Category Archives: Teaching Tips

Bullying in the Music Room

March 11, 2017 Musicplay Newsletter

Bullying in the Music Classroom

In 2013 one of my former students (now married with 3 children) found me on Facebook and friended me.  She wrote:

Hi Mrs. Gagne,

I wanted to wish you a merry Christmas and many blessings this new year! As another year closes I often reflect and I wanted you to know, that I have often thought of you through these years!

Going to school was extremely hard on me in ________, with the non stop bullying, however I really feel your music class was the one happy place I had, where I felt I belonged…this was due to you! Your strength of character always was inspiring, and I still remember the day that I was pulled from band class to,have my hair inspected for lice because of some unkind remarks…but what I remember most is how you later went to my social class and let my class have it for being so unkind….you were the first person/peer at ________ school whoever stood up for me! It’s a kindness that I have always appreciated and taught me a great deal about the kind of person I wished to be!

I thank you ever so much for that gift!   All my best,      M___________

To be honest, this incident happened more than 20 years ago, and I don’t remember it as well as my student did, but I’m so glad that I helped, and that what I did was the right response for her.

Last week, a friend who is a wonderful, involved, loving mother, lost her 13 year old daughter to depression.  In my teaching career I lost a beautiful, talented grade 12 student to depression, brought on by bullying.  I’m not an expert, but I’m trying to put some thoughts together with some ideas of what we as music teachers can do to prevent these terrible tragedies.

Suggestions:

Hand Holding:  I have a video of a preschool class making a circle, where one child didn’t want to hold the hands of the child next to them.  Yes, this starts in preschool.  In this class, I stopped them and said, “It’s really nice to hold hands in the circle with anyone who asks you.  It isn’t nice when we’re making a circle in music class to say no.”  Sometimes, I  position myself, to hold hands with the child that may be rejected by the other children.

Choosing Partners:  When you play clapping games or games with a partner, before you play, talk to the students about the right way to ask someone to be a partner, and what the right response is.  I talk about how in a school I might not be best friends with a colleague, but if invited to work with them on a committee, I accept graciously.  Practice inviting and accepting partners with your students before there is a problem.  This is a real world skill, and in the music classroom we have many opportunities to work on it.  I often position myself, to be partners with the child that may be rejected by the other children. (or as a discipline strategy with children who are not participating appropriately in a game)

Mean Comments:  Sometimes you’ll hear a child say something about another student that is mean.  I was unhappy about things that I heard my older grandson saying about his younger brother.  I made this poster and it’s on the fridge in their house.  I’ve told them, that they’re going to have to make a copy of it if I hear mean comments.

Joanie C wrote to add another suggestion:  Another thing I do is when we are doing mixer dances, before we start I let the kids know that everyone has to have a partner, and no one can say “no” to someone who asks them to dance.  Additionally, I let them know that for every refrain where we are choosing partners, everyone will be choosing new partners each time.  So there are no friends that are forever together and excluding others, there are no bullies who are saying “don’t dance with him/her”, and the opposite, if someone is dancing with a student they don’t feel comfortable with, it is only for one refrain and then they will move on to others.  These are the rules, no exceptions, and I always end up seeing kids who supposedly don’t get along with each other dancing and laughing together.   Sometimes breaking down the bullying has to be very directed!

The following suggestions are adapted from https://blog.ed.gov/2012/04/top-5-ways-educators-can-stop-bullies/ with my additional comments.

1. Create a Safe and Supportive Environment

Establish a culture of inclusion and respect that welcomes all students. . Set a tone of respect in the classroom.  The three specific suggestions above all will contribute to providing a safe, supportive environment in your music room.

2. Manage Classrooms to Prevent Bullying.   Develop rules with students so they set their own climate of respect and responsibility, and reinforce the rules by making expectations clear and keeping requests simple, direct and specific.  I love my Music Room Rules Posters that lay out the expectations clearly, in a musical way, and that make such a great lesson and bulletin board.

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.

