Friday, March 24, 2017

Kings & Queens

 This past week my 1st graders performed their concert "Kings & Queens".  I love and also struggle with creating concerts for 1st grade.  I find myself debating the validity of having a full blown "concert" for 1st grade with other music teachers around Cincinnati.  In a perfect world, I would love to have an in-formance with my younger grade concerts and really let the community see what we can accomplish in the music classroom.  But, parents and community members love to see the large, full scale performances in every grade. So how do I accomplish this with such a young grade level, while still maintaining curriculum sequencing.

My answer: write my own concerts, especially with the younger grades.  This ensures that I can maintain my curriculum sequencing as well as create a well rounded program that entertains the audience.  I do not try and re-invent the wheel each year either.  I choose some songs that fit into the curriculum that I am doing at that time of year, and try to find a theme that will work with them.  

 Here is my example from this year:
Concert date: March 6th; start working on concert in the middle of January. Curriculum concepts working on at this time: steady beat on barred instruments, folk dances, songs with So,Mi, and La, working on beginning rhythm concepts , and storytelling.  I took a look at the songs I usually use this time of year and others that I could add in, maybe that I saw at a workshop or online. My inspiration this year was the folk dance "Kings & Queens".  After deciding on my theme, I looked for songs and activities that could fit into that theme.  My concert ended up looking like this (including topics covered in the lessons):
  • I Vow to Thee My Country: opening song & procession, listening lesson based on Jupiter from the Planets
  • Kings & Queens dance: New England Dance Masters-folk dance, only 1/2 of the 1st graders on stage for this one
  • Old King Cole: steady beat, singing voice, simple dance movement, barred instrument playing, simple ostinato.  
  • Queen, Queen Caroline: steady beat, singing voice, simple dance movement, barred instrument playing.
  • Royal Dances: another folk dance that I choreagraphed for 1st grade using music from the Rhythmically Moving CDs.
  • Cinderella: steady beat chant, game, barred instrument steady beat, So & Mi.
  • Horsing Around:  (from Purposeful Pathways), steady beat, body percussion & instrument ostinatos for B parts, movement.  
I was able to have all the classes learn all the songs and activities, but then only "perfect" the ones they would be performing on stage.  I like doing concerts this way, it makes it a little harder to plan but in the end I don't feel as though I have to take time away from the curriculum I am teaching.  I am working on publishing the lesson plans for Old King Cole, Cinderella, and Queen Queen Caroline; so look for those soon!  

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Rhythm Rainbow Fish

It's Right to Read Week here at Elda Elementary, as well as many other schools across the country.  A great time to celebrate all the benefits reading can have on our lives.  In music we do tons of reading; not only reading lyrics to songs, but learning how to read music and transfer that to playing music.  In honor of RtR Week the 2nd grade music students read and then created their own Rainbow Fish, inspired by the book, The Rainbow Fish.  Here is how we used it in my music room:

Rhythm Rainbow Fish:
In 2nd grade we have been working on writing rhythms in different meters.  We have learned about 2/4, 3/4, and 4/4 meter.  We had been working on meters, rhythms, and songs in the different meters for a few classes so this was towards the end of the "unit". As a precursor to a rhythm writing assessment I wanted the students to be able to show how to write rhythms in the different meters.

We started by just reading the book on day at the end of class.  The next class came the bulk of the lesson.  I had traced a picture of the rainbow fish onto bulletin board paper.  I also had copied scales onto colored paper.  Each student got 3 colored pieces of paper, one for each of the meters we had been working on.  Students created their own rhythms in the scales for the different meters.  Then they had to cut out the scales and I glued them on the fish.  Some students stayed in during their recess to finish coloring the picture.

The final product looked great, my principal even tweeted out a picture of it!  Students loved creating the fish and it was a great and easy tie-in to a book.

Check out my free lesson plan for the whole thing here:  Rhythm Rainbow Fish Lesson

Friday, February 10, 2017

Alligator Pie

Teaching sixteenth notes is probably one of my favorite things to teach all year, not only in 3rd grade but also through all of my other grade levels.  The lesson collection I have for sixteenth notes is just so fun and engaging I look forward to teaching it every year.  We are in the middle of the "unit" right now, and we just finished working with a great poem "Alligator Pie".

