Thursday, April 25, 2013

3 activities for Who's That - a song for Half Note, d-s, and re

One of my favorite songs to teach is "Who's That (tapping at my window)?"  I use it for so many things.  The students first learn it in 2nd grade when we are working on Half Note and we also use it for the d-s jump in the same year.  It comes back again when we learn re.

Who's                     That                             d               d
    d                           s

Tapping at my         Window                    ii        ii       I         I
   r    r    m m             r     d

Who's                     That                            d               d
    d                            s

Knocking at my       door.                         ii        ii       I         z  
  r        r    m m            d

1) The kids love this song because of the Game (which I use as a singing alone assessment.)  For the game, 2 kids hide their eyes (I have mine go behind the piano) and the whole class sings verse 1 - Who's that, etc.  Then I point to one student who sings (in their best singing voice) verse 2 - I am, etc.   The students who are behind the piano then have to guess who the singer was.  They get two guesses.  If they get it right they stay behind the piano (up to three turns) and if the get it wrong, the person who "tricked them" gets to choose a friend to be the new pair behind the piano.   If a student uses a silly voice, I allow the people behind the piano to guess, but I then ask the singer to sing again in their best voice so I can hear the 5th jump (d-s).

2) I also use this song as an intro to harmony.  (I got this idea from Game Plan 2 and it has a GREAT visual!)   We start with most of the class singing the song with someone on a xylophone or metallophone playing the do-so (and then tremelloing on the so for the rest of the phrase).  After the students get good at this and all have had a chance to try playing, we have 1/2 of the class singing the regular song and 1/2 singing the d-s and holding the so until the end of the phrase.  A few still play on the instruments at this time as well.  This is a great opportunity to talk about breath support and making sure as you are holding a note it is not getting uglier as it gets longer.

3) One of the other activities I do with this song (and many others) is isolating the rhythms OR the solfegge and assigning one of each to a row in my classroom.  Row one may be the half notes, row two the quarter notes, and row 3 the eighth notes OR group one is do, group two is re, group three mi, and group four so.  The students only sing the type of beat/ note assigned to their row and stand when it is their turn.  We sing it on rhythm/ solfa syllables and then on words.  This is an idea I got from OMEA and both the students and I LOVE IT!!!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Under the Sea- a 6th Grade Concert

WOW! My 6th grade chorus is amazing this year! They are truly small but mighty.   There is only about 30 kids in the group but they all really want to be there and do a great job.  We play games, sight-read, and have tons of fun. Because they are so amazing I decided to add in a special spring concert for them this year to give them another chance to be great musicians and share with their parents and communities. It was supposed to be just a glee and orff concert, but after all of their hard work at the beginning of the year I decided to add the whole group in. They got to choose a theme-Under the Sea- and then we learned 6 songs, made up skits, and even had some solos.  Some songs were unison- many were 2 parts- and one was even 3 parts! They really rose to the challenge of the music and made the concert wonderful.  Some parents said it was the best concert they have seen at Wilson - including band and orchestra! I am so proud of them and I will really miss them when they go onto middle school next year!

Below is a list of songs, and how I taught them (sight reading all, sight-reading just rhythm, rote, etc.) Check these songs out! I love all of them! This was a great theme to combine songs the kids knew and loved (but not necessarily pop music) as well as challenge them with other music that they had never heard before. (Note: The 5th grade glee song came from a Disney piano book I have and the Little Mermaid Songs are both part of a Medley).

Surfs Up- Arranged by Roger Emerson- This is a medley of surf songs from the '50s but we only sang the first and last- Surfin' USA and Kokomo.  These were mainly learned by "rote" because many students already had heard the tune.  We did sing the parts as written in the music- lots of oohs and ahhs under the melody- the kids had a lot fun with this one.

Dance of the One-Legged Sailor- Written by Brent Pierce- This was our most challenge piece.  There was a LOT of changing time signatures in this song.  We learned the rhythm by sight-reading, but added in the notes by rote. This song had 6/8, 3/4, and 5/8 so there was a lot of time-signature talk!

He’s A Pirate from Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl- Music by Klaus Badelt, Arranged by J. Linn- This song was played by the Orffestra and they read all of their music.  A few of the newer or younger kids sometimes have to write in the note names but they do a great job of reading.  We made the song ABA and only played the most recognizable parts.  They played memorized on the xylophones for the concert and did great! (Note: For this song I got piano music and had most of them play the melody and then few play the bass line on the Bass Resonator Bars or Bass Xylophones).

