Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recorder Mayhem

Ah, the recorder.  It's that instrument we love to hate sometimes, but I think it is an important part of my students' music education.  Some teachers use recorders regularly, starting in early grades--if you are one of those people, my hat is off to you!  I, however, have chosen to introduce recorders in a focused unit in fourth grade.  By that age, most of their hands are big enough to cover the holes (a few still struggle with this for a few weeks) and they are ready for a new challenge.  It injects some much-needed enthusiasm in my class for the spring semester, just when the kids are getting restless and ready to be done with elementary school.

After much trial and error, I have settled into my personal favorite method:  Recorder Karate.  It is by far the most motivating thing for my kids.  It's amazing!  Boys who never seemed to be that "into" music are suddenly racing to see who can reach their Black Belt first.  Kids who (I thought) were not really progressing musically are suddenly reading music like crazy.  I love it.  I begin the unit with class lessons to learn their first three notes (BAG), practicing together to learn the classic first song: Hot Cross Buns.  When they play the song alone successfully, they get their white belt.  After that, I begin each class with a group lesson, group practice, then independent practice time.  (Maybe I'm just a control freak, but that was something I had to learn how to do with this age of students--let them practice independently.  I'm so used to being the leader, director, conductor, etc., I had never set young kids loose on their own.  Guess what?  They CAN do it!) During independent practice time, they can sign up on the board to play for me.  I get to spend one-on-one time with kids, helping when they are struggling, cheering when they get it, and giving immediate rewards for success. Awesomeness!

So this year, I had a new problem.  I had a group of VERY competitive boys who made black belt (9 levels) in THREE WEEKS.  Yikes!  What now?  That's what they were asking me, every day, after school, before school, during class....they wanted more!  So I started digging, went to the yarn department to find new colors for belts, and gave them some more.  They are loving it.  I never dreamed I would be able to differentiate this much in an elementary music classroom.  I am having a ball, and they are keeping me on my toes. 

Now that's not to say that I don't have days when I don't want to hear another recorder sound--ever--but for the most part, I have a lot of fun with this unit.  Seeing kids get excited about making music is worth every ear-piercing, headache-inducing whistle.  Really. 

FOLLOW-UP:  Last week one of my fourth graders came to school in this shirt she made at home.  I heart her.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hop to It! Easter Fun

Well, I meant to get this post up sooner, but I guess it's better late than never, right?  Easter is upon us, and the kids are brimming with excitement over eggs, bunnies, candy, and spring fun!  This week I just decided to run with the Easter Bunny theme with my younger students.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  Easter Rhythms:  I cut out enough paper egg shapes for the entire class.  On each egg, I wrote a word or phrase about easter/spring, like "easter bunny, egg hunt, jelly beans", etc.  Before the kids come into the room, I hide the eggs around the music room (in easy places to find).  I have three easter baskets, each with a rhythm card taped to the front.  For first grade, I used two quarter notes, two eighths and a quarter note, and two pairs of eighth notes.  The students get to find the easter eggs, read the words, then place the egg in the basket with the matching rhythm pattern.  We go through each basket together, and any misplaced eggs we review and discover the correct rhythm of the words. 

2.  Scrambled Eggs:  For this you need plastic easter eggs.  Print out songs the kids know, and cut apart the phrases.  You can use rhythms, melodies, or both, depending on the grade level.  Include the title, but not the lyrics.  Students have to open the eggs, read the phrases, and put them in order to read the song.  They can work in groups as a race, or if you're really industrious you could have a set for each student. 

3.  The Bunny Hop:  Little kids have to move, so let's learn the Bunny Hop!  I simplified the first steps to a single touch on each side before the hops.  It's a great way to work out the wiggles!

4.  Books:  I love to incorporate books into my classes, and this is no exeption.  This week we read Bunny's Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown in Kinder, and There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick by Lucille Colandro in first grade.  My kinder babies enjoy making all the sounds the bunny hears in his day, and first graders will be singing along with the crazy old lady!

Some other favorite songs this week are from Denise Gagne's "Movement Songs Children Love"--especially "One Green Jelly Bean" and the "Easter Bunny Boogie". 

Do you have an Easter activity that your kiddos love?  Please share! 

Happy Easter!