Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Peg Leg the Pirate

I had a ton of fun teaching "Peg Leg the Pirate" today! Since all of my students are new to me this year, my sequence is a little bit out of order. So, I am currently teaching low la and syncopa together. I have found that there is a ton of repertoire that works with this combination! Some great pieces I have found are Canoe Song, Land of the Silver Birch, Old House, My Good Old Man, and Peg Leg the Pirate. 

Here is the song... 

If you haven't played the game before, I encourage you to try it out! My kids really love it! 

I am working on a file for my TpT store, which should be up soon! Also, if you haven't had a chance to check out the Kodály Corner, please stop by to read my new post! 

I hope you are staying warm wherever you are! Have a great end to the week!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

We're heading to the Beach!

Today was a reminder that I am still new to this "blog" thing. I tried...for download the most adorable blog background and ended up with bicycles and polka dots. Although it isn't what I had intended, at least it will keep things interesting! Don't be surprised if you see a new design every day or so as I continue to explore and expand my blogging knowledge!

I spent much of the evening lesson planning and wanted to share a fun resource with you!  In 2nd grade, my students are practicing reading half notes and preparing to read re from the staff. One song that I am using for the first time this year is "Sea Shell," and I love it! In the past, I have used this song in Kindergarten for high-low; however, I found it fit really well in my 2nd grade sequence due to the half notes and very clear phrases using re. 

If you don't know the song, it goes like this...

I generally introduce it by singing for my students and showing them a conch shell I collected at the beach years ago. They love to listen to the shell to see if they can hear the ocean. We talk about the sounds of the ocean, and take a moment to create ocean sounds using classroom instruments. 

Breaking this song down, there are so many great things to work with. 
  • Contrasting the 2nd and 4th measures is great practice for hearing/reading re patterns
  • Isolating the half note rhythms (I love that there are 2! I find that half notes at the end of a song are hard for my kids to hear.) 
  • Simple rhythm makes it a great melodic and rhythmic read. 
  • The lyrics open up tons of opportunities for composition! 
I am so excited for some of the activities I have planned for this song. From a song sort to a "Beach Walk," I think my kids are going to have a great time with it this week! I have posted my resources I plan to use on my TpT store for FREE until tomorrow night! Please check them out and let me know what you think! As always, I appreciate your feedback and help sharing my resources! 


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Canoe Song

Before I dive into my post, I have a celebration to share!

I am so happy to announce that my first niece was born last week! Clara arrived Thursday morning, and she is cute as a button! Everyone is happy, healthy, and loving spending time with the new baby. :) 

Okay, now back to business.

If you haven't noticed by now, I love using games as a tool for learning in my classroom.  So many folksongs have traditional games to use, but I am also always brainstorming ways I can try to keep kids engaged, reading music, and having fun!

This past week, we were working on a folksong I absolutely love - Canoe Song.

This is such a fabulous song for teaching syncopa, low la, and including part-work in your classroom. Here are some of the ways I have added "spice" to my teaching of Canoe Song...
  • Add a vocal or instrumental ostinato. 
    • The final phrase is a beautiful and approachable ostinato. You can have your kids sing it on solfege, lyrics, and/or rhythm syllables to practice the concepts you are working on. 
    • I also love to add an ostinato on my Orff instruments for a physical reinforcement of the syncopated rhythm. My students play a simple "d d c d" ostinato on the rhythm of the final phrase while we sing. You can add students on drums playing the strong and/or weak beats, too. 
  • Make it a partner song! 
    • Canoe Song and Land of the Silver Birch fit together as an awesome partner song. I especially love using these two together since most of my partner songs are major. I find that my students love minor songs, so they really get into this partner song. IN FACT, these two folk songs fit together so well that Phyllis Wolfe White arranged a great choral score of them. I used her arrangement with my choir last year, and it was a huge success!  My 4th and 5th graders loved that they recognized the songs from 3rd grade.  You can hear and preview the score here...
  • And, of course... Add a game! 
    • As a way to practice aural dictation, I added a game to this song called "Canoe Races." In this game, I divide my students up into teams. Their objective is to cross the finish line in their "boat" or team first, by correctly notating syncopated rhythms. I used a simple table as a game board and printed different color canoes to use as game pieces. It is fun, fast, and a great practice decoding syncopated patterns for my students! Plus, the competition makes everyone eager to do their best! 
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I have posted my visuals and templates for Canoe Song on my TpT store. Be sure to stop by and check them out! As always, I appreciate your feedback and comments, and I hope that you find them useful with your students!

