Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Room Tour and a Word About Word Walls

Just a quick tour of the room today and a word about all those word walls I keep seeing.. :)

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

First Five Minutes of Class

Schedules, shmedules. They can be our best friends or our worst enemies.  My schedule has changed this year; where once I had 2 grade levels a day and taught 3 third grades in a row, then 3 second grades in a row, I now am back to 5 or 6 grade levels a day. Thankfully I do have 5 minutes between, but we all know how quickly that will be eaten up by changing out materials, re-setting the room, dealing with behavior issues and teachers who are late to pick up students.

Here are a few ideas to help in those times of transitions.

1.   Rhythm of the Day 

Display rhythm of the day - use a 4 or 8 beat rhythm; could be related to new song or review material.  Students memorize it- whisper to a friend or clap it , patsch knees, etc .  Throughout the class, at various times, say "Rhythm of the Day" and students perform it back using body percussion. Prize/bragging rights/acknowledgement to first person who recognizes it from a song.

2.   Picture It

This is a great idea from my friend Laurie S. I am using it this year for sure!
Music (or video of music) playing as students enter, one of the following four pictures displayed as they are entering the room. Laurie keeps the pictures on a music stand outside her classroom, as students enter they notice which of the cards is displayed.  This could be a "turn and talk"/"think/pair/share" or could be used as a journaling activity if you use writing journals.
Globe - Listen for Location. Where is the music from? What languages are spoken/sung? How do the people use this music in their lives?

Style - What genre of music are they hearing? What kind of sounds and instruments are used?  What is the mood of the music?


? - Solve the Mystery - Is it a capella, is it the star spangled banner, do you hear a certain rhythm, what are the dynamics, etc.


Instruments - What instruments are being heard?  What family of instruments do they belong to. What kinds of materials do they use?




3.  Figure/Reconfigure


Sing a familiar song – Jingle Bells, Happy Birthday, Old MacDonald, etc.  Clap and sing it.  Figure out the rhythm and re-create the rhythm.  Create first couple measures of favorite songs.  Write out measures on white boards then mix up the measures.  Can you sing it?

4.  Brain Dance

My friend Debbie does this with her students at the beginning of each class and has the students offer music suggestions (of course she screens them for inappropriate lyrics before playing) to play.
Brain Dance is a full body/brain warm up exercise. Developed by Anne Green Gilbert, Brain Dance uses eight developmental movement patterns that healthy human beings naturally move through in the first year of life. Cycling through these patterns at any age, while sitting or standing, has been found to be beneficial in reorganizing our central nervous system.  Students can perform the brain dance in a chair, on the floor or standing. This dance can be done to any song to fit your schedule.  You will want to check out Anne Green Gilbert's site here.
Here is a visual you can use with your students. Initially, I do the movements, once learned, two students at a time lead the Brain Dance.


Here are more specific examples for each movement listed above:
Start by taking a couple of deep breathes.
Squeeze, pat, and brush all over your body.
Make a big shape and then a smaller one. Repeat a couple of times.
Wiggle all over, make sure to move your spine.
Move your upper half.
Move your lower half.
Move the left side of your body.
Move the right side of your body.
Use your eyes to track your hand up, down, right, and left.
Bring your right elbow to your left knee, then your left elbow to your right knee.
Lean over and swing between your legs.
Spin in a circle. Repeat the other way.

Hello songs, review songs, Songs of the Month etc. are also good ways to establish routines at the beginning of class. Hope you enjoyed these!







Monday, July 31, 2017

What's in a Name? Name Games and Songs.

A group of fellow bloggers are posting each day in July to gear up and rev our engines for the start of a new school year. Find us on facebook at Music Ed Blogs. Amazing group of teachers with fabulous blogs!!
Names, names, oh how special they are! And how tough for us music, art, PE, library, etc. teachers to learn the hundreds of them each year. 
Here are a few activities to help you the first few weeks of school, and these are SO fun!! Pinkie swear promise!


1.  Jump In, Jump Out

There are many versions of this. I use the one from Laura at Make Music Rock..  She has a great blog post about this game!  My older students love this one - maybe not for the very first activity the first day, but definitely sooner than later in the first lesson.




Here is a video of Laura's kids performing the game.  I love it - fun and a little sassy.

