Sunday, December 7, 2014


Hello everyone!  I wanted to share this Hanukkah idea for older students - just in case you're looking to diversify your holiday season.

Here's a nice minor melody (I don't recall where it is from and it might not be Israeli, shh!  If you happen to know, please illuminate me) that would be great for older students. Beforehand, talk about Israeli/Hebrew music and circle dancing (check youtube - lots of good video clips to show) so students have a cultural reference.  This activity is fairly simple and is a good way to cover the content/concept without taking too much class time (as I'm sure your older students are preparing for performances, sing-a-longs, etc).

I like this song because it doesn't have words, that I know of at least, so the students get to experience creating and moving to instrumental music.  Those on instruments realize that the dancers are relying on them to create the music.

I would tackle the melody first, since the other parts are really structured around it (and you can identify which students can play it and which need a simpler part to avoid prolonged frustration).  In my powerpoint, I can have the pitches labeled for those who need it, or I can simply click and the pitches are removed.  Depending on the level of your students/time restraints, you may choose to have the soprano xylophones play the blue (A) phrase while the altos play the yellow (B) phrase - that way the students are learning very small chunk of the melody.  Of course, both instruments could play the complete melody, as could recorder - just add what you'd like.

The drum (I like a hand drum played with a mallet), tambourine, and glock parts are fairly simple.  You (or a student) could play the melody while the others pat on the circles (transfer to drum), snap on the squares (transfer to glock), and clap on the "Hey" (transfer to tambourine).

The bass part is a little tricky - but students can usually figure it out if they listen and watch you play the bass part while you sing the melody.  Have them identify where in the song the chord changes (moves to C and G) and also discuss the differences between the two lines (first line ends on A, second line ends on B).  Be sure to tell them "if you're playing something on the "Hey" - you made a mistake" so that they don't just barrel through.

You may choose to record your students playing in order to have something to practice dancing with (if you'd like to teach the movement to all the students) or you can have a few continue to play while a few learn the movements.  Ideally, about half the class would be playing and half would be moving at the same time.

You can see the movement suggestions (in blue and yellow) next to each phrase - simply follow those.

My students have gotten to the point where they hardly raise their hand when I say, "I need a helper" or "I need someone to play this part" etc because they know I'm going to ask a question.  Here's a few good ones to keep in mind:

1. What do the blue phrases have in common?

2. How are the yellow phrases similar? How are they different?  Why does the first yellow phrase end on "A" while the second ends on "D"?

3. What is the form of this melody?

4.  Is this melody in a major or minor key?  Which key is it?

5. How is moving to live music different then dancing to recorded music?  How does this activity feel compared to you say, dancing to Taylor Swift in your living room?

Sunday, October 19, 2014

On Her Broomstick

We all have those songs where we can't quite remember their source ("Wait, which book was this in?") and for me, this is totally one of those songs (feel free to comment if you know where it is from).  I've taught this song every year, usually with younger grades when we learn "Witch, Witch" although this year I'm going to try it with my older students as well.

Here's the tune:
The range is pretty large for younger kiddos but is still accessible.  I enjoy hearing  pretty "ooohs" from them.  We even discuss that this song is minor (when music is centered around "la" and sounds spooky, sad, or serious).  Older students can work on their 6/8 rhythms.

We use this slide to add instrumentation (please note that the glocks play E-B, E-B to match the pitch of the song).  It is important to have a lot of kiddos on instruments so that the movement (see instructions below) doesn't get too crazy.

I am currently learning the guitar - I mean, really, how have I not done this already?!  I'm nothing amazing AT ALL but I can play a few chords.  I am enjoying the freedom of moving the guitar wherever I need it (to our circle, on the floor, next to the rest of the instruments, etc) instead of being behind a piano.  Kiddos love singing with the guitar - there is something very "campfire sing-a-long" about it.  Here are the chords that I play.  If you have older students or just want to challenge some of your younger kiddos - they can play the chord root only (notice the circles around them match boomwhacker colors - hint hint ;) ).  You can discuss chords and accompaniment with older kiddos at this point as well.

Once we've established the song and the instrument accompaniment, it is time to add in the game.  My students are divided into four groups of about six kiddos, so this is usually how it goes:
Group 1: playing chord roots on Alto/Bass xylophones
Group 2: playing the metals (triangle, gong, glock)
Group 3: playing non-metals (quiro and hand drum)
Group 4: acting out the movement
When it comes time to switch, I just re-assign the groups to another job.  Easy!

