Friday, September 21, 2018

Vocal Exploration to Notation

This is a resource I created to help students go from vocal exploration to notation. Use the individual colored slides for younger students and ask - where does it move, high to low, low to high?  Does it go up and down, etc.  You could also use these for movement pathways. Notice there is no clef so you can use them right side up or upside down.   If you would like to have the full  pdf with 113 slides, please send an email to

Each slide begins with a colored vocal exploration or movement pathway:
The next slide places the staff on the slide:
Notes are added:
Then the image is removed:
Here are a few others:

Hope you enjoy these!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Being Sensitive with Our Song Culture and History

In the United States, the song literature we use in elementary music education is rooted in folk songs.  As we grow as a culture and deepen our sensitivity and understandings of our past history, we learn things about our culture that are unsavory and demoralizing.  Some of our songs have histories with inappropriate themes and others have racist overtones, mocking or degrading various cultures, particularly black or African American culture.  Just recently a good music teacher friend lamented on social media after she learned that "Jump Jim Joe", a standard for young children in music education classrooms, was racist.  The New England Dancing Masters changed the title of their book, "Jump Jim Joe", to "Rise, Sally, Rise" acknowledging the sensitive and negative history of the song.  This is a wonderful collection of songs, available here.

By now you may have heard that "Ring Around the Rosie" is a song about the Black Plague. That is FALSE and urban legend according to historians. Read the full story here. The plague began in 1347 and the earliest print appearance of “Ring Around the Rosie” did not occur until 1881 when Kate Greenaway’s Mother Goose or The Old Nursery Rhymes was published. 
What you may not know is that that "Sing a Song of Sixpence" is about piracy, and that "Lucy Locket" is about the prostitute Kitty Fisher.  Back in the day, Locket was a euphemism for "vagina".  Check out the full story, along with how Casanova plays into the story here.

 Is your mouth hanging open yet?

Mine was, and the more I learn, the more I research and find songs that have connotations or histories that are inappropriate to use with children, the more shocked and saddened I am.  Though many of these songs appear innocent at first glance, as the lyrics have been "whitewashed",  I can't "unlearn"  the information or history behind the song.

Here is a partial list of historically offensive material:

  • "Jump Jim Joe" began as the song, "Jump Jim Crow".  From Wikepedia,  '"Jump Jim Crow" or "Jim Crow" is a song and dance from 1828 that was done in blackface by white minstrel performer Thomas Dartmouth (T. D.) ... As a result of Rice's fame, the term Jim Crow had become a pejorative meaning African American by 1838 and from this the laws of racial segregation became known as Jim Crow laws.'
  • "Jim Along Josie" is a song that began as a blackface minstrel song in which blacks are mocked and demoralized.
  • "Eenie Meenie Miney Mo" is rooted in the slave trade.
  • "The Ice Cream Truck Song" is associated with a song called "N...r Love a Watermelon".
  • "Five Little Monkeys" was originally about black slaves, one who was sick and the other one dead.  "Shortnin' Bread" is the chorus of "Five Little Monkeys".  "Monkeys" was a sanitized yet veiled epithet in reference to black people.  Read the full story here.
  • "Tie Me Kangaroo Down" is an Australian song, the original lyrics include a racial slur against Aboriginal Australians.
  • "Pick a Bale of Cotton" pokes fun at the conditions the slaves endured.
  • "The Hokey Pokey" evolved from "Hocus Pocus"  and referenced witchcraft - read the story here.
  • "Jimmy Crack Corn" is about a slave whose master has died. Many historians believe the slave is rejoicing in his master's death.
  • "Ten Little Monkeys" also is the probable root for "Ten Little Indians" - Both are racist. Read more here.

