Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ways to Practice and Prepare: Melody

We are in the final stretch!! I hope that you have had a moment to soak up some of the joy this season brings a midst all the insanity and chaos!

Today, I am going to follow up my last post, "Ways to Practice and Prepare Rhythms" with the Melody Edition! Just like last time, this is not a comprehensive list. However, I keep this up as a reminder of the many, many ways I can help my students master melodic concepts! A quick FYI... These ideas are more related to helping your students learn to sing pitches and pitch relationships correctly, and not to staff work. Maybe that will be my next post. :)

1. Texting Sticks
I first saw these used at the Colorado Music Educator's Conference. At first, I was skeptical. However, I find that my 2nd and 3rd graders really enjoy using them, and they are a great reinforcement of note relationships. The only draw back is that they have the whole scale on them...

I simply sing a melody on solfege or a neutral syllable and then the students sing and "text" it back to me by playing the notes on their stick with their thumb. 

2. Solfa Buttons/Melody Dots
You can use these a lot of ways- echo singing, decoding, point to a pattern and then have your students sing it back. I especially like using this visual because you can remove/add notes as you introduce them. I find that it is a really great way to reinforce steps/skips and how notes relate to each other. Sometimes, I even have my students come up and put the buttons in the right order, leaving spaces where there should be spaces. If you don't have a set of Solfege Buttons, you can find my set on TpT by clicking here


3. Hand Staff
I will often have students use a hand staff to "write" melodies. This is especially effective with limited pitch sets (so-mi-la), and it is a great visual and physical way to practice staff notation!

4. Hand Signs
Using the Curwin Hand Signs is a great way to practice and prepare melodies. Some of the many ways I use them are:
  • Sing my Sign- I will sign a pattern, but only sing the first note.  Then they sing it back to me.
  • Echo singing with hand signs
  • Sign my Song- I will play a short melodic pattern on the xylophone or piano and they sign it back to me 
4. Echo Sing
This one is pretty obvious, but a very important part of developing correct intonation and pitch relationships for your singers!

5. Fill in the Missing Solfege
I will notate a song in stick or staff notation and then have my students come up and write the solfege below the notes. You can have them fill in all the solfege or leave just a few blank.

6. Melodic Ostinato
I love adding melodic ostinatos to reinforce the concept we are working on. For example, when my 3rd graders learned low sol, we used the song "Morning Has Come" and added an ostinato of "s, s, s, d" (three quarter notes followed by a dotted half). This is great practice of singing low sol and part work, plus it excites the kids to add complexity to the music!

7. Aural Decoding
I sing a pattern on a neutral syllable and they sing it back in solfege.

8. Composition
This could be a whole post, so I am not going to dive into it too much. However, composing is one of the best ways for kids to practice melodies (in my opinion). You can compose with manipulatives, using stick notation, on the staff... You can compose as small groups, a whole class, individual composers... The options are endless!

9. Orff Instruments
Using Orff to reinforce melodic concepts is a great way to add variety to the singing-focused Kodaly lesson. When I teach ostinati or patterns on xylophones and other Orff instruments, I teach them completely through solfege. I have a big xylophone that I laminated so we can write the solfege on the bars along with the absolute pitch name, and that allows me to have a moveable do.  It's also great, because you can take the bars off to represent the pitch relationships!

Here are just a few ways you can use Orff to reinforce melodic concepts...

  • Echo playing- you sing a pattern on solfege and they play it back on Orff
  • Ostinati- add an ostinato to a folksong you are using to reinforce the note you are working on. 
  • Song Extraction- my kids love to extract "l s m s" and "m m r d" from 'Liza Jane and play it on the Orff instruments. 
  • Composition- Kids love to create melodies on the Orff instruments! 

10. Question and Answer Phrases
I sing a "question" in solfege and my student/students respond with an "answer." You can have a set answer that is a four beat melody everyone knows, have students come up with their own answers, or ask students to include some of your question in their answer. This is definitely challenging, but it can also be a lot of fun!

11. Don't Sing/Only Sing
My kids love this one. When we are practicing a note, I will tell them "don't sing" or "only sing" the note we are practicing. For example, if we are are working on "la" I would have my students only sing the "las" in Bounce High, Bounce Low and I would sing everything else. You can also do the reverse and have them sing everything else while you sing the new pitch to help them hear the correct intonation. A final step is to split the class into two groups and have the groups sing each part. This works really well with older students, too!

