Thursday, September 29, 2011

Instruments--Cheaper By The Dozen

My favorite new instrument at school is definitely the egg shakers. I priced them at $2 each at a local music store, but then decided to make them much cheaper using Easter eggs and rice.

After a few uses, I must say that they are definitely my favorite rhythm instrument right now, for these reasons:
1. Even with 15 students shaking them with all their might, they still aren't that loud.
2. They fit in the students' hands perfectly, and you know what they say about idle hands...
3. The students love them.

They are definitely keepers!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Loud and Soft--remote control game

In an effort to control the volume of the kindergardeners, I came up with a great game...
The Remote Control Game:
Draw a big remote control with large volume buttons on the board.

Discuss w/ the kids about what happens on their TV's at home when they push these buttons. Does the TV immediately get quiet or immediately get loud? Or is it gradual? Talk w/ the kids about what their TV screen looks like when they push these buttons. Are there numbers that come on the screen telling what level the volume is at? Are there tally marks  that are added to as the volume increases and taken away as it is decreased?
Then sing a pitch. Have them match it. "Press" one of the volume buttons one time. (I used a big red arrow to indicate the pressing.)

Reiterate that pressing the volume button one time only turns it up or down one number, or one notch.
Have them sing another pitch. Play around with the volume buttons, pressing several times or back and forth. Sometimes it's even fun to quickly draw a mute button on the remote control and press it and see what they do!
Apply this strategy to other activities throughout the year, reiterating each time what level of volume you are looking for.
Most importantly, have fun!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Review Game--Bus Driver

As I was browsing a lesson plan sharing website, I came across a great game to use for review, called the Bus Driver Review Game.

My 4th, 5th and 6th grade are about to have a quiz on music terms and notations, so this was the perfect venue.
I set the chairs up facing the board in rows of 2. The idea is to look like they are riding on a bus.
The people in the front 2 chairs are the bus drivers.
I show flashcards to them, and the first bus driver to call out the correct answer gets to remain a bus driver. The other has to go to the back of the bus on their side, and all the rest of that side moves up a seat. So now the person who was behind the loser of the first flashcard, is now a bus driver. 

It worked out so well. The kids loved it. With one class, there were a few classroom management issues in the back of the bus. (Why is it that they think you can't see them!?) But the pace of the game goes by so fast, that they weren't in the back of the bus for long.

The game reminded me a little of Around the World, that I remember playing in music class when I was about their age. Maybe in 25 years, they'll remember the Bus Driver game too!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bangers and Pounders

On Monday I had lunch with my 8 year old at his school. As I walked past their music room I heard the kids playing all sorts of instruments; not necessarily in beat, but along with a CD playing. That's when it hit me: these kids need to play some instruments.

Singing is wonderful. Learning music theory is wonderful. But there is something about pounding sticks together or banging something noisy that makes kids smile. 

So we banged and pounded. And those kids smiled.

The Christian school where I teach has a meager assortment of instruments. But we made the most of that meager amount and the kids were never the wiser.

I introduced the song Ebeneezer Sneezer which is a great song to explore an octave and really warm up the voice and work on pitch matching. So we sang it a few times together sans instruments. Then I introduced the centers/stations.
The stations were: piano, rhythm sticks, bells/glocks, singing and instruments. 
As we rotated around the stations, I also seized the opportunity to develop proper concert form: 

                                                                         1. prepare instruments
                                                                         2. eyes on me
                                                                         3. wait for a four count lead in
                                                                         4. watch for my downbeat.

And the best part was....they got it! Hooray for success!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Epic Fail vs. Success

Wow. I completely underplanned for the Kindergarten and First Grade today. It was painful. Worse yet, was that the PTO President was my helper for the day.

I was pulling activities out of thin air and making up games on the spot. Breaking a string on my guitar wasn't helpful either...

On a positive note, the 4th grade lesson was amazing, if I do say so myself. :) We defined terms for the quiz next week, and in doing so introduced the concept of bar lines, measures, time signatures and beat, and how they all work together cohesively to create order in music.

This was my analogy:
Our homes are not built like gymnasiums. We have walls that divide the space into rooms. The walls are not the room itself, instead they separate the space into rooms. The room is the space inside the walls.

Music has walls that divide it also. The walls are called bar lines. They divide the music into measures. The measure is the space inside/between the bar lines.

Analogy again: Your parents set the rules as far as how many people live in each bedroom.

In music, the parent is called a time signature. It tells us how many beats are allowed in each room, or each measure. The music must follow the rule of the time signature.

We then went on to compose measures of rhythm using whole notes, half notes and quarter notes. I think they got it! At the same time, it also helps immensely that I have already taught the lesson several times and finally have worked the kinks out.  Sometimes I wish I could have a do-over with the first class. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Loud and Soft--patting the floor, circle time

For Kindergarten and 1st grade, the first unit is Loud and Soft. Think about it. What if all kindergarteners and first graders understood the concept of loud and soft?? Wow! What a difference it would make in our homes and in the classrooms! So this is an extremely important first concept for them to grasp.

To start the unit, we are going to do the Circle Floor Pat, (this is a glorified name for "simon says sit on the floor and pat the floor")  :)
Here's what we did:

Have students sit on the floor in a circle--criss cross applesauce. Lead them in patting the floor with different forcefulness levels: very soft like touching cotton candy (or petting a puppy), hard like squishing a bug, and in the middle--normal. Vary between these and use the words hard and softly to describe how much force they should use when patting the floor.

The girls loved the "petting-the-puppy" soft pats and the boys loved the "squishing-the-bugs" hard pat. It was a win-win situation!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day one---Done!

First day of school went great!

4th, 5th and 6th grade:
Gave each student a blank nametag. Along with their name, they had to draw the note that matched their personality. These were the descriptions:
    Whole Note Personality~ One who enjoys sitting back and watching.  One who can do one activity for a long time without being bored.
    Quarter Note Personality~ One who goes along with everyone else. Is very dependable and steady.
    Eighth Note Personality~ One who gets bored very easily. Doesn't like to sit still very long. Enjoys being where all the action is.

It was amazing to see them think about themselves in that way. Can't wait to see if they really who they think they are!

2nd and 3rd grade:
Sang 2 different Name Game Songs. The favorite was Shoo-li-loo. We also sang Down By The Bay. They loved the guitar accompaniment!

Kinder and 1st:
Sang Make New Friends, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Came up with lots of "on the fly" stuff to keep our hands busy. :)

Now to make plans for next week. I have just enough time as their sub to complete one entire unit. I'm thinking of doing Lego Rhythms with 4/5/6, Call and Response Songs with 2/3 and Loud/Soft with K/1.

I keep reminding myself, Fundamentals! Don't forget to stick with the Fundamentals!