Friday, December 4, 2015

Holiday Happenings!

What a crazy past 5 weeks; our family moved Halloween weekend and we are still unpacking and trying to get everything out of our storage unit and we are almost done! Hurray!!! Moving is NOT fun and moving from a house to an apartment and then building a house and moving into it and then moving everything from the storage to the house has been a loooong, strange adventure!  It has been fun to figure out furniture placement, holiday decorating, and projects around the new house and we look forward to the day when one of our neighbor cows gets loose in our front yard! Haha... I grew up on a dairy farm and love my mooey neighbors! 
Concert season is upon us all! I have already had one big one right before Thanksgiving and have another one next week and then the Big One with 240 kids on the 17th!  Whew!  It's always a tricky balance, finding or writing songs that honor students beliefs and the seasonal expressions of joy, peace, gift giving, etc.  I wrote the piece below for my 2nd grade students as I wasn't going to see them very much due to schedules and I needed something we could put together quickly.  They have enjoyed the song and we have a good laugh when they accidentally switch the words "candles lighting everywhere, they're melting on my tongue"... haha, giggle, snort.. OOPS!
Enjoy!  Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!  Aimee


Friday, November 13, 2015

Leaf Man book by Lois Ehlert

Crunch, crunch.. leaves.  Sweet, spicy cinnamon.  Crisp, tart, cool, sweet apples.  Ah.... fall! 

I love the book Leaf Man by Lois Ehlert. Available from Amazon here.  
Wonderful text and beautiful illustrations.  I have used it many ways, including a simple lesson using "Rustle of Spring" by Sinding.  The music is here. 
I was browsing around today and what to my wondering eyes did appear but another beautiful lesson using this book by the fabulous Marjie Van Gunten!  It is available here from Teaching With Orff blog.  Go!! Seriously.. wonderful lesson!!!! Oh. wait.. more..
I have used the book with this lesson:

*Idea can be found at:  Original idea by Daniel Fee



·        Read book, discuss

·        Assign small groups of students parts in the book (there are 12 parts, divide accordingly):  Chickens, ducks and geese, pumpkins and winter squash, turkey, cabbages, meadows, cows, breeze, river, butterflies going south, birds.

·        Give each student a small handful of fall colored square pieces of construction paper (or faux leaves from Dollar Tree). Demonstrate how they will throw them in the air on their special part (cabbage, chickens, etc.).  Once their pieces are on the floor, they create a shape that shows how leaves look.  Spiky, curled at the edges, in a line, curve, etc.

·        Play “Rustle of Spring” by Sinding while reading and dramatizing
Happy Fall, y'all!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Native American Songs and Music

I'm teaming up with several fellow music teachers for "Fermata Friday", this is hosted by Elizabeth at Organized Chaos.
Native Americans, First Americans, American Indian, whatever name you have chosen or feel is "correct", the music of America is incomplete without their cultural and historical inclusion.  Did you know there are over 300 Native American culture groups in North America?  Wow! 
For the longest time, I was hesitant to teach this music as I was fearful to teach something I didn't know about. I was also fearful that I wouldn't be able to help the children feel comfortable with the vocal and song stylings which are different than ours.  I quickly got over that and while I still don't know much, I learn more every year. "Teaching is like a marathon" a friend once told me.  Great concept; learn 1-2 new things this year, add to that the next, etc. 
I am more careful in choosing music that is relevant to the children I teach and that I have researched. Take care to choose music that is not for religious or spiritual occasions, or ones that are for sacred events.  If in doubt, don't use it.  While researching for my book (see far left) I wanted to use a famous Maori song (from New Zealand).  It has been included in many music books so I thought, no brainer, right?  OOPS- hugely wrong; when talking with my publisher and later a Maori tribeperson, I came to the understanding that the translation was *ahem* about a bull's private areas.. yes, THAT!!! Needless to say, it was not included in the book.  Oh my!

As teachers of culture, a distinction should also be made between traditional vs. authentic.  Authentic Native American music originates from within a tribal culture.  Traditional music may have been borrowed from another culture but is sung by that specific tribal culture.  Many Hopi songs for children, for example, are not authentic but are traditionally sung by their children.  Complex, isn't it?  Should you choose to sing a song that is "traditional" versus one that is "authentic"?  To me, the point is to get them to sing music that is from the Native American culture, not to focus on the specifics.  It's just something to be aware of.

Here are a few things that resonate with me and my students:
1.  Songs for Teaching:  Click on the link; excellent resource for Native American music and culture.

2.  One of my favorite pieces, "The Earth is Our Mother".  Gorgeous and so accessible

.  3.  Sioux Lullaby.  So very pretty, another arrangement can be found in Shirley McRae's American Sampler book.

