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Get Kids Moving, Learning, Behaving

July 24-25, 2017 – Artie and Denise Workshop #8 in Las Vegas, NV
REGISTER online!  USA teachers .                 Canadian Teachers

Get Kids Moving, Learning, Behaving
Music teachers have always known that movement is an essential part of our music classes.  Dalcroze Eurhythmics teaches concepts of rhythm, structure, and musical expression using movement. (as is common in Orff and Kodaly approaches)  In this article, I’m going to give examples of music to teach concepts, and movement to “get the wiggles out.”   Kids today have a much harder time staying focussed and attention spans are really short.  Giving kids in your music classes a quick movement break is great for moving to the beat AND great for getting the wiggles out.  As the countdown to the end of the school year progresses, behavior worsens.  A fast paced music lesson, with frequent movement breaks to wear them out, will help to manage the behaviors in your classroom.

Researcher Terrence Dwyer is one of many who have conducted multiple studies suggesting that exercise supports success in school. His research found that exercise improves classroom behavior and academic performance (Dwyer, Sallis, Blizzard, Lazarus, & Dean, 2001).  An excellent article – Move Your Body, Grow Your Brain – is found here:  https://www.edutopia.org/blog/move-body-grow-brain-donna-wilson.

A very quick exercise that can help focus your students is Superbrain Yoga. In research doing this simple exercise improved test scores of ADHD children by more than 20%.  It takes about 3 minutes of class time – a small amount of time if it will help your students to pay attention! Find Info Here

 In Musicplay, there are many movement activities.  I added many new movement activities to Musicplay for Kindergarten in the 2013 revision.  (Updated lessons are online at www.musicplayonline.com.  If you have a pre-2013 version, send a photo of your guide and I can send you the new guide as a PDF.  email denise@musicplay.ca)

 Movement Activity 1 – Move and Stop     (Musicplay for Kindergarten)
Objective: beat/no beat, same/different, quiet/loud, fast/slow
This is an example of a movement activity to teach concepts.  In this movement activity, the students will explore moving when the teacher plays the woodblock or drum. When the teacher stops playing, the students stop and freeze. Tell the students, “Make your feet do what the drum plays. When the drum stops, you stop.” Each pause should be a different length. Students love the anticipation that builds while they wait for you to play a new pattern. Ask the students to tell you when there is a beat and when there is no beat. Mix up the patterns. Sometimes play the same pattern twice. Vary the length of the patterns. Play the patterns at different tempos. Try playing with different dynamic levels and observe if the students respond with movement to show the different dynamics. Repeat this activity frequently. Later, try playing a piece of instrumental music and have students move when you play it, and stop when you pause.

The Jig Jig Jiggles is a great movement break and is great for reinforcing steady beat, and for teaching about fermata.


I got the jig jig jig jig jiggles. I got the jig jig jig jig jiggles.
My momma and my daddy want me to be still….. But I love the jig jiggles and I always will!
I got the wig wig wig wig wiggles. I got the wig wig wig wig wiggles
My momma and my daddy want me to be still….. But I love the wig wiggles and I always
Ooo feeling fine.  I can’t get the jiggles out of my mind.
Oo oo feeling fine.  I love the jig jiggles, do them all the time.

I got the hop hop hop hop hoppin. I got the hop hop hop hop hoppin.
My momma and my daddy want me to be still….. But I love the hop hoppin and I always will!
I got the bop bop bop bop boppin. I got the bop bop bop bop boppin.
My momma and my daddy want me to be still….. But I love the bop boppin and I always will!
Ooo feeling fine.  I can’t get the jiggles out of my mind.
Oo oo feeling fine.  I love the jig jiggles, do them all the time

WATCH a MOVIE of Jig Jig Jiggles
Source: Primary Dances and Singing Games – available as print book/CD or download .

  USA Site:            CANADA Site
(This song will be posted to musicplayonline.com as part of Musicplay PreK)

MUSICPLAYONLINE.COM – NEW MOVEMENT SONGS
There are some new movement songs at www.musicplayonline.com
Musicplay PreK Pt 1 – #6
SHAKE IT TOGETHER
Shake and shake and shake it together.  3x
Everybody shake!  Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo.
2.  Jump and jump and jump it together, 3x
Everybody jump!     Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo.
3.  Twist and twist and twist it together, 3x
Everybody twist.    Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo.
4.  Hop and hop and hop it together, 3x
Everybody hop!     Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo, Doo doo doo doo doo.

 

WATCH a MOVIE of SHAKE IT

There are some great movement songs for older students in Musicplay!    Some of my favorites:

Musicplay 3 #37 We Come From Pluto.   (Also in Action Songs Children Love Vol. 2)
Musicplay 4 – # 6  Chester   (Also in Action Songs Children Love Vol. 3)
Musicplay 4 – #35 My Bonnie    (Also in Action Songs Children Love Vol. 3)
Musicplay 5 – #95 We Love to Sing. (Also in Action Songs Children Love Vol. 2)
Musicplay 6 – #76 A Ram Sam Sam  (Also in Action Songs Children Love Vol. 3)        ACTION Song Download – USA site         Canada site – Action Songs

 Movement Songs Children Love is an old favorite collection of movement songs. – some of the songs are in Musicplay – if you don’t have Musicplay, this is a collection you’ll love!  One Green Jellybean is a great song for Easter.
Source: Movement Songs Children Love – available as print book/CD or download           USA Site:                CANADA Site:  

 Movement to Classical Music
Listening 1 #29 – play the Copycat Game or lead the students in different ways to keep the beat.
– a kids demo is available at www.musicplayonline.com “Keep Beat Kids”
Listening 1 #36 Gigue – there is a kids demo of the Copycat Game
Listening 1 #37 Gigue – there is a kids demo of the Copycat Game
There are many movement activities in the Listening Resource Kits (and the online site) that will get the kids exercising, keeping a beat, and helping their brains grow!

