Tuesday, May 29, 2012


So, I just tried the Balloon activity with a First Grade class and they LOVED it!  What is the balloon activity you may ask?  Well, I saw some teachers on Pinterest doing a countdown to the end of the school year with balloons.  Each day, the kids would get to pop a balloon and a random, fun activity would fall out.

I thought this was a great idea- but if I was counting down the last music classes, I would have had to start months ago so I changed it up a bit.  I had the first graders write down their favorite music games from the year on little strips of paper last week.  We ended up with about 15 games/ stories once repeats were discarded.  Today I took those little strips and put them inside balloons.  When the kids got here, the balloons were all over the floor.  Kids got to take turns popping them to find out which fun activity we would do next.  It was so fun to hear their excited squeals when each game was revealed.  I did let them pop the balloons on their own- some used hands, some feet and others covered their ears :)

We ended up with a great variety of activities- some chase games, some partner games, some stories, etc.  Next year I might even color-code for myself different types of games to be sure that we get a variety. (All the chase games in RED, all the partner in Orange, Stories in Yellow, Listening activities in Blue, etc).

Now, I know we have to be careful as some kids have Latex allergies so make sure you know your class before you try this.  Tomorrow I am doing something similar with another first grade class, but their favorite activities are going into the RANDOM WORD GENERATOR on my SMARTboard.  Then a kid can touch "generate" and it will pick an activity.  This is a good way for those classes who maybe can't handle balloons (or who have allergies) but you still want to make the last day fun.

I try to practice concepts right up until the end of the year, and many classes do that- but sometimes we have short weeks where I only see 1 or 2 classes in a grade OR the classes I see are already ahead the last week and these are great ideas for those groups.  The kids love to remember the whole year and all the stuff we started with.  Some groups even request games from past years.  It's a lot of fun!

Tuesday Book Club- Favorite Resources- Kodaly and ORFF

Just thought I would make a quick post listing some of my favorite Kodaly and Orff resources that I use for my classroom.  These are books I use for ME- not read to the kiddos.

1. 150 American Folk Songs to Sing Read and Play

This Orange book is the BEST! I just bought it for my student teacher!  It has an index in the front by tone-set and I use it ALL THE TIME.

2. Sail Away

Both of these books are great folk song resources.  They have hundreds of songs written in staff notation with indexes of pitches.  I have used them numerous times to get songs for my retrieval collection

3. An American Methodology

This is basically a Kodaly oriented 5-year year-plan.  It is a wonderful resource when looking for songs, or ways to prepare, present, practice, and play new elements.  (More on the 4 p-s later).  This book goes by concept- both pitch and rhythm elements and lists songs and has TONS if ideas on how to use them kids so the same activities aren't being used OVER AND OVER AND OVER.  I know I have my standby rhythm and pitch activities so this book is helping me get out of my box.

4. Kodaly's 333 and other Kodaly sight reading books

Love these! They are great to put on the board or just for myself to practice my own musicianship skills.  They start simple and gradually add more pitches and more difficult rhythms as the book progresses- they move through the pitches in a typical Kodaly pentatonic fashion- s-m, then la, then do, re, etc.

5. Classical Cannons

This is a book of tricky cannons, organized by difficulty.  Use it to challenge your best groups!

6. 150 Rounds for Singing and Teaching

Kids love rounds and cannons.  Some of these are great for younger ones, some for older. They love hearing the harmonies and it makes the kids feel accomplished when they perform a round or cannon in more than two groups.  I had a 3rd grade student once who, let's be honest, wasn't that into music-  until we did a round in class one day.  He said "This is AWESOME!" and has been a model music student who sings out and loves every minute of class.  Who would have thought that his hook would be when "two or more groups, do the same thing, but start (clap clap) at different times!

7. The Kodaly Method

This is a great introduction to the Kodaly method.  It has chapters on the history, starting young children, starting older learners, expanding their knowledge, etc.  I had to read this book for both undergrad and graduate school and there are great passages in every chapter.  It also has a song index, with songs written in staff notation in the back.  Love it!

There is also a newer book out called Kodaly Today that helps teachers apply the method to classrooms in the 21st century.

8. Simple Gifts

These books are a rare find.  I believe they are out of print.  I have books 1 and 2, and would love to eventually find 3 and 4.  They list songs by concept and have them written in Stick Notation. There are so many songs and you just have to flip through the corner to find your concept.  Book one is basically s-m-l and quarter note, paired eighth notes while book two adds do and re as well as rests and sixteenth notes.  I have learned you can get them from the Silver Lake College!  Awesome!

