Friday, December 30, 2016

Cock a Doodle Do! Chinese New Year Welcomes the Year of the Rooster!

 I have several posts about Chinese New Year (CNY) you can find on the right side scroll bar or you can find them all here.

The Year of the Rooster begins January 28, 2017 .  Asian countries follow the Lunar Calendar, hence the changing date each year of CNY!

Chinese New Year, also known as Asian New Year, Lunar New Year, and the Asian Spring Festival, lasts for 15 days and is the biggest holiday celebrated in China and most Asian countries.  Families celebrate by hanging special banners, eating special foods, lighting firecrackers, and giving money away in special red envelopes.  Typically, children have most of the month off of school, as do most workers!  Many families travel great distances to celebrate with extended family.
Our daughter was adopted from China and we therefore are an Asian-American family who celebrates CNY in many ways!  My daughter also dances in a Chinese Dance Troupe with CNY being our busiest performance season.
Here are many ways you can introduce and celebrate CNY and Chinese music in your classroom!

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.  Shadow Puppet video of How the Chinese Zodiac was named.

Another short video (2:42) of how the Chinese Zodiac came to be in the order it is.  I love this one for its brevity and shadow puppets (very traditional Chinese art form).

3.  The Runaway Wok by Ying Chang Compestine
ISBN-13: 978-0525420682, available here from

1. Prepare movement having students walk to a drum beat, when music stops, they freeze.  Add running movement as eighth notes are played on temple blocks.  Add float or glide when  chimes or  gongs are played, etc.

Runaway Wok Music:

After each singing about wok going to rich/poor man’s house, play a different piece of music to which students respond by walking, running, skipping, galloping, floating, marching, etc. You will need 8 pieces of music.  Tell the students this is how the the wok if moving to the next house (change the words of the story after each movement time, “The wok galloped down the road the poor man’s house”, or, “The wok danced down the road to the poor man’s house”, etc.
Try to use pieces that are Chinese or played on Chinese instruments.

Suggested pieces: (click on names of pieces to be directed to youtube links)
1.   Sneaking/Creeping:  
Pizzicato Polka Op. 234 (played on Chinese instruments)
2.  Gallop:  Horse Racing
3.  Sliding/Skating: 
Kangding Love Song
4.  Floating/Gliding: 
Moon Reflects on Erquan Pond
5.  Slow Spin/Float:  Hammock Hanging Between Betel Trees
6.  Float:  Tibetan Bowls
7.  March:
Gong Xi Gong Xi
8.  Dance:
Goddess Choo Choo
Read story, play musical selection after each “Skippity hoppity ho” is sung. Play for about one minute, students move the way they thing music sounds (offer suggestions), when music is stopped the return to starting places.
Continue reading/singing/moving throughout the book.

4.  New Year Song, Chinese New Year Song (in Mandarin):

Pronunciation Guide:


·        Teach melody with text.

·        Add “sweep” movement every two beats; pretend to hold broom, sweep  side to side, transfer to bass and metallophone instruments, add snaps, transfer to glockenspiels, claps for TB (Temple Blocks).

·        Perform introduction with basses and soprano recorder solo or small ensemble playing melody.

·        Add “B” section with unpitched percussion. 

·        Develop suggestions for performance.

Teacher Tip

This is a great piece to break out the gongs and metals.  Noisier the better; firecrackers are lit at Chinese New Year to scare away the monster, Nian!  Also consider using ribbon streamers and having some students use scarves or dance fans (find on ebay; look for Chinese dance fans or belly dance fans) to create a New Year Lion/Dragon dance. 
Want to go the next step and make a Chinese dragon/lion? 

5.  Zodiac Cards to create word chains, work with UPP, meter work, or alternate "B" section to song above.
Musical Magic has a fabulous set FREE on TpT, in color, with eighth notes and quarter notes printed on cards to go with the names of the zodiac!  Yes, every zodiac animal works as quarters/eighths!  Love when that happens!
These Chinese Zodiac Cards are a free download and don't have eighth and quarter notes listed.  These I would use with my second or third graders as it is a great way for them to determine division of beat.  Once they had chosen 4 and finalized order, I would add a repeat sign and have them write out their order with eighths/quarters on dry erase boards.  Then we could play around with saying, playing, singing, and creating! 
 HAVE FUN!! Xin Nian Kuai Le (Happy New Year)!

Friday, December 9, 2016

Jingle Bell Rock Bucket Drumming Routine

I have been sick for 3 very long days (tummy bug) and am finally feeling better. Finally!!!
I had my first of three concerts this morning and it went beautifully, of course with 4, 5, and 6 year olds something always happens that makes me giggle, and today was no exception. I introduced one piece and the kids started saying, "yes", "I LOVE that one", "ME TOO", etc.  The crowd died laughing and truthfully, so did I... it was soooo funny!! :)

Having been sick for most of this week, I was ready to do something fun with my third graders today after our practice and they loved the Trepak Bucket Drum Routine from here. So, I knew I had to make another one to go with one of the pieces we are practicing for the concert!  Jingle Bell Rock is one of their favorites, and my daughter is in third grade and loves to listen to this all year long!
Here is the bucket drum routine:
Perform in a circle, one bucket drum per student or two students sharing in concentric circles, inner circle facing out and they will pass left while outside circle passes to the right.

