Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Books for the Music Room

Hello and happy summer!

This summer my family and I have tackled purging many things from our house, including books.
It pains me to get rid of any books but my children are five and nine and some of the board books and picture books need to go to make room for (slightly) more mature books. (Sigh!)

Luckily, as a music teacher, I still get to hang on to several books that have played a role in the music room! Including a book reading in my already packed lessons is often challenging but sharing great books is always worth the time. I strive to include at least one book a month with 2nd through 4th grade and more with 1st grade. I also read to my 5th and 6th graders; yes, even the big kids love a great picture book as long as it's age appropriate! Here are just a few of my favorites.

Books to sing

The Ants Go Marching

I save The Ants Go Marching for the 100th Day of School celebration. Students love to count the ants on each page and find "the little one" among the others. The minor melody (from When Johnny Comes Marching Home,) is easy for children to latch on to and most are singing along by the third page. (And isn't it refreshing to sing a minor song with the little ones?!)


Jennie Jenkins
All of the John Feierabend folk song book adaptations are worth having and this one is my new favorite! The illustrations are delightfully colorful. Immediately after reading Jennie Jenkins to one of my 1st grade classes several students clamoured, "Can we read it again?" (And we did!)


Musicmap Series Books
Have you see these brilliant books? At first glance they seem like your basic "song lyrics turned into a book," however, each book includes the melodic contour with icons from the illustrations!


"Up above the world so high, like a diamond in the sky."
I picked up The Goldfish Family (a traditional Japanese folk song,)
 



and Burung Kakatua (an Indonesian song,) at the OAKE conference last March.





Each Musicmap book includes an orchestrated recording of the song (including a child singing,) that I might play for students after they are familiar with the melody.

Books to listen to
My belief is that most books should be sung to children, (music teachers have a unique opportunity and obligation to expose children to live music in class,) but there are books that include unique recordings that should be heard!

Abiyoyo
Sure, I can sing the african lullaby Abiyoyo and read this to my 1st graders, but Pete Seeger was a brilliant storyteller who should be heard, remembered, and revered. (Additionally, I'm not the banjo player he is!) The included CD has two tracks of Pete narrating and singing the story. The second track is live from a 1980 concert and, fair warning, Pete does say "damn ukulele" in that telling, (it's "darn ukulele" in the first track.)


Abiyoyo was featured on Reading Rainbow and you can watch Pete narrate the story here.


No Mirrors in My Nana's House

This simply illustrated book beautifully accompanies the recording by Sweet Honey in the Rock.

Books to play (on instruments)

Possum Come a Knockin'

Here is an opportunity to actively and musically involve students during a read aloud. After each "Possum come a knocking' at the door," students play twice on claves or rhythm sticks.
You can also add some doorbells by having students play on tone chimes ("sol mi!")
 

Hand Hand Fingers Thumb and Click Clack Moo 
Here are two more books that are great fun for students to play along with on small percussion instruments.






Both Hand Hand Fingers Thumb and Click Clack Moo are books that could easily be turned into performances/mini-musicals. (Adapting children's books into student performances is another whole blog post!)

Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?
I use this book in 1st grade when we are working on melodic question and answer.
The students quickly fall into singing the answers:
When we work on do in 2nd grade we revisit Brown Bear and play the question and answer on the barred instruments. Initially all students learn to play the answer, then all students learn to play to question. Finally, I have half the class play the question on metalophones and glockenspiels and half play the answer on xylophones.


Books to inspire/Books for older kids

Books for older students usually require more of a time investment but can provide a wonderful doorway towards class discussions on the value of music personally and in our society.

The Bat Boy and His Violin

This story set in 1948 features Reginald, a boy who just wants to play his violin. His dad, a manager for a team in the Negro Baseball League signs Reginald up as bat boy for the team.


Lemony Snicket's The Composer Is Dead

I really love this book! I teach 6th graders at my school and this seems to be the age where many children start understanding and developing a subtle, slightly dark and twisted sense of humor. Oh, I'll just say it: snarkiness ensues! And no one has perfected snarky quite like Lemony Snicket!
(A favorite joke early in the story: "The violin section is divided into the First Violins, who have the trickier parts to play, and the Second Violins, who are more fun at parties.")
This is one you'll want to listen to; the narration and original score flow nicely together.
Indie music geek comment: The illustrator is Carsen Ellis who happens to be married to the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, The Decemberists. She has illustrated several of their album covers as well.
It's been interesting to see how her work has evolved. 