And, as a thank you for reading, here is a link to the syncopa worksheet for you!
Syncopa Worksheet

Have a happy night!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Fun with Syncopa!

Those of you who are new teachers or have started at a new school where Kodály wasn't taught know that it can be tricky to get started with your sequence. This year, I came into a school where my kids were amazingly talented and bright, but they had very little consistency. In fact, I am the 4th music teacher that my 5th graders have had for music. SO, it was really tough to figure out where to start and how to sequence my instruction.  That being said, we are definitely a little bit "out of order" in my classroom this year.

Right now my 3rd and 4th graders are preparing to read syncopa. Syncopa is one of my absolute favorites! I love the repertoire that goes with it. Some of my (and my students') favorite's are...
  • Canoe Song (my kids love to sing this as a partner song with Land of the Silver Birch. There is an old choral arrangement of these two by Phyllis Wolfe that is great for beginning choirs. Check it out here...
  • Black Snake
  • Alabama Gal
  • Ridin' in a Buggy
  • Shake the Papaya (also a great choral score, by Henry Leck) 
  • Bump Up Tomato
This week I will be posting some of my syncopa activities to my TpT store, starting with "Where Are You Hiding?" For those of you who don't know the song, I found it on another blog here...

To play this game, I created a set of flashcards with syncopa rhythms. One of the rhythms has a snake on the back of it. Students pair up into teams and take turns speaking a rhythm. After they say the rhythm, they get to turn over the card. The student who finds the snake wins!

I have posted my flashcard set as a freebie for one day only! You can check it out here...

Do you have any syncopa favorites? I'd love to hear what you use in your classroom! 

Have a happy week! 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Back to Busy!

Despite my best efforts to get a post up this week, the days completely slipped away from me! Do you ever experience that, "how is it already Friday?!" phenomenon? It was great to get back into the routine of school and seeing my students this week, but I definitely felt crunched for time diving back into the spring! I have a new blogging schedule and plan in place, and I am optimistic that the coming week will be better!


Last time I shared with you my "Telephone Rhythm" game.  I played this with my kids as a rhythm review this week, and my kids loved it! They came in asking to play again. :)

If you are interested in learning more, you can check it out on my TpT store. 

Today, I am going to explain another game from my "Pick a Stick" Warm-Ups. Morse Code! Morse Code works very similarly to Telephone. Here is how you do it...

1. Group your students in groups of 4-6.  
2. Have students sit in a line. The first person is the "messenger," the last person is the "receiver"
3. The "messenger" comes up to you to receive the message. You show them a notated four-beat rhythm that they have to then convey via "morse code." To do this, they go back and tap the rhythm in the hand of the person next to them. That person then taps the rhythm in the next person's hand and so on. The last person has to write the message on a paper or white board. Each correct rhythm earns one point. 
4. At the end, the team with the most points wins! 

I'll be honest... this one is tough. Even with my 4th and 5th grades, I often use simple quarter, eighth, and sixteenth note rhythms. However, it is an awesome way to build some physical practice into your lesson for your kinesthetic learners and it is great for when you need that added challenge for your students! 

This week I dove into teaching one of my favorite rhythms, syncopa! I am going to be posting some of my games and activities soon (I promise)!
I hope you all had a wonderful first week back!


Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Rhythm Warm-Ups- Increasing Engagement Edition.

I recently finished a class on gender and learning styles with Kelley King. It was a class full of "a-ha" moments for me that led me to change the way I do a lot of things in my classroom.  I have seen some big changes in my students and classroom engagement as a result of the strategies I learned, so I thought I would pass on a couple tidbits to you!

Here's a big one...

Boys need to move. We have all heard a million times that it is important to keep students moving and vary instructional styles, etc. However, reading this book really shifted my perspective on how and when boys need to move. I always thought that including a game with movement, a hand jive, body percussion or something along those lines was enough for my "kinesthetic learners." I felt like a was doing a pretty good job of keeping my students engaged!

As I dove into this book, I began to observe my students more for some of the tendencies the authors were describing. I realized that as soon as we dove into the "high concentration" sections of my lessons, many of the boys were fidgety, distracted, or less-engaged than I had previously thought. I decided to try out some of the strategies I read in "Strategies for Teaching Boys and Girls," and I have already seen amazing results! One activity I have developed is "Music Walk," which is included in my Pick-A-Stick rhythm warm-up set.

Music Walk

During my lessons, one time I saw students' attention really wane was during any sort of flashcard review. I use a lot of flashcards as transitions, quick review, etc., so I needed to find a way to make them more meaningful to more students. Here's how I did it.

