Friday, January 31, 2014

A linky party to share techie tips

Today I'm linking up with Aileen at Mrs. Miracle's Room Music for her Techie Tip link party.

I have a few small things to share that I use frequently on my iPad and iPhone. Maybe you know these tips already. They've come in very handy for me!

1. Adding an accent mark or another diacritical mark to a letter: 
This tip works on all Mac devices.
Hold down the letter you want an accent over.
A menu pops up.
On an iPad or iPhone slide your finger over to select the correct mark.
On a Mac computer select the number that appears faintly above your mark on the menu.
(á is a/hold down/2) 
This makes writing out Zoltán Kodály super fast.

2. Page Up quickly on an iPad or iPhone
Scrolling through a lengthy blog post or Facebook discussion and want to get back to the top of the feed? Tap the time and you're zoomed back up to the top. 

3. Texting or making notes with the microphone
OK, I have a confession. I am super slow when typing on the iPhone. (*Insert "all thumbs" joke here!*) I have several friends who would much rather text than talk. Well, I talk faster than I type so I use this work around when I have a lot to say in a text. 
(And I'm not in public!)
The microphone is to the left of the space bar. It does a remarkable job of translating to written text. This is also handy when I have an idea and I'm unable to spend the time typing it out because I'm doing three things at once. I open the notes app and just dictate. 

I hope some of my tiny tips might be helpful to you.
That's it for now! Thanks to Aileen for the Techie Tip linky party. Great idea!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Pete Seeger: An American Icon

When I got up Tuesday morning and turned on my iPhone to check the weather the first thing I read was "Pete Seeger has died at 94." 

Banjo inscription:“This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender.”  

The news that we have lost one of our national treasures has gnawed at me all week.
He was a musician, a story teller, an activist, and a culture bearer. 

I consider Pete Seeger the american embodiment of the Kodály philosophy. 
He understood the power of music and the importance of people embracing their musical  heritage. He spoke out against injustice and righted wrongs while unifying people through music. 

I was a child of the 70s but I grew up on the popular folk music from the 1960s. Pete Seeger, Peter, Paul, and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Gordon Lightfoot, and Bob Dylan were on heavy rotation during my childhood. In my elementary music class we sang Where Have All the Flowers Gone and If I Had a Hammer every year in sing a longs. These were songs everybody just knew, it seemed. When I began my Kodály studies, I realized how many folk songs I had learned initially through Pete Seeger. A little later in my life, Pete Seeger records were on heavy rotation in my house after I had my son. As a new mother I made many playlists for the baby. I wanted my child to be exposed to great music and lots of it! 

Here are a few of my favorite Pete Seeger recordings and books and how I've used them in the music classroom.

Jim Along Josie

Karla Cherwinski wrote about movement with Jim Along Josie recently at Kodály Corner. (You should definitely check that out!)
I love to use Pete Seeger's version of the song. It's just Pete and his banjo and very fun to move to! First I ask students to share ways we can move. Then I sing the song and play guitar adding movements that the students have mentioned. I have the children freeze when they hear "Hey Jim along, Jim along, Josie." Freezing on the "Hey Jim along" shows that they're listening. (It's also a good way to slow them down if their movements are getting a bit out of control!)

We move to the Pete Seeger version the next time I see the class. I love to see what they do when Pete sings "roll Jim along...!"

You can find Pete's Jim Along Josie many places but I suggest the album Birds, Beasts, Bugs, & Fishes  Little & Big Animal Folk Songs. This is a wonderful album and fun listening for children  everyone. My kids particularly like the songs Ground Hog and the very short (and shocking!) The Elephant.


Get America Singing and Get America Singing... Again! Songbooks 

The Get America Singing books were a project of MENC and Pete Seeger was the Honorary National Chair for the Get America Singing...Again! campaign. There's a lovely Foreword by Pete in which he emphasizes the value of people singing together. 

Do you have a stack of these in your music room? What a wonderful collection of songs!
Pass them out, grab your guitar or piano and let the students just sing. Sing for the sake of singing together. It might not fit the melodic or rhythmic concept the class is working on and that's fine.

Pete writes:
"To take a lung full of air and push it out with some kind of song is an act of survival, whether you're singing in a shower, a car, a bar, in a chorus, at a birthday party, at a church, or wherever. Try it- you'll live longer."

Amen to that!


This book was such a stable when I started teaching music it became cliché to even promote it. ("Abiyoyo? Of course I read Abiyoyo to my students ever year!!")
I'm not sure if it's as well known today.

This is a charming story about an ostracized magician father, his banjo playing son, and how they banish the carnivorous giant Abiyoyo from their town. You could read and sing this yourself OR you could turn pages and let Pete narrate and sing. (The book comes with a CD.)

I almost hate to mention it, (because you really should have this book,) but there is a great video of Pete telling the story on the Reading Rainbow program. 

