Friday, May 31, 2013

Musical Listening Exploration Report

I'm working on developing some new ideas for use in the Interactive Notebooks I use with grades 3-5.  I'll be making a more detailed post discussing usage of the interactive notebooks soon (I promise!).

Until then, here's a new worksheet I developed for grades mid3rd - 5th.  It can be filled out and glued into a composition notebook, as long as you glue it in horizontally (it will take up two pages).

It has an alien theme because our mascots at my school are "Explorers" and all our decor, etc, is "spacey".  You could also pretend that your students are "aliens" here to document the music of earth so they can "present" it back on the mother ship.  (See end of post for more fun ideas to incorporate this theme).

I plan to use it in three different ways.

1. WHOLE CLASS - As a class, we would listen to a piece of music chosen by me (I haven't decided specifically which one I would use) and discuss what we heard.  I like to give multiple listenings, asking the students to listen for specific things each time, or giving them a chance to move around (either using a predetermined set of movements or let them create their own).  Then, we would complete the worksheet together (project it on the screen or smart board and fill it in as a class - you could place a copies of the worksheet in plastic page protectors and have the students answer the worksheet only with you with dry erase markers).

NOTE: When selecting a piece, keep in mind these tips (our Teacher Editions are FULL of great pieces to use and often include activities and questions to ask):
1. Why did I select this piece?  What do I want the students to learn from it?  What things can I ask the students to listen for?
2. Does this piece make a connection with other musical elements we've been studying (is it a pentatonic piece, does it use the string family, does is show dynamic contrast, etc)?
3. Is the length and complexity of this piece appropriate for the students' level?  (Often, we have grand pieces that we LOVE but might not yet be accessible to our students or will require more work on our part as we present it to them)
4. Can I create something fun (movement, listening game, etc) for the students to do while they listen?
5. How can I relate this piece to something the students can make a connection to (was it in a popular movie, does it depict a historical even they've learned about, did they see it performed live when the High School band came over?)

For the first section of the worksheet, the students would be provided with the title of the piece and composer by me.  We could then use our composer owl center (see below) for information on the composer (could fill in the nationality and dates at the bottom of the worksheet also) and to decide which musical time period (see branches) the music falls into.  Some other great websites that are kid-friendly for composer info include:
Classics for Kids: Composers
Making Music Fun: Composers

Composer Owls

Composer Corner
We would also discuss how to rate the music.  Students would have to defend their reasoning for rating the music a specific amount of stars.  This is a great time to spark class discussions and to help students develop critical listening skills.  If your students aren't feeling particularly chatty or aren't sure what to do, model having a conversation with one of the students, then have them converse in "shoulder partners" (someone next to them).

Next, we would move on to the middle of the worksheet.  First, we would discuss the voicing/instrumentation of the piece.  SFS Kids has a great website on the Instruments of the Orchestra if you need it.  I have orchestra pictures up that the kids can refer to.
Then, students would offer vocabulary terms to describe the music, such as, "The dynamic level of this song is mainly forte" or "The tempo of this song is largo," etc.  I have a music word wall that the students can use for this part.

I love when students guess what the song is about (this isn't applicable for every piece, however).  They are very creative and they LOVE finding out the real meaning of the song.  You might have your students illustrate this first, then write about it.  When doing a whole-class activity, you can draw or select a student to draw.

In the bottom of the worksheet, show the students how to use a search engine of your choice to search the name of the piece (or you can equip them with a separate article about this) so they can research the reason it was written.  Students will also need to defend why they would or wouldn't recommend this to a friend.

2. SMALL GROUP - Once we've practice the worksheet together, the students will try this again but in smaller groups.  I have my students divided into four groups.  Each group will have a different song on the ipod (I have a set of four ipods).

I can't wait to buy these so students can have their own head-phone:
Students can use the worksheet to spark discussions between group-members.  Then can use the word wall, composer owls, instruments posters, and other materials to answer the questions.  Students can search on google using the iPods (or you could supply them with an information sheet about each piece/composer - like the one below):
The students would then present their song to the class (you can play the music lightly in the background while they present, or have quiet listening time then have the group present).

