Sunday, July 31, 2016

Musical Moments to Start Class

My first music class this school year is in 14 days!  I have several things I use to start out my lessons.  Usually I develop a "routine" with each grade level.  Horrible word for some of us; routine.  It implies a sense of drudgery, same old, same old.  With young children, routine gives a sense of structure, reliability, and predictability. Kids like structure, reliability, and predictability.  Having said that, you don't need to keep the same routine all year long!

1.  Brain Dance by Anne Green Gilbert

Brain Dance is a series of 8 developmental movements all healthy humans use in the first years of life.  Research has shown these movements help to reorganize the central nervous system and increases blood and oxygen flow to the circulatory and respiratory systems.  All good things, right?  I have a sweet music teacher friend who uses this at the beginning of each class; students offer suggestions of (teacher approved) music and 2 students lead class in the following movements:

You can read more about Brain Dance here.

2.  Pass the Pen

Once students have learned instrument timbres, families, and textures of singing vs. instruments, etc. and have had experiences identifying instrument sounds, rhythms, etc. they are ready for this!  My students always enter to music; sometimes jazz, sometimes classical, sometimes African drumming, sometimes Billy Joel; you name it! I try to vary what they hear so they are hearing different kinds of music than what they normally hear (the less pop the better, in my humble opinion!).
When they enter, I have a blank whiteboard ready to go, the music playing, and I hand the first 4 students in the room a dry erase marker.  They have to write 1-2 words describing something specific about the music; no opinions like "good", "interesting", etc.  No judgments, only facts about what they are hearing.  I try to find music that has the same skill/topic/theme we worked on last class. If we just learned about a capella music, I will play Pentatonix, or if we just learned syncopated rhythms, I will play something with that, etc. 
Once a child has written something, they hand the pen to someone else who also writes something, maybe the dynamic level, or the word "soprano", etc. and has a seat. This way, everyone knows who has already had a turn (those seated) and who is waiting for a turn.  My older students really like this and it's a great way for them to be leading the beginning of class without me. 

3.  Body Percussion/Nines

As I already said above, I always have music playing when students entering. I really like John Feierabend's Keeping the Beat CD.  Thirty six short pieces of classical music with a strong beat perfect for many different activities! Available here from West Music. 

Using these pieces while students enter, students remain standing, T. claps 4 beat pattern, S. echo.  T. claps and patsches a 4 beat pattern, S. echo.  Continue adding one level of body percussion (clap, snap, patsch, stomp) at a time.  With older grades, eventually increase to 8 beat patterns.
If you're not familiar with percussionist/body dancer Keith Terry and his system of 9, you are in for some serious fun!  Here is a video to help you learn these patterns:
Here is a body percussion canon you can try to learn some of the patterns. Once you have learned it and explored these for yourself, teach your kiddos to perform it in canon!  Woo hoo! FUN stuff!! Once you have experienced these, have the students compose in small groups to create some body percussion using numbers!

4.  Creative Movement

In a recent post on Facebook, a member of the AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) page asked for activities for the start of music class.  There were many responses, one I have used for a long time was articulated so well by Joshua Block.  He so kindly gave me permission to include his ideas here!  He wrote, "These are songs with movement words I use when students are entering my room. It gives them a chance to build movement vocabulary, work out the wiggles, and hear some great music" and included a document that lists music, the kind of movement, and the source of the music.   Joshua explains "There are living movements that living creatures do like swoop and slither. There are also non-living movements that living creatures can't do while still being alive, such a explode and disintegrate. I think the reason for the distinction is that we have to approximate the non-living movements. I can actually swoop and slither, while I can only pretend to explode or disintegrate."  I love the definitions and the clarity this gives to the movements!

5.  Salami

One of my favorite singing games to begin to focus students in is simply called "Salami".  My kids love this one!  Using a solfege ladder or some other visual solfege display, leave only Sol, La, and Mi.  I sing to students:  If I sing sol la mi, do not sing it after me (S S S S S L M, S S S S S LM, rhythm titi ta, titi ta, titi titi titi ta). I then sing 4 beat patterns using Sol, La, and Mi. If I sing SLM at any time, they are not to echo me.  They get crazy silly and of course, you can make the patterns more complex each time to try to "catch" them.  Sometimes we play this Teacher vs. Students; put a T and an S on the board and if students echo back T gets a point, if Brad accidentally echoes the teacher and another student comments (Brad, you nitwit), T gets 5 million, six-hundred and ninety seven points and wins the game.  They get the idea!  If no one sings back, I usually stomp my foot and act discouraged and disappointed and give them a point. They LOVE to win against us!

6.  Knees a Knees a Pizza Pie

I teach Junior Kindergarten and Kinders. this one and blogged about it here.  Check it out.. they love it!

7.  Rhythm vs. Beat

Make two cards with "Rhythm" written on one side and "Beat" written on the other side. Laminate.  Put a rhythm card on the board and put on some music that will work with your rhythm and has a strong underlying beat.  Having practiced the displayed rhythm card, hold up one "Rhythm/Beat" card only, with "beat" side displayed.  Students keep the beat any way they choose; patsch, stomp, clap, snap; they decide.  You can ask for 1 level only (patsch) or 2 levels (patsch, clap, patsch, clap), or 3, etc.  Vary the complexity the more you play the game. After 16 beats or so, switch to rhythm so students can perform the displayed rhythm.  Continue switching back and forth! 
Yes, I asked you to make 2 cards; now, divide your class in 2, one for each "Rhythm/Beat" sign. You will hold one in each hand and flip them at different times; this way you will have one group keeping the beat and the other the rhythm.  FUN!

