Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inner Hearing Games

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

Today's Topic: Inner Hearing

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

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

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

Here are a few to try:

1) Sing a word inside your head:

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

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

2) Hand puppets

Meet Shelly:

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

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

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

3) Signs

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

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

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Dance On!

Hi eveyone - this is Karla from CMajorLearning. I am currently working with some amazing folks at Colorado State University in the Colorado Kodály Institute program where I have the privilege of teaching Level III Methodology and Folksong Research.  I cannot put into words how much I love working with fellow music collegues in this capacity!

One of my favorite Level III topics is teaching movement and dance in our general music classrooms.  If you are at all interested in this topic, I encourage you to dust off your Choksy Kodály Context book and read Chapter 3 "Movement and Dance in Kodály Practice" (page 40).  This chapter includes a brief history of dance and how it came to be in the United States - a very interesting ready.  My favorite part, however, is at the end of the chapter where Choksy has included "A Developmental Sequence for Teaching Movement and Dance via Kodály Principles" (pages 50-51).

I would like to share some of my favorite structured movement pieces (done to recorded music with no singing) that are towards the end of the sequence in the Choksy book.  I don't get to dance these much since I'm teaching K-2nd grade and so when I do get to dance them I'm pretty excited - just ask any of my former Level III students!

(in no particular order)

Zingernerpolka - a circle game from Teaching Music and Dance with the recording on Rhythmically Moving CD #2 by Phyllis Weikart

Salty Dog Rag - a partner circle game from Teaching Music and Dance with the recording on Rhythmically Moving CD #9 by Phyllis Weikart

Amos Moses - from Teaching Music and Dance with the recording on Rhymically Moving CD #8

Sashay the Donut - a double circle game with lots of sashaying from Sashay the Donut by the New England Dancing Masters

Troika - a circle dance in groups of 3 from Russia from Teaching Music and Dance and Rhymically Moving CD #2 by Phyllis Weikart

Fjäskern - can be done as a stick passing game or I just learned it as a circle game (thanks Tanya LeJune!)  Recordings can be found on Rhythmically Moving CS #2  or Dance Music for Children Level I by the Shenanigans

Borrowdale Exchange  - a mixer done in groups of 6 - as learned from Sandy Knudson, OAKE National Conference 2014

Happy dancing!!!


Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Information Overload- Tips to Get Organized!

Hello and Happy Wednesday! I hope that you are reading this post from a pool-side, lake-side, mountain-side or somewhere relaxing! 

I don't know about you, but I have been loving the posts on this blog recently! SO many great reminders about PPP, planning with the end in mind, assessing, and more!  So often, when I read blogs, go to workshops or conferences, take classes, or visit TpT, I find myself thinking, "How am I going to remember use all this great stuff?!" 

When it comes to planning, many of us have so many tools in our bags that it can be overwhelming to figure out how to implement them all or even how to simply store everything! My desk becomes covered with piles of songs, activities, worksheets, books, etc. and my brain gets filled to the brim with ideas. Unfortunately, unless you have a great system for storing your resources, they can often end up unused, forgotten, or collecting dust in a classroom cabinet. So, today I am going to share some...

How to Store Ideas

1. Create a database

If you have taken any of your Kodály levels, you probably have a database of folksongs that you have analyzed to use in your classroom. However, your database can go FAR beyond just storing folksongs. I use my database to keep a list of children's books I like to use throughout the year, listening examples I like to use, folk dances, holiday activities, etc.  

When I went through my levels training, I used Excel to create my folksong database. I am, admittedly, a bit of an Excel dummy, so I have since switched to using Google Spreadsheets, and I love them! Here are some reasons Google Spreadsheets are super handy...
  • You can access it from anywhere! If I am sitting in a workshop or meeting a teacher friend for coffee, I can pull it up on my iPhone, iPad, or computer to add something to it. 
  • They are safely stored in the Google Cloud. I never have to worry about my hard drive crashing or my computer getting stolen. :) 
  • They are super easy to use, which is a relief for my spreadsheet-hating brain
There are a lot of ways you can organize your database. Mine has the following pages:
  • Folksongs (this is my retrieval library)
  • Children's Literature (books I like to use)
  • Listening Lessons and Examples
  • Movement Lessons
  • Manipulatives and Other Games
  • SMART Board Activities (I list all of the resources I have on my computer that I can draw from)
  • Holiday Activities
  • Orff Lessons
  • Assessments
  • YouTube Videos (links to the videos I like to show)
  • Random
From there, I have checkboxes for the concepts they teach so I can search by activity or concept and come up with my list of resources. I also have a column where I list where it is stored, so I know how to find it. Every time I come across something I think I will use, I just take 30 seconds to add it into my database. It takes some time to get it set up, but it is a gold mine once you have it up and running! 

