Thursday, February 25, 2021

Basketballs in the music room!

As you may know, one of my very favorite things to do is make up (and have the kids make up) prop routines! They are great for this year, because many props can be easily sanitized between classes and they are super fun.  I use prop routines to introduce students to new music, give them an opportunity to move to their favorite music in class, teach form, teach mood, and more! 

When it comes to basketballs (or kick balls), we always start in 2nd grade with Bounce High, Bounce Low to get used to bouncing together in class and expand from there.  After we are awesome at just bouncing to the beat, I challenge students to make up movements to show off their skills. They can toss the ball, pass under their legs, move side to side, etc.  In fact, a few of the movements in my newest routine came from ideas from my kiddos! 

As we get better at our ball skills, we move on to more challenging routines. A few years ago, in combination with our PE class, we did a routine to Trepak from The Nutcracker Ballet by Tchaikovsky, and last year during quarantine we did Believer by Imagine Dragons (videos below).  This year, for Mozart's Birthday, I made up a routine to Rondo Alla Turca that my 3rd and 4th grade students LOVED it! We were able to practice ball skills, rhythms (sixteenth notes!), form, and have so much fun.   Note- When talking about the form of this piece we discuss how Mozart's Rondo is a little different than other rondos.  Typically a rondo has the A section repeating (ABACADA, etc.) but Mozart's keeps coming back to the shorter B (ABCBABcoda).  I do NOT teach this all in one class- especially only seeing kids for 30 min at a time.  We may do the beginning one day, and then add in the other sections the next class. 

Rondo Alla Turca

Here is a rundown of the routine.  A, B, C and Coda are color-coded! Use the video to help decode what I mean- this rundown is meant as a reminder.  Feel free to adapt the routine and do what is best for your students! 

4 slow bounces, 7 passes between hands fast 

4 slow bounces, 7 passes between hands fast 

3 dribbles to the right, then 3 to the left 2x 

4 slow bounces (adding a quarter turn each bounce if you want!), 7 passes between hands fast

3 dribbles to the right, then 3 to the left 2x 

4 slow bounces (adding a quarter turn each bounce if you want!), 7 passes between hands fast

2 tosses up (not too high or you won't catch it in time!), 2 slow bounces  4x 

8 beats- dribble fast and lower to ground, Next 8 stand back up 

8 beats- dribble fast and lower to ground, Next 8 stand back up 

16 beats - Swirl, swirl, swirl, toss, swirl, swirl, spin 

8 beats- dribble fast and lower to ground, Next 8 stand back up 

16 beats - Swirl, swirl, swirl, toss, swirl, swirl, spin 

8 beats- dribble fast and lower to ground, Next 8 stand back up 

(Note about the C section- this is where I have kids improvise and show off their awesome skills.  Some keep it as I teach, but others like to spin the ball on their finger, pass it behind their back, dribble between their legs, etc.  I just ask that they pay attention and are ready for the next section! If this were to be done in a performance, we would discuss phrase length, repeating sections of the movement, etc. so it wasn't chaos as it can be when they are just improvising) 

2 tosses up (not too high or you won't catch it in time!), 2 slow bounces  4x 

4 slow bounces, 7 passes between hands fast 

4 slow bounces, 7 passes between hands fast 

3 dribbles to the right, then 3 to the left 2x 

4 slow bounces (adding a quarter turn each bounce if you want!), 7 passes between hands fast

3 dribbles to the right, then 3 to the left 2x 

4 slow bounces (adding a quarter turn each bounce if you want!), 7 passes between hands fast

2 tosses up (not too high or you won't catch it in time!), 2 slow bounces  4x 

Punch air to R, Punch to left, swirl around head, bounce twice

Punch air to right, punch to left, swirl around head, bounce three times

Punch air to R, Punch to left, swirl around head, bounce twice

Punch air to right, punch to left, swirl around head, bounce three times

Toss in air 




Toss to finish! 

I hope your students LOVE this routine as much as mine do! And don't forget to check out the other basketball routines below! 

Trepak from The Nutcracker Ballet 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Tuesday Book Club - I Promise by Lebron James

Have you seen this amazing book by Lebron James yet? Yes- That Lebron James. This book is beautifully illustrated by Nina Mata. Click the book to get it from Amazon. 

This is a wonderful rhyming book full of promises students can make to themselves to be their best! It is the perfect lesson after returning in the new year! 

 Promises include: 

I promise to use my voice and stand up for what's right. And when things get tough, to keep up the fight. 

I promise to be me. 

I promise to ask for help whenever I need it. 

