Friday, March 29, 2013

Favorite Book Character Day

During Right to Read week at my school this year we had a lot of fun "spirit days" that had to do with reading.  There was "Wear Words Day", "Drop Everything and Read Day" (where we wore PJs) and, my favorite, "Dress as your Favorite Book Character Day".  I was having trouble coming up with an easy character to dress as (I didn't want to spend too much money, as my New Years Resolution was to NOT buy a lot of clothes this year so I can save to go to Hungary to study this summer, and hopefully get a House soon...).

Dress from
 I went through my stash of books in my classroom and came across "The Music Teacher from the Black Lagoon" and though 'This is Perfect!'  I read this at the beginning of the year wearing one of my favorite dresses from ModCloth, but thought I could make something to dress to look even more like Miss LaNote at the end of the book.  In the book it states that Miss LaNote has music notes on her dress, on her shoes, and on her ears.

Painted Peplum Shirt and Toms Shoes
I went to Target and got a clearance button down yellow shirt for about $5.00 and some silver fabric paint.  I made the shirt into a peplum shirt to look more like a dress and painted music symbols all over it.  I already had the Treble Clef earrings and the Treble/ Bass Clef necklace thanks to my wonderful boyfriend who get them for me at Okotberfest earlier this year.  The only thing I was missing was the shoes.  I went online and searched 'music shoes' but many of things I was finding were no longer in stock.  I decided to try the TOMS website, because my current was getting a little worn and I found the perfect shoes! I didn't mind spending a little more for them, because I knew I would wear them all the time.  I finally had my outfit!

Music Jewelry
When I wore it to school, many people didn't even realize I was a character because I would wear many of these pieces on their own.  I do, however, think it is a little corney to wear it ALL in one day- unless it is for a specific reason. :)  My students loved the outfit and it was really fun to re-read the book to the little ones and have them realize who I was when I got to the last page of the book.   I definitely plan on wearing this outfit the first week of school and during Right to Read week again.

I have also recently found this dress which would be wonderful to wear when reading the book as well: Too bad it's over $100...

Music Dress from

I LOVE teaching elementary school and getting to dress up like this on occasion.  It is so fun! Stay tuned for more posts today and this upcoming week.  I am on Spring Break and hoping to post more often!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Pinterest Tweaks

Since Pinterest was launched I have been using it to find lots of great music ed ideas.  I know have SEVERAL boards on pinterest to better organize my new music ed ideas- a listening board, a general ideas/ games board, videos, smartboard activities, ideas for stations, etc. (Don't forget to follow my Pinterest Blog Page where I pin every one of my blog posts.)  Many pins don't get used that often, but I figure if I use at least a few each year from the hundreds I pin that is still a lot of good ideas to add to my bag of tricks.
Sometimes, however, I find that a pin does not have a link or source attached to it- so I have to tweak or make up my own version of what I think the game is. Other times, just seeing a picture gives me an idea for my own game or activity. 

2 of my favorite Pinterest finds are the following: 


The pin looks like this:     
The caption for the pin is the following: New game: sing: socks in the washer, socks in the dryer, take a sock out, sing low sing higher. Pass around laundry basket and when song ends, child picks a piece of laundry and sings the notes. If sung correctly they keep the card. If they get underwear they can steal another kids card (after they sing it of course!). Kid with the most cards at end of game wins!

The pin does not give a melody, and there is no website attached.  I have done this game now 2 ways.  The first is exactly what is mentioned- I just made up my own melody for the song ( s ss mm, s ss mm, mm s s, s m m s s). 

The other version I tweaked is a rhythm version.  I put rhythms on the cards (quarter and eighth patterns) and we read (well, sang) Mary Wore Her Red Dress.  After the story, I sang about the clothing of a student (Jimmy wore a cars shirt, cars shirt, cars shirt- Jimmy wore a cars shirt, all day long) and that student came up and picked a piece of laundry to read out of my box (see other pic below).  After the student reads the rhythm, they get to sing about another student in the class.  If boxers were picked- the game ends (unless it was the first round.) This is great to combine two assessments into one- rhythm reading and singing alone! If a student is too nervous to sing alone I typically don't push it- I just have them stand next to me so I can hear them. They choose what the verse should say (or who we are singing about) and then we all sing together. 

