Wednesday, December 3, 2014

December Favorite Activities

December is CRAZY, isn't it?  So much going on, so little time.. etc.  I have two concerts that turn into four as the little kiddos come to watch the bigger ones and vice versa, then the concerts for the parents.  We call them "Holiday Concerts" but I am very careful to be inclusive and not exclusive about singing songs from various perspective.  Tricky, tricky! So, December is always extra busy with these concerts and sometimes, like this year, our final concert is the day before the Holiday Break, so I don't have too much time for other activities.  But I try to sneak in a few between rehearsing music.
Of course, I love the Nutcracker, so it goes without saying that it is a piece of music I love to have students get into.  Sometimes we watch segments of the Nutcracker "The Motion Picture" version (sets designed by Maurice Sendak of "Where the Wild Things Are" fame).  I almost always have students perform Trepak in a variety of ways, either using the Bucket Drum Activity: or using Artie Almeida's excellent resource, "Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, Oh My!".  There is an AWESOME parachute activity my fourth graders BEG to do again and again in there on page 47 that goes with Trepak!  Artie also has a ribbon wand activity to Trepak in the book.
In the same book there is a paper plate activity (great for the littler musicians) to the Nutcracker March as well as a candy cane dance and a stretchy band activity to the same piece.
An easily accessible song about Snowflakes with Orff accompaniment (very simple) is here: (original post).  Here is the song:

Another activity we use is the Elf on the Shelf piece I wrote last year.. dreamed it, actually.. original post here:

Whatever you choose to do this season, keep 'em singing and keep 'em moving!  :)
Blessings and Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Pass Me the Turkey song with cup game composition

This one I found yesterday on the AOSA (American Orff Schulwerk Association) Music Teacher Facebook page.  MANY thanks to composers Trilby Jordan and F. Thomas Simpson for sharing and allowing me to share here!  I LOVE this song and added a cup game composition using word chains of disliked Thanksgiving foods.  Students performed them for their teachers when they came to pick up the class.  LOVED it!  Definitely going into my "keep" file for years to come!

Turkey Trouble Blues

This is a really fun song I found recently on Pinterest and happens to be composed by one of my favorites, Grace Nash, and another composer, Janice Ripley. My focus today was really to work on steady beat as my third graders are rushing everything like MAD and so this was the perfect lesson for their music classes today. I opted to use only the Bass Xy and Glockenspiel part instead of the full orchestration; for my purposes it worked beautifully and we had a hilarious time squawking and gobbling!
Here are the slides I put together with it for students.  It was really fun! 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Holiday Treats Song

Monday, 11/17 UPDATE.. cookie rhythms added!  A quick post today with a song for the holidays that is "safe" for schools; doesn't mention Christmas or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa.  Great to add to a holiday program whether you are allowed to mention the holidays or not.   There's even a visual for the cookie rhythms color coded for unpitched percussion! 



Monday, November 3, 2014

Off to National AOSA Conference.. wheee!

I am so excited to be headed to the National Orff Conference (American Orff Schulwerk Association) in Nashville in a couple days!  Can't wait to get new ideas, meet and network ideas with other music teachers and just reconnect with music peeps from around the US.  Hopefully my voice will return... durn cold everyone has passed on to me!  :)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Creepy Crawly Spider

This is one of my first graders FAVORITE things to do!  It takes a little instruction in order to get them to understand that when they make the yarn web they have to hold onto the string with one hand and roll/gently throw it to another student AND continue to hold on, but once they get it they BEG to do it again. Be sure to keep the beat once they have it.  I have also used it where we sing and roll the yarn.  When the yarn ball reaches a student, I sing, "What will you be for Halloween" on Sol and Mi if major, Do and La if minor (see notes and music on slides 4 and 5) and the student sings back "I will be a witch" or "I will be a dragon", etc., then I sing to someone else  "What will you be for Halloween", that student sings their answer and the game continues with the creepy crawly spider song.  Enjoy!  If you want the pdf, email me at

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sixteenth Note Halloween Cards

I use these cards with my fourth graders to create B sections to Halloween songs.  Once small groups have created and practiced (with body percussion) four beat word chains, they transfer the body percussion to unpitched percussion.  Sometimes we have even had "class challenges" where they put al the rhythms side by side and say the WHOLE thing without stopping.. very fun! 
Hope you can use these!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Favorite Fall Activity

I have posted about this before, but I REALLY love the Pass the Pumpkin song/activity.  This year, I came up with a new powerpoint for my first graders and I used it just this morning and am really happy with how well the students sang and played.  One thing I love about this song is that it is "safe" for schools that do not celebrate Halloween; there is the word "spooky" but that is, technically, NOT a Halloween word.
I hope you enjoy the slides below.. save each one and put into a ppt. or email me at and I'll send you the pdf!  The directions and song are on slide 2, slide 3 is a beat slide and then subsequent slides show the progression from iconic rhythms to actual notation.
The final slides show what instruments play on the various parts of the song.
Happy Fall!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Old Brass Wagon BAG Improvisation Lesson

I have always struggled with improvisation with recorders but this lesson I just taught Friday went beautifully!  I played accompaniment on piano with students while they were improvising and the combination of the movement and the sequence of body percussion, drums, and finally recorders.  It was a wonderful way to begin improvisation experiences on recorder (this was their fifth lesson on recorders and have had 3 previous experiences with B, A, and G. 

  Old Brass Wagon Recorder Improvisation Lesson

  • T. plays melody on recorder, students to find the steady beat using body percussion, repeat with students keeping beat in various ways.
  • Students play 2 finger beat on hand drums, explore playing while moving drums through space
  • T. sing lyrics of song, at end of song, students improvise quietly on drum while T. plays melody on recorder.  Remind students to add space (rests) during rhythms; demonstrate interesting vs. "boring" (all eighths, all quarter note rhythms).  Question and turn and talk with neighbor about what makes these "interesting" and "uninteresting".
  • Refine to improvising during 8 beats only (T. holds up 8 fingers and performs "countdown to visually show beats).
  • Sing the song again, explain improvising rhythm on recorders using only "B".  Sing:  "Circle to the left, old brass wagon, circle to the left, old brass wagon, circle to the left, old brass wagon, improvise on B".  Holding hands circle to the left.  Students perform 8 beat improvisation.
  • Sing, "Circle to the right, old brass wagon.... improvise on A".  Holding hands circle to the right, improvise  for 8 beats.
  • Sing, "In for four, old brass wagon, out for four, old brass wagon, in for four, old brass wagon, improvise on "G" (move out for four beats during final four beats of song).  Walk into the center of the circle for four beats, out of circle for four beats, etc. 
  • "Turn around (in place), old brass wagon, turn around, old brass wagon, turn around, old brass wagon, improvise on B and A."  Improvise on B and A for 8 beats.
  • "Jump up and down, old brass wagon, jump up and down, old brass wagon, jump up and down, old brass wagon, improvise on B, A, G.  Improvise on B, A, and G for 8 beats.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Five Extra Minutes at the End of CLASS.. Now What?

OH NO!! That lesson you had thought was going to be SO great tanked.. badly! 

OH NO! The kids whizzed through your lesson and you now have 5-10 minutes to fill!