Music Rules Poster Pack and lesson:

Canadian Site

USA teachers

Process

1.  Have the students read the rhythms.

2. Read the  words in rhythm.

3.  divide the class into 2 groups – one reads the rules, the other does the ostinato

4.  Give the students a suggested body percussion to go with the first line.

For example:  stomp stomp stomp stomp  pat pat pat pat pat pat pat

5.  Read the second line and have students each create a body percussion pattern for it.  Keep a beat on a woodblock or a drum and have them do the line four times, working out a body percussion.  Divide the class in half and have one have perform and the other half of the class watch.  The watchers should choose several performances that they like.  As a class choose one body percussion pattern to use for the second line.  Switch roles for the third and fourth lines.

6.  Choose instruments to play the ostinato.

7.  Decide on a form for performance

For example:

– drum and say the ostinato 2x as an intro

– ostinato continues while chant is performed 2x     – end with the ostinato 2x dim.

3. Stop Bullying on the Spot.    Intervene immediately. It’s OK to get another adult to help. Don’t talk to the kids involved together, only separately, and don’t make the kids involved apologize or patch up relations on the spot.  In instances of bullying, don’t make the victim feel victimized again, by using peer mediation.

4. Find Out What Happened.    Get the facts, keep all the children involved separate, listen without blaming and don’t call the act “bullying” while you are trying to understand what happened.

Finding out what happened can be really difficult.  I had an incident in a middle school band class.  It happened while my back was turned, and although I was 99.9% certain who had assaulted the student, I didn’t see it, and the other students wouldn’t talk.  The principal wouldn’t follow through.  I felt he should have got some of the other kids in the class alone in his office and asked them directly – I figured they’d cave and give up the name of the bully.  He didn’t take the time to do this.  In the end, all I could do was watch the bully really closely in my classes until the end of the school year.  It never happened again, but I felt very frustrated that the the student who’d physically hurt another child got away with it.

5. Support the Kids Involved.  All kids involved in bullying—whether they are bullied, bully others, or see bullying—can be affected. It is important to support all kids involved to make sure the bullying doesn’t continue and effects can be minimized.

Every child has the right to be respected, included and feel safe in school.  As music teachers, who often teach every child in the school, we are in a unique place to promote inclusion of all and create a safe and supportive environment for students.

LINK to subscribe to the Musicplay newsletter

Resources for the Elementary Music Teacher – Canadian Site

Resources for the Elementary Music Teacher – American Site

Artie and Denise Summer Symposium – July 25-26, 2017 in Las Vegas!

This is the 8th annual – and we’ll be joined by Thom Borden, for an amazing 2 days of workshops!

Canadian Teachers registration for Artie and Denise

American and Overseas Teachers – Registration for Artie and Denise

Peter and the Wolf Unit

Peter and the Wolf Lessons

Peter and the Wolf is a timeless classic.  There are many musical concepts to teach using this wonderful composition.  If you’re done teaching for this school year (lucky you!) this is a great time to plan your units for next year.  If you’re still in class, these movies could be your lessons for the last month!  Visit www.musicplayonline.com to find all these wonderful ideas!

Identify the instruments

In Peter and the Wolf, Prokofiev uses different instruments to represent the characters.  This is a great opportunity to teach children about the instruments of the orchestra.  In the Listening Resource Kit 1, Denise wrote words to sing with many of the themes.  Stacy Werner illustrated them in the Listening 1 Digital Resource, and Shannon Machtans has turned them into short movies that are now part of the musicplayonline.com resource!

In the movie “The Duck” the little song teaches about the tempo of the music, and the instrument that plays the theme.

Duck song 1

Duck song 1

Duck song 3

Identify the Expressive elements

The duck theme is played by the oboe.  It’s a very short listening example.  The students are asked to listen and point to slow-medium-fast, pitch: high-medium-low and dynamics: quiet-medium-loud.

Duck quiet-med-loud

Duck high-med-low

Duck fast-med-slow

Students are asked what instrument represents the duck, and information about the oboe is given.

Duck what instrument?

Duck what instrument? Oboe

The Cat song is one of my favorites.  The melody is memorable (gets stuck in your head) , and the melodic contour is illustrated as the students sing.