2. Create Concept Lists or Concept Plans

In addition to my folksong database, I have a list for each concept that I teach on my Google Drive. They look something like this...

Whenever I come across a new idea or activity, I add it to my list. This way, I can have all of my ideas in one place when I go to plan. You can also do this in a notebook or binder, just create one page for each idea! 

How to Store Electronic Data

I would probably cry...a lot...if my computer died. If your hard drive is anything like mine, it is filled with TpT downloads, files I have created, powerpoints, music files and so much more.  Below are some of the ways I keep my Electronic Data safe and organized...

1. Use the Google Drive or Drop Box

I store most of my classroom materials on the Google Drive (for the same reasons listed above). You can actually download an app that lets you save right to the drive from your computer, so that you don't have to always be uploading everything. Drop Box has the same features, so it is a great alternative if you are not a google user. When it comes to saving files, here are my big tips...
  • Name your files CAREFULLY! Don't just download a file and save it as "Untitled Presentation (24)." I rename every file I download to match my system. By naming your files appropriately, you can search for them and access them easier than if you just use a random system. I have used a few different systems for naming my files, but my favorites have been
    • Name the file by the concept first (for example: somi- Tracing worksheet). Then you can search your folders or drives by the concept and everything with that name will pop up! 
    • Name the file by grade level first (1st grade- President's Day Beat and Rhythm). 
  • Use folders! Use folders within folders! Use folders within folders within folders! You can create folders for each concept, each grade level, each class, etc. Storing your files in folders makes it so much easier to navigate through all your resources and pull up things that are relevant to what you are working on. 
Here is a YouTube tutorial on Google Drive if you have never used it (there are actually 6 videos, but this is the first!).

2. Use Bookmarks

Almost every web browser has a bookmark feature. I know that many people turn to Pinterest to store their favorite websites; however, just like TpT, I have found that as my Pinterest gets bigger and bigger, it gets harder to navigate. So, on my school computer, I keep folders of bookmarks to my favorite websites and online activities. This way, I can easily pull up note reading websites, composer bios, etc. without having to log in to my Pinterest account. 

3. Get rid of what you won't use! 

Don't let your documents become clouded with things you are never going to use. Move it to the trash to make room for all the gems you have!

The Pursuit of Joyfulness has some more great ideas for storing digital files. So, if you are still needing ideas hop on over here

A Quick Tip on Storing Physical Materials

Scan things into your computer! If you have a Ricoh machine in your school, chances are it has the ability to scan a file and convert it to a PDF that you can store in your (fabulous new labeled and folder filled) files. There are also several apps you can use to create PDFS like PDF Cabinet. Aileen wrote a great post about PDF Cabinet and organizing files that you can check here.

I feel like I have just scratched the surface with this post, but hopefully it gets you thinking about how to store your materials so you can access them quickly and easily! 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Nurturing Musical Growth through Assessment

Hi everyone! It's Aileen from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room. A few days ago, I was excited to read Amy Abbott's post about readiness on the Kodaly Corner, as it relates to the PPP (preparation-presentation-practice) process, so I thought I'd piggyback on that to talk further about assessment.

It's wonderful to really reflect on where assessment fits into the PPP process. While assessment could be viewed as the last step in the process, we can also look at it in another way--as being embedded in the process! I remember hearing in my Kodaly training that a concept shouldn't be assessed until it has been presented, and I still agree with that--if we are focusing on summative assessment. Formative assessment, though, can happen throughout preparation, presentation, and practice.

What exactly is formative assessment? While summative assessment is the traditional approach to assessing--taking an assessment down for a grade to report--formative assessment is used to help adapt instruction and show the educator what the students still need before moving on. It can help gauge their readiness, just like Amy blogged about! Thinking about and planning for formative assessments can help keep teachers on the right track, giving us the information we need to know if students are ready to be summatively assessed, and if they are ready to move on. You can also use formative assessment to see if students are ready for presentation, to actually have data about how many of them can identify the concept and are ready for the "real" name.

