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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!

November is a time for post-Halloween candy, blustery days, and, of course, Thanksgiving! This week, my students are playing a fun Thanksgiving (assessment) game to get them in the spirit of the holiday.

My students loved playing this singing game around Thanksgiving! It also comes with a built in singing assessment, which I really like.

This song/game is called Turkey, Turkey, Turkey!

To play the game, students sit in a circle. One student sits outside of the circle, facing away from students. Students sing the song and pass a turkey around the circle. I used a Turkey printed on a paper but a stuffed animal would work great as well! Whoever has the turkey on the word day "hides the turkey before Thanksgiving Day" by putting the printed or stuffed animal Turkey behind their back. The student who is sitting outside of the circle remains facing away from the rest of the class and sings "Turkey, where are you?" (sol mi mi sol mi). The student who is hiding the turkey sings "you'll never find me" (sol mi mi sol mi). The student sitting outside the circle has three tries to guess who sang "you'll never find me" without looking. The individual singing responses gave me a chance to assess my students' singing.
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Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Classroom Teacher Is Late To Pick Students Up From Specials! Now What?

It's the end of music class. You line students up, make sure they're standing quiet and still, and open up the door to send them on their way. Much to your surprise(or not!), their teacher isn't there. You estimate you have anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes before the teacher will pick up your students. During that time, students can get pretty restless! Here are some ides on how to keep students occupied while waiting to be picked up.

1. Ask review questions about the concept(s) you covered in class.
2. Sing a favorite song.
3. Ask students to share any "good news" they have.
4. Play an inner hearing game. Take a familiar tune and have students only sing the first word of each line, the last word of each line, the words that rhyme, etc.
5. Sing Happy Birthday to someone who has an upcoming birthday
6. Ask students to name one thing that went well in music and one thing they could do better.
7. Sing part of a song for an upcoming concert.
8. Give standing in line musical meaning! Practice standing like "performers on stage." The more they can practice standing still, smiling, and quiet, the better!
9. Review technique for singing and/or playing. Tell students you are going to demonstrate a skill two ways, one is right and one is wrong. Demonstrate something, such as singing posture: slumped vs. straight and tall.  Have students put up one or two fingers to show which one they think is the correct way.
10. Copy me rhythms or sol fege patterns. You can clap, say, or sing a pattern and students repeat the pattern after you. This is especially good for younger students.
11. Review words on your word wall.
12. Ask students what their favorite activity in music is.
13. Rapid fire Q&A. Ask a question that will have a 1-3 word answer, gives students 10 seconds to think of their answer, and go down the line quickly. I used this technique on Halloween when every student wanted to tell me what they were going to dress up as.
14. Name that tune. Hum or play a few lines of a tune that students may know and see if students can guess what it is!
15. Play a short clip of instrumental music. Keep a playlist on hand just for instances like this!

While it may not be convenient when students are picked up late, you might as well make the most of those few extra moments!

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Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Composition Apps: The Good, The Bad, and The Fun But Not So Educational

There are so many great app lists out there for music education. The problem I found is that they don't always have reviews attached to them. I decided to download as many apps as I could find and test them all out. Here's what I found when it came to composing apps!

The Good

Tune Train

Pros: Easy to use, built using music theory concepts, students can see their composition on a staff, several accompaniment options for student compositions
Cons: No way to export/save the music that is created, no option to change the instrument that plays the melody
Cost: FREE
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/tunetrain/id702713073?mt=8
Android: n/a

Tune Train is probably the most musically intuitive app I found. It was clearly designed with the music teacher in mind. Students guide a train to different stops. The train stops represent various musical ideas such as high/low(pitch) ad close together/far apart(rhythm).

There is an option for students to view their composition written out on a staff. While the compositions cannot be exported, students can easily take a screenshot of their Tune Train composition to use in another activity such as playing the melody on Orff instruments.

One final thing I really love about this app is that you can choose a style of accompaniment. Each level has a few different options to choose from.

The Lego Movie Music Maker

Pros: Characters that students like and recognize, variety of instruments for composing, save and share option
Cons: Lego loops don't always mesh well with base songs
Cost: FREE
Website: http://appcloud.warnerbros.com/lego/legomusicmaker/

This app works well in a browser on iPads. Students choose a song "base," such as the "Everything is Awesome" song, and then add their composition on top of it. Colored lego pieces each have their own sound loop ranging from percussion to vocal exclamations. Legos can be placed on and off the beat. This app is basically a simplified version of Garageband.


Pros: cross curricular with art, real instrument sounds, wide variety of instruments to choose from, music concepts such as chord progressions  and beat placement are apparent
Cons: if students "color" the pictures, it tends to sound like a cacophony of sound rather than a piece of music, no option to export song - only to save in the app
Cost: FREE

This app combines the world of art and music. Students can choose from several coloring pages to color in. Each color represents an instrument family (ex - various shades of green are woodwinds). It might be a good app to use when teaching instrument families. All sounds in the app are recordings of real instruments.

