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. :)


Friday, March 22, 2019

Wide Mouthed Frog - Two Ways

I have blogged about this lesson before as I LOVE this book and activity and it is perfect for spring when we start to hear and see more peepers out and about! For those who have seen it before, HOLD ON because this post has some new things!
Happy Spring! Here in the South, we have green grass, budding trees, and daffodils are swaying in the wind!  
This time of year always reminds me of frogs, for some reason, and so I break out all my frog songs in addition to flowers, rain, chicks and bunnies.
For those of you with snow still, spring IS coming!!!
You are going to need this book, get the popup version- a MUST have!

A frog puppet is another perfect accessory but not "needed" for the activity. :)
Folkmanis Funny Frog Hand Puppet
As always, if you want the full pdf of both lessons, send me an email request at
Happy Spring!

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Friday, March 8, 2019

Carnival of the Animals

I have loved this collection of songs for a very long time, but have always struggled to find ways to  meaningfully engage my students in active, hands-on activities.  Over the past several school years I have spent some time and been more intentional in finding and developing some lessons that truly engage my students and help them to remember the wonderfully fun pieces of music. 
If you would like the full 23 page pdf, send me an email -
Happy listening!