Here is an example...with ta and ti-ti, I do a lot of beat and rhythm work in early preparation (just as Amy blogged about), and then move to using long for "ta" and short-short for "ti-ti" (notated like ____ and _ _ ). How do I know they are ready for ta and ti-ti? One way is through popsicle stick dictation. After working with popsicle sticks on the board as a class, I hand students bags of their own popsicle sticks and have them notate on their own. Here is a picture of the pattern "long long short-short long" (otherwise known as "ta ta ti-ti ta.")

For these bags, I used regular popsicle sticks and popsicle sticks cut in half...but I made these my first year of teaching, and they have since come out with these awesome half popsicle sticks! (Click the picture below to buy them on Amazon.) You can also use foam hearts from Joann's instead of laminated hearts if you'd like.

After students get their popsicle sticks and hearts, I have them do some guided writing, a step I learned about from my Level III teacher Joan Litman (who, by the way, is an amazing presenter! If you can see anything presented by her, you should!) I will say the words aloud, like "short-short long short-short long," and they have to notate that. It seems easy, and you may be thinking, "Why would I tell them the names of the rhythms? Why not just have them dictate it?"

Well, as some of you have experienced, some kids need that step. It's great for improving their musical memory. Studies have also shown that if you start with easier questions and work towards more difficult questions, students will perform better than they would otherwise. So I usually take these steps:
  • A couple guided writing patterns, in which students have to write what you say
  • A few simple patterns that students have to dictate after you clap them (like ta ta ta ta, ta ta ti-ti ta, and ti-ti ta ti-ti ta)
  • A more difficult pattern that students have to dictate after you clap it (like ta ti-ti ta ta).
As I am giving this assessment, I write down the students who are absent, and then circulate around the room, looking for students who are dictating incorrectly. Next to those students' names, I write a minus, so that after the assessment, if I see four minuses next to a student's name, I know he/she is really struggling, and if I see no minuses, I know he/she has it. I then calculate data about how many students are ready for presentation (those students who answered all questions correctly or only answered one question incorrectly.)

This assessment isn't at the end of my PPP process, because it's formative, and it's used to guide my instruction. However, I could use this same process once students know ta and ti-ti and use it as a summative assessment, by having students make ta and ti-ti with their popsicle sticks instead of long and short-short, like this:

Now let's look at formative assessment with teaching sol and mi. There are many things we want students to be able to do while we are practicing sol and mi to make sure they are ready to move onto la, from reading patterns, to writing patterns, to audiating patterns, and more! One of my favorite ways to assess melodic audiation is to simply play a pattern with sol and mi on the recorder and have students sing back with sol and mi, with hand signs. It can be a quick transition from one song to the next (starting with a pattern from one song and ending with a pattern from another song.) Can the majority of the class sing back the pattern correctly, even if you do a tricky pattern like sol mi mi sol?

Games are a great way to engage students while assessing them. Here are a couple freebies for assessing sol-mi:

This fun game assesses both aural and visual understanding of sol and mi (click on the picture to download the freebie by Linda McPherson!)

And this freebie by me assesses students' transfer from stick notation to staff notation (just click on the picture to download it)! 

With these games, students are having fun, but I am getting valuable information about each student's melodic understanding. Can they hear melodic patterns and understand what they should look like on the staff? Can they transfer their understanding of steps and skips with stick notation to the staff? These games and activities can be written right into your concept plan, so that you can evaluate if you have to do more practice before moving on, or if there are individual students who need some one-on-one help.

Almost anything you do with your students could be used as a formative assessment, whether it be rhythmic writing, melodic writing, singing, improvisation, rhythmic reading, staff work, and so on! It doesn't matter whether or not you have to report grades or not--formative assessment can be used purely to adapt instruction and nurture each child's musical growth.

Need more ideas for assessment? Check out these posts.