Music can be found here: 

Monday, December 5, 2016

Jingle All the Way..

Jingle Bells.... I LOVE this song, although by the end of December I am pretty tired of it, but the kids love it and it's great for all children as it is a WINTER song, NOT a Christmas one! 

I begin by teaching the song, although most of my students already know it, but there are a few who don't. Ask them if the song is a winter song or a Christmas song.  You know what they are going to say, right?  Christmas, of course!  Well, boys and girls, what makes it a Christmas song?  Does it mention reindeer, presents, Jesus, Santa, gifts, birthday?  No?  Well, what kind of song is it? 
Then it's time for a little history lesson and a few pictures about "one horse open sleighs" and "jingle bells".

I posted about Jingle Bells a few years ago but just updated the post and changed a few things.  Check out that post here, it's called "Jingle What"

This is one of my favorite activities from that post:

Unpitched Percussion Timbre Tantrum: 

Students divided into four groups. I place four hula hoops on the floor with drums inside one, rhythm sticks in another, metals in another and shakers in another. 
Drums play rhythm of "jingle bells"
Metals (break out the jingle bells) for 2nd "jingle bells"
Woods on "jingle all the"
Shakers for "way".  (teach how to shake through 4 beats on "way")

 On "Oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh" everyone plays 8 beats together.
Back to drums, metals, woods, then shakers, then everyone plays together again for the final 8 beats of "B".



Mrs. Q's blog has a simple dance for your younger students here.
Amy Abbot has an awesome parachute dance here.
Rob Amchin's Jingle Bell Dance:

Here are a few more my students enjoy!
A Section for the first one - concentric circles, partners facing each other. Sashay (or slide if you prefer that word) right for 16 beats, sashay left for 16 beats back to partner.
B Section:

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Nutty About the Nutcracker

Oh, Nutcracker, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways..
Seriously, better than chocolate. Inner music nerd speaking to self, "There is something so thrilling about having a class recognize the music from the Nutcracker!". 
My students are in the midst of rehearsals for 3 holiday concerts; yes, 3!  My junior kindergarten and kindergarten students have a short one, followed by classroom holiday parties (so smart), then first and second graders have one at 9 AM on the 14th, third and fourth graders at 1 PM same day.  Fun, fnu, nuf!  Nope, that's not a misspelling, that's how I feel by the end of the day! 

While we are practicing for concerts, I am doing a wee bit of Nutcracker with our time remaining in each music class.  I especially love Trepak, the Russian dance.  It's so quick, lively, and exciting. 

1.  Trepak Body Percussion and Bucket Drumming (focus on form and beat)

I begin by performing this for the students (listen to the music and you will understand WHEN to do the movements).  The sequence happens during the A Section  and will be repeated for a total of 4 times.  I ask the students to notice everything I am doing.

Have them turn and talk.  This is such an underrated and underused teaching tool. I love turn and talk.  They literally turn to a neighbor and talk about their observations in "kid speak".  I find this to be so helpful.  What did they hear/see?  How many times did it happen?  Was it a pattern or random? 

They quickly discover a repeating pattern, and some of my fourth graders will also notice there was no introduction (!).  I have the students perform the movements and then listen to the next section- more turn and talk, etc. until we discover the B section and then we perform the following movements:

Patsch:  Alternate patting knees for 8 beats
Clap:  Clap own hands for 8 beats
Clap Sides:  Hands out at sides, clap side neighbors (on each side) hands, 8 beats.
Combo:  To half note count: Pat, clap (own), clap (sides), clap (own). Four movements total. 
The next parts I teach by imitation to the "interlude" or "C" section; whole notes count:  Soldier with one arm going straight up, then other arm, then half note count; arm straight up, switch, then quarter note count right arm, left arm, right arm, left arm. 
Back to the A Section for 2 patterns, then clap the beat and continue through the rallentando at the end! 
Now you're ready to transfer that to bucket drums:
You can find the previous post AND a video here.

2.  Composition and Arranging

One thing I love about the Nutcracker is the timeless appeal it has to every age.  The Nutcracker is so deliciously recognizable and I love the various arrangements out there.  Students enjoy hearing and seeing it performed so differently and it is a wonderful jumping off point to talk about composers and arrangers.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy on Glass Harp

Same piece, a capella with Pentatonix

Duke Ellington's Nutcracker Overture

Chinese Dance (I particularly love their use of the traditional Lion Dance seen at Chinese New Year)

3.  Another Trepak lesson:

Using pretend brushes, paints, and a visit to a "museum" children use movement to create statues and paintings with this idea from a previous post.  Uses the book, "Ain't Gonna Paint No More".

4.  Paper Plate and Cup Routines to "March".

Check out youtube, there are many variations!  I think Artie Almeida was one of the first (or THE first) to develop this idea and it is fabulous and fun!!
You're going to LOVE this one!