Category Archives: Music Theory

Rhythm Assessment

Quick and Easy Ideas for assessing Rhythm Reading and Notation
June 12, 2016

 Many of our American teachers are already on summer break, but the Canadian teachers have 3 weeks of teaching.  With your final report cards due soon, here are a few very easy assessment ideas for you to use this week.

  1. Flashcard Attendance ~ Rhythm Reading Assessment

In the Musicplay teacher’s guides I sometimes suggest starting your class with flashcard attendance.  We don’t always have to take attendance, but in schools where you do, make taking the attendance into an opportunity for a quick evaluation.

In flashcard attendance, I would take the pile of cardstock flashcards that the students were working on.  I’d call a child’s name, hold up the flashcard and the child would read it.

4 – student accurately and fluently claps and says the pattern
3 – student is mostly accurate and mostly fluent in clapping and saying the pattern
2 – student is somewhat accurate and somewhat fluent in clapping and saying the pattern
1 – student has many inaccuracies clapping and saying the pattern and is not able to keep a steady beat

Themes & Variations publishes a set of 100 rhythm flashcards that are printed on colored cardstock.  The color coding indicates the patterns included in the set and helps you to quickly find the set that each class is working on.

Link to Flashcards – Canada   http://shop.musicplaytext.ihoststores.com/category.aspx?categoryID=26

Link to Flashcards – USA   http://shop.musicplaytext1.ihoststores.com/category.aspx?categoryID=62

In www.musicplayonline.com, we’ve taken the flashcards and made this into a very quick and easy to use movie – just press play.  There are 25-35 patterns in each set.   There are fewer patterns for very easy sets as younger classes are usually smaller (we hope!) and more patterns in the harder or longer sets for your older students.  In the easier sets, we’ve given you both 4 beat assessments and 8 beat assessments. You can choose the set that you want to assess.

Rhythm Read 4 beats coverRhythm Read 4 beats pattern

Rhythm Read 8 beats cover

Rhythm Read 8 beats pattern

If you have already assessed rhythm reading, and want to take your students to higher level thinking skills, do a dictation assessment with them.

Reading the pattern is easy for most of your students.

Hearing a pattern and notating it, is more challenging.

Prepare the students by having them Listen, Clap and Say

With the cardstock flashcards, you clap a pattern and have the students clap it back and say the rhythm names while they clap.  You can use whatever system of rhythm names you prefer – Ta, Ti-ti, Takadimi, or Edwin Gordon.  I make this into a game by dividing the class into two groups:  the Allegros and the Vivaces.  I show the Allegros a flashcard and they clap it.  If they clap it correctly, they get a point.  The Vivaces have to correctly SAY the rhythm the other team clapped.  If they say it correctly, they get a point.  I can usually rig it so it’s a tie by the end of the class!

At www.musicplayonline.com this is given as a movie.

Students hear the rhythm played, then have to say what they heard.  The answer follows.  This is the preparation the students need to be successful at music dictation.

Listen Clap Say pattern

Listen Clap Say question blank

Listen Clap Say - answer

To do music Dictation using cardstock flashcards, I choose five cards at the level I want to assess.  I give the students a piece of paper (I use paper from the recyling in the school) and a pencil (I keep a class set in a container by the door)  and an old hard cover text to write on.  They write their name at the top and number 1-5.  I clap a pattern – they clap it back, then write it down.  I’ll give it a second time if they need it.   I write down my patterns as I go or keep my flashcards in order. Students exchange papers and correct them in class, so I don’t have to take home bags full of marking.  Yay!

Music Dictation at www.musicplayonline.com is done the same way.

Five questions are given.  Pause the movie between questions.  Immediately following the five questions are the answers.  Exchange papers and mark.

Rhythm Dictation cover

Rhythm Dictation how to use

Rhythm Dictation - question

Rhythm dictation - answers

Similar assessments can be done for melody reading, and similar movies are found in the solfa practice section.

I hope this makes getting those marks onto your report cards a little easier!

Visit www.musicplayonline.com to use the assessment tools in this post.

Visit www.musicplay.ca to find workshop opportunities with Denise Gagne.

