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! 

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