Movement: The students are in scattered formation (they are the ghosts).  One student is the witch (complete with a hat and mini broomstick).   The witch flies around the ghosts for the first half of the song (the witch is on her broomstick flying very fast) the the ghosts join her in flying around on the second half of the song (ooo-oh, ooo-oh, Halloween is nigh).
No, this is not really a game, however, students usually understand that drama and music go hand in hand ("How strange would a movie be without music?" or "Doesn't music make you want to get up and move?").

Options (extend this song for another lesson - whoot!)
Add in a B section with the metals (Orff instruments tremolo on E, gong and triangle play freely but slowly) in which the witch chases and tries to tag the ghosts (this adds a game element - so fun).

Performance option: Older students can totally play the melody (you'd have to take the first B up the octave) on soprano xylo/metallophones (you only need a few that can play the melody - there are enough other parts for everyone else).  You could structure a form like this:
Introduction: Metal/Orff section instruments play (same as described above with optional B section) while ghosts and witch take their spots
A: Sing song with instrumentation and act out motions
B: Play song without singing or motions
A: Sing song with instrumentation and act out motions
Coda: same as intro, although tremolos slow and ghosts/witch fly out of performance space one by one

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Lady in the Graveyard

Hello everyone!

I know we all love this time of year, don't we?!  I'm very excited to be working through my October lessons.  I have so many fun things that I really have to pick and choose between them.

Here's an activity that I'll be trying next week with my 5th graders (would be good for 4th grade too).  My teaching partner is doing a really cool "Skin and Bones" lesson with our 4th graders that totally inspired this.

Please note: While this is a traditional song (I did change a few words), I did borrow this particular soprano xylophone part from D. Gagne's "Music Play" Grade 5 #23.  She also uses the same bass part I do.

Feel free to copy and paste these slides and use them as you need to

First, we'll sing through the lyrics.  I'll ask the students, "What do you notice about the melody?" (It remains the same throughout the entire piece).

 Here is the melody of the song (sorry for the confusion earlier):

At the ghost icon, that's where the "ooo" part (same as below on the recorder) is sung.  I found a cute ghost this year at Dollar Tree (see below - I'm so jealous if you find all of them - I only have the jack-o-lantern, skeleton, and ghost).  I'll be giving him to one student to hold up while we sing the "ooo" (the ghost can totally trace the melodic shape of that line).

Next, I'll teach the recorder part.  Students can then play the "ooo" part on the recorder.

Next, we'll add the unpitched instruments (see lyrics slide above).  They are pretty self-explanatory.  I'll also add some kiddos rubbing on hand drums to create a ghostly-wind sound (they'll play throughout the piece).  I would suggest beginning with the chimes (that way you can pass that job around on repetitions) and adding in each unpitched instrument one at a time.

Then, we'll play the game (some kiddos can stay on instruments while this is done):
Game Instructions
Formation: Circle with small spaces in between students.   One student is the "old lady" and three other students are the "ghosts".
Play: During the singing, the ghosts "float" around in the middle of the circle while the lady paces outside the circle.  On verse three, only the ghosts sing, "Would you like to come inside?" and on verse four only the old lady sings, "Eww, I don't want to go with you!"  Then the "old lady" shouts, "Boo!" and the "scared" ghosts fly out of the circle.  The old lady chases them for eight counts (if they are caught they sit) then all the players freeze so they/the teacher can select new players.  Students should be counting to eight during the playing part using a spooky ghost voice.
Additions: It is totally fun for the "old lady" to be armed with a funoodle (her "walking stick") or a scarf (her "handkerchief") with which to tag the ghosts.

During the next lesson, we'll add the Orff instrumentation to our singing/playing:

This is a great song to discuss low la, ti, and do with older students.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Name Game Extension Idea for 1st/2nd Graders

I've been looking for a few new ideas for the first weeks of school.  I'm at a new school, so we'll be playing lots of name games up front for both the kids' sake and my own.  In the 1st grade Spotlight on Music series, I came across this:
I decided to incorporate it into my lesson for my 1st and 2nd graders.  Here's what we'll do:

Instrument Needs: Bell Tree or Chimes, Bass Xylophone

1.  The students should be seated in a circle.  Perform the piece for the students while keeping a pat-clap pattern (pats on beat 1, claps on beat 2).  Invite students to keep the beat like you are (review the term "steady beat" - at this point I would discuss that it is the steady, constant pulse of the music and show the students the corresponding vocabulary card - we also practice tapping over our hearts as we chant again).  I've changed the final words to "tell us your name when you hear this sound" while we are sitting.

