Monthly Archives: February 2016

Great Choral Music for Elementary Choirs

Bubble Trouble by Stephen Lawrence, published Alfred is a fun selection with great choreography possibilities.  I like that it tells kids that they shouldn’t chew gum in choir – one of my pet peeves.  Here’s a fun performance  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFMqfjtMPrc
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ink to OCTAVO.

For a lyrical ballad, A Wish for Peace is really nice.  It was originally written for Christmas (A Christmas Wish), but only 3 words need to be changed and you can do it for any time of year.  Instead of “this Christmas time” sing “all these things.” Lovely performance here by York House School:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbRwA8qW6ZE  By Denise Gagne and Craig Cassils.  This is available as a single song kit, so you can get music into all your students hands for just $15.  Link to Single Song Kit Download on US site.   Here is the link for Canadian teachers.

Amani Utupe, Sally Albrecht, pub. Alfred
I first used this when it was part of MENC Music Monday.  Have used it many times since.  It’s a great piece.  This is a wonderful vocal performance.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x2844ORtcAo  Other YouTube performances show the choreography.
Link to Octavo

Donkey Riding is a good fun selection – it’s in Musicplay 3 (and a single song kit). BCMEA Honor choir performed it a few years ago.   Donkey Riding is quick and fun.  It’s got some interesting articulations in it – I use it to teach staccato and accent.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PDHkPq8Hdo  Here’s a link to the single song kit for Canadian Teachers.  Here’s the link for teachers in USA.

Two Canadian Folk Songs is a lovely partner song that uses Land of the Silver Birch and Two Canadian Folk Songs.  It’s in the Musicplay curriculum in 4th grade, and is also available as a single song kit.  See a movie of the song at www.musicplayonline.com .  Link to Single Song Kit for Canadian Teachers.  Link for US teachers.

Ghost Ship, from Reflections of a Lad at Sea, Don Besig
This is a piece with great story telling in it.  The students loved it, the audiences loved it and we got a recommendation to provincials with it – and we weren’t the only choir doing it at provincials.
YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PwPAyCtzKxA
Link to Octavo

Don Gato, Ray Doughty – Plymouth Music Co. Inc.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eue6p8RdMX8
Don Gato, arranged by Ray Doughty, is a favorite Mexican folk song children love to sing. Doughty has written this song for two-part treble voices and piano. The voices sing in unison for much of the piece. The middle section on pages four and five has the voices singing in brief two-part harmony, as well as in the final few measures. Don Gato is a Mexican cat who falls in love with a fluffy, white female kitten. When she agrees to marry him, he happily jumps in the air, falls off the roof breaking his ‘solar-plexus,’ and dies. However, by the end of the story he is reincarnated, comes back to life and all ends happily. There is a dramatic piano accompaniment that assists in creating the dramatic quality of this piece. Don Gato could be performed with a brief dramatic skit as the chorus sings. There are a couple of tempo changes but nothing too difficult for an elementary chorus. A few Spanish words are included. This piece is great fun for children to sing and audiences will truly enjoy listening to it. The tempo changes and dramatic dynamics make this an excellent ‘teaching concept’ piece. “Ole!”
LINK to Octavo.

Humpty Dumpty by Dave and Jean Perry is fun – several choirs did it last year in our Symphony Kids concert last year.   It tells the story of Humpty Dumpty with some dramatic touches.  I love pieces that have lots of contrast and this one has great contrast.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYmxVGDAnfU   Link to Octavo.

Goliath, Joseph Martin is another fun favorite.  My students have always really enjoyed this.  It tells a great story and has many contrasts.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-U_T9e7mHXI
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ink to Octavo.

Child of the Universe, Craig Cassils
This is a lovely lyrical piece with a beautiful message.  The range gets your students into head voice.  There are a few places where students might mix up words, but with enough rehearsal it’s a stunning performance piece.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KxW_JYzj8I
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INK to Octavo.

When I Believe in Me, from Musicplay 5 is another really good message song for kids, from Musicplay 5 – very easy 2 part.  It’s a great selection for an Olympics year, a Dare graduation, or an elementary graduation.   Link for Canadian Teachers.  Link for teachers from USA.

