flashcard game in several Kodály books. It's one of those less than 5 minute games.

Part of music literacy is teaching students to read slightly ahead of where they singing/playing. Once they understand it, the students really enjoy this challenge.

The Game

Starting with at least four rhythm flashcards, show the first card and ask students to memorize the first card. Then hide the first card behind the others. The class speaks the rhythm (or sings the sola ) of the first card, (by memory,) while looking at and memorizing the second card. This procedure is repeated until all cards have been performed.

Thank you, Steph, for hosting the 2/4 Tuesday Linky Party.
Please head over to Stay Tuned! for more music class ideas!

Have a great week!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Manipulative Monday: Dynamics Sphere, Floor Staff and a Linky Party!

Manipulative Monday!

I'm very new to the Linky Party idea but I'm taking the plunge this week! Today I’m linking up with Lindsay over at The Pursuit of Joyfulness and her Munipulative Monday Linky Party! I am a fool for foam, Target specials, and other "every student gets a pack/stick/baggie" types of manipulatives, but today I'm going to focus on a couple of larger items.

Hoberman Sphere (in my room known as the Dynamics Sphere)
I love my Dynamics Sphere! This idea came from Holly Brinkman, a wonderful middle school choir director in my district. I purchased mine from Amazon during a school break a couple of years ago. After my son had a couple of weeks playing with it, I had to sneak it out of my house in order to bring it to school. It grows from small to very large.


I introduce the Dynamics Sphere in first grade while we are exploring loud and soft. After the first graders have heard Hyden’s Surprise Symphony through our acting out the audience’s surprise, they always want to hear it again. During the following class period I bring out the Dynamics Sphere. The students watch the sphere as I hold it while we're listening. During the music I show the different levels of louds and softs with the sphere. Of course when that sforzando surprise comes in I pull the sphere as large as it can go. SURPRISE! They all giggle and and then ask to see and hear it again! The Dynamics Sphere is also very useful during concert rehearsals and choir rehearsals when working on dynamics.

Floor Staff seating chart with velcro
I have been using a large floor staff in my music room for so long that I no longer can recall where this idea came from. I’m reasonably sure I saw it during my student teaching (which was many years ago)!
My floor staff is about 20' x 15'
I have been in many music rooms where the students have assigned seats on risers. I understand the benefits to having the class seats on risers. However, every time I’m in an in-service or meeting where I have to sit on risers for longer than five minutes, I feel uncomfortable and have trouble focusing. I can’t expect my students to do that when I can't do it myself. Also, having the large space free of risers gives us the room to move and play games!

I initially ordered my one sided velcro tape from a PE catalog I got from the PE teacher. (It is also sometimes called sew on velcro tape). It's the hook side of the velcro that you need. The hook side stays on my carpeted floor very firmly.
Yes, I do have to train the younger students to refrain from pulling on the velcro!
I use the Velcro staff as my seating chart  and students sit on the lines facing the SMART Board. 1st through 3rd graders know the lines by numbers 1-5. We refer to the lines and spaces with their letter names EGBDF and FACE in 4th through 6th grade.
(We make the transition from calling the lines and spaces of the staff numbers to absolute pitch letter names in 3rd grade when we start soprano recorder).

What is really fun about the floor staff is that we can play staff games with it. Some of those activities include:

1. EGBDF Says: EGBDF is a caterpillar puppet who helps to introduce the letter names of the lines and spaces. (His whole story is really one for another time)! We play EGBDF Says just like Simon Says. ("EGBDF says everyone on line B do three jumping jacks!" etc.)

2. Staff Races: "All girls wearing blue move to space C. Only the first 3 girls who make it there will stay in the game!"

3.  Melody writing and reading: Everyone moves below the staff and teams of students reproduce short melodies with their bodies. The rest of the class reads and sings their melody.

When a grade level is preparing for a concert I rearrange their seats into a "concert order" (based on height, sound, and behavior,) with 4 rows of students standing in the spaces. This easily transfers to the 4 levels of risers they perform on.