 Moving to music is an essential part of your music classes.  Use movement breaks to help the kids maintain focus and to wear them out enough that they’ll sit and listen for you.

The online resource is www.musicplayonline.com
Create an account and get one month free!

Current subscribers – To thank you for subscribing, we are going to give you an extra month on every one year subscription!  (online renewals only)  When you’re ready to renew your yearly subscription, email denise@musicplay.ca for your discount code.

  New at www.musicplayonline.com .
*  Beat/Rhythm Activities for Gr. K-1-2!   Coming soon, beat/rhythm for Gr. 3.  
* Did you know we have an EXTRA Listening section?  Go to Listening on the left menu.  Select the Extra tab.  There are instrument demo movies, So-me Storybook movies (all 12 stories!) and for band teacher, movies explaining how to care for your instrument.

New activities are being posted every week at    www.musicplayonline.com

Dynamics Lesson Plan for Spring

Dynamics Lesson Plan for K-5 Music Classes

Lesson is from the Musicplay 2 curriculum.  For info visit www.musicplay.ca

Materials:
1.  Find the Easter Basket  Song #75 Musicplay 2
2.  Dynamics printables, Pop Quiz, Sort the Dynamics activities at musicplayonline.com

Objectives:
1. The students will identify when the music is quiet and when the music is loud
2. The students will define crescendo and decrescendo

Songs can be taught in one of three ways: rote, reading, or immersion. Choose the best method for teaching your students and teach the song and play the game.

ROTE: When teaching by rote, you teach the song phrase by phrase. You sing a phrase – the children echo. You sing the next phrase, the children echo. Then you combine phrases: you sing two phrases – the children echo. Finally, you sing the entire song, the children echo.

IMMERSION: When teaching very young children, teaching by immersion is effective. You have the children listen while you sing the song several times. They might listen and pat the beat, listen and move like you do, listen to answer a question you’ve asked. You might choose to teach Sleepy Bunnies by immersion with your youngest students.

READING: When children are able to read rhythms and/or solfege, you can begin having them sight-read a song. What a great skill for them to have! Many adults can’t look at a piece of music and sing how it goes, but if taught carefully, our children can do this.
Have the children read the rhythms using whatever rhythm names you use.
Sometimes after reading the rhythms I divide the class into two groups and have one group read the rhythms while the other groups reads the words of the song. This helps some children “connect” that rhythm in music is the way the words go.

In Musicplay, reading songs are indicated by a small staff on the upper right hand corner of the song. In the song “Find the Easter Basket” the pitches indicated are s, m, l that stand for so (or sol), mi and la. If children have learned these solfa notes, do some solfa warmups that use so, mi and la. On musicplayonline.com, you can use the Solfa Practice Section and have kids echo patterns, play poison melody, Read and Sing, or Listen and Sing so-mi-la patterns. If you don’t use musicplayonline.com you can purchase melody flashcards and do the same kind of solfa warmups with flashcards. LINK to Flashcards on USA SITE               Melody Flashcards Canadian Site

Give the students a starting pitch for the song and have them sing the song

Whether you use reading or rote to teach your students a song depends on If you’ve labelled the rhythms and solfa with your students. If you haven’t taught so-mi-la yet, you’ll introduce the song as a rote song. If you have labelled so-mi-la, then you can have the students sight-sing the song.

Teach the song and play the game.
Game Directions: One student is the “hider” and one is the “finder.” The “finder” closes eyes while the “hider hides the Easter Basket in plain sight. (not under or in something). The “finder” opens eyes and is guided to the basket by the dynamics in the singing. If children sing quietly he is far away. If the children sing loudly, he’s closer.

2. After playing the song, discuss the dynamics that were used in the song. There is an excellent interactive activity at www.musicplayonline.com attached to song #11. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt in Musicplay Grade 2.   Sort the rhythms from quietest to loudest.

You can also play the Pop Quiz activities on Dynamics at www.musicplayonline.com to teach or practice dynamics terms.

3. Talk about what it’s called when the singing starts quietly but gets louder. (crescendo) or when the music starts loud and gets quieter. (decrescendo)

 

There are dynamic symbols printables with song #11. John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt in the teacher’s guide and musicplayonline.com that you can print out and package for your students to use. I package these in paper CD holders. It’s quick and easy to make a class set of them, and then I can use them for assessments of dynamic awareness with Gr. 2-6.

Give out a set of cards to each child.
Have them sort them from quietest to loudest. Check answers.
Quiz them on the dynamics shown.
For Example:
hold up the card that means quiet
hold up the card that means very loud
hold up the card that is the symbol for mezzo forte
Have the students be leaders, and come up with questions for the class.

