Thursday, October 24, 2013

Halloween Dictation Success!

I had to share this little activity my 2nd and 3rd grade students used today.  They grasped the concepts really well and made so many cute, creative little compositions.

To begin, I handed each pair of students a bag of 8 pumpkin erasers (from Target this year).  You don't really need to use pumpkins though, or even anything Halloween-themed.

I chanted a line of text in a steady beat format and the students needed to figure out the rhythm (this picture, for example, shows "Pump-kin,   Pump-kin,   in   the      patch"):

Once the rhythm was correct, we moved the pumpkins to various pitch levels (my 2nd graders are working on reviewing "mi so la" so theirs was so-so, la-la, so-so, mi).  The students sung the song on the solfa syllables and the correct pitches.

Then, I passed out my handy Halloween-themed staff page.  The students then placed the pumpkins in the correct line or space on the staff.

We did a total of three of these "examples" together.

Then, I asked the students to think of lyrics and match rhythms to the lyrics.  We shared these around the circle so we could make sure the number of pumpkins matched the rhythm. (and, to my delight, I only had to fix one or two per class, whew!)

Next, the students moved their pumpkins to different pitch levels.  My 3rd graders were happy to move the pumpkins in eighth note pairs to different pitches (such as "do-re" instead of "do-do" - aren't they tricky).  The students sang their melodies and I realized all of our ear-training was paying off (they were singing the correct pitch intervals!!!!).  I've been requiring the students to sing soloistically more and more often, and this resulted in many students eager to sing their composition for the class.

Last, the students placed their pumpkins on the staff (again, very few errors for me to correct - aren't they smart?!) and (time allowing) we shared them with the class.  I wrote down a few exceptionally cute ones to use as vocal ostinatos next time (how excited will they be to teach their composition to the class).

So, in one little activity that the students LOVED, I got to assess (without handing out a gross worksheet - I mean, gross, gross, gross):
1. Who understands how to match rhythms to lyrics
2. Who can sing the pitches correctly
3. Who understands the pitch relationships on the staff

My 3rd graders who finished early had to tell me where steps, skips, and repeats occurred in their composition.  You could even extend this to have them notate their song in different keys.  I also had the idea to (when everyone has a composition notated), sing on a neutral syllable or play on the recorder a student composition and have the students pinpoint which one I was performing (ear-training, ear-training).

Sorry if I'm gushing a bit - I was just soooo proud of their work.  You have got to give this a try!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Turkey Dance

By the time November rolls around (fingers crossed) I'll be working with my older kiddos (4th and 5th) on low so.

I created this little song for us to have some fun (and extra practice) with low so.  It is called "The Turkey Dance".

Here's a slide of the verse:

Here's a slide of the refrain:

I've created slides for teaching the song (starting with the lyrics, adding the steady beat, adding the rhythmic icons, adding the rhythm, adding the solfa off the staff, adding the solfa on the staff, ending with the complete song on the staff).

I also created movements to go with the song (even my older ones like to sing and dance - I always tell them that "motions can help us remember the lyrics" and insist on complete participation).

The melodic activity that goes along with this song is what I can't wait to try out.  The students are singing in a circle - singing and moving to the music.  A "turkey trainer" selects as many as 8 students to hold up a turkey card:

After each repetition of the song, I can either:
A) Select a turkey for the class to sing
B) Sing or play a turkey for the class to find
If the class does so correctly, the student holding that turkey is "eaten", they turn in their card, and then they go to play an instrument (soprano, alto, bass xylophone, rhythm stick/claves, and slap stick parts are all included).  Because the song is in G Major, many of my students can play it on the recorder as well.

In a subsequent lesson, the students will complete a worksheet where they label the turkeys with the correct solfa (either low so, low la, do, re, or mi).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pavo, Pavo

I know it is a little early, but I found this gem in one of my teacher editions ("Making Music" Grade 1 by Silver Burdett).  I'm so glad to find a "turkey" song in Spanish.  This particular song is from Chile (English words courtesy of CP Language Institute).

The game instructions are:
Formation: Circle, with one child (the turkey) in the middle
Performance Notes: A Section: Phrase 1, 3, and 4 the students sing, Phrase 2 the turkey sings
B Section: students sing (not turkey)
Ms. 1-4: Circle moves to the left as the turkey does a turkey strut to the right
Ms. 5-8: circle moves to the right.
Ms. 9-12: Standing still, the children shake their fingers at the turkey.
Ms. 13-16: The turkey closes his/her eyes and stretches out his/her arms - the turkey spins around and points to a new turkey.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Potion Pitches

I created these Potion Pitch games to give my students some more practice on things we're working on.  We've used similar games before and they are always a favorite and very successful. 
For the solfa and B-A-G set, I can also add in ear-training by playing or singing (easy - on solfa, more difficult - on a neutral syllable) a specific pair and having the students identify it.  Students also enjoy singing or playing patterns for their classmates to find.  So, in one activity, they are practicing reading skills, training their ears, and also performing for others.  I love it!

