Friday, January 29, 2016

Chinese New Year Book Music Activity!

I am teaming up with some fellow bloggers for a month of learning about music around the world. Catch up with posts over at caldwellorganizedchaos. 
Chinese New Year is right around the corner; beginning February 8 and lasting 15 days long, it is the biggest holiday celebrated in China and in many Asian countries.  The New Year festival is full of food, family, special clothing, and a full month off of school for children in China! 
This is the year of the monkey!

1.  The Story of Nian  This is a short (3 minutes) video that tells the story of the mythical Nian and about some of the traditions of Chinese New Year. 

2.  How the Chinese Zodiac was named  Another short video of how the Chinese Zodiac came to be in the order it is.  This one might be best for older students.

This one for younger students:

3.  Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year in Chinese)
I teach my students a song I wrote (and keep changing) a few years ago.  You can find the music and orchestration here.  We use Chinese dance fans, some are long and some short.  Even 4-5 of these will make a difference in a performance.
I have about 25 now
which I have collected over the past several years. The kids love them and we use them to create movement for other activities, too, in addition to streamers and scarves!  I also have a bunch I bought at Dollar Tree as they often have them and the plastic ones hold up pretty well and the kids love them!

This is an activity for Kindergarten, First, and Second Grades.  I also do this with my Junior Kindergarten classes and simplify some of the words in the book.  They all love the story!

4. The Runaway Wok

1.  First, prep the movement by doing "Mystery Speed" where you have the children sing a known song or hello song and then play on piano a song that has a mystery speed or type of movement (gallop, skip, jump, glide, twirl, etc.). 
2.  Follow the directions below and have fun!

5.  Five Little Monkeys from Jungle Beat by Lynn Kleiner

This works beautifully with the younger children as an extension and I love the jazzy version of this one !  SO many instrument possibilities here, too!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Teaching High/Low

I am linking up with Elizabeth at Organized Chaos today for a Fermata Friday linky party!  Several fellow music education bloggers join up together and share resources.  After you read this post, click on the link to see more from fellow bloggers and teachers!
I saw a recent post on the AOSA Facebook page: "How do you teach high and low to kindergarten students?".  I was already planning a post when I saw that and it made me think more about what "vehicle" used to take the "trip". 
I like structure, and though I am blessed with creativity, I find structure and organization comforting and makes lessons go much more smoothly!  I always begin lessons with the same format; knees-a-knees-a-pizza-pie, see the post about that here.  Echo clapping and singing, vocal exploration in some format, sometimes like this (always asking "Does it start high or low" and vocally demonstrate where to start.  Email me for full set of winter vocal exploration cards at :

We also do a variety of movement activities; I consider all this to be warm-up activities. 
There are several lessons I use to prepare "high/low"; some of the warm up activities also include elements of high and low; I play the slide whistle while the children move (or sing) up and down; they love it when I play one scale degree, then another, slowly, make 'em wait for it, then quickly slide back down, (or up if we began high), adding a scale degree each time.  Hysterical giggles in the music room when I play very fast glissandi up and down. 
Someone Standing on a Big High Hill
I recently found this song and love it for it's flexibility to teach many concepts!

Up, Up, Down by Robert Munsch

Can I just say, BUY THIS BOOK!!! Wow... rife with possibilities for teaching high and low.  It's also a bit naughty.. hahaha... in a good way, people! It is about a little girl, Anna, who likes to climb things, but usually she falls down.  Can you see the musical values already?  I have the students go to the instruments after moving with the story up, up, up, up, fall..... down, then we learn to play up, up, up, up, faaaaall down (glissandi up and down).  We also sing "ow, ow, ow, ow, ow" (in the book) as S M L S M each time.  This is a definite keeper and the book and illustrations are pure Munsch magic!  Book available from here. 

Mortimer by Robert Munsch

Another awesome Robert Munsch book about a naughty little boy this time, Mortimer, who likes to sing long after family members have told him to be quiet.  The repetitive lyrics make this a perfect choice to orchestrate for a song.  I know there are several out here; the one I use was composed by a friend many moons ago and I love the simple pentatonic melody and simple orchestration.  Of course we review this song in first grade and add to the orchestration and act it out.. which is simply divine!!!  Much happy music making and dramatic possibilities!

So there are a few things to get you started, hope you enjoyed some of these. What are your favorite ways to teach high and low?

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Snowflakes Song for Kindergarten/First/Second Graders

I am linking up today with Elizabeth from Organized Chaos. 
We're hoping... and wishing... and dreaming of snow here in North Carolina!  I am from the snowy state of Maine and living here in NC for the past 18 years I can honestly say I don't miss Maine in the winter. But, ah, the summer!!! LOVE it and miss my ocean terribly!  Good thing I get to visit there almost every summer! 

