March 31, 2011

Composition Inspiration: Black Eyed Peas Project - Part 1

Pangea? Passion? Tribe? Poseidon?  Amnesia?  Can you define these terms?  My fourth graders did last week.  Immediately following that we listened to/watched the following video....

What a powerful message!  My students were amazed that we listened to Black Eyed Peas in music class.  And I was amazed at their response to this song.  We had some amazing thought-provoking discussions about peace, unity, and oneness.  Their interpretations of the vocabulary words were impressive - forgetting war and hatred, uniting as one, acting like we live on one continent "Pangea."  It was a truly life-altering experience for us all.

The Birth of the Black Eyed Peas Project....
I chose Black Eyed Peas' "One Tribe" as an inspiration for a composition project with my fourth graders.  Stay tuned to follow our project as it develops and to see our end product!  So far, the Black Eyed Peas Project is turning out way cooler than I expected....
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March 16, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Boomwhackers Activity

If you subscribe to MusicK8, then I know you are as big a fan as I am.  What a great resource for all things music, kindergarten through 8th grade.  My school has subscribed for years; we have volumes 6-18, with a few years skipped here and there.  We no longer subscribe, as the cuts in education funding have limited what we can purchase each year (but that's another story...don't get me started!).
Anyway, Monday I was poking around the St. Patrick's Day songs on when I discovered this little gem - The Little Leprechaun, from Volume 18, No. 4.  What a fun little tune that outlines the legend of the leprechaun.
The best part about this little tune is that it only consists of 3 chords: Dmin, Cmaj, and Fmaj.  This works perfectly for Boomwhackers.  I made up some chord cards to use real quick (I used my wonderful Mr. Sketch markers and some printer paper and it took no time - sometimes the "old fashioned way" is the best!)

For the lesson, we talk about the term chord and define it as "three or more notes played at the same time" (conveniently, this was a vocabulary word for 4th grade this week).  We then explore playing different chords on our Boomwhackers and settle on the three for the song - Dmin, Cmaj, Fmaj.  I go over the chord progression - which I simplified as
Refrain/Verse:  D / / /   C / / / / :||                        Bridge "Can you catch...":  F / / /   C / / / :||
Then we play the chords along with the recording.  We also try singing the lyrics while playing  It's super fun, not to mention working towards standards:   playing with others, singing with others, reading music.

If you don't already subscribe to MusicK8, I highly recommend it.  They also have a partner website, when you can go to purchase and download their songs without a subscription.  Go here to see "The Little Leprechaun" listing.  I recommend this if you are considering a subscription; however, they state that these downloads are only for recreational purposes and that if using in a classroom, you must purchase the rights to the songs through a subscription.  Thanks!!  

One more thing....for more St. Patty's Day ideas, check out Make Me Musical by Susan Seale. Some great ideas going on over there!! 
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March 15, 2011

The Best CD for March Listening

Lake EffectThis is my go-to CD for the month of March.  Liz Carroll, composer and fiddle performer, creates stirring, lovely melodies.  She's American-born, but of Irish parents.  Her music always touches my soul - I discovered her years ago on NPR and since then, my students and I have enjoyed her Lake Effect CD every March.  I am always drawn to Irish music and my dad and I have on many occasions have marveled at the deep connection between our own Appalachian music and these melancholy Irish tunes.  If you ever get a chance, check out the PBS 3-part series, "The Appalachians" - part 1 explores the birth of American Appalachian music and its deeply rooted history in the Irish immigrants of the Applachian mountains.  Truly fascinating and also moving!!

Want to buy Liz's CD? Click here -->  Lake Effect
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March 14, 2011

Shamrockin' Songs

So I ran out of copies of our St. Patrick's Day worksheet I posted about last week; I ran to the copy room only to find the copier broken. Moments of desperation often prove to be chances for innovation. I grabbed some green construction paper and the shamrock die-cut. Taking them back to my 2nd graders, we did the same composition activity on a smaller scale. I feel it may have even turned out better than my original idea; check out how cute it is on my bulletin board. Definitely a keeper idea for next year!!

The bulletin board in the hallway outside my room. Btw...I hate doing bulletin boards so anything I can do to make them easy is what I do - I've had the blue sky and green grass background up all school year ;)

Up close - two shamrockin' songs. Not exactly the most perfect notation or the most creative songs, but it's student work and I love it!!
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The Best Classroom Accessory EVER!

Well, maybe not THE best, but its close!  Remember these?  Mr. Sketch markers.  I was obsessed with these as a kid and now as a music teacher, I have rediscovered how great these markers are.  I used to be a Sharpie junkie, but I have made the switch (still love my Sharpies for doodling and drawing).  But in the classroom, these are the only markers I use and here's why....

  • SMELL YUMMY! - no nasty, chemical smells.  No kids getting "happy" off those "other" permanent markers
  • WATERCOLOR - this means no clothing or hand stains.  They wash off with a little soap and water.  
  • BOLD COLORS - they come in huge range of colors (better than Crayola's colors) and they also have all the colors of our Boomwhackers!!!  So I can easily make charts, notation, and reading cards for our Boomwhackers without having to visit the color printer or find the right color construction paper (more printable Boomwhackers stuff to come...stay tuned!)
  • NO BLEEDING!  - these markers are even better than Crayola because they don't bleed through anything!  Both Sharpies and Crayolas bleed through so if you're making a chart, having kids work on something on the floor, or color coding a piece of music, these are your choice!  
I make so many charts, and visuals using ActivStudio and my Promethean board now; however, nothing beats a handmade visual when it comes to connecting with your students.  Also, I often don't have the time to make a pretty flipchart for everything we're doing.  So colored markers and construction paper are always a go-to for me....they should be for you too!!!

