Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year! Resolutions for 2016

Wow- it's been a while. 

Here is why:

Henry was born on November 25 and he is perfect!  I am loving every minute of being a mommy-minus the lack of sleep!  Here's to the little man sleeping more in 2016 :)
Now for my goals for 2016! I am linking up with Aileen Miracle over at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share my 2016 goals. 
Personal: I want to be the best mommy I can for Mr. Henry.  He deserves the best and I want to give it to him. I want to love him and cherish him and save money for his education. 
Health: To help loose the baby weight and help Henry get outside as much as possible I want to do at least 2 or 3 Hike-It Baby hikes a month!  If you haven't heard of Hike-It Baby, check out their website!  Moms and dads get together for fun and exercise all with babies and toddlers in tow.  There are toddler-paced hikes, adult paced hikes, coffee strolls and more.  So fun and a great way to meet other parents around town. I have an awesome baby-wearing coat so Henry and I are ready for the chilly Ohio weather!
School: I want to give great 2nd and 4th grade programs this year, despite being on Maternity Leave for 2 months AND having never done a 2nd grade program before.  I am still deciding if I want to do a 2nd grade informance or a program based on a book.  4th grade we always do a multi-cultural showcase with songs and dances from around the world.  I realized last year that many parents didn't know what was happening in the music room during primary years (1-3) because I never showed them! I am hoping this program will help share all the awesome learning that takes place in my room!
Blog/TPT:  I want to really get back into blogging/ making and revising TPT products in the new year.  I have definitely been slacking since my 3rd Trimester hit.  I have so many ideas for products- I just need to make them!  Same with blog posts!  Hopefully I can kick my own behind into gear and get back to sharing with you all!  Speaking of- did you know there is an awesome sale on TPT for the new year- select music stores will all be 20% off on Dec 31 and Jan 1! Check it out! My "Do you Wanna Build a Snowman" matching games will be great for your return to school in January! There are solfa/ rhythm levels, a music symbols version AND an orchestral instruments version. 
What are your 2016 goals??  Share in the comments!

Monday, September 21, 2015

Formal and Informal Assessments in the Music Classroom

This year I am on the Music Course of Study revision team for my district.  We are starting to talk about common assessments for each grade level so I thought I would share some of our thoughts! 

Our goal is to ultimately have an interactive document where we have unpacked the standards so that we as a general music team are on the page.  We won't have  teach common lessons, but it will be nice to have continuity across the district so no matter what elementary school a student attends we know they are learning the same concepts/ vocab/ etc. at approximately the same time.  In the document we are working on, which will basically be a GIANT year plan for each grade, teachers in our district (new or not-so-new) can click on a specific concept or standard and see ideas for both formal and informal assessments they can use in their classroom.  There will also be one common assessment for 2nd grade and 1 for 5th that ALL general music teachers will be required to give 2x each year (1x as a pre-test in last September or early October and 1x as a post-test in late April or early May).  I am so excited for this document to be finished! It will be so helpful!

I track all assessments in the IDOCEO app on my Ipad.  This app is amazing. Be sure to check it out.

Most of the informal assessments I do are during games or activities in class so students don't even know they are being assessed!  5 of my favorite ideas are listed below :)

1.) I track solo singing (matching pitch) with games like Doggie Doggie, Who's That Tapping at My Window, Cobbler Cobbler (when returning shoes) and more.  Similarly, I track instrument playing assessments in the same way. Any time students are using the instruments.  It is super easy to keep track of who has played and if they are successful, using the proper mallet technique, etc. Another teacher in my district has her instrument playing rubric displayed in her room so it is super easy to remind students of what is expected AND they can also have the opportunity to easily evaluate themselves!

2.) For rhythmic and melodic concepts I often use the "The Vote Game" where I have 3-5 rhythms/ melodies, each circled and numbered- on the board and then I sing one.  Students then vote for the one they think I sang by holding up the right number of fingers in front of their stomach. It is super easy to track who got it right, who looked at their neighbors hand, and who is really struggling.  Similar to the vote game, I also have SMARTboard games that are very similar but in this case the choices change for each example.  Students see on the board one symbol that plays the example and 3 choices. They then have to choose the correct choice.  These are great for subs because the board tells students if they are correct!
Quick "VOTE GAME" with melodies written on the white board

3.) Matching games in centers.  For Music Vocab or Instrument Families or even stick-to-staff I have a lot of match games I use during centers.  Students are asked to match the name of a symbol to its picture and definition or the picture of an instrument to its name and family of the orchestra.  There are also many games where students match the stick notation of a melody to the staff notation of the same melody.  There are so many options and it is so easy to see who is successful while making the rounds during centers time.  Check out my Music Symbols Matching Games HERE or my Orchestral Instruments Matching Games HERE.

4.) Rhythm Football.  In this game, played like Steal the Bacon from gym class, students are split into 2 teams and each given a number.  There should be a "number 1" on each team. Next, I lay a bunch a rhythm cards out in the middle of the room.  To actually play the game, I read one of the cards and then call a number.  The students from each team with that number race to find the correct rhythm card and get it back to their "end-zone".  If they make it without being tagged they get a TOUCHDOWN (7 pts OR 6 pts and the extra point is reading the rhythm correctly)! If a student tags another, preventing them from reaching their end-zone, they get a Field Goal (3 pts).  This is a SUPER Fun game.  Get it from my TPT store HERE! You can get specific levels OR just get the Rhythm Flashcards Mega Set to get the cards from every level at a discount :) Because the Browns won this past Sunday- the entire store is 20% off until 9/23/2015!!!
My students playing Rhythm Football last week!

5.) Fist to Five.  This idea I got from the classroom teachers in my school.  This is just asking students to evaluate themselves on a particular concept.  Fist (or 0) represents that they have no idea what I am talking about.  1= I have heard of it.  2= I have seen it. 3= I know what it is. 4= I can explain it to someone in my own words. 5= I can explain it and use it in my musical writing (either writing about music, or in a composition).  I downloaded this great freebie from TPT and I made a bulletin board.  I use this all the time- the best part it is it literally takes 1 minute or less!

As for formal assessments I still love thing that are quick and easy.  I love to use short worksheets or worksheets with multiple activities that we use over the course of a few weeks. I do not like to take up too much class-time with written worksheets because I only see students 1x a week for 50 minutes.  If I do use a longer worksheet, it is usually during the PRACTICE stage of a concept when we are doing centers.  Two weeks after I present a concept I almost always to centers.  There is one formal worksheet center each time as well as 4 other centers that include many of the informal assessments I have listed above. 

I also will be trying to use Exit Tickets more in music this year.  Exit tickets are great because they are 1-3 questions that students can answer quickly about the lesson they just learned.  They can be about vocab, they can be aural listening examples (circle the example you hear), fill in the blank and more- the possibilities are endless!

Performance tests are also very important.  I love to do it during games where students perform a rhythm or melody during the game and maybe even make up their own.  I do this often with Ida Red.  After each chase round, the chaser reads a rhythm I give them and then makes up their own.  It is also super easy to just have students read rhythm cards/ melody cards on their own or play them on an instrument.  You can do 5-6 students VERY quickly in a class. I typically do one whole row and then move on to the next activity, doing another row the next week.

As for the pre/post tests mentioned at the beginning each of our districts common assessments have both a written component AND a performance component.

For the 2nd grade, students are asked a variety of questions we as a district thought represented the 2nd grade curriculum well.  The 1st page is all teacher directed listening examples.  They are asked which of two sounds is HIGH, which of two songs is LOUDER, which of three melodies they hear  (s-m-l) and which of three rhythms they hear (patterns with quarter, beamed eighths, and quarter rest). On the 2nd page they are asked to identify Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, and Half notes by circling them on their paper.  They are also asked to listen to a known chant and circle the phrase that is different.    When they are finished with this portion of the test they come up to the teacher to read a rhythm card and sing a short musical example.

The 5th grade test is mostly written. The written portion consists of looking at a piece of vocal sheet music and identifying and defining certain symbols such as time signature, tempo, repeat sign, dynamic markings etc.  They are also asked to fill in the missing solfege on an example and fill in missing beats in a rhythm given to them.  Obviously, because music is so much more than what you can put on paper, students are also asked to sing "America, the Beautiful" in small groups to assess pitch matching, vocal tone, etc. In addition, they have to read the rhythm that they wrote previously during the written portion.

For ALL performance based assessments (formal and informal) our district has come up with great rubrics.  We use a 4 point system because it corresponds with our report card.  4= Above and Beyond expectations (this is just comments on the report card).  3= Meets expectations most of the time. 2= Meets expectations some of the time. 1= Rarely meets expectations.  Each of these 4 categories is really hashed out in different rubrics corresponding to different concepts such as pitch matching, instrument technique, etc.  To get help on our rubrics we used Rubistar which has a ton of saved rubrics from teachers all over the country that you can download and adapt to fit your classroom. The site also makes it really easy to create your own if none of the saved rubrics are exactly what you need.

