Sunday, April 11, 2010

A musical challenge, tap your head and rub your belly...

OK, so most of you have probably seen a version of this activity if you have taught in a Kodaly-inspired general music class for any length of time. Still I am always amazed when I present clinics that there are teachers who have never seen activities that I thought were old standards, or that I somehow have put a Liza-esque twist on it that they have never seen. Or perhaps if you have done this activity exactly as I have written it, you will at least enjoy the fancy-schmantz visuals I have included for your use. :-)

Beat/Rhythm Puppets: Students pat the beat or clap the rhythm of a known song following the sign that the teacher shows (or you could have a student leader). Change in easier places, like the ends of a line or phrase with younger students. Change in more difficult places, like in the middle of a line or phrase, or switch more quickly back and forth for older students.

Sing/Think (Inner Hear) Puppets: Students follow the signs to either sing a song phrase out loud, or put it inside their heads and think the words. When the sing sign is shown again, the class must come in singing at the correct spot in the song. Change difficulty based on age and ability as suggested above.

Combining the Beat/Rhythm and Sing/Think Puppets: For an added level of difficulty put the Beat/Rhythm on one hand and the Sing/Think on the other hand. Students must then follow both plates at the same time no matter what combination is showing. For instance, they may have to sing and pat the beat, sing and clap the rhythm, inner hear and pat the beat, inner hear and clap the rhythm, etc.

Words and Solfa(do re mi)/Rhythm Syllables (ta ti-ti) Puppet: With younger students you may want to perform the two cards seperately so that they switch between the words of a known song and the rhythm perhaps on one day. On another day you may have them switch between the words of a known song and the solfa syllables.

After practicing these seperately as you do with the younger students, older students should be capable of doing all 3, switching between the words and either the solfa or rhythm syllables. To do this, you may want to create a seperate set of puppets so that one hand holds a sign that ONLY says words, and the other hand has a sign that has the rhythm syllables on one side and the solfa on the other side. This will save your sanity. But if you want to, you can use the puppets as is, you just have to remember which hand is showing which direction and only show one hand at a time.

EXTREME MUSIC CHALLENGE: To really mess with their minds, combine all of the puppets above for interesting combinations like pat the beat and say the melodic solfa, or clap the rhythm and say the rhythmic solfa, etc. I have done it with adults and children, and it is possible, but you have to think it though.

I usually pick two very smart students to help me challenge the class by being the holders of the puppets. Have student A hold the beat/rhythm puppet on one hand and the sing/think puppet on the other hand. Have student B hold the words puppet on one hand and the rhythm (ta ti-ti)/solfa (do re mi) puppet on the other hand. Then I instruct these students that I will be controlling which hand they are to turn and when by tapping them on the shoulder when I want them to flip the sign that they have in that hand. (student B must also know to put down the words sign when using the rhythm/solfa and vice versa). I then stand behind these two students in order to tap their shoulders more easily. When using all of the cards, you REALLY need to choose a song they know very well, and you need to choose a song that is long or has multiple verses. I have used it with Rocky Mountain, which has 3 verses plus the chorus each time, and it worked out.

That's about as clear as mud, I know. It's so much easier to demonstrate this than to try to clearly put it into words! Experiement on your own and you will find out what works for you. Don't forget to start easier even with older students who haven't done this before and work your way up to the harder challenges. Too many times teachers try an activity, it bombs, and they never do it again because they think it won't work, when in reality the teacher hasn't gone through all of the necessary steps and practice for their students to be successful with a difficult activity. When I find something not working in a lesson, I almost always realize it's my fault one way or another. Instead of scrapping the activity, I go back and find out what I need to do to better prepare the students to succeed.

My kids love challenges and are thrilled when they can pull of something tricky. I hope yours will enjoy these activities, too. Go to the website to download a PDF with all of the visuals for this activity. All you need to do is print each page out on cardstock, cut each pace in half and staple the two halves together all around the top and two sides of the paper. Leave the bottom of the paper unstapled because you can then stick your hand into the "puppet."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

See the Rabbit Running...

Ok. So I figured you might want a bunny song appropriate for older kids, so here goes...My older students love the game that goes with the song, "See the Rabbit Running." Pedagogically I use this song  for low la since it only appears one time at the very end of the song.

Have the students stand in a circle and hold hands. One child (rabbit) stands in the middle. Another child (fox) stands on the outside. As the song is sung the “trees,” or students in the circle, decide if they will open or close their branches at the end of the song. At the end of the song the fox chases the rabbit. They may go around the circle when chasing, or they may cut through the middle of the circle as long as they only duck under arms that are raised. Remind the students in the circle that once the song is over and they choose to put their arms either up or down, they may not change their arms until the reace is over. This will prevent a student from getting clothes-lined by accident. The fox takes over as the rabbit if he catches the rabbit. The rabbit takes over as the fox if he doesn’t get caught. I usually give a 10 second countdown for the chase and no more. The rabbit is considered safe if not caught by the end of this time. After the students know the song well enough to sing the song well independently of the teacher, then the song can be used for low la.

I have a small-ish music room, but all of my furniture is against walls, so we are able to play this chase game without too many problems. If you have no movement space, consider taking your class out into the beautiful spring weather to play the game. Or, I have seen a similar song/game in which the game involved the fox and rabbit having to weave in and out of the windows without skipping any of the windows, and the first one back to their original spot in the circle wins the round of the game. This might be a good alternative if you have little room. Have fun!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Hop, hop, hop...

Spring is here and the weather in Arizona is gorgeous! For those of you that can use holiday-oriented song material in your schools, I thought you might enjoy this song and related activities for your classroom.

Despite this song having the descending sfmrd pattern, the lyrics are obviously most appropriate for younger grades. I use this song with kindergarteners for melodic contour (the first 2 and last 2 measures of the song) and for beat and rhythm with both movement and with icons. In first grade the song can be used for ta, ti-ti, rest rhythms.

To help the students learn the song, I created a few different activities. Students can play a hide and seek game using those brightly colored plastic Easter eggs that can be found at the dollar store on the cheap. Have all students hide their eyes and sing the song (the teacher can sing the first several times until the kids learn the song), and the teacher hides 4 or 5 eggs in the room. When the song is over, have all students open their eyes and search the room for the hidden eggs. The students who find the hidden eggs then get to hide the eggs before the next round of the game. I know this seems like an amazingly simple game, but the kids really love finding hiding places for the eggs.

On another day, have students hop on the beat, but on the rests they wiggle their bunny ears (fingers at head) to show where the rests are. You can also have them practice hopping the rhythm of the words rather than the beat if you would like. You can use the bunny and egg icons to show the rhythm of the song. (ta=single bunny, ti-ti=double bunnies, rest=egg) Go to my meyersmusic website linked at the right to download these icons.

I often pair this song at a later time with first grades with color word chains. Give partners of small groups of students Easter eggs and tell them they must decide the color of eggs the Easter bunny will leave, but that they can only choose 4 colors. Have them put the eggs on the floor in a line in the order they want the words to appear. Have the class sing the song and then have 3 or 4 groups say and clap their color word chain. Have each group figure out what the rhythm of their words would be. For example, red, yellow, purple, blue would be ta, ti-ti,  ti-ti, ta. Pick a color word chain to use as an ostinato against the song.

If older students learned this song when they were younger and you have had them in music for several years, you can bring this song back for fa ascending and descending in 4th and 5th grade. Then you can extend the color word chain activity into a rondo activity would be good for the older students.

Happy Easter, everyone! Now hand me my chocolate bunny. Yum!