12. Games that highlight the melodic concept
The first example of this that comes to mind is "The Farmer's Dairy Key." The way I play this game, the gates lift up their arms at the high do (which is the concept I teach with this song). So, that is a great physical and visual reinforcement of that pitch.

13. Listening Examples
I sometimes forget that listening is a great way to practice melody. Having students listen for melodic patterns, ostinati,  etc. are GREAT reinforcements of new melodic concepts. I've mentioned it before, but if you haven't checked out "From Folksongs to Masterworks," I highly recommend it!

14. Dictation
Dictation having students simply writing down what they hear, and it can be used at any phase of a melodic concept. If you are preparing, you can have the students write the solfege underneath the stick notation. If you are practicing, you can have them notate the melody on the staff. I like to mix-up my dictation by having them dictate from my singing, the piano, a xylophone, my recorder, etc.  As your students get older, you can make the melodies longer and more challenging to keep them engaged!

15. Eraser Game.
Write a melody (in either stick or staff notation) on the board.  Have the students sing it and then "accidentally" erase it piece by piece until they have memorized the whole song. You can also have them rewrite the melody when you are done for extra practice!

16. Poison Pattern
This is the same as the rhythm version, except with sung melodies. There are TONS of poison games on Teachers Pay Teachers that you can check out if you are looking for a specific concept to play with!

17. Mystery Songs
Write a song in either stick or staff notation and have students sing it on solfege. Then have them try to identify the folk song. I often will give 3 or 4 choices to help students narrow it down!

18. Phrase Sort/Song Matching
Cut up a song into phrases or short chunks and have your students put it back together. You can also show several short phrases and ask students to identify which song they came from (I provide a song bank for my students to use). It's also fun to include an extra or a mis-fit phrase to trick your students!

19. Flashcards
Flashcards are pretty obvious, but there are SO many things you can do with flashcards. One game my students love is "Flashcard Elimination." I put 5 or 6 one measure melodies on the floor and then play a song for them to walk around to. When the music stops they stop at a flashcard. I then sing or play a melody from one of the flashcards. If they are at that card, they are eliminated and have to sit down. The game continues until their is one child remaining. It usually goes pretty quick (because you have a lot of control over which card you sing) and the kids are always asking to play again! This is a great way to reinforce reading and connecting sight and sound.

20. Resonator Bells/Boomwhackers
While I don't love the sound of Boomwhackers, I really love that they allow you to practice how pitches are related to each other. Sometimes we will set up "Solfa Street" in my class with live people and instruments (like resonator bells or boomwhackers). Kids go for a walk down the street and "ring the doorbell" at each house. When they do, the child at that pitch plays their instrument. It's a fun way to get kids moving, listening and learning!

I feel like I have only scratched the surface, but hopefully you have a new idea or two to take with you! Please comment with any brilliant ideas you have used in your classroom! Wishing you all a happy, healthy, and safe holiday season!!

Monday, December 15, 2014

In tune Singing and Vocal Exploration Strategies

Hello and Happy Holidays!
This is Tanya LeJeune. There is excitement and restlessness in the air at my school; we have one week to go before a two-week winter break!
As we approach the mid-school year break I've been evaluating where the students are with their musical skills and thinking of how to adjust my year plans to get them where they need to be by the end of the year.

One challenge I face every year is with the first graders. The kindergarteners at my school do not get art, music, or PE. As a result, many 1st graders come to music class without any prior social musical experiences. My solution is to start a kindergarten curriculum in the first half of 1st grade and then, in January, begin 1st grade concepts.  It does feel a bit rushed, but those initial musical experiences must  happen so that we can build on them. The kindergarten year should be about soaking up quality songs, moving to music, and finding students finding their singing voice. Ah, the singing voice! I admit it; I am primarily a singer. As I was growing up, everyone around me sang and I just assumed it was second nature to everyone. I would never have guessed that getting kids to sing would be such a large task!

This year I have three 1st grade classes; one of which began the year with the following singing skills:
  • 11 non-singers, (students who do not use their singing voices,)  
  • 14 emerging singers (students who sing but are out of tune, usually flat), 
  • 1 in-tune singer. 
Yikes! How do I get those kids comfortable with their voices and lead them to in tune singing? Vocal exploration is a large part of building the singing voice. Students need to know what their voices are capable of and what singing physically feels like. I make a point of including vocal exploration in every 1st grade class period.