What are your favorite ways to assess students quickly??

Monday, September 14, 2015

Classroom Management in the Music Classroom

Classroom management, I think, is something we can ALL always improve on.  This summer I read Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE Teachers by Michael Linsin and LOVED it! Get it HERE. Some of the things he mentioned I was already doing, but I got many new tips specifically for a "specials area" classroom- as my school calls it.  As specials teachers, we are in a unique situation because we see so many students in a week and each class comes from a different management backgrounds. 
Before I get started with tips, I will say that my school is WONDERFUL and usually discipline problems for me are chattiness, back-talk, or just being silly when students decide the particular activity is boring- there is nothing too extreme that happens.  I would say the "worst" was last year when a student decided to roll himself up in my door mat and make fart noises.  It was hilarious, but definitely inappropriate. 

All of Michael Linsin's tips work together seamlessly.  There is class wide discipline where classes can earn points towards whole class prizes as well as individual discipline where each student is held accountable for his or her own actions. 

I will start with the class system, which was VERY similar to what I was already doing but it is now much more specific and effective.  In the book, classes can earn points for 4 things each week:
           1 point for walking in quietly
           1 point for listening attentively
           1 point for good effort
           1 point for leaving quietly

I have adapted this to 5 points each week to follow our school wide "Wilson Way"
           1 point for walking in quietly
           1 point for Taking Care of Ourselves
           1 point for Taking Care of Others
           1 point for Taking Care of the Music Room and Equipment
           1 point for leaving quietly

Each week at the end of class while students are in line ready to go we have a brief discussion about how they did.  I will say "You get a 4 today, because while you were following the Wilson Way during class, you did not line up the way that is expected- how can we fix that for next week?" I usually even ask "Were MOST of you taking care of yourselves?? Others? Wilson? Did you walk in as expected?"  Students usually are actually more critical of themselves than I am! After we discuss I have a student at the end of the line draw a music note on their classes chart. If I don't have a student do it right then, I often forget- though they will remind me the next week for sure!

If students get 4 or 5 points in a week (at the beginning of the year- eventually it will be ALL 5) they earn a music note on the class behavior tracker I call "HIT THE HIGH NOTE".  Once a class get 4 notes (a month of classes) they get a prize.  Prizes range from a Gold Card (a school wide class recognition system), to sitting where they want for a day to playing a favorite game, and more.  I love the behavior chart I have because once we are past the first month it is impossible for classes to tell who is "ahead" or "behind" other classes because the chart is erased once a class gets 4 notes.  This alleviates classes not trying any more because they only have 1 note while other classes have 3 which was a problem I have seen in the past. 
This points system has worked really great, especially with taking the time to teach and discuss what is expected with each class (yes, even the 6th graders).  I have taken time each week to really focus on one of the ways a class can earn points.  The first week we practiced walking in the room quickly and quietly as well as linin up, etc.  Students were told what was expected, and individual demonstrated the correct way and we discussed.  Then, just for fun a few individuals got to demonstrate the "wrong way" to enter or exit the room and students said what would need to be fixed for it to be the correct way.  Finally the WHOLE class practiced and if they did awesome they got an automatic Gold Card.  This process has been followed each week since with the rest of the "rules"- how to Take Care of Ourselves, Others, and the Equipment in the music room.  I will probably do a small review when I get back from Maternity leave later in the year as well.  Students LOVE demonstrating for the class, so even though it takes time for the first 4 weeks of school it is definitely worth it to be SUPER CLEAR with exactly what is expected.

Now, each day of school I meet each class outside my door and give them a preview of the day as well as remind them how to enter the room, and that I expect we are following the Wilson Way. We then walk in and start class and they are earning points right away.  Most classes have gotten at least 4 points these first few weeks of school but they know that soon they will have to get ALL 5 to get their note on the chart.   Anytime a new routine is in a lesson we take time to practice it so they know expectations going forward.  This can include transitions from row seats to a circle, getting supplies for using manipulatives or filling out worksheets, using the SMART-board etc.  If in another week something is not done correctly, I calmly have the class try one more time, reminding them of expectations.  If it is not done correctly again it may mean that the next activity is skipped (especially if it is a fun game that is not integral to the lesson).  This does NOT mean that later they will not be able to play another game or do another similar activity in the lesson, just that they were not ready for this particular one.

Sometimes, if a class is having trouble with a procedure, all it takes is a few practice directions to get them focused again.  If students are standing up loudly and they have tried 2x already, make a "game" out of it, without them knowing.  Have them stand and sit a few times, and even throw in other directions like "put a hand on your head" or "clap twice", eventually asking students to do 2 or 3 simple directions at once like "put your hands at your sides, sit down, and look at me" etc.  Once you notice that all are focused in on what you are saying you can move on with the lesson easily.

When giving more complicated directions be sure you, as the teacher, are VERY clear and precise. My favorite tip from Classroom Management for Art, Music and PE Teachers is always start with the words "In a Moment..." and end with a "go signal".  My students are always eager to get an activity started and want to get up as soon as the first words are out of my mouth.  If they know that they are to listen carefully to ALL directions and not move until a "go signal" is given, things run much smoother.  This has worked really well for me so far this year! 

Now, what about when things DON'T go smoothly? What if there is only 1 student, or even just a few, who are NOT following directions- listening, participating, or as my school would say- when they are NOT following the Wilson Way?  A 3 step consequence system (3 strikes and you're out)  is suggested in the book and I have been following this so far this year.  Strikes start over each week (just like they start over for each at-bat) but students know that if they are getting 2 strike many weeks in a row, I may still contact parents. I have been really strict about strikes so far and have contacted a lot of parents for seemingly small things (call outs, etc.), but students are really learning expectations and over all music is more fun and enjoyable for ALL students so far this year.

The first strike is just a warning to the student who is not following directions. Be sure to say "this is a warning" otherwise younger students may not realize that they have gotten their first strike. Be sure students know that a warning is just an opportunity for redirection.  It does NOT mean they are in trouble, but rather they are 1 step away from a time-out and now have a chance to take responsibility for their actions and make better choices.  Students will only see it this way, however, if you remember to stay calm and NOT lecture or cause friction in another way. 

The second strike- whether it is for not following the same direction OR a different one- is time out.  I have a rest area in my music room where students go to reflect on behavior.  They are to flip over a timer (I tell them the color which corresponds to a number of minutes) and then fill out a paper which asks "what happened?" and "what can I do better next time?" When the timer is up they are allowed to rejoin class UNLESS I have had to talk to them again.  Arguing on the way to the rest area is an automatic third strike.
The third strike is an automatic communication home.  Usually I fill out a form which lists which directions were not followed and hand it to the student.  They are then asked to have it signed and return it to me the next week.  If the strikes that day weren't too bad (just called out a few times) then I may just email home.  If the strikes were violent, etc. then it is a phone call home AND a discipline form given to the principal.  If a student gets 3 strikes two weeks in a row then they have to come for recess.

The only time I would ask a student to leave the room is if they are being so distracting, even while in the "rest area" that other students cannot concentrate.  In this case, because I am in a modular classroom it is an automatic walk to the principal. I radio to the office that a student is coming and then ask the student to see me at recess as well. 

I have also started "errands" for those kids who just need a break every now and then.  I have a deal with a few teachers that if a student is starting to show signs of restlessness I will ask them to "run an errand" for me.  In this case, they take a sealed envelope to the designated teacher just to get them out of the room for a bit.  All they do is hand the envelope off and come right back. This works GREAT for those kids who just have some extra energy to burn and cannot sit still!  They don't feel attacked but rather they feel important because they are delivering something for you.  I usually start this in about 3rd grade. 

Some students have frequent behavior problems in music so we have moved to a "tier 2" interventions and they have a weekly behavior chart where they earn points for listening, participating, and following the Wilson Way.  Once they earn a certain number of points (I start low and gradually increase throughout the year) they earn a prize- usually a "blue card" which is a school wide individual positive behavior tool.  This works really well for those students who need that extra motivation to stay on task. 

One thing I need to remember when giving strikes is to stay calm and not lecture.  Each strike needs to be given quick. As Michale Linsin says in his book, keep the communication brief- "You have a warning." or "Please walk to the Rest Area because you broke rule number 3 and were not taking care of the instruments."  This helps the student to realize that only they have the power to change their behavior.

