Thursday, October 20, 2016

Miss White: a movement activity

Most of you are probably familiar with the chant "Miss White."  I love this chant and use it every October!

I found a great resource on TpT - not mine - that teaches this chant well and is a great set-up for either introducing or practicing ta ti-ti.  You can find it here.

Anyway, after I introduce the chant, I've always been at a loss as to what to do with it from there.  I've been tweaking this movement plan for a couple of years, and I finally love what I have.

First, I tell the students that my music classroom has become "haunted."  I have laminated pictures of ghosts with numbers, that have different rhythms on the botttom.  Examples:

I spread these ghosts around the floor, and the students travel around the room while saying the chant in a "ghostly" voice.  They have to stop near a ghost and clap the rhythm on it.  We do a couple of group practices ..... then ...... oh no!  Somebody called the Ghostbusters! I pull a number out of a container, and whichever students are at that ghost are eliminated!  They first must clap their rhythm as a solo or in a small group.  We continue playing until only one student or group of students is left.  Basically, it's kind of like musical chairs, but way less dangerous :)

For my eliminated students, I don't like them just sitting out doing nothing, so I send them over to the tubanos, and they play the rhythm of the chant while the others are walking around.  It keeps them engaged the whole time, and they love giving me a drumroll before I announce the next elimination. 
Small and simple, yet so fun!  My kids love this activity.  Hope you all can find a use for it.  Happy October!

Monday, November 23, 2015



Vocal Exploration. I'm sure many of you are doing this frequently.  It is so good for young voices! I use exploration with my younger students to discover high vs. low, smooth vs. choppy, long vs. short, and so much more.  I have some pre-made sets that I show on my white board, or have the students draw on the board with a marker.  They've even followed a leader as they wave a scarf or some object, and students will follow that with their voices.  We pick a neutral syllable, and off we go!  As simple as it sounds, the kids really do enjoy it.

Movement Exploration.  I'm Kodaly trained and have been doing vocal explorations forever.  But, I recently have been working on my Orff certification, and have been using lots and lots more movement activities in my classroom.  To clarify - I've always been moving in class, but it used to be really structured all of the time - folk dances, specific actions, etc. I still do all of that, but in Orff, a huge push is for improvisation and exploration.  This past summer, we really worked on exploring different pathways through movement - zigzag, spiral, straight, etc.  And then it dawned on me - why can't I use the same exploration activities through movement that I'm already using with voice?

So easy, and maybe I'm the only one that hadn't thought of this - but it's so much fun!  The kids love finding pathways through the music room.  Fun really happens when they use their voices and movements at the same time.

So, I uploaded this little file to Teachers Pay Teachers - free from now until Thanksgiving 2015.  You can click here to get it.

Included are some basic exploration slides, like this:

 Also, a couple of slides where the kids can create their own pathways, like this:
And, a couple of printable worksheets for your kids to draw/color, like this:

Simple and effective - just the best!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, September 18, 2015

Swat that bus!

If you've ever looked around this blog, you'll know that I love fly swatter games.  They are great for individual assessments - and the kids don't even know you're testing them!  You just split them into teams, and 2 at a time come and try to identify the rhythm that you clap.

Here are all the makings of a great lesson:

We first read the book "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!" by Mo Willems.  You can see that book here:  

After every page, we practiced saying the phrase "Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus."  The kids love the pigeon books, and so do I :)

Anyway, after the book was read, we figured out the rhythm together.  We decided it was "ta ti-ti ti-ti ti-ti ta rest rest rest."  We've been learning about bar lines, and it was a great moment to decide where the bar line was, and how many rests we needed to fill up that measure!

I found these foam buses in the dollar bins at Target.  I love foam manipulatives!  I have drawers and drawers full of them.

For only $1, it came with 10 pieces.  I was able to write different rhythms on them with a sharpie, and the fly swatter game commenced.

Great day!  We were able to incorporate literature, aural dictation, and aural assessments all on one day.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Room design - oh what a nerd I am!

So, I am a huge nerd when it comes to certain TV shows.  I know they're kind of dumb -  for a select group of people - , but I love them anyway.  I'm not ashamed to admit it.  One of the shows that my husband and I like to watch is "Dr. Who."  It's definitely not for everybody, but we really like it.  I like that it's generally clean (family-friendly), and the premise of the show is good too.  Dr. Who basically travels around, saving people from bad things in a non-violent way.  Yes, it's cheesy.  But, it's also awesome.