I consider the above list a "Whitman's Sampler" of favorite books; there are so many more that could be included here! What are your "must read" books for the music room?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Summer Reads

Hi everyone! It's Aileen from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room. I've been enjoying summer for a few weeks now. It's the first summer for several years that I haven't had to teach any levels programs. I LOVE to teach Kodaly levels, but I decided this summer to just take some time to spend with my family and relax! (Considering we moved the last day of school, I'm pretty happy with that decision!)

So besides spending time with my family and unpacking boxes, I've been doing a little bit of reading, which is something I haven't done in a LONG time! Although I love to read novels, the type of reading I'm talking about is school-related, to help reflect on my teaching and go into the new year with fresh ideas! Here are my summer reads...make sure to click on each picture to see more information!


"Classroom Management for Art, Music, and PE teachers," 
by Michael Linsin

I read about this book in the Music Teachers Facebook group, and was immediately intrigued. The book was written by a former classroom teacher who now teaches PE, so he has some great perspectives on the difference between the two environments. He presents several ideas that I'm excited to try out with my students in the fall! It's also a great summer read, because the chapters are super short, so it's easy to put down and pick up later!

"First, We Sing! Kodaly-Inspired Teaching for the Music Classroom"
By Susan Brumfield

I've had this book for a while but have been too busy to read, so I'm excited to dig into it! Susan is an awesome pedagogue, so not surprisingly, this gem of a book has lots of wonderful ideas about teaching, lesson planning, curricular goals, and song literature. In paging through the book, I especially love how she laid out specific goals for each grade level; this will help as I create my year plans for the upcoming school year!

"Exploring Orff: A Teacher's Guide" by Arvida Steen

I bought this book several years ago and read it then, but I decided I need to get it back out and really read it in detail again. Although I haven't had any Orff training, I have had some Orff experiences, and know how much the Kodaly and Orff philosophies can work well together. This book is jammed pack with songs, instrumentations, curricular goals, and more! I'm hoping to read it before I do my song lists so I can make sure to plan for the activities I find!

What are the books on your summer reading list? Feel free to comment below!

Friday, June 5, 2015

Britney Spears and Paw Paw Patch



Hi folks, Christopher here.  Out in Seattle, we are heading towards the end of the school year, with three more weeks to go.  If you're already out, don’t gloat.  The end of the year is all about short attention spans.  For the kids -- and for the teachers, too.  So this is going to be short.

When I heard that Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea were going to release a single together, I was super-duper-excited.  I love Britney.  For real.  When it comes to music that goes well with a workout, there’s no one better.  She’s got that little girl voice and the vocal fry that is probably indicative of some greater psychological issues, but whatever ---- by golly is she fun to listen to.  “Work, Work” (or better yet, the version that incorporates a mildly offensive word) has got to be the best workout song to come out in the last 10 years. 



Someday I’ll make it to Vegas to see her in concert.  Yeah, I know.  Even if my family rolls their eyes.

So, when Britney and Iggy’s song dropped a couple of weeks ago, I downloaded it pronto.  And then I listened.  Here are the lyrics:
           
All around the world, pretty girls
Wipe the floor with all the boys
Pour the drinks, bring the noise
We're just so pretty!

All around the world, pretty girls
Jump the line, to the front,
Do what we like, get what we want
We're just so pretty!


Oh.

Ugh. 

Britney!  I’m talking to you!!!!  You’ve got to be over 30 by now, and middle age is around the corner.  I realize this is pop music, but you have got to be old enough to recognize that the focus on surface-level beauty is something that we should really start to move beyond. 

(OK, so I’m being unrealistic, but you can still hope.)

So: What does this have to do with Kodály-inspired education?

Kodály emphasized folk music of the mother tongue, maintaining that folk music that has stood the test of time has often done so because there is something inherently “good” in it.  If it wasn’t “good,” people would have stopped performing it.  Now, in the United States, “folk music of the mother tongue” is a topic worth considering, but that’s an issue for another time.  For me, some of the repertoire that I incorporate in my classroom comes from folk music of the European-American tradition.  And there are times where those same problems – the focus, in particular, on the importance of women being attractive – will crop up.

