Thursday, October 1, 2015

Brown Bear, Brown Bear: Rhythms and Drums and iPads

I have seen so many melodic activities and variations to this classic children's book.  The simplicity of the repetition lends itself nicely to students singing the question: Brown Bear, Brown Bear, what do you see?  And teacher answering the question to move the storyline along.  I use this book in 2nd grade to assess solo singing and we get out our own beat buddies (aka. Beanie Babies) to sing about more animal friends.

In 1st grade, I wanted to build rhythmic reading skills but pre-notation.  I also finally got a class set of hand drums!  So here's my fun new rhythmic approach to Brown Bear!

Lesson Plan
This "game" has 4 levels.  I've been having tons of success with telling students that we need to master a level before we can "level up" and add something new

Objective: Students will create, read, and perform 8 beat patterns using familiar themes from Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Level 1: Whole Class Verbal
Introduce activity to whole class using the Smartboard.  Students place 4 cards in any order.  Whole class reads rhythm string together using words (brown bear, goldfish, green frog, yellow duck). 

Level 2: Whole Class Body Percussion
Students add body percussion to verbal chant.  I used hand clapping to prepare for hand drums. **Be sure to discuss "Purple Cat" and "Yellow Duck" having more syllables.  This is an important learning step towards eighth notes!**

Level 3: Whole Class Hand Drums
Students add percussion. 

Level 4: Small Groups with iPads
Students create their own rhythm strings on iPads and perform for each other.  I used groups of 2 and one student was the "composer" who created the string while the other was the performer.  Students switch after each turn.

Bonus Round: Double Up!
Two group join forces and place their two iPads together.  Composers work together to compose an 8 card string and both hand drummers perform together.

Tech Specs
Smartboard File
Explain Everything File

You can turn my Explain Everything File into a QR code for easy access for student downloading.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Start off Music with a Kahoot!

Kahoot is a super cool online game platform that can be used by anyone, for any purpose!  Teachers are using it for review games and such, but I've even used it at family dinners just for fun!  It is not an app, but an online game where players use their personal devices (iPhone/iPad/Smart Phone/Tablet) to compete against each other!  Check it out HERE!

I decided to spice up my Back to School procedures and reminders for 4th and 5th grade this year by making a Kahoot!  Some questions were tricky, some were ridiculously obvious, and some were just plain fun!  Here are a few examples:

We are a whole brain teaching school and when I read the question, all the students responded Yes! and looked over at me!  I laughed so hard!!
 Umm...duh!  You're in music class today!

Read all the options before answering!

I had a fun time making this question and distracters!  

This was a fun way to review some quick procedures that the 4th and 5th graders should know already anyway.  It was also a way for me to introduce this new platform to the students so teachers will have an easier time implementing it in their classrooms as well.  (Being the technology coordinator, I always try to introduce new apps and technologies to the students to get them excited and entice teachers to start using them too!)

A couple more details:
  • This app will NEVER allow a tie because it awards for speed as well
  • I put students in teams of 2 for this game, but wouldn't hesitate to have groups up to 4 players per team
  • After joining the game, each student/team will have to supply a name.  This tripped up my students at first because they only have 15 seconds to type in a name.  We had to practice that once before they were all able to get in.
  • Be sure to know exactly how many players you expect because it is possible for someone to not join the game in time and get left behind
  • I would suggest anywhere between 15-20 questions.  More than 20 questions gets a little long and 15 questions gives just enough time for teams to make a come back!
  • After each question, a leader-board will show the top scorers!  This REALLY adds to the competition
  • When starting the game, you have the option to make the game play on it's own or to require a "game show host" to page through.  If you'd like to talk in between questions, don't have the game automatically move through questions 
 It's games like Kahoot that make me really want to be a classroom teacher!  I don't know how many times I'll be able to use it in music class (since I'd much rather be playing or moving to music) but maybe a fun way to review song lyrics before a performance or review Christmas carols before break!  Any other ideas come to mind??

Friday, September 4, 2015

Cleaning up those Glockenspiels!

A local church called me up a few months ago saying they had some old Orff instruments that they would like to donate to my program.  I was ecstatic!  I saw the instruments and politely smiled with a Thank You!

They weren't kidding when they said they had some OLD instruments!  One of the instruments was a glockenspiel that included rust, tarnish, rubber band stickiness, and striped pegs.  It played in tune, but getting my students past the stains and discolorations was not a battle I wanted to fight.