My students this year got to read the book and then create their own I Promise Rondo! The A section of the Rondo was created by me, and then each class made a few of their own Promise Chants for the other sections.  After the chants were created, we went to chrome music lab and added melodies.  They were a little tough to sing, but the kids LOVED creating a full song with a melody, a drum beat, and words. We ended up with a really cool video! We just used body percussion this year, but instruments could easily be used in all sections when social distancing and sanitizing after each touch is no longer required. 

Student Promise Chants Include: (Click the link to get to the Chrome Music Lab Melodies) 

I promise to treat others how I want to be treated. Respect my school, listen carefully, never give up

I promise to be nice, kind fair and honest, to be brave. I promise to not lie

I promise to listen and be a good citizen, I promise to keep trying, to fight for whats right. 

I promise to be nice, I promise to be kind, I promise to not be mean. 

Here is notation for the A section! 

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Tuesday Book Club- The Mitten by Jan Brett

One of my favorite books to use in the Winter, especially with K and 1 is The Mitten.  A Ukrainian Folktale adapted and illustrated by Jan Brett.  (Click the picture to get the book!) Students love seeing the mitten grow as more animals join in. 

Much of my lesson was adapted from this blog: High Shoals Music Blog. She also has an adorable Orff Instrument component that I haven't done- but need to, so be sure to check it out! 

After the first reading, we assign a rhythm to each animal using descriptive words in the book. These usually end up being similar, and I have a "deck" of common phrases kids come up with, using both stick notation and iconic notation.   Sometimes kids come up with silly things, and that is totally fine with me. We write all of our patterns on the board and then can refer for the rest of the lesson. Common phrases are below- all 2 beats long.

Tired Mole 
Snowshoe Rabbit or Hopping Rabbit
Snuffling Hedgehog or Prickly Hedgehog 
Big Owl or Swooping Owl
Digging Badger 
Trotting Fox 
Great Bear 
Meadow Mouse or Tiny Mouse 

White Mitten or Snow White Mitten 
Grandma Baba

Many of my patterns end up being the same rhythm, but usually we are either still prepping quarter and beamed eighths, or have JUST learned them, so I don't mind the kids having practice hearing rhythms with different words. 

Depending on the class, we may read the story again and have each student choose an animal to be, and an instrument to play their pattern on (in non-covid times of course- this year no instruments).  While reading, we chain the patterns together so when the Mole comes, just the mole kids play, but when the Fox comes many pages later, we hear the mole, rabbit, hedgehog, owl, badger AND fox in turn as their animal names are stated in the story.  On the sneeze we ALL get to play random for 3 seconds.  If I want more individual assessment, we may have students "act out" the story so each animal is only one student.  Then I can hear them play their own pattern and assess steady beat, rhythm and more quickly while having fun! 

Finally, kids then get to make up their own 8 beat patterns using decks of animal cards with the patterns.  If we are still preparing quarter and eighth, I use my iconic notation decks, but if we are practicing we use the stick notation decks. Get the decks HERE.  They are not super fancy, but they are what I use (Examples below)! While the mittens, Baba, and Nicki cards are not used while reading, they are included in the decks for students to create their own patterns. I always have blank cards ready so students can add their own if they come up with something awesome earlier in the lesson (just paper cut to the same size as my laminated cards)! 

After a few minutes to organize their 8 beat patterns (4 cards) students get a chance to share their creations. They read their patterns with both animal words, and rhythm words (ta, ta-di; long, short-short, etc.) This is another great quick assessment! Sometimes we share in a rondo form using the Mitten Song in the blog post mentioned above.  I also love using the 2nd verse of "Snowpants" from Music K-8 (which is about mittens of course). 

Do you use this wonderful book? Let me know how in the comments! 


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

21 things in 21

 Hello! We made it to 2021! 

Quick post to share 21 things I want to do in 2021! I was listening to the Music Teacher Coffee Talk podcast last night where they went through their 20 in 2020 lists laughing and reflecting on this past crazy year.  I thought it sounded like a fun idea, so here goes! This list is personal and professional things.  

1. Get off the phone and with family! Be intentional about one on one kid time. 

2. Make up more prop routines/ body percussion videos to popular songs (one a month at least!) 

3. Sew more (esp quilting!) 

4. Read 60 books (I did it this year, but quarantine definitely helped so I am keeping the same goal for next year). 

5. Explore Columbus Parks with family 

6. Take a drumming course 

7. Get better at Ukulele 

8. Write more postcards to students 

9. Organize recorder materials 

10. Keep Exercising (go for 5 nights a week!) 

11. SING! Hopefully in a performance or musical (thanks, covid) 

12. Present at a music or district conference or workshop/ chapter share 

13. Blog more! 

14. Sleep! Prioritize sleep more and go to bed earlier 

15. Be intentional about breakfast

16. Try more new recipes

17. Keep a Gratitude Journal - write one quick thing each day that I am grateful for

18. Plan at least two programs based on Children's Books (songs and routines!) 

19. Organize Craft Corner in Basement 

20. Organize teaching manipulatives 

21. Go somewhere new (I'm hoping by summer or fall travelling mask-less will be an option again!) 

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Tuesday Book Club - Wonderful World

I LOVE this book illustrated by Tim Hopgood! (I love all the musical books illustrated by him!) 
Click the book cover to check out the book on Amazon. 