                     "They are left with no one to blame, no one to get angry at, and nowhere
                     else to point the finger but at themselves. They may not be happy about
                     going to time-out or getting a letter to take home, but in their heart they
                     will know it's because of what they did, not what you did. And this makes
                     all the difference (pg. 113)."

Class will stay much more on track with this system as well.  It is not fair to other students when you lecture one (or a small group) for 5 minutes.  This was a habit I got into last year because I was so frustrated with certain students each week- even though I had sent letters home, and had them come in for recess, etc. there were still problems.  It is probably because they thought I hated them rather than me giving the responsibility of their behavior to them and ONLY them.  Already this year with this new, more specific, system in place many of the students who were frustrating (and frustrated) last year are leaders in class this year!

Speaking of leaders- what do I do with those who are on task and showing leadership in class?  I love to "catch kids being good" and praise leadership behavior.  I will often redirect off-task students by calling attention to those who are doing it RIGHT.  I say things like "I love how Jane is holding up a quiet signal" or "if it was a contest, row 2 would win because they are ALL doing hand-signs", etc.  I also give out blue cards if a student is going above and beyond to be helpful or follow directions.  Blue cards are a school wide system and if students earn 10 blue cards they get a prize such as eating lunch with the teacher (or music teacher), a small trinket, helping in the cafeteria, etc.  I also use blue cards to help those who need extra practice to follow a specific direction.  If a student who often calls out goes a whole class without forgetting to raise his or her hand they will get a blue card.  Students love the challenge of earning 10 and the prizes are all so fun they work really hard to show the Wilson Way and be leaders around school.

Overall the tips and tricks I got from Classroom Management for Art, Music and PE Teachers have been super helpful this year.  Seriously check out this book. There is so much more to it than the small preview I have given here. It was a fast read and so worth it!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Kodaly in the Choral Classroom Workshop- Tips for choosing and preparing music

Hello! I hope everyone is having a great first few weeks back to school.  I am in the middle of my first full week now and so far so good! I will have a post soon about my first month procedures but today we are finishing up The Kodaly in the Choral Classroom series!  Part 4 is all about choosing and preparing music before you even step foot in front of your choir.  After today you will have all the tips and tricks I learned from Dr. Laszlo Norbert Nemes from the Kodaly Institute in Kecskemet, Hungary.

We have already talked about the Auditions and First Rehearsal, Warm-Ups, and the Rehearsal Itself-(click the titles to be taken to that post) but how do you know WHAT to sing???  Dr. Nemes had a lot of great tips for picking and preparing music.

First, when thinking about what materials to program be sure include music that meets your artistic goals for your ensemble, is attainable- yet some still with a challenge- with your groups musical ability, and that you are thinking about the vocal and technical readiness of your chorus. You also want to teach music that YOU like.  If you don't like a piece, that attitude will rub off on your chorus- where as if you LOVE a piece, students will pick up on that and end up loving the piece as well. :)

More specifically, here are 6 things to remember when choosing music.
1. A worthwhile piece will always help chorus members grow musically and vocally
2. The music should be age appropriate in subject and meaning (both emotional and cultural)
3. The music should contain many pedagogical opportunities for you as a teacher to teach students how to read and understand music!
4. The style of each piece should be taken into consideration so that a concert is engaging for both singers and audience.  Have a variety of time periods, tempos, cultures, composers and more all represented!
5. Utilize both accompanied and unaccompanied pieces
6. All choirs should move gradually from unison to part singing.  Even if a choir is advanced, unison can be a great tool to practice many things so have both on your program (even it is only a section of unison for a more advanced group).

Once you have your music literature picked out it is time to start prepping for the rehearsal.  A chorus director should plan each and every rehearsal but also needs to remember to be FLEXIBLE as things do not always go as planned or a wonderful teaching moment may appear that you don't want to pass up.  The best time to plan the next rehearsal is IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the one you just finished.

When planning a rehearsal, a director or conductor should not only be planning which songs need to be worked on next, but which specific sections of each song need to be taught or practiced, which warm-ups relate to those sections, AND logical transitions between songs. To be successful in planning it is best if a director really knows the music inside and out by carefully taking time to study the score well before the first rehearsal.

When studying a score for the first time there are 3 ways a director should go through the song.  
1. Line by line or horizontally is first- work your way through each top starting with the sopranos and ending with the lowest section. Find tricky parts within each vocal line, read through the text, and find musical symbols like crescendos, accents, etc. so that you can be fully prepared when teaching a line to the chorus.

2. Next, move through the piece vertically by playing each part with each other part.  For a 3-part piece you might play the soprano and alto together, then play the soprano and baritone, then alto and baritone, and finally all 3 at once.  Listen for the harmonic progression and figure out which parts should sing out and which need to back off based on text, chord structure, or even just written in cues from the composer.

3. Finally you want to move through the music zig-zag.  Look for cues, voice leading, etc. and find which part is the most important during each section of the song.  Find entrances and cut offs and if another voice part may be able to help with a tricky interval or entrance.

By the time you are done with score study- you should be able to sing every part of the piece and even jump back and forth between parts with out thinking.  Only then should you present the music to your chorus :)

I hope you enjoyed reading this series! Be sure to check out the other posts (links are back at the top) so you don't miss ANY of the wonderful information that Dr. Nemes shared.  I am so excited to really start chorus this year and put all these tips and ideas to good use! My students will be singing, reading, moving and having fun!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Kodaly in the Choral Classroom Workshop- The Rehearsal

Alright- time for Part 3 of my series Kodaly in the Choral Classroom- Notes and thoughts on a workshop with Dr. Laszlo Norber Nemes at Capital Univeristy.  Today I will be focusing on THE REHEARSAL! Finally!

Don't forget to check out the first two posts in the series (links below) - Dr. Nemes had so much information I just couldn't condense it all into one post! He is truly a master teacher- if you ever get a chance to go to Hungary to learn from him at the Kodaly Institute, or attend a workshop with him where ever you are I highly recommend it!

Part 1- Auditions and the 1st Rehearsal
Part 2- Warm-ups
Part 4- Picking and Preparing Music

This post, as some of the others were, will be two-fold.  I will share general advice for conductors to follow during the rehearsal and more specifically 5 issues in regards to intonation and how to help.

A few things to remember:  When teaching chorus- the objective should be to teach music JOYFULLY with concepts leading students down the road to understanding music.

Through singing, students can develop the following:
1. The feeling of musical time (sense of beat, rhythm, meter, form, tempo, etc.)
2. Inner-hearing
3. Melodic skills
4. The ability to move from monophony to polyphony
5. Sensitivity toward pure intonation
6. Reading musical notation on a staff
7. Reading musical notation using a hand-staff or hand-signs
8. Musical memory
9. Transposition (especially with the use of a handstaff)
10. Improvisation (question and answer using solfa, etc.)

When teaching in chorus the teacher should prepare and teach by deconstructing a piece of music.  The chorus members then reconstruct the music though guidance from the conductor.

When reconstructing and learning a new song, students should use solfege as much as possible.  They can sight read, follow from hand-signs or hand-staff, or even echo singing (whether T sings solfa or a neutral syllable- students always sing solfa).  Even if students have never used solfege before, it is still beneficial- eventually they will get the sounds of the intervals in their ears and they will be sight-reading before you know it!

Remember you do not have to teach a song in order from start to finish- starting with melody.  Sometimes it is beneficial to start with easier sections to give students a sense of accomplishment.  Or start with a section you know may be tricky so students have a lot of time to really figure it out and get the sound of the line in their head. Sometimes you may want to teach all students a harmony part BEFORE you teach the melody line.  However, as you teach sections, they should be taught in their entirety- including dynamics and everything so students do not get used to singing without all that is written on the page.

Also, just as you would have logical transitions in a general music lesson, they have a place in the chorus lesson as well. Make your rehearsal flow seamlessly by using lines from previous songs as transitions by perhaps having students work on their musicianship.  Have them echo lines (step step, sing sing as mentioned in the warm-up post or reading from hand-signs, etc.) and start with the meter and/or tone-set from the song that was just worked on.  Slowly transition to a new song by adding or subtracting notes from the tone-set or beats from the measure.  End on a line from the next song you want to teach. Don't be afraid to play music reading games in chorus, just as you would in general music!

Here are a few other tid-bits to remember during a chorus rehearsal:
1. Divide the piece into manageable sections- don't leave the ending for too late!
2. ALWAYS give the starting pitch (or if your choir is more advance, the tonal center)
3. Let the choir know how you will conduct- if you are changing your beat pattern warn them
4. When correcting a piece be sure to isolate patterns for corrections- don't just have the chorus sing the whole song again.
5. If there is repetition in the rehearsal (which there will be!) be sure to give a reason why- are you working on a specific section or interval?  Practicing dynamics? Working on Memorization?