If your students need more work with music vocabulary, have them play this fun review game first (my kiddos love it):

3. INDIVIDUAL ASSIGNMENT  - Students would then complete an individual assignment.  I'll have the students do one where they all address the same piece, then one where they have an individual piece (experienced music-listeners or those who have had many listening and research opportunities may be able to select their own piece given appropriate parameters).

If you have a tech lab (we do, and our tech teacher is awesome about incorporating musical websites when I ask), students can do their own research and even listen to their work on youtube or using Arts Alive.  There are many recordings and composer/piece info on Arts Alive (I love it).

PRESENTATION TIPS - Check out these tips if you'll have your students present their findings.

1. Space Theme - Dig into the space theme.  Turn out the lights and have students report by lamp or flashlight.  Conduct the piece with glowsticks.  Have students speak into a microphone with a weird reverb or effect that sounds "spacey" (or you could use those toy microphones - I've seen some at Target and Oriental trading).  Paste the finished reports on a space-themed bulletin board.

2. Partner Presentations - Students can complete their own report, but chose a partner to help them present it (they would need to have the same piece).

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Recorder Resources Page

I've organized a page called Recorder Resources which has all my recorder-based resources available to-date.  Most resources are for pitches B-A-G-E,-D,.  I'll be posting some more advanced music later (until now, only students past their black belt have focused on pitches C, - F, - F#, - C' - D' - E') since my kiddos are now ready for it!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Solfa Dojo - Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4

I recently wrapped up my Recorder Karate unit with 3rd - 5th grade.  We had a recorder number of Black Belts this year and the students worked very hard. One thing I did this year that I hadn't in previous years was to create a bulletin board like this (obviously taken toward the beginning - I ended up putting a picture of each black belt in the red free space) in addition to announcing the students' names on our morning announcements:
It looked very cute, if a little cluttered, with so many smiling black belt faces adorning it.

The motivation was great and I got to thinking, "What if the students had something motivating to use when learning solfa?"  All my kiddos are eager sight-singers, and many will often show their skills in front of the class, but having a reward-system in place can't hurt right?  I could always use more data and more assessment opportunities also!

So, I created the Solfa Dojo! 

I borrowed the progression of 'belts' from Karate and adapted it for the Kodaly classroom.  The melodies of the "belts" mirror melodic structures from various songs the students already learn as we progress from Mi-So to Mi-So-La and to Do-Mi-So-La.  Vital rhythms for these levels are also included in the "belts".  The melodies use the keys of C, D, F and G so students can sing at higher and lower levels and view the solfa on various places on the staff.

Level 1: 9 melodies using so/mi, quarter note/eighth note pair
Level 2: 9 melodies using mi/so/la, quarter note/quarter rest/eighth note pair
Level 3: 9 melodies using do/mi/so/la, half note/quarter note/quarter rest/eighth note pair
Level 4 (updated 07/30): 9 melodies using do/re/mi/so/la, half note/quarter  note/quarter rest/eighth note pair 

Students are assessed using the following rubric (which you can go over with the students and it is also included in the music you can send home for them to practice).  Each "song" has 8 total beats.   You can address time signature, measures, bar lines, and double bar lines also.

Students also receive and overview of which concepts are used in each level and a reminder about what steps to use when singing:

You can use the materials in a variety of ways (and feel free to adapt what you need to for your own students' needs): 

1. Individual sight-reading: Use this progressive assessment alongside your traditional Mi/So, Mi/So/La, or Do/Mi/So/La lessons (check out the links to the right for more information).  You can use it as you progress through different keys or songs.  During part of the lesson, while students are engaged in center activities, etc, call students over to your desk and have them follow the sight-reading steps (don’t allow them prior practice time).

