Thursday, August 4, 2016

Hello Everyone!  I hope you're enjoying your last few weeks of summer.

I am transitioning into "oh yeah, school is starting" mode as we speak.  I decided to share an activity I do with the song "Mrs. Macaroni" that is really appropriate and fun for the beginning of the year (I suggest grades 2 and 3).

 To begin, I play the tune of the song on the piano and invite students to learn as many names as they can (walking around talking) while I play.  At the end of the song, I have them "log" the names into their brains (its so cute to see them looking around at each other, trying to remember).  We repeat this about two more times.  Then, I show them the lyrics slide and sing the song for them.  Secondly, I have them "sing" without making sound as I sing (lips moving).  Lastly, they sing the song without me but with the help of the piano (by then they've heard the tune at least five times).  I congratulate them on already being independent singers from day one!

Next, I show them the real music.  This is such a teaching point.  We discuss things we learned in prior years (most can chant the rhythm, many can identify specific patterns and pitches).  We discuss that there are still more things to learn (this is a real "hey, you're still responsible for this information" kind of moment and can help you judge who retained what without taking too much time).

 I then show them how we will substitute "Susie" for other names in the class (C - C - C for Carlos).  Students love volunteering or I even bring in famous names (D - D - D for Darth Vader).

Once this is established, I complete the movement activity listed here (it is very sequential and works well - you get the kids up and moving on the first day, interacting and having fun, but it is controlled and purposeful).  And I love looking totally silly riding around on the hobby horse, sometimes I even throw on a cowboy hat, haha.

Note: be very very careful with tempo - it is fun to speed up the song and see them try to trot along - but don't go too fast at first or its just a mess!

Last (or on a subsequent lesson), I add the instrumentation.
Note: Pitches with a " (For example, C") are the higher pitch on the instrument. 

I hope this helps your back-to-school plans!  Enjoy!


Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Orff Visuals

Hey there readers!  I can't wait to start blogging again.  I took a (major) break while my husband battled cancer (lymphoma - he's in remission) and I had our first child, a precious baby girl.

I will be sifting through comments but sadly, two things have occurred that will effect most of the comments: 1) My main laptop that stored most of what I created crashed - I had though I had backed up everything but some things were left out - ughhh and 2) I have my 7 Habits stuff up to share ideas but I am not allowed to distribute the materials in any way.

That being said, this post will include some ideas for teaching students Orff orchestrations from the volumes (especially with using visuals).

Note 1: My partner and I have a great set-up at our school - we have more than enough Orff instruments so each child is on an instrument at a time.  If your students have to share, you may find things a little more difficult but still do-able.  With more difficult Orff pieces we will also combine to teach or save it for our after-school ensemble.

Note 2: All of these visuals were created in PowerPoint - it is seriously easy.  For staff notation I used (free and user-friendly).

Note 3: I am not some sort of Orff-expert.  I'm simply explaining what has worked for me and my students ;)

When selecting a piece - always ask yourself why?  What is it for?  A performance?  To teach 3/4?  To incorporate movement?  Having a purpose for the piece is can help you decide what you want your students to learn from it and sharing that purpose with them is also a great idea.

Here's a piece we used at the beginning of the year with 4th and 5th grade.  Both grades play lots of things from the volumes throughout the year and the 5th graders will use music from the volumes in their play (we do an adaptation of Shakespeare plays with 5th grade and the students provide the music and sound effects - its very "movie-score" and very cool).

We started with the ostinato because it is one of the main elements of any Orff piece.  We have a discussion about the vocabulary at the bottom and about how we repeat the pattern 13 times before "The End" (the two quarter notes).  The rhythmic and melodic content (I can take the absolute pitches away after we discuss them) is totally appropriate for 4th/5th graders at the beginning of school.  The students play the D and B with their left and the A and G with their right, so we can discuss sticking/cross-overs.

