Friday, May 17, 2019

Ending the School Year with Purposeful Fun

It's the end of the year and once again many of us are questioning HOW to end the school year.  Do we show videos or musicals? Do we do singing games? A composition or writing project? How to finish strong?

Much depends on the culture of your school and your students. Much also depends on you.
Where are you at with meeting the needs and behaviors of your students?
 I had a wonderful teacher friend many years ago encourage me to meet students where they are at. If your students come in bouncing off the walls crazy, it is going to be difficult and painful for all to attempt to immediately make them sit, be still, and quiet.
I have found it to be so much more enjoyable for all to spend the time meeting them where they are at (Seven Jumps dance always is my opening activity when classes are like this), then leading them down the path to where we need for them to be. Doing so is purposeful yet playful, and encourages relational teaching and builds community.
Enforcing immediate compliance without time to transition into your class is similar to a prison guard trying to re-establish control during a prison riot and can lead to you and the students feeling like this:
Upset, Overwhelmed, Stress, TiredCrazy, Irate, Angry, Mad, Upset, Person
Ugh.. or uh oh.. or grrr, right?

So, what to do?  Some use the following:

  • Practice Songs/Concepts Already Learned
  • Project Based Learning
  • Prepare Concepts/Skills/Sequences for Next Year
  • Active Music Making - Vocal or Instrumental or Both (Orff Pieces)
  • Show Video Musical with Writing/Drawing/Fill in the Blanks
  • Games/Fun

There are pros/cons to each one - some have more teacher prep, some leave the kids bored and disengaged at what is usually the craziest (and funnest, let's be honest) time of year, and others engage the students in a meaningful, purposeful, and memorable experience!

I choose to meet my students where they are at with playful, meaningful, purposeful fun!

The What:  

The Why: 

  • Purposeful - Review Concepts and Skills Previously Learned
  • Active, Engaging, and FUN!
  • Memorable
The Process:

  • Allow several class periods to teach songs (about 20-25 campfire songs/games/activities total).  
  • Last day of music with each class we have a campfire sing along. I project a campfire from youtube (lots out there like the one below):

  • Build a campfire using tissue paper folded and tucked into black plastic plant pots from Dollar Tree and flickering tea lights.  The logs are made out of construction paper and are taped into place around the plastic pots.  The sticks each have a white label sticker with the name of a camp song printed on it. Each student picks a stick one at a time and that is the song we sing. 
  • Image may contain: flower and plantNo photo description available.Image may contain: people sitting
My students LOVE this so very much and it makes our last music together truly special and memorable. When I announce we are getting ready for campsongs they are so excited and teach me new ones they may have learned at camp last summer!
No matter what you are doing with your students, I hope you are having fun!

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Favorite NEW Games

I do love a good game!  I also love singing games and clapping games, as you can see from my books on the left! Check out the newest one, Sing a Song Play a Game: Singing Games from Around the World; there are 71 singing games in the collection! Shameless plug. :)
Play Stone, Colorful, Smilies, Funny
I love the giggles and fun and I value the "work" on rhythm, beat, and singing! SO many good music skills and content to be learned with games!
These are some new favorites of my students, hope you enjoy them also.

1.  Pass the Beat

In action:

2.  Pass the Rhythm

You can see this one in action here:

3. Numbers Game

This is SO fun - first time after I played it the kids BEGGED to play it again- now when I see them in the halls they ask if we are going to play it again!

Hope you enjoy some of these - perfect for this crazy time of year!


Thursday, May 2, 2019

Lemonade, Crunchy Ice Twice as Nice

If you have been on my blog for any length of time, you know my love of clapping and singing games. I liked them so much that I wrote two books of clapping games and one book that just came out about singing games! See on the left side or go to to see all of my books.
This is a natural pairing - two songs with Lemonade in the title and therefore, "twice as nice". This works beautifully when paired together!  Summer is almost here and it's soon to be time for lemonade stands and the very expensive lemonade at fairs and festivals.
This is a perfect mixer dance/game/activity and will keep your kiddos singing into the end of the school year.

Clap Partner - Clap partners hands
Flip Clap R - Right hand palm toward floor, left hand palm up. Clap right hand down on partners upturned palm.
Flip Clap L - Left hand palm toward floor, right hand palm up. Clap left hand down on partners upturned palm.

Twist dance down - Twist hips one way and upper body the other way, reverse, back and forth down towards the floor.


Thursday, April 25, 2019

Up, Down, and Around

I am a gardener. Like many of my ancestors, I enjoy growing things. My grandmother had an amazing garden and she and I were often side by side in the summer picking wild blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, and even strawberries. I grew up on my parents dairy farm, which was handed down from my Dad's father - I never knew Grampie well as he died when I was 5, but Gram, oh yes, and she was lively and fun and loved her 16 grandchildren fiercely!  Gram loved to make homemade bread (I still use her recipe and her bread bowl) and also loved to make and give homemade jam and jelly to everyone at Christmas. So we picked a LOT of berries. I often think of her with her paper towel folded and pinned to her forehead so the sweat wouldn't run in her eyes.
I love to grow flowers, especially irises, which are blooming like crazy right now here in NC! I must have 200 blooms in my yard this year!

 I also have a small raised bed in which I grow lettuce, spinach, radishes, yard long green beans, tomatoes, basil, and cukes!
Speaking of growing...
This book is so cute, and the text fits so nicely into a 6/8 rhythm. I just did a Facebook video yesterday on how I use this book - check it out @o for tuna orff
The text of the book is all about how vegetables grow - "corn grows up, carrots grow down, cucumbers twine around and around...". I begin by using a slide whistle and isolate body parts- "Move only your arm" or, "Move only your leg" and play the slide whistle moving it up and down in various ways. Students respond by moving arm, leg, head, upper body, etc. Then I ask about vegetables students like to eat and the responses are always interesting!  I ask how various veggies grow- up, or down, and what things twine around and that is where students usually get stumped. I explain what that means, and show examples from the book. Then we discuss various ways of moving our bodies, "around and around". It might be moving our arms in a circle, or turning bodies around in a circle, or it might mean moving hands around one another in front of bodies.  Then I read the book and sing this song after every "around and around" in the book. Students respond by moving up, down, or around.  When I first wrote the song, I used it with a rhythm activity with first and second grade, but I usually use this with K/Grade 1 now.
Then we break out the glockenspiels.  I cut out a little tree canopy (leaves) and use masking tape to adhere these by the small bars. I use one for each glockenspiel we will be using.

This was shared on a facebook group one time and I LOVE how this connection helps students to understand up and down.  I demonstrate holding the glockenspiel like a tree with the leaves on the top and then I sing the song again but add pauses after up and down to play glissandi up or down. For "round and round.." in the song I ask students how I can play that part and they always have good suggestions (usually moving up and down quickly).  Then it is students turn and so we read the book again and during the song we add the glockenspiel part.

Another song I use with this farm theme is "That's the Life of a Farmer" by Lynn Kleiner. It is from her farm book - so fun for exploring unpitched percussion timbres!

Another similar activity can be paired with Up Up Down by Robert Munsch.
And then use Mortimer with first graders -

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Glow in the Dark Music Class (Party)

For the month of March, my students participated in a Rhythm Challenge. Each grade level first through fourth grade (my highest grade) competed against other classes in their grade level and were told there was a "surprise prize" at the end for the winning class. Students read and played rhythm cards appropriate to their level at the beginning of each class along to a rap track. Before reading each card, I would say in rhythm, "Ready go". If one or two mistakes were made on a card, I called it an oops and a forgiveness. If three or more mistakes were heard, I called time and that was the high score for the day. If anyone "fussed" at another student for making a mistake (long chat about how everyone makes mistakes) the class would lose 30 seconds from their score.  Thankfully no one lost time off their score. Top score was 2 minutes, 30 seconds. I kept track on the board each week and after 4 weeks or 4 scores (whichever came first) we had winners.  Then, the best part- the Surprise Prize - everyone was having a Glow in the Dark Music Party during their next music class! The winners would have the Party for the whole class and the others for half their class (half the class was regular music but would have games and other fun activities we don't do very often). It was a HUGE hit!  I posted a video yesterday on my facebook page - @o for tuna orff, and show the setup and talk about activities.
This would be a PERFECT end of the year music party!
Then I realized I needed to make it a blog post! It truly has been one of the highlights of my year and while it takes some prep, is SO worth it!! I even did the Clap Clap song by the Klaxons with my youngest student so they could experience some of the fun. Of course, everyone loved getting to take a glow stick home with them! If you would like a pdf of this, please send me an email at
Happy Glowing!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Songs to Teach Sixteenths

I have been working on sixteenth notes with my third and fourth graders (my top grade is fourth) and realized I needed to finish a collection I began last year. Time got away from me but now it is finally finished. There are singing games, activities, and even a canon. This is not a comprehensive list of songs with sixteenth notes, simply my favorite ones and ones I want to develop further. If you would like the full 30 page pdf with 26 songs (!!!) shoot me an email asking for the collection at

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Australian Ballyhoo

I posted a few weeks ago about Carnival of the Animals and a HUGE 23 page pdf you can get for free with many activities to correspond with various pieces from Camille Saint-Saens famous collection.
I realized when writing the activities that I wanted a song about Kangaroos and even reached out to some friends in Australia and New Zealand and found a couple songs but these were more commercially available (chord changes, lots of words, etc.) and not "elemental".  They were ones that were cute but lacked content which is a bit of a pet peeve with me as I strive toward content over cuteness.  I was looking for songs to reinforce various concepts used with first and second graders, which is where most music teachers "place" Carnival of the Animals. So... you know me; I had to write one.
Image result for image kangaroo

First, let's discuss one of my favorite words, "ballyhoo".
Miriam Webster definition:

I use the third one in talking with kids about "ballyhoo". 
In the song below, you will notice * next to some words. Have children brainstorm a list of animals from Australia. Sing the song again, this time replacing the * animal names with some of the ones from the brainstormed list.

You can certainly add so much to this song! We played it as a game, everyone standing in a circle, one player on the outside of the circle. This outside player is the kangaroo and has to jump (both feet together) around the outside of the circle. On "kookaburra", "wombat" and "wallaby", this player tags three other players and they jump together around the circle. Begin again, this time the "kangaroo" will not choose any players but the 3 who just joined (kookaburra, wombat, and wallaby) will each choose 3 new players to join, etc.  Pretty soon everyone is jumping around the room and you will have a tired bunch of kiddos ready for a quieter activity.
You are welcome. :)