**After the rehearsal is over, immediately (or as soon as possible) write the plan for the next rehearsal.  This way joys and concerns from the lesson will be fresh in your mind.  If you can't write the whole plan- be sure to at least take detailed notes about where you left off in a piece, what was unclear, and what needs work.  This is especially important if you do not see your group every day!**

5 issues in regards to intonation: Every chorus director knows that many things can contribute to the intonation of a choir.  Here are 5 issues and things to think about when trying to fix them!

1. Balance Within the Group: The foundation of balance is PERFECT UNISON.  All voices should blend so that they sound as 1- especially in pp dynamics!  Help students to work together and LISTEN to those around them so that one voice does not stick out.  I will never forget that while in high school a girl in my choir announced one day that she would NOT blend at school because she had to blend in the Youth Choir she was in and she wanted to show off her voice... what??? Be sure students understand the reason behind blending and listening :)

2. Oblique, Inversions, and Parallel Movements in Harmonies: Remember, when the vocal line is moving up you think larger, more energetic intervals.  However, when the line is descending, thing smaller and more careful intervals so as to not go flat. Practice this in warm-ups with reading from hand-sings (P1 follows right hand while P2 follows left), or other simple sight-reading exercises.

3. Long Tones and Repeated Notes: A teacher must remember that they have to teach how to intone a note that is long held, encouraging students to not drop the pitch just because they are running out of air.  Rather, they should be taught to stagger breathe and the technique for coming back in on the same note!  We also need to think about repeated notes as well and being sure that they are not dropping in pitch with each repetition.

4. Danger Points of Intonation: A teacher must be able to discern between the following danger points!
        A. Singing notes around breaks
        B. Loud Dynamics (don't push sharp!)
        C. Quiet Dynamics (keep the support- don't get lazy and go flat!)
        D. Problematic Vowels and Diphthongs (teach students proper vowel formation- warm-ups are a great time to practice!)
        E. Support and Posture (no slouching!)
        F. Letting the pitch change when the word ends on a voiced consonant (don't let it happen!)
        G. Key Changes (be sensitive!)

5. Natural Dynamics: Be sure the chorus is balanced in numbers.  Note: This does not mean equal numbers in all parts! In a 2 or 3 part chorus, the part that has the most members should be the lowest (in my case, the Altos).  The next largest group should be the highest (Sopranos) and finally the middle group should have the least number of people.  These numbers should not be vastly different but it definitely helps when trying to balance a chord (root = loudest, then 5th, then 3rd).   Also remember to crescendo on ascending passages adding energy to the line and decrescendo on descending passages, treating the line with care. 

I will leave you with a quote from Dr. Nemes: "If something doesn't work, find the mistake in YOU [the teacher]."

Don't forget to check out the other posts in the series if you missed them! Links are at the top!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Kodaly in the Choral Classroom Workshop- Warm-ups

I'm back for post 2 in my 4 part series on the Kodaly In the Choral Classroom Workshop I took with Dr. Laszlo Norbert Nemes at Capital University from July 12-14.

This post will be all about warm-ups! We did so many warm-ups throughout the 3 days of singing, but the thing I will remember most is to make the warm-ups super INTENTIONAL.  I know we have heard it before but it was amazing how we, as students, were so much more successful sight-reading, singing in tune, and more just because the warm-ups all related to what was coming next. Not only were there vocal warm-ups but there were a lot of physical warm-ups as well.

First I will share a few tips and tricks from Dr. Nemes that can be applied to ALL warm-ups, then I will share some of my favorites he taught us!

1.  There are 3 parts of a warm-up.  A physical warm-up should
            A. warm-up the voice
            B. warm-up musicianship
            C. warm-up concentration 
2. Change it up.  Even within one exercise, change up the vowels.  Warm-ups should not be predictable. (I really need to work on this one!)
3. Incorporate part-singing into the warm-up (examples below)
4. Give the pitch with your voice- even if you are using the piano, be sure to reinforce with your voice.
5. Select the warm-ups based on the repertoire your students will be singing.  It can relate to the tonality, the tone-set, similar rhythm patterns, be a simpler version of the song, have the same harmonic progression, etc.
6. Teach articulation and breathing super exaggerated and make it into a game
7. Use solfa, handsigns, and hand-staff for warm-ups and throughout the rehearsal.  
8. Don't always go up and down by half-steps, use whole tones or skip around. 
9. Walk to the beat when reading rhythms- ALWAYS!
10. End with something JOYFUL!

Now onto some of my favorite things we did as warm-ups during the work-shop! It was so fun!

To warm-up our voices we did many things, some similar to what I typically have done as warm-ups in the past.  For example we sang d-r-m-r-d-r-m-r-d moving up and down (not always by half-steps though).  We also inverted the pattern (m-r-d-r-m...) and sang it in two parts.  There was oblique harmony- where one group sang the pattern and another held do or mi, parallel harmony- where we sang the pattern in cannon, and contrary motion where one group sang d-r-m-... while the other sang m-r-d-...   You could even sing the same solfege pattern on neutral syllables to practice correct vowels. There was so much we did with just the one exercise!

One of my favorite things we did to warm-up musicianship was "step, step, sing sing" (I gave it that awesome name...).  The teacher plays a short solfege pattern on the piano while the chorus is stepping and then the student sing the pattern on the singing beats! We started with two beats of step, two of sing and added more and more (step, step, step, sing, sing, sing, etc.).  Of course, the solfa played was in the same key, and using the same tone-set as the song we would be working next!

Another way to warm-up musicianship is just by sight-reading.  I will be doing a "Daily 5" in both chorus and upper elementary general music where students read an example for Kodaly's 333 (get the book HERE) or a new folk song, or an example extracted from the choral piece itself and then we will play with it.  There are so many ways you can play with an example:
-Show the form through movement
-Sing it in cannon (be sure cannons you choose have different harmonic structures!)
-Perform it in cannon with yourself (singing and clapping, etc)
-Clap/ snap on different rests (we did this with Hotaru Koi- snapped on eighth rests and clapped on quarter rests with singing and without). 

The warming-up the concentration was my favorite part because it got us moving! A few of my favorite concentration warm-ups were:

Let's put the Rooster in the Stew: We sang the song first.  Then we added in snapping.  This song is in 4/4 time so we added snaps on different eighth notes of the song.  For the 1st phrase it was no snap, the 2nd was on the 1st eighth note, the 3rd phrase had a snap on the 2nd eighth note, etc.  If you sing the song through twice, the final snap will be on the last word of the song.

Hey Ho, Nobody Home: This was similar to the rooster but it was more than just snapping- and hard! We first sang the song and then added a poly-rhythm body percussion ostinato. The pattern was clap, rt shoulder tap, lft shoulder tap, rt leg tap, leg tap ending with a clap -snap to finish it off after the pattern is completed 6 times.   This in itself was not too tricky for most of the music teachers in the room, but would definitely be tricky for some students.  Eventually we put it with a partner (clap replaced with a 2 hand partner "high five").  Then it got really tricky- and more similar to Rooster.  We were asked to replace a beat of the ostinato with a snap.  Just like rooster it started with no replacement, then we replaced the clap for the next time through the pattern, then the rt shoulder, then then lft shoulder, etc.  If you do it correctly, each beat gets replaced once before the final clap-snap! I hope to make a video of this soon- but I have to practice!

Land of the Silver Birch: For this one we added a cup game that uses 2 cups!  Check out this blog post I wrote in march that explains it in detail- there is even a video!  It is the same directions as Ludaim.  Hint: Use cups of 2 different colors because the cup that starts in your left hand will NEVER leave you the whole game! 

My Paddle Keen and Bright: For this warm-up we added a handclap game that can be done in cannon.  It is super fun.  I actually learned this one in Hungary in 2013 from Lucinda Geogohan but kind of forgot about it so I am excited to bring it back to my students- they love this song.  The pattern is basically:  tap rt shoulder, tap left shoulder, tap rt leg, tap left leg (all eighth notes) then Clap, Hit right hands with partner (or person to your left if doing in a round), Clap, Hit both hands with partner (across from you in round), Clap, Hit left hands with partner (or person to your right if doing it in a round).  All claps and hits are to the quarter note pulse.  The round sung at 2 beats (My paddle, my paddle). 

Note: Hey Ho, Land of the Silver Birch, and My Paddle can all be sung at the same time! Super fun challenge for younger kids and it would be awesome in a folk-song program-games and all. 

We also did some fun physical dance like warm-ups.  2 of my favorites are explained below.  One involves singing, one is just to get the students up and moving.

