Thursday, April 26, 2012

For the Love of Music

I always think it's a bummer when students have to miss music (or art, or gym) for testing.  I know that testing is important but I wish there was a way to do it, and still get everything else in. The past 3 mornings for me have been either giving other teachers bathroom breaks or administering the tests myself to a small group.  Yes, I have been getting a lot of planning and program making done, but I still wish we could sing!

Speaking of programs- Today starts my 1 concert a week until the end of the year.  I decided I would outline each program- why I do it, who is involved, etc.

Tonight is the Glee/ Orff Movie Madness concert.  I have both a Glee Club and Orffestra for my 5th and 6th grade students.  Usually we supplement the regular chorus concerts, but the students asked if they could do their own.  We decided on a theme of "Movie Madness" and are doing Movie Theme Songs.  The Glee Clubs sing and dance- some dances I choreograph, some we collaborate on- while the orff plays... orff instruments. In orff we use not only xylophones, metallophones, and glocks, but also boomwhackers and drums. Each group is doing songs on their own, and we have two full group numbers.  I have many great Orff books that we can adapt for our group.

The next few weeks after this are concerts I myself am performing in. I am in the May Festival Chorus this year and we are doing 4 wonderful concerts with music by Beethoven, Brahms, Verdi, Durufle, Poulanc, Tchaikovsky, and Orff.  I love being in this chorus and giving myself an opportunity to challenge my musicianship skills and sing music that is more than pentatonic with simple rhythms.  This music is for ME and it is great to be surrounded by other like-minded people!

After May Festival is over I have a week with 5 performances for different groups of kids- Yes- 5 performances in 1 week.

1st is our Fourth Grade Multi-Cultural Showcase.  I use a lot of multi-cultural music in the fourth grade as we go through our normal curriculum of learning Low So and Fa and Rhythms like Ti-tika, Tika-ti, Syncopa, and others. Each class gets to perform a song or dance on their own, we have some combined numbers, and are even adding an Audience Participation line dance this year.  Songs this year include songs from America, Japan, China, the Philippines, Africa, as well as a Hello Song and Goodbye song that highlight the ways we greet in different languages. This is my favorite program of the year because not only is it easy to prepare because the songs are already in the curriculum, but it is fun for the students too as learn songs and dances from different cultures. All students participate in this assembly so they can get a feel for performing in front of a group before they have the opportunity to join Band or Chorus in 5th grade. Songs are listed below.

2nd is the 2nd Grade Musical that one teacher puts on every year called "A Book is a Magic Thing". It is a cute story about two kids who go on a magic carpet ride through Story land and meet lots of story book characters like Frog and Toad, Arthur the Aardvark, and Cinderella  We just go over the songs once or twice in music- they do most of the learning in class- and then I play the piano for them the day of. A few of the songs we sing more in music because they highlight the rhythms that we are working on (Half note).

After this is 2 performances of our 5th and 6th Grade Chorus Musical- THE BEST LITTLE THEATER IN TOWN.  This is our first musical here in quite a while and the students are having a great time.  Leads meet before school twice a week, and the chorus meets... well.. during chorus.  Parents are a HUGE help with this and I couldn't be more grateful.

Finally that same week is the 6th Grade Recognition Night.  Every year the students sing the chorus of Seasons of Love from Rent and recall favorite memories and teachers from each grade.  We go over it a few times in General Music and then I play for them the night of.  It is a cute tradition.

I know I will be busy and stressed out- but seeing the joy on students faces as they give a great concert or learn something new is the reason I am a music teacher.  I keep myself busy for the Joy of Music. And that is our main goal as teachers right- to give students the Joy of Music.  Not all will become performers or teachers, but I want them to LOVE listening and watching and hearing- and be able to sing Happy Birthday in tune- or sing to their children and not have the children tell them to stop :)

Here are the songs for the Multi-Cultural Showcase.  I can send lyrics, or the book I found it in if you would like one! Just leave a comment below.

Hello Song- This song teaches the students the way to say Hello in 9 Languages.  We open with this song.  It also has some Fas in it that we highlight.

Oki Na Taiko from Japan- This song has both Low So AND ti-tika.  We play "taiko drums" as well as sing this song- the drums are actually buckets I got from Home Depot that the kids decorate.

Chinese Ribbon Dance from China- The kids sing this song in Chinese, English, and on Solfegge.  This song utilizes Low La, which we review at the beginning of 4th grade.  I also have Syncopa in my orffestration for the song.

Alabama Gal: This song uses Low So and Syncopa.  We sing and do the dance from Chimes of Dunkirk for the program.