Pros: ability to add multiple measures to create a longer piece of music, shows 4/4 beat pattern, options to adjust tempo and sound levels, includes mode to compose using a grid/colors and mode to create/record own patterns
Cons: limited amount of instrument choices, the app takes a little exploration to access all of the fun features - may not be suitable for younger students
Cost: $1.99
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/glitchamaphone-music-making/id555790025?mt=8
Android: n/a

This app would be good to use in conjunction with a lesson on the recording industry. Students can record and fine tune their own music on a grid, similar to recording and editing MIDI sounds. This app includes a handy tutorial built into it that will help students find all of the app features.


The Bad

Monkey Drum
Pros: world music instruments available for composition, all paid options can be "purchased" through enough earning coins, control over musical ideas such as tempo and pitch, option for free play on instruments
Cons: no easy way to delete/erase a composition once you create it, only 3 free instruments, no way to export compositions
Cost: FREE with in app purchases available
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/monkey-drum/id483225765?mt=8
Android: n/a

In the composition component of this app, students can fill in blocks representing either different pitches or timbres.The only reason why I put this under the bad category is because once a composition is finished, there is no way to start over again from scratch. If students wanted to start a new composition, they would have to uncheck all of the filled in white boxes, which is simply not practical to use as a composition app in the classroom.

The Fun But Not So Educational

Pros: easy to use
Cons: does not include option to save composition unless you pay to upgrade to PRO, only one instrument sound available for free, does not have any true educational concepts
Cost: FREE with option to upgrade to PRO
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/soundrop/id364871590?mt=8
Android: n/a

This app allows you to compose by drawing lines, which play marimba pitches each time a ball hits a line. The user does not have much control over anything but the lines in the free version. 

Falling Stars
Pros: options for multiple timbres through different leaf patterns, option to save and share, more control than Soundrop
Cons: not particularly educational, ads for Trident Vitality are present
Cost: FREE
Apple: https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/falling-stars-by-trident-vitality/id439921044?mt=8
Android: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.bobisoft.wallpaper.fallingstars&hl=en

This app may be good for pre-k and k students to use to explore and create sound. You compose by drawing vines. Each vine has a particular timbre that plays when a falling star hits it. While this app is definitely not bad, there are other app options with more musical concepts built in.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Fall is in the Air! Singing Game and Assessment

Fall is certainly in the air here in North Carolina. While the days are still hot and sunny, mornings are crisp and cool. With this in mind, I thought it would be fun to sing about the change in seasons with my kindergartners!

A fun lesson for fall in your music class! The best part is that it has a built in singing assessment. Used this activity with my kindergartners but you could use it for other elementary grades as well.

I started by asking if someone knew what season is coming up next. A few enthusiastic hands shot up. After we determined the next season is fall, I read a short book about fall. There are so many great options out there!

Next we learned a song/game celebrating fall called "Fall is in the Air!" Students sit in a circle while three chosen students stand in the center of the circle and pick a fall object. I printed out pictures of a scarecrow, pumpkin, squirrel, acorn, pile of leaves, and sun flower. I did not have time to laminate my pictures this time around but will definitely do so in the future!

The whole group sings this song while the three students "show off" their fall objects:

Fall is in the air!
  s  m  s  m   s
Fall is in the air!
  s  m  s  m   s
Gather round,
   s   s   m
Let us see!
  s   s   m
What do you have here?
  s      s     m     l       s

Students in the center of the circle are called on one by one to sing what they have with this response:

I have a _______________.
s  m    m      s-m or just s depending on syllables

The whole group responds immediately after with:
She/he has a ________________.
     s       m  m     s-m or just s depending on syllables

This group response is a good sol mi reinforcer.

I assessed students on their individual response with the following rubric:
4. Sings sol mi pattern in correct key 
3. Sings sol mi pattern in tune but in a different key 
2. Sings but does not sing sol mi pattern 
1. Uses speaking voice, even with I sing, you sing prompt
0. Would not attempt to sing, even with I sing, you sing prompt

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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Cross Curricular Music Centers

This week in 2nd grade, we did centers! Students spent about 7-8 minutes are each of the four centers I had set up. I created these centers with the intention of incorporating other subjects.

Looking for some new center ideas for your elementary music class? Check out these cross curricular centers.

Music and Math

This station combines rhythm, addition, and composition into one activity. Students started by practicing writing notes. I created a quick practice work sheet for quarter, half, and eighth notes.

