Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween Fun!

Last week was Red Ribbon Week, full of fun dress-up days, a DEA Helicopter landing, and a K-9 Unit demonstration.  SO exciting for little people!  Plus, it's almost Halloween!  Aaaaaah!  The excitement is reaching a feverish height! 

When life gives you excited little kiddies, you have to figure out how to go with it.  These are some fun things we did this week to work out those wiggles and keep them focused.

1.  Copycat to special songs - This is just a movement activity to keep the beat in your body.  I move the beat to a different movement every 8 beats, so they have to keep watching or they'll get left behind!  When they are good at following quickly, try letting students lead.  I go around the circle, with each student leading a movement for 8 beats.  When I say "switch!", the next student leads with their movment.  This weeks fun songs were: 
  • Monster Mash
  • Purple People Eater
  • Witch Doctor
  • Scooby Doo Theme Song (kinders go nuts for this one!)
  • I Want Candy
2.  "Witch Doctor" is fun to sing!  I taught the kids to sing the chorus ("ooh-ee-ooh-ah-ah, ting-tang, wadda wadda bing bang!")  It's great for phonemic awareness with younger students, and good articulation practice for older kids.

3.  Listening Lesson:  J.S. Bach, "Toccata and Fugue in d minor" - Did you know that many kids have never seen or heard of a pipe organ these days?  I made a slideshow with pics of the pipe organ from our church a few years ago.  We talk about how the organ works, how kids used to pump the air into the organ for Bach and other greats, and how MANY pipes there are.  Then we listen to the music.  I tell them that Bach was writing for why does it sound scary?  Great discussions in 3rd and 4th grade!

4.  Spooky Walk - a LONG time ago, I had a record (yes, vinyl record!) with this speech activity on it.  It's like the "Bear Hunt" we've all done, but instead they hear spooky sounds along the way.  At the end, we go into a cave with dripping water in the background and echoing sounds.  They LOVE it!  (I have since managed to record the album with an mp3 recorder so I can use it again. It's not the greatest quality, but that makes it even spookier!)

5.  "Grickler Grackle" - I can't remember which book I got this one from, but it's a speech piece that I use in 2nd grade.  We learn the rhyme, then match the rhythms with the correct line.  Then I divide them into small groups, where they write their own answer to the final question.
  •  Listen!  Listen!  Listen to the witch!
  • Grickle, grackle, chip, chop, crunch!
  • Grickle, grackle, gooble, gooble, munch, munch, munch!
  • Whatever in the world is she having for lunch?
She's had everything from chips and crackers to bones, eyes, and spider stew!  You can also let the groups use instruments to add sounds to their final performance of the piece (including their original ending). 

So that's what we've been doing at my school!  If you like these and would like more info, or a copy of a ppt., leave your email in a comment below and I'll be happy to share!  Now, what are your favorite October activities?  

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Music Word Wall

Our school is really focusing on improving writing skills in our students this year.  As a music teacher, I don't do a lot of writing, but I did think of a way to encourage the thinking skills needed to write well.  Enter the Listening Board: 

When we listen to music, there are so many things to listen to, and comment on, it can be hard to put into words.  Heck, when you only come to music once a week, it's hard to remember the words to use!  So I made this display, dividing the descriptors into six categories:  Tempo, Dynamics, Articulation, Melody, Mood, and Timbre.  For elementary school, that's quite a bit!  In each section I put up different words to describe that aspect of the music.  My plan is to refer to it every time we listen to a new piece, and ask students to tell me -- in complete sentences -- what they hear.  I'm sure they will come up with new words to add, too.  That will make it even better! 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Those who do the work, do the learning

That's a truth I totally believe, but I'm not always good at living it.  I mean, it's just so much easier to do things myself, rather than try to explain to someone one else how to do them.  I am really working on giving my students more responsibility for their learning, starting with the little(ish) things. 

I am kinda funny about organization.  Everything has a place, and a correct way to fit into that place.  Trusting 8-year-olds to get out and put away instruments safely and neatly is REALLY hard for me.  Enter the colored dots:

Sticker Dots sold in office supply stores.

These marvelous little dots have made my life so much easier!  Here's how it works:  each mallet instrument has a colored dot on the side. (Soprano=blue, Alto=yellow, Bass=red, Glocks and specialty mallets=green) There is a dot of the same color on the mallets for those instruments.  There is another dot on the shelf where that instrument is stored.  The mallet cans are also color coded in the same way.  Students know which mallets go with their instrument, which can to put them in, and where to put away the instrument at the end of class.  I can see at a glance what is missing or misplaced and make adjustments as needed.  I'm still tweaking the system for weaknesses, but so far I'm excited!  No more setting up and taking down by myself!  And yes, this is a great lesson for kids.  They feel more responsible, and it shows in their class participation as well.

UPDATE:  Love it!  Everything has ended up back in the right place, and I didn't have to put everything away myself.  This is HUGE, especially since my schedule this year does not allow time in between classes to rearrange everything.  The older kids have to set up/take down during class time, and now I can relax and let them do it. Why didn't I do this sooner?

Friday, October 7, 2011


Last week I got a message from a high school friend who is also an elementary music teacher.  He and his colleagues were looking for a classroom to visit during their inservice day, and asked if they could come see me.  My immediate answer to that question is always, "sure! come on!"  Until that day.  Then I am as nervous as a first year teacher.  I question my lesson plan.  I question my classroom management.  I question my sanity. 

In my defense, today was our first early release day, before a long weekend, and the weather changed. Oh, and it's Friday.  See what I mean?  Any veteran teacher will tell you, that is a recipe for craziness.  Brace yourself, and have a backup plan. 

So I'm teaching my lesson (Hispanic Heritage, music and dance) when my new friends come in. They sit down on the risers (away from the class) and immediately start whispering and pointing.  Great for the old self-esteem, ya'll.  And the kids..........were GREAT.  They loved the lesson, and after we finished dancing I heard several "that was fun!" comments during the transition back to their seats.  They sang well, they learned a new song and game, and we all had a fantastic time.  Whew!  I hope my visitors enjoyed it, but I am pleased no matter what.

Once again I am reminded of how much I enjoy my job.  Happy Friday!