 

Fun Ways to Teach Note Names

This post is all about fun ways to teach children the letter names of the notes.  When you play an instrument, it’s a very useful skill to know the name of the note on the staff so that you know which of the bars you should play!  To be a good sight-reader, you need instant recall.  You can’t be counting the lines and spaces on your hand staff if you want to be a fluent sight reader.  So how do we get kids to develop fluency in reading music?

There is a great staff lesson in lesson one of Musicplay 4.

The Staff: Music is written on a 5 line staff. Notes can be placed on lines or in  spaces. The lines and spaces are numbered from the bottom to the top. At the beginning of a staff, a clef is given. The treble clef circles the note G, and is used for treble, or higher notes. A high pitch is shown by placing a note high on the staff. A low pitch is shown by placing the note lower on the staff.

Hand Staff

I like to start by introducing the lines with the hand staff.  Draw a staff on the board about the size of your hand.  Then, hold your hand up to the staff and point out that you have five fingers, just like there are five lines on the staff.

Hand Staff: Show the students the hand staff. Hold your hand in front of you with your fingers spread apart and the thumb up. Number your fingers 1-2-3-4-5 from the bottom to the top. Tell the students that they have five fingers, just as there are five lines on the music staff. To show the spaces on the hand staff, place the index finger of your right hand between two fingers. Spaces are also numbered from the bottom to the top. Call out a line or space and have the students point to the correct one. For example:  line 3, space 4, line 1, space 2

My hand fits nicely on my cookie sheet staffs, so kids see the relationship between your hand and the staff.  If you don’t have cookie sheet staffs, draw the lines on the board.
Cookie sheet 1 cookie sheet 2

Some teachers like to have the students practice naming notes on lines and spaces. Make up poems or sayings to help them remember the names of the notes. For example: The notes on the lines spell, “Every Good Boy Does Fine.” Kids can make up their own sayings.  Some of the best I’ve heard are “Elvis’s guitar broke down Friday” or “Empty Garbage Before Dad Flips.”  The notes in the space, spell “face.”

I like to move from notes on lines and notes on spaces to the full staff quickly.  They won’t be fluent readers by practicing lines only or spaces only.  When they understand that the notes go step by step from letter to letter, CDEFG, they are on their way to fluent reading.

I introduced the staff, taught the hand staff, practiced notes on my cookie sheet with a grade 3 class, then had them play the first 7 songs from Teach Music Reading with Boomwhackers.  In a 30 minute lesson, they were able to begin to read the notes and to play Jingle Bells on Boomwhackers.  The projectable for Teach Music Reading with Boomwhackers includes an introduction to the staff and the songs include a version with alpha-notes or kids notes:  the letter name is imprinted on the note AND a version with colored Boomwhacker notation.  Even so, I was very pleased that the students  were able to read simple songs in just one lesson.

Link to Teach Reading with Boomwhackers USA site         Link to Boomwhackers Canada site

Floor Staff Games: Use painter’s tape to put a giant staff on the floor. Painter’s tape won’t hurt the carpet and will last for a week or two until you’ve taught the staff games to all your students. If you have funding available, you can purchase a music rug to go on the floor that has a staff built into it. Visit www.musicplay.ca to see a music rug. Additional staff games are given  in the publication “Staff and Symbol Games.”
floor staff game copy
Link to Staff and Symbol USA site                   Link to Staff and Symbol Canada site

1. Staff Jump
An elimination game to learn the names of the lines and spaces. Have half of your students stand on line one. Call out a line for them to jump to – line three! line four! The last student to get to the correct line is eliminated. Have the other half of your students jump to the spaces. When you introduce the letter names of the lines and spaces, repeat the game using letter names.

2. Letter Names Jump
Group one will jump the lines on the music staff. The teacher calls out a line note – E, G, B, D, F – and the students jump to the line that she calls. To play this as an elimination game (optional), the last child to land on the line that is called is out. The last child left after the eliminations is the winner. Group two will jump the spaces on the music staff. The teacher will call out a space note name – F, A, C, E. If groups are small, repeat the note names and jump as needed until all the children have had a turn. When the students are very confident jumping lines or spaces, have each group jump to the note name that is called using both notes that are on lines and in spaces.