8.  Dance, Dance, Dance/Sing, Sing, Sing!

Teach each grade level a folk dance or a song of the month!  Dances like Sasha, Down, Down Baby, Sashay the Donut, Virginia Reel, etc.  Songs.. well.. pick your favorites!  SO many wonderful choices! The next month, teach a new one!  If you haven't explored the wonderful resources of the New England Dancing Masters, check them out here.
Here is the Noble Duke of York with a cute little group of little cuties:
 And Sasha with a group of older cuties:


Saturday, July 23, 2016

What's Your Name? Beginning of the School Year

Most of us music teacher peeps have between 300 and 1200 students we see in any given week/schedule/rotation.  That's a lot of Ashlyn's, Jack's, Shawanda's, Zeke's, and Bailey's to learn! 

Names are so personal and special; mine for instance, I changed at 16 from "Amy" to "Aimee".  It wasn't a big deal, I didn't go for something completely different, but had a grandfather who had taken the French spelling out of my mother's maiden name and so I, in my teenage-driven zeal for righteousness and justice, changed the spelling to the more French "Aimee".  I still very much like the uniqueness of the spelling.  I appreciate that in others names, too.  Our daughter's name is Caiya, and her name and spelling both have great meaning for her Dad and I. 

I have to make a confession, though.... I am TERRIBLE at learning names.  Bless all of you who so easily remember names; I am not one, and have never had an easy time with names.  So, what to do?
There are many techniques and technology applications that help us to learn students names. I know some music teacher friends who use ipads to take pictures of students and place the pictures in digital files in a seating arrangement, other teachers who have used apps that help them remember names, still others who use seating arrangements for each class with hard copies of hand written names. 

I typically allow students to choose where to sit, unless there is a need for me to interfere and change their choices.  For the first several classes of each new school year I have at least one name game or activity. 

So here are a few of the ones I have used in the past:

1.  Hey, Children, Who's in Town?

2.  Ickety Tickety

I learned this in college and loved it.  Students are in a circle facing the center. Everyone performs the chant and body percussion. One student walks into the center, says their name and does some kind of action.  They can twirl, jump, do karate kicks, etc. You will want to say, "No splits or pretend guns, etc." and also offer some examples of things to do. Sometimes the funniest things are the simpler ones; saying your name slowly and lowly can be very funny BECAUSE... they step back out of the circle then everyone steps in and copies the action and speaks the name the exact way it was spoken.  This can be very funny!  I don't recommend this below grade 2; it is hard for them to be singled out they are often too shy and self-conscious at this age.


3.  Up the Ladder

This is from Gameplan, Grade 3 I think, and my kids love this one!

Laura at Make Music Rock has this post with an extension game for Up the Ladder using drums as well as some other name games.

4.  Ultimate Camp Resource Name Games

This is truly the "ultimate" resource for name games.. holy cow!  Click here!

5.  Who Stole the Cookie

Yup, it's a classic, and classics have lasted so long for a reason!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Blog Carnival!!

Music Education Blog Carnival!!

The music education blog carnival is a monthly post that links to several new music education blog posts across the web.  These blog posts were compiled from the month of June and feature music teachers from many locales and specialties.   Thanks to everyone who wrote wonderful and insightful articles to be included this month!  Click the links below to see the full post about each topic. There are many activities and ideas to bookmark, pin, print, and give a try!

You can go back and read the posts from May at this link (Hosted by Linda Knupp Seamons at "Floating Down the River") and June at this link, hosted by David at Make Moments Matter.    Next months Blog Carnival will be hosted by Tamsyn at Teaching Children Music .  If you are a teacher/blogger and are interested in hosting the blog carnival in the future contact Rachel Tanenblatt


Music Education Freebies List from Mrs. King Rocks

Tracy King has done it again; a HUGE list of freebies available from Teachers Pay Teachers.  After each title there is a short, concise description of each freebie, 23 freebies in all!!!  The post is here.


New Ideas for Lower Elementary from Caldwell Organized Chaos

Elizabeth always has a plethora of ideas and activities on her blog and this post is about new ideas she used in her classroom this year that she "LOVED".  I really loved the rhythm magnet monsters and my kids have really loved using them!  The post is here.

Won't You Let the Birdies out from Jennifer at Yellow Brick Road

This is a lovely call and response song with an active game similar to Red Rover. A printable for students to create their own call and response song is included with the lesson and activities.  Click here.

Old Jeremiah from Beth's Music Notes

Though not technically a "teaching blog" like others, I frequently go to Beth's site to look for traditional folk songs from around the world.  I love how clearly and concisely she presents the songs.  Songs are always free, additional teaching materials are provided at a subscription price.  This call and response song is available here.

Differentiation Part II from Alisha at Alisha Gabriel

As educators we often hear about "differentiation" and from conversations I have had with many other music teachers it is one that is not easily defined or described for us as often our music making and learning is ensemble based.  This post is a continuation from a previous post  and Alisha demonstrates how to provide intentional differentiation strategies for students.  The post is here.

Singing Games

My contribution for the Blog Carnival is actually not a post from June (school was out May 23 for me and this summer has been a bit crazy).  This singing game collection post was from May and these are some of my favorite (and my students favorites) song and music games.  I hope you enjoy them and enjoy the next installment of the blog carnival.