Gypsy Rover: We did the dance as a warm-up with the basic song before we went into learning a more complicated choral arrangement of the piece.  I LOVE this idea! This one is a super fun folk-dance type movement that is done in a circle with every other person being labeled a 1 or a 2.  It is pretty advanced so don't make it the first folk dance you ever teach!  I will try to explain the best I can because it was awesome.

I will refer to partner 1 and partner 2 throughout.  Partner one is the person to a 1s right or 2s left. Partner is the opposite. 

The Gypsy Rover came over the hill-  1s: Walk forward 4 beats then wait 4
                                                             2s: Wait 4 beats then walk forward 4

Down through the valley so shady- 1s: Walk backward 4 beats then wait 4
                                                         2s: Wait 4 beats then walk back 4 (all should be back to start)

He whistled and he sang: All Clap, pat partner 1, clap, pat partner 2 (on beat)

'Til the green woods rang: Clap, snap, clap, pat both partners (on beat)

And he won the heart of a lady: Swing partner 1 for 4 beats, then swing partner 2 for 4 beats.

*Ladeo, Ladeo, O-a-day: Walk forward 4 beats bent forward

*Ladeo, O-a-day-dee: Connect arms to make arches and walk backwards

He whistled and he sang... (til end of song): Grand R+L switching every 4 beats.  You end on the 5th person you meet as your new partner 1.


*Note: If the Ladeo part is sung in cannon (1s first then 2s) The actions form a sort of basket weave where 2s are going forward under 1s arched armed as they move back.  Adds a really fun visual element!

Russian Dance from The Nutcracker Suite:  This one didn't involve singing but I will definitely be using it in general music (or asking the sub to since I will probably be out most of December).  It was very simple and FUN!
Formation: Standing in circle
A Section: Moving to the right: step, step, hop, walk 4 beats then repeat to the left (x2)
B Section: Walk around self to the right 8 beats then run in place for 4 beats repeat to the left
C Section: Pat the accents on your legs (1, 1, 1-3, 1-2-3-4)
A Section- Just once!
Coda- Count to 12 then clap!

(Want other Nutcracker Ideas- check out this post!)

Here are some other fun gems I learned from Dr. Nemes in Hungary a few years ago:
All warm-up the voice, musicianship, AND concentration :)

Physical Sing Counting: 
Sing count the following pattern: d'-s-m-d
Start by singing each note 8 times (d'-d'-d'-d'-d'-d'-d'-'d-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-s-, etc.)
Then sing each 4, then each 2, then each 1
Motions: On d'- touch toe, s-touch knees, m-touch stomach, d-touch shoulders

Body Percussion Patterns: 
Make patterns with the following motions (relate them to songs in your rep!)
Ta-quarter note- Jump
Titi-beamed eighth notes- 2 claps
Tika-tika- 4 beamed sixteenth notes- patsch
Ti-tika [eighth beamed with 2 sixteenths]- hit chest then snap 2x (or opposite for tika-ti)
quarter rest- tap head

Follow Along Partwork:
Play two parts on the piano and then have students sing along with their own part (make as easy or hard as your chorus can handle)

d   d-r-d d-r-m-r-d   d-r-m-s-m-r-d   d-r-m-s-l-s-m-r-d
Sing pattern as written above
To challenge students have them clap on mi (or pat re, or touch shoulders on so)- inner hear mi instead of singing it
Add another inner hearing note as they master (clap on mi AND touch shoulders on so, etc.)
Eventually students should be inner hearing r-m-s while doing actions and only singing do and la

I hope you got some new ideas for warm-ups! I know I plan on being really intentional with all warm-ups chosen this year!  Don't forget to check out part 1- Auditions and the first rehearsal HERE! Part 3 is on teaching repertoire is also up. See that one HERE.  Part 4 is on picking and preparing music for your rehearsal and you can read that one HERE.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Kodaly in the Choral Classroom Workshop- Auditions and 1st Rehearsal

Wow, what a wonderful 3 days of singing I just had.  This past week (ok, it was a few weeks ago...) I had the pleasure of attending a workshop given by the Director of the Kodaly Institute of the Liszt Academy of Music in Hungary, Dr. Laszlo Norbert Nemes. 

In celebration of the Kodaly Program at Capital University in Columbus being established 35 years ago, Dr. Nemes came to give a workshop at the start of Kodaly Levels this year.  Even though I completed my elementary levels a few years ago, I had to go back for this workshop.  Having worked with Dr. Nemes in Hungary in 2013 (he was the choir conductor for the Kodaly courses) I knew it would be amazing, and it sure was.   I was a little nervous going into the workshop, as my chorus is only 5th and 6th grade and I wasn't sure what level the workshop would be aimed at (elementary? secondary? post-secondary?) but I was not disappointed. We learned so much about every aspect of choral music teaching and conducting (as well as a few games that I will definitely be using in both chorus and general music this year).

Right at the start of the workshop we jumped right into singing.  Throughout the whole workshop he used many tried and true teaching activities such as pair and share, learning by doing, mock lessons, etc.   After a fun warm-up activity where Dr. Nemes taught us a song and then added an ostinato, first with body percussion and then open 5th harmony, we talked about Auditions and the First Rehearsal. 

The first question he asked was "What is the Ideal Chorus Member."  Obviously with everyone from different teaching backgrounds all of our answers were a little different.  My answers were
1. The chorus member has to want to learn and grow. 
2. The chorus member has to be willing to work hard.

For an entry level chorus I think WANTING to be there is a VERY important thing. Chorus rehearsals can be tough when you have kids who we re strongly encouraged to join by parents rather than because they truly want to sing as part of a group.

Your ideals may be different but if you go into your auditions/ a first hearing knowing what YOU want and need for your chorus.  Have your goals for your chorus year established before you hear anyone sing and forming your group will be that much easier.  It is not always about who is the best singer or best sight-reader (though these things are important), but rather singing personalities, tone, confidence, etc.

With my chorus, there is no "audition" per-say as anyone who wants to be in chorus can be, but when I do a first hearing I am still looking for who should stand next to who, putting leaders next to those who may struggle, mixing voices so that confident singers are spread throughout the group AND clashing personalities (or best-buds) are also spread throughout the group.  During my first hearing I try to make students as comfortable as possible.  One gem from the workshop was ask the to SHARE what they can do, not SHOW.  Students just sing a simple song for me that I know they know (usually a favorite folk song from the year prior) and some warm-ups. 

Now, with my chorus, the first rehearsal is actually BEFORE the "first hearing" because at my school ALL 5th and 6th graders come to the first rehearsal for their grade and we sing, move AND hear about what the upcoming year will be like.  The following week they then get to choose if they want to join chorus or not.  For this reason, I love for my first rehearsal to really leave the students wanting more (which I try for all year, but I feel it is really important to hook them right from the get-go!).  Last year as my super fun warm-up I taught them "la-ti-do-ti-la" and the hand motions and then was able to add cups when the group was a little smaller (though I still had a HUGE chorus last year-yay!).  Check out this BLOG POST for how to play the cup game! This year I plan on stealing the first activity from Dr. Nemes. 

He taught us Kye Kye Kule (a Ghanan Children's song) in stages. If you don't know the song there is background and some videos here- my favorites are the 1st and 3rd.  I plan on splitting the stages up over the course of a few rehearsals. 
1. Call and response (just like the videos).  Dr. Nemes would sing a phrase with motions and we repeated.  He started with the phrases in order, but then moved to random for each step.
2. Teacher HUMs a line with motions and students sing and do
3. Teacher just does motions and students sing and do
4. T. claps the rhythm of a phrase, students pat phrase
5. Show rhythm cards to put song together

If you have a group that is reluctant to sing right away- Dr. Nemes recommends getting them used to you first either by just rhythm activities that evolve into a dance, partner clapping activities, etc.  AND then add the song.  By the time they realize they are singing, you already have them hooked! (We did movement and games to so many folk songs it will take another post to describe them all so stay tuned!)

After he had us hooked with the first activity we moved seamlessly into warm-ups which were very intentional (Part 2 of this blog series) and finally into pieces we would be singing/ performing for our mini concert we gave at the end of the workshop.  Throughout the ENTIRE first rehearsal there was so much singing (of course!), movement, smiling, games, laughter and more. 

For my first rehearsal this year I plan on doing the same.  We will start with Kye Kye Kule and then move into true warm-ups which relate to the pieces we will sing.  The Veterans Day Concert is always the first performance of the year so we will be working on The Star-Spangled Banner, the songs of the Branches of the Armed Forces, and more TBD (I am debating between a few pieces to add to the program).  Students will also get a rundown of the whole year- when Concerts/ National Anthem performances are, when the musical is (though you don't have to be in chorus to be in the musical) and more. 

