Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Adaptive Recorders with 3D printers!

Adaptive Recorders!  Have you, like me, ever had a student had great difficulty with playing recorder due to physical limitations such as missing digits or small hands?  I wish this product had been available for them but luckily, it will be for us now!

I met Valerie at the  AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) National Conference in New Jersey a few months ago.   Several years ago a friend of hers added keys to adapt a soprano recorder for her to play. 
 She was so inspired by how this helped her to play the full range of the instrument that she and design engineers at Makers4Good began to tinker with innovative key designs. 
 Now here’s the fun part- they will be cost-effective and help students with missing or partial fingers,
inadequate finger strength, or small hands.  They are testing prototypes with 3D printers and hope to make their project files available to the public. 
How cool!!! I love technology, and I love that there is a company ready to adapt and customize parts for ALL students to be able to play recorders!  Thank you, Makers4Good!  Their site is and can also be seen on

Friday, February 10, 2017

Will You Be My Valentine?

These are a couple of favorite "Valentine" activities to use in the music classroom. 

1.  Tweet Hearts

This is a lesson from Thom Borden. 
Click here for the lesson.  He uses laminated hearts but I found these lovely foam hearts at Dollar Tree a couple years ago. Here is the book information, from

2.  A Tisket a Tasket

My third graders have a big jazz unit that coordinates with their study on Southern States; our high school jazz band comes to talk about the evolution of jazz and we enjoy several activities in the music classroom singing African-American songs like "Head and Shoulders, Baby 1, 2, 3" and learning to scat!  They love it, and we learn about Ella, Duke, and Satchmo.  I love playing the song, "A Tisket a Tasket" with Ella Fitzgerald singing and showing the book of the same title.
Available here from Amazon. 
Once we read/sing the book, we play the game:
Slight lyric change:  A tisket, a tasket, a green and yellow basket. I wrote a letter to my FRIEND...
Players sit in a circle on floor. Inside circle place a number of instruments; Orff instruments set up in pentatonic, or unpitched percussion, etc. One player walks around outside of circle holding letters (envelopes with a four beat rhythm inside although you could have a solfege pattern written on each one or any concept you are currently working on that students need to demonstrate). At end of song the player drops one letter behind another player in the circle and is chased by the player who has the letter back to their place in circle.  Player opens letter and plays the rhythm pattern on one ofthe instruments inside circle. Play continues, letters all in instrument players hands as they walk around the circle to drop a letter to a new friend..

3.  Other posts:

Click here to see previous posts on Valentines ideas:


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sixteenth Notes

It seems to me that once we turn the corner of January, I start getting itchy feet knowing I don't have long with the students.  January moves along and then all of a sudden it seems we are thrown into February with African American/Black History Month, March is crazy due to Spring Break, the April arrives and we have 7 weeks of school left!  Yikes! 
For some reason, I always seem to teach/re-teach/review sixteenth note notation beginning in late January/early February. 
There are SO many wonderful pieces of music to use with the wonderfully fun sixteenths!
Here are several of my favorites:

1.  Chicken on a Fencepost - my kids can't get enough of this and the game is so fun!! 

 2.  Woodchuck 

 Another fun one with lots of tongue-twisted excitement!  Transfer each line of ostinato to an upitched percussion instrument - wood only, ha!


3.  Hole in the Bottom of the Sea

Classics are classics for a reason!  This one is very exciting when sung at a breakneck tempo!

4.  Old Brass Wagon

I posted on this before using an improvisation lesson for recorders here.

5.  Ding Dong Diggidiggidong

I love this one, and the kids do, also!  Available here from Beth's Music Notes:

6.  Kookaburra

This is a lovely canon from Australia. The Kookaburra is a bird that makes a very funny sound!


Friday, January 13, 2017

Stretchy Band Activities

Oh Stretchy Band, oh Stretchy Band, what to do with thee?

