Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Nisse Polka

This past summer I was in Finland at JaSeSoi Ry's International Music Village (Finnish Orff Association).  It was amazing and I loved my time both in Finland and making music with musicians and teachers from 14 countries.  I also fell a little in love with the Scandinavian lifestyle and their connection to the outdoors.  Did you know there are 188,000 lakes and more than 1,000,000 saunas in Finland?!
JaSeSoi Ry has put together an amazing resource online called "Nordic Sounds".  There are songs, games, and dances from Norway, Denmark, Finland, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, and Sweden!  Pronunciation videos, background info, teaching ideas and videos make this site exceptionally user friendly! Check it out here!
When I came back home, I began looking for more music and dances from this area of the world. Via Facebook, I came across a dance teacher in Portland, Oregon, who has been a tremendous help to me. Christie teaches Scandinavian dancing to children 5 years old and up to adults.  She has been incredibly generous and due to some technical problems with sharing music files, she even sent me 2 CD's via snail mail!
Many of the dances are new to me, including the one I am sharing today. This is called the Nisse Polka, though Christie calls it the Nissie Polka and her students call it the Caterpillar Dance.  The Nisse is a Christmas figure - read more below! Many thanks to Christie (again) for her help in putting all of this together and for being so willing to share!  On to the dance!

 Here is the dance performed by Christie's kids at a Scandinavian celebration.

Music with singers:



Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Music Teachers Are Thankful For...

Since Thanksgiving is on the 22nd of November this year, here are 22 things I think most of us music teachers are thankful for.
Gobble Gobble!

1. Each other via Facebook groups.  These groups keep us connected, whether you are the only music teacher in your building or you have one other person teaching music in your school, there are times we can feel apart from and not a part of. Join one, or two, or, like me, 8!

2. An email like the one I received this week from a parent about 2 high school girls getting ready at home; they dropped everything when they heard "Sleigh Ride" and performed the body percussion routine we had performed years ago at an elementary concert. Wow!

3.  Orff instruments with mallets put back correctly and in a line. So satisfying.

4. Hugs from kiddos.  

5.  Technology working as it is supposed to. 

6.  Supportive administrators who value the arts! 

7.  The rush of pride (and relief) that comes after a performance.

8.  Supportive spouse who helps you sand rhythm sticks, bring coffee to rehearsals, create sets or ________. 

9. Artie Almeida

10.  That one second (or entire class) when no one plays their recorder when you are giving directions.

11.  Feeling a part OF, not apart from the classroom teachers, even if it might be just for a moment in time.

12. That lesson that just goes amazingly well!

13.  The lesson you are grateful you got to tweak with the third class and just wished you could have the first class back in for a do-over. 

14.  PD and conferences where you feel valued, honored, and like a "real" musician again. 

15.  Finishing a folk dance with students that rolled their eyes over having to dance but are now asking if they can do again and saying "That was so much fun!"

16.  Teachers Pay Teachers.

17. Spotify.

18.  Youtube

19.  Family and friends who "get you" and your music teaching craziness.

20.  Bringing people together through music.

21.  The ability to teach something so joyful and FUN!

22. Each of you reading all the way to the end- no, seriously, thank you for being you!  Now go bless someone and tell them thank you! 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Jan Ken Pon Yo

In Japan, there are epic battles that have played out for centuries. Yes, you guessed it, Janken or "Hand Games".  In the US we call this game Rock, Paper, Scissors.  I use Rock, Paper, Scissors as a way to determine partners, and as a way to determine who plays what instrument. My students are allowed to choose Orff instruments when we use them - and so I call small groups of students and if two students go the same instrument at one time they immediately go into "Rock, Paper, Scissors" mode and that determines who plays what.  It is a random determiner and the children never fuss about who won as it is solely by chance! Win win!