2. When the children are confident with the lyrics and the pat-clap pattern, walk around the circle with the steady beat in your feet.  At the end of the song, stand behind a child and ring the bell tree/chimes (at this point you would discuss what the instrument is called, what type of sound it is, and what family of Orff instruments it is in). The child you are standing behind say their name and the class repeats it four times.

3.  Continue this until 1/3 to 1/2 of the class has said their name.  You can give your role of walking to the beat/ringing the bells to a student.

4.  Bring over the bass xylophone.  Label the instrument and have the students listen to the sound.  Then, establish a four beat ostinato (C-E-C-G) and chant the original lyrics (ask students to describe what words changed).  Have the students stand and keep your beat in their feet in place.  Once the beat is established, have the students add in the words of the original version.

5. Have the students keep the beat in their feet but use these motions (they can do this all around the room but be sure to set your expectations first - great way to get them used to "using the space in the music room correctly"):
     Hey children who's in town?  -  Look side to side as if using binoculars. (Turn right, left, right, left - keeping feet going)
     Everybody stop and look around.  -  Stop and march in place, turning side to side
     Hey children who's in town?  -  Look side to side as if using binoculars. (Turn right, left, right, left - keeping feet going)
     Tell us your name and then sit down.  - Students say this in a louder voice, march in place, and then on "down" they freeze and listen closely for the name you call.  If their name is called, the student sits down where they are - they become "hot lava" and cannot be stepped on by other students as the game continues.  "Hot lave" doesn't have hands, so the student must keep their hands in their laps (to avoid them tripping or touching others who are still playing the game).

6.  To extend this game, you could:  1) Choose a student to call names at the end of the piece   2) Allow a student who is "hot lava" to play an unpitched instrument on the steady beat a they sit   3) Allow a student to play the C-E-C-G ostinato on the bass xylophone - If you are playing this with older students, you could have them create ostinatos using student names to perform with body percussion during the song (such as E-mil-y - "ti-ti ta" - "pat-pat clap").

Word Wall

This year, I created my own, mostly color-coded, word wall (well, technically they are more like vocabulary cards).   I'm sure I'll create more as the years go on, but if you think these could help you, feel free to download them (for free) at my TPT store.  I printed them onto white cardstock, laminated them, and used mounting tape to hang them.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Rhythm Word Wall Freebie

Hello everyone!

This poor blog has been so neglected!  Last semester, I decided to mostly take a break from blogging.  My husband graduated med school and landed a residency in a different city so, needless to say, we were SUPER busy.

Thankfully, I was hired at an awesome school (my co-workers are so nice) in a wonderful district in my new city.  They actually have Orff and Kodaly organizations and I am so looking forward to joining those and sharing what I've learned with you guys on my blog!

However, for now, we are in teacher in-service all week and the students will be here soon. 

I've been trying to prepare my room ( ever did I get so much STUFF?!  I blame a lot of you with your awesome products on TPT).  I don't really have a lot of bulletin board space (more pics soon), so I've been trying to incorporate my awesome storage cabinets.

Here are some rhythm visuals I've created (although I need to add some sixteenth note variations, but you get the idea).  I'm thinking that as we learn/review them I'll write in how we say them ("ta" for example) and put star Post-It notes on the ones we are currently working on.  Plus, I can easily point/snatch one off the wall to discuss with the students:

If you'd like to have these for yourself, download the here for free! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Listening Activities for Spring

Here are two of my favorite listening activities for Spring (one for K-2 and one for 3-5):

The first goes with "Flight of the Bumblebee" and I've used it with 1st grade (I think it would work K-2).  They are also working on the song "Bee Bee" (you can find a powerpoint lesson for this song here):

I like to use this video below (obviously for visual effect - kiddos love checking this out and they are very observant, such as "blue is the low pitch"  "the large shapes are longer sounds" etc):

First, I have the students listen quietly and try to decide what the song might be about (they can follow along to the video).
After the first listening, I ask them to discuss what they think it is about with their partner.  Then, we discuss as a class and I label it as "flight of the bumblebee" (I have a bee mask that I believe I found at Michael's and I put that on - hilarious).
For the second listening, I ask them questions about the dynamic level and tempo.  We discuss this also.
On the third listening, I select three "flowers" (I have them hold stuffed flowers that I believe they currently have at Target or you can buy them from Oriental Trading).  My 1st graders totally know all about bees and we pause here to talk about them and how flowers and bees relate to one another.  The students watch as I "fly" around the room (flapping short wings) and then "pollinate" (fly to a flower and hover by them).
So the rules for the kiddos are:
* no sounds so we can listen to the music and teacher instructions
* bees must "fly" when they hear the teacher say "fly" and "pollinate" as soon as they here "pollinate"
* never pick the same flower twice (we only do this for about 60 sec of the song or so) so that no flower feels left out
* bees can fly quickly but they cannot run - we don't want anyone getting hurt
On repetitions:
* choose new flowers who must say a fact about bees or discuss something they heard in the song
* use new versions of the song as they play (we really like this one:)