Over all I hope to make chorus this year much more ACTIVE after taking this workshop and using a lot more folk music. Everything in the workshop flowed seamlessly and each part of the rehearsals was so intentional.  It is my goal to be that intentional with EVERY chorus rehearsal this year.

Check out parts 2, 3 and 4 of this workshop series (there was so much info)! Part 2 is on intentional warm-ups, Part 3 give tips for teaching new songs (which relates A LOT to the intentional warm-ups), Part 4 is on picking your repertoire and preparing for the rehearsals :)  Happy Back to School!

Thanks to The TLC Shop for the border in my picture above! 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Wish & Dish- TPT Back to School Sale


Tonight I am linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room and Music A La Abbot for their Wish & Dish linky. 

What prompted this link-up?  The annual Teachers Pay Teachers Back-to-School sale is upon us!  Monday, August 3 and Tuesday, August 4 my store (and many others) will be 20% off and you can get an extra 10% off with the code BTS15 for a total of 28% off! YAY!

Alright, this linky is 2 fold:

WISH: Be sure to get your wishlist ready NOW so when you check out you don't miss anything!  I am going to share some products I am super excited to purchase during the sale as well as some new products from my store!

DISH: Did you know that you can get TPT credits when you provide feedback on items you have purchased in the past?  You get 1 credit for every dollar you spend IF you take the time to leave feedback for the sellers!  You can then use credits towards future purchases :)  I will be making sure I am up-to-date on feedback tonight so I can use my credits during the sale as well.

To "dish" on products and leave feedback all you have to do is go to your TPT home screen and hover over "My TPT" and then choose "My Purchases".  You can then sort all your purchases, bringing the items that need feedback to the top. Just hover over "sort by" and click "needs feedback".  Super easy!

Here is my WISHLIST:) I am so excited for this sale!

Product by another Music Seller:
I can't wait to get Aileen Miracle's Early Finisher Task CardsThis set includes so many ideas for kids for when they are finished with individual work!  There are rhythm cards, melody cards, vocal explorations, song title cards, AND vocab cards!  I really want to be better at formal assessments this year but I have always struggled with what to do with students who finish early.  This set will be perfect!
I am also thinking about getting a music teacher planner.  I have 2 on my wishlist that I am debating between.  I just need to make sure I use it!  I tend to be really excited about planners for a few months and then forget about them... but both of these are great!
The Whole Life Planner from Organized Chaos has pages to organize your whole life- teaching, home, business- anything you could think of!
The Music Teacher Planner from The Yellow Brick Road has pages for every binder a music teacher may want- there are sub-binder pages, seating charts and class jobs, desktop organizers, resource forms and check-lists, to-to lists and more! It's all editable too!

Elephant Clipart:
Alright, this purchase has nothing to do with a future TPT product at this point BUT I am so excited to use one (or more) of these clip art sets to make stuff for my Baby Boy's room! I want to make clothing dividers (divided by size) and some other elephant things and this clipart is so cute!
How adorable is this Blue and Gray Elephant Clipart Set from Digital Dollface??

I also love this Elephant Clipart made my Scrapster by Melissa Held Designs.

Product from my Store:
I just added some new Back-2-School sorting games to my store!  Back-2-School Stack- Music Symbols and Back-2-School Stack- Orchestral Instruments. Both are great for review stations, small group work, or early finishers on review worksheets or getting to know you sheets at the beginning of the school year.  

For the Music Symbols sorting game students match the Symbol Name-Crayon, to the Symbol Picture-Easel, to the Word/Symbol Definition-Notepad.  There are also larger pictures (left) of each symbol, great for the Fly Swatter game!  The Orchestral Instruments version is very similar.  Students match the Instrument Family (Easel), to the Instrument Name (Crayon), to the Instrument Picture (Notepad).  Just like the music symbols version, there are larger pictures of each instrument on Notepads and large Easels with the family names for the Fly Swatter Game!

They are very similar to some of my best sellers- "Do You Wanna Build a Snowman", "Jack-O-Lantern Stack", "Stacks of Love" and "Help My Garden Grow".   Check out all of the music symbols versions HERE and all of the Orchestral Instruments versions HERE!

Thanks to my wonderful husband for hand-drawing the back-to-school clipart and helping me figure out photoshop.

Well there you have it! Don't forget to login to TPT now make your own wish-list and dish on all the products you have bought in the past to get credits.  Happy shopping at the sale Aug 3 and 4!

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Three Things I've Learned this Summer

Wow! I can't believe school is starting again in just about 3 weeks! In My district, teachers go back on August 17 for 2 days of professional development/ getting our rooms ready and then students join us on the 19th!

For my first post in a long time (see reason why as the1st thing I have learned) I will be Linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share 3 things I have learned this summer.  Be sure to click on over and see what other teachers have learned as well! Just click the picture OR the link above! It feels like summer just started but so much has happened! 

#1- I am having a Baby Boy in Early December! I found out I was pregnant right around the beginning of April and just found out last week at the anatomy scan that Baby Church is a boy! Brad and I are so excited. December will always be a whirlwind with Baby's B-day, Christmas, our Anniversary, and more but we are ready to take on the role of being parents.  I am trying to get the nursery mostly done before I go back to school but so far it is only half primed... I didn't feel well for about the first 4 months of the pregnancy so not much of anything got done but the past few weeks I have been starting to feel better and get more energy so I am getting much more excited- and much more motivated to do things I have been neglecting- such as this blog and TPT. I hope once baby boy arrives I will be able to at least keep up with short posts, and I hope to have my Sub guest post about what is happening in my classroom while I am away.  Feel free to leave tips on maternity leave below!

#2- I Need to be Busy with classes, workshops, etc. -Confession time: This summer has been a little bit of a struggle because I am not good at motivating myself (especially when I am not feeling well). I have always been a procrastinator at heart.  I have ben watching a LOT of Netflix. Classes like levels courses or content specific workshops really energize me and motivate me to keep working at home.  This year, however, the 1 workshop I attended wasn't until mid July and now I feel behind! I really need to get moving on yearplans, song lists, lesson planning and more.  Here is to 3 weeks of intense planning and reading! So excited to finish reading the book "Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE teachers" and to get this school year planned and started! I miss my kiddos :)

#3- I really miss Hungary- 2 summers ago I went to the Kodaly institute in Kecskemet, Hungary and it was an amazing experience learning from some great Kodaly Masters for 3 weeks!  A group from Capital (where I got my undergrad degree and Masters with a Kodaly Emphasis) went again this year and I have been really sad I'm not there- they are there right now! Hopefully I can get back there again sometime.  While I couldn't fly across the ocean this summer, I did get a taste when I took a workshop at Capital a few weeks ago with Dr. Laszlo Nemes, the director of the Institute.  I learned so much about Kodaly in the Choral Classroom and I am so excited to bring some of those tidbits back to my 5th and 6th grade chorus classes this year.  One of the things that sticks out the most is to use folk songs and games as warm-ups/ introductions to new pieces. Teach the folk song and dance/ game first and then the arrangement or find a folk song with a fun hand-clap game that is in the same meter/ key/ language/ tone set etc. get students mentally prepared for the new piece of music you will be teaching.   I am working on some posts about the workshop that will go into much more detail so stay tuned!

Check out my blog posts on that amazing trip Here (overview and African Song), Here (Vocal Instruction Cues), Here (10 Elementary Ped goodies), Here (Games I learned in Musicanship), Here (Singing Games 1)and Here (Singing games 2).  There are even more if you keep clicking "new posts" from any of these links- these are just my favorites :)

What have you learned this summer?

Friday, April 3, 2015

OMEA General Music Overview- Part 2

Welp, this post is long overdue- Sorry! My students musical snuck up on me. It was a stressful month of March getting my 2 casts prepared and ready to perform but they did awesome!

So here it is- a month later- my 2nd post on my experience at OMEA this year.  While it was cold in Cleveland, I came away with lots of new and fun ideas to try in both my general music and choral classrooms.  This post will focus on my workshops with Sarah Hassler and Dave Holland. 

I got so many fun tips for Chorus from Sarah Hassler- In one workshop I got new warm up ideas, remembered old warm-up friends, read through some choral pieces, and most importantly- learned ways to make chorus FUN and engage students.  My students are already loving some of the ideas!

Here is a little overview: First she talked about Brain Dance which is a way to warm-up the ENTIRE body.  Get more info on Brain Dance HERE.

We then started "playing" with solfa by doing echo patterns, waterfalls (where the chorus sings an ascending scale together and then sections hold different notes of the scale on the way down), and chord tuning with 2 part hand-sign exercises.  