Since it was donated, I was willing to try and fix it up, not knowing if I would accidentally ruin it.  Thankfully, a parent was working at school the day I tried fixing it up and she suggested baking soda and vinegar!  Seemed like a safer bet than chemicals so I gathered the supplies and tried!

Baking Soda
Medium Cup
Soft Cloth (I used a disposable dish cloth)
Clean Water
Metal Oil (I used rotor oil because that's what I had)

Fill the cup about 1/2 full with vinegar and place a bar in the cup.  Slowly add about a teaspoon of baking soda.  WARNING: baking soda and vinegar volcano! (that's why we filled the cup only half way full!)  Soak the bar until the bubbles eat away all the grime.  You may have to add more baking soda to elicit more reaction.

As needed, soak the flip side of the bars as well.  Use a soft cloth to gently rub the bars.  Rinse the bars in clean water and wipe a small amount of oil on the bar with another cloth.



The rubber band stain didn't come off, and they don't particularly *shine* but the rust is off and they look much cleaner!  I put new rubber tubing on but am still waiting to buy new nails. Tuning is still spot on too!  I'm quite happy with how it turned out!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

What's on Your Wall Link Up!

I'm linking up with the INFAMOUS Mrs. King (aka the Bulletin Board Lady!) to show you what's on my wall!  I've been working super hard this week to make sure everyone else in my school is hooked up with all their technology, but I finally found some time for myself yesterday and today!  

I'm SUPER excited about some of the improvements I've made to my room this year!
 If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk you can dance!

Here's the start to my bulletin board!  I love the silhouettes!  My husband says I should add some glitter!  Can't wait for the kids to see it!

 My percussion wall is getting better and better every year! I made labels to print on Avery Labels (available in my TPT store!) so students can locate and return the instruments a little easier.  

I've had my drums on the percussion wall for a few years now, but I finally decided to get a class set of drums so I expanded the wall to behind the piano too.  AND!  Since I have the best principal ever!!!  She let me paint circles around the drums so the students know where to put them back!!  YES!

Oh!  And my boomwhackers have been on the wall for the past few years, but again, students sometimes have a problem putting them away, especially when a lot of boomwhackers are being used.  Spatially, students sometimes have a hard time judging where the colors should go and for the kiddos that need everything to be put away perfectly, it was a big distraction.

So!  Drum roll, please!

Ta da!  I colored the velcro to match the boomwhackers!! It was super easy-I just used Crayola markers!  It'll be so much better for students now!  LOVE IT!

I'm very proud of the fact that I have doubled my xylophone inventory throughout last year!  My principal's husband built me the bass xylophone cart (after my husband and I failed miserably) and the labels are a freebie from Jena Hudson at Sew Much Music (get them here!)  I put one label on the instrument, and one label on the shelf, so students put them back where they got them!

Did you notice my SitSpots?  Best purchase I ever made (non musical)!  I use them as line up dots, time out dots, wait for me dots, tallest to shortest dots, and so much more!  Plus, kiddos are FAR away from anything they can get their hands on that I don't want them touching while they're in line!  

One more picture of the front of my room.  Not much new there.  I love my smart board and just added an iPad holder that I'll use as a document camera.  

(Notice I didn't show you a picture of my desk... I'm not QUITE ready for school in two weeks!)

Goodbye Summer!  Hello kiddos!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Super Sale, Instant Replay!

Yay!  I've linked up with Mrs. Miracle and Music A La Abbott's Linky Party: Super Sale Instant Replay!  I was the forgetful buyer last time who forgot to use the promo code and missed out on an additional 8%!  Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a last minute sale for those like me who forgot something!  DON'T FORGET THE PROMO CODE, ALISON!  The new promo code is MORE15! Something I forgot to buy last time, was this collection of slides for Peas Porridge Hot by Tuneful Teacher.  I've been learning a lot of ways to explore this song in my Orff training over the summer so I'm excited to grab these slides to help students explore quarter rest! the last sale, I've been working a lot in my room at school organizing and rearranging.  I made myself labels to print out for each of my percussion instrument baskets, then I made labels for my orff instruments too!  They are so easy to print and so far they've been sticking pretty well!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Labels Labels Labels!

When I started in my classroom 5 years ago, I had very few "quality" percussion instruments.  I did, however, have a fairly large Music Fund that hadn't been touched in a few years!  With time, I've bought more and more instruments for classroom use with the hopes of eventually getting class sets of the basics (tambourines, triangles, hand drums, etc.)  