Some of these songs came from minstrel shows, in which performers appeared in blackface makeup. 
Folkloreforum has this to say about the minstrel show, read the full story here:
The minstrel show was popular even before the Civil War, performed before audiences in both the North and the South. However, the shows’ materials changed once freedom was granted to the Negro slaves in the United States. Before the matter of freed slaves became a volatile issue, the typical minstrel show exhibited white men in black makeup performing song and dance exaggerated by lack of coordination and improper English, a style that became known as Jim Crow. After the Civil War, the stage opened itself up to new performers, recently freed slaves, willing to impersonate the impersonator. These performers, though already darker skinned, adhered to the minstrelsy tradition of blackface makeup. The tone of these black caricatures became less innocent and more damaging to blacks. 

So what do we do with these songs?  To sing or not to sing?  To teach or not to teach?

An article from NPR also questioned what to do with these songs - stop singing them? Change the words? What to do?
The expert in the article, found here, said this: 
"When it comes to these songs ... children should be taught the modified versions because they can't grasp the nuances of race just yet and don't have multiple levels of understanding. Later, they can learn where the songs came from, and that lesson will be an important one. "These songs are part of a racist history — our nation's history. And we want to be aware of our racist roots."

Does failing to acknowledge the history behind the songs negate/devalue how far we have come from these times?  For me, I find it difficult to use these songs that have brought pain and humiliation.  Especially when there is wonderful song literature to use  - and so much of it!  Spirituals, freedom songs, and African American games and songs honor and celebrate black history without introducing or discussing painful history with young children. There is a place and time to have discussions about painful history but only when children are developmentally ready for it. The choices we make matter, not only to us as individuals and educators, but also to our students sense of self and identity.  The potential impact, not our intentions, guide us in deciding the choice to use a song and if so, how much information to share. If  using a song may harm, or has the potential to do so, then we should reconsider our choices.

Monday, September 10, 2018

On Halloween Night

I love Fall!  This is a quick post today about a song I wrote a while back but finally put into Finale just this week!
This goes with the book, On Halloween Night by Ferida Wolff and Dolores Kozielski, available here from
After every page or every two pages, perform the song below.  Add gongs, shakers, whistling wind tubes and thunder drums for a super fun book.  If your recorder players are learning E like mine, and pretty solid on BAG they will love to play the "Ooo" part!  
Enjoy and Happy Fall! 

Wednesday, September 5, 2018


We've all had cravings. A few months ago on my birthday, I really wanted strawberry cake.  I was going to make one for myself that afternoon- same as my mom used to make me when I was a kid. My daughter and I have made it several times over the years - amazingly moist, with strawberries between two layers of Betty Crocker strawberry cake mix (yes, I cheat and use a mix, don't judge), and cooked "White Mountain" frosting that is heavenly!  So, when my husband took us out to breakfast, we went to a place we knew had  a similar strawberry cake, with buttercream frosting - so yummy!  We sat down, placed our order and I excitedly asked for the strawberry cake only to be told they were out.  SO disappointed!  We ate our eggs and bacon (not at ALL what I wanted) and then my husband drove to the next town to the sister restaurant of the first (local chain).  He got the cake, off we went to run errands and grocery shop.  While at the grocery store I went to the baking aisle to get my box of cake mix and lo and behold, NO STRAWBERRY CAKE!  I felt like the fates were conspiring against my wish for strawberry cake!  Two more grocery stores later and we finally found my cake mix.  Went home, baked, and it was perfect.  Went through one failed batch of frosting -it is picky, but worth it, then frosted the cake.  My daughter put the sliced strawberries on the top and it was beautiful. Into the fridge it went - and when it was time for presents and singing, out came the cake - with the strawberries sliding down the cake leaving slug.  It was hysterical!  Tasted great, though, and we laughed and laughed!
All that to say today's blog post is inspired!  Did you know cupcakes were first mentioned in an American cookbook in 1796?  They were originally cakes baked in small cups! 
Shown is a sample of the lesson- email me at for the full pdf. 