What a Wonderful World is one of my favorite songs and has such a great message. When using this book, we watch and listen, then create our own songs of things we are grateful for!  I have done it as a whole class, but it could be a great composition project as well! These are some of my favorite pages: 

To create our songs, after reading the book/ listening to the song we list as a class things we are grateful for, or things that cheer us up, or things that bring light when we are feeling down. After our list is complete (I try to get something from each kid), we sort the list into Rhythm Building Block Chunks (see picture).  Your chunks could look different depening on what grade you are working with.  

After we write our list, we use Chrome Music lab to create our song! Students choose the colors needed for each syllable of our chosen words.  For each song I chose 4-8 items from our list.  We then came up with a pattern for the percussion and sang our songs!  Two examples are shown below! 

This lesson is great for any time of year, but especially during the Holdiay Season! It is always great to reflect on the joy of the season and focus on what we are grateful for, especially after this rough 2020! 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Tuesday Book Club- Boo! A Book of Spooky Surprises

Boo! A Book of Spooky Surprises by J. Litton is one of my son's (and my students) favorites! I made up a little melody to go with the pages and he loves singing it to his little sister.  This is a great book for fall.  It does not mention Halloween specifically but utilizes a lot of typically Halloween characters like spiders, ghosts, witches and wizards so be sure to know your school and students before you use it. Click the picture to see where you can find the book! 

Night Owl, Night Owl   |    m-d m-d

Was that you?                |     l,-d m___

Were you the one who  |     m m-f  m  f

Shouted Boo!               |      m  d   l,___

For the last line I change it up a bit to make it a little more excited for the reveal

m-f m-f m-f m__   mm-f m-f  m-f  m___     l-si  l___

After I sing the book, we turn it into a guessing game, where one student hides their eyes, and another chosen by the teacher shouts "I'm a ___(their Halloween costume) and I say Boo!" or another phrase fun for the season and the student hiding their eyes sings "___, ___(guess x2) was that you?, Were you the one who shouted boo?" using the melody above.  If the guesser guesses correct, they get another turn (up to 3 turns total in my room) but if they are wrong, the student who tricked them gets a turn to hide and then guess. 

Another fun way to use it in older grades is to turn the book into a Rondo.  For each page turn, call on a student to make a 4 character pattern/ rhythm and either say it twice OR say the pattern and then say "Were you the one who shouted boo?"  

Example: Zombie, Ghost, Witch, Bat :||                  OR 
Zombie, Ghost, Witch, Bat. Were you the one who shouted boo?

You could even have students say their character pattern first, and then say your rhythm language the second time through such as: 
Zombie, Ghost, Witch, Bat.
Ti-Ti, Ta, Ta, Ta (or Ta-di, Ta, Ta, Ta or Du-de, Du, Du, Du, etc.) 

What fun books have you adapted for your classroom?

Monday, September 7, 2020

2020-2021 Here We Go! Tips for hybrid/ virtual general music learning!


Wow! What a start to the year! My school is currently hybrid and I am actually kind of loving it.  Half of our students come Mon/Tues and the other half Thurs/Fri.  Wednesday is dedicated to google meets, making videos, and meetings.  

While hybrid, specials teachers in my district see our students in person 1x a week for 30 minutes and then we are supposed to also make 1 video lesson per grade that students can watch and do at home for asynchronous music learning. 

Making videos has been so fun! My specials team has a theme each week to make our lessons kind of cohesive go help families out with the amount of work students have to do. My videos are not fancy at all, but I am basically just pretending that students are in the room and doing a (slightly shortened) version of the lesson I would already be presenting them already.  Each video is done in one continuous take- if I mess up, I start over.  I do this so I am not spending hours editing- I would rather focus on lesson content than be at my own computer all day splicing videos together.  Are there mistakes in my videos- you bet- but does that happen when I am teaching in person as well? Of course! I think it is important for students to see me as human and not a perfect musician- so they feel comfortable trying new things and making mistakes as well! 

Here are my top 5 tips for virtual/ hybrid learning: 

1. Pretend the kids are in the room! When doing toddler music lessons with my kids this summer (yay WeJoySing!) I LOVED that his teacher just taught the lesson as she would as if all the toddlers were with her.  She gave shoutouts to kids during each lesson, played games (and sometimes got her husband to join for 2 person games), sang, moved, danced, etc.  It was as if she was really in our living room.  This is what I am trying to do for my students.  As Artie Almeida says "Heavy Academics, Delivered Joyfully"  I am trying to bring joy to each lesson while not compromising on song literature, content, etc.  even while teaching partly in person, and partly through recorded videos. To helps with at-home learning, I sent home music go-bags with a few materials they will use throughout the year and just let them know at the beginning of the video what they will need.  Go-Bags do not have to be expensive! You can also send home a list of materials for students to find (with alternates) so that students can be playing instruments, composing, and more- all at home.  

Go Bag: 

2 wooden dowels (kids could also use kitchen utensils!)

homemade egg shaker (kids could use keys or an old rattle) 

2 plastic dessert plates

1 scarf (I cut up a plastic table cloth) (do they have an bandana- or even or a kleenex?)

Page Protector (used as dry erase board!)with the following: 

    Heartbeat chart 

    Rhythm boxes chart

    Single Rhythm cards (1 beat per card) 

    Body Percussion Cards 


2. Get kids moving! Even though I sometimes feel a little silly moving by myself in my classroom, I always try to get kids moving in our lessons, both in person (non-locomotor) and virtually. Kids are getting so much screen time, I think it is so important to get them off of the screen for a bit. I try to make my lessons as active as possible, even with the in-person restrictions that are in place.  My weekly assignments are very simple, and often doing/ creating something OUTSIDE.  My specials team had a camping theme for our first two weeks so my music assignment was to go on a listening walk.  Students LOVED it- and so did families because it got kids outside for bit.  I also plan to have students find sticks or other outdoor materials to write rhythms, create a rhythm 4 square game, use found objects to create patterns, and more.  Some of my videos are on youtube- check it out! New videos with no props will be posted soon, as many schools are not allowing any sharing of equipment. 

3. Utilize pre-made materials and lessons.  It is getting easier as I go into week 4 of school but there are definitely still times I feel super overwhelmed with all that is happening.  While I am enjoying making videos, I am also trying to utilize materials I made last year, or curriculum materials I have access to.  I have this year and it is so great! There is so much on the site to have kids really practicing their rhythms, solfege, vocab, and more- they love it and it is already made for me.  I do not have to spend time making interactive games or accompaniments to songs- it is already there.  I am also utilizing Teachers Pay Teachers, as well as things I have made myself in the past.  I am posting past movement routines and other lessons.  (And in the future- I will have SO MANY sub plans ready!) 

4. Make your space feel like home.  I am very fortunate to still be in my classroom this year while we are hybrid and I decorated it with a Watermelon theme. I absolutely love coming into my room each day.  If you are teaching from home, try to utilize a corner or even just a poster that you put up for each video to give your students (and yourself!) a consistent classroom feel. Most of my vidoes are made in my classroom, but when I make them at home I use a corner of my bedroom with a cozy chair and fun hexagon shelves I dressed with gifts from students and picture books I love.  I had big plans to decorate my cart as well, until it was decided at the last minute that I would be able to use my room. Check out my watermelon decor HERE

5. ROCK WHAT YA GOT and GIVE GRACE!  This situation is so different for everyone this year- teachers, students, and parents.  My running theme for the year is Rock What Ya Got.  My students and I are rocking body percussion, only singing in videos or outside more than 12ft apart, lots of non-locomotor movement, rhythm reading, music history, music vocab and more. I am also trying to remember that parents and students are rocking what they got as well, and not everyone is tech savvy or has the same internet access.  Not everyone can come to live google meets, or find the time to make sure everything gets done each week.  I am giving a LOT of grace to students and parents this year.  I know that they are doing their best and I want them to know that I care more about them than being sure that each tiny little part of each assignment is done.  I want families to know I am here for them, and will help them with anything I can. I do not want to add just "one more thing" to the plate of a family, I want to be sure that all the music videos and assignments are joyful and a time that families look forward to completing and singing along with, rather than a burden.  

Give yourself grace as well! There are so many people doing awesome things that make others feel like imposters.  As long as you are delivering your lessons with love and joy- students will see that and LOVE music.  You don't need a virtual classroom, or to edit your videos to add in special effects/ green screen etc.  If you want to do those things- awesome! But if you don't that's awesome, too. Do what you need to do to make this year work for you and your students and try not to compare yourself to other teachers.  It is so hard, and we often ALL feel imposter syndrome at some point, but YOU ARE AMAZING! Rock What Ya Got and have a great year!