But with all my new toys, it's getting difficult to remember where I put things!  So I made myself great labels that I can print out on Avery Labels!  I made a set of small ones and a set of large ones.  Here's a link to where you can buy the Avery Labels to match! Small 14 per sheet or Large 8 per sheet

 Check out the whole products on Teachers Pay Teachers!  Small or Large

Back to School 2015!

I can't believe it's back to school already!  I just finished my Orff Level 2 certification and I'm super excited to head back and use all the new tools in my toolbox, but I also love summer just as much as the next teacher! 

I'm linking up with a bunch of music teachers (hosted by Mrs. Miracle and Music A La Abbott) in their Back to School Teachers Pay Teachers Sale Wish and Dish!  So here's one of my products, one music product I'm exited to buy, and one non-music item!

Like I said, I just finished my Orff Level 2 certification and was super inspired by my amazing teacher, Cyndee Giebler.  She taught us about Discrete Combinatorial System Improvisation.  Sounds complicated, right!?  Nope!  Similar to a menu style activity, students choose one from column A, one from column B, and play column C! Students pick which notes they want (from a teacher given pitch set), which rhythm they want (from a teacher given rhythm set) and then play within the constructs given!  As someone who is not very comfortable improvising, I was totally comfortable doing this!  I picked what I wanted, then played confidently.  (I know, it's a little more "composition" than it is "improvisation" but students are making decisions quickly rather than writing melodies).  I was so inspired by this activity that I went home and jumped on the computer!  Here is a file that includes a Discrete Combinatorial System for Do, Re, Sol, and La modes in C, G, and F pentatonic, in both duple and triple meters.  Simply decide what mode/key/meter you'll be working on and let the kids explore!  Super easy!

Cherie Herring is my idol (I think I've said this before!) and I love everything she makes! She is a SMART certified teacher and really uses her technology to engage students!  I use many of her activities as sub plans where students are musically engaged and thinking, but subs just have to know how to use the smartboard.  Can't wait to try this new one!

In addition to general music and band, I also teach 6th grade math at my school.  I LOVE interactive notebooks and purchased a huge set of them last year for the year.  This year, I am super excited for project based learning activities from 21st Century Math Projects.  I have a small class of less than 5 students so we have plenty of time to learn the material; now we can really USE the material in our projects!  Can't wait!! 

(I know I'm only supposed to say 1 non-music thing I'm buying, but my wishlist is so full...I've got to share another!)

I love this!!  Yoga aside, breathing and stretching is so great for the body and for learning focus!  I'm not allowed to use the word YOGA in my school, but even if I have to wait until I have my own kids, I am buying this!  It is a story that includes poses for children, coloring pictures, posters, flashcards!  I REALLY hope I can adapt it to use at school!

So that's some of the things in my wish list!  But you know what??? Even though everything is on sale, I'm still not going to pay full price!  TPT offers credits towards purchases IF you leave feedback on paid purchases!  So I'll be heading back into My Purchases to make sure I've left all my feedback (valuable feedback!) before I buy more!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

MadPad for Timbre Exploration


I'm such a YouTube addict and love showing videos to my upper elementary students.  When I found this video of the Smule App MadPad, I was hooked.

The MadPad App is a $2.99 app that's worth every penny.  Users are able to record their own video soundboard and then use that soundboard to record their own compositions.  

I use the MadPad app as an opportunity to discuss timbre, ostinati, and layering loops.  We discuss timbre as the characteristic of sound.  We also discuss music as the organization of sound. 

After exploring examples of non-traditional instruments creating music, I assign the same task to my students.

Students explore non-traditional instruments located around school and compose their own music.  

Here are a few examples of what my students came up with!

Recording Tips:

Use non-verbal cues to start recording.  
App will begin recording as soon as it hears sound.

Record single sounds, not patterns.  
Patterns and ostinati can be created later.

Record short examples
The soundboard will play through the entire recorded sample.  
          Long samples often “muddy the water.”

Plan samples for specific purposes.  

Can sounds be paired together?  What layers will be created?

Ready to get started?  Check out this great planning sheet to help students organize their information before getting started!  

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Patriotic Ring-A-Long!

Patriotic songs are a MUST, in my humble opinion.  I already have a soap box I stand on regarding America's "cultural" music and the example of "good" music that the media shoves on our kids.  I feel it is my duty, as a music teacher in the United States, to do my very best to teach my students classic American songs that were written about our great country.