Seagull, Seagull- Arranged by Susan Brumfield- This song is a great diatonic sight-reading song because truly it is MOSTLY pentatonic with just a few fas and tis.  It is a partner song, but one of the two songs sung together also has parts.  The song builds for each verse- 1st verse is one melody in unison, 2nd is same melody in parts, 3rd is the partner melody in parts, and then the 4th is the 1st melody in two parts and the 2nd in one (it is not written but if you were really ambitious you probably could have the final verse in 4 parts).   For the 1st verse we sight-read using the Smart-board labeling key solfegge, but not all and sang as a group.  For the other verses we read directly from our music- again writing in key solfegge making notes about steps, skips, scales etc.  We did not add words in until all verses were solid on solfegge so the kids REALLY knew the melodies before words were added.  For a few weeks we also played around with who sang what- as they all had read all parts.  We nailed down who sings which part about a month before the concert.  The orff group also played the percussion for this one! After this songs introduction they all started to act like the "Finding Nemo" Seagulls saying "MINE" over and over- the parents definitely got a kick out of it :)

Umbrella Beach- As performed by Owl City- This was a cute solo two of the girls prepared.  They auditioned for me  and then were required to get the accompaniment karaoke on their own.  I just plugged an Ipod into my speakers when it was their turn.   All students had the opportunity to try out with a solo, but only two groups took on the extra challenge.

Hands Cross the Ocean: Partner song with Tum Balalaika- Original words and music by Jill Gallina- This is a very pretty partner song about peace around the world.  This was our minor song for the concert.  The students learned each section by rote, but were responsible for knowing when a melody repeated and which part it was- melody 1 or 2.  

Never Smile at a Crocodile- Words by Jack Lawrence, Music by Frank Churchill-  This was the 5th Grade Glee song.  They made up an adorable skit about being stuck inside the belly of a crocodile and then sang the song and performed their dance.  They made up all choreography (with my guidance) and did a stupendous job!

Kiss the Girl from The Little Mermaid- Music by A. Menken, Lyrics by H. Ashman- This was another solo group.  The 3 girls did a great job and even made up some of their own harmonies to go with the song.  It was great!

Yellow Submarine- Words and Music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Arranged by John Leavitt- This was another one the students basically already knew but we added most of the harmony as written in the arrangement.  The people who sang the harmony on the chorus sight-read their part.  There were also some spoken lines in this one to introduce the song.  It was very cute!

Part of Your World from The Little Mermaid- Music by A. Menken, Lyrics by H. Ashman, Arranged by R. Emerson- This was our 6th Grade Glee feature song. They made up the dance at recess and it was really cute! They have me tempted to start a middle school Glee and high school show-choir eventually, but I don't have the time right now (or the money...)!

Under the Sea from The Little Mermaid- Music by A. Menken, Lyrics by H. Ashman, Arranged by R. Emerson- This one was definitely known by all students before we started and was of course our finale.  We had some awesome students sight read the harmony as written, which was a lot of echos and interjections.  Under the sea was introduced by a very cute skit the 6th grade glee made up where a boy was washed up on the short of a deserted island and met Ariel.  They then sang just a verse of the Train Song "Mermaid" and Sebastian met them at the end to remind Ariel that Under the Sea is where she should be!  Our Sebastian started off the song as a solo and the chorus joined in 1/2 way through the first verse. Both Glee Clubs danced as the chorus sang. It was a great way to end the concert!

Now we are looking forward to our Spring Musical which is a combined effort of both the 5th and 6th grade Chorus groups.  We are performing "The Granny Awards" this year and the kids are doing a great job getting ready! It is going to be a great show!

Monday, April 22, 2013

New Dress A Day

Just thought I would share some of my other hobbies with you all!  Aside from teaching I also love to alter clothes and sent in pics of a dress I did to the fabulous remake blog  Check out my dress and stay tuned for a music ed post coming soon!

Link to my remake:

Here is one of the before pics

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Human Rhythms

Many of us use Chair rhythms to help younger students grasp the concept of sounds per beat.  Humans are the sounds- Chairs are the beats.  The kids have fun squeezing onto the chairs for multiple-sound beats and enjoy laying across for beats with 2, 3 or 4 sounds.