3. Staff Relay
Divide the class into two-four teams. On small paper plates write a letter name of a note – A B C D E F G. Each team is given a pile of notes. Teams race to place their notes on the correct line or space of the floor staff. The first team finished with ALL notes correctly placed wins.

When beginning recorder, you can introduce the notes one at a time.  This really helps the students to “get it.”  After introducing BAG, I have start having the students complete mad minutes to practice just those notes.  Isolating the notes I want them to practice helps them become fluent reading those notes.

MAD MINUTE SAMPLE
Mad Minutes 1 file
Mad Minutes are included in the Recorder Resource Kit, with a new mad minute for each new note that is introduced.  The note name mad minutes are used for the same reason that teachers use math mad minutes. Children will only learn to read music well if they have instant recall of note names. I shrink the pages 50% so I can fit two on a page, and double-side them to save paper. We do each mad minute twice before going on to the next level. For evaluation, I cut the tops off the mad minutes so that the answers are removed. I also drill note names with the class sized flashcards. I begin the mad minutes before the students have their recorders. I allow three minutes to complete each mad minute. I time the students, and they try to beat their own best time – not race each other. When they finish, they call “done” and I tell them how many seconds they took. If a student needs more than three minutes to complete the sheet, I give them a sheet for practice at home. Several teachers have told me that they put the mad minutes into sheet protectors and the students write on them with whiteboard markers and erase and reuse when completed.

  • apps:  Note Name Match Game, Note Name Squish
  • Pop Quiz
  • Solfa/Note Challenge
  • Note Name Bingo,
  • Note Name Battleship
  • Music Centers

I’ve helped in the design of two apps for practicing note names:  Note Name Match Game and Note Name Smash.
Note Name MatchScreen Shot 2016-02-21 at 4.37.39 PM

Note Name Match Game is a memory game with 10 levels – spaces, lines, staff, ledger lines – in both treble clef and bass clef.  In Note Name Smash you can choose the notes you want to practice.  Each note that’s correctly named smashes a hole in the wall.  When all notes are correctly names, the wall crumbles – fun!!!

Our new online resource, www.musicplayonline.com has several interactive ways to practice naming notes.  Musicplayonline is free to use until Aug.1 and then it will be a low cost subscription.  If you or your school has purchased the Musicplay Digital resources, you will be eligible for a pro-rated credit to use the site at no cost.  There will be an application posted on the site in August when it goes to the paid model and you can request free access.  Each situation will be different, so every application will be looked at individually.

Pop Quizzes – these are fun and funny when the balloon pops!  Students drag the correct letter to the balloon (that has the note) and each correct answer makes the balloon bigger.  When all notes are correctly named, the balloon pops.  Students drag letters to name the notes; then they drag notes to name the letters.
pop quiz lines pop quiz space pop quiz staff 1a (notes to letter) pop quiz staff

Note Name Challenge Activities
In this interactive activity, students drag a basketball to the net or a soccer ball to the net to name the notes in a reading song.  If using this for the first time, be aware that the programmer made the upper left corner of the net the anchor for the note.  As long as you have the correct note, and you touch that upper left corner, the note “sticks.”  If it’s the wrong note, it flies away.
note challenge Rocky Mtn note challenge soccer Cheki

Music Centers
If you do centers in your classroom, the Music Center Kits 1 and 2 each include a note naming game.  These colorful board games are easy to set up as centers and provide students with yet another way to practice naming notes.
Music center note name game
Note Name Battleship
Have you played the battleship game?  If you have, then note name battleship works the same way.  On the top of the board place the notes that are your ships.  On the bottom half of the board, you mark where you’ve guessed your opponents notes are placed.  An incorrect guess turn the note over – a correct guess you mark with note facing up.  The note name version of battleship goes a lot faster than the traditional game which is great when you have 30 minutes music classes.
Battleship sample
Note Name Bingo
Note name bingo includes both treble and bass clef – great for teachers who want to teach both.

