October 27, 2014

Halloween Music Class Activities

We are finally in the week of one of my favorite holidays of the year.  I do not know where my love of Halloween came from, but I do know I adore pumpkin spice, glowing jack-o-lantern faces, Reece's peanut butter cups, and fall leaves.  I think since we live in the sultry, humid, sticky South, us Southerns truly welcome everything the accompanies the crisp Fall temps.
In the music room, I find the month of October and specifically the week of Halloween to be the perfect  opportunity for super fun listening activities and spooky games!  Here is a sampling of the ideas and activities we do in October….enjoy!

The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything
This beloved children's story is perfect setting for selecting and performing sound effects to enhance a story.  My littles love this book and they get soooo into adding the instrument sounds.  Click the image below to see the lesson…

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach
This is the perfect listening activity for the week of Halloween.  I also like that this version reinforces the concepts of pitch and rhythm that my students and I have been working on since the beginning of the year.

Recorder Composition in Minor
Exploring minor keys is perfect in October.  Since my older students are playing recorders right now and their first two notes are E and G, playing in E minor is the perfect teaching opportunity!

Five Little Pumpkins on Boomwhackers
One of my favorite activities is my Five Little Pumpkins lessons exploring pitch using Boomwhackers. I have recently given this product an update.  Check it out at my store by clicking the image below. 

What are some of your favorite October and Halloween activities for the music classroom?  Please share below!  I love feedback and I promise, I'll even respond if you leave a comment!!!

Lastly, make sure you visit my TpT store through this Wednesday 10/29 - I'm having a major sale!!  20% off all Halloween and Fall-Themed Products!  

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September 9, 2014

Happy 200th Birthday, Star-Spangled Banner!

This September, our National Anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner" turns 200 years old!!  I've been looking forward to this year for a few years and I am so excited it is here to share with my students.  Every year, we learn about our National Anthem, but this year is particularly special!  
On Sepetember 14, 1814, 200 years ago, Francis Scott Key penned the lyrics to our national anthem, following a pivotal battle in the War of 1812 against the British.  The American forces had held off the attack of the British on the Baltimore Harbor and Fort McHenry.  As the sun rose that morning, Francis Scott Key saw the American flag flying over the Fort after hours of bombardment through the night.  He was so proud to see our flag flying proudly that he was inspired to pen the lyrics to a poem which is now our National Anthem, the "Star-Spangled Banner."
I love sharing this story with my students every year.  It instills such patriotism and pride for our country.  I hope that you will be able to share this rousing story with your students this year as well.  Below are a number of resources to use to teach the "Star-Spangled Banner" in fun, engaging, and dramatic ways for your students.  


The story of the "Star-Spangled Banner" so poignantly told by Pastor Dudley Rutherford.  We always start with this video which sets the mood for talking about the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Video with Lyrics

Denise Gagne has an excellent version of the "Star-Spangled Banner" in sing-a-long format with the lyrics onscreen with beautiful images of America.  Perfect for students to learn the lyrics to the song in an accessible, simple way.  
You can also purchase the video in mp4 format with notation, mp3 versions, and another video from TeachersPayTeachers at the link below

Here's another TpT product that includes everything you would need to put up an awesome SSB bulletin board.  It includes directions for an activity you can do using the bulletin board.  

This is another excellent TpT resource that is worth every penny.  Sara put a lot of work into this presentation and these worksheets - so all the work is done for you.  It includes an excellent PowerPoint (or Keynote Presentation) with tons of wonderful information about the SSB as well as worksheets, word puzzles, and exit tickets.  The work is already done for you!  

Fifty Nifty United States

I know its not the "Star-Spangled Banner," but "Fifty Nifty United States" is a patriotic tune that all kids love and get super excited about.  This is one of my TpT products that is really useful! 

Listening - "Stars and Stripes Forever" 

Your students will love this video of the United States Army Field Band performing John Phillip Sousa's iconic patriotic march.  Perfect to end class!  

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April 24, 2014

Jazz Month and International Jazz Day: Part Three - Jazz Solos on Orff

In my final 2014 International Jazz Day post, I want to share a way to get your students participating in jazz instead of only consuming jazz.  Jazz is truly a participation sport and its only when people start allowing jazz to pulse through them that they start to appreciate and enjoy jazz music.

There is no better way to internalize jazz music than through improvisation.  At the heart beat of jazz, improvisation is the way individuals take ownership of the music and start making it "their own" (sorry for the overly used cliche).  Many people are intimidated by improvisation but with the right tools, improv can be fun and liberating.  Surprisingly, even very young students can be successful improvising!

Improvising on Orff with the Blues Scale

I got a new set of Orff instruments at the beginning of the school year and am absolutely in love!  For Jazz month, I have set up the instruments in the E Blues Scale, which is the key that works best on the Orff instruments.

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Jazz Month and International Jazz Day: Part Two - 12-Bar Blues Progression

Yesterday I posted some resources, including the Chuck Vanderchuck PBSKids website, for teaching Jazz at the elementary level.  Jazz is truly an American art form and although it is a world-wide phenomenon now, it started here in the Southern United States.  I am proud to be an American and as an American music teacher, I owe it to my students to expose them to jazz, as it is the grandfather of most current American music (country, rock and roll, pop, etc.).

Jazz is by nature a participatory art so I like to get my students interacting and making music as much as I can.  One of my favorite ways of getting students to participate in making jazz is playing the 12-Bar Blues progression.

12-Bar Blues

I know that technically the 12-bar blues is from "the blues" but the progression is also used in a lot of jazz tunes as well.  It is a great way to get kids participating in jazz without knowing so much of the music theory required to play good jazz.  You can choose any piece that uses the standard 12-Bar Blues Progression for this (I use "Good Mornin' Blues" or "ABC Blues" from the Silver-Burdett Making Music Textbook Series from the 2nd Grade and Kindergarten books respectively.  I've also used Chuck Berry's "Johnny B Goode" recording)

We start by counting the boxes in the graphic below and discuss that each box represents one "bar" or measure in music.  The black hashes represent the 4 beats in each measure.  Then we discuss roman numerals and what I, IV, and V mean in roman numerals (1, 4, and 5).  We practice saying the chord numbers as we pat the beat for each bar (1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1….4, 4, 4, 4, 1, 1, 1… you get the idea).

Then we discuss that each roman numeral represents a chord in music.  We define chords as 3 or more notes played at the same time and that each chord has different notes in it and each chord sounds unique.  

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