4.  Navajo Happy Song, from Hands to Hands, Clapping Songs and Games from Around the World by yours truly!  Book is available by clicking here!

5.  Beth's Music Notes  (wow, HUGE resource!!) has a section with about 15 Native American songs with sheet music!  I particularly love Hiya
I hope you've enjoyed this post and that you'll try something new during this time when we are particularly aware of the rich cultural heritage of Native Americans!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Pumpkins and Ghosts Game

I am linking up with Elizabeth at Organized Chaos for Fermata Fridays linky party! 
Oh my goodness, had my first graders this morning and needed a quick rhythm review. I've had these foam ghosts and pumpkins, some have glitter, some don't for a couple years now. I think I got them in the craft section of Wal-Mart or maybe at Dollar Tree.  They were cheap, regardless. I used them last year for rhythms (pumpkin= eighth notes, ghost= quarter note) and it was perfect review today!  They had to decode the rhythm I laid out in pumpkins or ghosts, sat in two teams and oh, did we have fun! They were PUMPED!!! Hilarious, and great rhythm writing practice!!! I gave them the choice of using notation with heads or without (stick notation).  What a blast!  See below pictures for explanation!!!
You could do this same game with any seasonal foam manipulatives, snowflakes, stars, etc. that fit quarter note/eighth note notation!

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fermata Friday Linky Party

I am linking up with Elizabeth at Organized Chaos for the Fermata Friday linky party! 
See below for the HUGE post about my favorite Halloween/Fall activities/songs/music.  Or click here.
Happy Fall y'all!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

HUGE Halloween/Fall Post

Fall is my favorite season.. well, that and spring.  But, I really love the "seasonings" of fall; cinnamon, pumpkin, nutmeg, cloves; sugar and spice and everything nice!

On a recent Facebook post on the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA) page, someone had asked about favorite fall/Halloween/pumpkin activities and I thought, "Ooooo... a great blog post!".  So, here it goes with ones my wee ones and not-so-wee ones LOVE!
I blogged earlier about my favorite Fall Activities here.

Most of these come from many places, a couple years ago I made a binder with 2 sections:  Fall/Halloween.  I copied everything I had and put it in the binder and made a TOC in the front with song titles and added page numbers.  SO glad I did this... it really helps this time of year to have everything in one place!  WORTH the EFFORT!!

1.  Randy DeLelles and Jeff Kriske's activity from Grade 2 in Gameplan, page 28.  I can't give the specifics, but it has to do with a certain story of trick-or-treating and getting scared. Pairs perfectly with Hungarian Dance #3, Brahms.  They LOVE acting out the story!

2.  Pass the Pumpkin... check out the activity I  use here.  For those folks who can't use Halloween themed treats, this one will work for you!  Change "spooky" to "minor" if you can't use that word.
3.  Creepy Crawly Spiders.. another good one for folks who cannot use Halloween themes.  The full blog post with pictures is here.
4.  Story of trolls inside a mountain to go along with "In the Hall of the Mountain King".  I also display the rhythm of the theme:  titi  titi  titi ta with a repeat sign after it then we act out the story.  FUN!!!! Another one for those who cannot use anything "Halloween-y". Is that a word.. *sigh* I love words!  :)  A lot of info here:
There is also a book to go along with the music
Order the book from Amazon here.  The story is perfectly told and you can listen to the music and tell the story. Book also comes with a CD that has 5 pieces including the title piece. 
5.  We Are Scary Skeletons
This is one of those wonderful songs the kids LOVE to act out!  From Jeff Kriske/Randy DeLelles (I love these guys and was so incredibly blessed to have them for levels courses!).  From page 9 of "Highlighting the Holidays" available from West Music here.  We practice walking like "scary skeletons" first, then change the words to "We are silly skeletons" then I ask the students for suggestions.. clowns, ladies in high heels, clown feet, horse skeletons, dog skeletons (pick your favorite animal skeleton, etc.)  HYSTERICAL!!!
6. Danse Macabre  
I love this music!! This video is old school but works beautifully!

7.  Halloween Rhythms
I have two of these, one with quarters/eighths and the other with sixteenths/quarter/eighths.  They look like this:

8.  Sing Me a Monster and the book, "If You're a Monster and You Know It"
I blogged about this activity here. 
The book is available from here.  Honestly, the book is SO stinking cute.. ya gotta have it!!

Ok... there are SO many other activities and songs I do but these are probably my absolute favorites!  Have fun!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Halloween Rhythms

I am late.. linking up with Organized Chaos for a linky party called "Fermata Fridays". 