Friday, August 24, 2018

Un Jour Dans Sa Cabane

I grew up in Maine, and still consider that "home" along with North Carolina.  My mother grew up in Maine in "the county" - Aroostook County, which borders Canada.  I grew up speaking a smattering of French with my mum and my "Auntie Jo" who had a very thick French accent and learned English as a teenager.  I love this fun song, and the "Zoom bala" part is really fun!


Friday, August 17, 2018

Music Room 2018

Relational Teaching. This is important in my community. Important, discussed, encouraged, and celebrated. Challenging for those of us who teach huge numbers of students. Our co-curricular faculty (Spanish, art, music, PE, media, science, and tech) decided to forego the typical team or class awards in favor of celebrating the individual and honoring those students who "Go Beyond" (our school motto).
I am doing this in a number of ways- swag tags from Tracy King, AKA The Bulletin Board Lady (on Teachers Pay Teachers), Cool Kid Spray, inspired by David Row from Make Moments Matter (which my kids already love), and being a Bell Ringer/Chicken Squawker (see my video on Facebook @ofortunaorff. I am also doing something new with classroom management and I already love how concise and easy it it has been to describe and enforce.
Here is the tour of the room, take a peek them go check out the post and video on Facebook to see how I use all these things in the classroom! @ofortunaorff

I also recently posted about re-wrapping my mallets - head over to facebook - @ofortunaorff to check out the video!

"Cool Kid Spray" - ridiculously fun and students yesterday (first day of school) loved it!

Check out the windows - Crayola makes window markers and they were so much fun to use!

And a pic of me as I start my 25th year of teaching and my daughter starts Middle School!  Happy New School Year!

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Back to School!

I am back from Finland and the International Music Village! What an amazing experience!  I toured around Helsinki for 4 days before the Music Village began and then hopped on a bus for 4 hours with music teachers from Russia, Croatia, Finland, Georgia, Spain, Italy, Singapore, Australia, Poland, Austria, and many other countries.  The accents and languages were so fun to listen to and the enthusiasm and energy was infectious.  Then we began making music, dancing, and singing together and it so difficult to describe the joy, excitement, and thrill of the experiences I had!  Here is a picture of our wonderful group from all over the world!

This is my last week of summer break and I am so glad I have this time to begin to process the experience!  I am at school a little this week to get my room ready and begin the process of everything "back to school". 
Plans?  The first couple of weeks I have several things I do - especially name games and songs!  For some reason, I have a difficult time remembering names, which is a little tricky for us music teachers who usually have between 300-1000 students names to remember!  So, for me, I need to remember all the returning students and learn the new children's names!  Last year I posted the "Ultimate List" of name games and songs.  Check it out here!
Hope you have a great start to the school year!  Be sure to follow the blog on facebook - @ofortunaorff where I post videos and extras!  
Happy beginning of school!

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Why Orff?

A recent post on Facebook asked, "Why Orff"?

They were not only asking why people choose or use Orff Schulwerk but also wanted to know why teachers identify as "Orff/Kodaly/Gordon/Dalcroze/Music Learning Theory/Feierabend" specialists.

Part One of this I wrote last year:  Check it out here. 

Find Your Tribe

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family: Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” — Jane Howard, Margaret Mead
I think it is basic human psychology to identify with a group of like-minded people.  When you find your "tribe", there is a sense of belonging, kinship, and sense of community.  Add in the language that is specific not only to teaching music, but the language of the approach or methodology and the kinship/community/friendship/ support/connection is powerful as we see not only how our students are impacted, but how we are impacted professionally and personally.  Some of my deepest and most impactful friendships are with other music teachers who live and teach in other states. We might only see each other once a year at the Orff National Conference.  These are my "go to" people; I highly respect them professionally and enjoy their impact not only on music education and the Orff community, but also value their friendship. The first moment I attended an Orff workshop I found "my tribe" and knew these were like minded, creative, artful, and artistic musicians.