Alligator Pie is a great poem to use for sixteenth notes, due to the word "Alligator" appearing so many times throughout the poem. Below is the basic lesson I follow for teaching Alligator Pie, and a link to my FREE powerpoint slides on Teachers Pay Teachers: Alligator Pie

Alligator Pie


In this lesson students will learn/review quarter notes, eighth notes, and sixteenth notes.  Begin with students scattered around the room.  Have them move to the beat of the quarter note to begin.  Then change it to the beat of the eighth note.  Continue going back and forth between the two different beats.  Eventually add in the sixteenth note beat for them to move to.  Discuss how they had to change their movements based off what beat they were hearing.

Rhythm & Body Percussion:

Using the powerpoint, show the slides for the Alligator Pie poem.  Teach students words by echo. Once students are able to speak the words independently, move to next slides adding body percussion to the rhythm of certain words:
Pie/Die/Sky: Clap
Green Grass: Snaps
Alligator: Pat

I also have my students then internalize these words and just do the body percussion, as a challenge for their brains.
Then we figure out which rhythm notes match our body percussion words.  Students then practice slapping and saying some rhythm patterns using these notes.


Either as a continuation in one lesson from above, or the next day, we review the poem one more time with the body percussion.  Then we transfer the body percussion to some un-pitched percussion instruments:
Clap: Drum
Snaps: Jingle Bells
Pats: Woodblock
Students play their instrument on the correct word.  We do it both saying the words and then internalizing the "instrument" playing words. Students then rotate around to the different instruments so they can experience playing each instrument.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

OMEA 2017

Last week I attended the OMEA PDC in Cleveland, Ohio.  It was a very enjoyable 3 days of learning and visiting with friends from across the state.  Here are some overall thoughts and ideas I took away from my sessions.

Whole Song Assimilation

In my session with Leslieann Bird, I enjoyed her take on the whole song assimilation (WSA) approach.  This approach basically means that you sing the song enough times that eventually the students learn it without having to do the typical echo teaching that goes on.  Leslieann discusses that she uses this especially when playing singing games.  When you playing singing games, like Apple Tree, Doggie Doggie, etc., you will end up singing the song anywhere from 10-30+ times within the game.  If you do WSA you do not have to "waste" time teaching the song by rote echo.  Just sing it a few times and then the song is easy enough that the students will begin to figure it out.  Sing it a few times alone, students join in, and then eventually the students can do it alone.

Songs from Books

During Leslieann's session she also touched upon an Orff-y concept that I struggle with sometimes.  I love using books in my classroom and for performance pieces, but sometimes feel overwhelmed to make each book into this giant performance piece.  Leslieann took the book "The Rain Stomper" and just used some of the words from the book to create rhythm patterns.  It was so simple and didn't need much planning or prep.  It sparked so many ideas in my head that you could do with so many books, just take a little bit of the book and use it to create small songs or activities you can use in your classroom.

Transitions Singing

John Feierabend did a series of sessions on his Conversational Solfege texts and other books.  One of the "extra" tidbits I took away from his session was his idea to add meaningful singing to transitions in the classroom.  A lot of teachers use singing for clean up and moving around the room, these songs are sometimes specific to what they students are doing.  Imagine the "Clean Up" song from Barney.  But John took it one step farther and made it a meaningful learning opportunity.  John said that while students are putting away instruments, moving around the room, lining up, or anything else, he would just have them echo sing solfege patterns back to him.  Students have a hard time learning and hearing solfege patterns early on, but if they continuously practice them every music class it will not be so hard for them, in theory.  This is something I am going to try with my students soon.

OMEA PDC 2017 was very enjoyable and I learned a lot of things that I will try and implement into my classroom both this year and work on adding them into my plans for next year. 

Friday, January 27, 2017

Candy Hearts

January is almost over and I am ready for my favorite month of the year February! It's my birthday month but also it's Valentine's Day!  My current student teacher, Traleen O'Collins, has created a center/station activity using candy hearts.  The second graders she is working with are learning about Time Signatures and Meters.  They are figuring out how to tell how many beats should be in each measure.  While we are away at the Ohio Music Education Association Conference next week, she still wanted them to practice working with these concepts.  Check it out below and look for the link to the FREE RESOURCE!!!

Candy Hearts:

In this center/station students can work individually or in a small group.  Cut and laminate the Candy Hearts to use.  Print out the directions and worksheets as well.  Using the candy hearts, students create different measures of notes.  They then can transfer the notes onto their worksheet to create their own song.  Students can work in 2/4, 3/4, or 4/4 with the worksheet. This can be accomplished in under 5 minutes which makes it perfect for centers. 

