Sunday, September 29, 2013

Learning Paris in the Music Room

This blog post is designed to describe how I use learning pairs in the music room.  Please comment below if you need any clarification.

 What do learning pairs look like in your classroom?
Learning pairs do just that - they help students learn while working with a partner.  In my classroom, students are working with their partner either in a circle formation or in organized linear lines.  The learning pairs work together often so that they are more comfortable with each other.  Learning pairs sometimes share materials, answer discussion questions together, or work together on worksheets, assessments, and compositional or instrumental assignments.

How do you assign learning pairs look like in your classroom?
When I assign them seats, my students are grouped in many different ways.  When they sit on the risers, they are organized by colors (red, yellow, green, and blue) and rows (top row and bottom row).  These places determine where they will sit on the carpet (either in a large circle or in four rows that match the four colors).  I try to group students in successful ways - I think about their musical skills, behavior, learning accommodations, English language abilities, etc.  Therefore, when we move into activities where they will work in pairs, I've already set them up for success.  If a pair isn't being successful (arguing, one partner does more work than the other, they seem uncomfortable with each other) I will immediately address this and change partners if necessary.  Sometimes, I approach their classroom teacher (who also has them assigned into pairs) if I feel I need more background knowledge before grouping students.

Why use learning pairs?
I've found that learning pairs are beneficial for a number of reasons:

1. ELL's and SPED students - Pairing an ELL with a strong English speaker or a SPED student with a patient classmate will often lead to the success of the ELL or SPED student.  Some partners can be very protective of their ELL or SPED partner and even praise or encourage them as they improve.  Again, these students need to be paired with care as some students may get frustrated working with an ELL or SPED classmate.

2. Students re-teach themselves when they teach others - When working on a concepts, sometimes I think, what else can I do?  We sing it, we read it, we play it, we compose with it, we discuss it, I have an anchor chart that goes with it, I have printables, games, etc - but sometimes all a student needs to do to "get it" is explain it to a peer.  These conversations are absolutely precious and I can easily see who is excitedly talking with their partner, pointing to anchor charts and explaining anxiously with their hands and who is struggling or looking confused.  This is another way to assess students without them filling out a worksheet.  They are excited and engaged because they are talking to a peer.  

For example, I sat my 4th graders in front of our large "Music Street" board and asked them to discuss the following questions (most of which were review and I didn't want to waste time teaching them again - but I wanted to make sure the students still remembered them and that newer students were getting the opportunity to learn this material as well):
1. What is music street?
2. What are pitches?  Why do we need them?
3. List everything you remember about Do-Re-Mi-So and La.
4. Using Do Re Mi So La, find steps, skips, and leaps.
Of course, I only asked students to discuss one question at a time.  We read the question out loud and I checked to make sure everyone understood it.  Then, students discussed with their partners.  Before moving to the next question, I asked students to share with the class what they discussed.  It was so cute because students were raising their hands and saying, "My partner remember that Do is like the president, he can move to any line or space he wants." etc.

3. Sharing and learning - If you spent any time on my blog, you know I use lots of manipulatives.  I use so many that I can get a little overwhelming and time-consuming to create and organize them.  With my students in learning pairs, I only have to create, say, 12 sets for a class of 24 instead of 24 materials.  Often, this saves me time AND money.  Before you think I'm just looking for an easy way out, let me tell you that my students LOVE working together.  They get to talk to their partner as they figure things out, they can read, sing, clap, and play instruments with their partner (especially great if doing a composition activity - one student creates and another performs), and they can discuss why they did or didn't reach the correct answer (especially in ear-training activities) with their partner.
Here's a little picture from a group of darling little 1st graders.  They were using the beat maps (so easy - just glue the heart cut-outs onto construction paper and laminate - these have lasted 5 years and are still going strong) and bingo chip circles to decode rhythms of known songs (two circles was titi, one circle was ta, and one circle turned over to the white side was shh).  After students worked on the songs I wanted them to, they were allowed to create and perform rhythms with their partners.  The girls were pointing along to the beats as their boys chanted and performed their rhythms with body percussion.  The students loved this activity and I loved that I didn't have bingo chips everywhere, haha.

4. Time to check for understanding and share ideas/thoughts - Sometimes, well, a lot of the time, I just don't have the time for each student to share what they thought about a listening example.  Students can share their thoughts with a partner.  Sometimes, I'll have students read a bit of information and then discuss it with their partner (for example, third graders were singing "Kuma San" and "Nabe Nabe" as they reviewed Do Re Mi and students discussed the facts about Japan that were projected on the screen with their partners).

Tips for success
1. Place with a plan - Pair your students after you've thought carefully about who they should work with - don't assign random pairs or you may get random results.

