Sunday, March 15, 2015

OAKE 2015 - Saturday at a Glance

Greetings everyone, this is Karla from CMajorLearning!  I am super excited to be sharing part II of the OAKE conference 2015 - day at a glance.  I cannot tell you how excited I am to be attending this conference!  I have been involved in the planning from the start and am very proud of the work that the conference committee, led by the amazing Aileen Miralce, has done!

I want to point out a few things that are BACK to the conference line up as well as a couple of new offerings!  First, OAKE has brought back the Sunday morning sessions to the line up!  We hope that you can catch these sessions Sunday morning before returning home.  Also - super excited to see that there is a morning sing happening each day!  Get your mind, body, soul AND voice ready for the day by starting each day at 7:45 singing together - Friday morning led by Sandra Mathias; Saturday morning led by Leigh Ann Garner; and Sunday morning led by Kelly Foster-Griffin.  Can't wait for this!!

Now, on to the sessions!  As usual, there are just too many great things happening!  I'm sure that ALL the sessions will be wonderful, but here is how I'm planning to spend my day with sessions that appeal to me and my teaching situation!

I believe that I'm going to start my day with Manju Durairaj and her "iTeachMusic:  InterActive Technology in the Kodály Classroom".  Can't wait to learn from this awesome presenter - I know it will be a great start to my Saturday! 

Next, at 10:45, I very proud to be a member of the panel for the session "Gathering Data: Writing and Implementing Student Learning Objectives".  I know that all will gain insight and knowledge at this session learning from some amazing colleagues of mine - Aileen Miracle, Lenny Davis, Michael McBride and Sarah Oyler.  Join us for lively discussion regarding this very important topic of gathering and tracking student data.

Here is where I start to stress - which of the following sessions should I attend?  I know both will be amazing!  Joan Litman (my inspiring level III teacher from The Kodály Institute at Capital) presenting "Passport!  A New Journey in Global Singing Games and Cultural Simulation" OR Sue Leihthold-Bowock presenting "Classroom Blogging for Student Success"….what to do, what to do!?!?!?!

The hard decision making continues with sessions offered during the 3pm time slot…..Donna Gallo and Caitlin Lucci will be presenting another technology session, "Covering" on iPads:  Alternative Routes to Music Making" OR Donna Menhart's session titled "Fun and Games in the Kodály Classroom".  Right now, I cannot make this decision - will I have to flip a coin?  It is so hard to decide!

Of course, the conference would not be complete with out attending the National Conference Choirs Concert at 7pm Saturday evening.  An amazing experiences for ALL - students, parents, conference attendees, directors!  I'm sure this year will be no exception!

And, if you know me at, you will know I am looking forward to the attending the Presidents Reception following the concert.  This is just a wonderful opportunity to visit with friends, both old and new.  I always find the conversation lively and the camaraderie irreplaceable!

I hope that many of you are able to attend the conference - if you are there PLEASE come up and introduce yourself and say hello!  I am really looking forward to meeting new friends and reconnecting with old!  See you soon!

Thursday, March 12, 2015

OAKE Conference 2015: Friday at a Glance

Hi there everyone!  This is Amy from Music a la Abbott.  I can't tell you how giddy I am right now!!!  All you Kodály educators out there know that the OAKE conference is next week in Minneapolis and I'M GOING!!!  I haven't been to a conference since OAKE was in Denver, sad, I know!  Between having two babies and opening a new school life just didn't lend itself to me attending but this year I knew I just had to go!

Today I'm going to highlight a few session on Friday that I'm super excited about and then later this weekend Karla Cherwinski will be highlighting some Saturday sessions.

To start the day, I'm pretty sure I'm going to attend Kathy Kuddes' and Julie Scott's Orff and Kodály session.  I'm familiar with Kathy Kuddes but have never seen her present so I'm excited about that.  But there are some other amazing sessions going on at the same time that are making this a hard decision, including a session by LeighAnn Garner and Angela Broeker.  If you've ever seen Leigh Ann present you know that she's FABULOUS.

The second session that I'm going to is Lennie Davis's iPad in the Kodály -inspired Classroom.  In talking with Aileen Miracle over the course of the past few years I've come to see that iPad can hold a valuable role in the music room.  I actually now have 11 in my room, but I'm sorry to report I haven't used them yet.  I'm hoping this will jump start and motivate me to buy some apps and start using them.  There are a couple other sessions going on at the same tie that I know are going to be fabulous.  Of course, Sue Bowcock is stellar and I would love to see her session and Sanna Longden is so much fun.  Oh OAKE, why do you provide me with such hard choices?!!!  The other one that I would like to see if Laurne Bain.  I've not heard of her, she's presenting a session on kindergarten music.  I feel like I need some inspiration, but I think the iPads are going to trump that.