Here are my top 10 In Tune Singing and Vocal Exploration Activities:

10. Sirens

  • Have students echo first high to low, then low to high sirens. There are many ways to mix this activity up to make it more fun. I like to ask students to connect hand gestures with a specific sirens, say low to high on "whoop!" when I show a thumbs up. After memorizing three or four gestures/sirens, have a student "conductor" lead the group who must follow and "perform" the sirens that the conductor shows.

 9. Echo singing
  • There are so many echo songs that are perfect for younger grades. John Feierabend has a wonderful collection of Echo Songs that is worth owning. A couple of class favorites are Down By the Bay and No More Pie.

8. Animal sounds (pictures or puppets)
  • What kid doesn't love the opportunity to make pig sounds? Wether you incorporate animal sounds within a song, (a la Bought Me a Cat, for example,) or simply hold up pictures of animals, imitating animals is a fun way to get them exploring their voices. Aim for the upper register by encouraging "baby" animals like a whimpering puppy or a mewing kitten.
  • If you give a kid a puppet the attention is on the puppet and the puppet's voice, (not the kid.) When a child sings through the puppet, they feel less self-conscious and are willing to take more risks. As the teacher, don't forget to talk to, sing to, and make eye contact with the puppet

7. Ball games
  • Call a child’s name; toss them a ball or beanbag (underhand,) while your voice follows the arc of the ball. The game continues until every child has had a turn to toss and catch. Pitch a baseball (great for choral warm-ups)
  • Pitch a baseball/pass a football; everyone takes a big belly breath as their arm goes back and their voices let loose with the release of the ball. Don't forget to follow through! Who can pitch farthest/last longest without taking a breath? (These are a favorite for choir warm-ups!)

6. Ghost melodies
  • Student voices follow a ghost puppet or picture as it swoops up and down
  • Students write a ghost melody with pipe cleaners , yarn, or wiki-sticks.
5. Roller coasters
  • Visual: individual students draw a roller coaster and then lead (track) the class
  • Physical: students stand/sit/kneel in a circle showing different levels while a puppet takes a ride.
4. Balloon Bop
  • Voices follow the direction of the floating balloon, if the balloon is in a hand or touching the floor, the sound stops. (This is also a great “watch the conductor” warm-up.)

3.  Slide Whistle 
  • After passing out "imaginary slide whistles",  students echo the teacher's slide whistle.

2. Trace pictures with your voice (mountains, waves, ect.)
Follow the path to help Clara and the nutcracker get to the tree.

There are many fun vocal exploration files available on Teachers Pay Teachers. However, it's even easier to pull up pictures of mountains, landscapes, or any contrasting line picture and have students trace the lines with their voices.

1. Rhymes/chants/songs with different voices
The best way to have children explore the capabilities of their voice is through the wonderful literature you are already using in the music class. Many chants such as "You Must Pay the Rent" are meant for "different voices" but you don't have to limit vocal exploration to chants that require vocal exploration.  Singing Lucy Locket? Why not sing it like a mouse? Or a bull dog? Or a ghost? My students especially love to sing Bow Wow Wow with only dog barks; some are large dogs, others are yippy, little dogs.

All of these little activities can make a big difference. I'm happy to report that my 1st grade class I've been most concerned about now has shifted:
  • 1 non-singer (previously 11. Only 1 hold-out! Don't worry- he'll get there!)
  • 10 emerging singers (previously 14.)
  • 15 in tune singers (previously 1.)
Yes, there is still room for growth. Many of my emerging singers became in tune singers and all but one of my non-singers found their singing voices.

The list of vocal exploration strategies is just a sampling of ways to lead students towards in-tune singing. (And I haven't even touched on the importance of critical listening; that's another post for another time!) What are some of your favorite vocal exploration activities?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Block Scheduling and the Kodaly-Inspired Classroom

Hi everyone! This is Aileen from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room. Today I'm blogging about something that is new this year for me: block scheduling.

I'll be honest, when I first heard about the changes coming for our schedule, I was very apprehensive. In my district, we had always seen the students in grades 1-5 two times a week for 35 minutes, and Kindergarten once a week for 35 minutes. I had gotten used to this schedule and it worked just fine for me and my students!