Questions or comments? Please leave them below, and thanks for reading!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Beyond the "PPP". . . . Readiness Skills

Hi everyone!  Amy here from Music a la Abbott.  Hurray for summer!  A time for rest, relaxation, rejuvenation and refocusing.  For many of you it's also a time for professional development, which hopefully is rejuvenating and fun!  I'm gearing up to teach level 2 Kodály at the Colorado Kodály Institute at Colorado State University and through this process am reviewing and refining the way I teach the three PPP's for 2nd and 3rd grade concepts.  This year I'm requiring a new pedagogy book, written by my pedagogy teacher, Susan Brumfield.  She already has a Song book 1 published of the "First We Sing" Series but this is her Teacher Book:
While reading through it she mentions that there's an additional step to the PPP process (which, if you're not a Kodály teacher or are not familiar with "PPP", it stands for Prepare, Present, Practice), which she says is assessment.  I agree with this one hundred percent.  Once your students have the foundation of some musical knowledge and vocabulary down you will use assessment to determine if they aurally, visually and kinesthetically understand and can demonstrate the musical vocabulary for the critical attributes of a specific musical element. This assessment process actually serves another purpose: to let you know if they are ready to move onto the next musical element in your sequence.  For instance, if you teach so-mi as your first melodic element, your assessment of their knowledge of so-mi will let you know if you are ready to move onto the next melodic element, which in my sequence is la.  Or, if you teach mi-re-do first, you will use your assessment to check for understanding and mastery but also if you're ready to move onto the next melodic element.

This assessment then becomes part of another stage that is not included in the "PPP", which I know Susan refers to as readiness skills.  With whatever musical concept (or skill)  you are teaching you need to make sure that the students have the readiness skills or necessary knowledge to start preparing for that musical element.  

Let's go through a couple different examples:

1.  Here's a rhythmic example: ta ti-ti (or quarter note and two eighth notes).

This is the first rhythmic element that I teach and I usually teach it in the fall of first grade.  Christopher just wrote a BEAUTIFUL post on annual planning and I LOVE that he mentions in that post that your yearly plan will change every year.  Why?  Because your kids change!  That's why I say I usually teach it in the fall, around the beginning of October.  How do I know when my students will be ready for ta ti-ti?  Well, I have to check their readiness skills.  A lot of their readiness skills are dependent on different variables.
  1. Did my students have music in kindergarten?  Next year, four out of the six kindergarten classes last year had music 2-3 days out of the week (we had 4 full day kindergarten classes which regularly had music 2-3 times a week.  We also had two half day kindergarten classes that I tried to pull during my lunch and planning times once a week. . . the main reason? So their readiness skills for first grade concepts will be on the same level).
  2. How much do they remember from kindergarten?
  3. How many new students are there?
  4. How's the classroom chemistry?  Are the students working well together from the get-go or are we having to work on music room expectations. . . this is something that trumps all musical skill preparation.  If they don't know the music room expectations the rest of the year will be a battle.  And that's one I don't want to fight.

So in my situation 2/3 of my students have a lot of musical experience while the other third had some musical experience with comparatives that are imperative for laying the ground work for ta ti-ti.
From here I need to look at fast can we review kindergarten comparatives and how quickly can that 1/3 of my kiddos that didn't have music as often catch up.  Again, there are variables: the students are more mature now than they were last year so we can move a little faster.  But it's important that we don't move too fast as we want a strong foundation laid.  So, the first month or so will be A LOT of steady beat songs and games.  Then we'll start to add some "do what I do" games in which I perform the rhythm and they do it along with me, without labeling it "the words" or "rhythm".  Then after that, switching between the two: keeping a steady beat and "do what I do."  Within this I try to double dip by using some so-mi songs in which I can do steady beat or rhythm patterns with body signs so I subconsciously am having them lay some foundational work for so-mi. . . . that we will get to around February! :)

Once they can keep a steady beat (with OUT me banging the beat for them) and once we label "the way the words go" (AND they can do it with OUT me) then we draw attention to how the two are different.  I can not emphasize how important the student independence piece is here.  If the teacher is banging the beat on their legs and that's the only way the class can keep a steady beat they won't be able to move on.  John Feierabend says "sing for your students, not with your students" and it's so important that we apply this statement to all music skills in our classrooms.  The students are the ones that should be doing the work and we need to step back and let them be the music makers.  Sorry for the soapbox, back to beat vs. "the way the words go": In order to move on they have to be able to describe that when we keep the beat it is steady and does not change and that when we clap "the way the words go" it matches the words and it's not steady (or in other words, that it changes).