Make a Difference, Denise Gagne – Musicplay 2
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGjlkIkQiVs       
This selection is in unison, and  is easily learned by a primary choir.  The message is meaningful even to young children – they can make a difference in the world.  The included choreography enhances the performance of the song.   It’s part of the Musicplay curriculum, and is available as a single song kit from Themes.  (www.musicplay.ca – select country – select song collections – select single song kits)  Single song kits include the piano/vocal score, vocal reproducible score, MP3s of performance and accompaniment, and if available a PPT or PDF projectable.   Link for USA teachers.  Link for Canadian teachers.

Jabulani is a Zulu word meaning “rejoice.” It is often used as a first name, and in that context is often shortened to “Jabu.” Although the word comes from Africa, the song could be used anywhere in the world – sort of a universal celebration. You could this song as your opening song for a multicultural concert or you could use the song to celebrate Heritage Day – a South African public holiday celebrated on September 24th.  The performance is by a school in Ontario, and the looks on the children’s faces as they perform shows their love of the song.  It really makes a connection with the audience.  The song is available (print/download) in the collection Celebrate Around the World (US link) Canadian Link to collection, and is also available as a single song kit.   Link for Canadian Teachers.  Link for teachers in USA.  YouTube performance:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQjhhuVxq5I

Siyahamba – Musicplay 6
This arrangement of the familiar South African hymn is given in Zulu and in English.  I’ve performed this very successfully with a grade 4-5 choir, accompanied by drummers.  It’s very appealing to the kids and audiences both.   It’s part of the Musicplay curriculum, and is available as a single song kit from Themes. Single song kits include the piano/vocal score, vocal reproducible score, MP3s of performance and accompaniment, and if available a PPT or PDF projectable.  Link for Canadian Teachers.
Link for teachers in USA.

Share your favorite choral performance pieces in the comments!  There will be a follow up post with more choral pieces from Musicplay that are available as single song kits.  And be sure to try out www.musicplayonline.com – you can access all the choral pieces from Musicplay mentioned in this blog online!



 

Ukulele in the Classroom – Part One

Ukulele in the Classroom – Part 1
By Denise Gagne

If anyone was listening to Q on CBC radio Feb. 27, 2015 they heard the great debate between the ukulele and the recorder in the elementary classroom.  CBC interviewed me in defense of the recorder, and James Hill in defense of the ukulele.  Both of us were in agreement that if schools have funding, time, space that teaching BOTH the ukulele and the recorder would be the best possible option.

The recorder is inexpensive, it doesn’t have to be tuned every 10 minutes, and it’s relatively easy to learn.  When played well, the recorder is a beautiful instrument and there is authentic music written for recorder by Bach, Handel, Telemann and Vivaldi!  I play in an adult recorder consort in Red Deer and play bass, tenor, alto, soprano and sopranino and really enjoy it.  I think that students who learn to play recorder have an easy transfer from recorder to any woodwind instrument.  Students who use my recorder method, The Recorder Resource or the Learn and Play Recorder App are successful, because it’s carefully sequenced.

One of the benefits of teaching ukulele is that it can be used as a melodic or harmonic instrument.  Students can play and sing at the same time.  Students in Grade 4-5 can become reluctant singers, but with a ukulele or a guitar in hand, they are often motivated to sing while they learn to play.

There are four main sizes of ukulele: soprano, concert, tenor and baritone.  My preference is to use the concert size in the classroom.  The soprano is quite small and the frets are really close together.  Many children in Grade 5-6 have bigger hands than I do, and I find it hard to play some of the chords on the soprano uke because the frets are so small.  The concert is not a lot more expensive, and it has a fuller, richer sound.  If I’m going to spend the money for a baritone uke, I’d just as soon get a set of classroom guitars.