This Land is Your Land 2009 Inauguration Performance
I've been showing this sing a long performance of This Land is Your Land at the 2009 inauguration of President Obama to my 4th, 5th, and 6th graders this week. Just seeing 89 year old Pete leading the mass of people in song is stirring. I love that he was true to Woody Guthrie's full intentions and made sure to include those often "forgotten" verses.

Pete performs here with his grandson Tao Rodriguez-Seeger and Bruce Springsteen.

The Pete Seeger documentary Pete Seeger: Power of Song is not for the kids but provides a fascinating narrative of his life in music and politics. It's a "must see" for anyone serious about understanding the importance of folk song in the united states. I highly recommend this inspiration film.

Zoltán Kodály said "...only the best is good enough for a child." 
Pete Seeger was one of our best. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SO many resources, so little time!


This is just a quick post to highlight some wonderful elementary music education resources. (Several of which you are probably aware of!)

Blogs, blogs, blogs!
I'm a bit late to plug this blog but I must point you towards it in case you have not see it.
I follow several other music teacher blogs and I am very excited to be included as a future guest blogger in a new collaborative Kodály blog, Kodály Corner.

This a collaborative blog headed by three wonderful music ed bloggers, Aileen Miracle, Amy Abbott, and Lindsay Jervis. I'm sure you've been inspired by these three teachers and their great ideas. 
If not you're not familiar with these teachers, go now and check out Mrs. Miracle's Music Room, Music a la Abbott, and The Pursuit of Joyfulness.  (Well, maybe finish read my post first. Don't stress, it's a short one.) it's exciting to see all the collaboration going on among music educators in the blogosphere. They will be posting a couple of times a week and several guest kodály inspired music teachers will be contributing posts as well. (Don't you just love living in the future?!)

If you haven't already, you must see the latest post by Sue Bowcock about part-work in her classroom. She includes a teaching process, a rhythm reading example, and videos of her students in action! I have seen Sue present several times and she is an exemplary Kodály teacher. I still refer to workshop notes I have from Sue's presentations. I was fortunate to see her teach her own students at a class demonstration session at an OAKE conference a few years ago. If you ever have the chance to go to a Sue Bowcock session or workshop, you really must!

CMEA! (Colorado Music Educators Education Association) 
(or must I say Colorado NAFME?)

I'm a little blue this week knowing I won't be at CMEA at the exquisite Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs. I just can't attend everything and this year my extra time and money must go to Atlanta, GA for the OAKE conference. 
HOWEVER, if YOU are going to CMEA, you must attend the sessions presented by my fabulous friend, Amy Abbott. She's presenting Thursday and Friday and is sponsored by our Colorado Kodály chapter, ROCKE! ROCKE is also hosting a Saturday Make and Take where you can purchase and create the manipulatives that Amy highlights in her sessions!

Happy blog reading, music making, and teaching!

Have a great week,

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tinikling! A fun, high energy dance from the Philippines!

In my music room, January is time to dance and move! I love incorporating folk dance in my music classes and that includes tinkling!

When I first began teaching at my current elementary school, I was initially confused when I discovered a collection of 8 ft PVC pipes and 2" x 4" pieces of lumber in the music room. (?) After asking other music teachers around the district, I was told that these were used for Tinikling dance, the traditional national dance of the Philippines. There is a lot of history regarding this dance between poles. Traditional tinkling utilizes music moving in 3s with the poles hitting the ground on 1 and clicked together on 2 and 3:

In most western and modern day tinkling, music moving in 4s is used. ("floor, floor, click, click") (If you look around on YouTube you can find several modern Tinikling groups who choreograph modern routines to hip hop and rap.)
Here is  why I incorporated tinkling each year in my music room.

  • enforces beat awareness
  • enforces phrase and form awareness
  • requires teamwork
  • gives students a glimpse of a traditional dance from another culture

I do know teachers who do tinkling with grade levels as young as 3rd but I save this for my 5th and 6th graders because they have the maturity to handle the tinkling poles safely, (most of the time!)

Equipment for a class of 30

  • 10 PVC pipes cut into 8' pieces (traditional tinkling poles are bamboo but PVC pipe is much cheaper and readily available at hard ware stores
  • 10 2" x 4" blocks with lines drawn on showing where poles should hit, (about hip distance apart.)
  • Music 115-135 beats per minute (125 is about perfect. Think "YMCA")

Each tinkling "team" is 4 members, 2 dancers and 2 "clappers" (that's my label for the pole operators,  I don't know if there is an official label for them.)

Preparation for tinikling:
Before even breaking into teams and dragging out poles we practice a few things.

Clapper duties:
  • Perform the clapper pattern: Pat legs 2 times, then clap  2 times.
  • Count your team in with recorded music. (Everyone must be able to say, "1, 2, ready, GO!" with the 4 beats just before a phrase starts.) I play a song, ("YMCA" is a good one to start with because many kids already know it,) and we start and stop the clapper pattern several times with the phrase.
Dancer duties:
  • Perform beginning steps without poles while saying the steps. For the straddle step we say "in, in, out, out" while our feet straddle and jump apart twice and then jump feet together twice. (It makes much more sense when you see the video below!)
I always give the students a pattern of words for each step. Often the clappers can speak the pattern while the dancers are moving. Once students are in teams and using poles, don't forget to switch them frequently! We practice in groups with poles stationary first (clappers simply hold the poles down on the 2" x 4"s)

Tinikling Steps

Tinikling can become as elaborate as you want but here are some simple beginning steps.

Straddle Jump (actually more basic than the "basic step")
Feet jump inside of the poles twice and then straddle and jump outside the poles twice.
(Say "in, in, out, out")

Basic Step
A hop is on one foot, a jump is on two.
(Say "in, in, out, hop")

Hopscotch Step
One foot hops inside the pools twice, both feet jump out (straddle) twice.
(Say "hop, hop, both, both")

Hopscotch Step with a turn

Stride Jump
Jump feet inside twice then jump twice on one side of the poles, feet jump in, then jump twice on the other side of the poles.
(This one's quickly exhausting!)

There are many possibilities with tinkling. If you have the space, it's fun to set up the poles in a circle formation and have domes dancers move though the sets of poles clockwise while others move counter-clockwise. (Wouldn't this be a great collaboration with the PE teacher?)

One of my student's favorite formations is just moving through the poles in a line, (bonus: they get to rest while standing in line to go through the poles again!)

Having a "freestyle" time where students get to make up their own moves allows them to get creative with their moves. My freestyle rule is: "On your feet and on the beat!" (No, we can't do handstands. I don't have time for the ER today!)

Recorded Music to Use
(My favorite part!)
I consider it my responsibility (and my privilege!) to introduce kids to wonderful music they may never hear anywhere else in their day to day life. This idea doesn't stop with folk songs or "classical" music! I consider myself an eclectic music lover and there are lots of great up tempo songs kids enjoy once they are introduced to them. (Yes, you could  just play the latest Katy Perry hit but they already hear that everyday.) I might start off with a well-known pop hit to get their attention and I include songs that they already know and love, but much of the time I'm playing more obscure (to them) songs.
Here are my tinkling "greatest hits." Maybe a few of these will work for you!

Tanya's Tinikling Tunes
Jump in the Line - Harry Belafonte
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) - Arcade Fire
Rebellion (Lies) - Arcade Fire
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da - The Beatles (118 bpm, almost too slow)
Boogie Shoes - K.C. & The Sunshine Band (another slower one, good for more complicated steps)
Y.M.C.A. - The Village People (125 bpm, about perfect and kids still love it)
Seven Nation Army - The White Stripes
Sixteen Saltines - Jack White (a fav of the 6th graders)
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough - Michael Jackson
Thriller - Michael Jackson (add those zombie/thriller arms as you move!)
Song 2 - Blur (The kids LOVE this one, it's very high energy with a break out chorus. I adore Blur.)
Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John (Whistling intro!)
Nausea - Beck
I'm Not Gonna Teach Your Boyfriend How to Dance With You - Black Kids
Tell 'Em - Sleigh Bells
A/B Machines - Sleigh Bells

I love the possibilities with tinkling. I've had kids choreograph their own routines after mapping out the form of a song (I've used Seven Nation Army and Song 2), and perform for kindergarteners and first graders, and I've invited teachers to join us for a few steps. 
There is a fabulous music teacher in my district who has an after school tinkling team that tours and performs for other elementary schools each spring. I've barely scratched the surface in this post!

Anyone else out there tinkle? Please share your techniques, favorite steps, or favorite songs!

Have a great week!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Chairs to Mend - A Surprising Favorite

Have you ever had a song that turns out to be a surprising favorite of a class or grade level? 
Do you have a song that kids love right away that you thought you would have to really  "sell?"
Of course, for much of the repertoire we use there are games or activities that are very appealing to children and they latch onto the song because of the game. But there are songs we use that don't have a super fun game already attached. 

Chairs to Mend is a favorite of my 5th graders this school year. This is a street cry song with vendors peddling their wares and services. We talk as a class about the need for street cries to advertise goods at the market prior to the 20th century. "Yes, kids, there was a time before radio, TV, or the internet." (Oh my!) 

They initially learned it last September as a dotted quarter eighth note (tam ti in their world) song. The students love the simple harmonies. 

There are several ways my students have enjoyed singing Chairs to Mend. 

  • Sing in a 3 part canon
  • Sing in unison, then each student sings their favorite section and repeats until the conductor signals to hold the last note
  • Sing with 3 groups of students; the fish mongers, the carpenters, and the quilters. Each group repeats their two measures and watches the conductor for changes in tempo, dynamics, and cut-offs. (This is especially fun to dramatize; students wander the room singing their street cry while others are wandering nearby singing a different street cry. What a fun challenge!)

Just before winter break, I placed a big order at West Music and took a chance on this book that I had not noticed before:

The book Chairs to Mend was published in 2008 and was penned by an elementary music teacher, Sue McCallum Melton. (I don't now why I had not been aware of it before now!) She tells the (fictional) story of a young girl, Rachel, living in Boston in 1885 and her day as she hears the street cries of the chair mender, the fish monger, and the ragman. There is a CD included with the song and the story narrated (complete with the sounds of Rachel's day! This is a nice option and would be great to leave for substitutes!)
My 5th graders re-visited the song as I read them the book this week.
The illustrations are very appealing to students and they enjoyed the story. Next year, I'll introduce Chairs to Mend through this book. 
It's a wonderful addition for a surprising favorite song.

What about you, do you have any surprising favorite songs in your classes? What have your students loved that you didn't expect?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Folk Dancing and Student Self Assessment

Happy New Year!

After a very enjoyable two weeks of holiday time with my family, I returned to teaching last Wednesday. (Yes, I am very fortunate that my district had professional development/work days on Monday and Tuesday. We started our regular school week with students on Wednesday. It was a gentle re-start for the new year!) 

On Tuesday, I presented a workshop on music performance assessments for the elementary music teachers in our district. This was actually the 4th time I presented this particular session; I've presented assessment ideas at CMEA (Colorado NAFME conference,) a couple of years ago, for NKE (Northwest Kodály Educators) last May, and a neighboring Colorado district last November. 

I believe authentic assessment is an extremely valuable tool in the music room for many reasons.

•Assessment shows growth in student learning.
•Assessment guides teacher instruction.
•Assessment validates school music programs to students, parents, and the community.

In most states, teacher accountability is stressed and along with that, student achievement and progress is under the microscope. Of course, I could get very political here and talk about the downfalls of standardized testing in general but this is not the place! Lucky for us music teachers, we still have control over most of the decisions regarding how we assess. I'm very fortunate that my district has an excellent curriculum that works very well with my personal philosophy of music education.

I have written many rubrics for performance assessments that have worked well for me. 
This post is really about assessing folk dancing.

I love to spend the first couple of weeks of the new year focused on folk dance; during this time of year, the kids really need to move more and there are more "inside recesses" called due to weather. I incorporate folk dances in my lessons all school year long, but we dance much more in January. (And it looks like I'm not the only one; check out Aileen Miracle's recent post on folk dance.)

Like many music teachers, I love the Amidons resources, Sanna Longden's materials, and Phyllis Weikhart's Rhythmically Moving series. 
I also spend some time teaching some basic Tinikling steps, (I'll post all about Tinikling, the national dance of the Phillippines, later this month.)

My 6th graders enjoy dancing and last year I included a student self-assessment for one of the dances they learned. I video-taped them dancing and then we watched it as a class. Each student was responsible for grading/assessing themself. (I make sure to capture every student in action while recording.) I introduce the rubric ahead of time and we talk about each expectation. I also give them the option to revise the rubric as a class, as long as they can provide good reasons. 

Here is my dance rubric for student self assessment:

Folk Dance Rubric

 A) Student is focused (present/ “in the moment”,) and maintains consistent effort. Student performs the dance steps correctly and maintains the beat and phrasing of the music. Student easily corrects any missteps or unexpected circumstances.

(B) Student is focused (present/ “in the moment”,) and maintains effort most of the time. Student performs the dance steps correctly and maintains the beat and phrasing of the music most of the time. Student easily corrects any missteps or unexpected circumstances.

(C) Student is not focused (present/ “in the moment”.) Student performs the dance steps correctly some of the time. Student sometimes corrects any missteps or unexpected circumstances.

(D) Student is not focused (present/ “in the moment”.) Student performs the dance steps correctly some of the time. Student causes missteps or unexpected circumstances.

On the worksheet the 6th graders complete they must justify their grade and also write about why dancing is worth learning. (By the way, on a related note, here is an excellent TED talk by Ken Robinson regarding education and de-valuing of the arts. He makes an excellent case for re-thinking intelligence and creativity.)

This has been a wonderful way to help the students to consciously make the connection between dancing and musicality. It is also interesting how students' dance steps and overall movements improve!

Some of my favorite dances for assessment:
(These are easy to learn but require group cooperation.)

If you would like a copy of the Dance Rubric/Student Self Assessment worksheet, it is available (free) here at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Today I added a few more freebies on my TpT store. (These are items that have been available as free downloads on my website, The Kodály Aspiring Music Classroom, I thought it was time I included them at TpT as well.)

I hope you are having a wonderful start to your new year!