Thursday, September 29, 2022

Jack O'Lantern Song

 I needed a new song for sixteenth notes for this season, so this morning I wrote one. Enjoy! The game is similar to others and will be a quick and easy way for my students to work on playing octaves and sixteenth notes!  Click this link for the google slide.


Monday, September 26, 2022

Repetition and PLAY in the Music Classroom

 Hi friends,

Hope you are doing well. 

Let's talk repetition in the music classroom today! 

True, right?  Why is that? When new things are introduced, there is often a sense of wonder as their brains make sense of the new information. 

Humans learn by experience, not by someone telling them ABOUT that thing. Why do we go on vacation to see something? Because seeing means something different - it means DOING, not really seeing. The act of seeing the Grand Canyon or the Giza Pyramids isn't the same as seeing it on TV. We can't smell the smells, taste the food, or feel the sun on our face or the wind in our hair. It isn't an authentic experience without action. Hearing about a good isn't the same as reading it ourselves. The experience is deeper. 

As students repeat an activity, they process again and again and move from experiencing to anticipating, from understanding basic musical concepts to exploring the activity to the fullest sense possible.  They discover their own musicality as they imitate and eventually create new songs. 

  • Helps language development.
  • Ensures emotional comfort (predictability).
  • Assists in concept attainment as they learn something new each time.
  • Feeling of mastery improves self-confidence.

Check out this post about the power of repetition.

Play is equally important for young children and as music teachers we know about its value in our classrooms. 

  • Improves children's abilities to plan and organize.
  • Assists in children's emotional regulation and helps them get along with others.
  • Helps with language, math and social skills.
  • Helps children cope with stress. 

Mister Rogers perhaps put it best:

Check out this post for more about the Power of Play.

Here is a video from me about Repetition and Play in the music classroom. 


Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Agua de limón

 From September 15-October 15 Hispanic and Latinx/Latine Heritage Month is celebrated in the US.  The dates coincide with  national independence days in Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Mexico.

I have a very sweet friend in Quito, Ecuador that I met through the pandemic. I say, "through" because I do not know if our paths would have crossed had it not been for the pandemic. During quarantine, my dear friend Thom Borden and I began the American version of International Sunday Sharing, already begun by our dear friends across the ocean in Finland, JaSeSoi, the Finnish Orff Association. We met on Sunday mornings via zoom and had hundreds of music teachers from around the world show up to sing, dance, and share. It was a beautiful thing, and I met and befriended such beautiful people, including MaCarmen from Quito.  Ecuador has always held a special place in my heart as our family had an exchange student during my freshman year of college. Anita became very special to us and she is my Ecuadorian sister, now living in Cincinnati. When I got married, she came from Ecuador with her sons to be at our wedding and she is a beloved member of our family. 

For more songs, books, and dances to celebrate Hispanic and Latinx/Latine Heritage Month check out this post.

Here is beautiful MaCarmen's song she shared, the song is from Colombia and is SO FUN! 

For the full slide deck, check out my Patreon.


Monday, September 5, 2022

Alien Q and A

Improvisation is essentially spontaneous composition. The art and act of creating an expressive musical statement in real time adhering to some kind of structure.

 Question and Answer is a common improvisation technique in music.  In the world of Orff Schulwerk we begin with imitation and exploration of an idea or concept. Then we add label and improvise using that idea and concept. 

When students are ready to improvise, where do we begin? 

I like to begin with this:

Teach song and step the beat in place.

Sing and walk the beat. 

While singing, walk to face a partner.

Show 8 fingers and do a "countdown" demonstrating rhythmic alien language. 

Something like this:

With partner, decide who is going first (rock, paper, scissors to determine "winner"). Show fingers again, first partner improvises over the 8 beats using alien language. Second partner answers them with their 8 beats. Don't worry if they are not truly performing question and answer yet - it will come. 

Repeat several times before defining question and answer technique. 

