Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Tuesday Book Club- The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors

Today's Tuesday Book Club is The Legend of Rock Paper Scissors by Drew Daywalt. What an adorable book! This hilarious book gives you background information on how the game Rock Paper Scissors came to be. It is fiction of course, and oh so fun to read. After reading the story, there are so many ways you can incorporate Rock-Paper-Scissors into your classroom! 

Sei-Sei-Sei, from Japan, is one of my favorite songs to play this game. All children start with a partner and are standing on a large piece of paper.  At the end of the song- on HOI!- students choose Rock, Paper, or Scissors.  Which ever child looses folds their paper in half. If there is a tie- BOTH students fold their paper.  All students then find a new partner.  Once a student has folded their paper 4x they are OUT.  Continue play until you have a winner for the class! 

Also- Have you seen this video?
In my class, winners keep hopping trying to get through the course, and those who loose Rock-Paper-Scissors have to read a rhythm or solfege card before they get back in line.  The game ends when either someone has gotten all the way through the course OR all students have attempted and read a rhythm at least 1x. 

Another fun idea is Rock-Paper-Scissors composing. 
Disclaimer: I saw this idea on Facebook and fleshed it out, and am sharing my version.  Thank you to Shauna Slemp in the Elementary Music Educators Group for originally posting this awesome idea! She did it to have students record BAG recorder.

I did BAG recorder with my 5th graders and my 2nd Graders are working on DO right now. After reading the book we composed some So-mi-do songs using rock paper scissors.

Students got into pairs and played the game.  If Scissors won (or both students chose scissors) a SO was added to their song.  Paper = Mi, and Rock = Do.   I had students play 8 times for an 8 beat song of all quarter notes.  Check out this awesome student work!

You could also choose to have students first write a rhythm using known concepts, and then use the R-P-S to add the solfege, or as Shauna did add the notes B-A-G.  Working on a new rhythm concept such as tika-tika (beamed 16th notes)? Have students write a rhythm pattern where Quarter Note= Rock, Beamed Eighth Notes= Paper, and Beamed 16th Notes= Scissors (a rest could be when there is a tie.)

I have included 3 simple worksheets below that you can either print OR project to play as a class. They are super basic but get the job done :) Click HERE to access the google doc. When you click the link ,you will be prompted with a screen that asks if you would like to make a copy of the doc.  Click yes and you will be good to go! You can edit your copy, or just print a page as is, but you won't have to worry about messing up the original!

In addition to the activities listed above, you can talk to students about how Rock, Paper, Scissors is a great strategy to solve a conflict.  Partners can't agree? Play RPS.  Unsure of who got to the line first? Play RPS to see who gets to be in front, etc. etc.

Go Forth and Play RPS!

Friday, January 25, 2019

Paw Paw Patch (Pretty Little Susie)

I love this game and the activity that goes with it, especially because paw paws are grown in the town I teach in! It is an awesome song for teaching tika-tika, preparing for folk dances, and more.  However, lately, I am wanting to be more sensitive in regards to gender and gender stereotypes.  Calling the Susie pretty, and then having only the boys be the ones who go find her was bugging me a little.  First I made the easy change in the 2nd verse- instead of come on "BOYS" we have always sung come on "FRIENDS."  The first verse, however, has been more of a challenge to figure out an awesome way to change it without taking away from the original.

When I learned this song, to set up the long-ways set, we had the girls on one side, then the boys on the other.  The head girl skipped around the boys on the first verse (where oh where is pretty little Susie).  Then for the second, all the boys walked around the girls (come on friends, let's go find her). For the third  (pickin' up paw paws...), we cast off (or as some say, peel the banana) and get ready to start again with new people at the head of the set.

I still teach the song as the original but when we do the movement, I do not have students line up boys and girls, but rather just in two lines.  I try to avoid splitting my classes by boys and girls as often as possible.  School (even elementary school) should be a place where kids come to learn and grow, not to feel uncomfortable because they don't feel they belong.