So, there are two manipulatives I love to use in my music room!
Thank you, Lindsay for hosting this Linky Party. Make sure you stop by The Pursuit of Joyfulness to check out more fun manipulative ideas from elementary music bloggers!

Friday, September 13, 2013

sol mi Review and Star Foam

You know I have a fondness for foam shape manipulatives. At the start of the school year I found some foam star shapes priced at 10 for $1.00! (in the Target dollar bin section, of course)! I'm a big fan of creating manipulatives for matching games and stick to staff activities, but this time I thought I'd do something different and simple.

Since the beginning of the school year, my second graders have been reviewing singing and reading sol and mi on the staff. (Yes, I know they should have gotten to la by the end of 1st grade but it just doesn't happen like that in my world. The biggest obstacle is that I don't get to teach kindergarten; it is rare in my district for a school to provide art, music, and PE for kindergardeners. It's too bad; kindergarten is such a crucial time for them to have those classes but that's how it is for now.)

I incorporate solo singing often during class because students need to hear themselves and "fine tune" their listening in order to match pitch. Almost always, when someone has trouble matching pitch, the issue is their lack of focused listening skills. Children need several opportunities to sing solo. Solo singing through Chain singing is a fun way to quickly assess students.

On my foam stars I wrote out each phrase of the song Star Light several times:

After reviewing the song and game, the stars are scattered face down in a circle and each student choses their star. 

First I have students group themselves with their same phrase and we sing the song with each group singing their phrase. (This group practice sets them up for confident solo singing later; there's safety in numbers)!  Then they form a group of 4 by finding the other students with the phrases that completed their song. For fun, (and more practice), they all sing Star Light according to their phrase, but now they are standing in a mixed group and the others singing their phrase are standing farther away. (We're always building up that comfort level)!
Finally, each group "solos" and every student sings their phrase alone. We go around the room round robin style. When students are not singing they are body signing the melody.

My students are accustomed to singing solo; they sing the roll call at the beginning of every music class and we play many games that incorporate solos.  However, I always want to re-establish a non-threatening, supportive environment when our solo singing is not in the context of a game. (As the big sign at the front of my room states: "We will never laugh at anyone's honest effort!")

To go along with my sol mi review, I pulled out a scaffolded SMART Board file I created that I've used to practice sol and mi on a 1 line staff, then a 3 line staff, and a 5 line staff.
I fine-tuned it and put it up on Teachers Pay Teachers. 

A real 2nd grader covering lyrics with solfa buttons!

Oh my, I think I may have 6 products on TpT now. Crazy. What can I say? That's just how I roll these days... (Those things take me forever!)

I may not be prolific with TpT products but I do plan on updating this blog at least weekly.
Please check back with me if you're interested.
Have a lovely weekend!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Music Verbs

Hello, everyone. Yes, I am alive and well and I even still teach music! 
Life has been very busy and I've been enjoying being with my family. 
I can't promise to post weekly but I plan to post more regularly!

School started for me two weeks ago and things are in full swing in the music room.
Colorado has a new law, "Educator Effectiveness", which has many teachers a bit high-strung this year. (I will give more details regarding that law and it's implications later.) While I am not panicking over the law, I am really evaluating what level of learning goes on in my room on a daily basis and scrutinizing my use of time. There are learning targets, KDUs (Know, Demonstrate, and Understand), and essential questions that I'm working with but for now I'd like to share something very simple that I've been incorporating in my room: music verbs.

"Hey kids, did we do any of these things today?"
Many years ago the Orff chapter in Colorado made t-shirts that I used to see many music teachers wear to workshops. The t-shirts said: "Music is a verb." I love that sentiment and want my students to embrace that idea.

On the closet closest to my door I posted several stars with verbs showing some of what we do in music, (my class star charts are also there). I want my students to understand that music is a verb and we do so much through and with music. During the last three minutes of class I walk towards the display and ask, "Which of these action words did you do in music today?" Students' hands raise and we briefly review. I've found this more effective then the open-ended "What did we do today?" I am giving them a limited number of verbs to choose from, (I purposely did not include all the verbs happening during class. I add more during the year).