Next we did common solfa warm-ups in new-to-me ways.  We did the ever common d-drd-drmrd-drmfmrd, etc. but tapped on each do while singing.  You can make it harder by tapping on do, snapping on mi, and clapping on so OR only do the motion in place of singing the note.  This is super challenging for students and I need to do it more!  We also did bodysigns with the d-s-f-s-m-s-r-s d-s-f-s-m-r-d exercise.  We stomped on do, pat our legs on re, clapped on mi, touched shoulders on fa and snapped above our heads on so.  I have done similar things to this before but this version was super fun. 

Finally, right before we started reading through some choral pieces we did one more warm-up which I will call "lu-la-lay".  This was a super fun one because there were different levels of movement that went along with it.  The first level was pretty simple but each got increasingly more difficult.  I can't wait to teach it to my students. *

Once we got into reading songs We got some tips to engage students in SCORE-READING.  One thing I have already implemented is the Mystery Measure.  Each Chorus rehearsal I post a measure on the white-board (sometimes staff notation, sometimes stick) and students are tasked to find it in one of the songs we are working on that day.  At the end of rehearsal, if they find it they get a star on their card.  If they get 5 stars, they get a small prize.  Prizes will be things like: Choose the exit song for the day, choose your favorite warm-up for next time, tell a musical joke, etc.   I have only done visual Mystery Measures so far, but you could also do it aurally.  During warm-ups students memorize a small section of a song on solfa and then if they find the same passage in their music while rehearsing they get their star (or 2).  Once I start Aural Mystery Measures I think they will be worth more stars just because I think it is so much harder!

Another tip for score-reading was the pointer finger.  When first learning a passage that students will sight-read, the teacher can play it first and the students can follow along.  Then on the 2nd time they sing along.  This only works well for extractions.  I can see myself making it game, in that I start and they have to follow along and tell me where I stopped (up to 8 mm or so).  Sometimes it would be a 2mm extraction, sometimes 4, sometimes 8 so they would have to be sure to pay attention! 

Overall I got so many fun ideas from this work-shop.  I am really glad I went to this choral session when I typically go to just GM music sessions.  It has fired me up to make my chorus super focused but fun for my kiddos- I can't wait to take a class at CCM (Cincinnati Conservatory of Music) this summer to learn more about Kodaly in the Choral Classroom!

Now onto Dave Holland.  Wow! What a character! His workshops were so fun!  I did some of his stuff in a mix with Mallet Madness right before spring break and my kiddos loved it! I will definitely be working more in in the future!  

Check out his Interactive Rhythm Site HERE.  At the site you can see his resources and look at some of his instruments.  I love the instruments he shared because they are all interactive- they can be played alone or with others so students are not only interacting with the music- but with each other. There are woodblocks on a stick, shakers with flat ends that can also be clicked together- called shaker blox, jingle bells with flat wooden edges that can be clicked together- called jingle blox,  drums, and more.  As he said in the workshop "These drums are nothing without people. Humans are the ones who make the music come alive."  Love it!

One of my favorite activities was "Rhythmic Affirmations."  First the teacher played a 8 or 16 pattern and the class "affirmed" with a taught pattern.  It was Clap, chest chest, pat pat, stomp stomp, woo!  After we got the affirmation down, then he would should "Hey Hey, whadaya say?" and look at one student to improve for 8-16 beats before the class affirmed again. Sometimes, he would have a few improve before we affirmed, just by saying "Hey Hey..." more than once and then saying something along the lines of "Let's affirm that" when it was time for the group pattern.  This can be done with just body percussion, simple small percussion instruments, or larger drums.  Such a fun activity!

We also did lots of partner activities.  One had a silly song with it to describe the movements, and while I couldn't see myself teaching it as a stand-alone song, I COULD see myself using the song to teach the movement and then doing while listening to a classical piece, etc.   The words were "Play a click, share your stick, move on over to the other side. Play a click, share your stick, wave bye-bye." It was a great way to add a simple rhythm and change partners while in a circle.   Another partner activity we did was sing the song "Alejo" and there was one instrument to each pair of people.  While singing, one partner improvised using the instrument (some had shakers, shape drums, hand drums, and more) and the other got to dance.  At the teachers signal, students switched rolls.  The switching got faster and faster.  This could be done with any song and was so fun!

After Dave Holland's workshops I was so excited not only to get my students interacting with each other while making music using percussion instruments BUT also to improve.  There were so many fun improve activities at these workshops! In addition to what is mentioned above we also did "Musical Rock, Paper, Scissors" where students improvised using their instrument (ROCK- as in ROCK OUT on your instrument), on their body (PAPER- a flat paper hand is perfect for body percussion), and using their voices (SCISSORS- the scissors also kind of looks like a V which stands for voice).  My students LOVED this one.   Another fun one was the magic wand- Anywhere it points, you hear a magic sound! The teacher points at a section and they play the beat. 

Now, if your students are like mine, they need practice improving- a lot.  We do rhythm conversations and other tricks to practice rhythm improve, but one thing I liked that Dave Holland did was just pulling the group back to the steady pulse every once in a while.  He would have us play our instruments on 1 and dance on 2-3-4 or improve with our voices in rhythm on 2-3-4. This can really help kids to internalize the pulse to get that improve sounding awesome- rather than like a bunch of banging. 

Throughout the all of the workshops Dave Holland gave he said everything in rhythm and we always knew what to do and when to stop.  He said things like "Hey Hey Hey-and everybody Stop!" or "Give love to yourself" (and you play ti-ti ta on your own instrument) or "give love to your neighbor" (play ti-ti ta on a neighbors instrument), "give it to the family" (all reach in and play a quarter note then shout a WOO!) or "play your own pattern" (improve for 4 beats) or "copy-cat now" (copy the leader's pattern).  

One final thing I can't wait to try is Frame Drum Stories.  He old one about a chipmunk who wants to go to the pond but is scared of a large bird.  He at first tip toes, then gets more confident, and then runs to the water but STOPS before he jumps in because the bird scares him home.  Students act out the story using their drum (fingers represent the walking feet of the chipmunk) and their bodies (flapping and cawing for the scary bird).  Finally the bird becomes less scary and the chipmunk jumps into the water with a big SPLASH!   

I will leave you with a few more noteable quotes from Dave Holland.
"There are no mistakes, just solos and opportunities to grow"
"When you move your feet-you dance"
"Anytime you beat on something [an instrument] for 30 minutes, it needs a hug"

And remember- as stated above: "These drums are NOTHING without out people.  HUMANS are the ones who make the music come ALIVE"

*Note: I do not have permission to print the warm-up here but I found it very easily with notes and an explanation of the different levels very easily just googling "lulalay warm-up Sarah Hassler". 

Thursday, March 5, 2015

CUPS! All my Cup games and activities in one place!

CUPS are an amazing resource. You can drink out of them, they hold things (like popsicle sticks for one of my favorite games- BUSTED), and they make music! I don't know about you, but especially last year with the popularity of Pitch Perfect, my students LOVE cup games.  All classes from 3rd grade and up have mastered the basic cup pattern most of us know and love so I have to up my game and introduce many more variations on that pattern, or new cup games that get progressively more difficult.  Pitch Perfect 2 is coming out soon- so I am sure CUPS will be popular for a long time- but even if they aren't in the movies, CUP games are so fun! I always find it hard to remove myself from the game because I love them so much and my students are always asking to play as a reward because THEY love them so much.  I have compiled a list of some of my favorite cup games and activities- sound off in the comments about your favorites!

Students start to see cups early on when I do rhythm cup magic tricks.  I learned this at a work-shop a few years ago and students love it!  Unfortunately, I searched high and low for who taught this to me and I could not find the handout!  If this was you- so sorry you aren't credited! Let me know if this sounds so familiar, that you think you may have taught it at a workshop in Ohio 4 or 5 years ago :)

Basically I have four cups on a table (or music stand)- each representing a beat.  Hidden underneath all of the cups is a cup cut in half to represent ti-ti.  We tap the cups, think of "magic" words that only have 1 sound (Bam!, Poof!, Trick etc.).  We do this for a little, moving the cups around- stacking and unstacking them, etc. and then I tell them its time for the magic trick.  We say A-bra-ca da- bra! and the  Ta Ta ti-ti Ta pattern is revealed!  They then come up with a few "magic" words that have 2 sounds and we practice more patterns.  (Poof! Poof! Magic! Poof!)  Sometimes the ti-ti half cups are revealed, sometimes they are covered up. This is great for Prep OR Practice of Ta and Ti-ti- with prep, you can just continue to use magic related words when reading the cup patterns, but once they know the rhythm names, you can reveal a pattern and have them read it on rhythm syllables then notate it with manipulatives.  They love this activity! 