When teaching ukulele, the biggest frustration is tuning the ukes.  Spend the money to get a better quality instrument that stays in tune.  I recently used West Music’s Kala wooden ukulele, and it held it’s tuning well and sounded good.  For $44.95 US, it was a nice uke.  In Canada, Themes sells a Vidar concert ukulele that is a great quality instrument with excellent quality tuning pegs.  ($65-85 depending on quantity)  If you pay $30 for a uke, you’ll have tuning problems – pay a little more and get an instrument that stays in tune.  I can’t believe there are still some vendors selling ukuleles with wooden tuning pegs – avoid them!  Get a uke with good machine heads.

uke storage Sherri PedrickIf you store your ukuleles on the classroom wall (see pinterest for ideas) it’s easy for you to tune them before school.  If that’s not possible, have the students line up and tune each of them.  I do the tuning by ear – we have a ukulele tuner at www.musicplayonine.com and I play the “G” over and over, tuning each uke.  I can do a class set in about 5 minutes.  One problem that can occur is kids playing or talking in the line-up.  I can’t tune the uke if I can’t hear.  I tune the first student’s uke, then that student becomes the “monitor” and writes names on the board of anyone who’s making sound.  The noise makers have to come in at recess or lunch for a minute of “quiet practice.”  I set a timer and they have to be completely silent for 60 seconds.  They make a sound, the timer starts again.  They don’t usually need quiet practice more than once – it’s effective.

Chords or Picking? What should you teach the students?  Should you teach them to chord and sing, or should you teach them to read and play melodies.  Some methods teach both chords and melodies at the same time, but I’ve found that children love being able to strum and sing along on the very first day.  ALL children can be successful if you sequence carefully. 

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In my book, Easy Ukulele Songs,  I’ve got 15 one chord songs, and then 15 easy two chord songs.   Changing chords is the big challenge, so if you start with one chord songs, everyone is able to keep up.  When I first start two chord songs, I divide the class in half, and have one half play one chord and the other half the other.  There may be a few students who can change chords, and I encourage them to do the change if they can.  I do a lot of practicing the chord changes before asking the class to try – play 8 C chords, rest for 4, then play 8 F chords.  I have them try doing the change with their eyes closed to help develop the tactile memory.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.16.02 PMTo introduce the ukulele, Easy Ukulele Songs includes a PDF, “Introduction to the Ukulele.”  It illustrates a brief history of the uke,  the parts of the ukulele, how to hold, how to strum, how the fingers are numbered, how to read a chord chart, and how to play the first chord, C.  Simply project and read it through with the students.

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.16.45 PMEasy Ukulele Songs includes a projectable PDF of the lyrics and chords AND the song notation and chords.  The PDF is big, clear, easy to read and we’ve embedded the audio.  You can play with or without accompaniment tracks.  I like to use the audio for songs that are less familiar, and have the kids play the songs that are more well known. 

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.16.27 PMPop Songs: In the Projectable PDFs we also included links to pop songs on YouTube that are easy to play!  Lime in the Coconut uses just the C7 chord!  It’s a super easy chord, and your students will be able to play a pop song on the very first day.  There are 30+ pop songs that your students will enjoy playing along with.  Remember that with YouTube sometimes links disappear – some of our Beatles songs got pulled from YouTube, but you can usually search the title and find a substitute.

This is too long, so I’ll be continuing Ukulele in the Classroom next week!  if you have tips or tricks to share, email denise@musicplay.ca or post in our Musicplay Teachers Group on Facebook.

Classroom Management Tips

One of the biggest challenges every teacher faces is classroom management.  Your most challenging class might be a kindergarten class with many behavior challenges or it might be a Grade 5 class with attitude.  In this newsletter, I’m sharing some tips that have helped me with classroom management.

  1. Seating Plan

Structure and routine can help children learn to behave appropriately in your classes.  One of the easiest ways to introduce routine is teach the children how to enter and exit your classroom and where they should sit. 

In my friends classroom, she assigns her students to one set of Wenger Flip Form risers.  She has 5 colors, so they know which color they are on, and dismisses them or directs them to activities by color.  The students with shakier behavior sit on the bottom of the riser.  They have to earn the right to move to the top row of the riser.

I like to sit my students on risers or on the floor.  I usually have 2 boys, then 2 girls.  If someone is causing issues, I’ll switch the pattern for that child to 1 boy – 1 girl. 

2. Make sure students know the rules – these are mine
Music Room Rules, Denise Gagne
Make good choices, always be responsible
Use good manners, be nice and be kind
Speak when acknowledged, always put your hand up
In the music room, always try your best
Care for the instruments and all of the equipment

I’ve made them into posters that you can put up in your room as a bulletin board and refer to often.  They are in the Teaching Aids section of our website.