I am fortunate to have 45 minute classes but I still find myself scrambling to get everything in! This year I've actually set iPad alarms to go off five minutes before the class is over. I know that may seem clunky and may not always fit in with a lovely closure to the last song/activity  but that's just what I have to do to get our verbs in and get out of the room on time. And being on time is something I value; it shows professionalism and respect for the classroom teacher who is getting their class, [ I used to be one of those "if I'm not 5 minutes early, I'm late" kind of people in every area of my life, and then I had kids, but that's another story for another blog. And that blog doesn't exist, and I won't be starting it anytime soon. (No Mommy Blogs here, please move along)].

Another fun thing about my alarms is I've set it for "piano riff" which plays the blues riff  la, re la, do la, until you shut it off.  (Think of the beginning of Elvis Presley's Trouble or George Thorogood's Bad to the Bone). I'm able to improvise/sing quick directions when it goes off which the students find very entertaining. la, re la, do la, "When ya hear that sound,"  la, re la, do la, "it means find your seat la, re la, do la, "Put the wood blocks away," la, re la, do la, "And make 'em real neat." (Of course I do that in my best Elvis Presley imitation voice).

Speaking of the iPad, yes, I just received one at my school and I not yet full throttle with all the amazing things that I've heard are possible. So far my favorite "teacher use app" is Teacher Kit which I'm using for my gradebook and seating charts. I will be getting more familiar with student uses. If you are really looking for more info on iPad uses you should be reading Aileen Miracle's excellent blog. 

Have a wonderful, action packed teaching week!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Anatomy of a note and Split tis

A few years ago I noticed my students getting confused when reading rhythms that included single eight notes. This flummoxed them:
I knew I had spent a lot of class time engaging students in reading, notating, and creatingwith quarter note and eighth note rhythms but I had never really addressed single tis.

Since then, I've made sure I introduce ti ti as introduce single tis. While I'm at it, we discuss the "anatomy" of a note, (note head, stem, and beam or flag.)  I usually present single ti ti at the beginning of 2nd grade and I review with 3rd through 6th.

Movement Game: Walking Tas, Running Ti Tis
In 2nd grade we play a "Walking Tas, Running Ti Tis" game where I play the drum while students walk with arms down chanting "ta, ta, ta, ta..." standing tall with their arms by their sides. When I play twice as fast, ("ti ti ti ti...") they can choose to beam with another student or hold their arm out like a flag while their running feet match their "ti ti ti ti..." chanting.
Here's a bonus for the teacher: you don't have to worry about everyone finding a partner, we all need to experience being beamed and single, (kind of like grown-up life, hee hee!) 
I alternate being playing tas or tis on the drum and they change themselves from tas to tis. 
Then I mix it up and I can really see who is "tuned in." (they chant "ti ti ta, ti ti ta, ti ti ta" and their beams or flags come out and disappear.) 

WIth 2nd graders we add "too" (half note) by stepping and sliding. This is one of those activities that I initially though would bomb but is something they love and request!
tis with flags and ti tis beamed
Last year I created a SMART Board file of labeled anatomy and included a ta ti ti poison pattern game that showcases single tis and sone stems pointing down.
It's available at my meager  "soon-to-be-expanding-any-day-now-when-I-can-manage-it" Teachers Pay Teachers store. 
(I don't have much at my Teachers Pay Teachers store at this point.)
"Anatomy of a Note" is $1.

If haven't visited already, you really need to check out Amy Abbott's TpT store and Aileen Miracle's TpT store.  (And even if you have, check Amy's and Aileen's pages often, they are very prolific!) have used materials from both Amy and Aileen. They create wonderful and effective materials! 

Have a wonderful, musical week!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

When the going gets tough...

I'll admit right now that this blog post is more of a reminder to myself than to anyone else.
There are no "teaching music gems" in this post, please check back later and thanks for stopping by! 