But sometimes, we have no choice, and we have to make the change. I am a half-glass-full kind of girl, so I tried to be optimistic.

Still, though, I was scared. We were going from 35 minute blocks twice a week, to 50 minutes, typically once a week. I didn't see how seeing them less could be a good thing. And the first draft of the schedule that was pitched to me had Kindergarteners coming to specials for FIFTY MINUTES. Yikes!!! I also had reservations about seeing all six grade levels in one day. I had gotten used to seeing two or three of the same grade level in a row.

Luckily, my principal knows I understand scheduling well, and given the parameters of each grade level having blocked specials time every day, he let me adapt the schedule so it worked best for everyone. It's a bit confusing, but my schedule now looks something like this:

  • Kindergarten: Three times over the course of two weeks, for 25 minutes each
  • 1st and 2nd grade: One semester--once a week or 50 minutes, another semester--twice a week for 50 minutes
  • 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade: Once a week (or really, once every five days) for 50 minutes, and once every four weeks, twice a week for 50 minutes
I have lived the schedule for almost half a year now, and I have to say...I love it way more than I thought it would! Here are some insights I've learned along the way that have worked for me and my students. Of course, every building is different, each student population is different, but here are my thoughts:
  • Try to balance your own needs with the needs of everyone else. This is a hard balance. If you can try to be involved in any decision-making process, it can be very helpful. However, keep in mind that even though any change to the schedule can be very disheartening to you, as this is your daily schedule, sometimes change is what's best for everyone, including the students.
  • Having a rotating schedule is SO much better than Monday-Friday. Why? Think of those classes that end up getting stuck with a Monday/ Friday music schedule, and how much music class they typically lose. With a rotating schedule, if we don't have school Monday, and Monday would have been an A day, then Tuesday becomes an A day and those kiddos still get music. Yay! Same holds true for snow days.
  • Having shorter periods more often with Kindergarten is amazing. My Kindergarteners are singing so much better than in years past because I see them so much more! 25 minutes seems like a perfect amount of time for them, attention-wise, and because they see me more often, they are progressing quicker!
  • Variety is key if you have longer periods with younger students. Throughout my district, I think the biggest complaint about the schedule is first grade for 50 minutes. It can be challenging to keep them engaged the whole time, but I have found variety to help so much. Instead of adding two or three extra singing games to the lesson to tag 15 minutes onto the lesson, I might have one extra singing game, but then I teach them a dance, have them do creative movement, and/or add a book into the lesson, etc. My favorite folk dancing resources are Chimes of Dunkirk and Rhythmically Moving; I also love Eric Chapelle's Music for Creative Dance for creative movement (you can find all of those resources on West Music). My friend Karla at C Major Learning blogged about this awesome creative movement activity that my kids absolutely love (and she links to free visuals for the activity!)
  • During my "extra" lesson, in which I see them an extra time once every four weeks, I decided to take part of that lesson to focus on melody. After a great discussion with my friend Matt about melody and rhythm, he pointed out that melody is typically harder for students. So I take the time during this extra lesson to really focus on melody. Whether we are playing a melodic game, using solfa manipulatives, or writing on staves, the time has been very valuable.
  • Have a longer class feels far less frantic. I didn't realize before how much I had to rush through the lesson in order to get to everything. It's not that my pace is super slow now, but I have more time to play another round of a game, to listen to a child play the piano, etc.
  • Having a longer class allows for so much more depth! Even though I technically see my older students less than I did before, having the 50 minutes to stretch out discussions, recorder playing, composition, small group work, world music drumming, iPad work, etc., is amazing! I feel like I'm able to delve deeper than I was able to before.
  • Change is hard...but it can be good!
The jury is still out on whether I can get through as much content as I was getting to before. So far, I'm pretty much on track, but we shall see what happens with the second half of the year! Do you have any thoughts about block scheduling in the Kodaly-inspired classroom? Comment below, and thanks for reading!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Teaching in Tanzania

Hi all!  Christopher here. 