2. Create norms - Discuss (and create an anchor chart) norms for working with a partner.  You might start partner work by having the students greet their partner politely (mine love doing this - we shake hands, we say hello, it is very sweet and it helps to "break the ice").  Have conversations about what students want in a partner (someone who does their work, someone who is patient, no put-downs but encouragement, etc).  Set up positive incentives (students that compliment their partner today get to lead the line when we leave, or the first pair to complete their work correctly gets to help clean-up, etc - little things that the kids love).  Deal with issues consistently and fairly - putdowns, impatient behavior, etc are never allowed.

3. Work and play - Don't always have your learning pairs "working" - let them play together too.  If you have a partner dance or an activity with instruments, pair your students with their learning pair partner.  Sometimes, it is nice to bond over a fun activity.

4. Praise, praise, praise - I'm very generous with my praising when we work in pairs.  I praise students that get materials out correctly.  I praise students that pick-up correctly.  I praise students who compliment each other.  I praise students that greet each other.  I praise students that work well and stay on task.  I praise pairs or a student in that pair that might not have worked so well during a previous partner activity.  I over-praise pairs where one student is an ELL/SPED/behavior and the other is not.  Praise praise praise.  Positive positive positive.  I walk around and monitor, monitor, monitor.  I engage pairs in discussions and praise their answers.  Do it!
Learning pairs are a simple and time-saving way to help your students succeed.  Try them out and let me know what you think!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Night the Candy Corns Escaped

Don't get me wrong, I love those "Lady that Swallowed Everything" and I always use "Five Little Pumpkins", but this year I wanted a new little story to use with my 1st graders.  I also found some super cute candy-corn erasers (see previous post) at Target and I can't wait to use those.

So, I created a poem called, "The Night the Candy Corns Escaped."  I know the firsties will love to figure out what happens.  We can also pantomine and dramatize the words which will help them get ready for their Winter Program in December.  The 'refrain' of the poem also incorporates rhythms the first graders are working on, so we'll get music reading practice too.

Here's the slides (instructions and printables are included in my Fall into Music set, but you are more than welcome to use what you see here):

In a subsequent lesson, we'll extract the rhythmic content of the first refrain:

I also included some printables to use (a rhythm worksheet, cards for matching the iconic representation to the real rhythm symbols) including this jar dictation sheet (we will use our erasers on this):
Here are a few pictures of the printables/manipulatives in action.  I use sheet protectors and dry erase markers for student work all the time - I can easily assess the students without having to run off a bunch of worksheet copies.  Students enjoy working with dry erase markers as well, so it is a win-win.  For this activity, both pages are placed in the plastic sheet, as well as a marker, a piece of black felt for an eraser, and a bag of candy-corn erasers (again, those are from Target - $1 for 50 erasers).

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Mallet Madness

I could not teach without Artie Almeida's Mallet Madness.  I love it.  I also have Mallet Madness Strikes Again.  Also love.  I recommend these if you're new to Orff-ing and you really want to have fun with your mallet instruments.

She includes some wonderful printables.  Here are some anchor charts I created with them:

Fall/Halloween Melodic Manipulatives

Yesterday, I blogged about some rhythm manipulatives I use for the Fall/Halloween season.  I also use some of the same (and a few different ones) for melodic activities.

I created a little background called, "Corny Melodies" which we use throughout this season.

Here are a few example:

This year, I plan to use these with "Pumpkin, Pumpkin" and "The Pumpkin Patch":

This is a dictation example for the first line of "Old Mother (Mrs.) Witch" - the little ghost is the quarter rest :):

Last year, I did a few dictations with real candy corn (I cleared allergies, asked permission, etc).  It worked really well and was a lot of fun.  This year, I found these cute erasers at Target (we'll be using these instead):

Fun stuff!

You'll find the slides for the songs mentioned in my "Fall into Music" bundle.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Fall/Halloween Rhythm Manipulatives

I'm a huge fan of the Target dollar section and their seasonal stuff.  Over the past three years, I've collected some great manipulatives that I love to use.  I've already checked them out this year and I found the plastic pumpkins, plastic leaves, pumpkin erasers, and ghost erasers that you'll see below.  I hope you find some great ideas:

Here's a cute little anchor chart the students can make (I've done these with 5th grade in the past, but that was when I had 45 minutes per class).  The leaves are die-cuts made from construction paper.

Another fun activity (the small ghost erasers I found last year but the larger ones are currently at Target) is Mrs. White.  I use this with K and 1 grades. It goes along with the poem:

Mrs. White had a fright
In the middle of the night
Saw a ghost eating toast
Halfway up the lamp post

Sorry - for some reason it wont go vertical - stretch your neck ;)
Introduction: We speak the poem and dramatize the words.