To wit: My second graders recently learned the play party Paw Paw Patch:


Play party: Two lines, one of girls and one of boys.  The girls stand to the right of the boys.
Verse 1: The top girl ("Susie" - or some other name) skips down the set, past the girls' line, then up around the boys' line, back to her spot.
Verse 2: The girl skips around again, this time followed by the entire line of boys.
Verse 3: Cast off: The head girl leads all the girls down to the bottom of the set, while the head boy does the same thing with the boys.  The head boy and head girl meet at the bottom of the set, join hands to create an arch, and all the rest of the players go under the arch, moving up to the top of the set.  Play then begins again, with a new head couple.
Note: If the lines of boys and girls are fairly long (or if the players are inexperienced), the third verse can be repeated to give enough time to finish the movement.

I love this activity for three main reasons.  (1) It’s the first time in my class that the students learn the “casting off” move; (2) It’s a great song for working on the rhythmic element of ticka-ticka (four sixteenth notes); and (3) Most importantly, the song just works.  The rhythm of “Come on, boys, let’s go find her” propels the song along, making it very fun for all children to sing.  By the end of second grade, I hope that almost all of my students are able to sing while engaging in a play party like this, so I use it for an assessment as well. 

But you see the problem, right?  The biggest issue from a second grade standpoint is the text “pretty little Susie” – more focus on the physical appearance of girls.  For years, I sung it this way, and just let the text slide. 

Recently, though, I’ve hit it head on, making connections to the historical context.  The basic outline of the conversation goes like this:
-       Does this sound like an older song or a newer song?
-       Do you know what kinds of jobs were available to women in the past?
-       Do you think that they had more opportunity or less opportunity than men?
-       How does that compare to today?
-       I then tell them: Since there weren’t as many jobs available to women, many people thought that what they looked like was particularly important.
-       What do you think?  Should it be important what women and girls look like?  What about men and boys?
-       What do you think we should do about the text?  Since it is an older song, we could keep the same words, because that’s the way life was 100 years ago.  Or we could change it.
After some discussion, they vote.

Interestingly, the students do not always vote to change the words.  But most of the time they do.  Recent changes have been “awesome little Susie” and “smart little Susie.” 

Soapbox alert: It is my fervent belief that sexism and looks-ism should be called out when they occur – and that means our elementary school music classrooms, too.  Help our girls and our boys recognize that girls should not be objectified for their looks.  The earlier we start these conversations – in ways that they occur authentically in music education contexts – the more likely it is that we will change the world for the better.





Sunday, May 31, 2015

Put Your Hands Together!


I all! This is Amy from Music a la Abbott.  I hope you all enjoyed the previous two posts from Karla and Kate: I love Karla's ideas for surviving the end of the school year (proud to say, I'm one week into summer vacation) and Kate's ideas for reflecting on the year and looking forward.  I debated many different things to blog about today.  Some of my ideas were on pacing, transitions, engagement rates, scaffolding but like I said, I'm on summer vacation!  So, I decided to focus on something fun: Hand clapping games.

Before I share a few of my favorite hand clapping games, let's talk about why hand clapping games are important.  We know that hand clapping games are important for their musical purposes but also for all their non-musical reasons as well.  Hand clapping games have been researched and proven to help with motor skills and motor planning, crossing the mid line, bilateral coordination, visual tracking and socialization.  {My O.T. (occupational therapists) love it when I teach the students hand clapping games because it's working their gross motor skills and that directly impacts their fine motor skills.  The classroom teachers love it because they see an impact in their phonemic awareness, rhyming, and tracking skills.}  Two other things that it's been confirmed to help with, and as music teachers is important to us is, sequencing & patterns and beat & rhythm.

Now, here are a three of my favorites:


RONALD McDONALD
This one I learned during my Level 4 Kodály from Sean Diebler at Portland State University in 2002:


Said with a steady beat at the end:
Two big kids, sitting on a fence.
Trying to make a dollar out of 85 cents.
They missed, they missed, they missed like this!