2.  Individual or Small Group Study: Equip each student (or small groups of students – 3 to 4) with a set of the songs.   You can print these out on cardstock, laminate or put in page pprotectors, and clasp with binder rings or store in a binder.
Red Belt Example Level 3
Students can either work alone in their groups, with a partner, or with the entire group to sing through the songs.  Have a melodic instrument ready so they can play the starting pitches since these change.   You can call groups or individual students to sing for you to “pass off” a belt.  You can even send home music for the students to practice:
Example of Level 2 Printable Music

3.     Whole-class Study: You can project the slides for the class to sing (they can compete against other classes in their grade level).  Have them follow the sight-reading steps.  If they score high enough, you can select a student to color the belt on their class tracking sheet.  If not, they can earn a chance to perform again later.

Included in each download are printable book-mark sized blank "belts".  I suggest having two per each student, one in a binder where you record which level they earn (highlight or check off each belt) and one on a bulletin board that the student can color in (if they color, you don't have to worry about finding time to do it yourself).  If you are tracking their progress as a class, you can put their homeroom teacher's name on the tracking sheet instead.

 For most students, the progression on the bulletin board will be enough.
However, some more ideas for rewards are:
1. Class with the most black belts (or class that first reaches the black belt level if you are assessing the class as a whole) earns a music game day (students can play favorite music games).
2. Each students who earns a black belt gets a certificate, their name on the announcements, and their picture on the bulletin board.

3. When the unit is over, place all the black belt names in a drawing, and the "winners" (you can select how many you want) can receive music prizes (you can decided what those are - for example, these cute, but durable inflatable mics):

WHAT ABOUT OLDER STUDENTS?  I'm working on six more levels that will be appropriate from late 2nd through 5th grade - coming soon :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Old Maid Rhythm Game

It is amazing what can be found in the dollar bins at Target.  I found this gem, "Old Maid" which I easily adapted into a rhythm game.

I'll play this game with my new 3rd graders as a review in the Fall.  Some of the words on the cards can be tricky, so I'd say you'd be most successful playing this game with 2nd or 3rd graders.

The good thing about this activity is that there are many ways (probably more than I've listed) to incorporate other subjects into this musical review lesson.

Materials: Old Maid card game (laminate for durability), black permanent marker, rhythm instrument (optional), pencil and paper for writing response (optional)

Here is a picture of the all the cards with the rhythms I assigned them.  Depending on the level of difficulty, you could incorporate some 16th note patterns.

Basic Game Directions
Object: The players collect as many matching pairs as possible and avoid ending up with the Old Maid card.
Set-Up: Put students into groups of 4 (or less).  Shuffle and deal out all the cards.  If a player has any matching pairs in their deck, they place them in their own discard pile.
Gameplay: Players take turns picking a card from the hand of the player on their left.  If a match is made, they put it in their discard pile.  The game continues until only one player is left holding the card - the Old Maid card!  They loose the game.
Variation: The player with the Old Maid at the end wins - and gets her "cookies" (pictured on her card).

Musical Extensions
1. Students must clap and chant the rhythm on each pair they create.  Then, the group can clap and chant that student's rhythm.
2. Students can lay out their pairs when finished and clap and chant each pair.  They can play their pairs on an unpitched rhythm instrument.

Language Arts Extensions
1. After the game is played, students place the cards face up, paired, in alphabetical order (as in the picture above).  They then take turns reading the cards.  You can also discuss the use of alliteration ("fashionable fox" - both start with f's).
2. Students can create their own card (you can use small index cards) by first creating a name ("Silly Swan" or "Tricky Turkey" etc) using an adjective and an animal name.  Then, they can illustrate the animal.  Finally, they can write the rhythms that correspond to their animal.  This way, you can create a student-made set to play with in the future.  I CAN'T WAIT TO DO THIS!
3. Have students respond (with paper and pencil) to the following writing prompt, "Which character would you most like to meet?  What would you talk about?" (you can also create your own prompts)

Math Extension
1. Students can create a "bar graph" by graphing matching rhythms (see below).  They can then discuss which rhythms had the most pairs, which had the fewest, and discuss the difference between them, add them together, subtract them, etc.  (You could easily create a worksheet for them to log their answers, or put discussion questions on the board, such as "Which rhythm has second most pairs?")
How would you use this activity?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Anchor Charts and Posters

Oh my goodness, I so hate packing up my stuff at the end of the year.  And I thought I was organized!