Cat song1

Cat song 2

Cat song 3

Cat song 4

The Wolf is used to teach about crescendo.

Wolf crescendo

wolf cymbals crescendo

The entire story of Peter and the Wolf is given on the musicplayonline.com website.  After you’ve taught all the themes, the story will be much more meaningful to the students than it would be without the preparation!

This worksheet comes from the Listening Kit 1 and will be made into an interactive activity on the musicplayonline.com website.  Use it to assess how well the students have learned which instrument represents which character.

Peter and Wolf worksheet

We are still editing the listening movies and creating interactive activities to accompany them, but even as a work in progress, the listening selections on the musicplayonline.com website are a wonderful resource for teachers!

New at musicplayonline.com

  • Staff tool for writing melodies!  1, 2, 3 and 5 line staff
  • Rhythm composition tool
  • Form Tool – outline ABA or rondo form
  • Peter and the Wolf listening themes and story!

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

Elementary Music Report Card Comments

Some of my American teacher friends are already finished school, but for many teachers you are into the home stretch and looking forward to the end of the school year.

Report cards are not anyone’s favorite job, but it’s important to communicate how the students have progressed in music.  If we don’t assess, evaluate and report on what we’ve taught, it’s possible that parents will look at music as a “frill” or “something extra” that we do if we have time, and not as a subject area that’s really valuable to our students.

 A teacher in the Musicplay Teacher’s Group on Facebook asked for samples of report card comments, so I’ve gathered some samples for you to peruse.  Every district (and sometimes every school) has a different reporting policy.  Some allow and encourage lengthy comments, and some limit you to just 1-2 sentences.  Here are some categorized comments:

 Attitude

The student:

  • is an enthusiastic learner who seems to enjoy music class.
  • exhibits a positive outlook and attitude in the music classroom.
  • is a positive influence on other students in music class.
  • participates with enthusiasm when singing
  • participates with enthusiasm when playing instruments
  • shows enthusiasm for music classroom activities.
  • volunteers ideas and suggestions in musical activities
  • strives to always do their best in music class.
  • is committed to doing their best in music class
  • enjoys problem solving and challenges in music class.
  • takes responsibility for their learning in music class.

Behavior

The student:

  • cooperates with the teacher and other students.
  • participates appropriately when playing musical games
  • transitions easily between musical activities without distraction.
  • is courteous and shows good manners in the classroom.
  • follows music classroom rules.
  • conducts themselves with maturity.
  • responds appropriately when corrected.
  • remains focused on the activity.
  • resists the urge to be distracted by other students.
  • is kind and helpful to everyone in the classroom.
  • sets an example of excellence in behavior and cooperation.
  • shows respect for teachers and peers.
  • treats the instruments with care and respect.

Participation

The following comments are leveled.

1 – Developing

  • Beginning to participate appropriately and actively in music class.  Requires frequent teacher reminders.

2 – Satisfactory

  • Sometimes participates appropriately and actively in music class.  Requires teacher reminders.

3 – Proficient

  • – Participates appropriately and actively in music class.  Occasionally requires teacher prompts.

4 – Excellent

  • Participates appropriately and actively in all music classes.

Skills

The following comments are leveled.

1 – Developing

  • Beginning to perform some instrument and singing parts with teacher support

2 – Satisfactory

  • Can perform some instrument and singing parts with teacher support. 

3 – Proficient

  • Can perform instrument and singing parts.  Requires prompts from the teacher.

4 – Excellent

  • Can perform all instrument and singing parts independently.

 Concepts

The following comments are leveled.

1 – Developing

  • With teacher support, beginning to read, write, and identify some grade level beat and rhythm concepts.

2 – Satisfactory

  • With teacher support, reads, writes, and identifies some grade level beat and rhythm concepts. 

3 – Proficient

  • With teacher prompts, reads, writes, and identifies all grade level beat and rhythm concepts. 

4 – Excellent

  • Independently reads, writes, and identifies all grade level beat and rhythm concepts.