Know Your Note Names
This collection of 56 reproducible worksheets will give you a wealth of activities for practicing letter names.  I like to make booklets of activities for my sub tub.  It’s also great to have booklets made for when you do recorder testing.  It’s also an alternative activity when a child is not able to participate in regular activities in music classes.
Know Your Note Names samples_Page_1

Boomwhackers? What do you do with them????

LINK TO New Online Resources!     Musicplayonline will be free for the rest of this year and very affordable when we go to a subscription model.  Try it now!  If you have any trouble registering, be sure to let me know so we can get signed up. denise@musicplay.ca Link to site: www.MusicplayOnline.com 

Artie and Denise – Shakin’ it Up in Chicago July 6-8, 2016     Join Artie Almeida, Denise Gagne, Thom Borden and Dan Fee for a 2 day elementary music conference that will give you a wealth of ideas and inspiration for teaching elementary music classes. Close to Chicago airport – affordable hotel-GREAT workshop! LINK TO REGISTER USA SITE         LINK TO REGISTER – CANADIAN SITE

Teach Music Reading with Boomwhackers

I remember the first time I saw Boomwhackers – it was at an MENC conference in Phoenix almost 20 years ago.  They looked like fun – and they are!  But what do you do with them?

Teach Music w Boomwhackers coverTeach Music Reading with Boomwhackers is a new resource, that includes Rhythm Challenges to review rhythms, an introduction to staff and alpha-notes (note names right on the note head, colored Boomwhacker notation, and notation with no hints to have your students reading music quickly and competently!  Best of all, projectable PDF files are included. We’ve formatted the projectables to fit the screen – like all of our Digital Resources, the music is large and easy to read.  The PDF is interactive:the audio is embedded in the file so you just click on the play button.

 Begin with the Rhythm Challenge to review or reinforce rhythm reading.  First rhythms are echoed, then the students read them. Students echo rhythms, then have an improvisation section to create their own rhythms.   Fun tracks accompany this!

Rhythm Challenge

Introduce the staff to the students and how to name notes.

Introduce Staff

The song is given the first time with alpha-notes: the letter name is printed on the note.

Soft Kitty alpha notes

The second time the song is given with colored notes.

Soft Kitty colored notes

All students can be successful!

What a great way to introduce note reading before you begin teaching recorders!

Try it out!  We’ve posted free samples at www.musicplay.ca – click the links below to download samples.

Canadian site                    USA site

You can download Teach Music Reading with Boomwhackers or order the print copy.  With each shipped order, we’re given a set of note squares – this helps cover the shipping cost!

COMPOSING WITH BOOMWHACKERS

You can teach melodies, chords, or rhythms with Boomwhackers. When you use the pentatonic set (CDE GA C’) you can use the Boomwhackers as a rhythm instrument, and improvise and compose rhythms with them.   

There are many ways that you can have students improvise. Play a steady beat on a hand drum and ask all the students to improvise rhythms. Change meters. Play the beat in 2/4, 3/4, 4/4, and 6/8 meters. Try some improvisation in 5/4 and 7/4. Encourage the students to play the Boomwhackers® in a variety of ways – on hands, feet, shoes, desks, the floor, or elbows. They should use common sense when playing Boomwhackers on their body. I draw the line at playing the Boomwhackers on another student. (They are only allowed to play on their own body.) In the beginning, have everyone play at the same time. Then have students sit down and ask only those whose color is shown, to play. This is detailed in the collection, Composing with Boomwhackers.  In this collection several songs are given with places in the song to have students improvise.  This is one of them:

One One Time for Fun

Composing with Boomwhackers includes note squares to help students begin composing rhythms.  I’ve used these for many years – they are easy rhythm manipulatives to make (unlike lego rhythms which take hours and hours!) The book includes the note squares to copy and cut out.  Make up sets of notes for various grade levels.  I use ta, ti-ti and rest for K-2, and add more note values as students improve reading and writing abilities.

note squares 8

If I use half note note squares, they are two squares in length.  A whole note is 4 squares long. 

Once students have created the rhythm using squares, they transfer to a beat chart, then to a staff.  The templates for beat charts in 4/4 and 3/4 are included in the resource.

beat chart

Two, three and four part ensembles are included for students to play, then students write their own.  Some melody reading and playing is included in the resource – three note melodies, then pentatonic melodies to play and to create. The final activity in the resource is to have students create their own song.