From there, we have to move onto identifying some sounds as long and some as short: this is one of the main critical attributes of ta  and ti-ti: one sound is long and two sounds are short.  Once they can start to identify long and short sounds AND they can keep a steady beat on their own we can start to compare the long and short sounds to the beat.  The students will start by identifying one sound on a beat and two sounds on a beat.  From there, they must derive that the one sound on one beat is a long sound and that two sounds on one beat are two short sounds.  Once they can do this we can move onto the preparation stage of teaching ta ti-ti.  It seems like a lot and it seems like it's going to take a lot of time, but really, if it's the first rhythmic element the students learn the foundation HAS to be strong.  

This same thought process goes for all the rhythmic elements but more and more levels are added to it.  We talk about this in level 2 Kodály a lot: what are the critical attributes of the element and what are the skills that the students have to have in order to successfully learn about that rhythmic element?  This is their readiness skills.

2.  Here's a melodic example: so-mi
So, let's look at the critical attributes of so-mi: they are two notes, one is "high" and one is "low".  Within that they are a "skip" away from each other.  So, readiness skills:

  1. They have to be able to identify the difference between high and low sounds that are non-singing, or in other words, label sounds as "high" or "low".  Within this is a lot of vocal exploration of animal sounds, environmental sounds and other means of vocal exploration
  2. They have to be able to tell the difference between non-singing and singing.  Why is this important?  They are going to have to be able to identify a minor 3rd interval.  There has to be an awareness that singing is related to pitch.  I don't say that to my students, but through singing they demonstrate that they hear and can produce different pitches.
  3. They have to be able to identify high and low sounds that are related to pitch and singing.  This starts with extreme examples. "Higher Than a House" is a great example of a song to prepare and teach this as the high and low sounds are an octave apart.  Once they can identify high and low sounds that are an octavo apart, I start to choose literature that gradually begins to narrow that interval until we get down to that lovely minor third interval.
  4. They need to be able to aurally discriminate higher and lower sounds of a minor 3rd.
  5. They need to be able to show spatial relationship for high and low (minor third)
  6. They need to know the musical staff and that the difference between notes "on a line" and "in a space".
These are just a couple of examples of early readiness skills.  For me, once you have these two first elements learned their assessments will pave the way for knowing your students readiness skills for their next melodic or rhythmic element.

It's also important to remember that sequencing and readiness skills apply to many other musical elements and skills: dance, instrument playing, movement, expressive element, composition, improvisation, dictation, notation. etc..  With whatever you're teaching, you always need to ask: what to my students need to know and what skills do they need in order to successfully learn this skill or element.

I hope this was a little summer food for thought for you and that you are finding a lot of time for the things you enjoy to do this summer!

Have a GREAT July!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Summer...the time of annual plans

Hi all!  Christopher here, out in Seattle.
At the end of June, when I tell people that I’m a teacher, I often get jealous stares by non-teachers, saying, “Boy, you must be happy to have all that vacation.”  It reminds me of the comments that I sometimes receive when I tell people that I teach elementary music: “Wow, how fun!”  My answer to both of these is always, “Well, yes, but…. It’s so much more than that.”

Is summer great for teachers?  Yes, definitely!  I love the change in structure, giving me the time to reflect on my school year, considering what went well and what needs change.  If you haven’t read Karla’s great post on self-reflection, go here:  Many of us have administrators that don’t have much (if any) musical experience, and they may not be able to give us feedback on all the different parts of our work.  So holding our own practice up for critical review is essential.

The summer is also a time to think about the next year.  What do we want our students to learn, what repertoire do we want to teach?  Taking time to create a long-term plan for each grade level during the summer can help give shape to the upcoming year. 

Here’s an example of the final product for my first graders, from this past year.  First things first: This is my handwriting, which is NOT a good model for my 11-year-old son (as he repeatedly tells me....).  Apologies for the visual challenge, but hopefully it is enough to get the point across. 

And an up-close version of September:

My sequence for getting to this point:

(1) Supplies.  For me, to make this most usable, I want a one-page snapshot of the year.  So I get a piece of tagboard from the art teacher that measures slightly larger than a standard letter-sized piece of paper, then divide the page into months.  The firmness of the tagboard means it will hold up over the course of the year, since I’m referring to it every time that I create lessons. 

