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!