Monday, December 5, 2016

Jingle All the Way..

Jingle Bells.... I LOVE this song, although by the end of December I am pretty tired of it, but the kids love it and it's great for all children as it is a WINTER song, NOT a Christmas one! 

I begin by teaching the song, although most of my students already know it, but there are a few who don't. Ask them if the song is a winter song or a Christmas song.  You know what they are going to say, right?  Christmas, of course!  Well, boys and girls, what makes it a Christmas song?  Does it mention reindeer, presents, Jesus, Santa, gifts, birthday?  No?  Well, what kind of song is it? 
Then it's time for a little history lesson and a few pictures about "one horse open sleighs" and "jingle bells".

I posted about Jingle Bells a few years ago but just updated the post and changed a few things.  Check out that post here, it's called "Jingle What"

This is one of my favorite activities from that post:

Unpitched Percussion Timbre Tantrum: 

Students divided into four groups. I place four hula hoops on the floor with drums inside one, rhythm sticks in another, metals in another and shakers in another. 
Drums play rhythm of "jingle bells"
Metals (break out the jingle bells) for 2nd "jingle bells"
Woods on "jingle all the"
Shakers for "way".  (teach how to shake through 4 beats on "way")

 On "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh" everyone plays 8 beats together.
Back to drums, metals, woods, then shakers, then everyone plays together again for the final 8 beats of "B".



Mrs. Q's blog has a simple dance for your younger students here.
Amy Abbot has an awesome parachute dance here.
Rob Amchin's Jingle Bell Dance:
Here are a few more my students enjoy!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nutty About the Nutcracker

Oh, Nutcracker, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways..
Seriously, better than chocolate. Inner music nerd speaking to self, "There is something so thrilling about having a class recognize the music from the Nutcracker!". 
My students are in the midst of rehearsals for 3 holiday concerts; yes, 3!  My junior kindergarten and kindergarten students have a short one, followed by classroom holiday parties (so smart), then first and second graders have one at 9 AM on the 14th, third and fourth graders at 1 PM same day.  Fun, fnu, nuf!  Nope, that's not a misspelling, that's how I feel by the end of the day! 

While we are practicing for concerts, I am doing a wee bit of Nutcracker with our time remaining in each music class.  I especially love Trepak, the Russian dance.  It's so quick, lively, and exciting. 

1.  Trepak Body Percussion and Bucket Drumming (focus on form and beat)

I begin by performing this for the students (listen to the music and you will understand WHEN to do the movements).  The sequence happens during the A Section  and will be repeated for a total of 4 times.  I ask the students to notice everything I am doing.

Have them turn and talk.  This is such an underrated and underused teaching tool. I love turn and talk.  They literally turn to a neighbor and talk about their observations in "kid speak".  I find this to be so helpful.  What did they hear/see?  How many times did it happen?  Was it a pattern or random? 

They quickly discover a repeating pattern, and some of my fourth graders will also notice there was no introduction (!).  I have the students perform the movements and then listen to the next section- more turn and talk, etc. until we discover the B section and then we perform the following movements:

Patsch:  Alternate patting knees for 8 beats
Clap:  Clap own hands for 8 beats
Clap Sides:  Hands out at sides, clap side neighbors (on each side) hands, 8 beats.
Combo:  To half note count: Pat, clap (own), clap (sides), clap (own). Four movements total. 
The next parts I teach by imitation to the "interlude" or "C" section; whole notes count:  Soldier with one arm going straight up, then other arm, then half note count; arm straight up, switch, then quarter note count right arm, left arm, right arm, left arm. 
Back to the A Section for 2 patterns, then clap the beat and continue through the rallentando at the end! 
Now you're ready to transfer that to bucket drums:
You can find the previous post AND a video here.

2.  Composition and Arranging

One thing I love about the Nutcracker is the timeless appeal it has to every age.  The Nutcracker is so deliciously recognizable and I love the various arrangements out there.  Students enjoy hearing and seeing it performed so differently and it is a wonderful jumping off point to talk about composers and arrangers.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy on Glass Harp

Same piece, a capella with Pentatonix

Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Overture

Chinese Dance (I particularly love their use of the traditional Lion Dance seen at Chinese New Year)

3.  Another Trepak lesson:

Using pretend brushes, paints, and a visit to a "museum" children use movement to create statues and paintings with this idea from a previous post.  Uses the book, "Ain't Gonna Paint No More".