 Orff Schulwerk

There are many common misconceptions I often hear -
"It is a methodology".  Nope- it is an active and creative approach to developing musical understandings in every learner through the integration and development of music, movement, speech, and drama.

"It's all about the instruments and I don't have any".  Nope!  At its core, teaching with the Orff Approach is based on the way children learn- through PLAY!  Students imitate, explore, improvise, and create as they grow and develop.  Students use their bodies, voices, and classroom instruments. The "Orff instruments" - pitched percussion instruments (glockenspiels, xylophones, and metallophones) are used to create accompaniments but are "nice, not necessary".

"Orff is focused on folk dancing."  Nope!  The Orff Approach focuses on student centered creativity, speech, singing, improvisation, creative movement and so much more!  I happen to love folk dancing, and it is a part of creative movement.  Folk dancing involves movement, provides opportunities for creative physical responses to music and acts a scaffold on which students can build expressive movement language.

"The focus is not on sight singing."  Right, and Wrong!  There is not a singular focus in Orff Schulwerk.  Elements of the Kodaly and Dalcroze methodologies are also a part of the Orff Schulwerk.  Personally, I think the Kodaly sequence of "prepare, present, practice" approach aligns beautifully with the "imitate, explore, improvise, and create" approach of Orff Schulwerk.   Students become artistic, expressive, and creative musicians who develop their personal musicality and expression. Many of us have come to embrace the quote, "Speak, sing, dance, and play in a tuneful, beatful, artistic way.". I love this!
So, what is Orff?  Here is a 2 minute video that does a great job explaining in a more visual and auditory way!

Want a little more?
Here is a little longer video (7 minutes) that shows a classroom in action.

Workshops vs. Levels Courses

Workshops are a great way to experience Orff, and just like any workshop, clinicians offer a variety of activities and experiences.  The subject areas are diverse.  Many of my workshops focus on hand clapping games, songs, and dances and children's literature, art and music activities.  If you are new to the Schulwerk, try going to at least four different workshops to experience the diversity of subjects and teaching styles.  For a list of chapter workshops that might be near you, check out the AOSA page. AOSA is the American Orff Schulwerk Association.

Levels Courses
Workshops give you a "taste" of the Schulwerk, but your taste buds haven't fully experienced the full array of flavors!  That is what Levels Courses are for!  These are certification courses held for two weeks throughout the summer in every region of the US.  There are 3 Levels, and a post-Level III, which used to be called "Master's Level". I would strongly recommend taking one level per summer and not trying to "double up" as you need time to let things "sink in" and time to apply your new experiences with your students.  Many local chapters also offer scholarships as does AOSA,  Here is a list from 2018.

Have more questions?
Drop me a note below.  Hope this was helpful!

Friday, July 13, 2018

Summer Reading

Hi everyone! Hope you are having a wonderful summer!  I love my summers!  The first part we spent in Maine - my home state.  We go almost every summer, for 2 weeks, and rent a cottage on an island.  It is truly amazing.

I always pick some summer reading - some that is required by my school - this year is Disney, other summers we have read books by Daniel Pink, Sir Ken Robinson, or other books on parenting or educational thought or trends. This summer I chose to read World Music Pedagogy Volumes 1 and 2, and For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood. I have already read the World Music Pedagogy Vol. 2 and really loved a lot of what was in there!!  I am taking the Vol. 1 and the other book with me to Finland.  I have a 9 hour layover (!!) in Stockholm and am not looking forward to it so am planning on finalizing my new book about Singing Games from Around the World (not titled yet), and we begin editing this fall! I am also going to read some of these on the plane and during that layover, too!

 It has been a difficult summer to sit down and read - gone to Maine for 2 weeks, home for 2 weeks, gone to the beach for a week, home for a week, going to Finland for 2 weeks, etc. Difficult to find time and other distractions - garden, crafts, jewelry to make, fun to be had with my daughter, etc., often get in the way! 
So, what are you reading this summer?