This is one of my favorite activities for assessment!! I blogged about it here a couple years ago and it is still one of my all-time favorites!!!
Here are a few pictures of the pdf.  You can email me at for the pdf.  I also have one with similar graphics that uses sixteenth, quarter, and eighth note rhythms for your older students.  There are so many ways to use this one!  ENjoy!

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fall Favorites

I am linking up with Organized Chaos Fermata Friday for a linky party about some of our favorite activities, songs, tips, etc. 
I am going to link back to a few of my FAVORITE FALL songs and activities my kiddos can't get enough of right now!  You can see all of them here!
Apple Tree: 
Pass the Pumpkin:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Three Things: Syn-Co-Pa Black Snake w/Pop song, Farmyard Beat book, and Recorder Hike

I am joining Mrs. Miracle at her linky party called "Three Things".  We are blogging about three things that have worked very well for our students and classes over the past week. 


#1. Release Me/Poison/Black Snake

I see all students first through fourth grade about twice a week; long story short, 10 day rotating schedule, so some weeks it is once a week (depending on Monday/Friday holidays and inservice days).  The first time I saw fourth graders this week we began the lesson by reviewing ti-ta-ti (Syn-Co-Pa).  I found a pop song called "Release Me" by Zoe Badwi.  It begins (and continues throughout) with a very clear ti-ta-ti ta rest rhythm.  Woo hoo!!! I love finding this kind of a "hook"; pop music that is relatable to the children with an element to pull out and relate to "classroom" music. 
We listened to a bit, added some body percussion, then came the fun!  Woo hoo.. instrument time!! I broke out some of the "big guns" this time; djembes, congas, etc. for skins, log drums, claves, temple blocks and the like for woods, all my crazy shakers (including the goat hooves which are a HUGE favorite!! can you say "Ewwwww!!"), and the last group was tambourines.  A quick review of the instruments and technique, and we were off.  The song is broken down this way: 
  • Intro.   
  • A Section:  16 measures (4 beats per measure)  
  • B Section:  8 measures
  • A
  • B
  • Interlude/Break: 24 measures
  • B
  • A (longer and fades out at end)
I pointed to a card that showed "ti-ta-ti ta rest" (eighth, quarter, eighth, quarter rest) and each group played the pattern 4 times, then on to the next group for 4 times, etc.  We went from drums (16 beats = 4 patterns), to tambourines, then shakers, then woods).  During the B Section students rotated to the next group.  Practice one time through before starting the music, rotate, then start the song and students will rotate through all the different instrument groups. 
Whenever we play a rotation game like this I always put 2 more instruments out than students for each group; it eases the "I wanted that and you got it" issues and still provides students with a choice to make.  
  • Intro:  No one plays
  • A: (1st 4 measures, drums, 2nd 4 measures, tambourines, next 4 measures, shakers, final 4 measures, woods)
  • B:  Rotate to the next instrument group
  • A: (same as previous)
  • B:  Rotate
  • Break/Interlude: "Raise Your Hands"; dance party, raise those hands.. have kids mirror you, wave hands side to side, turn around and raise hands, etc.... make it fun.. it's LONG!
  • B:  Rotate
  • A  (same)
  • Coda ... we put instruments down and performed some body percussion. 

Then we played poison with that rhythm pattern, Teacher vs. Students; of course they won, but I didn't make it easy!! :)  Let me know if you are not familiar with how to play, it is my students FAVORITE game EVAH!!!!!

The next class we reviewed the song, "Black Snake" and played the game, determining where the syncopated rhythm occurred, having them jump up and clap it "out of the air".  Funniest thing happened prepping for this class; I had to pack everything in my classroom up this past May as new carpet was being installed. I revamped my room and am still figuring out where "old" things are now in their "new" homes.  I have a black rubber snake I looked everywhere for; about 15 minutes.. wandering around the room literally singing "Black snake, black snake, where are you hiding?".  Just as my class was about to come in I noticed my daughter coming out of the art room across the hall.  She plays in my room with a bunch of other faculty kids in the mornings and so I asked her if she had seen it.  Of course she had!  "It's in the pumpkin, Mama."  Sure enough, there it was!!! Whew.. in the nick of time! 



#2. Farmyard Beat Book

My littles (Junior Kindergarten) are learning about farms.  After singing through Old MacDonald, Listen to the Ducks, and several other farm songs, I pass out "eggs", (shaker eggs).  We wonder what kinds of animals lay eggs, and then I show them the book, "Farmyard Beat" available here.  

After each part in the story (see below for example) there is a part where the animals keep a rhythm "Peep, peep, peep peep, peep" is ta, ta, ti ti, ta, I speak the rhythm first then they "echo say and play".  This is the cutest book and is a fun way to reinforce beat while learning about farm animals.  I also love the playful language; the sheep is the best, "Tat, tat, tattity tat"!

