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!