Listening and Movement Lesson: “Minute in A Major” by Boccherini

BACKGROUND INFO (write on board for students to see - I include his picture also)
Composer: Luigi Boccherini
Dates: 1743-1805
Title: Minuet in A Major from String Quartet in E, Op 13 No 5
Fact 1: Boccherini played the cello.
Fact 2: Boccherini wrote lots of string quartets.
Fact 3: Boccherini was born in Italy but spent most of his life in Spain.

CONCEPTS/VOCABULARY (write on vocab cards - see picture below for example)
3/4 meter
String Family

(I like this version):

1.      Discuss the facts about Boccherini (write on the board with his picture posted).
2.      Listen to the song – have students keep only the downbeat pulse – as they listen show the major and minor vocab cards (at the appropriate time) and discuss the string family (specifically what members make up the string quartet)
3.      Listen again – ask the students “do you feel that the beats are grouped in twos or threes” (stand and move if needed) – once the question has been answered, keep the 3/4 pulse (alternating places for each measure - we lightly tap top of hand then near elbow)
4.      Create a large circle (without scarves) and complete the following movement:
a.      A section: Walk clockwise around the circle stepping on the downbeat only, beginning with the left foot (on repeat go counter-clockwise)
b.      B section: stand and face middle of the circle – spread arms upward twice and downward twice
c.       Complete entire form of the song: AABABA
5.      Discuss the term “anacrusis” – pointing out to the students that the music began before we moved to the first downbeat
6.      Try the same movement with scarves (weaving in to the circle " in, two, three" and then out "out two three" with whatever arm is facing outside of the circle)
7.      Discuss the form of the music (students decode this) then write on board
8.      Move in small circles (four small circles around hula-hoops works best) and perform the movement in small groups (if scarf color and hula-hoop color match, awesome - if the students wear the same color as the scarf and hula-hoop - you've got a program dance on your hands)

Extension: They can fill out a listening recommendation such as this one below (you can find out more about this worksheet by clicking on the picture below)

I hope you find these ideas helpful - give them a try :)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Captain, Go Sidetrack Your Train

Here's a rhythm activity I'm planning to use with my 5th graders (we're working on recorder and syncopa):

The students create their own rhythms and then improvise a melody on E-G-A-B on the recorder.  This creates a "B" section for the orffestration and movement we use with the song:

In this download at my TPT store, you'll find the printables you see above, lots of tempo vocabulary word printables, thorough slides for teaching the song, movement game instructions, full orffestrations, and 3 mini-lessons (with explicit instructions).  Check it out!

Sunday, February 9, 2014


In the past I've struggled with explaining "syncopa".  I mean, sure the kids understand what to call it and they understand the short-long-short feeling of it, but do they really understand all the components and how they indeed last two beats?  Yikes!

So, this is a silly way I've created to explain it (I can't get the picture to not go sideways, sorry! - and of course, being the Kodaly person I am, the students have already experienced the feel of syncopa, they were prepared, it just hadn't been presented yet):
First, I lay-out the quarter note heart and eighth note pair heart.  I ask the students, "Which heart has one sound on a beat?" (quarter note)  and "Which heart has two sounds on a beat?" (eighth note pair).  "How many beats do you see now?" (two) and "How many sounds do we have?" (three)  "Well, one day the quarter note was hanging out with his friends the eighth note pair.  The eighth note pair always went somewhere together - they were best friends - BFFs.  In fact, the quarter note had never seen them apart.  Today, however, as he approached, he heard the eighth note pair arguing.  It seemed they had grown tired of hanging out all the time and need a little break from each other.  They were getting pretty upset (at this point I take out the pink heart with the eighth notes, separate or "break" it, and put the quarter note in between them), so the quarter note decided to get in the middle of their argument to try to help them out."  Then I ask the students "How many beats do we see?" (two)  "How many sounds do we see?" (three)  "Where does the longest sound occur?" (in the middle)  We chant it saying "ti-ta-ti" and do a pat-clap-pat body percussion with it.  Then, I say "The quarter note helped the eighth note pair realize that they need a little bit of a break from each other.  The three of them walked around in this order and decided that they liked this arrangement.  Maybe they could stay this way and become something else all together?"  (At this point I bring out the syn-co-pa hearts).  "Look, its a new rhythm called syn-co-pa!"  We chant syn-co-pa and use pat-clap-pat.  Then I ask "How many beats make-up syncopa?" (two)  "How many sounds make up syncopa?" (three)  "Where do the short and long sounds occur?" (short-long-short).  "How many eighth notes make up syn-co-pa?" (two)  "How many quarter note are in syncopa?" (one)

