Monday, July 25, 2016

Pokemon Rhythms

So, are you playing Pokemon Go?  My teenage son is all over it.  He goes on bike rides and for walks just to catch some more. (Better than sleeping all day, no?)  I have downloaded the game and caught all of three pokemons, but I admit, I just don't care enough to walk around in the heat. Sorry, I'm old and boring!  However, I  was surfing about on the "interwebs" when I ran across this cute page of Pokemon rhythms on Pinterest. I wish I could remember who made them! I loved the idea, but there were only eight cards (Free download--go get it now!).  So today, I got on Google and found some more and made a new folder game!

Students can pick out their favorite Pokemons and make a rhythm pattern to speak, clap, or play. Older kids can use them to compose in 2/4 or 4/4 with the meter cards. I'm going to add popsicle sticks to use as bar lines, too. 

An extension of this activity could be a worksheet to write down their new composition.  I'll probably make one of those soon, but for now, I just had to tell someone about my new game!  My 15yo is just not excited enough....but I know my students will LOVE it!

If you want to make one too, you can download my additional cards HERE, and the direction page RIGHT HERE. I didn't have the same fonts as the original set, so they aren't an exact match, but they're free!

Have fun, and Pokemon......GO!

Update: First, I have reached level 5 in Pokemon Go! (I know, you're jealous 😂) Second, I had this awesome idea for the game folder. I am ridiculously excited about this!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Food for Thought

As I prepare for the school year, I am thinking about the culture of my classroom.  I love this quote by Todd Whitaker. It makes me think of the end of the year last spring. That's usually when behavior is at its worst, and when some teachers choose to ignore small problems.  Hey, I get it.  By May, we are in survival mode: exhausted, out of ideas, and ready for vacation. At least I am. If you're not, well, we just can't be friends. (Just kidding!)

Every year, I make the decision to be better at classroom management than ever before.  My students will be excited to come to my class!  They will listen with rapt attention to my clever and entertaining lessons and participate wholeheartedly in every activity. Misbehavior will not even cross their minds, because music is the best class ever! We will make music like never before, and their skills will transfer to other academics, raising test scores to boot.  We're talking Teacher of the Year material here! Hey, a girl can dream, right? 

But how do I get there? I can start by making sure I have planned, clear procedures for everything.  Spend the first two weeks (or more) teaching and practicing those procedures religiously, and hold the kids (and myself) to those high expectations. Because what I tolerate now on the fringes of behavior is what will become the norm in my classroom by Christmas. Thank you, Mr. Whitaker. 

I challenge you to take the time now, before school starts, to envision how your class will function and write down clear procedures for every type of activity. You will be glad you did!

Happy Planning!

P.S.- I'm thinking about a future post about specific procedures in music, and how I run my classroom.  Let me know in the comments if that is something you would be interested in reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Music Centers

Do you use centers in music class?  "Student-directed learning" is a popular buzz phrase, so how do we use this in music?  As musicians, we are very comfortable in the director/ensemble format.  It's easy to be the director/conductor all the time.  But it's not the only way.  Teachers have been using centers in PK-K-1st for EVER, so why shouldn't we?

Centers, or workstations, give students the opportunity to practice without pressure.  They also learn to create and manipulate what they know in new ways. This is exactly what we want, right?  I love it when a student asks, "Can I make my own ___?"  Centers give them a chance to try it. They can also provide a way for you to assess students in small groups, or re-teach those who are struggling. A bonus feature of centers is that, once you have taught your classes how to use them, they are a NO BRAINER SUB PLAN! What? Did you say easy sub plan?  For music? YES! (cheers and whistles in background)

So what makes a good center activity? Here is what works for me:

1. Whole class games/activities - I play SWAT! with my classes, dividing them into teams and letting two students at a time come to the board to challenge each other.  Once we have done this in class, the kids know how to play without my help.  I can set up a SWAT! station and they will love it even more because they get more turns! How many large group activities could become a center? You probably have several already.

2. That cute worksheet you found on Pinterest - I don't often do worksheets as a class, but it would be pretty easy to set them up as a center. Tracy King has a great DIY to make dry-erase pockets that would make worksheets even cooler here.

3. Books - I love books.  I have collected quite a few music-related books over the years, but I don't have time to read them all to my classes.  Readers are leaders, so set up a classroom library for the kids to use.  They will love to re-read the books you have read to them, too!

4. Listening - When I first started teaching in the early 90s, only classroom teachers had listening stations, and they were expensive.  Today, you can set up a listening center with an ipod/ipad and a $15 splitter.  Kids can even bring their own earbuds (showing up on school supply lists more and more) to use.  If you do set up a listening station, be sure to have an activity to guide their listening.  It can be a map, a listening log, a drawing activity....the possibilities are endless!

5.  Games - Go to Music in Motion and get some games.  They will be so worth it when you lose your voice and can't miss school.  Set up one game center and play with the kids so you can show them how to play. After a few times like that, they can play on their own without fighting. I like Bingo, Dominotes, Classical Snap!, and Note Nabber, to name a few.

So now you have five different stations you could try out in your room.  I have found that they are great the week of a program, when I am focused on the performance group, and at the end of the grading period, when I need another grade.  Try them out early in the year, when the kids are learning procedures and still listening well. Not that your students would ever have trouble listening or anything.....

Enjoy the rest of your summer break!