Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Music Around the World

I love to use songs, games, and activities from cultures all over the world.  I try to help my students learn as much as I can about the world outside of their school district and state.  When we learn a song or game from another country we use the Music Around the World board to learn more about that country.

Either after or before learning a song from another country I have students come sit up by the board.  We place a small post-it note by or on the country where the song is from.  I try and give the students a little history about the piece, or some cool facts about the country itself.  Each time we go back to that song over the course of the next few classes we remember what we learned about that song or country. 

Besides songs I will also post on the map where composers are from.  When singing, listening, or moving to a song by a famous composer I will recognize what country they are from and put their name on the map as well.  I use composers in my "Music of the Month" category so we can also do a whole month using music from one composer.  

This bulletin board was super simple to make ( I bought my map off Amazon, already laminated so it was easy to use).  Then all I needed was post it notes and a pen.  

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Let Us Chase the Squirrel

Fall is here!  I love fall weather and all things fall.  Except for Pumpkin, I'm one of those few Americans who doesn't like the flavor of pumpkin.  But give me some apples and I will go crazy!

I love doing songs that can be used multiple years with the idea of spiraling the curriculum.  One of the ones I use in the fall for this concept is Let Us Chase the Squirrel.  The simple melody and rhythm can be used for so many different activities and lessons it is great for different age levels.  Here are some basics of how I use it in my different classes, if you would like to find out more you can always check out my version on my Teachers Pay Teachers site : Let Us Chase the Squirrel

1st Grade:

At the beginning of the year I like to start with how voices and melodies move up and down.  Having a squirrel climb up and down the tree is a great way for students to visualize this.  When we sing the song and have our squirrels chase up and down our "tree" arms.  Then I take the students to the barred instruments and we look at them like they are trees and play a glissando going up and down when the squirrel goes up and down.  Then we move the instruments so that they are sideways, like normal, and see if we can still go up and down the tree as before.

2nd Grade:

After reviewing the song from 1st grade, even taking some time to review up and down on the instruments, we move on to doing the song with new rhythm notes.  At the beginning of 2nd grade we are reviewing ta, ta-di, and rest, but also getting ready to introduce half notes.  I use this song to introduce those half notes to my 2nd graders.  Since there is only 1 half note and it is at the end of the song it is easy for them to find.  I use icon symbols first when finding the rhythm then transfer it to notation for them to learn.  We even practice putting the rhythms of the song in the correct order.

3rd Grade:

Our review at the beginning of 3rd grade centers around the Pentatonic scale.  We review Do, Re, Mi, So and La.  This song uses DRM & S.  After reviewing the rhythm, we then can place the notes on the staff using icons or notation.  I also have my students transfer the "Let Us Chase the Squirrel" melody to the barred instruments.  We play the 1st and 3rd phrases and then just sing the 2nd and 4th ones.

I love songs that can be used multiple years because the students already feel successful when they are starting out and then you can see the lightbulbs light up when you show them something new about the song.  Have a great week and a happy fall!!

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Shoo Fly

We are off and running in my classroom.  I just started working on our new "Music of the Month" with my students.  For the month of August/September we will be focusing on folk songs.  This works out well because many of the songs that I use for review in my classroom are folk songs.

We are starting our Folk Song collection with Shoo Fly.  I love this song and it is so easy to teach to students.  If you haven't heard this song before here is some sheet music to get you started:
I start off by singing the song and seeing if any students have heard it before.  Then we discuss how folk songs get passed down through generations and that their parents or grand-parents might even know this song.  

To learn the song we do a basic echo by rote for the first half.  I add a "swat" motion on the words shoo fly and then point to myself when we sing "for I belong to somebody".  After students have mastered the beginning through echo, we put it all together and add SCARVES!  Instead of swatting the fly with their hand they can use scarves for a more dramatic effect.  This is also a great opportunity to discuss levels with students.  Flies don't tend to buzz in just one spot so they have to change their levels to try and swat the fly.