Recorder Tips:

Teach Music Reading is a great unit to use to introduce notation to your students BEFORE beginning recorder.  I like to start beginning recorder in January of 4th grade.  The students have better fine muscle co-ordination by 4th grade, and they progress as quickly in 2-3 classes as they would have in 5-6 lessons (or more) in 3rd grade.   My 5th grade students played recorder in 4th, and in 5th I like to start them on ensembles.  I use the Recorder Resource Kit 1 for 4th, and the Recorder Resource Kit 2 for 5th.  The Recorder Kit 2 has 24 songs for 2 part soprano with optional alto.   Themes & Variations publishes many additional collections for recorders.  The Big B-A-G Book has 19 songs using just BAG, including a theme and variations on Hot Cross Buns.  It’s great for years when students have trouble reading more notes than just BAG.

Recorder Links Canada      Recorder Links USA

MUSICPLAY K-6 ELEMENTARY MUSIC CURRICULUM

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 7.56.18 PMMusicplay is an award winning music curriculum for elementary schools. Musicplay is a sequential curriculum with lessons that follow the calendar year. The weekly lesson outlines the new concepts that will be taught, those that will be reviewed, and include seasonal and holiday repertoire. The planning is done for the teacher!

Important concepts are taught through play. Each week in Grades 1-5 a new singing game is featured. Children love music games. This is a text that will have your students really excited about learning music! The songs and games are chosen to teach musical concepts, to teach children about cultures around the world, and to provide songs for special days and performances throughout the school year. The most important factor in selecting songs for this series is that songs appeal to children!  In addition to printed teacher’s guides and Digital Resources Disks, there is now an online resource.  The online resource is free to use until June, 2016 and will be an affordable subscription ($149/year) after that.  There is a wealth of materials on this site.  LINK TO MUSICPLAYONLINE.COM

Floor Staff Games

Floor Staff games are a great way to teach your students the numbers of the lines and spaces, and the pitch names of notes on the staff.  This is music theory without the worksheets!

Making a Floor Staff:    Use painter’s tape to put a giant staff on the floor. Painter’s tape won’t hurt the carpet and will last for a week or two until you’ve taught the staff games to all your students. If you have funding available, you can purchase a music rug to go on the floor that has a staff built into it. Visit www.musicplay.ca to see a music rug. Additional staff games are given in the publication “Staff and Symbol Games”, also available at www.musicplay.ca

background Music RUG

1. Staff Jump     An elimination game to learn the numbers of the lines and spaces. Have half of your students stand on line one. Call out a line for them to jump to – line three! line four! The last student to get to the correct line is eliminated. Have the other half of your students jump to the spaces. When you introduce the letter names of the lines and spaces, repeat the game using letter names.

2. Letter Names Jump     Group one will jump the lines on the music staff. The teacher calls out a line note – E, G, B, D, F – and the students jump to the line that she calls. To play this as an elimination game (optional), the last child to land on the line that is called is out. The last child left after the eliminations is the winner. Group two will jump the spaces on the music staff. The teacher will call out a space note name – F, A, C, E. If groups are small, repeat the note names and jump as needed until all the children have had a turn. When the students are very confident jumping lines or spaces, have each group jump to the note name that is called using both notes that are on lines and in spaces.

3. Staff Relay      Divide the class into two-four teams. On small paper plates write a letter name of a note – A B C D E F G. Each team is given a pile of notes. Teams race to place their notes on the correct line or space of the floor staff. The first team finished with ALL notes correctly placed wins.

4. Staff Beanbag Toss Divide the class into two-four teams. Each team has a pile of bean bags. A team member tosses a bean bag onto the staff.  They must correctly name the line or space it lands on. If they are correct, the bean bag stays. If not, the bean bag is removed by the teacher. The team with the most bean bags on the staff wins.

If you want to reinforce note names with worksheets, Themes & Variations publishes a great collection called, “Know Your Note Names” which has 56 reproducible pages with fun activities for teaching, practicing and assessing note names.  Visit www.musicplay.ca for info.

Know Your Note NamesKnow Note Names sample1