For Kinder - Beat vs. Rhythm Lesson
1. We count the beats (number of squares - 16 beats)
2. We point to the beats as we say the poem
3. We say, "short-short" on the two ghosts and "long" on the one ghost - that's the rhythm
4. We clap the rhythm (two claps for two ghosts, one clap for one ghost) first without the poem, then with the poem
5.  The students add the large ghost erasers to the single ghost and the small ghost erasers to the paired ghosts.

For First - Quarter Note (ta) and Eighth Note Pair (titi) Lesson
1. We count the beats (number of squares - 16 beats)
2. We point to the beats as we say the poem.
3. We say "short-short" on the two ghosts and "long" on the one ghost - that's the rhythm
4. We clap the rhythm (two claps for two ghosts, one clap for one ghost) first without the poem, then with the poem
5. We add rhythm sticks to the rhythm as we say the poem and follow the ghosts
6. I laminate the worksheet and give the students a dry erase marker - at the bottom, next to the picture of the one ghost, we draw a quarter note (ta - one sound on one beat) and next to the picture of the two ghosts, we draw an 8th note pair (titi - two sounds on one beat)
7. Using this key, the students draw the correct rhythm over each ghost picture - then we check our answers

This year, I found these acorns and leaves at Hobby Lobby ($3 a bag) and the pumpkins and more leaves at Target ($1 a box).

You can find my instructions for this activity here: Fall Rhythm Fun

The pumpkins are eighth note pairs (pumpkin) and the leaves are quarter notes (leaf).

This year when I incorporate my Leaves lesson, I'll have the students dictate the rhythm themselves.
Here's an example

The plastic figures match the rhythm icons I use in the song.
This year, I'm going to try to use these ice-cube trays.  First, the students can create rhythm patterns.  Then, they can use the top row as "so" and the bottom as "mi".
My 2nd graders are reviewing rhythmic structures.  Their's will be a little more complex (I use the folders like this all the time, sometimes with cards, sometimes with manipulatives, etc):

This rhythm activity I used with the upper grades last year as a review.  The students like to dictate patterns I sing or play, create their own patterns for the class to dictate, and play rhythms I have and create patterns to play.  (You can find more about this here: Halloween Rhythm Dictations).

I used this activity with the song, "Pick a Pumpkin".  The students decode the first two measures using their erasers (jack-o-lantern, black cat, black cat, skull).

You can find Mrs. White and the Fall rhythm fun printable here: Fall into Music

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Old Mrs. Witch

Ok, one of my favorite things to do during Halloween is dance around to "Flight of the Valkeries" (I'm sure Wagner is rolling in his grave).  Usually, we pretend to be bats or owls or something spooky that flies.  Everyone from Kinder - 5th loves this activity, but probably not as much as I do.  This is purely for fun, although older students can answer specific questions about the tempo, dynamic level, and instruments that they hear.

I only play the song for about 45-60 seconds.  We begin by unfolding our wings and stretching them out slowly.  Then, we flap our wings to mimic the movement of the strings.  Finally, when the brass enters with the main theme, we "take-off" and fly around.

I do a lot of crazy movement in my classroom, but the students are wonderful at following all the expectations (such as where we can fly and where we can't, how to avoid hurting others, the speeds and ways our bodys can move, what to do when the music stops, etc).  Define and set your parameters and you won't regret it.

This year, I think I'll pair the song (at least for my older students) with "Old Mrs. Witch" as we practice low la.  The slides for this song have now been added to my Fall into Music bundle.  I have included the slides here in case you'd like to use them.

I've also written orff parts for the metallophones and glocks - I love their sound with this song (that's only included in the bundle though).


With Halloween on the way, I'm totally in the Autumn-mode.  Here are some skeleton/bone/ghost songs that I love (and none of them mention "Halloween", in case you have students that don't celebrate):

First of all, there's my personal favorite, "The Ghost of John" by Martha Grubb.  I use it every Halloween and the kids love the spooky melody.  Last year, I came across a great movement idea from Amy's Blog (she sings "Tom" instead of "John"): Ghost of Tom.  I love doing rounds with older kiddos, and this song is great for that as well.   This year, I found a great orffestration in the Share the Music Series (you know, the really old one text book series - that's all we have so you can see why I create so many PowerPoints, haha).  That series has great orffestrations because many of them include instructions for teaching the orchestration (yay, I don't have to figure it out).  The orffestration was created by Carol King.  I'll share the first page so you can get an idea:

My older students already know the song "Dry Bones Come Skipping" (this is now included in my Fall into Music  bundle).  We've used it as a name game already this year.  The students sing the song while walking in a circle for the A section and stopping and facing center for the B section.  One person rolls a ball from the middle of the circle out.  Whoever the ball hits catches it, and instead of 'Zekiel's bones in the B section, we'll sing their name and they sing a solo on "Some of them bones are mine."

 I've included a few slides for: discussing who Ezekiel was, reviewing the lyrics, and adding the steady beat.