Next students became rhythm composers! Students were instructed to write out a four beat rhythm pattern using quarter, eighth, and half notes. They labeled the number of beats each note received and then wrote an addition sentence to double check they had four beats. One student even commented to me, "Hey! This is kind of like what we do in math class."

Music and Art

I had two music and art stations in this batch of centers. One was color by note. These color by note worksheets are a musical spin on the popular color by number! I made this activity into a coloring contest for students. I plan to feature the best colored owls on my fall bulletin board. If you're interested in the fall color by note worksheets, you can find them here.

The other music and art center was the draw what you hear center. I played two short pieces of music for students over the stereo system. Students used their imagination to draw scenes to match the music. Playing music out loud also helps keep the noise level down at other centers.

Music and Technology

Students at this station used the iPads to create their own compositions by using the free app TuneTrain. Students guide a train through towns to pick up people at their houses. Each person has a specific pitch. The higher the house, the higher the note. The closer together the houses selected, the shorter the rhythm will be. Students can also choose the accompaniment style (examples include pop, classical, R&B, and more) and have the option of viewing their composition notated on staff. Its a great way to get students thinking about basic music theory concepts!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Using Exit Slips in Music Class

Monday, August 18, 2014

Using SQUILT in Music Class

SQUILT is one of my students' all time favorite activities. What is SQUILT you ask? SQUILT stands for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time. During SQUILT time in my classroom, students listen to a piece of music and then imagine a story in their head. It is a great, fun way to introduce classical music to young children. Students do this activity immediately following the Welcome to Music song we sing each week.

Looking for a fun way to introduce classical music to your elementary music students? Try SQUILT (Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time)

I have my students spread out, sit or lay down, and close their eyes. I let them listen to about 2-3 minutes of music and then have them sit back on the carpet. I choose 3-6 students a week to share their stories, depending on how elaborate the stories are. I post the Youtube videos on my website each week so students can share the music and their stories with their parents/guardians!

You don't have to use SQUILT every week though! Use it as a brain break, an extra time activity, or just something fun and different. They can journal, draw/color what they hear, describe music using musical terms, or simply put their heads on their desks, close their eyes, and imagine!

Lastly, here are the musical selections I've used for SQUILT so far:
William Tell Overture Finale, Rossini
Shepherd's Hey, Grainger
Le Vent Dans la Plain, Debussy
Hoe-Down from Rodeo, Copland

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teaching Melodic Contour with Debussy and Ribbon Sticks

This week in 1st grade, we learned a bit about melodic contour! 

We started by listening to some simple melodies played on the piano. First I played melodies that only went up or down and had students point towards the ceiling or the ground to indicate direction. Then I played melodies that went up and then down or down and then up. Again, I had students point in the directions one after the other.

Next, we took a listen/look to Debussy's First Arabesque:
While we listened, we followed the purple/orange bubbles with our hand/arms for about a minute.

Then we took a look at another video once they got the hang of following the pattern/music. This video was the one we were going to add ribbon sticks too.
Here's the choreography I used:
:06-:16 side figure eighth(infinity sign) in front
:17-:26 large movement side to side over head
:27-:42 center swirls - stir the pot motion
:43-:45 side figure eighth in front
:47-1:05 side to side over head, ending with ribbon falling downward downward
1:06-1:40 hold ribbon and sway to music
1:42-1:51 side figure eighth in front
1:52-2:04 large movement side to side over head
2:05-2:16 small shake side to side over head and bring movement down as melody moves down
2:17-2:26 shake side to side raise with melodic contour

2:17-end shake side to side all the way down

Before teaching the choreography, I had students do similar movements without ribbon sticks. But if you're pressed for time, you could go right to the choreography!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Good King Leopold - Four Voices

Do you love the game Good King Leopold, but wished it had a story to go with it? I  sure did but couldn't find anything kid friendly. So I wrote/illustrated(in powerpoint) one! 

If you've never heard of the game, here's how to play:

Choose one king/queen to sit on a separate “throne.”  All other students stand on the other side of the room and sing:

Good King(Queen) Leopold                                   The king/queen responds:
(sol   mi  sol-sol-mi)                                                 You must ask again
May we cross your kingdom?                               (Sol  mi   sol  sol-mi)
(sol  sol  mi     la    sol mi)                                       This time use your ________ voice.
                                                                                   (sol  sol   mi   la  sol sol    mi)
                                                                                   Student chooses  the voice–
                                                                                   whisper, speaking, shouting, singing.

Students repeat “Good King/Queen Leopold, may we cross your kingdom?” in the voice that was ordered. The king/queen only grants permission to students when all have complied with the order. When permission is granted, students cross over the kingdom. I had my students walk from one end of the carpet to the other. A new king/queen is then chosen.

Add a foam crown from Walmart and you're all set!

Not only is this a great way for students to practice their four voices, it's also a great way to individually assess!

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