I LOVE this activity, but have shied away from it for awhile because of the size of my room.  The only chairs I keep in my room are one at my desk, and one for the adult aids who sometimes join us.  Any more chairs would take up more of the precious floor space in my room.  Really wanting to do this activity, this year, I decided to use my student dry erase lap boards laying on the floor and having students stand on them.  The activity works the same way- the boards are 1 beat each, and students are the sounds.  I found that the boards make it easier to do more complicated rhythms because students can more easily squeeze 4 on one board for 16th notes or stand on two at time for half notes or syncopation, yet they are still small enough to make the game fun.   Next time I do it I think I may borrow or buy rubber seat dots and use those because they won't slide around on the carpet as much.  

After I introduce this activity as a class, now that I do not need chairs, the students can also do the activity in teams around the room (as long as the rhythms don't have more sounds than kids on each team). It can be a contest, or just a way for students to work together and all get a chance to all participate at once.  They can also compose in this way- forming rhythms and then designating one team member to read it aloud to the class- or having the rest of the class read it.

This game is a great way to get the kids moving AND have them practicing rhythms at the same time- enjoy!
Discs I Want To Use
Dry Erase Boards I Currently Use

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Sound Thinking- A great resource for beginning and veteran teachers alike!

Sound Thinking: Developing Musical Literacy by Philip Tacka and Micheal Houlahan has been an invaluable resource for the past year (when I got it for Christmas!).  This book is a Kodaly-centered resource that gives you all the information you could ever need to teach K-grade 4 (and slightly beyond- check out volume 2 for an expansion).

The book is split into 3 parts:

Part 1 is Setting Up a Kodaly-Based Program, with the chapters The Kodlay Concept, Sequencing and Lesson Planning, and Teaching Songs.  This gives you all the background you would need to have a successful Kodaly-based program.   These chapters give you a background on the concept, how to prepare, present, practice and evaluate the different musical concepts we teacher and hints on ways to teach songs not only to young students, but older beginners as well.  It outlines how to map your curriculum and organize your song collection so that you always know where your students were, what they are currently working on, and where they are going next.

Even if you are not a Kodaly teacher (though I LOVE it- it really makes sense to me!) the 2nd and 3rd parts have great ideas for teaching Kindergarten comparatives (fast/ slow, loud/ quiet, high/ low, etc) as well as teaching beginning and advanced rhythm and melodic elements.  Part II centers around beginning elements- rhythms such as ta and ti-ti, quarter rest, and simple meter- and melodic elements including s-m and la.  It also gives ideas for beginning part work and simple cannons students can do in 1st and 2nd grade.   Part III expands into the pentatonic scale (even extended with low la and low so) and explains how to teach more advanced rhythms with 16th note patterns.  The songs are true folk songs that students love to sing and play.

 The book gives activity ideas, song ideas, and a great sequence to use so your students are getting a musical education that is fun and is logical to make it easier for their little brains to understand.  There are sample lessons, ideas to let students experience new ideas visually, physically, and aurally, as well as a great song index.  Every page has a new idea to help you teach your students, making it FUN!  Each activity is fully explained with visuals and and step by step instructions.

While this book has enough ideas to give a new teacher a wealth of information it also has ideas that veteran teachers would greatly benefit from, making the music education you are giving your students the joy it should be.  As Kodaly said:
            Teach music and singing at school in such a way that it is not a torture, 
            but a joy for the pupil; instill a thirst for finer music in him, a thirst 
            which will last for a lifetime.  Music must not be approached from its 
            intellectual, rational side, nor should it be conveyed to the child as a 
            system of algebraic symbols, or as the secret writing of a language with 
            which he has no connection... Often a single experience will open the 
            young soul to music for a whole lifetime. This experience cannot be left 
           to chance, it is the duty of the school to provide it. 

Check out the book here or here

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kodaly Seminar in Kecskemet, Hungary

I am so excited about this summer! I keep telling myself one of these summers I am going to truly take time off- but I keep finding wonderful things to do.

For the past three summers, I have been completing my Masters in Music Education with a Kodaly Emphasis from Capital University.  This was a GREAT program and I loved it!  I thought this summer was going to be a break before I started my Orff Levels, but then an amazing opportunity came up.

I was at the retirement party for my (now former) Principal and a previous music teacher from my school and I got to chit-chatting and realized we were both Kodaly lovers.  She is currently getting her Masters at the University of Cincinnati and has a great pedagogy/ musicianship teacher there who mentioned the International Kodaly Seminar to her.  She off-handedly remarked that she was looking for someone to attend the seminar with and I jumped at the chance.  I always slightly regretted not going to Hungary as an Undergrad and was really excited to get the chance to go this summer.