Here's the pattern, it's an 8 beat repeating pattern with beats 7 & 8 of the pattern changing.:
Beats 1 & 2:  Left hand facing up, right hand facing down (with a partner or in a large circle), the left hand "swishes" up to the partner's right hand (or the person next to you in the circle) and the right hand "swishes" down to the partner's left hand (or the person next to you in a circle)

Beats 3 & 4: pat both partners hands (or the hands of the people on each side of you in a circle)

Beat 5 & 6: clap your own hands

Beat 7 & 8: "hitch hike" hand (hands in a first with thumbs up) over your shoulder, pointing your thumbs backwards on beat 7 and rest there on beat 8

This pattern continues through the song and then changes for the next few phrases after "Ice cream soda"
**Ice cream soda, beats 1-6 the same as above
Beats 7 & 8, with fists, and thumbs out, point the thumb down in front of you with the back of your hands facing you on beat 7, rest there on beat 8

**Down, down baby, beats 1-6 the same as above:
On "Roller coaster," with one arm, "wave" your hand in front of you like it's going up and down a roller coaster

** Sweet Sweet baby, beats 1-6 the same as above:
On "let you go," give yourself a hug and twist

** Shimmy, Shimmy, beats 1-6 the same as above:
On "round" do the "cabbage patch" motion

** Two big kids, , beats 1-6 the same as above:
Same motions as the Ice Cream soda

On "they missed, they missed, they missed like this!:
Jump out, with feet apart on the first "missed"
Jump, crossing legs, on the second "missed"
Jump out, with feet apart on the third "missed"

**  Kodály cops please do not judge me: Sean taught it "Shimmy, shimmy, cocoa puff, shimmy, shimmy, pow!" with a punching motion.  That caused some classroom management issues.  So, "Down Down Baby" is in the Amidon's collection and I used their version of that for the ending.


Say, Say O' Playmate
This one I learned from my dad who learned it from his mom.  I remember her singing it, but I don't remember the clapping game from her since she passed away when I was 9. (it's the Ice Cream Truck song, lol!!!)

The directions for this one are written below the text.


Four White Horses
This one I learned from Ann Kay when I was in college in 1997.  That year the local Orff chapter did a whole theme on "Orff and Kodály".  Ann actually presented a wonderful Orff arrangement that she wrote for this song.  I wish she'd publish some of her "stuff," it's pretty amazing!


The pattern is a 6-beat pattern, with a group of 4.
Formation: two sets of partners, facing each other, as shown below:

Beat 1: clap own hands
Beat 2: pat partner's hands (one set of partners will go up, the other will go down)
Beat 3: clap own hands
Beat 4: pat partner's hands (switch, the set that went up will go down and vice verse)
Beat 5: clap own hands
Beat 6: pat corner's hands (people on each side of you that are not your partner, one hand for each corner)

You can also try having the students make up their own clapping pattern within their group of four!

I hope you all have a wonderful start to your summer.  For those of you in Australia, carry on!  When we're in the midst of winter don't forget to remind us that you're enjoying your summer vacations!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Celebrate and Reflect


Hi! It's Kate from Kate's Kodaly Classroom. I have been a little bit absent from the blogging world recently, but am so glad to be back on the Kodaly Corner!

If you haven't read Karla's latest post for surviving the end of the year, make sure to check it out! There are so many great ideas and reminders for surviving the wonderful and incredibly chaotic time of year!

The end of the school year is one of my favorite times of year for so many reasons... kids and teachers are excited for summer vacation, celebrations are happening left and right, field days, performances, graduations... it really is a wonderful time. It is also around this time of the year that I make a conscious effort to reflect. I believe that reflection is one of the most important things we can do to grow and develop as teachers. I know that our schedules in May and June are JAM PACKED, but I truly believe an hour with a latte and a notebook can make a huge difference in your professional development and growth. So, for my post today, I am going to share with you some helpful hints for (drum roll, please!)...



Step One: Celebrate
Just about every teacher I know works incredibly hard all school year (and summer- let's be real) long. So, before you develop a list of "I could have" or "I wish I would have," take a few minutes to celebrate the "I did." Chances are you did A LOT of amazing things this school year- whether it was surviving your first year teaching, connecting with that one student that you struggled with, or finally cataloguing you choral library- so take a few minutes to celebrate your victories.