I am completely torn with the session that I'll attend after lunch.  I would love to see Ann Eisen present, I had her for level 3 at Colorado State University but I'd also like to see Nyssa Brown and Andrew Ellingsen present on 21st Century Skills and the National Standards.  I just know this would be so practical for my curriculum mapping.  However, Georgia Newlin is also presenting a session on teaching a choral octavo.... hmm... what to do?

There are even more sessions after these that I'm torn about.  Pamela Stover is presenting on international counting chants, rhymes, books and songs and that looks interesting, but Leigh Ann and Angela are presenting again.....  There's also a session by BethAnn Hepburn on differentiated instruction and I'm sure there will be a lot of great ideas presents.  At the same time as all these is a session by Andrew Paney on improving melodic dictation.  Andrew took a level of Kodály the same time I was at PSU with Susan Brumfield, it'd be such fun to present!

Of course there's going to be an amazing noon time concert and evening concert.... and then of course catching up with Kodály friends from across the nation!  I can't wait, I don't know how much I'll sleep these three days! :)

If you're attending the conference I hope to see you!  Come up and say hi!

Monday, March 9, 2015

Dancing! The Antidote for TMT (Too Much Testing!)

This is Tanya from Teaching Music: Tanya's Kodály Aspiring Blog.
Well, it's that time of year again! What, daylight saving time? Yes, but even more unsettling, it's testing time! (I find it very interesting that we know that daylight saving time negatively affects our physical and mental health and this is when we are undergoing high-stakes testing!)

My motto for curing the fatigue of TMT (too much testing,) is to move. The more they test, the more we dance! Those bodies have been parked at desks for ninety minutes at a time in front of a screen; the release that moving provides is exactly what they need.
Here are some resources and tips when teaching dance.


New England Dancing Masters (aka The Amidons)

These materials are a must have for any music teacher. All of their books/CDs are worth owning and using but if you are new to these materials I recommend Chimes of Dunkirk to begin with; it contains many accessible dances for primary and intermediate grade levels. Rise Sally Rise (formally known as Jump Jim Joe), Down in the Valley, and I'm Growing Up contain more singing games and play parties then dances to instrumental music. They also have DVDs!

My students' favorites:
Sashay the Donut - Sashay the Donut
The Vowell Dance - Listen to the Mocking Bird (Great for teaching grand right and left!)
Chimes of Dunkirk - Chimes of Dunkirk
Alabama Gal - Chimes of Dunkirk
Les Saluts - Listen to the Mocking Bird

Here is Grand March from Sashay the Donut

Sanna Longden
Sanna's resources are wonderful, especially for multi-cultural dances. She really stresses the folk traditions in the ethnic dances and the recorded music she includes in the CDs is authentic. Always go with the most authentic recording you can find! Why introduce kids to a dance with the "muzak" instrumental version of the South African song Pata Pata when you can expose them to Miriam Makeba's international hit recording of the same song? If you ever have the opportunity to participate in a workshop or session of Sanna's you really must see her in action! (If you attend the OAKE convention in Minneapolis in just a couple of weeks you can see Sanna on Friday, March 20 at 1:30pm.)

My students' favorites:
Yesh Lanu Taish - CD #1
Sasha - CD #1 1/2
Pata Pata - Dances of the 7 Continents (#4 Blue and White)
La Raspa - CD #2

Rhythmically Moving

The Rhythmically Moving series from Phyllis Weikhart is a set of nine CDs and books and have been released in a couple of different versions. (My CDs are the blue covers with the big red numbers and my school has the vynil records) These are your bread and butter dance collections and are a staple of most music rooms. The dances are sequenced very well with CDs 1 and 2 for beginners and through CD 9 which includes opportunities to challenge experienced dancers. The written dance directions can take a little more patience to read through and make sense of but the gems in these collections are worth the extra effort.

My students' favorites:
Sliding - RM 1
Fjaskern - RM 2
Little Shoemaker - RM 3
Ersko Kolo - RM 4 

Stamp or mark R or L hands
I have been know to stamp the right hands of students up into 6th grade as they walk into the music room. Yes, 11 year olds absolutely should know their right from their left but why not give them a fail safe? I know other teachers who prefer to hand out hair scrunchies for children to wear on their right wrists. I know that would be more of a distraction for the students I teach so I stick with the hand stamp. Did you know ink stamps come in scents now? (This is why half of my 3rd grades are walking around with blue blueberry scented noses.)

Scaffold steps but play the music often!

It's a good idea to break down and teach sections of a dance before doing the entire dance with the recorded music. Make sure they get to hear some of the music along the way. For example, after they learn to right swing their partner for four beats and then left swing back to their original spots, let them try it with the music, (it's helpful to have a remote!) I've been known to sing dance directions to the instrumental melody of the music. Some of my students pick up on this and are able to attach the steps to the melodic phrases quickly.

