Sunday, January 31, 2010

February, the month of love....ah!

Valentine's is fast approaching, so I thought you might enjoy some "love"ly activities for use in your classroom. I hope you find something your students will enjoy.

I use this simple rhyme with kinder and first graders, and alter the game and activity for the students' age and ability. With kinders I often play a counting out type of game with them in which I walk around the outside of a standing circle and I tap students on the shoulder to the beat. The student who is tapped on "you" is eliminated and must leave the circle, choose an unpitched percussion instrument I have set out, and play it during the rest of the game. You may choose to have all students play the beat, all play the rhythm of the chant, or allow them to choose to play either the beat or the rhythm (if I choose this option, then I have 2 types of instruments available, such as hand drums for the beat and rhythm sticks for the rhythm). Play the game until all but one are eliminated if time permits. End with all students practicing the beat and rhythm on their instruments.

On another day in kindergarten, after they know the rhyme and have played the game, we use icons with single hearts, double hearts, and lips to make patterns. The first time I do this, it is a whole class activity in which the chant is said while one child makes a 4 beat pattern on the board, and then the class "reads" the pattern using the word hug for the single heart, kiss-es for the double hearts, and a silent hand kiss (think the motion you make when you blow a kiss) for the lips. We cycle through several different students making patterns for the class to read. On another day for a greater challenge, I give each kindergartener a baggie that has single and double heart  and lip icons and each child is asked to make their own four beat pattern using the icons. We then go around the room and alternate saying the chant and having individual students read us their patterns using "hugs," "kisses," and silent blowing kisses. I can then asses which students are able to correctly create 4 beat patterns and read their patterns. At this point, I have found that a few students still have problems remembering to read from left to right, but because I have done a lot of icon work throughout the year, there aren't too many problems.

In first grade I play a similar elimination game, but at this point in the year, students are generally able to pass an object to the beat with some accuracy if we practice a bit first. If I have a particular class having problems, I will play the beat on a hand drum at first to help them. I just use a squishy, fuzzy pink ball as the object we pass, and eliminated students again play an instrument as the game progresses. You can also use the above kinder activity using icon patterns with first graders as a review. By February, my first graders have learned quarter note, eight notes, and quarter rest, but if yours have not, you can still use this chant. After students have played the game and perhaps mades some 4 beat patterns with the icons, on another day I will have them help me put the icons in the correct order to fit the rhythmic phrases of the song. They then tell me what the icons represent. One heart is ta, two hearts is ti-ti, and the lips are the rest (because cause we do the motion for blowing a kiss but make no noise). Or instead of having the class figure out the rhythms for the song together, you could give pairs of students baggies containing the rhythmic phrases and they have to put them in order to fit the chant themselves, and we check the answers as a class.

A further extension for first grade or older would be to create a rhythmic ostinato using the icons and the words that go with them, "hugs," "kisses," and the silent blown kisses, then have the class perform the chant with the ostinato.

Color and black and white icon visuals of the double heart, single heart, and lip cards can be found in color or black and white on the website linked to the right.

OK. Gotta run. Dinner time.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"My Little Sister Ate One Hare" by Bill Grossman ISBN 0-517-88576-X

I use a lot of children's literature in my music classes, and am regularly spotted in the kids section of our local Half Priced Book store, or Bookman's perusing the shelves for books that can be used not only to teach musical concepts, but books that grab the attention and interest of my students. This book is definitely one of them. It has a mild gross out factor that will appeal to your boys, and has humorous illustrations with details that can easily be missed if you fly through the pages. My students, as a matter of fact, are the ones who began to point out things in the book's illustrations that I, as the adult, had completely missed. Ah, to have the mind of a child again. I decided to use this book for my 3rd graders because of the aforementioned gross out factor my 3rd grade boys would love, and because the activities I envisioned would be difficult for younger children, but it could be used in other grades if you so choose. You will find all of the visuals for the following activities by going to my meyersmusic website which has a link on the right hand side of this page. Ostinati and illustrations for the visuals I came up with and drew myself. My drawings of shrews aren't stellar, but honestly, how often do you have call to draw a shrew during your lifetime?! I'm going to walk you through the sequence of activities I used for this book, as well as give you suggestions on extensions that could be added, or other approaches that could be used.

The first time I introduced this book to my class, we first started with a short book walk-through in which we looked at some of the pictures, discussed what the class noticed of interest, and made predictions about what would happen at the end of the story (I didn't show the last page). Then, we read the book with the class joining in on the repetitive words, "We thought she'd throw up then and there, but she didn't." The reaction you get when we reach the last page is always entertaining.