I like to use syncopa around Valentine's day because of the heart analogy (the hearts are currently available at Target in the $1 section) and because there are so many cute Valentine's Day songs that use syncopa.  I found this song at  Amy Abbott's blog last year.  Here's how I plan to have my students dictate the rhythm this year:

The students can see that "syn-co-pa" doesn't fall exactly on the beats like the quarter note and half note do.

Rhythm PIzzas

My 3rd grade students are currently learning about fractions in their math classes.  I thought that this might be a way to help them with this topic while teaching music.  This would be really cute paired with "Pizza, Pizza Daddy-O".
In the past I had students create their own pizzas and I'm thinking they could do this also, but this time we'll cut out the slices and do some addition/subtraction problems together (such as - a half note plus a quarter note plus two eighth notes) to create rhythms to read and perform.

Students can also play the rhythms on orff instruments while other students move to them (they love this and I usually use tubano drums set up in a circle with the "dancers" in the middle):
Whole Note: step once and stretch out body
Half Note: hop twice
Quarter Note: walk four steps
Eighth Note: jog eight steps
Sixteenth Notes: tip-toe run for 16 steps (this is our favorite)
 ****A student could hold up a pizza so the others know what to move/play***

Lots of ideas swirling around but I would appreciate your suggestions on how to incorporate fractions.  I've seen some cool ideas with legos too ;)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Recorder Interactive Notebook Stuff

My older students will be beginning our recorder unit within the next few weeks.  I'm especially excited to work with my 5th graders.  This is their 3rd year playing recorder and they are such great little musicians.

Here are a few things I'm working on for them.  I'll put these materials up on TPT around mid-to-late February, once I finish all the accompanying powerpoints.  I'm having to create new materials for my little smarties.  Most of these pages will be placed in their interactive notebooks so they can monitor and track their progress and have all the resources they need.  I also include a recorder fingering chart and a page with all the pitches on the treble clef labeled.  Note: A few items are nearly verbatim from the Recorder Karate curriculum (the Recorder Basics and Recorder Rubric), so those won't be included in my TPT store but if you purchase the bundle, I'll send them via email for free.

First, there is the recorder basics sheet.  Most of my 5th graders mastered this years ago, but it doesn't hurt to review or to show the new ones what is expected.  The students must earn my initials next to each criteria before they can begin testing for their belts.

Next is a basic overview of the songs and prizes attached to them:
From there, the students are asked to choose a goal.  Some need my help so that they choose an attainable goal.  Goal-reachers will be recognized with a picture on the recorder bulletin board and their names in a drawing to win a sopranino recorder (I hold a drawing for all the black belts to win one also, so this will be a way to reward those that may have been working very hard but weren't quite skilled enough to reach black belt).
The students can color in their progress after they play for me.  I'll grade them based on this rubric:
After a student progresses through the black belt, I have advanced music they can use:
And here's a copy of what their music looks like up until black belt.  Now, by 5th grade, most students can go straight to the bottom of the page (with the music on the staff) and in fact, I encourage them to do so and require most of them to pass off their music this way.  However, having the music broken into these smaller chunks help my SPED and new students progress along fairly well.  It is also especially helpful for my 3rd graders, who are all new recorder players.
Here's a little history of the recorder foldable I'm going to have the students use.  They'll be allowed to work in pairs to complete this, using a print-out with information about the history of the recorder on it:
Let's get to honking, hahaha!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Groundhog Day and a Sale

Hello everyone!  I don't know about you but I had such a busy busy December!  I'm excited to get back to blogging.

I'm starting this year off with the first of many coming freebies (most will be either recorder-based or applicable for older students).  My 4th and 5th graders are really ready for some more challenging music, especially on the recorder so I'll need to create the resources for them.

This file, based on Groundhog Day, is what I'll use as a warm-up/practice activity with my older students.  Instructions are included in the file, but let me know if you need any help.   I'll be posting a E-G-A-B and D-E-G-A-B version of this later today.  Click the picture to download.

I'm also having a 20% OFF SALE at my TPT STORE.  Check it out and stock up for the new year.