It is funny how different things influence our teaching and blogging (not to mention personal lives).  A short while ago the AOSA FB page, someone asked what to do with their stretchy band. I had already begun to write about how to use the stretchy band in the music room and with Christmas and Chinese New Year (see post below) I am finally getting around to finishing this post!
Many teachers I know have a stretchy band and wonder what to do with them. If you don't have one or find the ones with big tubing inside uncomfortable, make one.. or if you're like me, make several!  Get ready- pantyhose time!
Here's a video tutorial I made on how to make stretchy bands.  Best as a summertime project. :)
A couple of my bands:

2.22.17 Update! Another fabulous idea from Rob Amchin -

Stretchy Band Song

This simple and cute song includes "bounce to the beat", "up, down", in, out" and is very simple for your younger players. I love the cute accents of the children singing!

Rob Amchin - Color Pitch Matching Game

Perfect pitch matching activity! If you have a band like mine (not colorblocked) have students tie or wrap on colored scarves in front of where they are sitting.

Stretchy with Nutcracker March

Artie Almeida.  Not much more needs to be said. :)

Les Saluts Dance

While not typically a "stretchy band" dance, simple folk dances like this are perfect for stretchy bands.  This is a lovely folk dance, perfect for younger grades and I love the fermata point as it creates a wonderfully magical moment for students to listen keenly to when the music begins again.


The Waves - Lynn Kleiner

My kindies and first graders LOVE this song and the fermata again makes this SO much fun. Using the stretchy in a circle, the waves go rolling all about - lift and lower one hand at a time to create waves.  The waves  go up, the waves go down, in and out (pull as far back as you can and walk backwards slooowly). SO fun! This is from Lynn's book, "Sounds of the Sea".  The song is below- different activity, but you'll hear how lovely it is!

Classroom Divider

I often use the band as a visual separator in the classroom. When I put instruments out on the floor for an activity (and I want them to stay in a particular setup) I place the band on the floor to separate this space from the “regular classroom”.  Especially effective with younger musicians, this helps them to know when it is appropriate to play (when teacher instructs them to “cross the line” (although I always have them go around).

Illustrating Tritonic SLM Melodies OR Show Melodic Direction

  • Holding the band in a circle, T. calls out 4 beat melody using SLM, students echo and show Sol by holding stretchy at chest level, La overhead, and Mi in front of belly button.
  • Using a known song, students visually demonstrate melodic direction.

Stretchy Band Assessment

This post from a while ago has some ideas for how to assess students using stretchy bands.
Hope you found some new ideas or revisited some old ones.  Happy January! Stay warm.


Friday, December 30, 2016

Cock a Doodle Do! Chinese New Year Welcomes the Year of the Rooster!

 I have several posts about Chinese New Year (CNY) you can find on the right side scroll bar or you can find them all here.

The Year of the Rooster begins January 28, 2017 .  Asian countries follow the Lunar Calendar, hence the changing date each year of CNY!

Chinese New Year, also known as Asian New Year, Lunar New Year, and the Asian Spring Festival, lasts for 15 days and is the biggest holiday celebrated in China and most Asian countries.  Families celebrate by hanging special banners, eating special foods, lighting firecrackers, and giving money away in special red envelopes.  Typically, children have most of the month off of school, as do most workers!  Many families travel great distances to celebrate with extended family.
Our daughter was adopted from China and we therefore are an Asian-American family who celebrates CNY in many ways!  My daughter also dances in a Chinese Dance Troupe with CNY being our busiest performance season.
Here are many ways you can introduce and celebrate CNY and Chinese music in your classroom!

1.  The Story of Nian 

This is a short (3 minutes) video that tells the story of the mythical Nian and about some of the traditions of Chinese New Year. 

2.  Shadow Puppet video of How the Chinese Zodiac was named.

Another short video (2:42) of how the Chinese Zodiac came to be in the order it is.  I love this one for its brevity and shadow puppets (very traditional Chinese art form).

3.  The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine
ISBN-13: 978-0525420682, available here from

1. Prepare movement having students walk to a drum beat, when music stops, they freeze.  Add running movement as eighth notes are played on temple blocks.  Add float or glide when  chimes or  gongs are played, etc.