 Either the next class, or later on, we will learn the 2nd half of the song; again through echo by rote.  The movement I use for the 2nd half adds a partner to the mix.  Students will do an elbow swing turn  to the right with their partner for 8 beats, and then to the left for 8 beats.  Then the song starts over.  Sometimes I like to add a little extra part right after the B section.  I will add an "OOhh" with a fermata hold before going back and singing shoo fly again.  For this part I let the partners try and switch scarves.  They toss their scarves at each other trying to catch the other one.
This is a super fun and easy song and movement to do in your class that works with many grade levels.  I am using it in all my classes 1st-4th!  Have a great week!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Starting the Year Off Right

I took a break from blogging during the summer, but I am back!  School starts this week and my classroom is basically ready.  I have some photos and descriptions of some of the things around my room.

I ended up doing a complete change of my decor and posters around my room this summer.  I had to take everything down from my walls because I got some fresh paint!  So, since I was putting everything back up I decided to change my theme.  I got a lot of the decor around my room from Making Moments Matter Music Ed on Teachers Pay Teachers.  Some of the other things I made myself.  I also took into account what posters I was actually using the past few years.  If I wasn't making an effort to use it, then I changed it out for something else.  Take a look and let me know if you have any questions.

Whole Room Views:




I utilize 3 spaces in my classroom.  I have a main topic area where my projector is.  This is also where my piano is located.  Students sit in rows or groups up in this space.  My 2nd area is in the middle of my classroom. I have lots of room for movement.  I utilize the yellow square in the middle of my room for "circle" time, even though we are in a square.  I rarely use my risers, except when practicing for concerts because we are up and moving so much.  The 3rd and final space in my room is "Instrument Land".  This is where all my instruments (minus my drums) are stored.  Students can walk into instrument land once invited, which helps to cut down on the randomly touching and playing of instruments.  Having my glockenspiels on desks helps to create a barrier between the movement space and the instrument space.  

All the Posters:


  These posters are located at the formal learning area of my room.  I have a movement word wall above my board and the Solfege Hand Signs below my board.  To the right I have my Music Around the World poster.  For more on how I utilize my Music Around the World, check out this post ( Around the World).  On my piano I have my Growth Mindset posters.  

I covered my cabinets and even above my cabinets with posters.  These span almost the entire length of my room so it was a lot of space to use!  I have my vocabulary word wall set up by topic.  Above the cabinets are some posters to help cover the storage above.  I have some basic Orff inspired words and also some nice rules for the music classroom.  The final picture is my exit slip/ formative assessment station.  To read more about how I utilize that, check out my post Formative Assessments.

Back by my instruments I have my board for I Can statements.  I printed out my I Can statements and laminated them.  They can then be used interchangeably on the grade level board.  I also have a Music of the Month spotlight.  In the past I had done a Composer of the Month, but I decided to try and spotlight genres of music as well.  This way I can choose a composer or genre of music to spotlight.  Above those are my recorder posters; things to remember while playing as well as fingering charts.

Finally, behind and next to my instrumentarium, are my posters of instruments families and Orff related tips.  The Orff side has tips and rules for playing the instruments.  The bulletin board has the different types of instruments, different penatonic set ups, and types of borduns we use. 

Other Spaces:

At the front of my room I have all my centers organized in shoe boxes.  This was it is easy for students or substitutes to get them out to use.

Across the way is my "student" center.  This holds all the pencils, scissors, glue sticks, etc. As well as any movement props the students might want/need to use.

Finally, my Un-Pitched Percussion sits on a shelf back by my instrumentarium.  They are separated into the categories I use (Shakers, Metals, Woods, Scrapers). Don't worry I use Drums also they are just located on my risers!
I hope you enjoyed your peak into my classroom for this year!  Please let me know if you have any questions about anything listed here and I can let you know how I did it, or what I use it for!

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.