The teacher does have to practice a little to make the reveal of ti-ti cups smooth, without cups or cup parts falling all over the place! My 1st graders are always impressed though- even if half a cup gets stuck...   If you do not want to deal with actually cutting some cups in half, I am sure a thick black line drawn down the center of the cup would work just as well.  This would be less parts that could fall on the floor- though the kids are always super impressed when I slice the cup in half without scissors :)

You can also have the younger students write out their own rhythms or the rhythm of a song using cups as well.  Use big beat strips with hearts for each beat and then have students use BIG cups for quarter notes and smaller cups in a different color for beamed eighth notes. I have also seen using clear cups for rests. This idea I found on pinterest so check out the original pin HERE
Rhythm writing can be done in a different way as well- by writing 1 beat patterns on the edges of foam cups and then having students spin the cups until they find the pattern they want (great for dictation too!) and then writing in on a worksheet.  You could also having staff cups with the musical alphabet written on the edges of the cups and they spin the cups to write a song. Take it up a notch by combining the two.  This also comes from pinterest so check out the orginal pin HERE. 

As for cup passing games, I start but just teaching the typical pattern I learned at camp when I was 10 (and is the same pattern from the Pitch Perfect Movie).  Once the Pattern is learned on it's own I add it to I've Been to Harlem (AKA Turn the Glasses Over)so students can practice it continuously. When we are good we get fast and faster and students who mess up move to another circle so we can see who can do it the fastest and longest without making a mistake!   I also use it with Kodaly's Viennese Musical Clock.  We do the cup pattern in a big circle on the A section and then students lead non-locomotor movements to the beat on the B, C, D, etc. to show the Rondo form.  

When teaching the pattern I use the following phrases to keep my students on track, but I have seen it a few ways in various resources such as Game Plan so use what works for you and your students!  Phrases are in 4 beat patterns (beats are separated by a comma). After the 1st phrase, all actions happen on the beat- even if I say more syllables.  I have indicated a pause with a z to show the rest.

Clap, Clap, Tap-Tap, Tap  
Clap, Move-It, Over,  z
Clap, pick-it-up, hit-your-left-hand, down
Switch, Tap, Pass, z

I hand out the following half-sheet so students can practice at home- one side is just the words above and the other side (shown) explains each move in more detail. 

3 other cup passing games I love are: la ti do ti do ti la, Chevaliers de la table ronde, and Ludaim

One changes directions every other line or at cue of the teacher, one has changing meter (3/4 vs 4/4) and one has 2 cups (and a tricky time signature 8/8 broken down as 3/8+3/8+2/8).  ALL are super fun and challenging!  I have made videos of myself demonstrating the patterns for 2 of the games- slowing down and explaining each step.  They are slightly awkward because I am by myself BUT hopefully they will help you figure out exactly what the directions below mean (as I know written directions can be confusing).  I hope to be able update this post in the future with videos of student hands playing!

1: la ti do ti do ti la-This melody is really familiar to me but I can't place it.  For this game, the ultimate goal is to change directions at every line OR at the cue of the teacher.

Directions: Most beats have an action on the first half of the beat and the 2nd.  These actions have been separated by a slash. 

Beat 1: Tap the floor to the right of the cup with your right hand (RH)/ Tap the floor to the left of the cup with your left hand (LH)

Beat 2: Clap/ Tap the floor to the right of the cup with your RH

Beat 3: Tap the floor to the left of the cup with your LH/ Pick up the cup with your RH

Beat 4: Pass the cup to the person on your right, being sure to place it all the way in front of them. 

Once your students have mastered the above pattern- reverse it to be as follows:

Beat 1: Tap the floor to the left of the cup with your LH/ Tap the floor to the right of the cup with your RH

Beat 2: Clap/ Tap the floor to the left of the cup with your LH

Beat 3: Tap the floor to the left of the cup with your RH/ Pick up the cup with your LH

Beat 4: Pass the cup to the person on your left.

Eventually students should switch every other line of music for a fun challenge..  A Super Challenge is to have the students switch at the signal of the teacher. The video shows how to do the motions both ways slow-mo style.

2: Chevaliers de la table ronde-  This one has changing meter AND you can change directions for a challenge!  Super fun and it has a beautiful melody!

Translation: Knights of the Round Table taste to see if the wine is good.  Taste see- yes yes yes.  Taste see- no no no.    (I usually just say this is about the knights of the round table when asked!)

This first video is a YOUtube video of men singing the song on a street in France. 
When there are 3 beats in a bar the cup is passed as follows:
Beat 1: Pass in front to the person on the right
Beat 2: Clap
Beat 3: Pick up new cup (passed from person to your left)
When there are 4 beats in a bar the cup is passed as follows:
Beat 1: Pass in front to the person on the right
Beats 2 + 3: Tap the rhythm ti-ti Ta on the cup
Beat 4: Pick up new cup (passed from the person on your left)
Challenge! When the melody repeats, change directions! 
There is no slow-mo video for this one because the motions are fairly self explanatory but I do hope to upload one of my students singing and playing the game soon, as they are learning it right now! This is one the teacher has to practice before teaching A LOT to be sure they are changing at the right time.  A tip is you are tapping "Ti-ti ta" in the 4/4 measures when you are singing "oui oui oui" or "non non non" so the words fit the movements really well at those parts. 

I prep this game by having students first just read the rhythm and show the changing meter by hitting the floor on beat one of a measure and then clapping the other beats.  Next we do basically the same pattern as the ultimate game, but on their laps before putting cups in their hand.   When it says pass students would tap the floor to their right and when it says pick up new cup students tap the floor to their left.  A clap is still a clap and when they would normally tap ti-ti ta on their cup, we tap our legs.  Only once most of them have mastered this action do we add the actual cups in a circle- and even then, it still takes a few weeks for some to master but it is still super fun!

3: LUDAIM- This is the one with the funky meter AND 2 cups! Super fun!
Translation: Geese,  Geese. There were twelve. All of the twelve were white.  (Note: this comes from google translate so it could be a little off, but I think I got the basic meaning).

Hint- start with cups of two DIFFERENT colors (ex. everyone has a red cup in their left hand and a blue in their right), because you always keep the cup that starts in your left hand! This way you can tell if you are on track when the patterns always alternates colors.  If you have two cups of the same color next to each other, something is wrong!

1st Eighth note: Pass cup in right hand to the person on your right while simultaneously passing the cup in your left hand to your own right hand.

2nd eighth note:  Clap

3rd and 4th eighth notes: Clap the rhythm ti-ka ti (ti-ri ti) on the cups (Right-Left Right)

5th eighth note: Click (Snap) Fingers  (this is always on the 2nd half of a quarter note in the melody so be sure to snap BEFORE you sing the next word!)

6th eighth note: Pick up both cups

7th eighth note: Cross hands and set cups down (cups switch places so cup that WAS in your right hand is now on the left and cup that WAS on the left is now on the right)

8th eighth note: Pick up cups to begin again!

This one I start right away with cups (after knowing the melody and words of the song of course!) The visual of having the two colored cups really helps in figuring this one out.   Of course we start slow, and without singing at the same time.  They are always so excited when they get this one! I think this year I may make a recording of the students singing the song after they have learned it so that they can then play the game to the recording and sing along when they are ready.  

Update: I attended a workshop this summer (July 2015) and we used these same motions with the song Land of the Silver Birch.  It worked really well and I can't wait to use it in my classroom.  My students learned Silver Birch last year so we will be starting the year off right- with a cup game!

The video just shows a slow breakdown of the movement so you can kind of get a visual.  It is not as hard as it seems! 


I learned all 3 of the trickier CUP games in Hungary last year from Lucinda Geoghegan during her Singing Games Class and they are great for upper grades.  All are challenging enough to motivate kids, but not so difficult that students will give up easily.  I had a lot of fun learning them all! 

In addition to playing cup games, I love to share the HARVARD CUPS! Videos.  2009 is my favorite, but the Harvard Percussion Ensemble THUD makes a CUPS! video every year.  Check them out on Youtube!

I also just saw this other great CUPS video that uses the traditional cup pattern to accompany Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.  Super Cool!

I may have my older students make up their own CUP passing patterns to a given song this year- It would be a great activity for a sub. Rhythms we use in class would be a must in their pattern, but other than that they would have creative freedom!

Since it is currently winter (though I know... Christmas is past...), I have one more fun activity to share which I found via pinterest. This is a great Nutcracker Cup game made by Eric L. Young.  So fun! My students loved this activity- and making up their own cup movements to other Nutcracker songs this year!

Share your favorite cup game or way you incorporate cups into your classroom below! Do you use them for listening like with the Viennese Musical Clock by Kodaly or Trepak activity from the Nutcracker?  Do you use them to practice steady beat/ rhythm/ mixed meter?