Repeat game with question and answer technique.

Repeat activity with body percussion. Consider transferring to non-pitched percussion.

Hope you enjoy!

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Words of Experience

 Well, I had hoped to not get in the weeds of life and post almost every day since my last post but that didn't work out! 😂 Oh well.. best laid plans!  

Here is the rest of the advice I had hoped to post - see previous post for the first two. 

Happy new school year! 

Saturday, August 13, 2022

New School Year Words of Experience

 I was about to write, "words of wisdom" in the post title, but I don't feel that is correct as I am certainly not wise, simply experienced. 

So, for the next several days I will be offering some advice from 29 years of teaching. Hope you enjoy! 

Be sure to be looking on facebook as my "Live" broadcasts will be starting next Tuesday at 7:00 AM EST and every Tuesday thereafter. These are all recorded and available on the O For Tuna page so if you aren't awake or available at 7:00 EST, you can always go check them out - there are already SO many from the past couple years of videos where I share songs, books, activities, and teacher ideas. 

So, onward we go! Welcome to the 2022-2023 school year! 

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Hike by Pete Oswald

 Hike by Pete Oswald (of The Good Egg and The Bad Seed fame) is a beautiful (almost) wordless picture book. 

Follow a Dad and son into the mountains as they witness the magic of the wilderness, overcome challenges, and plant a tree to give back to the forest. This beautiful book is full of possibilities for movement and vocal and barred instrument exploration (images that move down or up, small and large trees, mountain peaks, hills and of course those beautiful winding trails).  Or, have small groups create movement tableaus for different pages or create 2-beat building bricks about what the father and son are doing or seeing.  

Perfect for back to school talks about summer trips or for Earth Day.  

This would work well with Trees 'Round the Earth from my new book, Singing Waters, Dancing Flames published by Beatin Path Publications.

For a clearer image of the song, click here to download.

Another great tie in would be the beautiful canon, This Pretty Planet.

Or use Seeds of Love by Gemini

Another extension idea using the book Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert, post click here

To see a video of Planting a Rainbow and the Seeds song by Gemini, click here. 

What is your favorite song or activity about nature? Drop a comment below. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

End of Year Favorites

 Happy May, Happy End of the School Year (in the US) and Happy Almost Summer! 

Can we just take a moment to pause and realize how immensely difficult this year has been? The third abnormal year of teaching during a Pandemic. I think we all thought yay, we're back in school after the craziness of Global lockdown, remote teaching, teaching in person, being hybrid, back to remote, back to remote, constant change and never quite feeling like the sand stopped shifting. I don't think any of us were prepared for the behavior challenges our students would have, or that consequences don't have the same meaning or are absent from students lives.  Student interactions have changed radically - no touching, don't get closer than 6 feet, then 3 feet; sanitize or wash hands; mask up; don't breathe too close to me; don't sing; don't share instruments; don't touch anything! With this lack of interaction children didn't know how to be around other children, couldn't make a line, couldn't stand in line, couldn't stay in line. And the list can go on and on.  

Take a moment and breathe and say, "Well done." No judgement - we've all done the best we could each day and that might look different hour to hour or minute to minute. 

This summer I am going to be hosting a 4-part "Summer Camp" on my Patreon to playfully plan for next year!  I hope you will consider joining us! Come join us here! 

I always look forward to the end of the school year - not only because it is the end of the school year but because we sing songs around a campfire our last day in music and for the whole month leading up to it we sing camp songs, clapping games, and really fun and silly musical things that keep us laughing and singing all the way to the end. I do this with first through fourth grade (my highest grade level).  All of my campfire songs (a book of over 50 songs) is posted for my Patreon subscribers.  See all previous posts about campfire songs here. 