  1. Give every student a flashcard
  2. Play a fun and engaging song (think- ABC by Jackson Five) for students to walk around the room to. 
  3. Pause at random times. When the music pauses, students have to partner with the person closest to them and read their flashcard to their partner. Then they switch cards (giving them a new flashcard) 
  4. Start music again and repeat.
One tip for success- it helps to have a spot for kids to go if they don't have a partner. I have a red carpet dot in my room that is the "Land of Lost Partners." I also tell my students that during a Music Walk, we don't hear any English, only Rhythm! 

My students love to go for a Music Walk, and they all get quality practice reading rhythms in the process. I often see students helping each other when they speak a rhythm incorrectly, and the engagement level of my boys is WAY higher when I use flashcards this way! 

Telephone Rhythm

I have always known the games were a HUGE motivator for my students, by this class drew my attention to how much boys thrive in competitive environments. You have to set boundaries, encourage good sportsmanship, etc. to keep things happy and fun, but using competition in the classroom can lead to REALLY high engagement levels. Before break, I used Aileen Miracle's "Build a Snowman" as a boys vs. girls challenge, and they were BEGGING to repeat it. (You can check out her product here...

Another competition game I use as a rhythm warm-up is Telephone Rhythm. This is a great "low-energy" activity to get your kids focused back in and practicing rhythms. 
  1. Divide the class into 3-4 groups. I find that groups no bigger than 10 works well. Mine are generally 8. 
  2. Have the students sit in a line. Have the first students come up to get the "message" (a note-card with a 4 or 8 beat rhythm written on it.)
  3. Students go back to their line and whisper the rhythm to the next person, just like in the game, "Telephone." 
  4. The message gets whispered all the way down the row, until it reaches the last person. The person at the end writes the rhythm on a notecard or whiteboard. 
  5. When every row is finished, the teacher checks the rhythm. Correct rhythms earn 1 point. 
  6. The last person becomes the first person and you repeat the game (giving more students chances to write (decode) the rhythm they hear).
  7. You can choose how long to play- first to 5, 10, etc.
Your room will be near silent as the kids try to pass on the correct rhythm. :)  I am working on a Telephone Rhythms file that will be available on my TpT store soon! 

If you are interested in learning more about boys and girls in the classroom, I encourage you to check out this book...

Happy New Year!

P.S. I am in the process of looking for Spring music for my choirs. I found a piece called "Skylark and Nightingale" by Audrey Snyder, and I am in love! If you don't know it, I encourage you to listen! It has some beautiful spots for teaching vowels and very approachable two-part harmony! 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Congratulation Labels

One of my true loves is children's choirs. After having conducted elementary through high school choirs, singing in collegiate and professional choirs, and listening to hundreds of recordings and live performances, I am convinced that there is no sound more beautiful to my ear than that of a child singing.

Today I am going to share one of my tips for motivating your singers in choir. Before I do, a little background on my choral work...

I currently conduct three ensembles. My school choir is about 90 voices and is a non-auditioned 4th and 5th grade ensemble. Outside of school, I conduct the two training choirs for the Boulder Children's Chorale. These choirs are made up of about 40 1st-4th grade singers. All of my ensembles rehearse once a week for 45 minutes, outside the school day.

With such short rehearsal times and large ensembles, I have been challenged to figure out how to work on individual musicianship and singing skills while still teaching my singers quality repertoire. One technique that I have had with great success are my "Congratulations!" labels. These are simple labels I print on to Avery mailing labels (30 per sheet) that I pass out during rehearsal. I actually got the idea from a first grade teacher who gave her students a label that said, "Congratulate Me" when they completed their entire reading list in the classroom.  I modified the idea to fit my needs and created labels like...

"Congratulate Me! I sang with beautiful tone in choir today!" 


"Congratulate Me! I sang with perfect vowels in choir today!" 

When I catch a student doing something in rehearsal that is noteworthy, I just walk up to them and give them a sticker. I love these labels for several reasons:
1. They allow me to quickly acknowledge individual students without stopping the rehearsal
2. They motivate students to improve their individual performance
3. They give students a conversation starter with parents- I have had many parents come to me saying things like, "Lucy was so excited to get her sticker in choir today. She told me all about singing in her head voice."
4. They are super easy to make and use!

My students (especially the younger singers) love getting recognized during rehearsal. I always love seeing a student smile when I hand them a sticker, and usually they continue to work hard and improve throughout the rehearsal after they have been recognized. A little positive encouragement can go a long way towards keeping your students engaged and excited about choir!

I have posted a set of choir labels for you to download and print on my TpT store for free! Just visit my store at...