So what is the Kodaly Seminar?  This is a biennial three week intensive course utilizing and teaching about the Kodaly Philosophy.  Attendees can choose from the following workshops classes: Pedagogy (split into early childhood, elementary, secondary, music and movement, or teaching teachers classes), Choral Conducting, Composition, Opera and Lied Performance and Piano Performance.  The Pedagogy workshop also allows for an optional course of singing games, choral conducting, piano lessons, voice lessons or a vocal chamber ensemble.

I chose the elementary pedagogy track with the singing games elective.  My schedule will be similar to the following:
                       8:45-9:45 Warm-up and Choir
                       10:15-11:30 Musicianship
                       11:45-1:00 Singing Games (optional classes)
                       1:00-3:00 LUNCH
                       3:00-6:00 Pedagogy Workshops

Kodaly Institute
I am so excited for these courses- not only are they taught at the Kodaly Institute in Kecskemet, Hungary with renown teachers from Hungary and around the world, but I will get to be immersed in the Kodaly Philosophy for 3 weeks, the third of which coincides with the International Kodaly Symposium which is included in the seminar participation.  There will be workshops, concerts, and wonderful music all around!

I love getting new ideas from other master teachers.  There is a wealth of great ideas all over the world and it is great to be exposed to as many as possible.  Even if I only remember to bring back 5 of the many I learn this summer, I will have added to my teaching tool-kit making music more effective and enjoyable for my students.

I also love the musicianship classes.  The way Kodaly Musicianship classes are taught just makes sense to me.  I am SO MUCH of a better sight-reader after taking a few years of these types of courses than I was before I started.  I love doing more than one thing at once, translating stick notation to absolute pitch or absolute pitch to solfegge.  I love putting an ostinato in my hands, another in my feet and singing an example.  Not only does it help me become a better musician, but it is much for fun that sitting at a desk to sight-read ALL the time.  Sing/Plays (singing one part of a song while playing another on the piano) have also helped me to improve my piano school and I feel like I am a much better chorus teacher because of them.  It is a crazy, intense three weeks, but I know it will be wonderful!

In addition to the Seminar and Symposium, I am also planning on taking a 1 week excursion after the event to Vienna, Salzburg, and Prague - all of which are fairly close to Kecskemet by train.  What a great opportunity to see such musically and historically rich places!

Learning new ideas, ways to teach, ways for students to prepare and practice concepts as well as improving my own musical skills is the best way I can think of spending a summer.   I guess next summer may be my "summer off"- or I may decide to still do my Level 1 Orff after all...

If you think you may be interested in attending the seminar as well check out the website for more info:

Monday, April 1, 2013

Diva Tag

I was on Facebook this wonderful spring break and an old college acquaintance, Haley, was tagged in a video titled "Diva Tag." Intrigued, I clicked on the video and saw 5 people (Haley, Clara, John, Kyle, and Matthew) standing around a piano. One of the five friends not only played the game, but played the accompaniment as well.  Clara started singing and when she felt like it, she tagged one of the guys and he took over singing the song.  This went on for the whole song. Sometimes the friends were tagged in logical places, such as at the end of a phrase, and sometimes in more surprising spots like the middle of a long note.  It was very fun to watch and I got to thinking that it would be a great game for choruses to play when they have learned a song really well. (It could also be played in general music, if there is a song long enough.) 

To play in a classroom setting, students could break into groups of 5 or 6, and for my kiddos the groups would be students all on the same part.  Each group would stand in a circle and designate someone to start.  All groups would be singing at the same time, so students would feel safe knowing that while they are the only in their group singing, there are others around the room singing with them.  I would make the rule that the tags need to travel around the circle until everyone has had one turn, then students can tap whomever they want.  I wold also say "no tag backs" :) Once students are comfortable with the game, the teacher can use this as an assessment tool to hear singers individually. This game is not only a fun way to practice songs, but it practices inner hearing, and encourages students to listen to the other singers around them. I can't wait to try it next week when I am back at school! Thanks Haley and Co. for the great idea! 

I couldn't find Haley's video on YouTube, but here is a similar video with 3 people at what looks like a karaoke night or a comedy club in NYC (be careful if you decide to show this in class and be sure the comments are hidden as there are some inappropriate words)