Runaway Wok Music:

After each singing about wok going to rich/poor man’s house, play a different piece of music to which students respond by walking, running, skipping, galloping, floating, marching, etc. You will need 8 pieces of music.  Tell the students this is how the the wok if moving to the next house (change the words of the story after each movement time, “The wok galloped down the road the poor man’s house”, or, “The wok danced down the road to the poor man’s house”, etc.
Try to use pieces that are Chinese or played on Chinese instruments.

Suggested pieces: (click on names of pieces to be directed to youtube links)
1.   Sneaking/Creeping:  
Pizzicato Polka Op. 234 (played on Chinese instruments)
2.  Gallop:  Horse Racing
3.  Sliding/Skating: 
Kangding Love Song
4.  Floating/Gliding: 
Moon Reflects on Erquan Pond
5.  Slow Spin/Float:  Hammock Hanging Between Betel Trees
6.  Float:  Tibetan Bowls
7.  March:
Gong Xi Gong Xi
8.  Dance:
Goddess Choo Choo
Read story, play musical selection after each “Skippity hoppity ho” is sung. Play for about one minute, students move the way they thing music sounds (offer suggestions), when music is stopped the return to starting places.
Continue reading/singing/moving throughout the book.

4.  New Year Song, Chinese New Year Song (in Mandarin):


Pronunciation Guide:


·        Teach melody with text.

·        Add “sweep” movement every two beats; pretend to hold broom, sweep  side to side, transfer to bass and metallophone instruments, add snaps, transfer to glockenspiels, claps for TB (Temple Blocks).

·        Perform introduction with basses and soprano recorder solo or small ensemble playing melody.

·        Add “B” section with unpitched percussion. 

·        Develop suggestions for performance.

Teacher Tip

This is a great piece to break out the gongs and metals.  Noisier the better; firecrackers are lit at Chinese New Year to scare away the monster, Nian!  Also consider using ribbon streamers and having some students use scarves or dance fans (find on ebay; look for Chinese dance fans or belly dance fans) to create a New Year Lion/Dragon dance. 
Want to go the next step and make a Chinese dragon/lion? 

5.  Zodiac Cards to create word chains, work with UPP, meter work, or alternate "B" section to song above.
Musical Magic has a fabulous set FREE on TpT, in color, with eighth notes and quarter notes printed on cards to go with the names of the zodiac!  Yes, every zodiac animal works as quarters/eighths!  Love when that happens!
These Chinese Zodiac Cards are a free download and don't have eighth and quarter notes listed.  These I would use with my second or third graders as it is a great way for them to determine division of beat.  Once they had chosen 4 and finalized order, I would add a repeat sign and have them write out their order with eighths/quarters on dry erase boards.  Then we could play around with saying, playing, singing, and creating! 
 HAVE FUN!! Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year)!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Jingle Bell Rock Bucket Drumming Routine

I have been sick for 3 very long days (tummy bug) and am finally feeling better. Finally!!!
I had my first of three concerts this morning and it went beautifully, of course with 4, 5, and 6 year olds something always happens that makes me giggle, and today was no exception. I introduced one piece and the kids started saying, "yes", "I LOVE that one", "ME TOO", etc.  The crowd died laughing and truthfully, so did I... it was soooo funny!! :)

Having been sick for most of this week, I was ready to do something fun with my third graders today after our practice and they loved the Trepak Bucket Drum Routine from here. So, I knew I had to make another one to go with one of the pieces we are practicing for the concert!  Jingle Bell Rock is one of their favorites, and my daughter is in third grade and loves to listen to this all year long!
Here is the bucket drum routine:
Perform in a circle, one bucket drum per student or two students sharing in concentric circles, inner circle facing out and they will pass left while outside circle passes to the right.

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!
A Section for the first one - concentric circles, partners facing each other. Sashay (or slide if you prefer that word) right for 16 beats, sashay left for 16 beats back to partner.
B Section: