Thursday, December 6, 2018

Sugar Plum Fairy Play Along

Yes, I love the Nutcracker. The music, the story, the ballet. All of it. I have many students at my school who dance in the ballet every year and I love introducing this to my kiddos although most of them have heard the music or seen the ballet.
Image result for nutcracker images
To begin this lesson, I teach/review the song and game, "We are Dancing in the Forest". My Kindergarten students learn this and play the game, then are introduced to quarter and eighth notes through iconic then actual notation.  In first grade we review the song, read the notation, and then we are ready for how this plays into ballet.
What, you say? How does that song lead into ballet?  DANCING! We sing the song and students must pretend they are in a forest dancing and by the time the song is finished they must be back in their places. We try this a few times, and then I ask them to do this again and I sing the melody of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Repeat ad nauseum.
Then I show them this through the first musical theme:
Students turn and talk to a neighbor about what they noticed.  They will stand up and start showing what they noticed - it is so cute, they can't help but try out some moves! I put the music on and they try out some of the moves with the music playing - it is so sweet to watch them imitate some of what they have seen!
We discuss the meaning of ballet, that some football players take ballet lessons to work on balance and strength, and then I ask if they would like to meet a ballerina?  Then I show them this:
I really like that the video has male and female dancers and talks about body image and accepting who you are and what you have.
After that we watch and learn about a celesta:

Next I break out the foam snowflakes and trees. The snowflakes I got at Dollar Tree one season and the trees I cut out from craft foam (also from Dollar Tree in the craft aisle). See where this is going yet?  Snowflakes have 2 sounds and will become eighth notes, trees have one sound and will become quarter notes.  I put many patterns on the floor, students clap and say, then I break out the quarter note and eighth note cards and students place these above the snowflakes and eighth notes. 
Then they are ready for this visual.  The theme is incomplete and missing a repeat sign, but my first graders haven't learned that symbol yet and the focus is quarter and eighth note reading. Once we practice saying and clapping the theme, half the class gets triangles to play the them on, the other half dances.  Perform, then switch!  Such a blast!  

Hope you enjoy this one! My kiddos sure did! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Jingle Thingle

I love jingle bells!  Such a wonderfully distinctive sound.
Here are some older posts that have some really fun activities to use with jingles!
Nino Sleigh Bells with Wooden Ergo Grip & 4 Bells Red
1.  Bucket Drumming with Jingle Bell Rock - the version of the song I use is from Music Connection from Silver Burdett Ginn, Grade 5, CD 10, track 10.  You can use other versions and adjust accordingly (most do not have the interlude which is easily omitted).
Jingle Bell Rock Bucket Drum Routine  Click for the full post including score and directions.

2.  Jingle Bell Dances - Two Levels
Click here for the full post.

3.  Jingle Bell Stretchy Band Dance

.4.More ideas here! Check out this post with MANY ideas!

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Nisse Polka

This past summer I was in Finland at JaSeSoi Ry's International Music Village (Finnish Orff Association).  It was amazing and I loved my time both in Finland and making music with musicians and teachers from 14 countries.  I also fell a little in love with the Scandinavian lifestyle and their connection to the outdoors.  Did you know there are 188,000 lakes and more than 1,000,000 saunas in Finland?!
JaSeSoi Ry has put together an amazing resource online called "Nordic Sounds".  There are songs, games, and dances from Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Sweden!  Pronunciation videos, background info, teaching ideas and videos make this site exceptionally user friendly! Check it out here!
When I came back home, I began looking for more music and dances from this area of the world. Via Facebook, I came across a dance teacher in Portland, Oregon, who has been a tremendous help to me. Christie teaches Scandinavian dancing to children 5 years old and up to adults.  She has been incredibly generous and due to some technical problems with sharing music files, she even sent me 2 CD's via snail mail!
Many of the dances are new to me, including the one I am sharing today. This is called the Nisse Polka, though Christie calls it the Nissie Polka and her students call it the Caterpillar Dance.  The Nisse is a Christmas figure - read more below! Many thanks to Christie (again) for her help in putting all of this together and for being so willing to share!  On to the dance!

 Here is the dance performed by Christie's kids at a Scandinavian celebration.

Music with singers:



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Music Teachers Are Thankful For...

Since Thanksgiving is on the 22nd of November this year, here are 22 things I think most of us music teachers are thankful for.
Gobble Gobble!

1. Each other via Facebook groups.  These groups keep us connected, whether you are the only music teacher in your building or you have one other person teaching music in your school, there are times we can feel apart from and not a part of. Join one, or two, or, like me, 8!

2. An email like the one I received this week from a parent about 2 high school girls getting ready at home; they dropped everything when they heard "Sleigh Ride" and performed the body percussion routine we had performed years ago at an elementary concert. Wow!