This past summer, I was fortunate to be able to travel to Tanzania for two weeks.  To travel to a country that is so different from my own gives great perspective on the lifestyle that I take for granted.  While there, I engaged in a variety of activities – I went to small villages to watch musical performances and share meals with the villagers; attended a music festival of the Wagogo people, in a rural part of Tanzania; and I spent four days teaching music in an elementary school.  While all of it was a wonderful, transformative experience, I will focus here on the issues pertinent to this blog – the teaching experiences.

Chamwino is a small, dusty village, located a seven-hour bus ride away from Dar es Salaam, the largest city in the country.  The school is what you might expect, a group of cinder-block concrete open rooms, with a large number of children packed into a small space.  The students are invariably well-behaved, with a laser-like focus on instruction, both with their classroom teachers and with me.  Class sizes are large, with some classes having over 100 students.

I was excited to teach in this environment -- I thought the challenges of large class sizes, a language barrier, and a new school culture would really test my teaching chops.  Indeed, I was challenged, in the best way.  The students were great, eager to learn, and it allowed me to crystallize some of the thoughts that I have about good teaching - both what works and what doesn't.  Some issues that came up:

Choose your repertoire thoughtfully.  As with all teaching, a good music class starts with good repertoire!  After years of teaching at the elementary school level in my Seattle context, I usually know what songs will be successful at what grades – both in terms of the musical skills I want them to gain from the music and also whether or not they will like it. 

The first issue I had to deal with was language.  The home language of most students in Chamwino is Cigogo, the language of the Wagogo people.  The national language of Tanzania is Swahili, with the majority of primary school instruction occurring in that language.  In secondary school, all instruction switches to English, as the Tanzanian government recognizes that in order to be successful in our globally-connected world, students must understand English.  The students I taught took English class for part of each day, but they didn’t know very much – similar to the Spanish classes that students take at my school in Seattle.

As a first thought on repertoire, my Kodály-inspired brain went to the core of the philosophy: Teach the folk music of the mother tongue.  Well, I didn’t know Cigogo, and they did, so teaching in Cigogo seemed like a recipe for disaster.  Swahili, however – well, they didn’t really know it, and I didn’t really know it, so it seemed that we would be in the same boat.  I found the book Ukuti, Ukuti, which is a collection of singing games from all around Tanzania, most of which are in Swahili.  It’s a great book, one that you can buy through Amazon (and likely some other providers, as well): 

The book includes a CD of kids singing the games, which allowed me to learn the pronunciation and hear the bright vocal timbre.  Perfect!  Singing games are terribly kid-friendly, and I could honor their culture by showing that this mzungu (translate: foreigner) from the U.S. made the time to learn music from their country.

Choose your repertoire II: Know your objectives!  Once I arrived in the village and talked with the teachers and administrators about my plans, they nicely suggested that I consider teaching music from the United States.  It seems obvious, but: Of course!  Whenever I have a guest artist from another country in my classroom, I don’t want them to teach my music, I want them to teach their music!  As a citizen of the most culturally powerful country in the world, I worry that the world is becoming too American-ized, and that it is in the world’s interest to ensure that traditional musical cultures be honored and maintained.  But in this case, teaching songs in English from the United States was a way to share my culture with the students.

Choose your repertoire III: How to select songs from another language?
So as I went about choosing songs to teach, I looked through the variety of materials that I brought (see: Prepare to adapt, below), thinking through all of those considerations that make teaching a foreign language song in my teaching context successful:
-       Look for words that repeat, so that you don’t have to “line out” each phrase too much;
-       Look for ranges that are appropriate for the age level;
-       Look for texts that might support other objectives of the school, such as counting, days of the week, or body parts;
-       Look for music from children’s cultures, which students are more likely to relate to;
-       Look for good music!  My mantra this year is "No stupid music."
See the bottom of the post for the set of repertoire that I selected, along with some pictures.

Know your faults as a teacher, and plan accordingly.  We all have our weak points as teachers.  For me, I have the worst time remembering words to songs, a problem that seems to grow as I age.  With the younger students in Chamwino, I wanted to sing some of the songs, first in Swahili and then in English.  I carefully wrote out the Swahili words on large butcher-block paper, brought the sheet with me in my suitcase, and planned to tape it to the wall.  I also wrote some of the common Swahili phrases that I had learned in a small notebook, so that I could quickly glance down at my lap to remind myself of some of the words.