9. Any book by Lynn Kleiner

I saw Lynn at an OMEA conference a few years ago and man does she have ENERGY!!! Her songs are great for the primary kiddos.  Many of them are either rhythm or play oriented- a lot have notes beyond the primary understanding- but do I still use them?- OF COURSE.  Kids love the puppets and games and FUN that goes along with her songs.  She has Ocean themed books, Farm books, and many more.  She also has GREAT guided listening activities.

10.  Any book by DeLelles and Kriske

These Orff guys are wonderful- not only do I use their Game Plan series (see past post) but I also have many other books by these great teachers.  They have wonderful Orff instrument stuff that I would love to add more of into my lessons. They also take some of the rhythms from Music For Children (by Orff) and give a teacher great ways to use them.

11.  Mallet Madness and Mallet Madness Strikes Again by Artie Almeida

Another great resource for activities to do with the Orff instruments in the classroom.  She uses story books, folk songs, and much more.  The books come with visuals one can copy as needed.  Great books!

I also use many other Orffestration books by various authors for my Orff group and in class.  I really want to use the instruments more next year.  Goal for this summer I guess!

Stay tuned for a succession of posts on the 4 p-s- Prepare, Present, Practice and Play.  I will give sample lessons and other ideas as well.  I only have 2 days left of school so I will have plenty of time next week to write up everything!

Thanks for reading! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Tuesday Book Club- John Denver and Christopher Canyon

Last year for Right to Read week our school had the illustrator Christopher Canyon and his wife come in to speak to our students.  They are both wonderful artists.  Mr. Canyon illustrates many books, but the ones I use most often in my class are the John Denver Songs he has put beautiful pictures to.  I have both "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and "Grandma's Feather Bed".  He has also illustrated "Sunshine on my Shoulders". Kids love these books.  They love to look at the artwork- which is drawn to make the pages look like a quilt (see below)- and to sing along to the songs.  I tie in the history of the songs, as well as folk music/ ballads and we listen and sing other types of folk music as well.  Older kids learn the Dulcimer and do folk dances too.

The backs of the books are great because they not only have the music for a teacher to play, but they also have specific information on each song- how John Denver came to write the words, where it was first performed, the inspiration behind the song, etc.

While I was hesitant to use these books at first, because I have heard of teachers who have their kids sing along to John Denver for a full hour of music (my friends student teaching experience), the kids really do love them and ask for them to be repeated again and again.

Check back soon for info on favorite Orff/ Kodaly resources AND to see how a balloon popping last day activity went :)

Friday, May 18, 2012

Kindergarten/ 1st Grade Pitch Exploration

Pitch exploration is so important for the younger students.  We as music teachers help student explore their voices in many ways- Animal Sounds, sirens, "ghost voices", buzzing bees, etc.  John Feierabend has a pitch exploration story set that I use often in my class, as well as great book ideas but this summer I worked with another teacher- thanks Jaime Pitts Parker!- in my Graduate Classes to make a "book" that takes us through the entire year.  It is in the form of a power point that I project onto my SMARTboard.  Each page is repeated so that the students can use their voices to follow the lines that I have drawn and then on the next page they can draw their own.  It takes the form of a train ride going to different places and seeing different things as the seasons progress.  The students LOVE the fact that it is interactive- and even if you don't have a SMARTboard you can project onto a white board and do the same thing :)

Some examples of a few of the pages statements are below:

Look out the window at the leaf falling from the tree! Can you make your voice match the leaf path?

It's Snowing! Which snowflake path does my voice match?

I love going to the amusement park in the summer! Let's match the path of the hills on the roller coaster with our voices!

It's great to visit the zoo! Keep your hands and feet in the train until we come to a full and complete stop.  Look! A Lion! Can you make a Lion sound?  What are some of your favorite animals? Can you make their sounds?

I love to use these each week- doing a page or so as they correspond with the seasons. I always have a few kids draw new lines or make the new sounds.

Click HERE to go to my Teachers Pay Teachers store to see a LOT of the awesome Vocal Exploration files I have made.  There are also a few, not so pretty, but still very functional files on my WIX site (tab above). Once at the Wix site, click "For Colleagues" and then you can look at some SMARTboard files and other files I mention on my blog.

Have a great weekend! Only a few more weeks of school for many of us this year.  Don't worry- I will still post over the summer :)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday Book Club- Folk Song Stories

Tuesday book club today will not highlight a specific book, but rather, give ideas on how I use Folk Song Books within my classroom.

There are many great books that tell the story of  an old ballad passed down from generation to generation.  I love to SING the story first and let the students really listen and imagine what is happening.  I then tend to read a few versions of the story over the course of a few months to get different authors/ illustrators ideas about what the song should look like.