Ask yourself...

  • What did I teach that my students loved?!
  • What did I teach that I loved teaching?!
  • Did I inspire or connect with a student or students in a new or meaningful way?
  • Did I have have any great collaborations with colleagues? Parents? Community members? 
  • What went really well?
Make sure to smile knowing that YOU made an impact this year.

Step Two: Evaluate
If there is anything I have learned in my eight years of teaching, it is that we are learners first and teachers second. I continue to find new tricks and new ideas to use in my classroom on almost a daily basis! With the constant change, it's important to evaluate what is a "keeper" and what you might consider changing in the future.

As I reflect on the school year, I try to break it up into a few different areas. Here are some of the areas I try to give some thought to...

Concepts and Instruction

  • What concepts did I teach really well? 
  • Are there any holes in my instruction or sequencing?
  • What concepts do I need to spend more time/effort on? 
  • Do I need to develop any manipulatives or teaching materials?
  • Were there any activities that my students respond well to? Any that they didn't? 
Performances
  • Which performances went well? Which didn't?
  • Did I have enough time to prepare for performances?
  • Were there any themes/programs I want to keep? Any I want to change? 
  • How did my performance schedule work? Were any times of the year TOO busy? Can I make any adjustments? 
Personal Goals
  • What did I improve on as a teacher this year? 
  • What professional development/professional learning was really meaningful?
  • What kinds of professional development and growth do I want to pursue in the future? 
  • How did I handle my life/work balance? Did I use time wisely? Could any of my effort be better spent elsewhere? 
Being honest in assessing your school year is a great way to prioritize your goals looking forward. Which leads me to the last step in my process...

Step Three: Look Forward
I could probably write a 100 page list of things I would like to improve on as a teacher. It's easy to get overwhelmed or even disheartened by the never-ending "to-do" list. So, I really try to set achievable and reasonable goals for myself. I find that this helps to keep me motivated and inspired throughout the year, and it also feels really great to be able to check something off the list. 

Here are some ideas of ways you can keep it simple, but still set meaningful goals...
  • Find one concept or unit you want to improve on.  Build up your song library for that concept, make a set of post-office or other manipulatives that you can use to teach it, develop an assessment or find a great worksheet you can use during your teaching.
  • Create one professional growth goal. Whether it be improving your knowledge/use of technology, attending more workshops, or finally creating a library of all your children's books, come up with one goal you think you can achieve in the coming school year. 
  • Fix one problem. Teaching is definitely trial and error. No matter how much we plan, there are bound to be things that don't go well. See if you can identify one problem from this school year that you can correct next year.
At the beginning of each school year, I write a list of "hopes and dreams." Sometimes, it is as simple as "leave before 5:00 more" or "give at least one student a day personalized feedback" and sometimes they are bigger things like "finish all my rhythmic flashcard sets" or "learn and include more folk dances in my instruction." I love the feeling at the end of year when I can say "I did it" and ask myself "what's next?!" 

During the insanity that is the end of the year, try to find a few minutes to go grab a latte or a lemonade and reflect. I promise it is time well spent. 


 

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ideas to Survive the End of the School Year

Hello!  This is Karla from CMajorLearning.  Can you believe it is the end of the school year already?  On one hand, it seems as though this year has flown by and on the other, it has lasted forever!  As I end my school year (Canal Winchester Schools has 13 days left as I'm writing this), I'm looking for ways to survive!  Here is my list of the top 10:



Sing Sing Sing!  Yes, this may seem obvious, but keep the kids singing and making music together.  Pull out the favorites of this year or your personal favorites to sing with the students!  Something with lots of repetition is good so that they can learn it quickly and then be making music.  If they are singing, they can't be talking at the same time!



Play Play Play! Again, maybe another obvious idea but keep the students engaged by playing games and playing instruments! Personally, I know it is hard to keep the pedal down during the last few weeks of school because we, as teachers, are just tired, but letting up only lets the opportunity for trouble to begin!  Is there a game or piece that you have not had the chance to get to this year?  Now is the time to pull it out and let the students PLAY!



