Wednesday, August 27, 2014

First Days of Music Class Using "Animoto"

It's the first week of school. Like many of you I have 10 classes a day and the first class meeting always includes learning rules and routines.  B-O-R-I-N-G! So I needed to find a way to efficiently convey important information in an engaging manner and then not think to yourself "Did I just say this?"
Our tech teacher introduced me to "Animoto". A really cool way to create videos just using graphics, pictures and text with music either you can upload, or use music from the "Animoto" files. 
Sounds complicated?  Not so good and faithful Kodaly teacher.  I am going to enable you by
  • Sharing 3 different exemplars to assist in giving you ideas
  • Sharing a YouTube link on how to create a free  (a favorite word of elementary music teachers) "Animoto" education account.
  • Sharing a YouTube link on how to create your first video.
Video 1 Introduction to Routines and Expectations
Taking the "Boring" out of the dispensation of necessary information.  We are a "7 Habits" School where we use the "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" embedded into our school culture, and so they are universally used by all staff throughout their classroom and lessons as you can see in the second part of this presentation.

Video 2 Introduction to Music Class-Grade 1
Before this school year, music education started in Grade 1.  These kids have never had a music class and did not know even what to expect.  I created this video to help first graders get the "Big Picture" of music class.   In this case, I actually read the text to the kids during the video because most are just beginning to read and the text goes quickly.


Video 3 Getting Kids Fired Up for Lincoln Choir
This video actually improved the participation in getting first year choir members.  Many kids can be intimidated by the unknown and this helps them get an idea of what it means to be in choir.  I even use the PE teacher and a 4th grade teacher who are active musicians and sing in the community.  I follow up by handing out information for choir to go home to parents.  I also post this video and the information on the music classroom blog. (This is last year's video-I am still editing this year's)

Ready to try it?
 Here's the link to set up a free account for educators (everyone else pays a monthly fee)

Video Link for setting up an "Animoto" account

Here's the link to show you how to make your first video!

Video Link Tutorial for Animoto


Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ask Me What I Know

Happy new school year!  This is Jamie, and I, like most of you, are busy getting everything finalized for the start of the new year.

This year, one of my goals is to include and inform parents on the learning that is happening at school. In fact, my entire building is working on this goal. We have changed our open house model to a “Teach the Parents Night,” and we are hoping to show parents not just the end goal of a particular project, but also the learning process that occurs.

The parents at my school are fantastic! They are fully supportive of the arts, and they are active in their children’s education. With that said, however, many of the parents do not have much experience or knowledge about music. They want to know what their child is learning and doing in music class, but they don’t know how or what to ask. Because of this, I have decided to include an “Ask Me” section in each newsletter I send out. This section of the newsletter will have several guided questions for each grade level that the parents can use in asking their children about music class. Here are some examples that I plan to use throughout the year:

(Thanks to Scrappin' Doodles and Creative Clips for the graphics!)

  • Ask me to perform Engine, Engine. Ask me to perform the chant fast and slow. Then, ask me to describe the difference.
  •  Ask me to perform the song, Hey, Betty Martin for you. Ask me to perform it while I tip-toe and use a soft singing voice Ask me to perform it while I march and use a loud singing voice. Ask me to describe the difference.

First Grade:
  • Ask me about our new rhythm, rest. Ask me how many sounds the new rhythm has and how many beats it takes up. Ask me to figure out the rhythm for the song, All Around the Buttercup. Then, ask me to teach you the patting game for the song.
  • Ask me about our new melodic sound la. Ask me if it is higher or lower than so and mi. Ask me to show you the steps and skips for our melodic pitches. Then, ask me to show you the hand signs as I sing Lucy Locket. Finally, ask me to play Lucy’s game with you.

Second Grade:
  • Ask me about our new rhythm, half note. Ask me how many beats it takes up. Ask me to draw a half note for you. Then, ask me to create my own composition using the rhythms I know. Ask me to perform my composition for you. Finally, ask me to teach you how to perform my composition.
  • Ask me about our new low sound do.  Ask me if it is a step or skip away from mi. Ask me to show the melodic sounds do/mi/so/la for the song Apple Tree. Then, ask me to teach the game for Apple Tree to our family.

Third Grade:
  • Ask me about sixteenth notes. Ask me to clap only on the sixteenth notes while I sing Dinah. Then, ask me to replace Dinah’s name in the song with the names of our family members.
  •  Ask me to teach you the notes B, A, and G on recorder. Ask me to play you the song Hot Cross Buns. Then, ask me to create my own song with B, A, and G on recorder.

Fourth Grade:
  • Ask me to write the rhythm of the song Old Betty Larkin. Then, ask me to discover the form of the song. Ask me to explain to you how to identify patterns in music. Then, ask me to teach our family the game for Old Betty Larkin.
  • Ask me to teach you the notes B, A, G, and E on recorder. Ask me to place these notes on a music staff. Ask me how I know the musical letter names for the lines and spaces of the treble clef music staff. Ask me to teach you how to read using the treble clef.

It is my hope that, by following some of these guided questions, the parents can connect with their children while also understanding what is happening in music class. I’d love to know if you have additional ideas for keeping parents active in their child’s music education! Please leave any comments below!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

The First Week Back: Setting the Stage

Hello and welcome back to the new school year!

I just completed the third day of school. In my district we started on Monday and the first week is a full-days-back-to-school-week; we might as well jump into the school year with both feet!

I've been reflecting on the most important things I need to establish during the beginning of the year and I know I'm setting the stage for a positive music experience for the whole school year.

Sing, Move, and Play
Obviously, I want the students to enjoy making music right away. Before we talk about rules or procedures I start each class of the new year with a lively song or dance. The students are reminded of how fun music is and they relax while they are focused on the music.

Here are a few "sure thing" songs and dances I've used this past week:

1st Grade: That's a Mighty Pretty Motion
1st graders get those beat motions going!
2nd Grade: Circle 'Round the Zero
Students can't resist skipping around with the momentum of this song.
This song can be found in Susan Brumfield's First, We Sing! and at the Holy Names Song Collection.

3rd Grade: We Like Spinach
This calls for solos, and the 3rd graders are happy to sing solo because it's short and they get to share their favorite food! Currently I have a competition between my 3rd grade classes to see how many students can sing the response in tune. This song can be found in Jill Trinka's Little Black Bull.

4th Grade: Old House
This is a great low la review for the students. During the next class we'll include a Jenga building game for rhythm review.

5th Grade: The Tailor and the Mouse
5th Graders love to sing the response, "Hi diddle um mum feedle!"

Connect, Bond, and Share
Some students are apprehensive about the coming school year. I need to establish music class as a safe place where they know it's OK to take musical risks.

Children, especially the young ones, need to see their teachers as care givers in addition to educators. I always end the first first grade lesson by singing and playing my dulcimer. I take a moment to look at each student while I perform. What a unique connection we can build with children through music! If you don't already, I urge you to perform for your students and share that side of yourself, children need that experience.

Another powerful way to end a class is to read a musical book to the students, not with the document camera,  but seated in front of the class. John Feierabend's picture book adaptation of The Tailor and the Mouse (mentioned above,) is a very fun to read once they know the song, (and I believe that 5th grade is not too old for an occasional excellent picture book!)

Procedures and Rules: Practice, Practice, Practice!
After three days of repeating the first day of music class with each group of students, ( during which many rules and procedures are covered), I'm eager to get going on music making for 100% of the class time! But then I stop and remind myself of the importance of laying that solid foundation of procedures and routines the students will depend on and grow from. Each year the population of children I teach have demonstrated the increasing importance they place on structure and routine in their school day. Sometimes it seems school is the main place they get to experience the clear structure and routine they need to thrive in music.

Many of the rules and procedure review opportunities come naturally; we need to make a circle to play the game, so we practice transitioning from a line spot to a circle spot. In the coming lessons, I'll be dedicating time each class to reviewing procedures. This doesn't necessarily translate to me talking to them; students can digest the necessary information even better if I involve them creatively.

This week I'm using Aileen Miracle's Scenario Cards from her Rules and Procedures for the Music Classroom set with my older students. The cards give examples of students following or breaking  rules. After splitting students into groups, I give each group two cards: a scenario of a situation where students were following a rule and another where students were breaking a rule. Each group has time to read and discuss their scenarios. Then each group "performs" by acting out their scenario to the class and reporting which class rule the scenario demonstrated, or if their chosen scenario breaks a rule, they share an alternate choice.
With the younger students, I've acted out scenarios to start a class conversation about our rules.
For variety, I'll ask the class to "pair and share."

Another way to practice is to time procedures using a stop watch. For example, I time the class and see if they can transition from our floor staff line spots to lining up at the door in less than a minute. We might practice one procedure three times during a class period to see if we can "beat" our previous time. The novelty of using these different techniques allows the practice of procedures to stay fresh and fun while avoiding tedium. We Kodály-inspired teachers are found of making lists of rhythmic and melodic practice activities, why not have a list of classroom procedures to practice? (Hmmm...)

I hope you are having a productive and happy back to school time at your school! Keep singing, playing, and moving with those lucky students!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Top 8 Back to School Preparations

Hi, this is Karla from CMajorLearning.  I, like most teachers this time of year, am deep in the trenches of back to school work. I have been busy setting up my classroom, putting up bulletin boards, creating song lists, working on concept plans and writing lesson plans. While I've been doing all of this work, I have had this blog post in the back of my mind....what was I going to write about.....So I started thinking about what are the most important things I do before school starts to get my year off to a great start.  Here is my list - in no particular order:

Collaborate with Colleagues and Meet New Staff

While the few days before the students arrive is very busy, I always make sure to find time to talk with fellow teachers in my building.  I don't mean just asking about their summers, but talking about what we can do together to support the learning of our students.  I usually just get a few seeds of ideas but it is enough to start me thinking about ways that I can support them and vice versa.  I also make time to introduce myself to any new teachers in my building.  This is just a great time to say "hello",  let them know who I are and give them a few pointers as to how I would like them to wait outside my room at their music time.  These conversations only take a few minutes but they make a world of difference as we start the school year.   

Think About Big Events or Field Trips

While I am not making any decisions about programs or events in my building, I am thinking about what I want to have happen and when.  At Indian Trail Elementary, I get the privilege of taking all the 2nd graders (around 250 students) to see The Nutcracker Ballet at the amazing Ohio Theater in downtown Columbus, OH.  This is a HUGE undertaking but worth every single minute.   I've already gotten permission from my principal, filled out the field trip paperwork and let my teachers know the date of the field trip.  Having this information out there now, lets folks know that things are in the works and that more information will be coming.   Years ago, I didn't really communicate anything about doing something like this until it was 4-6 weeks into the school year, but several years ago I changed and started getting the word out earlier and to be honest, it has made a big difference - I'm not exactly sure why but things seem to go smoother since I started putting the information out their earlier.

Class Lists

These lists are so important for many reasons.  It is important to get your hands on the lists as soon as you can.  Looking them over gives you the opportunity to spot potential problems before the students walk into your classroom.  I also like to fontasticate (yes I made this word up - it means to use a cool font and not just TimesNewRoman) my lists as well as build my star student files.  You can see more about how I do star students by reading this blog post.  Also, once the students have been to class, do take the time to note who is there, who is not and if anyone has nicknames they like to be called.  It is a great deal of information to manage (I have 32 homerooms grade K-2) but I believe that it makes the students feel like you care more about them by making sure that you have the correct name etc.


This is probably my favorite thing to do at the start of the school year but the thing I get to last.  Why?  Well for me I have to get my room physically ready (read more below) before I can sit down and write out long and short term plans, song lists, concept plans, and finally daily lesson plans.  I will admit that I do not write the traditional year plans as I was taught in my levels classes, but I do have a system that works for me, it just looks different than most peoples year plans!  Once I have this worked out, I plug in as many known things (field trips, programs, assemblies, school projects etc) that I can.  I then consult my song list and concept plans (that I do not rewrite every year, but rather add to, take out or clean up each year).  Then, finally I get to write out the plans for the first music class of the year.  Again, I do not write out a month worth of plans - my brain just doesn't work that way.  I really need to see the classes at least once before I can get a true sense of how I can move through the curriculum this year.

Lesson Plans for the 1st class of the Year

I'm sure that many of you have your tried and true plan for the first day of class....I do too, but this year I'm going to try some different things on the first day.  Why?  Well, to be honest, I was kind of bored with what I had been doing (not because it was bad but because I have been doing it for a long time) and decided that if I wasn't excited about the activities then the students wouldn't be either.  I'm going to start off with a name game for each grade level and then go to a movement activity, teach a new song and end with a favorite from last year.  All throughout the lesson I will be inserting my classroom rules, procedures, expectations and consequences.  I hated nothing more than when I was a student to sit through a long lecture on what I was expected to do so I do not introduce this to my students in that format.  Also, one of the joys of seeing the students every year is that my 1st and 2nd graders know me and pretty much know what is expected.  It is a great opportunity to teach the new students by the examples of former students.  

Classroom Layout and Bulletin Boards

My classroom can only be set up in a couple of different ways and fortunately for me, I think I've got the layout set up the best way possible.  Having that done, I can move on to my bulletin boards and decorations.  I have spent countless hours working on these bulletin boards because I typically do not put up new ones throughout the year.  I want the decorations to be colorful, inviting and purposeful.  This year I went with a mustache theme and you can see pictures of my classroom at CMajorLearning later this week when I link up with Aileen Miracle at MrsMiraclesMusicRoom for her "My Music Room Set Up" linky party.

Class Expectations

My classroom expectations and consequences are pretty simple. 
1.  Enter the room quietly and make a circle (I do not use assigned seats or spots)
2.  Make good choices
3.  Raise your hand to speak
4.  Treat the classroom and instruments respectfully
5.  Have fun!

We have a school wide discipline system in place through a program called "Project Achieve".  One part of the program is the use of common language by the teachers with a matrix of rewards and consequences.  With this in place and used by everyone, I spend very little time discussing it because the students already know what will happen!  This has been a HUGE change in the school climate and culture because everyone (students, teachers, administration, custodians, secretaries and parents) knows the routine!

Purchase New Books

I LOVE this part of back to school!  I have a very small budget so I have to really pick and choose what I want/need.  This year, I am super excited to use several new to me picture books.  I purchased "Rissaldy Rassaldy", "There's A Hole in the Bucket" and "The Derby Ram".  I have sevearl of the others so my collection is almost complete!!! I can't wait to use these with my students and I think it is fantastic that there is a download of the song for FREE.  Click the picture to check out all the titles at West Music.   

I hope that all of you have a great start to the school year and would love to hear what you find to be the most important part of your preparations!!

Balloon graphics created by Zip-a-Dee Doo-Day Designs

Thursday, August 14, 2014

It's the First Day of School, Now What?

Greeting from Colorado!  This is Amy from Music a la Abbott and I, like many of you, are gearing up to go back to school.  This means readying your room,  creating your specials and/or daily school schedule (for the lucky ones like me), getting class lists, writing yearly plans, monthly plans and the sometimes daunting first day lesson plan.

For me, the first day lesson plan is one of the most important days of music of the entire year, if not the most important.  It's with this lesson that you will set the tone and expectations for the entire year.  A little side story related to the first day plan: my son was an August baby.  An August baby that was due on the 16th, the first day for teachers to report to school.  Because of this I did not start the school year that year.  I think it would be safe to say that that year compared to my first year, if not was harder than my first year.  Being new to writing long plans I was oblivious to the fact that I need to let my sub know ALL my procedures and for the rest of the year, October-May, I was dealing with the same behavior and routine problems.  So, having lived that I can attest to the importance of the first few music classes of the year!

That being said, I do NOT go over all my expectations on the first day of class.  Let me walk you through a stand first day lesson in my class.

I always meet the classes in the hallway outside my room.  Always.  There are no exceptions to this except when we are preparing for concerts and I am meeting with 3-5 classes in the gym.  The students always start by following me into the music room, in follow the leader progression.  I give them this direction in the hallway on the first day: follow me, do what I'm doing and if you know the song I'm singing please join in.  If it's a new song, listen for patterns and join me in singing when you're ready.  This is the only day that I actually sing with my kids.   After this lesson I give them the direction that if they know the song they should take over the singing once we're in the room and if they don't know the song listen for patterns or specific about the songs because I'll have some questions for them.  What I want to do is have the music making start immediately once they're cross the threshold to my room so they know that this, music making, is the first and most important thing in my room.

The first day I choose songs which are active, standing up and moving songs.  My standard first day song for 4th and 5th grades is "Going to Kentucky":

It's played in a circle, which is perfect since that's the way I led them into the music room.  We walk and do the actions while I sing it a couple times. (walk the first phrase.  Shake on the shake it part and pretend to drink on the milk shake part.   On "round da doo bop" they spin in place, on one foot then stomp on "one, two."  At this point on "turn around. . . . until you make a stop" I spin my finger, like I'm stirring something with it.  Then after about the 3rd time I ask for a volunteer to go in the middle and I make it a "big deal" that's it's really hard but I say this with a really silly look on my face so they know that it's not. Once there's a volunteer I tell them all they have to do is on the "turn around. . . .. until you make a stop" is cover their eyes, put out their arm with their pointer finger pointing and spin until the word stop.    They person that they point at is the next in the middle.

Now this is a more "daring" activity for the VERY first activity of the year.  Why?  First you're asking 4th and 5th graders to do something individually in front of their peers.  Peers, no mind you, that they either just met or have only had a couple days with.  But in all the years I've been doing it there's always been a volunteer to start the singing game.  Here's the other piece: after the one student volunteers and I tell him or her their job I assure the rest of the class that if they are landed on today they do not have to take the turn in the middle if they do not want to.  I'm planning this and building this purposefully into my lesson to establish trust.  With this activity I'm letting them know that it's okay for them to tell me their boundaries of comfort with activities and in turn, they see that I respect and acknowledge their boundaries.  This immediately starts to lay a foundation of trust.  We all know that as students (especially our boys) as they get into 4th and 5th grade can become more hesitant singers.  The more they trust you the more they will perform for you.  We also do a real quick 1-2 question session of appropriate behaviors during this.  Ie. is it okay to laugh or point at the person in the middle?  Is it okay to make a mistake? Again, setting up the foundations for trust.

With my younger grades we'll do some traditional hello songs.  With 1-3 grades I usually do a mixer.  With 2nd and 3rd songs that have partners that change like "Good Morning" by Jim Ryan or "Bonjour Mes Amis".  With first grade I don't do the changing partner songs because not all of them had kindergarten music so they wouldn't all be successful with it. 

With my kinders when I greet them in the hallway I tell them that we're going to play follow the leader. This is the only grade level that will come into the room not singing. They need to know how to follow me into the room, and find that circle before I can ever expect to have them sing and do it.

Now, I'll be honest, I do not go over any drills (fire, tornado, lock down) on the first class.  Again, I want to lay the underlying tone that music is the most important thing in this room.  I spread these out and go over them over the course of the next two-three lessons.  I then build these drills into one of the concentration portions of my lesson.  (I'll be blogging about my lesson format on my Music a la Abbott in the next few weeks).

The rest of the lesson consists of an echo song (the whole class echoing), vocal exploration, another song.  With the older classes (second-fifth grades) we'll then do some rhythmic review and then we'll play some more singing games.  With all the grades I'll work in some type of instrument activity.  I want them all to sing and play an instrument the first day of music.

Now, you're probably thinking to yourself, "what about going over rules?", "what about your seating chart", "what about routines?"  The one goal of this lesson, besides some rhythmic review for the older kiddos is setting the tone for music and letting the students know that music making and active participation is the most important thing in music class.  

Throughout all these activities I'm going to be asking 1-2 questions about expected behavior before we starting playing instruments, a singing game or doing an activity.  These questions are specific to the behavior that I'm wanting and looking to see demonstrated in music class.  And I'll be honest, my questions are focused on expected vs. unexpected behavior.  "What would happen if. .. . " "Would it be okay to. . .. " "How do you think we should. . .. . " type of questions.  This way I'm not spending 5 minutes talking to them about behavior but instead it's organically built into the lessons.  And it's more communal and joyful for them and for me.

Regarfing a seating chart, I don't use one in a circle.  I do quickly remind them (as I've had most of them before) and inform the new students that when it comes to sitting in a circle how they come into the music room is how they'll sit on the floor.  If that means they're next to their best friends that's okay with me.  However, if where they're sitting is a distraction to class after one warning they'll be moved.  I know a lot of people believe in seating charts in the circle but I really want that community and to be honest, the way it's set up, it's not been a problem.  They will eventually have a seating chart on the risers, but I usually don't assign those until the 3rd week of school.  This allows for any shifting between classes, new students, etc. to simmer down.  Once I have that seating chart we do practice how to go to the risers, how to come off the risers and how their riser seats can be moved to the floor (so that I have "row" seating on the carpet area).