Another pin I have tweaked is BOOMWHACKER RHYTHMS.  

The original pin looks like this: 
This pin links to a TeachersPayTeachers store (another great resource if you have not checked it out yet!).  This one, I have not tried as mentioned.  It sounds super cool- but you need an Ipad and other equipment to make it work.  This picture, however, gave me the idea for the following.  

BoomWhacker Dice Game.  Many of us have seen the dice game on the SMARTboard (or using real dice).  There are 6-12 rhythms in boxes, students roll the dice and what ever number the dice shows, they read the corresponding rhythm.  Seeing these rhythms color coded made me think- why not add another level of fun to the game and have your dice color coded too- one dice is colors (6) and the other is the rhythms.  A student goes up and rolls both, then the students with the corresponding boomwhacker have to play(and say) the rhythm.  The attached example is a dotted quarter practice for my 6th graders (get it here). Boomwhackers always seem to add one more level of fun for the students so they don't feel like they are just reading rhythms or singing patterns all the time.  

I hope to get my Teachers Pay Teachers site up and running soon with lots of templates for things I have already shown on the blog and more (including many levels of this game).  I will be sure to post an update when it is ready.  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Sneaky Snake

Sneaky Snake Board
In my American Methodology book (check it out here) by "Sneaky Snake Publications" they mention the game Sneaky Snake a lot.  I am not sure if I am really doing it "right" but then again- what is right and wrong when teaching music as long as kids are learning and having fun?

Here is the way I have started to use the Sneaky Snake game:

I made a bulletin board that represents tall grasses (the grass actually acts as a pocket to hold all of the snakes) and a beautiful blue sky.  There is a slit in the sky to slide the snake into so only a part of the snake shows. The teacher gently pulls the snake so that more and more of the rhythm (or solfa) is shown.  When we do it as a class, the students are shown one measure at a time and try to guess the song before they can see the whole thing (kind of like Trivia nights, where they keep giving you clues, but the sooner you get the question right, the more points your team receives.)  My students typically guess after two measures and then we use the next 2 (or 6) to check our answer.   We can also do this game in teams and the first group to guess correctly gets the point  OR groups get 3 points if they know after the 1st measure, 2 points after the second is shown, and 1 after the 3rd (no points if they have to see the whole song.)

Grandma Grunts Snake (1st Half)
Another way you could do it is make velcro grass or clouds so you can cover up different parts of your snake so they are not always reading from beginning to end, but rather seeing random measures within the song.  This version always works in reverse as a memory game.  Students start by seeing the WHOLE song, then one measure is covered up each time they sing it until they are able to sing the rhythm (or solfa) without looking.  My students love memory games and always feel really accomplished when they not only memorize in the short-term- but retain the info.

This bulletin board has been up for a LONG time and my classes are really excited to start using it.  You could easily do this on the SMARTboard as well- same concept, just "hiding" the snake rhythm behind the grass picture and using your finger or the mouse to slowly pull the song out.  I hope to post a SMARTboard version soon - check back for updates!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Music in Our Schools Month

As you probably know, March is Music In our Schools Month.  There are many March activities I love to do to show students, staff and parents why music in our schools is so important.

Here are just a few of those ideas:

Bulletin Board:  This year I have a bulletin board that is split into thirds.  One third has our typical music schedule- concerts, musicals, other events in the district, etc as well as my monthly music newsletter.

The next third is advocacy facts and quotes about why music is important.  There are quotes from Plato, Nelson Mandela, President Ford and others as well as facts from the Grammy Association about how music increases test scores, graduation rates, etc.  

For the final third I asked my 5th and 6th grade students why music matters to them and posted some of the answers on the board.  There were a lot of great answers.

Announcements:  I am also doing a weekly feature on the morning video announcements about composers, facts about music in our school, or just a fun song/ dance. 6th graders made videos in their Library class earlier this year so I hope to have the Media Specialist show some of those on the announcements as well.   I may even survey teachers about their musical identity and have students guess for raffle prizes at the end of the month.   My Glee and Orff students are really eager to help out with these short video spots and I hope to get some younger students involved too.