 

Developing the Child’s Singing Voice

 Developing the Child’s Singing Voice     I recently read this question on a music teachers facebook page:  I’m teaching grade 1 and 2 music. I had 2 of my classes for the first time today and did some call and response tone-matching activities. I was shocked to find that 75% of the students could not sing in their head voice. At least 40% of those students couldn’t reproduce so-mi in a singing voice at all! Any ideas on where I start to help these students develop singing/head voices?  In this newsletter, I’ve got some suggestions for warmups, vocalizes and activities to get your kids matching pitch.

Start with the speaking voice and work on high and low sounds.

Alphabet Echo:  Say the letters of the alphabet in lots of different voices – high, low, silly, scary, monster, and have the kids echo each letter or group of letters.  (A or A B C) It’s a fun warmup and for your preK and kindergarten students will reinforce letter recognition.

Vocalise:  Do lots of vocalises with them.  I bought a toy fire engine and play the siren for the kids and have them make siren sounds.  I’ve found one Fire Engine storybook, and would welcome suggestions of fire engine stories that you’ve found!

I love the slide whistle! Have them echo the sounds that you make on a slide whistle.  Do this with your entire group, and then try it with individual students.  In John Feirabend’s research, he’s found that children need opportunities to sing alone as well as with the group.

Make vocal exploration cards, or have your students make them,  and have kids sing the shapes on oo, ah, bbb.   We’ve put some vocal exploration cards on www.musicplay.ca in the Free Downloads section.  If you want printed versions of these cards, they’ll be available soon.  (Sometimes buying them printed is cheaper than getting them printed in color yourself)

Say poems in low and high voices – for example:

low voice – Pussycat, pussycat where have you been?

high voice – I’ve been to London to visit the Queen

low voice – Pussycat, pussycat what did you there?

High voice – I frightened a little mouse under a chair.

Dramatize the poem!

Have the kids create ostinatos to chant with the poem, and have them chant in low voices, then high voices –

For example:

meow, meow, kitty says meow

Grandma’s Glasses Source: Musicplay K and 1

High Voice – These are Grandma’s glasses. This is Grandma’s hat.   This is the way she folds her hands and puts them in her lap.

Low Voice – These are Grandpa’s glasses. This is Grandpa’s hat.  This is the way he folds his hands, and then he takes a nap.

I use stories to get kids using different voices.  Retell the story of the three bears, and use low voices for Papa Bear, a middle voice for Mama Bear and a high voice for Baby Bear.  Have the kids say all the spoken parts with you.  “Someone’s been eating my porridge,” said Papa Bear.  (low voice)

The Three Bears in Musicplay 1, The Billy Goats Gruff in Musicplay for Kindergarten, and The Three Little Pigs in Musicplay 3 are all good for this activity.

The absolute favorite low-middle-high activity is the

Three Little Monkeys poem.

Three little monkeys swinging from a tree  Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The low monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

Two little monkeys swinging from a tree  Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The middle monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

One little monkeys swinging from a tree   Along came a crocodile quiet as can be

The high monkey said “You can’t catch me.” Snap!

“Missed me, missed me – now you gotta kiss me!”

I have great puppets to use with this poem, and you can find them at www.musicplay.ca – search for puppets.

Other songs/poems to use for high/middle/low practice:

Eensy Weensy Spider – Great Big Spider, Teeny Tiny Spider (in Musicplay 1 and Action Songs 1)

Boom Chicka Boom in Musicplay 5 is a good chant to use with your older students.

Leader:                                                      Class echoes:

Boom chicka boom                                      echo Boom chicka boom

Boom chicka rocka chicka rocka chicka boom  echo

All right?                                                      All right?

Oh Yeah!                                                      Oh Yeah!

One more time                                              One more time

Little bit louder                                              Little bit louder

Create ostinato patterns with body percussion to accompany the chant.  For example:  Pat left, pat right, clap, snap

 

After the chant activities do lots of echo singing. Echo so-mi, la-so-mi, so-mi-do, so-fa-mi-re-do patterns.

Do 3-4 minutes of these warmups every time you see them and you’ll start to build some flexibility in their voices.

Give them 5 or 6 classes of this and you’ll see a big improvement!