My routines are established gradually. It's like all things I teach, I scaffold it.  If I spent the whole first lesson on routines, rituals and rules they wouldn't be too excited to come back.  I want them to go home with songs to sing to their parents and with an eagerness to come back to music.

I'm sure I do things much differently then many of you and the beauty is that there is not right or wrong first day lesson! I just thought I'd share a typical first day lesson for me. As I've got back to school brain I hope that it all makes sense! I'd love to hear some of your strategies and successes with your first days!!!

Happy School!!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Beginning of the Year Brochure

Hi everyone! It's Aileen from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room. Tomorrow, I start school. I've written my song lists, year plans, and lesson plans. I've set up most of my classroom (which you can see here.) I've imported most of my class lists. Now, it's time to work on my beginning of the year brochure!

I first began creating a music program brochure five years ago, when the school I teach at first opened, to inform the parents and students all coming to this new school about the music program, and about me. It also gives me an opportunity to explain a bit about the Kodaly philosophy. During Open House, I make sure I have several brochures folded and ready, so that when parents walk into my room and ask questions, I can answer their questions but also hand them a brochure!

Here is a picture of the brochure, folded up.

On the front panel is the name of my school, my name, the school years, and any other pertinent information.

On the inside of the brochure, I give some information about me, as well as information about any music travelers at my school. Here, I also am able to give some information about the Kodaly philosophy, as well as important concert dates.

On the back of the brochure, I have general information about the music program (how often students receive music instruction, when they receive band, strings, and choir instruction, etc.)

If you're thinking you might want to create your own brochure, the link below is an editable template in which you can edit and add your own information!

I hope you are able to use the template, and that it gives parents at your school a greater understanding of you as a teacher, of the music program at your school, and of the Kodaly philosophy!

What do you do to inform your parents about Kodaly-inspired teaching? Feel free to comment below, and have a great week!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inner Hearing Games

Hello this is Lindsay Jervis from Pursuit of Joyfulness. I hope you are all enjoying your summer. I have exactly two weeks before I am back in my classroom. Where did summer go?!? I still have so much to do!

Today's Topic: Inner Hearing

What is inner hearing? Inner hearing is the ability to hear the music inside our heads without the aid of an outside sound source.

Why is it important?
Kodaly believed that inner hearing was a vital part of developing the musical literacy of students.

How do we help our students get there? PLAY! Inner hearing games are a great way to assess if you students are thinking the music inside their heads even when they don't hear it.

Here are a few to try:

1) Sing a word inside your head:

After students know a song really well, you can chose a word (or words) for students to sing inside their heads.

I've heard this song sung more than one way, so I know there are variants on it, but for whatever version you use, you can have students put a word inside their head and substitute it for an action. OR do it it opposite and give them a few words that they can sing such as "chestnut" and "tree". 

2) Hand puppets

Meet Shelly:

Shelly the snail is a staple puppet in my classroom. Possibly one of the most beloved puppets I own. She is really shy and hides in her snail on the first day I present her to the kids. They sing to get her out of her shell and she can only hear when we use our singing voices. 

When I am working on inner hearing with my kids, I use her with the song "Snail Snail". When Shelly is out of her snail they sing, when she is inside the shell, they sing the words inside their heads.

I also use pop up puppets like this:
Pop Up Clown Puppet
When the puppet is down we do not sing: Pop Up Clown Puppet
And when we can see him then we sing: Pop Up Clown Puppet

3) Signs

I created some really cute signs that I am going to use to get my students to quickly switch from singing to inner hear (or solfa to text or patting the steady beat to reading and clapping the rhythms).
They print out in color or black and white two to a sheet. Fold down the middle and glue along the top and side. Leave the bottom open and you can either stick your hand up in the bottom to hold it, have your kids be the "conductors", or tape a painter's stick inside the bottom and have a hand held stick. If you want them Separated, you can cut the page down the middle and make each one it's own sign, but I really like wearing it on my hand and being able to flip it quickly. You can grab these for FREE here.

Join in the collaboration: What are your favorite activities for inner hearing? Comment below!