Move Move Move!  Going right along with singing and playing, have the students dance, choreograph or free move in every lesson.  First, the love to do it! Second, it burns off some energy!  Third, it is just FUN!  Keeping everyone busy (the teacher included) helps to make the class time go more quickly, so dig out your Rhythmically Moving (Weikart) or New England Dancing Masters (Amidon) books and get moving!



Do purposeful worksheets or assessments!  Don't just give the kiddos worksheets to keep them busy - make sure they have a purpose and that the students know that!  I find that my kiddos really enjoy the interactive ones like my "Write the Room" Series and Aileen Miracle's "Popsicle Stick Rhythms".  You can also be taking end of year assessments through the singing games the students are now comfortable with and love to play!  

Drumming!  Getting out those drums is always fun - no matter what age - kid to adult!  This time of year is a great time to have learning about drumming and play composed songs.  Dig a bit deeper in their understanding by working in groups to create their own drum compositions and then write out the rhythms and drum sounds.  Students can then decide how to perform their compositions - solos, duets, ostinatos, layering - the list goes on and on!  (Thanks to Katie Wynkoop for input on this idea!)




Try Something New!  We all go to workshops and conference and learn so many new things!  Take these last few weeks of school to try something new!  The kids will LOVE embarking into a song, game or activity that is new to them!  This keeps them on task but also allows you to dabble in something out of your comfort zone!

Set the Stage for Next Year!  I know - who wants to think about starting school back up again in August now, but think of what concepts and skills you will be working on in the next grade level, is there a song or game that you could introduce at the end of this year that could then be built upon come August?  I have done this for the past couple of years with my K's and 1's and find it to be a very purposeful use of my time as well as making the start of the school year a bit less taxing on my voice!


Game Choice Day!  This is quite possible the very best (and easiest) lesson plan that I ever have to write!  Let the students decide what songs and games are played that day!  I have my classes make a list of their favorites (anything we did in that school year) and then we vote (I let them vote for their top 2 choices).  We then start with what received the most votes and play through as many as we can until class is over! The kids LOVE it and I learn what was the big hit from the previous year - sometimes I am really surprised!


Remain Calm!  Boy - it is easy to get overwhelmed with end of year stuff - grading to do, classrooms to clean up, programs to finish - the list goes on and on.  Don't let yourself get bogged down in all of that and bring a level of anxiety and frustration to your classroom.  The kids pick up on this so quickly and unfortunately, they don't help us out by doing their best but see it as an opportunity to run wild and free!  Take a deep breath and enjoy each day for what it brings! 



Have Fun!  I am very fortunate and I love my job and the school where I teach and one of my main goals for the music classroom is to bring joy to each student through music - singing, playing, dancing, creating.  Take a minute and really enjoy the amazing opportunity that you get to instill this love and joy of music in your students.  I don't care if they become music teachers or concert performers (although i would love that), I want them to look to music in times of happiness, sadness and everything in between for the rest of their lives.  So remember to HAVE FUN these last few weeks of school!

 

Thanks to Graphics From the Pond for the number clip art!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kodály Levels Programs



Hi folks!  Christopher here.

The internet has been a remarkable tool for professional development of music teachers.  From Facebook groups and blogs to M.A. programs in Music Education that operate fully online, there are an incredible number of ways to get new ideas and repertoire for our classrooms.  For music teachers, who are often the only music specialist in a building, it can be particularly beneficial.

But for those who are interested in Kodály-inspired education (or Orff or Dalcroze, for that matter), there is nothing like a Levels class.  These all-day, intensive classes are most commonly offered during the summer, and last either two or three weeks.  I took my Kodály Level I right after I finished my teaching certificate, because I scored a job teaching elementary music and I knew enough to know that I didn’t know anything.  I needed more goods.