4.  Paper Plate and Cup Routines to "March".

Check out youtube, there are many variations!  I think Artie Almeida was one of the first (or THE first) to develop this idea and it is fabulous and fun!!
You're going to LOVE this one! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Why I Teach Music Blog Hop Giveaway Winners!

Last week an amazing group of music teacher bloggers shared the things that motivate and inspire us as music teachers. We invited you to share your #whyiteachmusic stories as well. I was inspired by your responses and loved finding that many of you didn't set out to teach the wee ones but rather seemed to fall in love with their excitement and joy somewhere along the way. I hope you will take the time to read the other blog posts and the comments sometime this week. I think you will be inspired as well; it's been the perfect way to get ready for Thanksgiving here in the US! I will announce the giveaway winners at the end of this post, but first I want to share some of my favorite comments shared by all of YOU about why we do what we do:

1. "I can't believe I get paid to sing, dance, and play games all day!

 2. "I also teach music so I can continue to live out my childhood in the experiences I have with my students in the classroom. It definitely keeps me young and fuels my creative side!"

3. "On my hardest, most frustrating days, I close my door and focus on those amazing little kids in front of me. Their smiles, laughter, wonder, and silliness feed my soul in a way nothing else does!"

OH, I couldn't agree more!! There were so many more wonderful posts! Thank you everyone for sharing your words of inspiration. I am smiling inside and out! Here is a picture of all the giveaway items!! Check it out!!!

On to the winners! The winner of my (insert prize here) is (drumroll please) CHRISTY GIBSON!! Here are the other blogs involved in the blog hop:

There were seven other winners too! If you see your name below, check your email (the one you used to enter) for a message about your prize! Music with Mrs. Tanenblatt : Dan Leopold Floating Down the River (Linda): Jenny Trites Sing to Kids (Jennifer): Becca Fiscus Sing Play Creatively (Sandra): Brooke Chamberlain Music Teaching and Parenting (Maria): Blanca InezSuzanne Fleischmann Bishop Sally's Sea of Songs: Erin Scharman Middelhoven Organized Chaos (Elizabeth): Michaela Gibbons

  I hope you have found some fresh energy to keep you motivated through the busy holiday season and into the new year. I'm so grateful to have this community of music educators to support and encourage one another!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Why I Teach Music Blog Hop and Giveaway

I am in a Facebook group with fellow music teacher bloggers.  Many of us are stressed right now, for many reasons, so we want to encourage everyone and to spread a few warm fuzzies along the way.

If you would have told me 24 years ago that I would be teaching elementary music I would have laughed you off the planet!  NO WAY was I going to teach, but if I had to, I would teach high school as it was more sophisticated and complex.  I was an opera major, with little to no real interest in teaching but changed my major to music education because my parents really wanted me to have a safety net in case performing didn't work out.  I only had one elementary methods class in college and it was terrible.  When I arranged my student teaching I chose 12 weeks with high school and middle school, although I knew middle school was not my age preference, I had to teach them as it was a package deal with the high school.  I then went to the K-3 school and taught 4 weeks with the wee ones and absolutely fell in love with their genuine affection, excitement, and joy.  As I  worked with them I began to realize how much I loved working with the younger children and how I became a different person in front of them; I was funny, and loved hearing their giggles and seeing their joy at playing shakers, hand drums, Orff instruments, and triangles.  Everything was a new experience to them and I loved hearing their sweet voices and encouraging them to reach for higher levels of musical understandings and develop true musicianship. I never looked back, and only applied for elementary school positions and have now been teaching 24 years!
That is what keeps me going; seeing/hearing/enjoying THEIR giggles, joy, and excitement while learning about instrument families, Orff instruments, folk music, dancing, the Piano Guys, Beethoven, and everything in between.  I also love their lovely, innocent, and sweet (most of the time) voices and seeing them develop from 4 year olds to 10-11 year olds and beyond, knowing I planted seeds and roots for their middle and high school teachers.