Another version - love the Australian accent! I also love the beginning talk about the hand holding- very interesting!

2.  Up the Ladder

From Randy and Jeff's Gameplan Curriculum, Grade 3, available here.
And check out the great extension using drums or UPP -  again from Laura at Make Music Rock.

3. Hey, Children, Who's in Town?


4.  Ickety Tickety 


5.  Name Game - The Original!

Remember this one?  I do!!! Katie, Katie, bo-ba-tee, Bo-na-na fan-na, fo-fa-nee
Fee fi mo-may-tee  Katie!

6.  Dry Bones Come Skipping

7. I Can Say Your Name


 8.  Mrs, Macaroni

9.  Names in Three

10.  Willoughby Wallaby Woo! By Raffi

Willoughby wallaby woo
An elephant sat on YOU (point finger toward child whose name will be sung next)
Willoughby Wallaby Wistopher
An elephant sat on Christopher



11.  Pig on Her Head by Laurie Berkner

Use the chorus of the song.  A box of beanie babies are the perfect accompaniment for this one!  Let each child choose;  I usually put four or five on the floor at a time and invite three children up at a time (more choices than children, always).  Begin by having the animal on children's heads, then sing, "Blakely has a goose on her hand....", and the next verse, "Thomas has a dog on his knee.. " etc. I love Laurie Berkner, if you don't already know "I Have a Chicken" you need it in your repertoire to use with shaker eggs. Hilarious!!!  



Hope you have fun with these! If you know others, please share them in the comments below. Happy back to school!



Thursday, July 20, 2017

Teaching with the Orff Approach

From a fellow music teacher:  
I started classroom music teaching at the age of 40. It was only after I attended an Orff workshop that I knew I had found my teaching style. The rhythm of the words, the patterns and connections, the free flowing creativity, the movement, the instruments---all of those elements drew me to Orff. -MS

I am often asked, especially by new teachers, why Orff?
Orff Schulwerk (school work) is named after composer Carl Orff, who, along with his colleague Gunild Keetman, worked with children in post-war Germany. In the 1960's what became known as the "Orff Approach" spread the US and is joyfully embraced by teachers around the globe!
When I first began teaching music, (cough cough 24 years ago!) I was ill prepared to teach elementary age students. I had planned to teach high school choral music and only had one elementary methods class.  During my student teaching experience I feel in LOVE with the wee ones and knew without a doubt that tying shoes, peeling toilet paper from shoe bottoms, and zipping zippers was in my future.
I felt a huge pull towards those beautiful Orff instruments, and bought a couple without really knowing how to use them.
If you were like me, you probably had the (common) misconception that the Orff Approach, was ALL about those beautiful xylophones, metallophones, and glockenspiels.  Nothing could be further from the truth!!!  Add in speech, singing, playing instruments (including Orff instruments), creative movement, improvisation, creativity, active listening, and hands-on music making and you have a very busy, fun-filled, playful music room full of happy, excited children who are collaboratively music making every day! It's a truly beautiful, magical music making experience!
For a history of how Orff and fellow teacher, Gunild Keetman, developed the methodology we now call the Orff Approach, check out the American Orff Schulwerk Association's page here. There is a fabulous 2 minute video at the top of the page, I've included another one below.


Speak, Sing, Say, Play

Teaching with Orff is similar to teaching children language and it is PLAYFUL!  In music classrooms taught by Orff teachers you will hear children rhythmically speaking, singing, saying rhythms with body percussion and transferring that to unpitched percussion and pitched Orff instruments.  You will see students creating their own music, playing and singing pieces in which they have participated in deciding how or what to play.  You will see students dancing and creating movement to accompany a speech piece or a song.  You will also see and hear elements of Dalcroze and Kodaly.