This is a great song for mixed meter.  The body percussion is something my students helped me to create as when I first taught this I had a class that struggled with the feeling of 2 vs 3 so we quickly devised some body percussion patterns to reinforce that feeling. It stuck! Once the song is learned, students can play the game:
Class stands in a designated area, each facing a partner.
Sing song, performing body percussion. At end of song, students tap one hand in a fist onto the other hands open palm on "one, two, three, four" and on "five" they reveal rock, paper, or scissors.
Those who win stay in the designated area and find a new partner, all others circle around them. Everyone sings again, performs the game with new partners, winning partners remain to find new partners, etc. until there is one winner. My students beg to play this game and it is a great one when you need a quick 3-4 minute activity or brain break.
You can also add the extension activity with the cards below.  Print out enough for small groups to create rhythmic B sections in triple or duple meter (or both!) and have some fun with having students create the corresponding hand signs as an added challenge. Transfer to unpitched percussion-  it works out nicely as there are 4 cards to go with the 4 timbre groups of metals, skins, shakers, and woods!
This song and game makes a great addition to a unit on Japanese music.


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Candles Glow Speech Piece

Planning holiday concerts is always tricky. I want to have all of my students diverse celebrations represented.  I struggle with finding music that represents everyone and isn't too much Christmas, but just enough, or too much Kwanzaa, and not enough Hanukkah, or too much ________ or not enough ______.  It is a tough balancing act made tougher by the limitations of the theme of holiday.  It is not a "winter" concert as it happens right before we break for the holidays and most of my families celebrate Christmas or a combo of Christmas/Hanukkah or Christmas/Kwanzaa and a few families are Muslim, which is difficult.
Candles are a theme that is inclusive and not exclusive.  This year our theme is "The Warmth of a Winter Candle".  We are performing "Just One Candle", from Music K-8, which is really love and accessible to all. Students are also performing one of their favorites, called Give Light, in addition to several other pieces. I blogged about Give Light- an incredibly beautiful song, a few years ago. The music and post is here.

I wanted to put together a speech piece with several ostinati performed vocally and with non pitched percussion.  This could be used to create movement, or as a drum canon, or as an A Section with small groups performing question and answer improvisations on Orff instruments in a pentatonic key as alternating sections to create a rondo, or it could be used to create a melody.
I am going to let my oldest grade -4th, decide how to perform it.  I can't wait to see what they come up with! 
I love seeds of ideas.. let me know how you use it. It is presented a couple ways below- one with speech only, the other has a possible idea with body percussion.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Gobble Gobble!

Just a quick post today to re-post a fabulous song composed by a friend that is perfect for this time of year.  HILARIOUS! This is a favorite with my kiddos!
It's called "Pass Me the Turkey" and has a cup game composition project to go with it! Enjoy!
 The original post is here and has the music and the activity.
Here is another one composed by another friend that is perfect for Thanksgiving!
Happy Fall!

Friday, November 2, 2018

Nutcracker Rhythms

If your classroom is anything like mine, for the past few weeks it has been a mix of fall/Halloween/Christmas/Winter/Kwanzaa/Hanukkah.  So... does that mean my students have been singing Fallowintzaakahmas? Yup!  Now that Halloween is over I feel the intensity and focus shift to music for our Holiday Concert. Thankfully this year I have been blessed - I only have ONE concert!  Well, two, but our Grandparent's Day concert is incredibly short and is right before Thanksgiving. ONE concert in December.. I need to pinch myself! I usually have at least 3, sometimes 4-5, so one concert is a big deal - and it is my entire elementary division together, which means that I don't need to produce a minimum 40 minute concert with just my first and second graders.  That used to mean 12-15 songs (at least) and so it was crazy practicing with students to get them prepared.  With the same time 40 minute concert time frame, and all the grade levels, I have about 5 songs, a parent participation piece, each fourth grade is performing one Orff arrangement, a drama (I am not responsible for) and readings (I am not responsible for), I don't quite know what to do with myself !  It is wonderful to plan some *gasp* LESSONS for the months of November and December!  
I am planning on bucket drumming to Trepak from the Nutcracker and a few other activities to the Nutcracker as well. Here are some rhythm cards you may find useful - right click on each to save it and have fun using them!