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:

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Get Your Fall On!

Football games, apple picking, choosing Halloween costumes.  Red leaves, maple syrup pancake breakfasts, pumpkins, apple cider.  Cooler temps, long sleeves, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple butter. 
I love fall.

My girlie last fall in the mountains of NC with an apple that didn't make it out of the orchard!
I also miss many things about my native New England in the fall; the vibrancy of the leaves, and, of course, the tourists leaving and getting my Maine back!  HA!  I also love my home state of North Carolina.  Right outside my classroom is the most beautiful garden complete with several stately maples that are just beginning to brighten from green to red.  Mountain apples are the best here!!! I love all the apple, antique, and fall festivals here in the South, too! 
I also love the music of the fall.  So many songs and activities, many like Pass the Pumpkin, Fall Leaf Writing Activity, among others I have blogged about in the past are here.
Today I have a new one for you!
I am posting a few pictures of the Apple Tree pdf you can get by emailing me at .  Happy Fall!