In the file, you'll find more explicit instructions.  Download the preview to get the Low La set for free!  This is also included in my Fall into Music set.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mrs. White Update

Hello everyone!  I recently updated the freebie, Mrs. White, in a major way.  You'll find: 1) slides for teaching the song, 2) printables (worksheets, steady beat tracking pages, etc), 3) 3 explicit mini-lesson plans.  Please take advantage of this wonderful poem during the Halloween-season.

Don't forget to pick up your ghost erasers from Target.  They are just too cute!
*****This file is also included in my Fall into Music set.*****

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Bach's "Little Fugue"

With my 5th graders, for mid-October to mid-November, I've been using lessons from my "Spooky Music" Unit.  I incorporate learning about composers, types of music, orchestral instruments, listening terms, and creative writing and composition all into this unit.

This year, I've created an activity for discussing the music of JS Bach.

First, to grab their attention, I'll show the students the video below (Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor).  Must students recognize this as a "spooky" song and have heard it around Halloween.

Second, we'll read and discuss information about the Composer (I can project it in PDF format):
Next, we'll learn about the piece the students will be describing in further detail, Bach's Fugue in G Minor or his "Little" fugue.  I know the students will be as mesmerized by this as I am, especially with a little spooky context (low lights and my Halloween decorations :) )
Then, I'll ask the students a variety of questions:
1. What colors do you see? (Green, Orange, Pink, Purple)
2. What do you think the colors represent? (The various pitch-levels on the organ)  I like to show this video - the organist is in a church where Bach worked, what a cool connection: BBC Bach
3. What happened when the colors went up/down? (The pitch of the line went up - the height of the colors mirror the height of the melodic line)
4. Why are some lines longer than others? (The length of the lines of color indicate the length of the rhythm - some indicate short rhythms, some longer rhythms)
5. Define fugue: a fugue is a composition technique in which a theme is introduced by one voice and imitated by one or more voices - the theme recurs frequently throughout the composition
6. Add movement: watch the beginning of the video again - ask students to raise their hands when they hear the "theme" for the first few entrances - discuss the higher and lower voices - discuss points of imitation(we almost hear the theme but it is different somehow - a different pitch, a major key, not entirely finished, etc) - I'm also going to have the students divide into four groups and follow one specific color as they watch - using their hands to mimic the direction

This video has a midi-piano recording of the piece - I like how the students can see the real notation.

I'll also show them how to create their own colorful composition:
I'll demonstrate (using the piano), "playing" my piece.  Students will describe the melodic direction of my piece, as well as point to short or long sounds.  Then, we'll "sing" each line, then the students will divide into two groups to sing this.

In a subsequent lesson (otherwise I'm sure I'll get many little versions of Bach because that's what's in their heads), the students will create their own "fugue".  The students can pair up to perform their fugue with a friend (using voice or piano - one plays the top one plays the bottom, etc).

You can find the printables in:
Spooky Music Unit
Fall into Music

Spider Web Instrument Family Game

In 4th and 5th grade, we really go over the instruments in detail (soon the students will get to chose one if they'd like to in Middle School).  Also, my 4th grade students will visit our local university (NMSU) in mid-November to attend an orchestral performance.  So, it is time for me to go over the instruments of the orchestra (again).

To begin: I'm a huge fan of the SFS Kids website.  I use this every year as we go over the instruments, coupled with videos of prestigious orchestras from Youtube.  I still have the old "Share the Music" series and there is a instrument-family coloring book with great printables included.  Of course we don't color the instruments (I mean, what are they learning from doing that?), but I have printed them out on cardstock, laminated them, and assigned one to each student to hold.  From there the student can:
1. Describe what they know about their instrument to the class
2. Break into groups based on instrument families (they love finding their "family members") and discuss similarities between family-members (as well as differences) - from there I can play recordings of instruments (there are some great sound-clips in the "Spotlight on Music" series) and have the correct family stand up and identify the instrument they hear (this can be done competitively, with correct answers earning points for the team)
3. Re-create the layout of the orchestra (great for discussing the reasoning for the placement and helping them visualize what they'll see at the performance)

In order to further prepare them for this performance in a fun and festive way, I created a "Spider Web Instrument Family Game".  Students must match six instruments in each family to the correct web.

I intend to use this activity with a few different stations:
1. Instrument Folder Game Station
2. Listening Station (using apps on our ipods and orchestral music selections)
3. My Favorite Instrument (great for discussions and bulletin board displays - I also tell the students that whatever instrument the write about they need to locate and pay close attention to it at the performance):
From these lessons on, anytime we do any listening examples with orchestra instruments, we'll always discuss what we hear and what family they are in.  Ms. Garret at Music Tech Teacher has some amazing games that are also great for review (and great fun too - project and the whole class can play).

What activities do you use to teach the instruments of the orchestra?