(2) Songs they absolutely have to know.  There are some songs that I feel are essential for students to know, but that may not have a different pedagogical purpose.  Kodály-inspired teachers focus a lot on music literacy (I count myself as one of them!), but we always have to remember that there are songs that we think the students just need to know because they’re fabulous songs.  If you look at the example above, a couple of “songs-for-singing” are Bought Me a Cat and What Shall We Do When We All Go Out in September, and La Macchina del Capo and Mr. Rabbit in February.  There may be other experiences that will accompany the song (e.g. making up verses or other improvisatory experiences), but they do not directly connect to my music literacy sequence.
(3) Monthly objectives.  At the top of each page, I use the Prepare-Present-Practice language for my music literacy goals.  Although I try to address all the national standards in my curriculum, these are the ones that are the most sequential, and require the most advanced planning.  If you look at the left side within each month, you’ll see that I start with so-mi preparation (“s-m prep”) in September, then have so-mi presentation (“s-m pres”) in October.  In November, they practice so-mi (s-m prac), while also learning the musical material that we will use to learn la, later in the year – hence, the objective of “la rep” (as in repertoire).  That continues until February, when they will have so-mi practice while also moving into la prep, the conscious steps where the children are beginning to deduce certain aspects about la.  La then is presented in March (“la pres” on my planning page), and practiced for the rest of the year.  I also want to ensure that my students will be learning the repertoire for the concepts to be used for the following year, so there are do rep and re rep categories. 
I repeat the same process for the rhythmic elements on the right side of the box of each month.
(4a) Choosing songs for each month: Musical objectives.  After the objectives for each year are noted at the top of the page, I go to the retrival system index that I created as a part of my Levels program.  (Note: If you have not taken a Kodály Levels class, the bottom of this page for an explanation of a retrieval system and index.)  In September, my literacy objectives consist of so-mi preparation and ta ti-ti preparation.  Looking at the list of songs I have for teaching ta ti-ti, what are the songs that I would like to teach this year?  It turned out that there were a number of songs that the students had learned in kindergarten, so they’re placed at the top of September’s box, under the word Review. 
Some songs were placed in that month because there were other connections I could make, as well. Lemonade, for example, is a song that works for so-mi, allows me to assess solo singing.  In addition, the movements accompanying the song, which include the opportunity to pretend-drink a glass of lemonade, are a suitable activity in the warm month of September.
This process is then repeated for the melodic objective of the month.
To the right side of each song, in parentheses, I write the rhythmic and melodic objectives for each song.  In September, for example, Engine, Engine has (ta ta ti-ti) written in stick notation, with no melodic objective since it is a simple chant.
(3b) Choosing songs for each month: Game songs.  Singing games constitute a core part of most of my classes, particularly in the lower elementary grades.  I want most months to have at least one new game, activities that sometimes have melodic and rhythmic purposes, and which sometimes do not.  On my long-term planning document, I put a small letter “G” in a box to the left of the song, to indicate a game.  In September, for example, toward the bottom of the month, is the song Just from the Kitchen.  You can see the “G” to the left of the song name, and can note that there are not melodic or rhythmic objectives for the activity – it is just a great game to play at the beginning of the year.
(3c) Other objectives.  There are other experiences that enter into my class, and so there are other boxes to the left of the songs that represent varying objectives.  For example:
a.     “PE” stands for pitch exploration, in which the students use a variety of tools to access their head voice.  In lower elementary, each month has a different technique that I add in, to ensure that I remember to address the skill in different ways.
b.     “B” stands for picture book.  At the bottom of each month, there is a song with an accompanying book, activities that I find to be particularly good toward the end of the year.
c.      “S” stands for songs-for-singing, which I mentioned above.
d.     C” stands for canon.  In first grade, my students aren’t singing actual canons (although sometimes they may sing a song like Here Comes a Bluebird) in canon, but by third grade, I typically want one different canon for each month.