Banuwa from Liberia- This song has lots of Fas in it and it sounds really cool when layered together.  We talk about types of harmony as well.  This year I am pairing this with Pata Pata from South Africa and we will be having the Audience join us on the dance.

Tinikling from the Philippines- This is a fun dance to work on feeling 3/4.  The students LOVE this dance. We do it a little in class, and then those who want to perform the dance in the program come during recess to practice some more.

Goodbye Song- I use "So Long Farewell" from the Sound of Music- if anyone has a goodbye song that uses even more languages, let me know!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Book Club- Do You Do a Didgeridoo?

I have decided that every Tuesday I will highlight a book I use in my classroom.  If you have a clever name for this post let me know!

                                "Do You Do a Didgeridoo" 
         Written by Nick Page with illustrations by Sara Baker. 

This is a wonderful book where a customer goes into a Music Shoppe asking for a didgeridoo.  For most of the book the Music-man is adamant that he does not have a didgeridoo.  The customer continues to weave elaborate. rhyming stories of ways he can use the instrument- using ones of different colors, to serenade friends from different countries, to imitate bird sounds etc.  By the end of the book- the Music-man finds a didgeridoo in his shoppe and the customer changes his mind.

I use this book in two ways in my classroom: for s-m and for tika-ti (2 sixteenth beamed with an eighth).

So-Mi: To prep or practice s-m with first grade.  I sing most of the book on s-m and point to the students to have them join in every time it says "Do you do a didgeridoo" which is at least twice per page- sometimes more. They do their body signs or hand signs with it.  Many end up joining in on the "No we didgeri-don't" by the end as well, which I sing on all so's getting louder as the book goes on and the Music-man gets more annoyed. The students love the pictures and the story with the twist at the end.  After we read it we talk about what a "didgeridoo" might be and I show them pictures and play examples.

Tika-ti: To practice Tika-Ti I take the "No We Digeri-dont" and put it to the rhythm "ta/ ta/ tika-ti /ta/".  This usually ends up being in fourth grade for me.  We read the book with the students chiming in on the music mans words and then discover the rhythm from there OR I give them the pattern as a transition from a previous activity like "what rhythm do you hear" or flashcards and they have to find it within the first 2 pages and then join in.  I sometimes extend it to play the rhythm on instruments like xylophones, metallophones, or even non-pitched percussion, with gradually increasing dynamics as we go through the book.  Again, after we read I ask what a didgeridoo might be and play some music for them or show a video of someone playing the instrument.  Ti-ti/ tika-ti/ta/ rest/ would also work quite well.

*Note- The Tika-Ti idea was originally Tika-Tika. I found, however, that didgeri-don't was awkward to say with four fast syllables.  This year I changed it to tika-ti/ta. I got the Tika-Tika idea from a workshop but cannot remember who was leading.  Thank you if it was You! If anyone else has been to this workshop and you remember who it was let me know!

* I apologize for having to write words instead of show the rhythms.  My school computer does not have a music font.  I hope to edit at home and add in pictures of the rhythm with the words/ solfegge below.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

GAME PLAN- an Orff Curriculum

GAME PLAN, published by KID SOUNDS in Las Vegas is an Orff Curriculum written by Delellis and Kriske.  Two Orff guys known all over the country for their fun ideas.  The have tons of Orff-centered ideas and publications out there and I use many of them.  Check out the link to their website at the bottom of the post.

When I was first teaching, the Game Plan books were a lifesaver.  They have a full year planned out for every grade K-5 for an hour a week.   Each grade has concepts to cover, activities, and the best part- Visuals and worksheets.  While I never just taught a lesson straight from the book, I did get A LOT of great ideas.

As I continued to teach, and start my Masters in Music Education with a Kodaly Emphasis, I realized that the books- as written- weren't quite as good as I thought they were.  Are they are GREAT resource still?- yes! I have listed the pros and cons for myself below.  I use these books all the time and have used the visuals in new ways as well.

*Many Folk songs with great orffestrations
*Great Dances that link up to the Rhythmically Moving Series
*Timed activities
*WONDERFUL visuals (posters, flashcards, etc) - printed as a HUGE book, or smaller ones sorted in a box
*Year Plans in the front of every book
*Worksheets in the back
*A list of Children's books and CDs that are used in the back
*Great listening activities for form, dynamics, etc. using
*Activities and songs kids LOVE
*Themed lessons for different times of the year with new game ideas for favorite old songs

*There is no 6th grade book- this is the grade I struggle with most! A book would be a big help!
*4th and 5th Grade focus on recorder.
         We do not teach recorder in my district (I wish we would) so a lot of the 4th and 5th grade books aren't as useful to me as they could be.  If your district teaches recorder, they would be awesome!
*Not too many great Transitions
         I did get a few ideas that I still use today, like So-La-Mi and stepping to different pulses, but often in their planned lessons, it doesn't feel like there is a flow.
*Sequencing feels a little off- they do not prepare concepts for very long and do not practice them much either.
         I end up picking and choosing songs and not necessarily using them for the grade intended
*Too much composed music
        Yes, there are Awesome folk songs and dances in these books, but there is also a lot of silly composed music by the authors that feels like they wrote it because they couldn't find a song for the concept.
*Most listening activities focus on the form, or timbre, and there are not too many that highlight a music literacy component. They are also mostly "Newer" Music.  (1950s and later)

Here is a link to the Kid Sounds website

Monday, April 16, 2012


In my (almost) three years of teaching I have realized that musical transitions are vital.  They say in college that if you have a great plan you won't have discipline problems.  While that is not necessarily true, I do believe that good pacing and good transitions will keep students busy, and excited about music, and they will have less time to misbehave.  Transitions are something I love to use and enjoy thinking of.  I almost never just say something like "ok new song! walk back to your seats"  My students are always singing to a new position, playing a game to transition, or not even realizing we are transitioning because I sneak it in :)  We sing, we dance, we sight-read, and play games and often the 55 minute class goes by too quickly!

Transitions can be:
      Rhythm Games- that contain elements from two songs such as Rhythm TIC TAK TOE (a different rhythm in each square- students must memorize and say CORRECTLY to get to put their X or O on the square), Poison Rhythm (students repeat all rhythms EXCEPT the noted poison rhythm), Sneaky Snake, etc.
      Rhythm Flashcards- end on a rhythm that is in your next song.  You can make flashcards more fun by changing them faster and faster so students have to look ahead.
      Rhythmic Ostinato- Use a measure of a song and turn it into a rhythmic ostinato (repeated pattern) that fits with more than one song.  I typically lead the class to come up with an ostinato that will be utilized within the next song.
      Dictation- Similar to Flashcards, students do rhythmic dictation (on dry erase boards, with popsicle stick manipulatives, silly putty, etc) and end with a rhythm that is in the next song.

      Melody Games- Similar to the rhythm games but with melodic concepts instead- Sneaky Snake, Melody Tik-Tak-Toe, and So-La-Mi (similar to poison pattern in the rhythms, but the pattern is always So-La-Mi.  A teacher can hide the pattern inbetween other notes.  I typically start by singing syllables and showing handsigns, then move to singing a neutral syllable while showing handsigns, and finally just singing a neutral syllable.  I always hide song patterns with-in the game.
      Melody Flashcards- Same as above- end on a card that has a pattern in your next song
      Melodic Ostinato- Same as above again :)
      Dictation- Same as above :)
      Solfa Ladders and Human Pianos- These activities are similar- one I have a solfa ladder on the board and point to notes as students sing using handsigns.  The other, the students are "piano keys" each holding a sign that has a note written on it.  I tap heads and the students sing the note that I "play".   Sometimes, I just have them read from handsigns as well.

Other transitions I use are: 
      *Having students sing to their seats while I partner with a new song (singing or on instruments).                       *When students are walking to a pulse I will tap the rhythm of a song on the conga.
      *When learning low la we play a game called Major or Minor and I like to end with our next song.       *Mystery songs are a great transition as well.  Example "our last song was about an animal- our next song will be too- I will sing the so's and mi's of the song- you tell me which animal song it is".  
      *Sometimes I also ask things like- all of our songs today had something in common.  Can you think of another song with that same element?
*For younger students (1st and 2nd grade) I often use story transitions and weave all of the songs together in a lesson- one lesson might be about animals, one about friends, places to look for a dog bone, etc.

Do you have any transitions that you go back to often? I am always looking for new transitions to keep my students engaged and ready to sing, say, dance and play! Leave them in the comments!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Welcome to my Blog! I decided to start a Music Education blog.  I see so many great ideas on facebook, pinterest, and other friends blogs, I decided it was time to start my own.  Brief overview of myself: I and in my third year of teaching general music for grades 1-6.  I also teach 5-6 grade chorus and have a 5-6 grade Glee Club and a 5-6 Grade "Orffestra".   We do a few concerts and a musical every year in chorus.  All classes are focused on making music fun and interesting while leading students to be musically literate and being musical, tuneful people for their entire life- whether they end up being performers, or just those who sing Happy Birthday at a party.  We read music using solfege and curwin handsigns as well as the Kodaly based rhythm syllables.  We use orff instruments often in class and clear the room for movement and dancing every week.  Stay tuned for great ideas and feel free to comment and leave your own!