OH NO!  The teacher is late picking up the kids.. no, this never happens, haha!
So, now what?
Have a plan, man! 
For little ones: 
  • Jump Jim Joe (in book of same name by New England Dancing Masters) my littles up to second grade can't get enough of this song and it's short so you can repeat it over and over and find a new partner every time!
  • Poison Version 1:  I use this as a starter but it also works very well to end a class.  Put a 4-beat rhythm card up on the board or whiteboard, have students clap it, pat it, etc. so they are VERY familiar with the rhythm.  This pattern will not be played by you again!  Avoid it!  Skull and Crossbones!  It is the poison rhythm today.  If you clap it/pat it (or any part of it) you die a quick but horrible death.  Pick your best behaved student to illustrate the QUICK part and sitting down after they are "dead".  If you are poisoned, your job is not done, you now have to clap EVERY rhythm and try to infect others; how you ask?  Well, when someone hears others clapping the poison rhythm, they will think it is OK and they will be infected, die a quick, horrible death and infect others.  I usually stop the game when I have the Final Four.               
  • Poison Version 2:  Same as Version 1 but no one is "out".  Write this on the board:  T vs. S; this means Teacher versus Student!  If the students don't clap when there is a poison pattern, they get a point!  If they do, YOU get a point.  They love this and I make a big deal about being unhappy about not getting points.  If a couple students clap, it's  a "forgiveness".  If more than two clap the poison pattern, point for you.  If anyone says anything negative to or about the people who clapped the poison pattern, you get 5 million, six hundred ninety seven thousand, two hundred and ten points and win the game.  Yes, really; at the same time as making the joke, they get that you're serious!
  • If you don't have a song repertoire wall, make one; kids love to sing songs they know very well; print out some of those "Sing Like A ....." cards from Pinterest.. there are a ton.  Sing like a monster, ghost, cowboy, opera singer, baby, grandma, elephant, you name it.. hysterical!
  • Camp songs; they are short, catchy, and usually have funny, silly themes that will leave kids on a positive note (pun INtended), and begging for more!  Black Socks is great as is "Humpty Dumpty".  Check and look for camp songs; there are some funny, funny, FUNNY ones out there!
  • If you don't know the Finnish Dance "Seven Jumps" (Rhythmically Moving and Shenanigans have great versions on their CD's) get to know it!  High energy, fun, and one of my go-to's for when I need a 5 minute "something".
  • Song Books:  I use a lot of children's lit in the music room and I record myself singing, put it on a CD and put that in the front of the book in an envelope taped to the inside cover.  This is great when I have a cold, or even on sub days.  I also put how long the song lasts.  Over in the Jungle, Over in the Meadow, and Over in the Ocean are all interesting ones that can be sung to "Five Little Ducks".  There is a PLETHORA of material out there.. check out all the versions of "I Know an Old Lady.."
  • Walk My Beat:  Pick up a hand drum and play a beat; students walk the beat while you are playing, stop when you stop.  Add other instruments; gong: floating like an astronaut, temple blocks; running, etc.  Change the movement to the beat; how else can we move, kiddos?
Hope all this helps; best advice is to be prepared and have those activities you can add/change to in your "back pocket".

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Books... and MORE.. Part 2

Books Part 2

Wonderful book with great illustrations of the varied ways vegetables grow.. up, down, and around.  Explore various ways to move arms, legs, whole body, etc., then teach song:

Begin with exploring moving up and down; play slide whistle and have students move up and down, vary playing slowly, quickly, legato, staccato, etc.  Then ask them to move one arm ONLY, then elbow only (very funny), hand only, thumb only.  It's an interesting thing to observe! 
Teach song; every time students sing "up" they will move higher, "down", lower, and they can choose HOW to move "'round and round".  Perform movements and song with book, then divide into small groups to create rhythms in 6/8 based on words like:  seeds, grow, plant, flowers, sunshine, and various names of veggies.  Develop first as a class and display. One rhythm possibility:  Eat your veggies.. ta, ti, ta, ti.  Play around with creating these ostinato, transfer to UPP (unpitched percussion) and add as a "B" section to song.  Perform again with book.
I LOVE this book!! The pop up version is the best.. truly!  I used this to teach and label rest with kindergarteners last year and it worked so very well! 


 My lovely friend and fellow music teacher, Noreen Hofmann wrote this song to Mortimer.. it is my favorite of the many "Mortimer" songs I've heard. Divide class in half once orchestration is learned; half will play/act the characters from the book, other half will play orchestration, switch.

Spring Is Here is a cutie patootie book your kids are sure to LOVE! A great lesson from fellow teacher and blogger, Thom Borden!  Recorder lesson, too!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Books, Books, and MORE Books!

I LOVE BOOKS!!! Yes, the paper kind.. I'm a little anti-digital when it comes to the printed word!
I also love using them in the music room; they are a perfect vehicle to teach, review, sing, create, and play around with! 
Here are a few favorites; each one of these is a picture file you can download, print, and use!

*A note about organization; begin to make an excel spreadsheet or word doc that includes grade levels you would use the book with, what skills/concepts can be taught, and when you might use this during the year; for example, when I introduce rests with kindergarten students in the spring after experiencing it, now we're ready to label it, I will put in my Kindergarten sheet,  "Wide Mouthed Frog", SPRING, quarter notes, eighth notes, rest, LABEL rest, song, rhythm, Orff instruments.   
This helps me to keep track of not only what concepts/skills I can work on using that book, but when I might want to use it! 
Also, print a copy of the lesson, fold it and place it into the front page of the book!
Sorry the Mitten in the Snow visual organization page is out of place.. couldn't move it and it's late.. :)