Prepare to adapt on the fly.  I thought my plans for the language issues were pretty good.  Problem with the Swahili lyrics on butcher-block paper: The tape didn’t stick to the wall!   Problem with the Swahili words in a notebook that I could see while sitting down: No chair!  As in any teaching situation, we’re constantly thinking on the fly, taking the input that we receive from the students and modifying our instruction accordingly.  But in a foreign country, you don’t always know what is going to happen.  I thought that it was a great experience for me to figure out in the moment how to modify my teaching. 

What works everywhere?  Clear, concise language.  I tried to learn some basic Swahili phrases before I left and worked on common terms while I was there, but I still couldn’t communicate terribly well.  While I had some help with a teacher who could translate my English in Swahili, that affected the rhythm of the teaching moment, so I tried to use Swahili as much as possible.  In my classes in the US, I try to minimize my talking in order to maximize music-making, but the language issues in this setting allowed me to work very hard at being concise.  When you do this, it is amazing how much the students can accomplish in a short period of time.

What else works everywhere?  Good sequencing.  I had one class period with each group (which was unfortunate: If I had two class sessions, I could have seen if they retained any of the songs from one class to the next.  Without assessment, I couldn’t really know how well they learned the material).  I had to carefully think: How could they best learn each song?  When we teach a song by rote in another language, there are a number of issues we take into consideration:
- When to model the whole song
- How much vocal support to give the students when they’re singing 
- How much text to ask them to learn each time
- How and when to incorporate movement
How and when to teach an accompanying game
When to allow students to fail, in order to motivate them
When the students’ interest or focus lags
How to use visual representation of the words
Each teacher will find their own way to answer these questions.  But teaching in a new context, I felt that my brain was on fire as I tried to determine my best next step, based on the students’ response to my instructional style.

The lesson plans.  Ultimately, I created two lesson plans, one that was roughly appropriate for K-2, and one for 3-6.  All of these songs can work in classrooms in the U.S. as well. 

For lower elementary, I had three songs:

-       Who’s That Tapping at the Window: This song allowed me to learn the attend to individual students, and invite students to come up and perform the various actions.  Initially, I had hoped to sing this song around the circle, with each student singing their own name.  But the large size of the class (100 students!) and the small room made this impossible.

-       Mary Wore Her Red Dress: This classic folksong and accompanying picture book by Merle Peek has repetitive words, with an emphasis on changing colors.  In the book, the addition of the colors are cumulative.  On the first page, singing about Mary’s red dress, the entire painting is in black and white, except for Mary’s shoes, which are shaded red.  On the next page, the color green is added to the red coloring, while you sing about “Henry’s green sneakers.”  In this way, as the students sing about each color, they are able to see a visual representation of it, allowing the meaning of each color to stick in their heads a little bit better – ideal for teaching a song in another language.

-       Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes: This is actually not a song that I like particularly, but the song has accompanying movements, would help the students learn body parts – plus it is a classic song that most kids from U.S. preschools know.  So even though I think it’s kind of stupid, I still went with it.

Upper elementary also had three songs:

-       Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.  In addition to the reasons outlined above, I thought that the older students could sing it with increasing speed, which would make it fun for them.

-       Busy Monday Morning.  I first learned this lesser-known song from an Amidons recording, Hymns and Ballads (which is, incidentally, one of the best recordings I’ve ever purchased – great music, soulfully sung).  Then, when visiting Powell’s Bookstore in Portland, I came across an old picture book of the song, now out of print. I purchased it, and it has become one of the big hits in my classroom each year.  (Check for discontinued library copies of it).  The song tracks a boy and his father through a week of farm-related chores, ending on Sunday, when they rest. Many of the children in Chamwino worked with their parents when they were not at school, and the story could connect to their personal experiences.  Plus, the text allowed the students to learn the days of the week, and the book has simple, beautiful pictures.

-       Quack Diddlioso.  This beat-passing game is a classic one that kids play in the Seattle area.  It’s like Aquaqua or Down By the Banks.  My students in the States love children’s musical cultures from around the world, and I thought that this song would allow the Chamwino students to feel connected to my students in Seattle.  It appeared that the song was a hit: When I returned the second day, the students had been taught the song and game from the children who had learned it on the first day.

Quack Diddlioso: The last two!