3.  Orff instruments with mallets put back correctly and in a line. So satisfying.

4. Hugs from kiddos.  

5.  Technology working as it is supposed to. 

6.  Supportive administrators who value the arts! 

7.  The rush of pride (and relief) that comes after a performance.

8.  Supportive spouse who helps you sand rhythm sticks, bring coffee to rehearsals, create sets or ________. 

9. Artie Almeida

10.  That one second (or entire class) when no one plays their recorder when you are giving directions.

11.  Feeling a part OF, not apart from the classroom teachers, even if it might be just for a moment in time.

12. That lesson that just goes amazingly well!

13.  The lesson you are grateful you got to tweak with the third class and just wished you could have the first class back in for a do-over. 

14.  PD and conferences where you feel valued, honored, and like a "real" musician again. 

15.  Finishing a folk dance with students that rolled their eyes over having to dance but are now asking if they can do again and saying "That was so much fun!"

16.  Teachers Pay Teachers.

17. Spotify.

18.  Youtube

19.  Family and friends who "get you" and your music teaching craziness.

20.  Bringing people together through music.

21.  The ability to teach something so joyful and FUN!

22. Each of you reading all the way to the end- no, seriously, thank you for being you!  Now go bless someone and tell them thank you! 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jan Ken Pon Yo

In Japan, there are epic battles that have played out for centuries. Yes, you guessed it, Janken or "Hand Games".  In the US we call this game Rock, Paper, Scissors.  I use Rock, Paper, Scissors as a way to determine partners, and as a way to determine who plays what instrument. My students are allowed to choose Orff instruments when we use them - and so I call small groups of students and if two students go the same instrument at one time they immediately go into "Rock, Paper, Scissors" mode and that determines who plays what.  It is a random determiner and the children never fuss about who won as it is solely by chance! Win win!

This is a great song for mixed meter.  The body percussion is something my students helped me to create as when I first taught this I had a class that struggled with the feeling of 2 vs 3 so we quickly devised some body percussion patterns to reinforce that feeling. It stuck! Once the song is learned, students can play the game:
Class stands in a designated area, each facing a partner.
Sing song, performing body percussion. At end of song, students tap one hand in a fist onto the other hands open palm on "one, two, three, four" and on "five" they reveal rock, paper, or scissors.
Those who win stay in the designated area and find a new partner, all others circle around them. Everyone sings again, performs the game with new partners, winning partners remain to find new partners, etc. until there is one winner. My students beg to play this game and it is a great one when you need a quick 3-4 minute activity or brain break.
You can also add the extension activity with the cards below.  Print out enough for small groups to create rhythmic B sections in triple or duple meter (or both!) and have some fun with having students create the corresponding hand signs as an added challenge. Transfer to unpitched percussion-  it works out nicely as there are 4 cards to go with the 4 timbre groups of metals, skins, shakers, and woods!
This song and game makes a great addition to a unit on Japanese music.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Candles Glow Speech Piece

Planning holiday concerts is always tricky. I want to have all of my students diverse celebrations represented.  I struggle with finding music that represents everyone and isn't too much Christmas, but just enough, or too much Kwanzaa, and not enough Hanukkah, or too much ________ or not enough ______.  It is a tough balancing act made tougher by the limitations of the theme of holiday.  It is not a "winter" concert as it happens right before we break for the holidays and most of my families celebrate Christmas or a combo of Christmas/Hanukkah or Christmas/Kwanzaa and a few families are Muslim, which is difficult.
Candles are a theme that is inclusive and not exclusive.  This year our theme is "The Warmth of a Winter Candle".  We are performing "Just One Candle", from Music K-8, which is really love and accessible to all. Students are also performing one of their favorites, called Give Light, in addition to several other pieces. I blogged about Give Light- an incredibly beautiful song, a few years ago. The music and post is here.

I wanted to put together a speech piece with several ostinati performed vocally and with non pitched percussion.  This could be used to create movement, or as a drum canon, or as an A Section with small groups performing question and answer improvisations on Orff instruments in a pentatonic key as alternating sections to create a rondo, or it could be used to create a melody.
I am going to let my oldest grade -4th, decide how to perform it.  I can't wait to see what they come up with! 
I love seeds of ideas.. let me know how you use it. It is presented a couple ways below- one with speech only, the other has a possible idea with body percussion.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Gobble Gobble!

Just a quick post today to re-post a fabulous song composed by a friend that is perfect for this time of year.  HILARIOUS! This is a favorite with my kiddos!
It's called "Pass Me the Turkey" and has a cup game composition project to go with it! Enjoy!
 The original post is here and has the music and the activity.
Here is another one composed by another friend that is perfect for Thanksgiving!
Happy Fall!