Link to Canadian site:  http://shop.musicplaytext.ihoststores.com/category.aspx?categoryID=55
Link to US site:   http://shop.musicplaytext1.ihoststores.com/category.aspx?categoryID=64

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3. Time Out
If you have many behavior problems in your school, you may need to designate a time out area.  If a behavior is disruptive enough to warrant a time out, have the student fill out a time-out reflection (older students) or for your youngest students, note the problem and have them draw a picture of what they should do the next time.  Copy it, keep a copy and send a copy home with students for parent’s signature.   I use a time out only when absolutely necessary – a last resort.  Most often, a gentle reminder is all that’s needed.  (I’ll post these in the Musicplay Teacher’s Group on Facebook – email denise@musicplay.ca if you don’t have Facebook)

Behavior graphics time out Behavior graphics time out2 Behavior graphics time out3

4. Learn names
It’s really hard to manage classroom behaviors if you don’t know all the students names. 

Beat Beat
Beat, beat, feel the beat.
Say hello to those you meet.

Teacher says:  Hello Jason. Students echo Hello Jason.  Say the names high/low, loud/quiet, fast/slow, speaking, whisper, shout, sing, sing the names using a variety of tone sets:  smsm or mrdd.  Don’t just use sol and mi.

Name games are included in Musicplay.
Musicplay 3 – Number Concentration
Musicplay 5 – Concentration
To find these games, visit our online resource:  www.musicplayonline.com

5. Quick Pace
Maintain a quick pace in your activities, and make sure to have movement activities to use between seated activities.  Engage the students – When students are engaged, they aren’t causing problems. When are students engaged?  When they are “doing!”   The teacher needs to remember to talk less and do more!

6. A quiet teacher has a quiet class
This was one of the truisms that Lois Choksy taught, and she was so wise.  If you try to talk over top of the noise level in your class, students won’t hear and you’ll lose your voice.  Wait for quiet to begin. 

When I play “Johnny Caught a Flea” (#37 Musicplay 2) or #96 Old Dog Full of Fleas (Musicplay 1) I have pretend conversations with the flea.  I call my flea Florence and she whispers in my ear.  I hold the flea up to my ear, then say, “Florence just said that this grade 2 class sang really well in tune – good work!”   “Florence says that ______ was listening really well. (insert name)

7.Praise the Positive  A pat on the back goes a lot further than a kick in the pants.  Catch someone in the class doing something right and make a positive comment.  It will often encourage the rest of the students to behave more responsibly.  I do this when we get out instruments and sing/play Play and Stop.  It works so well from preK – Grade 4 that I use this every time I get out instruments.  When we sing “stop” I praise the first child that I see who has stopped.

8. PLUS POINTS is a way to reinforce good behavior. In PLUS POINTS, you keep a score of when the students do something well.  If students do something poorly, erase a point. For example:  Students enter the room quietly and go to assigned seats. I’d say, “Well done 4B – you came in quietly and found your seats.  Point for you.” As the class continued, each time I’d observe them doing something well, they’d earn a point. However, if a child was talking when I was talking, erase a point.  

 You have to decide what the magic number is before they get a class PLUS POINT.  If you decide on 5 points, if a class gets to 5 points in one period, they get a PLUS point (+).  On my chart with all the classes listed, I’d mark a +.  

 When my classes reached 10 PLUS POINT days, they’d earn a game day.  On the game day, (or at the end of the period in which the game day was earned), we’d brainstorm the list of games or activities that they’d like to play:  singing games they really liked, Beat Boards, Orchestra Bingo, Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes (In the Hall of the Mountain King), Rhythm Dice, or Music Centers.  The Game Day is a reward, but there is still great learning going on.

Share your classroom management tips by commenting or share with us at www.facebook.com/musicplaycurriculum.  (If you’ve avoided facebook for privacy reasons, consider signing up with your first and middle name – your students will never find you!)

Be sure to visit www.musicplayonline.com – we’re taking the Musicplay K-6 curriculum online!  While the site is under construction it’s FREE to use!  (no credit card required)  We’ll eventually have all the Time Out behavior reflections posted on this site.