Oh well.

While I was cleaning, I took a few snapshots of some posters/anchor charts I've created for my room.  If I can create them, you can create them.  I've elaborated under the pictures in case you'd like to try it yourself!

Category One: Anchor Charts/Posters for Listening Activities, Composers, and Musicians

Here's a poster I based off of a Pin about "while authors write".  It was pretty easy to draw everything and has been a great reference all year long.

This is Maestro, our conducting elephant.  Students of all ages love to use him when we try out a listening piece (it is a great motivator/reward for appropriate listening behavior).  One student holds one end of the poster and another student holds the other.  One student, the "conductor" stands behind Maestro and "conducts" through the whole.  The conductor gets to use a long gray sock, just like the elephant's trunk.

Here's another great reference poster for students to use when listening to a piece.  Sometimes I ask for a specific question to be focused on, but usually I have the students prepare mental answers for at least one purple question and one black.

I've used this poster as a reference for student-created posters (5th grade) during our Jazz unit.  Students are supplied with the materials, a picture of the artist, a short bio, and 10 interesting facts.  They need to create a neat, organize poster that includes at least 5 facts and present it to the class (working in groups of four or less).

Category 2: Rhythm and Melodic Posters/Anchor Charts

Here's a chant I created for K and 1 to help with our steady beat/rhythm lessons.  There is a steady beat side (and we practice pointing to the hearts - I also have heart beat maps for this that they use individually) and stomping to the beat while saying the lyrics.  I add some students to hand drums.
And here is the rhythm side.  Students practice chanting the rhythm on "ta" and "titi" while clapping, then using rhythm sticks.

Here is a reference pocket chart the older students can use (it is up all year round):

I love this music staff poster.  The students can refer to it as they learn the lines and spaces on the music staff.  Even my little ones know the poem:

This is a poster I created for 2nd - 5th grades as we worked on sight-reading songs.  It mirrors the format of most of my powerpoints.  We often discuss things in the "cherry on top" as we go:

Here's a simple poster for use in pentatonic Orff music (especially with Mallet Madness):

This is a poster I use when discussing, well harmony, chords, and accompaniment (it does all three). You can use these in rock songs (or with your own or the students' own piano accompaniments) to discuss the harmonic progression of the song.  Because there isn't "too much" here, 4th or 5th grade students can benefit from a mini-lesson on harmony, even if, like me, you don't delve into chords too much.  Of course students can accompany a favorite song by following you as you point to each chord and playing their respective boomwhackers.  I'm working with more of a specific lesson plan to use these chords with, hopefully including some favorite songs of the kiddos - will post soon!

Category 3: Misc

I did this lesson with my 4th and 5th graders two years ago, my first year at this school (they were going to see some live performances and needed to learn about the instruments - fast).  First, I let them decorate their folder while listening to some instrumental works.  While the works were playing, students could read about them on the screen at their leisure.
In subsequent lessons, the students filled in the middle with facts, notes, pictures, and musings about the instrument families.  I had a worksheet divide into four (one for each family) and the students were asked to write 3 facts, list all instruments in the family, and choose a favorite.  I used as the main source of info, augmented with live examples and videos on youtube.  On the back, the wrote about their favorite instrument out of all the families and reflected on the performances they saw.  Best of all, they can take this with them and have a reference for their middle school band selections.

This is "Brenda" (named after my own mom who always looks awesome when singing) and I used her as a reference during choir rehearsals.  I attached her to my stand and all I had to do was point at a specific part of the poster to give the kiddos a reminder when something needed to be fixed.  I told the kiddos, "This is why I don't teach art" but they seemed to love Brenda and I plan to give her a permanent spot in the room next year.

I can't wait to create more over the summer!