The melody is more complicated, which we do on purpose to identify the skill-level of our students.  With most Orff pieces we teach everyone everything and then if it is just a lesson piece, have the students rotate parts, or if it is a performance piece, we select which part they will play based on availability and skill.  This melody if great for discussing skips and leaps, variations (the first measure of each phrases is echoed in the second but changed slightly), 16th note variations, basic treble clef pitches, and an octave gliss.  By presenting the students with notation, we can enhance their learning beyond what they would learn by rote.  This piece also set the foundation for ensemble playing skills (the melody must be heard over the accompaniment, the accompaniment must not rush the tempo) and improv/extensions (what if we added the basses to a D/A chord bordun on beat one of every measure? etc).

This piece is one we would use to discuss form and triple meter.  Notice how the phrases are color-coded - this helps A LOT.

When teaching a melody, such as this one, I love being able to use the visuals first.  To teach this, I would:
1. Ask - What do you notice about the first line of the A section? It repeats (and repetition makes things easier)
2. Where is a difficult spot in the first line? The D to D" (little D) octave leap
3. What is relatively easy about the second line? Stepwise motion
4. We would sing (echoing me one line at a time) the phrase on pitch names at a slow tempo many times.  This (sneakily) gets your older students to sing and helps them be more successful on the instruments).  I would play the melody for the students as they sing without me.
5. When the melody is (basically) memorized, I have a large xylophone that I project (on the screen (see below)) and slowly demonstrate how to play (students copy me with their hands in the air).  Proper focus can be encouraged by having students come up and touch the screen to "play" the large xylophone (yes this works with 5th graders).
6. Once on instruments, we "air play" by pretending to strike the correct notes as we play.  We work out the entire piece A section this way.
7. Then we play for real, line one first (I play, they echo and sing) followed by the second.  We isolate and discuss any hard spots.  After we have played in this manner, I give them a few minutes to rehearse it on their own.
8. We play the A section - completely, multiple times, discussing anything we need to fix or that went well.
I found that this is very effective vs. phrase-by-phrase rote teaching.  The students have sung the entire "melodic" picture - and they want to complete that picture.  LOTS of learning takes place in the discussion and this way I can hold them accountable for things they already know (i.e. why are leaps harder to play or how is this phrase different from the next) from previous discussions.  Soon, students are using terms like "phrase" or "melodic direction" and hypothesizing about where difficulties occur.  They aren't just creating the music, they are analyzing and evaluating it.  They are thinking critically.

Here's a visual for a canon (students love playing canons) that can get your students playing a four-part piece relatively simply.  All students are taught the entire piece (and since they are seeing the notation we can discuss the doted quarter note and the whole note) then gradually we build the four parts of the canon (and students can refer to the instructions on the bottom to solidify what their part does).

Another tip for multi-part pieces is to give the parts their own speech-accompaniment.  Once the notes are learned, this can help students stay together in an ensemble setting.  It also gets them to sing.

You can also use a slide similar to this one.  I have all the students play each part.  Then I divide the class in 2, then in 3, then in four.  It isn't hard to ask questions like "Which part has a longer rhythm then the others and how is that difficult?" or "Which two parts have contrary motion?" etc.

Visuals can also help with phrasing.  I love to highlight similar phrases because students can realize "I already learned this content" or "this content just repeats" or "today we are only focusing on these two colors" and it can make a difficult melody less daunting.  This is a three-mallet accompaniment for a piece our 5th graders played this year.

Here is a piece my 1st graders played this year.  We sang it.  We discussed the rhythm only.  We twirled around like leaves as we sang the tune on "ooo".  We added rubbing hand drums (sounds like wind), wind chimes, a drone in the basses.  But then finally, we tackled the melody. We discussed melodic direction.  We sang the entire thing on the pitches.  I sang the first line in two phrases and the bottom in one phrase while "playing" the big xylophone at the bottom.  Students copied.  Eventually, we had an entire piece with some students on the melody, some on the basses, some on the unpitched instruments, and still others with fall-colored scarves gliding like leaves around the room.  We even added a form (introduction, sing, play, sing and play, coda).

Adding visuals can really enhance your Orff-based lessons.   How do you present a new piece?