e.     SS” stands for story songs.  My fifth graders like story songs, strophic or verse-chorus songs in which some tale unfolds over time.  Each month in fifth grade will have a different story song, like Greenland Whale Fishery or The Ballad of Springhill
f.   Other options: "O" for octavos, "PW" for other forms of part-work, "I" for textual or musical improvisation -- the possibilities are endless. 
 (3d) Other objectives, redux.  Sometimes, there are periods during the year when other activities occur for a couple of weeks or a month at a time.  Those experiences are typically marked in another colored pen.  For example:
a.     World Music Unit: On this map, we had specific times that I created units of music from a different culture. In this case, my yearly calendar reads “Australia” in January, and “Canada” in April (although that last one was ultimately changed to Mexico).  These were a series of 5-10 minute activities that occurred as a part of each lesson over the course of 6-8 class periods.  In this case, the units pertained to specific aspects of the first graders’ classroom curriculum.
b.     Concert prep: Sometimes, just to remind myself that the students have a performance coming up, it will be written in the month.  It’s amazing how I can forget that type of thing!  It’s helpful when I’m teaching in February to be able to easily scan and remember that in April, I’ll have a performance, and be able to plan accordingly.
c.      Instrumental units.  In upper elementary, I will have stretches of time when they have longer-term units on drumming, recorder, and guitar.  Those are also noted in a different colored pen.
d.  Composition units.  Some years, there are longer-term composition units that I will place in the yearly plan, once I know when I have a good block of uninterrupted time.
The benefits for including these longer projects are that I want to make sure that a world music unit and composition unit don't happen at the same time.
(4) Other notes.
a.  Retrieval system.  Most of these songs are in my retrieval system, where I have analyzed them for their rhythmic and melodic properties (and other purposes!), then placed them alphabetically in a series of binders.  Connected to this is an index in which all the songs to address a specific musical or extra-musical idea –- from ta ti-ti to circle games to music with texts about food to music from the Caribbean -- have their own page.  This is created in most Kodály Levels programs, and is invaluable, being both practical and personal.
b. Songs not in the retrieval system. Occasionally, there are some songs that I want to teach but that I have not had the time to place in my retrieval system yet.  For example, Mi Gatito is a song I found in a new book by Lydia Mills, Salta Conejo!  In case I forget where I found the song, I will put a small note next to the song on my page, so that I can find it.  But most songs will be in my retrieval system.
c.  Knowing your situation.  You’ll see that November and December don’t have very many new songs or any new objectives.  That has to do with my particular teaching situation – the days I see the students is always cut short in November due to Veteran’s Day, student-teacher conferences, Thanksgiving, and my typical attendance at the Orff Conference, so I know that I won’t get through very much new material.  In December, we have a big performance, so, similarly, there is little new musical material then.
c. Do I get to everything? No.  I put a check mark next to each song once I teach it, and you’ll see that there are some songs without a check mark.  No big deal.  Or sometimes, I’ll decide that I don’t like a song anymore; or I find a new piece at a workshop or in a resource that I want to plug in right away.  This is always a working document. 
e.  Can I recycle from year to year?  No.  Classes are always different, with some groups of kids able to move through conceptual material more quickly than others.  So in my case, they just won’t be in the same place from year to year.  For example, my third graders this year just need more time to practice skills – as an overall group, they just don’t seem as sharp as other classes.  So they won’t get as far each year.  I refer to previous
e.  Can I recycle from year to year (part 2)?  Again: No. I get sick of some songs!  I used to do Little Sally Walker each year in the fall, and decided I really didn’t like it anymore.  The next year, out it went.  Plus, if each year was the same, it would just get really boring to me as a teacher.  We’ve always got to be thinking about mixing it up.
f.  Can’t I just buy these things?  Yes!  There are published yearly plans out there, but personally I can’t imagine how you’d be able to implement someone else’s curriculum.  All of this is crafted towards my own teaching situation, with my own experiences in mind.
Now, about that summer….in addition to reflecting on the past year and planning for the upcoming one, there’s definitely time for downtime!  Where’s that sunscreen again….?
Hope you all have a great summer!