Also be aware that the dance formation may affect how you introduce the steps. When I teach any dance that is in a longways set I try to teach as much of the dance as possible while they are still in their assigned spots (my students have assigned spots on a large velcro floor staff and sit in lines E G B D and F.) As soon as kids are standing in a longways set it becomes challenging for them to listen and focus. (I've noticed this lack of attention even among adult music teachers during workshops!)
Dances that begin in a single or double circle don't pose as much of a listening problem, so I often start the students in the circle formation.

Don't hesitate to modify!
One of my favorite beat activities is the single circle dance Sliding from Rhythmically Moving 1. However, the dance directions include students turning and walking backwards in the circle which is just too much for my first graders in August. I simply modify the steps, (we continue going forward), as needed. No harm, no foul, and the first graders are able to move to the steady beat without falling all over themselves.

Mentally Rehearse
Do you remember the book The Inner Game of Tennis, (which led to several other books including The Inner Game of Music)? The main idea is that anyone can gain confidence and mental focus by practicing their craft mentally and going through the motions by imagining themselves in action. The second lesson after I have taught a new dance begins with the class listening to the music and thinking through the steps. We'll often add "finger dancing" to our mental practice; holding up two fingers to represent two dancing partners.

Repeat at will!
"Can we do it again?!!" When you hear that, you know they're hooked! My answer is "YES!" unless the class is out of time. You know the music education benefits of having your students dance, (form, steady beat, phrase, etc.), but seeing that they love it is the pot of gold! Repeat the joy and let your students revel in dancing just because it's fun!


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kindergarten Song Repertoire: Yikes!

Hi folks!  Christopher here.

Back in September, a parent walked into my classroom at the beginning of the day to tell me how much her child loved music class.  She gushed with enthusiasm, telling me that her daughter came home singing all the time.  It’s always nice to get a compliment, and I thanked her, and smiled.  But inwardly, I thought: “Oh no!  She thinks that this is what music is all about!”

Because for the past 18 years, I have always started each kindergarten class during September with the same song that I picked up somewhere along the way:

Now, I realize that there are no absolutes when it comes to musical preference, but to me – well, that’s just a stupid, stupid song.  And I’ve been teaching it for over a decade.  Literally, it’s the first song that the students ever hear when they step foot into my music classroom, as scared five-year-olds who don’t really know what’s going on. 

Which of course means that this is the song that the students take home, and sing to their parents.  So not only was it the kids’ introduction to what the content of the music class, it was the parents’ introduction as well.  Nothing like setting the bar low, I guess.

The reality is that I’ve always struggled to find repertoire for kindergarten that is (1) age-appropriate and engaging to the students; and (2) musically interesting enough that I would find myself singing it at the end of the day -- even when there were no kindergartners around.  It’s so good to see you, I could hardly wait?"  If I ever caught myself singing that one outside of the normal class period, I would smack myself upside the head.

That parent interaction in the beginning of the year made me put my foot down with myself: 


I’ve always tried to hold myself to that rule, but in kindergarten, it’s been a challenge for me.   The range that they can sing is limited; their focus is limited; the range of skill among kindergartners is all over the place, just due to differing rates of development; and in my context, many of the movement games that are so great for lower elementary lead to management issues for the kindergartners.

Everything that follows comes from folk traditions.  I believe that there are people out there that can write good original music for children.  I also believe that I’m not one of those people - composition is just not my strength.  And, to me, a lot of the composed pieces for the youngest children cross the line into cheesiness.  This is not to say that I never do anything other than folk music – I mean, my last post was about Taylor Swift.  But, generally speaking, when you have a folk song that has stood the test of time, it has done so because there’s something indescribable about it that just makes it a good song; if it wasn’t good, people would have stopped singing it.

In particular, I sought good songs for opening a class period.  In Grades 1-5, I typically start with some sort of non-competitive singing game, because it often seems to help them get the wiggles out, and then they can sit down and focus on more intellectually complex tasks.  For my kindergartners, movement activities get them riled up, and they are best saved for later in the class period.  So I'm in need of songs that would be fun to sing, and help them center themselves to start the class.

Here are some of my finds from the year:


Source: Seeger, R. C. (1948/1975).  American folk songs for children.  New York: Doubleday.  p. 66.

Sound source: Adults singing the tune in parts:

On my search for good music, I turned to the classic: Ruth Crawford Seeger’s American Folk Songs for Children. This is one of the best books out there for children’s folk music from the United States – every time I return to it, I find some new gem.  This is one of those songs.