As I wrote before, I'm teaming up with some other music education bloggers to spread the love this week, and I'd love for you to become part of the conversation! Read on...
Not only is our country going through a stressful season, but many of us are stressed as we enter our busiest time of year with holiday concerts and performances fast approaching!  We want to encourage music teachers to remember why we do what we do. To sweeten the pot, we're hosting a giveaway too,  chock full of goodies!
You can enter the giveaway (and help spread the love) two ways: commenting on our blog posts (links in the giveaway below) all week- there will be one or two of us posting each day- and sharing your own inspiration on social media with the hashtag #whyiteachmusic. Don't forget to include a link to this blog post so others can enter the giveaway too! You can share every day until Monday 11/21 and earn more entries (and spread more positivity)!
Each of us is giving away something different, so there will be plenty of winners! My prize is a FREE copy of my book, Hands to Hands, Too!  Hand Clapping Songs and Games from the USA and Canada.
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Give Light

Our Holiday Concerts (I have 3 of them) this year are all a play on our school theme of "Reach for the Stars".  My older students concerts are called, "Songs of Night, Songs of Light".  In addition to a couple songs I wrote, and songs about candles, stars, and moons, we are also singing "Silver Moon Boat", "Oh Watch the Stars" and "This Little Light of Mine".  As I was completing the concert line up I found a very special song called "Give Light". You know how you find those songs you know are going to resonate in a very deep way with your kiddos?  I LOVE this song, it is probably my new favorite. Especially for this moment in time.

Our country is broken, divided, hurting.  Some would say we are having "growing pains" and others would describe it as birthing pains.  Any way we can describe it, yesterday, 11.9, felt oddly similar to 9.11.  Whatever your thoughts, feelings, and political affiliations, we can all certainly admit how fractured our country feels.    I recently posted this on my facebook account:
I. Can. Choose. I can choose to be offended by others who have different beliefs, opinions, political parties, and values. I choose faith, even when my faith in my fellow Americans, and in humanity, is at an all time low. I choose love, kindness, and the strength to speak out against bigotry, hatred, and devaluation. I choose to get on my knees and pray for all of us; red, blue, green and all in between. I choose to advocate for the millions of orphans in the world who are lonely and in need of families. I choose to celebrate our freedoms and not live in fear. I choose God, and the one nation under it. I choose to stand up and speak out. I choose. Do you?

You may agree, you may disagree. It's OK, we can agree to disagree and to move forward.  The song, Give Light, calls us to come together, to love one another, to teach peace and to give light to one another so "people will find the way". It has become a powerful illustration of just what can happen with a little light overcoming a whole lot of darkness.   It is not political, but the words were inspired by a fellow North Carolina freedom fighter named Ella Baker. 

When I found the song, I decided to send an email to the group that had recorded it (found them on youtube).  They were incredibly kind and told me story after story about how the song had been used by individuals all over the world fighting for personal and political freedoms.  The song here is presented with permission, c. 1996, words and music by Greg Artzner & Terry Leonino.
The final verse we changed after Greg shared a story with me about a widow wanting to use the song at her husbands funeral.  He was an organ donor, and so the final verse is "give life".
 We are singing it a capella to begin, then adding guitar.  We also added motions for each verse.
My students BEG to sing this and it will be a song I will use often, especially in the darkness, when a little light is needed.
If you would like a better copy, please email me at

And here is a group of fourth grade students singing Give Light. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Song and Clapping Game!

Many of you may know this old camp song favorite, Flea Fly Mosquito.  At my session this past weekend at AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) I showed how this can be used in a few different ways.
This is from my latest book, Hands to Hands Too, Hand Clapping Songs and Games from the USA and Canada. Available from Beatin' Path Publications at

1.  Teach chant/song teacher is the leader, students are "all". 
2.  Teach clapping game at a slow tempo, with chant/song.
3.  Perform with partners.
4.  Divide class; half or the partner groups are "leaders", others are "all".
5.  Perform, then switch so other half of class becomes the leaders.
6.  Challenge time; one partner from each pair is "leader" the other partner is "all".
SO much fun!!!
Cross Clap – Cross hands and clap partners hands.
Spray – Pretend to hold can of bug spray and spray right to left.
Dead Bug – Back on the floor, arms and legs straight up in the air, a la “dead bug”.
Teacher Tip:  Try this one over and over, faster, slower, high voice, low voice, etc.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Favorite things at conference

I love conference; seeing people i only see once a year, meeting new friends and having amazing conversations with people who live in the world i do, and therefore "get" me, and seeing some of the new products and manipulatives and how people use things.
Some of my favorite things:

1.  Bucket Drum Heads

If you like bucket drums, or if you are short on storage space or the funds to buy tubanos, here is the perfect alternative!!! It is a drumhead that fits on buckets!!!

2. Flat Headed Wooden Rainstick

If you love rainsticks and want one that has an extremely looooong sound (!!) with an incredible sound, this is it! I was really amazed at the length of sound. And, i really love the two flat heads; the rainstick can stand on either end. 

 3.  Multi-student Cajon