Imitate, Explore, Improvise, Create

Orff is process based, child-centered music education with imitation, exploration, improvisation and creativity at its core. 
Imitate/Explore
Students are taught using the sequence of IEIC; imitate the teacher, then move on to explore the piece of music. What if we played the A section 2 times?  What if we spoke an ostinato over the rhyme?  What if we played the ostinato on drums?  What if we sing the piece in our heads and only sing the parts that have Mi Re Do?
Improvise
Improvisation begins as students move from exploration into discovering new ways of doing things.  Structure and form are still often provided; play the rhythm of 2, 4, 6, 8 on glockenspiels in C pentatonic.  What is played is up to the performer; the rhythm (structure) is dictated as is the form (play the rhyme in full).
Create
Students in Orff classrooms are often creating; small groups may be creating word chains that will be used as a "B" section in a poem or song. Students may be creating movement or ostinato to accompany songs or dances. I love the creative component and it is one of my favorite elements of Orff Schulwerk.

Don't Just Take My Word For It!

Orff is my passion; we are not called "Orff-Fans" for nothing!  To give you a few more perspectives, I asked fellow Orff teachers about teaching with Orff - here's what they said:


Most children can "Say"..Most Children can "Sing" & "Dance"..All Children learn through "Play"..the best teaching strategies I have ever come across!  -LN

I use the approach to guide my students into independent thinking as they create and note how much they enjoy the process. -KS

Orff allows all children to have musical success at whatever ability level they are personally, all while also having fun! -RW

My favorite thing about the Orff approach is that you start simple, allowing everyone the opportunity to contribute and participate with success. -KD


Have you tried an Orff workshop? I highly encourage you to "give it a go"!  There is a list on the AOSA website, most chapters have between 3 to 6 workshops per year. Go, enjoy, and get ready to change your teaching forever!

Get ready for excitement, get ready for joy, get ready for fun!!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

How to Teach and Not Lose Your Mind


At times teaching music can be particularly overwhelming. Duh, you say. At times you may feel like that poor spud; coming apart at the seams. Oh YES, you say.
Like the beginning of the year when you have hundreds of children's names to learn, or the first concert of the year, or how to deal with all those IEP's or behavior plans.  Or holiday concerts; sacred versus secular, or how about recapturing their attention after the holiday break, or what about that one class that consistently misbehaves? And how to integrate technology in a meaningful way?   Time management, how do you balance it all?  Or how about keeping up with whatever new educational trend your leaders are encouraging/mandating?  Project Based Learning, technology integration, differentiation, relational teaching, integration, Maker Space activities, Assessment Models, Gamification, Flipped Classrooms, Autonomous Learning Model, Brain Based Education, and more! 

Which can lead us to all feeling like this:
 
See the horse on the top, yes, at times that is me.  Although with a bit more of bottom horse's eye roll and neck twist. 
Is your head feeling like an overfilled balloon? Is it going to explode or simply take off on a five year trip to Mars?  Deep breath.  Music teaching (without losing your mind), really filters down to two BIG ideas. PAB and Tightrope walking.  Yup, really.
PAB:  Plan, Anticipate, Be (Prepared).  I'll go over that in just a minute.  Let's get to the one you are scratching your head over first. 
Let me ask you, tightrope walkers, what do they do?  If you answered eat or drink nothing for an hour before a performance you are probably right, but we are not talking about that.  BALANCE!!  Read on...
 

1.  Plan, Anticipate, Be Prepared

Plan

Many successful, happy teachers will tell you it's all in the planning.  Organize and plan your scope and sequence for the year, anticipate the problem areas in the lessons, and be prepared to adjust. I know teachers who have a complete specific plan for the year, but snafus happen with snow days, field trips and those lovely, last-minute assemblies or pep rallies.  Hip hip hooray! 
What skills, concepts, and behaviors will be studied each month?  I have lists of songs along with musical elements and select ones that will work together.  At the beginning of each month, and then each week, I plan more specifically. This allows for adjustments to be made without throwing off (and out) the complete scope and skill sequence for the year.
Plan how you are going to organize your materials and files; everything digitally, a mix of digital and written, files organized by theme, grade level, month, etc.  Sometimes these evolve over time and there is no "One Size Fits All".  Everyone has their own system that works for them and sometimes they need BIG overhauls; plan for what works for your strengths and situation.
Plan to be involved in your school; frequency, length of time, etc. This is a BIG one folks; plan for balance between home and school.  Will you work an extra hour on that program after school in order to avoid bringing it home?  My rule is always "Family First".  My family, and my daughter who is in elementary school, come first before anything else, hard and fast rule and NO apologies about it.  Plan ahead to understand the IEP's or behavioral issues, plan for consequences when students misbehave, plan for the bad days; they will happen.  If your school follows a specific educational model, engages in a behavioral idea, or uses technology 1:1, plan for how YOU are going to use it in the music classroom. 