Great examples of songs that have been made into books numerous times include:
There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a FLY (or other silly things).  This is a great on for holidays because so many versions have been made. See my blog post all bout "Old Woman" books here!

Fiddle-I-Fee - Each version is slightly different and the pictures can give you a new way to think about the song/ story that is being told.

Hush Little Baby- My favorite is when the big sister pushes the cradle which starts the process of the whole song.  By the end EVERYONE is asleep because they have been so busy trying to get baby to quiet down.

Other great folk song books include: the John Fierabend versions of My Aunt Came Back and The Crab Fish (these come with CDs so they are great for subs), Senior Don Gato (my students LOVE this story), She'll be Comin' Round the Mountain, This Old Man, and MANY MANY others.

Sometimes I sing the song and have the students illustrate or describe to me what they imagine.  In older grades we may have groups make their own version and accompany themselves on dulcimer.  These story books are a great way to introduce students to the songs of our culture that are probably too advanced for them to fully understand every note and rhythm, BUT are a great story for them to listen and be exposed to.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kodaly Sites

Music Friends,

I have recently (and not so recently) come across some GREAT resources for Kodaly Teachers.  I figured since I am so busy this week with May Festival Chorus and shows here at school I would make it a quick post and just give you the links with a bit of info on each so you can check them out yourself!

1.  http://kodaly.hnu.edu/   This is a great website put out by Holy Names University in Oakland, CA.  On this website there is info about Kodaly as well as an expansive folk song collection that you can search.  It is basically an electronic retrieval system.  You can search by concept, grade, theme, game, etc.  I use this resource ALL the time!  Everything on this site is free.

2. http://www.kodalydownloads.com.au/index.aspx   This is another online retrieval system where you can search by concept, grade, theme, etc.  You do have to register for this site.  They have songs, games, worksheets and other ideas.  Much of the information on this site is free, but you do have to pay for some things.  My suggestion is to check back frequently because they always have featured lessons/ ideas for free.  I just found this site today when looking up the words of a song that I was blanking on and everything is easy to navigate and use.

3.  www.therhythmtrainer.com  If you have a SMARTboard or other board like it, this is a fun site that lets the teacher choose what rhythms to use for each lesson. You could also give students the opportunity to do it at a home computer. You click on the rhythm syllables you would like it to use and then if you want it to play a rhythm for the students to notate OR if you want it to play a rhythm that the students have to match (they are given 3 choices.) You can have it use any types of rhythms from just quarter and eighth to sixteenth note combinations.  It does utilize quarter and eighth rests, but does NOT have half notes or whole notes.  This is great for me because it saves the time of making a new SMART file for each type of rhythm I might be teaching.  I can also keep this site up all day and just change which rhythms I would like to use as my classes chance.

Have fun with these great resources.  The 1st two are especially helpful if you are newer to teaching and still working on your own retrieval system!

Have a wonderful and MUSICAL week!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Tuesday Book Club- Kinder and 1st grade Tales

Tuesday book club is here again!  Today I will be discussing a few books I use at the beginning of 1st grade to introduce students to me and the music room.  My district starts specials in 1st grade, so this is the first time they are seeing me and having me as their teacher.

For the 1st lesson every year I always wear my Music Symbols dress and read MUSIC TEACHER FROM THE BLACK LAGOON.  This is a cute book that mentions all the scary things that could be said about music and misunderstandings with terms- just like all of the other Black Lagoon books.  I love the ending where they finally meet the music teacher and see that she is not as scary as they though- with Music on her ears and they realize that music might not be so bad.  We then discuss what the students are expecting for music and if they are nervous about anything etc.

A few lessons into the year, I always do Polar Bear Polar Bear what do you hear by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle.  This is a great vocal exploration book as the students can make all of the animal noises mentioned.  I always sing the book on the pitches s-m (though they still won't know s-m for quite some time.)  The kids have a lot of fun growling and hissing, etc.  I end the book with "Music Teacher, Music Teacher What do you Hear? I hear students singing in my ear" and then we sing move on to another animal song or listening activity (Carnival of the Animals, etc).

Other books I use in first grade to get students feeling a steady pulse are: Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Dancing Feet, Beetle Bop- all by various authors and Rumble in the Jungle, Barnyard Hullaballoo, Commotion in the Ocean, and Giraffes Can't Dance all by Giles Andrea and Guy Parker Reese.  Some I sing, most I just say while the students pat the beat, or join in on repeated lines or play instruments to imitate certain animals, or rhythms etc. .

I use many other books in first grade- at least a story per lesson (our lessons are 55 minutes long!).  More to come later :)