Check out the  National Association For Music Education website as well for many more great ideas and for ways to participate in this very important month!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Lets Go Fishing- A song to practice s-m-l

When observing my own Elementary Teacher (Mrs. Nary) during college I re-discovered a favorite song from those years.  It is now a game I play all the time with my students called "Let's Go Fishing"

Let's Go Fishing,                               I  I  I  I
  s       l     s    m

Try To Catch A Fish                         II II I z
  s     s    l        l     s

If you Catch a So then                      II II I I
 s   s      l      l   s     m

You Can Make a Wish                     II II I z
   s     s      l       l     s

To learn the song, I had the students read this on the staff on the SMARTboard (See page 1 of dropbox file)
Once the song was known, students sit in a circle and I tap heads of students to the beat.  Whomever is tapped on the last word of the song gets to "go fishing" and choose a fish from the middle.  I have about 8 fish, 3 with la, 3 with mi, and 2 with so.    The fisherman picks a fish and sings to the class his catch (I caught a so [s-ss-s], I caught a mi [s-ss-m], or I caught a la [s-ss-l].)  and the class gets to respond according to the fish caught.  If the catch is a la or mi, the class responds with "AWE SHUCKS", if it is a so we silent cheer and the fisherman gets to make a wish before becoming the next head-tapper.   I add in DO fish once we learn that pitch as well.

I currently use tag-board fish, but have recently made a SMARTboard file (see dropbox file) where the solfa is hidden under fish- so the students touch a fish and the fish disappears to reveal the solfa to sing (page 2).  You also use dice and have the students role to find their solfa (3rd page of file).  To practice aural skills, you could even just have a note attached to each fish, rather than the name so students have to identify using their ears (this one is not made yet, but I hope to have an update soon with this new file).

Click on the link below to get the SMARTboard file.  Please let me know if it does not work, I was having trouble saving for some reason.!forcollegues/c24vq

Note: I changed the special fish to SO from LA because I thought it might be confusing to sing the word LA on the pitch so.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Choir Builders by Rollo Dilworth

Sometimes I feel like a get in a rut with warm-ups for my choruses.  I often end up doing the same ones over and over every week.  I really wanted to get into making the warm-ups really applicable to the songs we would be practicing that day so I decided to go shopping for a warm-up book.  The teachers in my district suggested Choir Builders- Fundamental Vocal Techniques for Classroom and General Use by Rollo Dilworth and it is one of the best warm-up books I have come across so far.  It is published by Hal Leonard and comes with a CD of examples.  This book is split up into 5 Chapters: 1) Preparation, 2) Unison Building Songs and Exercises, 3) Unison (Opt. 2-Part) Building Songs and Exercises, 4) 2-Part Treble or Mixed Building Songs and Exercises and 5) 3 or 4 part Mixed Building Songs and Exercises.  Each example has a piano accompaniment in the back and there are also appendices including pictures of curwin handsigns, national standards, conducting patterns and more.

I typically use the 1st 3 chapters with my 5th and 6th grade chorus.

Above each of the 54 examples there are Focal Points listed,  an Explanation and performance notes, Expansion ideas or other ways to sing the examples, and Extension suggestions that can connect the examples to other subjects to make the warm-ups cross-curricular, or make them slightly harder.

Each of the singing warm-ups in this book have both lyrics written for them as well as the solfegge printed.  I love using solfegge with my choruses so it is a great warm-up before we work on our sight-reading piece.  Many of the examples have lyrics that give the students information on a musical concept- such as syncopation, a minor third, or diction.  

Many of these examples are really fun and my students ask for them again and again.  Favorites include: Soda Pop Cans, Hippety Hop, and Two Tigers Tango.  I also love the Rhythm Calisthenics which help with diction and getting those lips, teeth, and tongue moving.   They also warm-up the body with body-percussion examples.  There are examples in many time signatures, using many sounds and sirens to really get the students ready to sing.  I love doing these while setting up my keyboard in the gym for 5th chorus, because they can repeat after me and I don't need the piano just yet.

Rollo Dilworth has also published a shorter Choir Builders for Growing Voices with many more fun examples to warm-up young voices.  This one has more rounds and cannons and other Unison or 2-part exercises.

If you are in the market for warm-up ideas check them out!