Sanford Mr. Sketch Assorted Scent Markers 12 Pack (20072)
Want to buy some Mr. Sketch smelly markers?!?  I recommend these (click the picture)..... 12 colors, $10.....a classroom investment well worth it!  
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March 11, 2011

Too Sweet Not to Share

This is a letter I received from a third grader yesterday. Sweet gestures like this make my job worth it.... :)

Student Letter (click on it to see it bigger and more clearly)
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March 10, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Composition Activity

With holidays during the year, I try to think of ways to incorporate what we've been studying with the coming holiday.  Next week being St. Patrick's day, we needed some shamrocks and some luck!  My second graders and I have been working with notation in the treble clef and the C major scale (See the Lesson in 3 Parts Here: Part I Part IIPart III).  So it was natural for us to compose a song that we could play on our Boomwhacker® or Orff instruments.

Here's a worksheet we used to compose our own songs.....
Click the picture to right-click/save your own copy of this worksheet!

This is black-and-white so that you can print/copy on GREEN paper for an awesome looking, "Sham-rockin'" Song! (couldn't avoid the pun!)  This will allow your students to compose a 4-measure song.  When we did this today, once a student finished composing, he/she brought me their paper for review; then off to the computer to play the digital Boomwhackers® on  

Want to buy your own set of Boomwhackers?  I recommend this set to start off....

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March 7, 2011

Boomwhackers® Inspiration

So I stumbled across a Music Therapy blog this evening, Rhythm for Good, by a music therapist, Kat Fulton.  She has some amazing Boomwhackers® resources - this is so exciting since we are in the middle of experimenting and exploring our new Boomwhackers®!  She arranged a Lady GaGa tune for Boomwhackers® and it is truly amazing.  Check out her post and her video on YouTube below (the video is her recording with her own custom images...also genius!)

I post this not only because its totally cool, but can I use her idea and arrange some other cool tune for my students?  What tune?  Oh, the you have ideas?  Please share them!  Leave a comment and let me know what you think!  I'm so excited :)
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March 4, 2011

Recorders and Harmony | "Hot Cross Buns"

A Flipchart Page from our study of this tune
My fourth graders started the year with singing harmony through rounds and partner songs. They absolutely loved it and it was a great start to a school year. However, we have not revisited harmony much since then.
This week we are reviewing this truly endearing, mildly annoying tune, "Hot Cross Buns. Although this tune is super simple,  it's simplicity is what enables us to explore more elevated musical themes, namely harmony!
I wrote a little arrangement of "Hot Cross Buns," consisting of 5 parts: sopranino, soprano 1, soprano 2, alto, and tenor, accompanied by a simple Orff ensemble. My school is fortunate enough to own 6 tenor recorders and 5 sopranino recorders for student use. I wash them daily in the school's dishwasher so we can use them in different classes.

Click on the flipchart page above to download a copy of this arrangement plus a lesson plan of how I introduce this piece and the concept of harmony.  I hope you enjoy!  
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March 3, 2011

Rhythm Flashcards

Teaching rhythm to young students is always fun, but can be challenging too!  Follow this link to download a copy a PowerPoint I created to enhance my  presentation, review, and reading of rhythms with my students. In focus with this slideshow are the following rhythms: Quarter Notes, Eighth Notes, and Quarter Rests. All slides are in 4/4 time and each slide is 1 measure in length (4 beats). The teaching and extension possibilities with these slides are limitless: present them digitally or physically (using a projector or on paper), present each slide and have the students echo the rhythm, have the students read each slide after a teacher count-off (12 ready go!), print these slides and arrange them to create a rhythm composition, present 4 slides and have students choose which rhythm the teacher (or another student) read, play the rhythms on rhythm or wind instruments. As you can see, the possibilities are endless....use your creativity and enjoy! 
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March 2, 2011

3 Late-Night Ponderings....Your Input Appreciated!

I have a lot going through my mind tonight. A short post to get my thoughts down...these are things that I hope to explore in future posts. Comments? Ideas? All are greatly appreciated!

1. iPad 2
So the iPad 2....a major change to something that was already so cool. Adding GarageBand as a $5 app makes it a music teacher's dream. The possibilities of how to use this are great. Before I share my ideas, what are yours?

2. Old vs. New?
Does anyone else feel like our current education system is antiquated? I don't feel like we, as educators, are able to meet our learners where they are...can we think out of the box to make learning both more purposeful and engaging? How can we do this?

3. Composition and Creation
I read a blog post this morning by Carol Broos at Be A Techie from the March Music Education Blog Carnival. It got me thinking about allowing student to create and compose. That seems to be a current thread in music ed discussions lately....and for good reason. Our students do not want to be "spoon-fed" information only to regurgitate it later for "the test." In order for real learning to take place, we must allow our students to create, manipulate, and explore our medium, music. A scary thing for many music teachers....why? What can do to face the scary composition monster and tackle the unknown?
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