Another lesson I pulled out the book again and told the class we would be adding instrument parts to the story. I asked them if they could predict what we would do with the instruments. Correctly, they guessed that there would be a different instrument for each creature the sister ate, and that at the end of the book when she really did throw up, all of the instruments would play at one time. It was then that I showed them the visuals with the words of the ostinati I had created for each creature and we chanted them as a class. We then split the class to cover each creature's part and chose instruments, then practiced each ostinato both saying the words and only playing the instruments with no words. Last, we did a final performance of the book with each instrument part playing only when their creature first appears in the story (I gave a "one, two, ready, play" cue each time, and each ostinati was repeated 4 times), and then all ostinati playing at the end of the book together. In one class I had to remind students to play their correct ostinati at the end of the book and not just random noises.

The next class I again put the visuals with the words for the ostinati on the board, but beside them I placed the visuals with the music notation for each ostinati, but I had scrambled the order so the rhythms didn't line up with the correct words. The class said each ostinati and then placed the rhythmic notation for each ostinati beside it. Last, we read each ostinati followed by the rhythm solfa for each to check our answers. My 3rd graders at this time had just learned syncopah, which is why I chose the "Bats in the belfry" ostinato.

Because my purpose in creating this activity was to review specific rhythms (ta, titi, rest, tikatika, syncopah) I decided in this lesson to create the ostinati myself. Another option would be to divide the class into groups and allow them to come up with their own ostinati for each creature, and perhaps to add creative movement for their chosen creature as well.

I hope your students enjoy this book as much as mine did! Have a great week. :-)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Lines and Spaces Rap and Game

In my own classroom, my students begin learning to read and use rhythmic solfege and simple melodic solfege in first grade. They aren't introduced to absolute note names (letter names) until about 3rd grade, when they have mastered at least do pentatonic (d r m  sl), and from then on they learn to read notation flipping back and forth between solfa and letter names.

Here's an idea for helping your older students review the letter names of the notes on the staff. First, teach them the chant below with a pat-clap-pat-clap beat throughout (except the first line in which you clap only on the Xs shown). Of course, show the lines and spaces on the staff to the students. This chant is attributed to Tara Kissane, my wonderful Fine Arts Coordinator, who gave me permission to make use of her chant.

Can Do X X, Can Do X X,
FACE in a space, FACE in a space,
Every Good Boy Does Fine on a line,
Start at the bottom and now you've got 'em.

Once the students can say it independently to the beat, play this simple passing game for repetition and memory of the chant. Have the class sit in a circle on the floor with each student pretending to glue his/her left hand palm up to his/her own left knee. Practice saying, "grab, pass, grab, pass," while making a passing motion (grab out of your own upturned left hand and pass into the upturned left hand of your neighbor to the right). Continue this motion as all say the chant (I usually remove the first phrase while learning the beat passing). Try the motions with one actual beanbag moving around the circle. I often begin every repetition of the chant with saying and doing, "grab, pass, grab, pass, grab, pass, grab pass." All students do the grab pass motions throughout.

Once this is solid and students are successfully staying on the beat, begin the game in which the last child holding the beanbag is out and must sit to the side. For a challenge, if students are able to stay on the beat, I begin to add multiple beanbags into the circle so more students are eliminated each time. Once the number of students is large enough, we also begin playing the game in the 2nd circle, and sometimes even make it to a 3rd circle playing simultaneously. Once the students are able, I add back in the first phrase, which is more difficult because it requires students to do the claps and then immediately glue their left hand back down to begin passing.

If you want to print out visuals for this activity, the chant, the lines and spaces on the staff, and note name flashcards, go to the meyersmusic website in the links at the right hand side of this page.

And it begins...

I have decided to get my feet wet in the world of blogging, but decided that doing a personal blog wasn't something I felt drawn to. It would be hard to find things in my mundane life interesting to others, and what's the point of posting a blog if nobody is interested it following it? Uh...that would be a diary. So I said to myself, "Self, what talents and interests do you have that might be of interest to others?" Well, I love music, I love teaching, and I love being creative, and I get a charge out of sharing my wacky ideas with my own students and with other music teachers, so maybe a blog on classroom ideas is a good idea. Can I generate enough ideas to share with other music teachers to keep them coming back for more? Well, I guess we'll find out. If you find my ideas useful to your teaching, then become a follower of my blog and let me know to keep the ideas coming. Happy teaching!