By Halloween, (fingers crossed), the 4th and 5th grade students will be ready to add low so to our pitch repertoire (they already know low la). This song also has some challenging rhythms, including "syncopa" (eighth-quarter-eighth) and tika-ti (sixteenth-sixteenth-eighth).  Now, obviously being Kodaly-based, the students will learn other songs with tika-ti before we get to this one (they already know syncopa, but it never hurts to review).

The students will also add orff instruments to the song.  I created an easy accompaniment for BX and SX.  A while ago, I found a recorder counter-melody (I don't remember where - I have so many books) which the students can also add.
In the past, I've also added, "Dry Bones" (Dem Bones) with motions (in a large circle):
A Section (sung twice):

Ezekiel cried: Students cup hands near mouth
Them dry bones: Students hold arms out, bend at elbow, and wiggle arms (mimic skeleton arms)
Hear the Word of the Lord: Students cup ears, point to mouths, then point upward.

B Section:

During this section, we point to whatever bone is being mentioned.  Hear the Word of the Lord is the same as above.

C Section:

Them bones, them bones, gonna walk around: Students step counter-clockwise to the half note beat (four times).
Them bones, them bones, gonna walk around: Students step clockwise to the half note beat (four times).
Them bones, them bones, gonna walk around: Students step counter-clockwise to the half note beat.
Now hear the Word of the Lord: Same movements as before (students face center).
There's also, "Skin and Bones".  This is a good song for introducing low la, as the "ooh" incorporates it.  Students can sing and discern that the new note is lower than mi, re, and do.

This year I found some very cute erasers at Target.  We'll use these to figure out the last line of the melody, then to dictate patterns I sing and play.  Students can also create their own patterns (using mi, re, do, and la).

I like incorporating ideas from this video - it looks like there are some "trees", a few "bones" on the ground, and one student could be the "old woman" (the only cane I have is a candy cane one, oh well).  Cool ideas in the instrument section too - although older students could also add the recorder on the "ooh".
I hope you find these spooky ideas helpful!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Owl and the Wind

It is no secret.  I love owls.  It really is a problem - but this little poem - well - I can't wait to incorporate it into my lessons.

I just created this, so we'll see how it goes (I'm thinking late September, early October with grades K-2).  We'll be able to discuss weather changes and what types of "signs" we see to know that the season has changed.  We can also discuss plenty or rhyming words.  You can also sneak in things like tempo (the leaves swirl quickly - they have a fast tempo) and dynamics (the wind howled loudly - it was forte). After enough experiences with these words, I can easily ask a 5 year old, "What was the dynamic level of that song?" and they can respond correctly.

Note: I'm really into using movement to help students understand text, lyrics, and vocabulary words.  We move all the time, even in 5th grade.  Having a movement helps students understand (especially with ELL's) what they are learning and can help them recall information.  Lots of teachers at my school do the same thing in ELA lessons with their students.  Most of the time, I let the students create the movement (with some guidelines).  For this, since I've already created the movement and the instrumentation we'll use, I'll ask the students to explain why they think I moved that way or why I added that specific instrument.  They enjoy figuring this out and following my creative thought process will help them with their own compositions later.

Here's the poem:
I've created a slide, movement, and instrumentation activity for each little phrase:

Movement: Students are standing, put hands out to sides and raise about mid-way (like wings).  Flap wings for “a little owl” then bend down (pretend to sit) on “sat on a branch”.
Instrumentation: Wood block (like the wood of the tree), plays, “Little owl, Little owl” (titi-ta, titi-ta)
Movement: Students hug themselves and shiver.
Instrumentation: Metallophones do a tremolo (any pitch is fine – I suggest setting up in c pentatonic).
  Movements: Students twirl, with hands rising from low to high, either in place or safely around the room.
Glockespeils: Glissandos up and down.
Movement: Students extend their arms out above their heads like the branches of the tree and sway back and forth.
Instrumentation: Either temple blocks or agogo bells (something with two distinct sounds) play “sway-ing-branch-es” (ta (higher pitch), ta (lower pitch), ta (higher pitch), ta (lower pitch))
Movement: Students cup hands around mouth as if “howling.”
Vocalization: All students sing “ooooh”, moving their voices up and down
Movement: Students put their hands up by their chests (like a begging puppy or the arms of a T-Rex) and scurry about the room.
Instrumentation: Rhythm sticks play “hur-ry, hur-ry, scur-ry, scur-ry” (titi, titi, titi, titi).
 Movement: Students look upward.
Instrumentation: Metallophones and glocks glissando up.
  Movement: Students spread out fingers in front of them and mimic snow falling.
Instrumentation: Jingle bells lightly shake.

I'll be updating my "Fall into Music" set with this and at least two other files this weekend.  Check it out ;)