3. Recorder "Hike"

Artie Almeida has some really creative ideas that are a huge hit with students! If you are not familiar with her, get thee to a workshop with her!! You'll be overwhelmed!  Several years ago I was at a workshop with her and she showed us how to have a quick review with students that is very active and a great assessment tool as well.  Put a rap track on, I usually create one in Garage Band with a bass track to give it some sense of melodic direction (in G), students dance/walk/"jam" around the room while the music is playing, stop when it stops.  Show a card like one of these:
Sorry this one is sideways:

I start out with the lettered cards B A G.  Once a card is shown, music back on, dance/jump/jam, then show another card like staff cards (first one pictured above)  Then song cards for songs we have learned like Hot Cross Buns and Buns Cross Hot (retrograde Hot X Buns!!).  We continue to alternate between a card and music. 
I can quickly assess who is "reading notes" and who is looking at the staff above my white board, see pic below, made from black electrical tape and CD's, (which is good as it tells me they are trying to problem solve using the tools available), and who is looking at their neighbors fingers (not so good as they are copying and not problem solving). It gives me a lot of information quickly and the students love the movement.  Sometimes I give them specific movements (depending on the skill set we are working on) such as "skip" if we are working on song material in 6/8, or "ice skate" or "slither" or "swoop" if we are working on half notes.  I can relate back to these movements later in the lesson.  

 I hope you find some of these things useful!  Happy Fall Y'all!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fall is Falling Down

I wrote this a couple years ago and wanted to share it with you today.  The leaves outside my music room are turning...

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, as is spring.  It is the time of the such change! 
Here's a song to share with younger students!  Email me for the Falling Leaves pdf at


Monday, September 14, 2015

Three Things

It's getting into my favorite months of the year!  I LOVE fall!
I'm linking up today with a few fellow bloggers and Aileen Miracle from her blog here.  This post is about "Three Things" that worked for me and my students this week.  Enjoy!

Our family went apple picking in the mountains of NC this past weekend; a little over a 2 hour drive from home.  I love seeing the mist rising from the mountains, and driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway; those mountains really do look blue!!  So many varieties of apples but we were in luck as Honeycrisps were being picked!  We got a bunch and this week I am beginning the song "Apple Tree".  I posted about this here with a free pdf you can get by emailing me at  I love the game that goes with it and you can choose to make yours a more melodic direction activity or a rhythmic activity.
Hula Hoop Activities
I have a TON of things I do with hula hoops (and you can get them at Dollar Tree, hurray)!.  I lay 4 on the ground, put drums inside one, shakers in another, wood instruments in another and metals in the final one.  While we are learning about the percussion family, or during songs where specific instrument sounds play it is helpful to be able to have students together and a place for them to pick up instruments from and put them back into when they are done.  It makes organization and clean up easy, also. I also find it helpful to put more instruments than students in each grouping; if there are 5 children at each hoop, I place 6-7 instruments inside so there is still some choice.  Y'know they've gotta have choices! :)  This week my littles (Junior Kindergarten y'all!) I decided it was time to break them out into some extra movement time; they were SOOOOOO wiggly!! I put several hoops on the floor and tell them they are magical islands.  They can only go into the island when I stop the music.  Play something fun and fast and let 'em go.. well, I give mine a few additional directions, but do your thing!  A big rule - we MUST travel (they are in a transportation unit), they can fly, walk, skip, hop, run (carefully), be a train, etc.  Voices OFF!  I also do this with other grades and we have a dance party!  Once the music stops I call out a body part; pinkie finger.  ONLY pinkie fingers may go into the island.  They have to go to another island the next time.  When the music starts, off they go again.  Vary the "body parts"; head (really funny to see how they problem solve it), elbows, knees, big toe, belly button (yes, really!).  It's a great Brain Break, also, and really gets them into following directions. 
My fourth graders really love "Boom, Snap, Clap".  We use the song, "Chester" (from Action Songs Children Love, vol, 3) to go with it.
This is a great collection of action and substitution songs for older kiddos. 
Boom, Snap, Clap is full of body percussion and once you've learned the words to accompany the motions, you can perform it with body percussion alone.  I like to pair it with Chester; half the class performs Chester, half Boom, Snap, Clap.  The song isn't as long as Boom, Snap, Clap so at the end everyone gets to perform Boom, Snap, Clap with both hands. Boom, Snap, Clap will be in my next volume of Hand Clapping Songs coming out hopefully next spring!  Here it is now:


You can also watch it on youtube: