Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Dance!

I don't know about you, but I rarely have time left at the end of class.  I tend to over-plan, because I just love keeping busy.

However, in those rare times that I have a few minutes at the end of a class - or when they just need a brain break, I have discovered something magical.  Kids LOVE it.  It's a game called "Just Dance."  You have probably heard of it, and probably played it, but I have found that there are so many videos - free on YouTube - and the kids love it.  I do these only a couple of times a year, but it's always a big hit.

The week before Christmas is always crazy - I feel it's way more about crowd control than anything else - but in the last 5ish minutes of class, I've put on one of these videos, and the kids walk away from my class smiling.

Here are a few Christmas favorites:

This one is "Bollywood."  As my theme this year is music from around the world, it really fits in!  However, it is at the advanced level, so it is best used with upper grades.

This one is "Crazy Christmas Santa Clones."  It is great because it uses several different styles of music, and you can talk about them.

This one - "Jingle Bells" - is great for your K-1 kids!

And last, but not least, is "Let It Go."  I actually found it funny that my boys had more fun with this than my girls, who were still having fun :)

Happy Dancing!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Bach Badinerie - pie rhythms!

One of Bach's great pieces to work on ti-tika and tika-ti is his "Badinerie."
I went to a workshop a few years ago in Savannah, Georgia when I was living there (oh, how I miss the sunshine) where Darva Campbell presented a lot of great Orff ideas.  She has a great body percussion lesson with this piece - you can find it here.  Also, in her conference notes from the menu on the top she has lots of other great ideas to use with classical music :)

Anyway, as I am still focused on Thanksgiving and using the Orff training I received this past summer, I added the following words to the A section of "Badinerie."

I split up my class into 5 groups to work on their section.  First, they clapped the rhythms, then figured out their own body percussion with these rhythms.  They had so much fun!

Finally, we added their body percussion to a recording of "Badinerie," and performed with the recording!  We also identified the B section as stuff they don't know yet.....I plan on going back and having them help me create lyrics to that section.

For any Kodaly people, this is at the stage where we are practicing these rhythms.  I think adding the Orff stuff helps cement things, especially during the practice stages.  I love that this piece isolates the tika-ti in one measure, and the ti-tika in another, keeping them separate but distinct.

I love incorporating both Orff and Kodaly ideas in my classroom.  They really work so well together - you just have to get creative :)

Friday, November 14, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner walk

Have you ever had your kids walk the rhythm to their songs?  It is such a great way to practice and internalize rhythms.  My kids absolutely love to do it.

Recently, I've been teaching my 3rd graders about Bach, especially through his music.  I've used some of Amy Abbott's great ideas on teaching Musette in D from her blog post here.  She also has some great tech tips on how to use Audacity to slow down YouTube recordings.  Read it!  You'll be glad you did :)

Anyway, I had the opportunity to retake Orff Level 1 this past summer.  I'm so glad I did.  The first time I took it, I hadn't even graduated or started teaching yet, and though I loved it then, it was so much more valuable this time as I've been teaching for a few years so I have some background.  I decided to use Amy's ideas but throw in an Orff twist.

I created the following words for Bach's Musette in D that go along with Thanksgiving:

The kids walk the rhythms and say the words.  It also helps when I play recordings of the piece - they can immediately identify the form (so helpful).

I then threw in a Thanksgiving twist.  I created some food cards and laminated them, and spread them around the floor (the cute clip art comes from  I used 9 different "food stations."

Some examples:

The kids walked the rhythms to the piece (I occasionally play them on the piano, but not always - I really want them to internalize them) and have to stop on a food station.  I then drew a card with a food word on it, and the students on that station, as well as the food are eliminated.  The game continues until only one station is left - and those students are declared the winners!

Sounds so simple - but my students absolutely loved this activity.  I extended it to 5th grade, where we are talking about micro beats and macro beats, and they would have to sing a song and walk either beat - depending on what I said.  When I blew a signal on my recorder (which I wear as a necklace at all times), they had to switch to the other type of beat.  When the students were eliminated in this grade, they came to the side, chose a rhythm instrument, and had to play either the micro or macro beat, depending on what was indicated.

You could extend this so many different ways - but my kids had a great time.  Hope you can use this!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Old Roger Is Dead

I'll admit - I feel that I can teach rhythm pretty well, until we get to 6/8 meter.  I've always loved so many songs in 6/8 meter but it has been hard for me to verbalize it.

I found this adorable picture on Pinterest using big lego-type blocks to teach macro beat:

I love that it separates 6/8 into 2 groups of 3 - what a great visual!  All of a sudden, 6/8 time doesn't seem so daunting.  All you have to do is talk about macro beats and micro beats, and you're set!

Last year, I learned the song "Old Roger is Dead" at a workshop.  I had never heard it before.  It is the PERFECT song for Halloween time that is not about Halloween:

It reinforces 6/8 meter, it is a really good one to introduce anacrusis (pick-up notes), and even ti because of the s-l-t-do pattern.  You could also extract high do for 3rd grade from the first couple of measures.  There are several different versions of this song floating out there, but this is my favorite because of the melodic elements.

I loved it so much, I made a whole presentation about it that you can find on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

There's a lot as part of this:  

Steady beat:

Iconic rhythm:

Discussion of macro and micro beats:

Introduction to anacrusis/pick-up notes:
Melodic practice and introduction to ti:
Also on a staff:

But really, the best part is really the game.  Basically, the game is that you dramatize the words.  In my classroom, I call this game "Silent Movie."  This is, without question, my students' absolute favorite game.  They have to act out the lyrics of any given song (or sometimes, just the story line for something instrumental, like "In the Hall of the Mountain King").  Since the lyrics for this song involve a guy dying, a woman picking apples near his grave, and then the dead guy getting up and giving the woman a shock, this song becomes an instant October favorite.  (Zombies!)  You can play by having "Roger" chase the old woman around the circle, a la "Duck Duck Goose," or just getting up and shocking her.  Even when I have talking problems in my class, one mention of the word "Silent Movie" gets every student to shut their mouths and truly listen to the song.

I usually play Silent Movie with a certain group acting out the lyrics, while everybody else is singing, so they can truly appreciate the "silent" part of "silent movie."  Sometimes, we'll take turns with everybody showing off their performance to the rest of the class.

Other student favorites to play "Silent Movie":

  • In the Hall of the Mountain King (I have one person creep into the Mountain King's lair, then get chased out by trolls)

  • Don Gato (the kids love that the cat falls off the roof, dies, and comes back to life)

  • Oh, Susanna! (crazy lyrics will do it every time)

Try it!  I guarantee your students will like it!

Oh, and just so you have the choice, here's another popular version of this song:

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Wind Up the Apple Tree

While I was looking through my school's music textbooks (We have the Making Music series), I found this lovely song in the 1st grade curriculum:

What a great fall song!  You could use this in September/October (paired with Apple Tree and other apple-themed songs).  You could also change the type of fruit to meet the season:  how about "Christmas Tree" for December, or "cherry tree" for spring?  So many choices!

What a great song for 1st graders!  It uses exclusively so, mi and la - which is my focus in 1st grade, and is also a great song to use for ta rest.  PLUS, it has a cute game that my students really enjoyed.

Now, there is one thing that is slightly confusing about this song if you use it to teach rhythm:  If you look at measures 3 and 5, there is a paired eighth note, even though there is only one word underneath.  I feel that if this is confusing for your students, you could change it to a ta and use so-so-so.  Otherwise, the rhythm is very accessible.

The melody in this song is great for reviewing so, mi, la, or even presenting la.  I made a little presentation for this song - you can find it on my Teachers Pay Teachers page here:  Wind Up the Apple Tree

Here's a preview:

I have beat slides:

I have rhythmic icons:

I have rhythmic notation:

I even have stick notation:

I have melodic preparation:

And the melody on a 3-line staff:

But, best of all is the game:

My kids really enjoyed this game!  I found it would be really nice to attach it to the end of your regular "Apple Tree" game.  (Read about it here if you don't know it)  Your kids are all holding hands in a circle anyway - it's a nice little add-on :)

Here are a couple of videos of kids playing this game:

I just love finding new repertoire, don't you?  :)

Friday, October 10, 2014

Oh, the Wind Blew East

One of the things I actually really enjoy doing is going to music workshops on Saturdays.  Call me crazy - it's really my only day off with work from Monday-Friday and church responsibilities on Sundays - but these workshops get me so energized that I go back to work so excited and I truly believe that they make me a better teacher.  Naturally, I don't go every Saturday - it ends up being maybe once every couple of months or so. :)

Anyway, I went to an Orff workshop last year.  Julie Scott was the presenter, and she was absolutely amazing!  She shared this wonderful song with us:

There are actually several different versions of this song out there.  It originated, as far as I can tell, in the Bahamas, where the lyrics were a little different:


Oh, the wind blow east,
The wind blow west,
The wind blow the Sunshine
Right down in town.
Oh, the wind blow the China
Right down in town.
Oh, the wind blow the China
Right down in town.
Oh, the wind blow east,
The wind blow west,
The wind blow the Settin' Star
Right down in town.

Apparently, the "Sunshine," "China," and "Settin' Star" are sloops that had been blown ashore by hurricane-force winds.  But then, as many folk songs do, it kept getting changed and adapted as time went on.  I also found this version in my research:

And this one:

What a great song to use in October!  I know that many music teachers teach in a Halloween-sensitive environment, where more and more we are asked to not teach songs about witches or ghosts, or things like that, but this one is great for talking about fall leaves blowing into town!

So many great things about it - I've used it with my little ones for talking about high and low voices (the first version, on the Whoo-oos!).  I've used it for talking about fast and slow, since there are two tempos for this song.  And best of all is when you dramatize this song!  At the workshop, I learned it this way:  you can have half of your kids act as leaves, and half act as the wind.  The leaves lay on the ground, but as the wind blows them, they roll into town.  Then, you can have the kids switch.  So much fun!