Here is a snowflake song for younger students. I actually planned it to use with kindergarten and re-wrote it today to use with my kindies. We use the song with snowflakes (white feathers) and ice skates (paper plates.. yup- they work GREAT).!  Process:
Teach song, half the class at the glockenspiels with F's and B's (franks and beans or burgers and fries or buffalo's and flamingo's, however you say these bars) removed, practice singing and playing in the appropriate places.
Other half of class performs the skating on paper plates while singing, each holds a white feather and when the song is over students blow feathers into the air while glocks improvise (as quietly as a snowflake!) as long as the "snowflake" (feather) is in the air.  Once the "snowflake" is on the ground they stop improvising. I award "snowflake kisses" (extra feathers) to each student who stops as soon as the feather touches the ground. That way they get more than one feather to blow into the air when it is their turn. It's so funny to see them try to stop at the exact moment of "touchdown"!
Switch jobs and perform again!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Dinosaur Song NEW!

I teach Junior Kindergarten, which means I have 4 and 5 year olds who are in a half-day program at my school.  They are L.I.T.T.L.E!  Cuties, for sure! Their classes leave me wrung out; exhausted!  And after only 30 minutes per class.  But things are BUSY with them and I always over plan just in case something doesn't work out during a lesson or we move too quickly through a particular song or concept. 
Right now my littles are learning about dinosaurs! ROAR!  Although I have lots of songs that are about dinosaurs, I wanted a song that helped them with a musical concept.  This morning while wandering through my stash, I came across some plastic bones I have used before (mainly at Halloween).  The kids love to play them like rhythm sticks, although we have to be a little more careful as they are plastic and not wood.  I got these at Dollar Tree several years ago but you could also use rhythm sticks and call these the bones!

I did find some here for sale and these are about 3-4" long.
These are from and look to be about the same, also about 3-4" long.

 I keep everything in my room labeled like this with how many I have so I know I can have 12 children playing these (2 per child) and my students will need to have partners.  It makes it easier to label everything with the quantity!

So this morning after I found the bones I wrote a quickie to go with it.  You will get the general idea from the song; I will be using Garage Band to play along with them using a growly electric guitar on Smart Guitar (love that feature) and will hold my dinosaur bones to demonstrate what to do with them as I find this works better than me at an instrument for these littles; one class in particular has to have the assistant stay as she is a wiggly, wily, willful child who becomes angry very easily!  Yikes!
I will have the children learn the song first and play with our "human bones" (hands), then partner up, one student will get dinosaur bones and the other child will sit behind them. We will practice playing our bones in different ways, maybe even make some letters out of them, then sing and play with our "dinosaur bones".  The rhythms included are just suggested.  After I wrote the song (of course I printed it, too!) I thought of a second verse, "Dinosaur eggs..".  We will break out the "dinosaur eggs" (shakers) and play and sing that one, too! 
If you want a cleaner copy, email me at and I will send you a jpeg or pdf file of the song. 
Happy Bone Playing!  (oops, does that sound weird).. ha ha!

Sunday, January 3, 2016

In A Music Galaxy Far Far Away...

Ok, first I have to say the title of this post is credited to Aileen Miracle from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room.  I couldn't resist, although she used the word, "land" instead of "galaxy". 
I was already planning a post on Star Wars music when I saw her post; my family and I have been watching the whole series from the beginning Episode (yup, started with Episode ONE) in order for our daughter, 8, to "get it".  We have been watching for the past couple of weeks and finished with my favorite episode, the one with the Ewoks.. man, I love those cuties!! Some of the videos she didn't want to watch all of, which is fine, but she has been asking about Star Wars as several of her 2nd grade classmates were talking about it before the break. 
I am a HUGE John Williams fan; he's brilliant and his musicality is astounding. Such powerful, memorable, and fitting melodies! 

So, on to the activities:
  1. Imperial March with Steady Beat Swords
I first found these on Tracy Kings site a long time ago and made them although mine aren't as fancy and lack the true "light saber" silver and black ends; just cut pool noodles in half.  They also work great to use as taiko drumsticks when teaching Taiko drums; one partner holds a hand drum with both hands straight out in front of them (arms extended), while other partner practices Taiko drumming with the steady beat "swords".
As I'm introducing the music, I ask the students about stories they might remember and play an excerpt of "We're Off to the See the Wizard", "Linus and Lucy", "William Tell Overture", and "Peter's Theme" from "Peter and the Wolf" among others.  I will ask some questions about how they knew the music was connected to that story and what instruments, rhythms, tempo, etc. represent each character of the music.  I will play a few seconds (all it takes!) of Imperial March and you can FEEL the excitement.. YES! 

 Main theme:  Keep steady beat with a partner
 Secondary theme:  Jedi Knights sneaking and creeping (looking out for Storm Troopers).
 Main theme:   Find same partner, steady beat again.  
With older students, instead of a simple beat pattern, give students in small groups of 3-4 time to create a 4 or 8-beat pattern; always fun and interesting to see who works well together and what they come up with!!! 
2.  Jimmy Fallon Star Wars Theme a capella
Wow, have you seen this?  So many things you could talk about with this, especially the power of a capella singing!
3.  Parachute Form Lesson
This is from the always awesome Cherie Herring, and is a great way to get those energy bugs out, especially after the long winter break!  We all know how trying that first week back to school can be after all the sugar, late nights, travel, and off-schedule days, and we're just talking about us grownups here, never mind the KIDS!  :)

Well, that's a few things to get you back in the swing of things, have fun and may the force be with you !