Based on this love for such a silly show, I've decided my entire theme for my classroom this year is "Dr. Who."
I even have a door to my storage room designed to look like the TARDIS (Dr. Who's traveling space ship).  I wish I had darker blue butcher paper, but I had to make do with what I have :)

I've decided to use this door for my composer units.  My 3rd graders will be learning about Woody Guthrie very soon, so I put up a "Wanted" picture with him on it.  As we learn more about him, I'll add facts to the blank blue spaces on the door.

Next to this door, I have my rewards chart (I do a star chart) with a Dr. Who quote hanging up.  It says "900 years of time and space, and I've never met anyone who wasn't important."

I have various other Dr. Who quotes/plays on words as well:

I also have some music rules posted on the way into my room with this theme:

And, one of my favorite touches is my row of hats (the center one is a fez that I still need to hang up) - representing the different cultures Dr. Who, and our music classroom, can discover.

My students love it - even if they haven't seen the show.  Always a good thing :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Little Sally Water - add shapes!

Many of you know the folk song "Little Sally Water."  It's in the good old 150 American Folk Songs (orange book), and I've used it for years.

It's wonderful for teaching so-mi-la - and especially for isolating so-mi on the "turn to the east" part.  I've used this with my kinders for high/low and then labeled the solfa in 1st grade.  Great, great song.  The original game is also fun for my kids:

The children stand in a circle, joining hands.  One child stands in the middle as "Sally," covering his or her eyes as the rest sing the song.  "Sally" imitates the song throughout, pointing at another player at the end of the song, still covering their eyes so the choice is accidental.  The chosen player becomes "Sally," goes to the center, and the game starts again.

Fine.  Simple game, and the kids do enjoy it, but do get bored easily.  So, I've been trying to think of different ways to do this, as I do love the song and it is great for teaching so many things.  And then it came to me - movement!

As I've been going through my Orff levels (I completed Level 2 this past summer) I've really been trying to incorporate a lot more movement in my classroom.  I love using Kodaly approaches to music literacy and beautiful singing, but the Orff improvisation and movement really speak to me as well.  I feel that really, you can tie both approaches together, and your students end up better musicians.  Anyway, one thing we worked on a lot in my Orff classes was creative movement, and creating different kinds of shapes with our bodies.  The Laban Movement Analyses words for the 4 basic kinds of shapes are ball, pin, screw, and wall.  Here are some pictures of my adorable daughter demonstrating these types of shapes:

Ball shapes are rounded shapes.  

Pin shapes have sharp angles.

Screw shapes are twisted. 

Wall shapes are large and flat.

So, as a class, we decided that "Sally" was going to find a shape he/she liked.  Students sang the song and walked around "Sally," as regular, but on the words "east," "west," and "best/next," they created different statues.  "Sally" would then walk around, find a statue he/she liked, and copy that shape.  The student whose shape was copied would then become the next "Sally."

I loved this, because the kids were improvising/arranging what they already knew.  They were practicing making different types of shapes, and we were labeling them with new vocabulary!  I also loved that it really eliminated any kind of talking we had going on before - because their statues had to stay still (including no talking!)

How else would you improvise on this?

I've also created an analysis file you can use to present ta/ti-ti or so mi la to your kids on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Professional Development - do it!

I'm not writing this post to condemn anybody; rather, I hope to inspire.

Music teachers - go do professional development!

In a conversation with some music teachers from my district this year, I shared how I really enjoy going to my local Orff and Kodaly workshops, and all of the great things I learn there.  In response, one answered "Oh, that's great, but I just can't give up my Saturdays."

I was dumbfounded.

I don't get it.  I am constantly trying to improve my teaching.  I reflect about myself, but it is at conferences, workshops, and training where I can focus my energy on developing myself as a teacher.  I may not use every single little thing the presenter has to offer, but I always walk out of a workshop with a renewed energy and loads of new ideas.  It might not even have been what the presenter said, but how they presented it.  I think my kids can tell when I have been to workshops as well.  Class always goes better.  There are fewer behavior problems.  My kids seem to learn more and have more excitement.
First of all, I want to talk about workshops.  Go to (Orff) or (Kodaly). Find your local chapter.  Each chapter has workshops they present 3 or 4 times a year.  3 OR 4 TIMES, people.  This really is not that big of a time commitment - it's not like you're giving up every weekend.  They always bring in fantastic presenters or have share sessions where you can learn from your colleagues.  Go.  Learn.  There may be a small cost involved with this, but it is well worth it.  Check with your chapter - there may be discounts too.  I know that my local Orff chapter offers college students a deal where $5 buys them membership in the chapter as well as FREE attendance at all 4 workshops for the year!  First-year teachers can do the same for only $10.  Also, my local Orff chapter offers 1 college credit (for salary movement/license renewal) for only $50 - all you have to do is attend 3 workshops and write a brief summary of each one.

Some great clinicians I've had the privilege of learning from recently at my workshops have been:
  • Thom Borden
  • Amy Abbott
  • Gloria Fuoco-Lawson
  • Julie Scott
  • Lynn Kleiner
  • Linda McPherson
  • Dr. Leigh Ann Garner
Google them.  They are master music teachers!  And for only a small fee and a few hours a few times a year, I can learn from them.

I am fortunate in that my local Orff chapter is only a 30 minute drive for me.  My Kodaly chapter is harder to get to, because it is always based in Wichita - a city 3 hours from where I live.  Yet, I go to every workshop I can, because they are that valuable.

You may recall the story of Bach.  He traveled almost 300 miles (the way I heard it was that he did it on foot) just to learn from master organist Dietrich Buxtehude. 

I am currently going through Orff Level 2 at Baldwin-Wallace in Ohio.  I have already completed my Kodaly training - it was part of my Master's degree.  I love both approaches to teaching music.  They both offer something immensely valuable.  Are they the same thing?  Absolutely not.  Do I use them both?  Yes, absolutely.  Zoltan Kodaly and Carl Orff had the same idea - they wanted to teach children music.  They may have gone about it with different approaches, but the end goal is the same - to provide a quality musical education for kids.
Training is a harder thing to do than workshops.  If you feel like you just can't sacrifice 2-3 weeks in the summer to do it, then start with the workshops.  However, if you want your teaching to be transformed - GO DO THEM. 
My family is in Kansas City, and I am in Ohio for 2 weeks.  I Skype with them every day for an hour or more.  It is hard.  Of course it is hard.  But, it is so worth it.  I will become a better teacher, and that will help me to become a better wife and mother too, I think.  You might know this if you've been teaching awhile, but there are some days (maybe more than some) where you just bring work home with you all of the time.  Maybe not an actual work load, but at least the emotional wear and tear from the day.  What if instead, you had amazing days at work because your training taught you to teach more effectively and efficiently.  You'd bring back less actual work, and you'd be more emotionally available for your family.
This 2-week sacrifice I'm doing right now will offer a lifetime of benefits.  That is why I do it.
Additional Opportunities
Go to state conferences for NafME, ACDA, or whatever you have in your area.  Sometimes schools will even give you professional leave.  I've been fortunate that my school district allows a few teachers to go every year.  I've applied and they've let me go.  But, I've been in situations in the past where I have to use personal leave to attend these things.  I go anyway.  I may not go the whole time in those situations, but I do what I can to better myself.
If you feel like you have amazing ideas to share, start sharing them!  Sign up to present at conferences!  Some people learn best by teaching.  This is my goal for myself - someday.  Someday I will present and share....
Go to Pinterest and look up music education ideas.  I call myself a "blog-stalker."  So many amazing music teachers put a little bit of what they do up on the Internet, and you can learn from wherever you are.  I have a few links on the right-hand side of this blog to some of my favorites.  Click on them and learn!