I am excited to build my campfire next week. Here is last years:

Don't know where to get started? Here are a few from GoNoodle:

Go Bananas:

Boom Chicka Boom:

Peanut Butter in a Cup:

Little Green Froggy:

Coast to Coast:

For my littles we are also singing and moving but with less of a narrow focus.  Kindergarten music focuses on ocean and butterfly themes, with lots of rich song material and children's books.  Click here for the google slides with books, songs, and videos. 

My students especially love Butterfly, Butterfly, which is a book that is out of print and currently $60.00 on Amazon! Here is a read aloud from youtube. 

Insert the song below at appropriate times and have students move like a butterfly while they are singing and sitting on a "flower" (floor) while you sing. 

My littles - Junior Kindergarten - sing a variety of songs and the focus is on vibration (their classroom focus for science this month), so lots of instrument playing. 

Both of these groups really love the Sylvia Pizzicato video from Musication.

I get out triangles, rhythm sticks, and shaker eggs. Students choose which instrument they want and then we watch and play when the bee lands upon each flower. This is also a great assessment opportunity to see if students know how to correctly hold instruments (triangles especially) and if they play with accuracy. Students holding triangles put them away and choose either sticks or shakers, those with sticks put them away and choose triangles or shakers, etc. Play again. Another assessment opportunity. Repeat and play a third time and students will have been able to play all three instruments and you will have three assessment opportunities for accuracy and understanding of playing technique!

Grades 2, 3, and 4 LOVE Pass the Beat and will play this (almost) all day long! 

Hope you enjoy some of our favorite end of the year activities!

Friday, April 29, 2022

The Listening Walk

Sounds. Noises. Music. Squeals, splashes, tweets, whistles, zonks, and barks. 

This is a fun video to get children thinking about sounds. 

Clangery bash, splish a ma splash.

Whomp, rumble, wah wah squeak.

So many sounds to make, to hear.

Listen, listen, use your ears. 

I love starting with this book and every couple of pages insert the speech above.

Then we review the ways we use our voices and bodies while we play Boom Chicka Boom. We speak this with various voices; cow sounds, baby style, low and high voices, whisper voices, etc. We also explore new ways to keep the body percussion ostinato.

Next we read The Listening Walk by Paul Showers and Aliki.

Once we have read the book, we go on a silent listening walk outside. You could also choose to take your walk through your building. Students work in pairs with one pencil, a clipboard, and one recording sheet below.

Students then discuss their favorite 5-7 sounds and how to recreate them with voices or bodies.

Next we talk about how to show the sounds visually. I love this post from Classicfm on how art and music collide in graphic notation. Here is one of the graphic scores shown, isn't it gorgeous and a great example of linear non-traditional notation?!

Here's another fun one for singers:

Students will choose an order for their sounds - what comes first, second, etc.? Are they all quiet sounds or is there a mix of quiet and loud? Is there a mix of high and low sounds?

On a blank piece of paper in landscape orientation, students draw a “road” and write their favorite 5-7 sound names or representation. Add dynamics of p or f for quiet or loud for each sound. Perform.

Then we discuss how composers interpret sounds with instruments. Here is a student sample:

Next students circle up to three sounds to try to interpret on instruments. The other instrument sounds continue to be performed with voices or bodies. Students choose the kinds of instrument timbres that best represent the sound. This part can get NOISY, but allow for the noise and for the exploration as students make choices and decisions. There is no right or wrong answer.

Now we are ready for the song to create a Grand Rondo! 


Perform in rondo form with song as A Section, student creations will be contrasting sections.

Then we listen to excerpts from Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony (No. 6). Beethoven deeply loved nature and often traveled to the countryside outside of the busy city. 

As Beethoven's favorite place was being in nature, while listening students draw pictures of their favorite places and add a few sentences about this favorite place. 

This takes 2-3 classes (depending on length of class) and is a fun activity my students have enjoyed for several years!  
Crystal sent me an update to her song and the way she uses the book - here is a Forte/Piano Garden Scavenger Hunt using f and p cards made from paint chips! 

Hope you enjoy!