On the first day of the course, I sauntered in, critically surveyed the class, then beelined towards the back of the room to sit next to those students who looked like they were the most likely to talk.  Fun: that’s what I was here for.  To be sure, I also hoped to learn how to be a good music teacher, but I definitely wanted to meet some awesome music teachers, and crack jokes in the back of the class.  A wrench invaded these plans, however, and that wrench was Rita Klinger.  As she started talking the first day, it quickly became clear that what was streaming from her mouth was not mere words and music, but gold – wisdom that, even as a 20-something, I knew that I could not afford to miss out on.  Regretfully, I bid adieu to my too-cool-for-school friends, moved to the front of the class, and never looked back.  The good news for my quest for fun was that the laughter never ended – at its core, Kodály is about joyful music-making for everyone, and I continued to laugh with my classmates and teachers.  To be sure, I was constantly challenged, and I worked hard to improve my musicianship skills and my teaching chops.  But that challenge helped me learn to hold myself to high standards as a teacher, and ensure that my students are both learning and having fun – the holy grail of teaching.

I’m here to say: Take a Level!!  And if you have already taken your Levels, consider going back for related study (and look down at the bottom of this post for some specific suggestions to consider).  As educators, we never stop learning.

What's in a Kodály Level? 

Zoltan Kodály said a lot of things (“Honey, have you seen my slippers?” probably came out of his mouth at some point), but when it comes to music teaching, one of the core aspects is this: That the best music teachers should be two things:
     - The best possible musicians
     - The best possible teachers
Both of those things, musicianship and teaching skills, are crucial to good teaching.  So, Kodály Levels courses address both of those needs, with five different classes:

(1) Materials, where participants learn quality music to use in the classroom, and study folk song analysis;
(2) Pedagogy, where students take those materials and create masterful lesson plans that maximize student learning but also have fun;
(3) Musicianship, where participants develop their own personal musicianship skills;
(4) Conducting, where participants work with master choral conductors to enhance their personal conducting skills;
(5) Choir, where participants sing in a choir, intended to create a top-level choral experience.


Where to take a Level?

There are programs throughout the country.  You can find a list of programs on OAKE's website.  If there is not one in your area, many of the programs offer fairly cheap campus housing.

Many of us who post on this blog teach in summer programs as well:
                                                   Westminster Choir College (New Jersey)
(That’s right, there is a trifecta there: Three bloggers from CSU!)

Aileen Miracle, who started this blog and is incredibly awesome, is taking the year off of teaching Levels.  If you are looking to take a Level in a future year, you might want to consider following her around to wherever she teaches.  I know that I want to!

 What if you already have your Levels?

For those of you who already have your Levels, education does not end!  To be sure, local workshops and national conferences are awesome, but there are other courses in a variety of places to consider, in order to provide new perspective on teaching and learning.  Some options: 

Revisit your old program.  Many programs offer “Refresher” courses, either formally or informally.  Pedagogy was my main love, and I came back and sat in on different pedagogy classes a couple of years after I finished my Level III.  There were tons of ideas that I had missed the first time around, that I understood more fully with the benefit of experience.  If there aren't official programs offered, contact the course director, and you may be able to set up something individually.

Try a new program.  Visiting a program that has different faculty than yours will often provide you with a slightly different perspective on the approach.  After I finished my Level III, I knew I wasn't done, and traveled to Calgary to see how they did it up there.  As a Levels instructor, I still try to get out to observe other programs when I can, even for a few days.  It allows me to get a better perspective on my own teaching. 

Other possibilities to consider:
  • Smithsonian Folkways Workshop in World Music Pedagogy: This week-long course looks at a variety of ways to take world music and teach it in K-12 and University music classrooms.  All courses include visits from culture-bearers, as well as practical experiences designed to help you take unfamiliar musics into your classes.  The flagship program is at the University of Washington, and this summer, a similar course is offered at West Virginia University.
  • Holy Names University in California is offering a four-day, afternoons-only class on Teaching Music Reading in the Choral Classroom.  
  • George Mason University (Virginia) offers a range of one-week classes on special topics including Folk Dance Repertoire, Dulcimer Building and Laban Applications for the Music Teacher
  • University of St. Thomas (Minnesota) offers a number of shorter courses that may be of interest to those who already hold Kodály Certificates, on topics such as Choral Conducting and Children's Vocal Development.
  •  New York University (NYC) is also offering a couple of shorter courses for those with experience in the Kodály approach, including a class on Advanced Curriculum and Pedagogy

One of the great things about music teaching is that learning never ends.  And there's nothing quite like summer coursework to help that learning occur.

Learn on!