I've also adapted it to where I got little fabric leaves at the dollar store, and the kids try to blow them "into town," or a designated area.  I've split them up into teams to see who could blow their leaves the quickest - rule is that they cannot touch the leaves, only blow.  They absolutely love it!

You could also adapt this song so many different ways:  in winter, you could have the wind blow the snowflakes, in the spring it could blow the raindrops, in summer, it could blow get the picture :)  You could also have your kids improvise whatever the wind is blowing.

Here are a couple of videos with different versions of this song:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Star Spangled Banner

Yesterday (September 14, 2014) was the 200th birthday of our national anthem!  In honor, I put together a PowerPoint that has the lyrics for the song as well as some fun facts about it:

I uploaded this onto Teachers Pay Teachers as a PowerPoint so you can download the whole thing here:  Star-Spangled Banner  (FREE!!!)

I did have one comment that said they wished there was music that played along with this.  Unfortunately, because of copyright issues, I couldn't upload any of the versions I have.  But, since it is an editable PowerPoint, you could go ahead and use a version you have if you'd like to go that route.

I used this presentation to talk about the history of the song, and to go through the lyrics and explain what they meant.  We then evaluated different performances of this song:
The kids loved the variety - and they were very surprised by the last one (rock version)!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Stirring My Brew

My youngest sister is almost 18 years younger than I am.  Crazy!  Anyway, she is amazingly talented and has always loved music (she was recently cast as Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz" at her school - so proud of her!)  I remember coming home from college during breaks, and she would sing me her latest favorite song.  Around Halloween one year, she sang this song to me over and over (she had learned it at preschool or something):
She sang it so much that it is still stuck in my head around Halloween every year (over a decade later).  This is a great song to use with your younger kids, though.  Perfect for a finger play in preschool, great to use for loud/soft in Kindergarten, and it sounds "spooky."  Kids love it!

There is a great finger play that goes with this:

On the lyrics "stirring..." make stirring motions as if you are stirring a pot of brew.

On the lyrics "oo-oo," sweep hands out forward in a wave-like motion, like a spooky gust of wind.

On "tiptoe," use 2 fingers on one hand, pantomiming a person tip-toeing.

On "BOO!" open hands suddenly as if to startle.

For added fun, whisper on "tip-toe" and say BOO with a very loud voice.

But, you don't have to do this as a finger play.  I found this fun video on YouTube, and I seem to remember my sister doing something similar:

For some reason, I just LOVE Halloween songs.  And, I love that this one doesn't specifically mention witches or anything.  You could change the word to "stew" instead of "brew" if you're worried about that.  Hope you can use it!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Frere Jacques

Who doesn't know and love "Frere Jacques"?  This is a folk song that most of your kids even know, but there is so much you can do with it.  This is a great song to present half note, fa, low sol, part-singing, and so much more!  I'm using it this year to present half note to my 2nd graders.  We prepped and prepped half note at the end of last year, and have been reviewing it for this year.  I'm just about ready to present it (my 2nd graders this year are just amazing - this is slightly earlier than I've done it with 2nd grade in the past).  Anyway, we've been singing this song in class and doing different activities with it.  I had them do this little game/dance that I sort of made up:

Standing in a double circle in pairs, each circle walks to their right for 8 beats, then back for 8 beats to face their partner (1st 8 beats is "Frere Jacques," 2nd is "Dormez vous?")
Play patty-cake on next 8 beats (Sonnez les matines) clap-right-clap-left, clap-right-clap-left
On last 8 beats, wave good-bye and take one step to the right (opposite directions for circles) and face a new partner.  Repeat.

If you do this enough times, the kids should be standing in front of their original partners after a few turns.  My kids loved this!  I also loved that by counting the beats, they were internalizing that they took two steps on "vous" - a great prep for half note.

Another activity they really enjoyed is identifying the long notes.  We haven't labeled them yet, but they know where they are.  I had some students come up and play a few instruments that make "bell" sounds - finger cymbals, triangles, etc on the long notes.  Then, a student suggested that instead of singing, the instruments play the "din dan don" part on their own.  So great!  So, that inspired me to write a simple little Orff arrangement.  Feel free to adapt it to your instruments, change parts up, etc.  I've included a simple recorder part if you'd like to use it with recorders.

I created a file for Teachers Pay Teachers that can help when you present the half note, fa, or low sol, as this song is great for all of them!

It has a lot included, like iconic rhythmic notation:
Iconic melodic notation:
Actual rhythmic notation:
Song lyrics in English and French, and more.  You can find it here for $1.50 if you want to help contribute to my adoption fund :)  Frere Jacques

Since my focus this year is on music around the world, I'm choosing to teach this song in French.  I was looking around the internet the other day, and found this great website that has video clips of kids from different European countries singing this song in their own language:  Frere Jacques around the world.  So cute!  The kids get a kick out of this familiar song in so many languages!