Find it on my TPT page: Candy Hearts

Worksheet for students to complete once heart rhythms are made

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I Can Statements

Mallets & Music : I Can Statements

There are never enough hours in the day, and there are especially never enough minutes in a music class it seems.  Over the past few years it has seemed that the minutes of "music making" keep decreasing due to the various other educational things I have been asked to keep up with.  We now have to state our "I Can" statements before and after class, keep data records on formative assessments we give, try and have students do exit slips, give and record summative assessments, and also try and teach a meaningful musical lesson all in 40 minutes.  Needless to say not all of these things get done everyday. 

One of the things that I have been trying to be the most diligent about is the "I Can" statements.  I have worked with these to make them more kid friendly.  I do not go over them all the time before we start the lesson, but I do get to them 95% of the time at the end of the lesson.  Sometimes we are just too engrained in the music making that time runs out and the next class is already waiting.

The past few years I have used a white board near my door to write out the topics covered.  I had a section marked off for each grade level and I would have the students help me discover what music topics we talked about that day.  The only problem became that it took more time for me to write them all down then we had at the end of class.  To solve this problem I gave myself some homework over Christmas break.

I have created I Can statement cards for K-5; based on the Ohio music standards, but also relate to the national standards. There are both colorful and black and white versions.  I printed mine out and laminated them.  Then I stuck velcro circles on the back of each one.  I also have velcro stuck to some magnets on my board. This way I can change them in and out really fast.  You could also just stick some magnets on the back of each circle and skip the velcro all together.

My set also includes a checklist of the standards for each grade, that you can keep in a binder or folder and use throughout the year to make sure you cover everything!

This is all available on at my TPT store: I Can Statements
I hope these can help in your classroom!

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Falling Leaves Part 2

This time of year I start to introduce the concept of 3/4 time to my 3rd graders. We have done songs in 3/4 before but never talked about the meter and the notes involved. We discovered the dotted half note during this lesson as well. Students then worked to compose their own rhythms and can even put those rhythms on either unpitched or pitched percussion. See the full lesson ideas below as well as a link to my TPT store, where this lesson if FREE!!!

Movement:  Begin the lesson by having the students move to different meters.  I play the steady beat on my drum while students move around the room to the beat.  Make sure to encourage them to move in "interesting" ways using different pathways and ways to travel.  Then I try a meter of 2, having 2 different sounds (drum and tambourine) to show the strong and weak beats.  Students have to show the meter with their movement.  We change one more time to show the meter of 3.  We talk about the difference in strong and weak beats.  

Rhythm reading with bar lines: Now that they have the feel for the meter of 3, I show them the rhythm of the song on the board (powerpoint).  We work to find out where to put the bar lines when we have 3 beats in a measure.

Dotted half note:  At the end of the song is a dotted half note.  This is the first time seeing it for my students, so we take a few minutes to talk about it.  For my "higher" kids I do go through a mini math lesson talking about the way the dot influences the note values.  My higher kids get the math of it and my lower kids just sit and listen, great way to differentiate.

Solfege:  Then we sing through the solfege, warming up the pentatonic scale with some echo singing first.  Then we echo sing the solfege patterns in the song.  They are kind of tricky for some kids so it's a good challenge for them.

Words:  Up next we add the words to the song.  Watch out for the students wanting to put a rest at the end of the first line.

Ostinato, Body Percussion and Instruments: After the students are comfortable with the song, maybe the next lesson, we add the ostinato part.  We start by saying it and patting it on our lap.  I had them pat the half note and then clap the quarter note. We work towards the students doing the ostinato and I sing the song.  Then split the class in 2 groups, 1 doing the ostinato and the other singing the song.  Repeat the same process when placing the ostinato on the instruments. This is a difficult thing for them but with practice it is a good challenge.

Composition:  If you want to extend the lesson further this is a great opportunity for students to compose in 3/4 meter, something they don't normally do.  I start with the kids in groups of 2-3 and give them manipulatives with the notes on them.

We follow the directions of the composing sheet to form our own rhythms.  Then they write in the boxes the rhythms they created.  Together we make one on the board as a whole class. Then you can go even one step further and put some solfege to the rhythms.  First use the whole class rhythm you created and follow the directions to add the solfege.  The next class students can get back in their groups from before and add their own solfege to their rhythms.  Then they can even try and play their melodies on the barred instruments!

A lot of stuff can be covered with just one simple song.