Anticipate

Anticipate not only the lesson (what might they struggle with) but for the time when your principal walks in with visitors and the superintendent and wants your "elevator speech" (quick 5-7 sentences, 1-2 minutes) about music education. Anticipate that there will be days when a parent might give you a dressing down in the hallway, or send you a nasty email about how you treated their child.  Anticipate that the copier might not be working today, or that the secretary forgot to order post-it notes, or that your paperwork request for _____ got lost.  Breathe, smile, force your face to relax (be mindful of wrinkles, dear), and move ahead.  The world will not end, I promise.

Be Prepared

As you anticipated, you also were probably thinking, "If that happened, I would do _____".  Be prepared to follow through on your plan of action, whatever it may be.  Be prepared when the classroom teacher is 5 minutes late picking up their class. Oh, that never happens?  Lucky you!  Here is a blog post about ideas and activities for just those times.
Be prepared when the classroom teacher drops them off and says, "Have fun singing!".  Instead of knee-jerking to let them know there is more to music than singing and going into a long explanation about Italian dominant 7th chords, say, "Thank you, we are going to be making some fabulous music, can you come back a minute or two before the end so the children can share with you?".
Make sure that your attitude is prepared also; "Choose your 'tude".  You have the power to make it a lousy day, and to crawl home feeling like a worm, or to have a little cry, pick yourself up, slap on some lip gloss, and sing "Let It Go" at fff!   
 
A friend once told me to think of teaching as a marathon:  The good stuff doesn't happen all at once. 
A moral of a race between a rabbit and a turtle:  Slow and steady wins the race.
Sometimes you just need to give it time.
 
 


2.  Balance

When I first started teaching I gave ALL my energy to the students. I quickly found I had no energy left for anything else. I still struggle with this as I really love what I do.  As my sister says, "Everything in moderation including moderation".   That is not to say I don't give my all every day, I do, just as there are moments I have to give 110%,.  But I also have had to learn to pace my energy levels for each class and not to jump/dance/move with the kids for every lesson when there are 6 classes all doing the same thing that day!  Although it is a fabulous workout and gets my workout out of the way, I just end up hot, sweaty, and tired by lunch!
I have taught for 24 years and in that time I have had some major life changes; cancer, 14 surgeries, moving from Maine to North Carolina, marriage, adopting from China, 6 more surgeries, knee issues, presenting at workshops and conferences, publishing my first and second books and now working on third and fourth.  Oh, and blogging.  All of these things were filled with many emotions and all of these were time consuming.  I didn't fall into a black hole in the sense they consumed my whole life, but I was able to have balance through most of these life events.
Teaching music is different from many other educational fields in that our jobs are often 24/7; music is pervasive. Whenever we go to a concert//listen to music/go shopping we are analyzing the music and looking to see if that ____ (book, bowl, ball, etc., fill in the blank) can be used in our classroom.  Most of us perform in an ensemble or as a soloist outside of school, and music is as much a part of our lives as breathing.
A teacher friend once said, "School is school and home is home".  Define in your mind where that line is drawn.  Try to NOT work on school outside of school.  I know... easier said than done. 
When I began this blog it was an extension of teaching music, but it's not school related. I happen to enjoy writing music and sharing lessons and ideas, so while it is music education related, it is not school related and it is something I enjoy greatly! This brings balance to my life.
I also exercise, hike, draw, sew, craft, bake, and ensure that my weekends and summers are not filled with school stuff; I have found I need summers and weekends "OFF".  That means while I enjoy children, I do not teach Sunday school at church or summer camps at my school.  I indulge in binge watching Orphan Black or Odd Mom Out, read books that are not about education, usually Dean Koontz or thrillers, travel, hike, watch movies, and enjoy my family. 
Find other things you enjoy and ways to become involved in those activities; recharge your batteries and leave some energy in reserve at the end of your teaching day so you can find your balance and be
.
Have a wonderful week!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

End of the Year; Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something TRUE

Yes, I know, the word is supposed to be blue, but for our end of the year purposes, it's going to be "true". 