Sunday, May 12, 2013


This song is fun and easy to sing in both Spanish and English.  My 2nd graders are working on solidifying our work with "Re" and this is also a great song to practice that concept.  It is also an easy way for students to use common action verbs in both languages (and to discuss what action verbs are).

To begin, get students thinking about ways they can move.  This can be as simple as brainstorming a list and then having the students move to words on the list for 8 beats (for example, run in place for eight beats).  Students can take turns writing words on the board, leading the class in creating the motions, or playing the eight steady beats on rhythm instruments.  If you have a bilingual class or you also intend for your students to sing the song in Spanish, have them brainstorm Spanish action verbs and then write the English translation next to them.

Student can then learn the notation of the song using the Matarile powerpoint:

This slide can be used a pitch ladder and can be used in many ways:
1. Sing a pattern while pointing to the butterflies - students echo the pattern
2. Point to the butterflies (in a short pattern) and have students sing the pattern back to you
3. Play a pattern on an instrument and have students sing the pattern back to you (one student can go and point to the butterflies)
4. Have students create patterns using the butterflies for their classmates to sing

Note: I used butterflies because they reminded me of the spanish word for butterflies, "mariposa" which also starts with "m".  "Matarile" is a non-sense name in Spanish, so I like to say that Matarile is a mariposa.
I created the PowerPoint in English (although there is a spanish translation slide - see below) because the actual rhythm that would match with "quiere us" of "que quiere usted" would be tika-ti (two sixteenths and an eighth) which my 2nd graders haven't learned yet.
I like to add the steady beat while also adding the claves.  If you have a butterfly net (which I do - thanks to the Target $1 bin), you can have the students go up to the screen and "catch" each butterfly by pointing to them while the class chants the words.  Then, we organize the music:
Students can also use the butterfly net as a pointer and go point to each symbol.

Next is the rhythm preparation slide.  On the pair of butterflies, the students say, "but-ter" and on the single butterfly, they say, "fly".  Then, they track the pictures while saying the correct words.
Students love to predict which rhythms will appear based upon the pictures above.  Usually, I'll have them make the predictions in their head, then "check their work" when I reveal the next slide.  They say, "Yes!  That's exactly what I thought I would see!"
Students can then chant the rhythm then the correct text.  I like to play the claves on the steady beat while they play the rhythm on rhythm sticks.  We can discuss the difference in timbre between two similar-looking instruments.  I then tell the students to match the claves with their feet while their hands match the rhythm sticks (select a few students to keep playing).  This is a mini "beat vs. rhythm" reinforcement opportunity.

Afterward, I like to pass out my scarves to the students.  I ask them to "float" their scarves through the air and sing on a soft "loo".  We talk about the melodic direction and how our voices can follow the scarves up and down.  I select students to come to the front and lead us with their scarf - we follow what they do while singing.  Sometimes the students like to "float" all over the room while singing and moving their scarf.  However, if their scarf floats too high or too low, I think this year I'll snatch it with my butterfly net.

Then, students can learn the correct solfa of the song:

Eventually leading up to the full notation:

Then, incorporate the motions that students brainstormed earlier to complete the movement activity:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Do Re Mi Lessons

Sometimes I feel like "Do Re Mi" is my home-base.  We cover it in 2nd and review it at the beginning of 4th and 5th and use it extensively when playing recorder in 3rd.  I can't tell you how many games, powerpoints, and lessons I have that use these pitches.

At the beginning of the year, my older students logged their Do Re Mi learning in their interactive notebooks.  Here's an example page:
My Do Re Mi Song

At the beginning of the year I got quite a few new students.  I gave them some extra practice:
Do Re Mi Music Street
And we learned lots of fun songs (and some we got to learn later on the recorder):
Frog in the Meadow

Hop Old Squirrel

Rain is Falling Down

Closet Key

Sailor on the Sea
I also created a 5-page assessment (including a composition section):
I'll be posting some more in-depth Do Re Mi lessons from my Re Lesson Bundle soon - I've got quite a few new ideas for old favorites.

What Do Re Mi songs do you like?