Follow this activity with a listening activity that has students listen and point to the dynamic card they hear in the music. In the Listening Resource Kit 1, #29 Contradance is a great example to use to have children respond to dynamics.   The Listening Resource Kits are now online at www.musicplayonline.com.  The Listening Section is found on the left side menu

Select Kit 1, then scroll down to #29.  Select the Listening Map.  (Many choices are available so you can use the same example in several lessons)Hand out the dynamics cards, and play the recording.  The students point to the dynamic  Level (card) that they hear. Other good examples to use would include Listen 2 – #26 Summer, Vivaldi or #24 – Hornpipe. Listen 3 – #5 Entry March of the Boyars or $10 Bouree is very good or #17 Intrada, Listen 5 – March of the Dwarfs.

This lesson is from Musicplay 2.  Musicplay is a standards based K-6 music curriculum with songs and activities that students LOVE! Musicplay is an award winning music program for K-6 schools. Each grade level includes 40 weekly lessons that clearly outline concepts and skills taught in each grade. Musicplay includes seasonal songs, fun songs, rounds, partner songs, folk music, multicultural music and choral music. In the Musicplay curriculum students sing, play instruments, move to music, listen, create and learn to read and write music. Important concepts are taught through play. Each week in Grades 1-5 a new singing game is taught. Children love music games making this a text that will have your students really excited about learning music! The program uses Kodàly and Orff sequencing, with lessons that have students creating their own music. Students are taught to read and write music through careful sequencing of activities. Orff arrangements are included for many songs. Extensive listening lessons, maps, activities, cup games and intercom scripts are included in the Listening Resource Kits 1-5, and the included listening examples in Musicplay K and 6. Reproducible song storybooks and Alphabet songs for K-1 teachers integrate with and support early literacy programs.

The Digital Resources replace and greatly enhance the material that is in the student books. The music and lyrics are specially formatted to fit a computer/projector screen. Quicktime movies and  PowerPoints of the music and lyrics for each song are included as well as slides to teach note names, solfege, beat, rhythm, dynamics, tempo, form, and cultural context. Smart notebook files are included for teachers with Smartboards. Our new online resource, www.musicplayonline.com includes all the material in the Digital Resources, plus many interactive activities. Purchasers of packages will receive a 1-3 year subscription to the online resource.

For Information visit www.musicplay.ca

 

 

 

Is Teaching Harder Now than it was 40 Years Ago?

Is Teaching Harder Now than 40 years ago?

When I’m in schools teaching now, I often say how much harder teaching is today than it was when I started in 1978 – almost 40 years ago.  The children have shorter attention spans (no attention spans), behaviors are worse and consequences non-existent, parents blame the teacher for everything that goes wrong with their kids, and teachers have hours of paperwork that didn’t exist 40 years ago.  But is it really so much worse teaching today than it was in 1978?

Work Day / Work Week

The work day 40 years ago started early with bus duty.  Every teacher had to supervise bus duty and recess and lunch hour at least once a week, and in smaller schools a lot more often.  That included being outside when it was -40 (-40 is the same in F and C) in the schools in Saskatchewan where I started my career.  The idea that teachers should get a 30 minute lunch break wasn’t in effect in 1978.  I had choir twice a week at lunch for many, many years, so I’d have 10-15 minutes to eat something, before meeting with the choir.  There were a lot fewer prep periods as well.  I was really lucky if I had 2 preps in a week, and some years there were none.  Staff meetings were held once a month after school, and could go hours if something difficult was up for discussion.  When I moved to Red Deer in 1992, staff meetings were held once a week, before school, so once a week you had to come to school by 7:30 for the meeting.

There were no personal days in 1978 or days in lieu.  We had parent-teacher conferences in the evenings, and you had to be there.  There were no days off because we’d given up our evening to be there.  If you needed a medical appointment, you were expected to schedule it after school hours if at all possible.  Stress leave was virtually non-existent.  If you needed a stress leave, you were told that you probably weren’t suited to the job, and it was suggested that you resign.  The teaching year was 200 days, and a few were set aside for professional development, teacher planning at the beginning or end of the year.

Compare that to 2017 when students are dismissed early once a week for staff meetings/PD.  In some places prep periods are part of the teaching contract.  And in many schools, paid lunchroom supervisors do the lunchroom duty.  Many (most) districts have some personal days that teachers can use whenever they want for whatever they want.

Technology – A Blessing or a Curse?

Movies and Music

In 1978 we had filmstrip projectors, record players, and 8mm movie projectors. 

Record players let you select the track you wanted, but of course they were big and bulky to store.  If you had a bouncy floor, when you did folk dancing to the records, sometimes the movement was enough to make a record skip.

When cassette tapes became available, they were easier to play, but then you had to fast-forward or rewind to find the song that you wanted to play.  Copying a record was impossible for the average person, but with cassette tapes, it was easy to make copies of songs you wanted.  You could even tape songs from the radio.

The filmstrip projectors weren’t too complicated to use.  We could buy the filmstrips if we had a big budget, but more often, borrowed them from a central library, so you had to plan ahead if you were going to use one. 

Setting up the movie projectors was a lot more complicated.  Sometimes the school librarian (yes, we had librarians then) would set it up for you, but this was never a simple process.  When you finally got it going, even if it wasn’t such a great film, it would keep the kids attention, just because they didn’t see them all that often.

Worksheets

In 1978 if I wanted to copy a worksheet for students I had 2 choices:  Ditto or Gestetner.  The Ditto stencils, you’d have to type out (don’t make a mistake or you have to either scrape it off or start over), then go to a machine, attach the stencil part and crank the handle to make your copies.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B979xBnk2Hg.  This video shows a fancier machine than our school had – you didn’t have to crank it, but this is the general idea.

In 2017 if I want a worksheet, I can often find one to download and make photocopies – much less time to make 30 worksheets than it was in 1978.   What can end up taking the time in 2017 is the “finding” of the worksheet.  Instead of making your own, you can hunt through bizillion worksheets on pinterest or TPT eating up the time you save in the copying.

Information

In 1978 if you wanted to research and create a unit on a composer you could go to encyclopedias or take books out of the library.  If your library was really limited, you could request books through inter-library loans, and wait a week or 10 days until your requested book arrived.  You’d have to buy recordings (records) of the works that you’d want to study.  There were very few 8mm movies of live performances for your students to view.  You had pictures or posters of the musical instruments, but movies demonstrating the instruments were hard to find, and if you could find them, they were expensive to purchase.. Developing a new unit of study, could take you weeks of work. 

In 2017 you’ve got Google, YouTube, Wikipedia – and countless websites with information.  Any information you might need is all available through a phone in your pocket.   You’ve got millions of live performances on YouTube of almost any musical work that you’d like to study.  Creating a unit of study should be faster and easier than ever before.  You don’t need to purchase recordings any more – you can find almost any recording you want on YouTube or you use a streaming service like iTunes or Spotify.  Does this make your job easier?  It should, but too much information can give you so many choices that creating a unit  can take just as many hours as it did in 1978.

Unintended Consequences

The instant delivery of information via Google and YouTube has been a blessing in so many ways.  But it’s also created a generation of children who have little or no patience or perserverance.  These kids want instant results – from everything from looking up song information to learning to play a recorder.  Everything else is instant – why can’t I play a C scale instantly on my recorder? 

Attention Deficit Disorder wasn’t a disorder in 1978.  In 2017 it’s an epidemic, in large part because children are growing up with everything they want being available instantly.  If I want to watch a favorite TV show I don’t have to wait until Thursday at 7:30 PM – I can watch it now on Netflix or YouTube.  If I want a toy that I see online, I can order it from Amazon and a day later it’s delivered to my house.  If I want a new game, I can download it from the app store and play it right away.

Video games deliver instant gratification – even to our toddlers.  There are really great apps that teach toddlers important skills.  Endless Alphabet is an incredibly good app that I’ve downloaded for my 2-3 year old grandkids.  They drag a letter to a word and when they’ve got them all in place, they get to watch a really cute video that explains the meaning of the word.  If that isn’t enough “reward” for getting the letters in place, the kids can touch areas of the final screen and fireworks go off.  It’s a really good tool, but there is lots of “rewards” built in to keep the kids interested. When these same kids come to our music classes, they’re used to this kind of learning environment and anything less isn’t as engaging. 

We still have kids in our classes who are amazing students with great focus and attention.  But the numbers of kids who need to take “brain breaks” or use fidget devices are growing exponentially.  Many classes have children who have been diagnosed with anxiety or stress disorders.   

Showing fast paced cartoons to teach concepts just feeds the addiction.

Giving them authentic musical experiences where they experience the concepts weans them off the necessity for a screen “reward” and they’ll internalize the experience.

For example – Singing a song with cute little cartoon images about beat may keep the students engaged.  But singing an authentic children’s song, stepping the beat/clapping the words or rhythm, and then playing Beat/Rhythm Switch game (switching between beat and rhythm) is an engaging activity, and the children are learning by doing – not by watching a screen.  Yes, we need to label and define concepts, but the actual learning is best accomplished by students experiencing beat/rhythm, fast/slow, high/low, loud/quiet.  In the www.musicplayonline.com resources every time I create an interactive activity, I’m thinking about ways that the teacher/students can use the activity without feeding their screen addiction, and ways to ensure that the students have an authentic musical experience.  In many ways, the concept slides and interactive activities teaching beat/rhythm at www.musicplayonline.com are just reminders to the teacher of the authentic process that we should be doing to fully involve the children.   

Differentiation and Reporting

In 1978 there were few special needs students in our classes.  We had a range of abilities, but there were very few kids with severe physical or developmental abilities, and way fewer kids with emotional difficulties.  Having a teacher assistant come to music classes was rare.

The 2017 teacher has to be able to differentiate instruction for a huge range of children.  One third of some classes might have IPPs requiring you by law to differentiate.   Many classes come with a TA, and some of them are wonderful and some need teacher direction to be more effective in helping the students they are assisting.  So in 2017, you don’t write just one lesson plan – sometimes you have several for just one class.

Writing report cards in 1978 was fairly simple – you gave an A, B, C or D and maybe a generic comment.  “Student A” participates well in music class.  or “Student B does not participate appropriately in all activities.”  If parents came in for interviews, and they were the parent of Student B, they would usually ask what they could do to improve Student Bs behavior in class.

In 2017, A, B, C, D are rare, and more often you see descriptors like “Exceeding expectations”, “Meeting expectations,” and “Beginning to Meet expectations.”  Some schools require personalized comments for every student.  For teachers who teach 1000 students, this is a tough expectation to meet.

Behaviors

Children were not angels in 1978.  I had a fist fight in my Grade 5 band class during my first year of teaching in 1978.  The response to discipline infractions was usually a trip to the principal’s office.  For a minor infraction a student might get a detention.  For a serious infraction an out of school suspension.  Back in 1978, schools could still use the strap, although it was rarely used.  I don’t remember a student ever getting the strap in the schools that I taught in.  If a parent got a note from a teacher telling them about a discipline problem, there was usually consequences at home.  My husband talks about how if a kid got the strap at school, they probably got it at home too.  Was this a good thing – of course not.  Hitting a child to teach them not to hit, makes no sense and could easily lead to abusive situations. 

In 2017 the pendulum has swung far in the other direction.  Corporal punishment is outlawed – and rightly so.  We have reflections that children fill out, and they may have an in-school or out -of-school suspension for serious infractions.  There are a myriad of discipline models in schools.  I truly hate the discipline models that reward kids for behaving appropriately.  This is a basic expectation in life.  I don’t get a prize for being polite as a teacher —- it’s a job expectation. Reward models give prizes for good behavior —- but the rewards soon become blasé.  A ticket for a raffle isn’t enough of an incentive for good behavior – students want a pizza party, a movie day or lunch out with the principal.  Students with IPPs may face fewer consequences for misbehaviors because they’ve got a diagnosis.  Giving out certificates to students that model good behavior at a monthly assembly is OK – but not if it becomes an expectation that every student in the school deserves a certificate at some point during the year. 

In 2017 managing behaviors is harder than in 1978.  There are fewer consequences for the children and less parental support.

So – is teaching harder in 2017 than it was in 1978? 

In some ways no – technology has made it easier to plan and create units, create worksheets, and teachers have far more planning time, personal days, and lieu time.  Technology has made it easier than ever to find and show videos of virtually any topic you can think up, to research and to learn new skills.  Finale, Note Flight, Garage Band are programs that have made it really easy to create your own teaching materials.

However, in many ways, teaching is a very different career than it was in 1978.  It’s sometimes more about managing behaviors, differentiating instruction and trying to engage distracted students that about the actual delivery of instruction.  Many young teachers are leaving the profession early in their careers.  Among teachers who were new in 2007-8, 17 percent were not teaching five years later.

What can we do to help?

Mentoring young teachers has been shown to help reduce the attrition rate.  Support groups such as the Musicplay Teachers Group on Facebook are very helpful – you have hundreds of online mentors in one group.

Making classroom tested lessons available to young teachers can be very helpful in their first years.  I’ve had many comments from young teachers that having the Musicplay curriculum got them through their first years. 

Taking Orff or Kodaly Levels courses is invaluable.  It’s hard to give up two weeks of your short summer break to attend classes, but the skills you’ll gain are well worth it.  Attending Orff and Kodaly workshops is also invaluable for new and experienced teachers alike.  Joanne Collins, who’s been a successful teacher for 55 years came to the Artie and Denise workshop last year and was one of our most enthusiastic participants! 

Don’t take the easy way out showing your students cartoon-like videos to teach concepts instead of teaching them in a way that involves them singing, moving, playing and listening.  They may sit still and be engaged  (behaving) for the moment – but is this feeding their addiction to instant rewards instead of teaching them to find satisfaction in a job well done?  Use technology as a teaching tool — not a pacifier.  Make music with your students – 40 years later, it’s still a really rewarding career and it’s a way to make a difference in the lives of the children you teach.

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

Ostinato Lesson using Musicplayonline.com

 I’ve been doing a music residency with a grade 1 and 3 class at Grandview Elementary in Red Deer for the past week.  I’ve seen the children every day for 35-45 minutes, and have had an amazing time with them!  One of the lessons that went really well was a lesson on ostinato using the singing game, Musicplay 3, #6 Plainsies Clapsies.  

 I taught the song by rote.  This is a traditional ball bouncing game, but to make it a little more useable in the grade 3 classroom, we did the moves with beanbags.  We played the game the way Leise Warner from Ontario showed me. 

Plainsies: toss beanbag and catch
Clapsies: toss, clap and catch
Twirl about: Toss, do arm rolls and catch
To backsies: toss, touch both shoulders and catch
Right hand: toss and catch with right hand
Left hand: toss and catch with left hand
Toss it high: toss higher in air and catch
Toss it low: toss low and catch
Touch your knees: toss, touch your knees and catch
Touch your toes: toss, touch your toes and catch
Touch your heels: toss, touch your heels and catch
And under you go: toss under your leg and catch it

The students were excited to try out the moves themselves!  The first day there were just a few students who were able to do all the moves, but by the second day, most were successful.  On the second day, we tried several of the ostinato patterns on the slide, chose one of them, and decided on body percussion.

This activity will be an interactive activity at www.musicplayonline.com

The students chose Run!  Run away!  and decided on this body percusion:  pat rest clap clap clap for it.  We decided to do the ostinato twice, then the ostinato with the song, then the ostinato twice.  They were very successful!  (Videos will be posted soon on www.musicplayonline.com)

We discussed what the form of their composition was.  Ostinato 2x  – ostinato+song – Ostinato 2x  I used the form tool at www.musicplayonline.com (on the left hand menu) to illustrate the form.

In the next few lessons they perfected the game, and used the song to practice reading and writing and creating with la-so-mi and ta ti-ti.

 This is one of the lessons that I’ll be sharing at the Artie and Denise workshop in Chicago!

 July 6-8, 2016

Artie and Denise are Shakin it up in Chicago!   Join Artie and Denise for the 7th annual summer symposium!  Two days of fabulous workshops and a day of sightseeing.

Register Online    Click this LINK

 Musicplayonline.com

This amazing site is free to use until August 1st, and will be a low cost subscription after that.  Our programmer now has the games fully accessible by iPhone or iPad!  The entire site can now be utilized by devices.  We are currently working on the Listening section, and will have some wonderful listening movies posted next week, including Carnival of the Animals!

 What’s on the site?
Musicplay K-6 song movies:  notation, lyrics, kids demos (700+ songs)
* Interactive Form Tool is now online – left hand menu!
* Recorder Resource 1-2 are available on the site!
* The Easy Ukulele unit and Easy Guitar Songs are online!
* Beat and Rhythm interactive activities for Snail Snail, Follow Me, Cuckoo, Rain Rain, See Saw, Walk to School, Pumpkin Fat, Teddy Bear, Curly Joe, Old Mother Brown, Little Airplane, Kangaroo, Tisket a Tasket, Burnie Bee, Four in a Boat, Bubble Gum, Easter Bunny, Old Mr Rabbit, on a Log, Scie le Bois, Los Pollitos, Naughty Kitty Cat, The Mill.  These are amazing interactive tools!
* Ask Me take home printables for songs in Musicplay for Kindergarten.
* Xylophone and Metallophone with removable bars     – search engine
* Solfa practice movies   – rhythm practice movies (Like flashcards, but made into movies!)
Solfa challenge for all reading songs – name the solfa notes OR letter names
* high/low, loud/quiet, fast/slow, etc games
* pop quizzes to practice note names, dynamics terms/symbols, tempo terms, Fun!

 LINK TO MUSICPLAYONLINE.COM

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

Planning your Holiday Concert

Musicplay Holiday Newsletter – Dec. 2003

As many of you are finishing preparations for your holiday concert, it seems like a good time to give you some ideas for making that holiday concert FUN instead of just STRESS!

Planning and Delegating Responsibility: At a staff meeting early in the fall, discuss how the holiday concert will be handled. Administration should make it clear to staff that this is a school event – not the music teachers big show. All staff should be expected to help with planning, and all should be expected to attend. A coordinator for the concert is required – usually the music teacher – , but if the school is supportive, the music teacher in the school isn’t burdened with doing everything. The following tasks could be delegated:

Backdrop: One teacher or parent can take responsibility for preparing and putting up the backdrop. Simple backdrops are good. You can purchase white tarps from Home Depot. If you make your backdrop somewhat generic, you can recycle them. We painted “Happy Holidays” on half of the white tarp and stapled garland around the edges. The garland probably won’t last forever, be we don’t have to redo the sign each year. If you don’t want the same backdrop every year, create 3-4 different ones and cycle them through. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel each year!

Sound System: One teacher or parent is responsible for locating a good quality sound system, with 4 mikes: 2 for the choir, and at least 2 for soloists. If the school doesn’t have a good sound system, try renting one. If you’re in a rural location without rentals, a local dance band may have a PA system they would loan you or rent to you. Have a backup plan! Borrow a karaoke machine to have on stage so you have a backup in case your sound system crashes in the middle of your concert.

Risers: One teacher or parent should be responsible for borrowing and/or setting up risers.

Stage Helpers: A couple of stage hands for the night of the concert should be found. There is always something that needs to be adjusted, and the concert co-ordinator doesn’t have enough hands to do it all. I often have a few responsible fifth graders become my stage hands. Some of the kids that really don’t like speaking parts, make great stage helpers! The stage helpers should remember to bring some emergency supplies in case of accidents:

* paper towels (vomit, leaky bladders)

* big garbage can, big garbage bags

* clorox wipes, rubber gloves (vomit)

* broom and dustpan (broken flashlight candles)

  • kleenex (bleeding noses, runny noses)

Scene Rehearsal: Even when there is a music specialist every classroom teacher should provide extra rehearsal time for their own classes. The music specialist can make a CD of the class’s song or a YouTube video, for rehearsal purposes so the classroom teachers can help. (Themes & Variations Christmas programs allow you to do this – please check copyright regulations on other publications before copying anything!)

Classroom teachers can use music or phys-ed time to rehearse songs and dances. When they have them learned, bring in the concert coordinator to help with entrances, exits and staging. Ask all staff members to prepare the children for the “what if’s” that can happen. If you are the music specialist, allow time to go through this with all children who will be in the concert.

* “What if – you have to puke?” (Get to the garbage can at the side of the stage if you can!)

* “What if – you have to go the bathroom?” (Use bathroom before show. Don’t drink pop!)

  • “What if – you feel woozy?” (If you feel woozy when on stage, just sit down and put your head between your knees.) At least they won’t fall off the top riser!

Costumes: Meet with the concert co-ordinator to plan costumes for each group. The co-ordinator or the classroom teacher should determine determine what costumes and props are needed. Decide who will be sending notes home to parents with details of what their child should wear. Keep it simple! The easier the better. Sometimes just a hat will give the class the look you want.

Program: One teacher or parent should take responsibility for printing the program and for handing it out at the door (or choosing students to do this) at the actual concert.

Publicity: One teacher or parent should take responsibility for sending notes home giving the date, time and location of the concert.

Supervision Backstage: The concert coordinator will be in the wings, coordinating entrances and exits. Two teachers will be needed backstage to ensure that groups are ready to go on, on cue. All classroom teachers will be needed to supervise their children off stage. This is probably going to be the toughest hour of the school year. I had 90 children backstage one year. I played Concentration, Stella Ella Olla, and Topnotcher with them and managed to have fun while we waited. Directions for those 3 games are in “Singing Games Children Love” Volume 1 and 2, published by Themes & Variations. Videos don’t work well, unless you have a very large screen and a loud sound system. Taking children back to their own classroom and playing board games seems to be a good solution also.

Concert Setup: The concert coordinator will need some release time from regular classes to organize the setup of the stage area. Be sure to ask in your newsletter for parent volunteers to help with this. The backdrop needs to be put up, and all student art work that you can display, should be put up. A final check needs to be made that all props are ready to be taken on stage from the wings. There are 2 things that parents hate at a Christmas concert – not being able to see their child, and not being able to hear what is being said and sung. Check and double check your sound system, and use risers so your students are all seen!

Photos/Videotaping: Ask a staff member to find a parent volunteer to take photos and videotape the concert. You might have a staff member that takes great photos and give her the job.

Cleanup: One year I forgot to delegate a clean up crew, so guess who ended up cleaning up? Don’t forget to have teachers and parents who are responsible for taking down the backdrop and art work, loading instruments and props into vans, and returning them to school or to classrooms.

Concert Co-ordinator: You still need a concert co-ordinator to bring the whole show together. Email makes communication with the staff a lot easier than it use to be, so use it frequently so that all staff knows what is going on. This is the co-ordinators checklist:

Concert Date: ____________________________________________

Location: ____________________________________________

Time: ________________________

Grades Involved: _________________________________

Staff Member in Charge of: Verified/Done:

Backdrop: ____________________________________________ ____________

Sound System: ____________________________________________ ____________

Risers: ____________________________________________ ____________

Stage Helpers: ____________________________________________ ____________

Costumes: ____________________________________________ ____________

Program: ____________________________________________ ____________

Publicity/Notes to Parents: ____________________________________________

Supervision Backstage: ____________________________________________

Concert Setup: ____________________________________________ ____________

Photos/Videotaping: ____________________________________________

Cleanup: ____________________________________________ ____________

Concert Etiquette: Sometimes parents need a little education about concert etiquette. This may be especially true in schools where parents rarely attend concerts. Talking during performances, leaving the concert early, having CEL phone conversations are not infrequent complaints about parents in school concerts. To help to educate your parents, you might consider having a couple of students or the first class on stage read a poem at the beginning of the concert.

Concert Etiquette Rap    by Denise Gagne and Denese Odgaard

Welcome to our concert – we’re really glad you came.                                                                    We will listen carefully – we hope you do the same.

Some of us are really small – our voices aren’t too strong.                                                                If you’re really quiet – you’ll still hear – you won’t go wrong.

We have a few suggestions to make this fun for all.                                                                     Please turn your CEL phones off so they don’t ring inside the hall.

If you really have to go, please leave when there’s applause.                                                      You may enter once again – when there is a pause.

Save the hoots and hollers for when you’re at the game.                                                              When you’re at a concert, it isn’t quite the same.

If your baby’s crying and it’s really, really loud,                                                                             Please take them out until they’re calm – this time it is allowed!

We hope that you will stay and watch until the very end.                                                                We really will appreciate this – our thanks to you we’ll send!

When the concert gets closer, the stress level in the school rises. Remember who we’re doing the concert for – it’s all about giving the children a chance to perform! Ask someone in their 20’s what they remember from the second grade. The chances are really good that they’ll remember doing a Christmas concert. This is an event they will remember for a long, long time. It doesn’t matter if the choir on the risers is a little off centre or if one child sings the wrong words – what matters is that it’s a positive experience for every child.

Preschool Music Classes

I’ve been working on a preschool curriculum this year, combining what I think are the strengths of John Feirabend’s First Steps, and the curriculums that use instruments more extensively – Lynn Kleiner, Music Together, Kindermusik.  My hope is that Musicplay Preschool will be an easy to follow curriculum that will encourage students to enjoy singing, listening, playing instruments, moving, and creating.  I’ve spent the past 2 years with the preschool students in my grandsons preschool.  The first time I visited, they introduced me as Hunter’s grandma, and so for two years I’ve been Grandma D to 24 three, four and five year olds in the preschool.

This week’s lesson was mostly review.  Preschoolers need lots of repetition!  John Feirabend says you should do every activity four times in at least four lessons.  I find that can be a bit of overkill, but I do try to repeat activities 2-3 times.  We start our lessons with a beat chant, accompanied by a different instrument every week.

Beat, beat, feel the beat.  Say hello to those you meet.  I say,  “Hello Hunter” and the students echo me.  I use different vocal qualities:  low/high, quiet/loud, fast/slow and I use melodic echo patterns as well.  We discuss the instrument that I’ve played.  What is it made out of?  How does it make it’s sound?

This week when I got into the classroom, the kids were all wearing pyjamas, sitting in the dark and holding flashlights.  They were pretty wired because it was panama day, so I changed the order of the lesson and did “Sleepy Bunnies” first.  They love this song – it’s in Primary Dances and Singing Games.  http://shop.musicplaytext.ihoststores.com/productinfo.aspx?productid=PD  Doing the game first got the wiggles out and they were ready for the rest of the lesson.

Fingerplays and simple action songs are very important for this age group.  They are engaging, and help to focus the students.  They help students to develop vocabulary and comprehension, as the actions often describe the meaning of the words.  They also get children used to watching the teacher – a great skill to have when they join choir or band later on.

This week we reviewed “Little Rabbit Foo Foo” with no accompaniment.  (just our voices)  On “Down came the good fairy” I really exaggerate the “downward” sound with my voice – helps them develop flexibility in their voices.  If we review the song next week, it would be fun to add some instruments as sound effects.  A glissando on a glockenspiel on “Down came the good fairy” would be magical.  We could shake egg shakers to the beat while we sing.  On “Boppin’ them on the head” a drum or woodblock could be added.

We also reviewed John the Rabbit.  I pretended to be the farmer that was mad that a rabbit was hopping in his garden and eating his cabbage.  The children were the “rabbits.”  Each time they sang “Yes, ma’am” they took one hop towards me.  At the end of the song the “rabbits” wiggle their tales back to back with another “rabbit” and then the farmer shoos them out of the garden.  They squealed with laughter as they hopped back.  Then I had them choose some new vegetables to eat out of the garden.  I’m going to make some picture cards of vegetables to use next week, and at the end of the song we might chant the names of the vegetables that the rabbit ate:  eg.  Lettuce, cabbage, cauliflower, corn.  We could sing the song with instruments as well – one instrument for “yes ma’am” and a different instrument for the calls.

We reviewed “Bunny Boogie” from Sing and Play on Special Days.  We also reviewed One Green Jelly Bean from Movement Songs Children Love.

Our listening selection was “Hens and Roosters” from Carnival of the Animals.  I have a great visual that I printed from the Listening Kit 1 Digital Resources.  They pretended to be little chicks pecking at the grain.  They were scared of the big rooster who was trying to steal their grain.

I’m preparing them for the Rain Rain Story App so taught them Rain Rain go Away.  We made up a new verse – all the children want to play.  I brought out finger cymbals and we accompanied the song with finger cymbals.  I don’t have 24 pairs, so gave each child 1 cymbal and a small wooden mallet.  It’s easier to play like this and still sounds beautiful.  This was our simple song, and it’s one that I expect all the children will be able to sing with enough repetition.  More about the app in the next post.

We didn’t have time to give out egg shakers, but I wanted to review the Shakin’ eggs poem, so I played and said the poem.

Then, goodbye song and class was done.

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!

Squeaky the Mouse and Big Brown Bear

I saw Sister Lorna Zemke at TMEA and she had a really cute idea to get kids using high and low voices using a mouse and a bear puppet having conversations.  Sometimes I got blank when I’m trying to make something up, so I decided to write a story that would use the high and low voices.    This should give the primary teacher some conversation ideas to use between Squeaky and Brown Bear.  Folkmanis Puppets has wonderful bear and mouse puppets – enjoy the idea!

Squeaky and Brown Bear

Squeaky the Mouse and Big Brown Bear lived in a cave in the forest. Every day Squeaky would wake up first and ask Brown Bear if he wanted to go play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.   It’s a sunny summer day.

Brown Bear would wake up, and stretch and he’d say, “OK Squeaky, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny summer day.”

And off they’d go into the forest.  Brown Bear would eat lots and lots of berries and Squeaky would nibble on seeds that they found in the forest.  They’d play outside all day.  They played hide and go seek.  Squeaky was very hard to find.  Brown Bear was so big, that he was easy to see!   They played tag.  Brown Bear was much bigger, but Squeaky could run very fast.  Sometimes they’d go for a long walk to the stream and Brown Bear would catch fish.  They played all summer.

Then fall came.  They still played every day, but Brown Bear was getting so fat that he couldn’t run as fast.  When winter came, Brown Bear got very tired, and just wanted to sleep all day.  Squeaky woke up in the morning and listened to Brown Bear snoring.

He loudly asked Brown Bear if he wanted to go play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.

Brown Bear opened one eye and in a very tired voice he answered, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”   Brown Bear went back to sleep.  So Squeaky had to play all by himself.  He colored pictures and hung them all over the cave.

The next morning, he woke up and heard Brown Bear snoring.  Again he asked if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.

Brown Bear opened one eye and in a very tired voice he answered, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”  Brown Bear went back to sleep.  So Squeaky had to play all by himself again.   Every day Squeaky would ask if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny winter day.  And every day Brown Bear would open one eye and answer, “Not today Squeaky, I’m too tired.”  Squeaky made letters and food and animals out of playdough.   Squeaky built houses out of blocks.  He played with cars and trucks.  He played house.  Finally, spring came.  One day when Squeaky woke up, Brown Bear wasn’t snoring.  He was already awake.  Squeaky asked if Brown Bear wanted to play.

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny spring day.  

Brown Bear opened both his eyes, yawned and had a big stretch.   In a very tired voice he answered, “OK Squeaky, let’s go play.  It’s a sunny spring day.”   So off the two friends went into the forest to play.