I then let the first student in the line on my left (who would normally be pretty little Susie) choose an adjective to describe themselves and we sing that as we do the movement.  I have had "Strong Little Jack," "Cute Little Caitlyn," "Awesome Little Emily," "Smart Little Chloe," and more.  Once students get used to changing the first word, we can also change the "little".  Some of my favorites of this version have been "Xander, the Leader" and "Oaklee, the Brave." We are only changing the words, the movement stays the same. It is so fun to hear how students describe themselves. 

It would also be awesome to have the class come up with a positive adjective to build the head student up. How neat would it be for a student to hear 4 or 5 things other classmates see as positive traits and then choose their favorite?

PS- Never tried a Paw Paw?  Find out more information about this awesome fruit HERE

Friday, January 18, 2019


This post is all about clocks! Lots of ideas for a lesson using word rhythm vs beat, form, solo singing, expressive movement and more! Use this as one complete lesson, or pick and choose what works for you! I did this lesson in first grade last week and it was so fun! We got to do it all- sing, say, dance, and play! 

Vocal Exploration- repeat after me.  First Vocal Sirens, then clock sounds (tick tick tick tick, ding dong, Cuckoo Cuckoo Cuckoo Cuckoo etc.) 

Cuckoo in the Clock - Every time we sing this song, we sing, then play the rhythm on an instrument (or clap), then Cuckoo 4x. 

In this lesson, first I have students continue to tick on the steady beat as I sing the song.  We then switch parts and sometimes I split the class as well- some singing/ clapping and some ticking. (Yay Partwork) 

For the Game, All students close their eyes and start singing the song.  While they are singing and then clapping the rhythm of the song to "Knock" I choose one student to hide behind the piano.  The hiding student sings the cuckoo's on their own.  When they are done, the class opens their eyes and tries to guess who is missing. 

Hickory Dickory Dock Vs Tick Tock
This activity I learned from Lucinda Geoghegan when I was in Hungary a few years ago. It is GREAT for steady beat in both 2/4 and 6/8.  First, the class sings Tick Tock (see below) and adds a simple hand clap game to that (clap own hands, hit partners hands, repeat). Next we learn Hickory Dickory Dock, and say it with the same game.  Then we stand in a circle and first ALL say Hickory Dickory Dock with the handclap game.  During the rest at the end, we "Ding" and turn around to do Tick Tock with a different partner.  (I call this Level 2. Level 1 is just the hand clap game with a partner, not switching back and forth.) 

As a challenge (or Level 3) students can stand in a circle and try to have both the chant and the song going at the same time (every other pair sings Tick-Tock while the others say HDD).  The different timbres (singing and speaking) helped Ss to stay on their own parts.  This is great to start prepping 6/8 un-conciously even with little ones.  They love the challenge of part-work!

2/4 Tick tock, tick tock, goes my little clock
        s      m      s      m      s      l     s s     m

6/8 Hickory Dickory Dock, the Mouse ran up the clock.  

The clock struck one and down he came, Hickory Dickory Dock.

Syncopated Clock Scarf Routine

My students LOVE this scarf routine because it shows form, uses both hands, and they get to throw the scarves! I made it up, but being honest, I know I have done scarf routines to this song in many workshops so it may unconsciously be similar to another you have seen. 

A Section - Scarf in RT Hand and move rt arm around in a circle in front of your body as if it is a hand on a clock. 
When the A sections repeats, students switch the scarf to the left hand and do the same thing. 

B Section- Put scarf in both hands, wave above head for 16 beats, then down low for 16 beats 

C Section- Throw/ Catch to the steady beat! Be sure to have students switch hands. 

Viennese Musical Clock Scarves and Cups

For the Scarf Routine, it is mostly a movement exploration activity.  During the A Section, students must March to the beat, but can move the scarf however they want.  For the other sections of the rondo they get to move both their feet and the scarf creatively to match the music. 

For the Cup game, older kids to the typical "cup pattern" during the A section and then follow the leader for other sections of the rondo.  Leaders may choose to do activities to the beat using their cup, or just their hands. 

Typical Cup Pattern- Clap, Clap, Tap-tap, Tap.  Clap, move it, over, z. Clap, pick-it up (with your hand upside down), Hit your left hand (with the bottom of your cup), Down (tap the cup on the floor). Switch Hands, Tap, and Pass, z. 

At the end, we wrap up our lesson with a Time Telling Book. See a list of awesome time books HERE

Friday, January 11, 2019

Statue Game

Do you have movers and shakers in your music room?  Those that wander around, roll in their seat, and are always moving?  To help lessen the movement during "concentration" parts of the lesson, I love to play the statue game.  We use it when listening, singing, and more.

When listening to someone talking- students just choose a fun statue and hold it while the speaker says what they need to say. If the speaker changes, the statue changes.

During singing, I choose a time during each song to switch.  Working on time signature? Switch on the strong beats.  Working on quarter rest? Change statues during each quarter rest. Working on Low La? Switch every time a low la appears in the song.  When doing a solfege syllable, I tell students they do not have to change if the syllable appears multiple times in a row, but if you leave the note and come back, the statue should change. Students know that in my classroom, we are SINGING statues, but not TALKING statues.

For listening lessons, we can focus in on form and change statues when a new section of music starts. I love to have students then work with partners and create statues TOGETHER.  Kids are thinking about things like: Should they mirror each other? should they be different- but related? Should they be connected in some way?  I LOVE the creativity that comes out when working in pairs (or even small groups)!

Statues are an easy activity to add into any lesson and students LOVE it!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Tuesday Book Club- Rock What Ya Got!

So, I spend far too much money buying books that people recommend on Twitter (follow me @emilychurch86) but I am SO EXCITED about this one.

Get the Book HERE

Rock What Ya Got was written by Samantha Berger and illustrated by Kerascoët. 
Basically, an artist draws a picture of a girl, Viva, but doesn't quite like it.  However, before she can erase the picture, Viva comes to life and asks the Artist if she can just "Rock What She's Got" instead of being changed.  

This book has a wonderful message to embrace our individuality and 'Rock What We Got' and Viva speaks very rhythmically.  

To bring in the new year, I am reading this book in grades 2-4 and we are going to create a rondo using the following chant from the book for the A section, with an added orffestration by me. 

             Rock what ya got and Rock It a lot
             Don't let anyone say what you're not!
             Find what is yours, and carve out your spot
             Take it and own it and rock it- a lot!

Tambourine: Rock It! (on micro beats 1 and 2 in a bar of 6/8)
Hand Drum: Rock, Rock, Rock what ya got (in 6/8 |.   |.  |||  |. )
Glockenspiels: Play improvised pentatonic hands-together chord at end of each line
Alto Xylo: Play improvised pentatonic hands-together chord on each ROCK
Bass Xylo: Macro beat open 5th bordun

When teaching the poem, before transferring to instruments, I have been having students clap on rock, and snap on the last word of the phrases. The hand drum is pats, and the tambourine is stomps.  The first class that we do this lesson, I just teach the Glocks and AX while I play the bass.  The 2nd lesson we add in the Hand Drum and Tambourine.

See pictures for basic notation to help you out. My abbreviations for some reason didn't show up when I downloaded my song, but instruments are in the same order as listed above, with the vocal line on top.

The other sections of our Rondos will be chants students make about about what they hope to ROCK in 2019. They will each have 16 beats (but can choose to do 8 beats repeated).  Examples might be:

Multiplication is what I will rock
7s, 8s, and 9s, I won't stop
I'll learn all my facts and teach them to others
Maybe I'll teach something new to my mother!

I will rock music in the new year
I will sing, I will dance, I will play without fear
Learning, composing, and leading too
I will rock music- what about you?

Basketball is where it is at
Free throws, jump shots, and 3's- just like that! :||

As usual, students will be able to choose to work in a small group OR individually.  As briefly mentioned, in my class, this whole process will take 2 lessons (30 min each) but if my classes were longer, it could be done in one.  I think this will be a super fun way to get students lifting each other up and making music right away in the new year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

#OneWord 2019 | Mindful

I have been thinking a lot lately about my #OneWord for 2019.

JOY was a great word for 2018, and I found JOY in lots of things and interactions.
I loved seeing the JOY on my 3 year olds face when we were playing, or he was discovering new things, or he got to "push my buttons" when getting ready for bed to make me talk in different accents.
I loved feeling JOY when my little girl was born.
JOY was felt when the family was together- my husband tickling our little one while the 3yo cuddled with me on the couch.
There were many times in my classroom when students learned a new song, or dance, or instrument part, or just had fun eating with me that JOY was present in the LU-E music room.

This year, now with 2 children, a new job, a new home, and more, I need to be more grounded.

My word for 2019, inspired by my 3yo, is MINDFUL.

Mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us. ~mindful.org 

I am usually so reactive that I think 2019 will be a great year to step back and breathe.  

I need to be mindful of my own emotions- not that I don't want to FEEL big emotions, but that I will react to them in a way that is productive.  Whether that be channeling big feelings into a new project, taking 10 seconds (or 10 minutes) to focus on breathing, or even crying it out for a bit as a way to release negativity. I come from a family of yellers and stompers. We always let emotions out in a BIG, LOUD way. However, I find that if I focus in, breathe, and think about the strategies I already have in my "rest area" at school (like counting to 10 slowly, hugging myself or a stuffed animal, or stretching, etc.) that I am less stressed, can think of solutions to problems easier and I am happier all around.  

I need to be mindful of my family and how they are feeling and reacting. I hope to bring mindful strategies into my 3yo's life so that rather than hitting and kicking and screaming when he doesn't get his way, we can find solutions that work for him to calm down and communicate his problems. Maybe if the whole family has breathing time together, does yoga together, or just goes for mindful walks together, we will all be calmer and less stressed out in the new year. We need less tech and tv and more nature walks and play. 

I need to be mindful of my students. Their individual personalities, goals, backgrounds, and learning styles. 

I need to be mindful of my ability to say YES and push myself to step out of my comfort zone. 

I need to be mindful of my ability to say NO and realize when something will not be good for myself, my family, or my school. 

Again, from mindful.org, I am encouraged because when it comes to mindfulness: 
  • Anyone can do it. Mindfulness practice cultivates universal human qualities and does not require anyone to change their beliefs. Everyone can benefit and it’s easy to learn.
  • It’s a way of living.  Mindfulness is more than just a practice. It brings awareness and caring into everything we do—and it cuts down needless stress. Even a little makes our lives better.
  • It’s evidence-based. We don’t have to take mindfulness on faith. Both science and experience demonstrate its positive benefits for our health, happiness, work, and relationships.
  • It sparks innovation. As we deal with our world’s increasing complexity and uncertainty, mindfulness can lead us to effective, resilient, low-cost responses to seemingly intransigent problems.
In 2019 I plan to: 
~Take time each day to breathe before my 1st class, and after my last class leaves. 
~Make Gratitude part of my routine. I love these ideas from BUSTLE on how to Cultivate a Creative Gratitude Practice.
~Do my own Mindful Music Moments on the way to work. 
~Stretch, do yoga, and go on nature walks with my 3yo each week. 
~Begin each class with a short mindful moment- adding stretches into our warm-up routine. 
~End each class with a short mindful music moment where we listen to part of a song and focus in on our breath before we leave to complete the rest of the school day. Even just 30 seconds to a minute where the class can take time to breathe can be an amazing thing. 

Each of these are all small things, but I think they will make a big impact on 2019. 
Do you have a word for the year yet?? 

Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Favorite Things

As 2018 wraps up, I thought I would write about my favorite things so far this school year.  So many things helped me become a better teacher and person.

Connections- Having lunch with 4th graders on Fridays and sending postcards home to students in any grade when they do something great have been great ways to connect with students at a new school this year.  I love spending time with kids outside of class time to really get to know them. 

Tech Tool- Flipgrid.com What a great website for students to be able to complete a project or reflect on their learning by making a video.  My students (and I) LOVE this website.  Check out my full blogpost on Flipgrid HERE.

General Music Prop- I finally got a stretchy band from Bear Paw Creek and I have no idea why I waited so long! These bands are perfect for movement, form, and working together as a team.

Picture Book- Rock What Ya Got by Samantha Berger.  This is an adorable book. From the amazon description:
                  When a drawing of a little girl comes to life, she boldly declares 
                  that she doesn't want to be erased, or put into a picture that doesn't 
                  feel like her true self. Instead, she decides to speak up in a 
                  powerful way. And she has some words of advice: embrace what 
                  you have, love yourself, and "rock what ya got." 

Stay tuned for the first TUESDAY book club post of the year where I show how I use this book as a great lesson to tie in with The New Year, Resolutions, and more. Get the book from Amazon HERE

Middle Grade Book- The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden.  This book is a must read for any teacher.  Find out more about this book HERE

Praise for this wonderful book:

"With grace and heart and words masterfully woven, The Benefits of Being an Octopus captures the quiet and loud masks of domestic violence. Braden navigates the complexities of choice and power and the meaning of courage. And how sometimes together, we can find our voice and our strength." -- Elly Swartz, author of Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie 

"This wise book knows we can't always keep the people we love safe. But it also knows that courage and compassion can sometimes turn lives around. You will care so fiercely about Zoey -- the octopus-loving, truth-telling young heroine that you'll want to wrap all eight of your own arms around her." -- Anne Nesbet, author of California Book Award winner, Cloud, and Wallfish

"You are seen. You are heard. You are loved." In a perfect world, every child would know these three absolutes. Ann Braden shares this message with her readers in a funny, poignant story about Zoey, her siblings, their mother, and one very special teacher. An octopus might be the most clever creature, but it can't hold a candle (or eight) to Braden's masterfully constructed prose." –– K. A. Holt, author of House Arrest

Professional Development Book- #KidsDeserveIt and Leader In Me.  Both of these books have helped me grow as an educator so much.  Connecting to students and helping them to form habits that will make them amazing leaders. See this post on a little more about each of these books and how I have been using the tools learned in my classroom this year.

Book Used Most When Lesson PlanningFirst Steps in Music by John Feierabend.  This book has been a staple in my kindergarten planning this year.  Being at a new school (and only having taught KDG for one year at my previous school) the workout in this book and the sample lesson plans are amazing! My students love the vocal exploration, echo singing, solo singing, movement and more!

Teacher Shoes- ROTHY'S.  Wow are these shoes perfect for teaching! They have 4 styles- Flat, Point, Loafer, and Sneaker.  They are made from recycled water bottles, are washable, and of course- best of all- so comfortable wearing them to teach all day. I am so happy I discovered this shoe. Want to get $20 off your first pair? Use this link 
Full Disclosure: This is my personal referral link for these shoes.  If it is your first order, you get $20 off and I get $20 off my next pair as well. No other links in this post are sponsored in any way. 

Favorite Music Ed Blogs- This is just a list, but these are 3 blogs that I frequently reference!

Organized Chaos
Mrs. Miracles Music Room
Make Moments Matter

Favorite Music Ed Podcasts- Love these podcasts as well! I listen sometimes on my way to work, and definitely during long nights at school (such as conferences).

Make Moments Matter
Music Teacher Coffee Talk
The Music Room

Looking ahead to 2019 I already have many books on my list like: Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby, The Teaching Text (You're Welcome) by Douglas J. Robertson, and The Whispers by Greg Howard.  I also have many workshops and conferences to look forward to- like the National Kodaly Conference in Columbus, Ohio and participating in the Link Up Concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and my 3rd Grades. When it comes to self-care and doing things for me, rather than my students, I look forward to performing again- reprising my high school role of Miss Jones in H2$ and most importantly, spending tons of time with my awesome family- Brad, Henry and Hazel. Stay tuned this week to see more about my teaching resolutions for this upcoming year, my #oneword, and more!