That being said, it's not the easiest task.  Students are unfamiliar with songs, lyrics are tricky to understand, and I don't know many play party games that coincide with Patriotic Songs.  I typically do a few Patriotic themed concerts every couple years, but I wanted a way to immerse my students in these traditional songs without the complaints or lack of focus.  

Enter my closet.  When I first started at my current school, I didn't know what I had just collecting dust in the closet!  A beautiful 3-octave set of Malmark Handchimes!  {Disclaimer: I am a professional handbell ringer with The Bell Amis Ensemble, so seeing those two boxes were like winning the lottery to me!}

I gathered up all my Patriotic Songs, found keys and chords and starting notes, and made for my group a set of Ring-A-Long books.  These books are intended to provide accompaniment for our little voices!  Here's what I love about them:

  • Each book is unique to the chime and includes underlined words that tell the ringer when to start playing, and when to stop. 

  • Students are reading lyrics while they sing and play so they are gaining literacy skills and SEEING the right lyrics.

  • Playing instruments is super fun and motivating for students!  And there's no right or wrong time to "chime in" so long as the words are underlined!  
  • Handchimes are a perfect instrument for little hands.  They are super durable and the physical motion is quite simple.  It takes one sentence to explain how the sound starts and how the sound stops.  

It sometimes amazes me how quickly young students can be successful with these Ring-A-Long books.  I start in 2nd grade when literacy is strong enough to not distract from the music.  Check out this FREE sample of Yankee Doodle

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Starlight, Starbright: A Calming Sound Story

I have been singing this song since my own kindergarten class way back when.  Every time I look up at the starry sky this melody runs through my head.
Notation from Beth's Notes

I took my Orff Level 1 classes last summer and received a huge binder full of activities-some we used, others we didn't.  But looking through that binder 8 months later was like digging through a treasure chest!  I found a familiar melody that made for beautiful calming music by my kindergarteners.

Actually, kindergarteners CAN certainly make beautiful, calming music if they are sequenced correctly and with the right atmosphere.

I've been using my stretchy band a lot with Kindergarten lately so we processed through the original melody with high and low sounds.  Hands up are high, hands down is low.  Can't get any simpler for a kindergartener!

My next step was different for me as a music teacher, but my kindergarten aid LOVED it.  I added snaps and had the students figure out that I was snapping on the rhyming words.  I'm learning that Orff often uses patterns from the lyrics to inspire the music.  We practiced snapping (or light tapping for those who couldn't snap yet) on the rhyming words a ton.  You'll notice (as my kindergarten aid did) that it's not as easy as it sounds!

We then transferred our snaps to triangles and it was super smooth.  Starting with speech then moving to body percussion and percussion instruments is the main philosophy of Orff that I have begun to develop this year. Unfortunately, I don't have enough triangles for everyone so we would "air triangle" as the instruments got passed around.

As students became comfortable with the triangles on the rhyming words, I added in handchimes to help with our high/low pitches.  My students have working with handchimes in the past as chordal accompaniments in Christmas Carols or train whistle clusters in the spring concert.  We figured out which sound was higher and which sound was lower, then decided which one went first.  The chimes aren't necessarily playing the rhythms, just the steady beat (which happens to alternate sol-mi).  The kindergarteners were surprisingly quick to keep the steady beat and alternate sol-mi.  But even if they played at the wrong time with the chimes, it sounded quite beautiful!  

While students practiced chimes, I started playing the bass xylo open bordun and then hand selected students who I knew were usually successful keeping a steady beat.  Not all students got a turn on the xylo (I don't have the patience for that!) and that wasn't my objective.

Oops!  Did I forget the random ringing of triangles?  We explored the word random and learned that it meant "with no pattern".  I demonstrated random ringing, being sure to demonstrate a lot of SLOW random ringing.  I certainly knew they knew how to randomly ring loud and fast!

So the whole picture was random ringing, song (with triangles on rhyming words and chimes) then random ringing again.    A student asked if we could use the windchimes too so we added that at the beginning and end.

When do we see stars?  Are the loud? Do they twinkle in patterns?  How many stars do you see?  These are all questions that we explored to set the mood.  It wasn't long before a little hand raised and asked if we could turn the lights off.  (I LOVE when students have better ideas than me!)

So obviously, I didn't do this all in one day; it was split up over about 4 classes. Here's a breakdown of what I did each class:

 I was really pleased with the product put out by kindergarteners.  I can't wait to see what a few more years of musiking with these students will create!