OK. If you're still with me, I'll be honest about something.
Many things have shifted at my school in the past couple of years and I am adjusting to the changes. Of course, the wonderful thing about teaching is that I always have the opportunity to grow and learn with new challenges. (Even when I'd rather coast along!)

Some new challenges are a change in student and parent behaviors and attitudes. I have been teaching music at the same school for the last 14 years. The students I teach today are very different from the students I taught 4 years ago. There is a lack of personal responsibility on the part of many students and a lack of respect for others. So, I find myself spending more time teaching procedures, reviewing my classroom management plan, and  documenting extreme negative behaviors. Musical concepts and skills take longer to grasp and require more review. I once believed that if I taught excellent quality repertoire and crafted active lessons which alternated concentration with relaxation, student behavior would not be an issue. (I contribute that belief to either optimism or naivety, depending on my mood!)  I wish all my energy could go towards teaching children music and focusing on their growth as musicians.  The most well-planned music lesson armed with excellent materials, instruments, technology, and fabulous manipulatives will fail to make an impact if there are 4 or more students who are determined to sabotage the class because they are in need of attention. 
Here are a few ideas I continue to return to when I start to feel negative:

I can't control others, I can only control my actions and reactions.
Stopping to breathe slows down knee-jerk reactions and reminds me to think rationally.

Be Joyful
Why do you teach music? Do you love music and want to share it with others?
Don't forget to include joyful music making, (even if it doesn't exactly relate to preparing low la, or ti tika!)

Have a Disipline Philosophy and Review it Often
I am a big fan of Love and Logic. The basic cornerstone of Love and Logic is to help children solve their own problems and take owner-ship of their actions. I want to help students make positive choices and develop resiliency. There are several Love and Logic books, DVDs, and audio recordings that detail specific action plans for classroom teachers and parents.

Scaffold/Break it down/Back up the train
So, the students bombed the assessment you set up. You may need to re-teach some very basic concepts to ensure their success. There's no shame in breaking things down further and further still until students can really digest the information. That is what good teachers do.

Have a "worst-case-senario" Plan
Have you ever had a student throw a temper tantrum in class, become a danger to others, throw things, and refuse to leave the room? What did you do? What would you do? Make a plan and share it with another teacher who's room is near yours. Better yet, enlist that teacher's promise to help if the situation arrises. (Still better, marry him. Just kidding! But that's what I did...) I calmly asked a class to line up, gathered my laptop and 3 picture singing books and led them to the library where we continued class while the troubled student raged on without an audience. Once in the library, I called the principal and let him know what was happening. During another similar situation, the library was in use and I led the class into the hallway. We sat criss-cross and continued singing and hand-signing. Frankly, the other students enjoyed the change of venue and reveled in  the attention they received from a kindergarten class traveling down the hall on their way to recess.

Give Positive Attention 
Everyone hungers for positive attention, even those who act as though negativity is the only fuel they can ingest. Give honest, positive feedback to students when they deserve it. Kids know the difference between real and false praise. Additionally, if you praise Bobby for in-tune singing and turn around and lavish praise on Johnny for kind-of participating, it cheapens your encouragement. Johnny's thinking, "Wow, I must be stupid if she thinks doing the minimum is a big achievement for me", Bobby's thinking, "My singing must not be that great, how can I trust her judgment if she thinks that kid deserves the same praise?" 

Stay Positive Yourself
There are children whose lives are enhanced by being in your music class, remember that. 
Exercise, eat right, plan a happy hour with the art teacher, hug your own children, get a massage, buy a new pair of cute shoes, drink wine. Enjoy life outside of school.

Have Integrity
Do the right thing, go that extra mile, be the change you want to see.
If you're not feeling positive, fake it. Act as if  you can make a difference, (and really, you can, you just need reminding.) My Kodály level 1 teacher was Jo Kirk, one of the most dynamic, energetic, positive, and inspiring music educators I've ever known. I often find myself saying, "WWJD?" ("What Would Jo Do?") I'm not Jo, but borrowing a Jo mentality often leads me to a solution. 

It's late and tomorrow's the start of a new week! 
Go forward, share music, and brighten a child's day, (or several children!)