This particular song is actually from the Bahamas.  I like it because:
  • The tune is catchy, with syncopation that propels the melody forward.
  • The text is about the wind blowing “sunshine” right down to town.  At the beginning, the kids brainstorm other types of things that might be blown by the wind.  The students came up with ideas including leaves, branches, trash can lids, a cat (“Really?” I asked, envisioning a cat being impaled on a wayward branch.  “Oh, yes,” the child assured me, “I’ve seen it.”  Kindergartners: There you go.)
  • Cultural context: This song is from the Bahamas, and the text evolved out of a hurricane that swept through the region.  The “Sunshine” in the first line was actually the name of a boat.  I live in Seattle, so the children visualize a passenger ferry being plopped down in the middle of Second Avenue.  On future days, then, they brainstorm other kinds of boats that might be blown about in a storm.
  • Although the range is a little large, the majority of the notes fall within the range of a major sixth.  With the students this year, I have also dropped the words "Oh the" on the refrain, because it's too low. 
There’s a great field recording made by Alan Lomax and Mary Elizabeth Barnicle which you can stream for free on the Lomax website.  You can also purchase the CD (or mp3 recordings) Deep River of Song: Bahamas 1935: Ring Games and Round Dances. 


Source: Seeger, P. (1955/1998).  Birds, beasts, bugs, & fishes, little and big: Animal folk songs.  Folkways album 45039.  Transcribed C. Roberts, Feb, 16, 2015.

Earlier source: Seeger, R. C. (1948).  American folk songs for children.  New York: Doubleday.  p. 119.

I’ve known this song for a long time, actually, introduced to it by Pete Seeger’s fabulous album, Birds, Beasts, Bugs, and Little Fishes, Little and Big.  This album was one of the staples for my family in long car trips, and I’d always loved the song.  But I hadn’t done it with students.  It’s great for the following reasons:
  • Great text, kid-appropriate, with lots of opportunities for creativity.  What’s a different kind of bird we would sing about?  What do you think molasses candy is?  Who has ever eaten a sugar lump?  What other candy should we sing about?
  • Small range: Most of the notes fall between do and so, with “la” as an upper neighbor.
  • The meter changes between duple and triple, within the phrase.  So cool!  Most children’s songs are straight up 2/4 or 6/8, so this provides some metrical variety.  Note, by the way, that in other versions, the words "fly through" are in one 2/4 measure, followed by "my window" in 3/4.  I always heard the accent on the "win-" of "window," so I've notated it that way.

Source: Seeger, R. C. (1953/2013). American folk songs for Christmas.  New York: Doubleday.  p. 55.

V. 2: Hail you! And where are you bound for?  Hallelujah!
         Oh, I’m bound for the land of Canaan, Hallelujah!

No, I didn’t choose this song because the Mariners are our hometown baseball team, but it didn’t hurt.  I found this when I was looking for a Christmas song to sing for my school’s Christmas concert.  (I teach in a Catholic school.) But  I think that the song is completely editable, if you need to use it in a non-religious setting. 

This comes from another Ruth Crawford Seeger book, American Folk Songs for Christmas.  I just bought the book this year.  I think it will be one I will mine for years to come, as I look for seasonal repertoire.  I own the recording of the same title, made by three of Seeger’s children, which is also fantastic.

Why I like it:
  • It’s only in a range of a fifth, and it’s interesting!  There’s something about the combination of text and melody that lends the performances a naturally pulsive quality.  The kids loved singing it.  (The trick is to ensure that they don’t yell – often a challenge with young children with songs they love.)
  •  There aren’t many verses of this, so the kids made them up.  Because I’m in a Catholic school, it allowed the students to talk about what they already knew about the birth of Jesus, and sing about it in their words.  My two favorite verses that the kids wrote:
    • Jesus wasn’t born in a hospital, Alleluia!
    •  Joseph and Mary didn’t have much money, Alleluia!

Source: Seeger, R. C. (1948/1975).  American folk songs for children.  New York: Doubleday.  p. 136.

I know that this is one of those songs that many people do, but to me, it's brand new!  Although I learned it years ago, it never grabbed me.  This year, I decided to give it a go, and it's one of those songs that kind of gets into your skin.  It’s another short song with a small range – but the rhythmic complexity makes it fun to sing.  Other benefits:
  • There is language that the kids can learn from the song: What does “pity my case" mean?
  • Once again, the students can have some say in what text is sung.  For example:
    • What other chores do your parents do around the house?
    • What chores do you have in your family?
    • What might be the first thing your parents do after they get home after a long day of work?  (To that one, one child answered, “have a drink.”  So they merrily sang, “to pour a drink when I get home...”  Can’t think about that one too much….)
  • If you are so inclined, there are a variety of games one could create to accompany the song: acting it out, chasing, trying to get out of a garden, etc. 
I have felt much better about my kindergarten year than ever before – mostly because of the infusion of new rep.  Bad rep, be banned forever!