Monday, June 23, 2014

How Do I Keep Them Singing?

Hello, this is Lindsay Jervis, from Pursuit of Joyfulness and Lindsay's Kodaly Inspired Classroom (on facebook).

“The most important thing is to actualize the instinctive love of the child for singing and playing, to realize the changing of his moods through the songs, his feelings, his experiences. . . in other words, to bring about the miracle of music.”  (Adám, in The Kodály Concept, 1966, p. 2) 

But HOW do we keep them singing as they get older?

I really do believe that the love of music and singing must be something that is instilled from a very young age (most likely before they even enter our classrooms) because of the exposure to music and their musical experience in the home, but that being said, I do believe what we do once them come to elementary school can have a profound impact on what they think of music and music class and whether they WANT to continue in music as they go on through schooling and life.

With the little ones, I have always felt this comes easy. Song, stories, and play are so much a part of what they love to do.

With the old grades (I'm thinking 3rd-5th), you have to carefully select music, games, and activities that have just the right amount of challenge to peak their interest, keep them engaged, and meet their skill level without becoming too difficult that they give up and become frustrated.

In my psychology of Music Ed class last semester we talked about the inverted U - as the challenge goes up, the performance and enjoyment of the students goes up until they reach  their skill peak. After that peak, students feel stress, anxiety and give up on the task or "think it's stupid". 

This is where it is really important to know where your kids are at and select appropriate songs for them. The songs cannot be too babyish (even if the students really are beginners and need to practice things like steady beat and basic rhythm or tonal patterns). 

I still really consider my older students to be older beginners. I started at my school three years ago and my kids had NO method of reading rhythms or pitches when I got there, so that coupled with my maternity leave my 2nd year there, and they are still not quite up to speed, but that is ok. It is better to go at the pace of the students and do developmentally appropriate literature than push ahead for the sake of staying "on grade level". 

Here are some songs and games that I have done with my students. In some of these cases, we have used them to isolate rhythm or melodic concepts, but some we have used purely for the joy they bring students while participating. If you find a song that students can't wait to sing/play again- it's a GEM! Hang onto it!

You know this one is a gem when I have 5th graders still request it every time they earn a free day. The game is very simple. Students are seated in a circle with their hands behind their back. One student is "it". I call it the "detective" with the older kids and for some reason that is cooler than "it". The first time we play I go around the outside of the circle with a key hidden in my hand. I hide the key in someone's hands. Once I have made it around the circle once, I stop and the detective gets three guesses to try to figure out where the key is. This song is great for older beginners because of the easy rhythms, it is also great for teaching re. With my older beginners I started melody with mi re do instead of sol-mi. Pre-made visuals for this song available here.

This song is great for teaching sixteenth notes and the game is a lot of fun. Set up students in a double circle. Inside circle will move clockwise, outside circle will move counterclockwise during the song. Select two chicken farmers. They stand facing away from the circle on opposite sides of the circle. All students in the circles join hands and teacher selects one "window" in each circle. On the last word of the song (I only use verse 1 when playing the game), the selected partners hold their arms up to create a window. The two farmers must race, only going through the "open windows" to get to the middle. I usually borrow a rubber chicken from my PE teacher to throw in the middle. The kids think it is hilarious. 

This play party is played in longways sets with two lines facing each other (typically one line of boys and one line of girls). Verse 1, the first girl skips around both lines and back to her place. Verse 2, "pretty little Susie skips around set and boys line follows until all are back in their places. Verse 3, cast off, or "peel the banana", head couple forms an arch at the bottom of the set and everyone goes under the arch and the song starts over with a new head couple. Use when preparing and practicing tiri-tiri. If you would like visuals and assessment tools like the one below for this song, you can find some here.

I use this song when preparing and practicing tiri-ti. I have one person travel around the circle with two envelopes. Ones says "Ida Red" the other says "Ida Blue".  Inside each envelope is an action like crawl, skip, gallop, twirl, crabwalk, hop on one foot, etc. On the last word of the song, the person with the envelopes stops between the two closest people and hands an envelope to each. They take out one card then when I say go, they race around the circle performing that action. If I feel one has an unfair advantage (like crab walk vs. run), I can make one go around twice. The winner gets to be "it" and the game resumes.

This one is great for low la!

 The following two songs were a lot of fun for my fifth grades to create an arrangement of for our Fall Program last year. We used these plus "Who Has Seen the Wind" and added ostinato patterns and added Orff instruments. Each class was responsible for arranging how they wanted to perform the song. They might have chosen to singing sing just the ostinato, then add the melody, then sing and play on barred instruments, and then sing a capella as they traded spots with the next class who was moving onto the barred instruments. It was different for each class and it allowed for them to take something that we were working on in class, take ownership and polish it so that it was something we could present to parents.

I used Mamalama strictly for the joy of it last year. It was a great "ice breaker" game for back to school time. My kids loved the challenge of learning the words. I had one girl nail it the first week, which was really cool. You could use this in prepping for fa but it is probably not one that I would use to present fa.

This is another one that was played for the joy of it. My kids aren't to low ti yet and the syncopated rhythms are a bit above my kids, but they still need to sing and play this hand clapping game because it is fun. 
Here's a video of the hand clapping game: