Tag Archives: Musicplay

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!

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

Ukulele in the Classroom – Part One

Ukulele in the Classroom – Part 1
By Denise Gagne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

EUKETG_AutoGenImg_Medium

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

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

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

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

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

Classroom Management Tips

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

  1. Seating Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Music Rules #3_Page_2

Music Rules #3_Page_3 Music Rules #3_Page_4

Music Rules #3_Page_5Music Rules #3_Page_6

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rhythm Instrument Fun

Rhythm Instrument Fun!

Rhythm Instrument Fun!

When you have an activity using non-pitched percussion or rhythm instruments, it can get noisy and out of control if your children don’t know or don’t follow your procedures. When giving out instruments, I explain to the class that I’m going to put the instrument on the floor in front of them and they are to wait until everyone has an instrument and I tell them it’s OK to pick up and play. The analogy I use is if you go to a fancy restaurant, you don’t start gobbling your food the second it’s placed in front of you. It’s polite to wait until everyone has their meal, and then you all start eating at the same time.

That’s the procedure, but the kids are still eager to play and I hate to make them sit and wait and I want them to have the experience of playing. As soon as the last instrument is given out I use this poem:

Play the Instruments Quickly

The kids are very quickly engaged in the activity, they are exploring ways to play the instrument, and there is no chaos!

When that activity is finished, and they have to wait until the next activity is prepared, the rule is: If you play before I say I’ll take your instrument away.

I will take away an instrument, but usually give it back for a second try. Certainly, the behaviour is better from all the students if I do take away one instrument.  Remember Barbara Coloroso’s saying:  Say what you mean (If you play before I say I’ll take your instrument away.), Mean what you say and do what you say!

There are many ideas for using rhythm instruments in the new collection, Rhythm Instrument Fun. Get more information on the collection at www.musicplcay.ca.