Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Back to School!

I am back from Finland and the International Music Village! What an amazing experience!  I toured around Helsinki for 4 days before the Music Village began and then hopped on a bus for 4 hours with music teachers from Russia, Croatia, Finland, Georgia, Spain, Italy, Singapore, Australia, Poland, Austria, and many other countries.  The accents and languages were so fun to listen to and the enthusiasm and energy was infectious.  Then we began making music, dancing, and singing together and it so difficult to describe the joy, excitement, and thrill of the experiences I had!  Here is a picture of our wonderful group from all over the world!

This is my last week of summer break and I am so glad I have this time to begin to process the experience!  I am at school a little this week to get my room ready and begin the process of everything "back to school". 
Plans?  The first couple of weeks I have several things I do - especially name games and songs!  For some reason, I have a difficult time remembering names, which is a little tricky for us music teachers who usually have between 300-1000 students names to remember!  So, for me, I need to remember all the returning students and learn the new children's names!  Last year I posted the "Ultimate List" of name games and songs.  Check it out here!
Hope you have a great start to the school year!  Be sure to follow the blog on facebook - @ofortunaorff where I post videos and extras!  
Happy beginning of school!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Orff?

A recent post on Facebook asked, "Why Orff"?

They were not only asking why people choose or use Orff Schulwerk but also wanted to know why teachers identify as "Orff/Kodaly/Gordon/Dalcroze/Music Learning Theory/Feierabend" specialists.

Part One of this I wrote last year:  Check it out here. 

Find Your Tribe

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard, Margaret Mead
I think it is basic human psychology to identify with a group of like-minded people.  When you find your "tribe", there is a sense of belonging, kinship, and sense of community.  Add in the language that is specific not only to teaching music, but the language of the approach or methodology and the kinship/community/friendship/ support/connection is powerful as we see not only how our students are impacted, but how we are impacted professionally and personally.  Some of my deepest and most impactful friendships are with other music teachers who live and teach in other states. We might only see each other once a year at the Orff National Conference.  These are my "go to" people; I highly respect them professionally and enjoy their impact not only on music education and the Orff community, but also value their friendship. The first moment I attended an Orff workshop I found "my tribe" and knew these were like minded, creative, artful, and artistic musicians.

 Orff Schulwerk

There are many common misconceptions I often hear -
"It is a methodology".  Nope- it is an active and creative approach to developing musical understandings in every learner through the integration and development of music, movement, speech, and drama.

"It's all about the instruments and I don't have any".  Nope!  At its core, teaching with the Orff Approach is based on the way children learn- through PLAY!  Students imitate, explore, improvise, and create as they grow and develop.  Students use their bodies, voices, and classroom instruments. The "Orff instruments" - pitched percussion instruments (glockenspiels, xylophones, and metallophones) are used to create accompaniments but are "nice, not necessary".

"Orff is focused on folk dancing."  Nope!  The Orff Approach focuses on student centered creativity, speech, singing, improvisation, creative movement and so much more!  I happen to love folk dancing, and it is a part of creative movement.  Folk dancing involves movement, provides opportunities for creative physical responses to music and acts a scaffold on which students can build expressive movement language.

"The focus is not on sight singing."  Right, and Wrong!  There is not a singular focus in Orff Schulwerk.  Elements of the Kodaly and Dalcroze methodologies are also a part of the Orff Schulwerk.  Personally, I think the Kodaly sequence of "prepare, present, practice" approach aligns beautifully with the "imitate, explore, improvise, and create" approach of Orff Schulwerk.   Students become artistic, expressive, and creative musicians who develop their personal musicality and expression. Many of us have come to embrace the quote, "Speak, sing, dance, and play in a tuneful, beatful, artistic way.". I love this!
So, what is Orff?  Here is a 2 minute video that does a great job explaining in a more visual and auditory way!

Want a little more?
Here is a little longer video (7 minutes) that shows a classroom in action.

Workshops vs. Levels Courses

Workshops are a great way to experience Orff, and just like any workshop, clinicians offer a variety of activities and experiences.  The subject areas are diverse.  Many of my workshops focus on hand clapping games, songs, and dances and children's literature, art and music activities.  If you are new to the Schulwerk, try going to at least four different workshops to experience the diversity of subjects and teaching styles.  For a list of chapter workshops that might be near you, check out the AOSA page. AOSA is the American Orff Schulwerk Association.

Levels Courses
Workshops give you a "taste" of the Schulwerk, but your taste buds haven't fully experienced the full array of flavors!  That is what Levels Courses are for!  These are certification courses held for two weeks throughout the summer in every region of the US.  There are 3 Levels, and a post-Level III, which used to be called "Master's Level". I would strongly recommend taking one level per summer and not trying to "double up" as you need time to let things "sink in" and time to apply your new experiences with your students.  Many local chapters also offer scholarships as does AOSA,  Here is a list from 2018.

Have more questions?
Drop me a note below.  Hope this was helpful!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Summer Reading

Hi everyone! Hope you are having a wonderful summer!  I love my summers!  The first part we spent in Maine - my home state.  We go almost every summer, for 2 weeks, and rent a cottage on an island.  It is truly amazing.

I always pick some summer reading - some that is required by my school - this year is Disney, other summers we have read books by Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, or other books on parenting or educational thought or trends. This summer I chose to read World Music Pedagogy Volumes 1 and 2, and For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood. I have already read the World Music Pedagogy Vol. 2 and really loved a lot of what was in there!!  I am taking the Vol. 1 and the other book with me to Finland.  I have a 9 hour layover (!!) in Stockholm and am not looking forward to it so am planning on finalizing my new book about Singing Games from Around the World (not titled yet), and we begin editing this fall! I am also going to read some of these on the plane and during that layover, too!

 It has been a difficult summer to sit down and read - gone to Maine for 2 weeks, home for 2 weeks, gone to the beach for a week, home for a week, going to Finland for 2 weeks, etc. Difficult to find time and other distractions - garden, crafts, jewelry to make, fun to be had with my daughter, etc., often get in the way! 
So, what are you reading this summer?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Top 5 Things I Would Tell My First Year Teacher Self

Reflection, self-awareness, consciousness, mindfulness.  We hear these words often, particularly within the educational realm.  Looking back upon my 24 years of teaching, what would I tell my first year teacher self? 

Teaching is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.

You don't have to do it all in one year, or in the first three, or first five years.  For most of us, we don't really "figure out" teaching; content, classroom management, protocols of school, student development, how to deal with those "frequent fliers", political/social/emotional context of school, etc. until about year four or five! 
Create/make/enjoy five lessons and activities that worked well the first year, add five more the next year. Within four years you will have TWENTY slam dunk lessons and activities.  But don't stop changing them - never feel like you are "done" with lessons - always change them to meet the students needs and whatever direction they choose or need to take them.

Get into Orff!

Find a local chapter and get involved in workshops and in the organization.  It will change your teaching and the students learning in a beautiful, musical, artful, creative, and wonder-filled way!  I didn't really know about Orff until year 6 of teaching!  Oh how I wish I had known about it earlier and gotten Levels courses earlier!  Open yourself to all the experiences - your teaching and your students will be drastically changed - for good!

Be Kind, Then Be Kinder.

Be kind to those teachers who call you "green", or treat you as inferior simply because you are new. You have value, ideas, and strengths to contribute. Be kind to those who come over to slam your door or complain because they placed you next to the reading teacher and she can hear your music. Be kind to the front office staff, the school secretary, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, and the janitors.Their jobs are hard and full of juggling and discouragement.  Be kind and then be kinder to students - they are little and someone loves them- yes, even the ones who frustrate and annoy you to beyond the world's end - they are someone's sweetheart, and sadly, if they are not, YOU need to find a way to love on them.

Love the Cactus Kids.

Prickly, sticky, mean, grumpy, dirty, matted, annoying, frustrating.  Describe any of your students?  These are the kids who need you the most- not the perfect singer or dancer, not the kid who can rap like crazy and throw down "beats". The ones who you know are not getting enough - food, shelter, hugs, warmth, affection, and yes, love. What the world needs now is love, sweet love - it's not just a song- it is the sad reason many school shootings have happened.  Find a way to make the outcast become part of, not apart from.  Love the unlovable and lead by example. You never know what seeds you are planting. A little kindness goes a long way.

It's OK, Just Breathe.

Your first year will be stressful - reach out to others for help and advice.  There will be very busy times and not so busy times - breathe and ask questions. There is a wonderful network of teachers who are wanting and waiting for you to ask questions.  I started teaching pre-internet (dinosaur era) and now teachers have access to thousands of years of experience via facebook and online groups for music teachers. I wish I had spent more time asking what I felt were "stupid questions".  Suck up your pride and ask.  Stay balanced with a healthy amount of school time and maintain your other "you" - continue to read historical fiction, make jewelry, go antiquing, take walks, perform, etc. Your identity as "music teacher" is not your only identity.

Monday, May 7, 2018

April Showers Bring May Flowers

I am a gardener at heart  - love to dig in some dirt and make something grow!  I have about 200 perennial plants- at least. I really love irises- they are one of my favorites and work for my no-fuss gardening style- if I have to mess with a plant in order to make it grow, I am not supposed to have it.  This year my irises went a little crazy- I have about 15 different colors and need to divide and give some away. If you live in NC give me a holler!
I have always loved this rhyme - here's a little twist! Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Games to Play Outside (Or In) FUN!!!

Singing games are so much fun and there are so many fun games that work inside as well as out!
Here are a few of my favorite:

One, Two, Three O'Leary/One, Two, Three a Learie

This song is often cited as Irish, although it was first collected in California as an Anglo-American playground game, see Sail Away book, page 24.
There are several versions and ways to play.  My favorite way to play is version 2 (see songs below) and can be found here:
 Here is a different view:

Hope you enjoy all of these and get outside (or stay in and have some fun)!