As I write this, I have 5 days of school left - YAY!  And.. Nay.  I know what you must be thinking; are you crazy? Nuts? Over the edge looney?  No - I look forward to making music with the kiddos and although I am ready for summer break and all that means, I like where my classes are "at" now in their ability, skill level, and knowledge. I also remember well the four to six week re-learning and review process that happens at the beginning of each school year and the constant, "Remember quarter notes? Yes, we learned them last year".

So while I am excited for summer break, it has been several weeks of "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed and Something True."

1. Something Old

Activities/Games/Songs that are Favorites.  Break out the parachute for the Trepak activity that was a hit in December, or the Rattlin' Bog song they loved in March for St. Patty's Day.
Camp Songs - I always sing camp songs at the end of the school year and my students have really come to LOVE these. I have several already on the blog; check the right side tags and you will find "camp songs".  If you are looking for a more "formal" resource. I just put together a HUGE set (19!!) of these with music notation, projectable/printable lyric slides and directions and though I usually offer things for free, this was a MAJOR undertaking, so it is on my TpT store and is on sale here!

Review Games - Candy Land Games I made using donations of Candy Land (ask and ye shall receive!). I have six of these games and the kids love them!
Kaboom- I really need to make new ones but basically it is a cup with 4 beat rhythms written on popsicle sticks inside.  Four of the sticks have "Kaboom" written on them.
Hula Hoop Conducting - Elizabeth of caldwellorganizedchaos blog has a great post about how she uses these and I play in a very similar way.  I love the games you can play with hula hoops and this is a great review of playing unpitched percussion or Orff instruments.  Let the children take turns, too.
 

2.  Something New/Something Borrowed

Recently found a new resource/lesson/activity?  Borrowed a lesson or activity from another teacher (or from a blog.. hint hint)?  Want to test drive it?  Go for it!  Now is the time to see how you need to tweak it and where it might fit best into your year long plans for next year?  Is it a rhythm lesson but you have an idea for how to make it a form lesson - try it now, tweak, and jot down notes on how you need to further develop it.  I keep a file called, "Things I want to try".  It is old school- a manila folder where I print out or jot down ideas, lessons, songs, listening pieces I need to develop further. 
 

3.  Something True

While it is true that this time of year is typically filled with fun activities, be true and authentic; sometimes the songs that were "deep" are the ones they want to sing again. My oldest students have wanted to sing, "Give Light" which I blogged about in December in this post.  The song resonated with them, and while it is not a "fun" song, it honors those with more serious personalities.  My second graders have chosen to sing "This Land is Your Land" as one of their song choices on their last day..  Another more serious song, and not as light-hearted as  "Found a Peanut", but I was true to their choice. 
Hope you have a wonderful end and a great summer- check back, I'll be here! :)
 


 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Around the World - Musical Vacations

This is the final installment of "Musical Vacations" to finish out the school year.
 I just finished an Immigration Celebration unit with my second graders and do another unit on music around the world with my fourth grade students earlier in the school year.  With my second graders, who are oh so wiggly and squiggly, this has been the perfect unit to complete our time together!  I would highly recommend having a globe handy or projecting a world map to show the children where all these songs come from.

1.  Rattlin' Bog - Ireland

My students learn this in March for St. Patrick's Day and they love it.  They choose or create rhythms to play on drums, bodhran style, during the chorus.  Of course we add motions to each of the cumulative verses!
 

2.  Yesh Lanu Tayish - Israel

Another favorite shared by a fellow music teacher who has a heart for songs from other cultures! Thanks, Marilyn!

3.  Cuddly Koala - Australia

This is from my book, "Hands to Hands", available here. This one was sent by a lovely Australian friend, Susan!
 

4.  May There Always Be Sunshine - Russia

I am always amazed at how deeply this touches children, and this version is my favorite English version:

Others and Resources

There are several others we sing (so much music, so little time) including,
"Bow, Wow, Wow" (England), "Mexican Counting Song", "San Serafin del Monte"
 "When I First Came to This Land"., music available from Beth's Notes here.
"This Land is Your Land" by Woody Guthrie, and "America".
 
Beth's Notes site also has a HUGE compilation of songs from around the world including various national anthems.  This is a fantastic resource!