Collected by Christopher Roberts in June, 2007; Seattle, WA
Spoken:  1, 2, 3, 4!
Translation: Vocables, with no meaning.
Game:  Seated circle.  Students extend their left hand to their left, palm up, and then place their right hand in their neighbor’s open hand on their right.  As the song is sung, the beat gets passed from hand to hand around the circle.  Once the song is finished, the students count from one to four, passing the beat all the while.  On “four,” the person whose hand is about to be (gently!) patted tries to move it before being touched.  If they move their hand in time, the player trying to tag him/her (“three”) is out; if not, player “four” is out.  The game then begins again.  During the counting portion of the game, it is appropriate to go out of tempo, i.e. as fast as they can!

Overall, I felt that I gained so much from this experience, both as a person and as a teacher.  You never know when these opportunities will present themselves.  On a church mission trip, for example, you could make a connection with a nearby school, and see if you can come in and do some teaching – even if it is not part of the program.  The rewards will be beyond measure. 

Like many schools in the developing world, this school is underfunded.  If you feel the desire to donate to the school, click here, and note that you would like the money donated to the Chamwino Elementary School.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

December Means NUTCRACKER!!

Happy December everyone - well it is almost December!  This is Karla from CMajorLearning and I hope that everyone has had a few days of rest, too much good food and great company of family and friends.  I know I did and it was just what I needed to begin my dash through December at Indian Trial Elementary!

This month will go by so quickly as there is much going on for everyone!  I spend a great deal of time during this month preparing my second grade students for our field trip to the Ohio Theater in downtown Columbus, OH where we go to see the Balletmet performance of The Nutcracker Ballet.

Inside the historic Ohio Theater

This has become an annual field trip for our second graders, one that everyone always looks forward to, teacher, administration, and the students!   My preparation began this year in creating a Wonder Wheel for each of my classes.  This is a strategy that I learned from a second grade teacher at my school… is quite simple really.  Take any image of a wheel that has room to write between the spokes, write or type what you are wondering about in the center of the wheel and fill in the spokes will all the questions the students have about your topic - what do they wonder or want to learn more about?  Click here is a link to a free download of a pdf file in my TpT store. 

After we have done some “wondering”, we move right into reading the story.  I have several favorites, but my top two are The Nutcracker Ballet Vladimir Vagin 

My other favorite is  The Nutcracker by Susan Jeffers 

I read each story on a different music day and then we compare/contrast the versions.  I then bring out the original book by E.T.A Hoffman.  I do not read this one but show them that the original is MUCH longer than these picture book versions.  

After each reading, I introduce the students to one of the pieces of music from the ballet.  I usually start with the Trepak or March of the Toy Soldiers because they recognize them almost immediately.  This year I was delighted to be introduced to a new listening resource book titled Active Listening Lessons:  The Nutcracker Suite by David Bretzius.  

I love that this resource has clear directions, body percussion, unhitched percussion and Orff instruments.  So far, the kids have been loving it!

The other “new” resource I have found this year is GradeCam - grading with a camera.  

This is a FREE program that can be accessed from your computer, Pad or tablet.  The idea is that you create a test that has multiple choice answers, create student answer sheets (that have the students name already assigned!), and grade the tests by using your devices camera or document camera.  Really - how cool is this!  I am super excited to try this new technology with my second graders on their listening assessment.  In the past I have used clickers (individual remote controls that work through my SmartBoard), pluckers (which Jamie Parker just blogged about last weekend here on the KodalyKorner) or just paper pencil…..all have worked great but required a lot of set up time (entering names and creating student id’s) or grading (I have 277 second grade students right now!).  Because my district subscribes to the GradeCam service, my classless came pre-populated with the students names and unique id numbers so all I have to do is create the test, print the grade sheets and grade them by placing them in front of my camera!  I can’t wait to try it out!!!  Here is the link to the GradeCam website - there are link on that page to the App store and Google play for use on your devices.  

We have also been reviewing rhythms along with our field trip prep work and you can find several activities incorporating The Nutcracker Ballet available through my TeacherPayTeachers store. 

There are many many great resources available on TpT and I encourage you to search for what is best for your students but here is the link to my TpT store’s nutcracker files.  Also - there is a big sale going on December 1 and 2 ONLY - don't miss out on some great deals.  

What activities do you use with your students when learning about The Nutcracker Ballet?  I would love to hear form you!!! Have a great December!