Why I do what I do
My life might seem crazy for other people looking in at what I'm doing.  Here's a brief overview of the past year:
I went to 6 Saturday workshops around my area.  I paid a small fee, but was able to take home months and months worth of teaching ideas.
Over Spring Break, I went to Minneapolis and spent half of it inside a hotel.  But it was relaxing for me.  Why?  I got to go to the Kodaly National Conference and learn from the best.  When I feel better-prepared for my job, that relaxes me.
The week after school ended, I attended a 3-day summer conference put on by my school district.  There weren't really any sessions geared towards music specifically, but I went to amazing sessions on classroom management, technology, and more.  Don't discredit a learning opportunity simply because it may seem to have nothing to do with you.  Go and get what you can from it.
Later in June, I also had the opportunity to attend a week-long training with Teaching Guitar Workshops  Honestly, I wasn't sure what to expect going in.  I could sort of play 3 chords on the guitar before this.  However, after a week, I can play dozens of chords and I have the skills now to teach guitar to kids.  Who knew?!?!!   It was so much fun.  PLUS, for around $500 you get 3 graduate credits, the workshop, and hundreds of dollars worth of supplies (books, extra strings, capos, etc.)  Well-worth it. 
Now, I'm spending 2 weeks in Ohio, living in a college dorm room, completing Orff Level 2.  I am becoming a better musician myself, and learning different approaches to teaching my students.  As my teacher tells us, "Your students can only know up to what you know.  The more you know, the more they do as well."  I have already learned so many strategies, and instead of dreading the upcoming school year like I used to, I am excited to share music with kids.  PLUS, I'm getting 4 graduate credits for this.
In the future....
I'm planning on completing my Orff levels next summer.  But I won't be done.  There are so many other things out there - studying Kodaly in Hungary, Orff in Austria, Dalcroze, Music Learning Theory, Feierabend, World Drumming, and more.  I'm just trying to be the best I can be at what I do.
In short - you don't have to go all crazy like I do, but start somewhere.  Start by attending one Saturday workshop.  Do more if you can, but anything you do is better than nothing.  I promise you that it will be well worth it!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Let's go fishing!

I recently came across this really cute Guatemalan folk song:
If anybody knows me, I love all things Latin American - except beans.  For some reason, I just hate those!

Anyway, this is a great song for teaching ta rest for your 1st graders, or bringing it back later on to practice low so.  I wouldn't really use it to present that, because the interval is always re-so, but it would help enforce I-V accompaniment, and is really good for practicing that interval.

Latin American folk songs often have an uneven feel to them, because a lot of the time, their phrases are a little uneven - just different from what we're used to here in the good old U.S.A.  This song has that uneven phrase thing - sort of.  It has 4 equal-in-length phrases, but each phrase is 6 beats long.  That's a little unusual - but cool.  Something that you can point out to your kiddos!  The form is ABA'B - so it's great for pointing that out as well.

The words are:

1. Vamos a la mar, tum, tum,
A comer pescado, tum, tum.
Boca colorada, tum, tum,
Fritito ya asado, tum, tum.

2. Vamos a la mar, tum, tum,
A comer pescado, tum, tum.
Fritito y asado, tum, tum,
En sarten de palo, tum, tum.

The meaning is (not an exact translation, but this way it can also be sung in English)

1. Let's go to the sea
To get fish to eat.
Mouth as red as ruby,
Grilled and fried and crispy.

2. Let's go to the sea
To get fish to eat.
Grilled and fried and crispy
In a wooden skillet.

There is not a game that I can find, but you could have the kids create their own (mine love doing this).

I found a cute little video of some kids adding body percussion to this song.  They do it a little differently - they add an extra measure of rests to make the phrases even.  Find that video here.

Also, since this song is so great for practicing/presenting ta rest, I came up with a little game I call "Fishing for Rhythms."  Basically, you print off a set of these cards:
Cut them out, laminate them, etc.  Then, you can spread them around the "pond," face down.  A student has to "fish" for a rhythm and either you can do individual assessment - that student performs it by themselves, or you can have their team perform it.  Either way, if it is performed correctly, they get a point.  If it is incorrect, have them throw it back in the "pond," and continue playing.

You can also use these cards for games like "Post Office" or the fly swatter game - you know how much I love that one :)  I've provided a set of these cards (12 in total, practicing ta, ti-ti and ta rest) in both color and black and white.  You can get my whole file on this song (and support my adoption savings) here.

OR, you can wait until next week, when I'm throwing a big Cinco de Mayo sale and get this for 20% off, as well as all of my other Spanish language files :)