Saturday, March 4, 2017

Using "Morning Work" to Preview, Practice & Review Rhythmic Content in the Elementary Music Classroom

Have you ever heard the phrase "Morning Work" in an elementary school?  Sometimes it's referred to as "Bell Work."  Morning work can vary from a simple question to answer to figuring out a math problem.  Whether simple or complex, morning work serves a purpose.  It gives students something to do as the teacher is helping students to transition into the classroom.

I started posting "morning work" in my music class about nine years ago - about the same time I got my Interactive White Board.  I love greeting my students in the hall as they walk into my classroom.  Sometimes a student needs to share an important tidbit with me, or a teacher needs to give me some information about a child before class begins.  It's important for me to give time to this, but it also means that the students in my room are unfocused and unattended. 

Morning work gives my students a focus the moment they walk in the room.  Depending on the grade level, I post a different rhythm pattern (or tonal pattern) each day.   When I introduce morning work, I explicitly take my students through the process so that they know what I expect from them.  Each morning as they enter, a rhythm pattern is posted on the board. 

As students enter the room, the first thing they do is read the rhythm.  They can read it silently or whisper it to a friend to check for understanding.  Once they have read the pattern, they are charged with answering questions about the pattern.  As I use Music Learning Theory (MLT) as the foundation for learning in my room, students are asked to identify the meter of the pattern and defend their answer (e.g. how do you know it's duple?  I was audiating du-de as the microbeat.)  For those teachers using a Kodaly or Orff approach, you could easily amend the questions to reflect understanding of time signatures, beats per measure, etc.

The last thing students are asked to do is improvise a pattern in the same meter.  We ask students to echo us daily in music.  How often do we ask them to improvise for us?  Improvisation is a skill that has to be nurtured regularly for students to feel confident about applying their understanding of music.  The simple act of improvising a different pattern gives your students an opportunity to "show what they know."  I am always amazed at how creative and musical my students are when given the chance to demonstrate it.

Once I've walked in the room, we practice the entire process together.  Why?  It gives students an opportunity to affirm what they know and fill gaps in things they didn't know.  It also gives everyone a chance to improvise together.  Writing about this process makes it feel arduous.  The reality is this process takes about a minute from start to end as a class.  

So, where do I draw my content?  Sometimes the rhythm pattern is one we struggled with in class the day before.  Sometimes the rhythm pattern is one I am going to teach (previewing new content).  It's a great way to preview, practice, and review content on any given day!

Let me know if you have a process for providing "morning work" in your room!  Leave me a comment below!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Vocal Range in Singing Voice Development

When it comes to teaching music, there are two things I am passionate about: singing and audiating.  Over my years of teaching, I have met parent after parent who has told me how they wished they had learned to sing in school.  It breaks my heart!  Your singing voice in the one instrument given you to for free!  Barring a physical condition, there's little reason everyone can't learn how to sing.

singing voice development, vocal range, initial singing voice range, elementary music, elementary singers, children's voices, children singers

I know there are lots of pitch matching activities and singing games out there to get kids to sing.  But one thing we rarely talk about with elementary children is vocal range!  What is the best range to develop singers?  When and how do we begin extending the range for our young singers?

Joanne Rutkowski, Professor Emeritus of Music Education, at Penn State, has written extensively about the developing child's voice.  She states that a child's initial singing voice range should be between D above middle C to A.  The initial range is about a fifth.  Interestingly, Dr. Edwin E. Gordon stated a child's initial audiation range is also D above middle C to A.

When I select songs and activities for young children, I really try to stay within that initial singing voice and audiation range.  That means most of my songs are in the key of D Major or D minor.  But there comes a point when we need to extend the range over the break and into head voice?  When does that happen?

For me, this occurs when the majority of children are matching pitch and using their initial singing voice range.  This typically occurs towards the end of first grade.  For many teachers, this may depend on the frequency of instruction.  If you see your kids only once a week, this may take longer to accomplish.  I will tell you, I see singing voice as a developmental process.  It takes time to develop good singers.  Some students enter kindergarten using their singing voices, while others don't develop until 3rd or 4th grade.  Don't worry and don't make a huge deal about it - continue to encourage and provide opportunities for each child to sing in your class each and every day.

When I do begin extending the vocal range, I do so carefully.  We begin singing songs in F to get them above the vocal break (B).  Then we begin moving into the key of G so that they begin to become more comfortable over the break and transitioning into their head voice.

Over the coming weeks, I'll be sharing several posts about how I develop and nurture singing voice in the elementary classroom.  Be sure to check back often!  Leave me a comment below - when do you consciously begin expanding the range of your singers?  Do you have a favorite song or activity to expand the range?

Sunday, January 29, 2017

1000 Follower Celebration

There are moments when I am humbled.  When I started this TeachersPayTeachers journey a few years ago, I thought I would post a few things I used in my classroom and leave it at that.  Who knew then that I would celebrate 1000 followers this week?  I love creating and sharing my ideas, resources, and love of music education with you!  Thank you for being a part of this incredible journey!
To celebrate YOU, I will be hosting a variety of deals and giveaways this week!  Make sure you check out each day of the week for the corresponding deal!
Monday - I will be posting a FOREVER FREEBIE!  One of my most popular products on TpT right now is Dance and Freeze!  Be sure to download a copy of Dance and Freeze: Carnival of the Animals Edition!

Tuesday - it's all about the DOLLAR DEALS!  I'll post one dollar deal for every 10 feedback left on any product (freebies included!)  So make sure to post some love on TpT, get some credit, and earn dollar deals all day long!

Wednesday - ooooo!  It's FLASH FREEBIE time!  I'll be reducing paid products to FREE throughout the day for set amounts of time.  Make sure you follow me on Facebook and get my notifications so you alerted when something goes free!

Thursday - Giveaway time!  I'll be giving away a $25 TpT gift card, as well as copies of The Differentiated Recorder Bundle and Sing & Strum Bundle!  Make sure to enter to giveaway below!   (Giveaway ends Thursday at 11:59 pm.  Winners will be announced on Friday!)

Friday - I'll be setting my entire store to 20% off!  Make your list and check it twice!  It will be a great day to shop and get great deals!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

From Student Teacher to Colleague: Helping Student Teachers Transition to Teaching

I've had the great opportunity to work some amazing student teachers over my career.  Each one has taught me unique lessons about the student teacher/mentor teacher relationship.  As I prepare to work with another student teacher this week, I wanted to share some of the insights  I have learned.
From Student TEacher to Colleague:  Helping Student Teachers Transition to Teaching
Be explicit with your expectations 
Your student teacher is coming to you as a senior in college. They're balancing ending their college years and beginning their adult career.  It can be tricky for some.  On day one, go over the expectations with them just as if they were an district employee.  Don't assume they will know what's expected of them. 
  • Let them know what time to report to school each day and what time the school day ends
  • Share what meetings they are expected to attend, and other district policies
  • Let them know to handle an absence with you (e.g. college class or illness)
  • Share with them when you expect them to turn in their lesson plans to you
  • Discuss the appropriate way to to contact you (e.g. you would never "text" an absence to your principal)
Discuss your school's behavior policies
Does your school use PBIS?  Is your school a Leader in Me School?  Talk with your student teacher about how you handle behavior in your classroom.  Share with them any common language you use throughout the building.  Give your student teacher opportunities to redirect behavior in your classroom without your interference.  Classroom management is one of the biggest challenges for young teachers to master.  Often times, it takes being in the classroom on their own for young teachers to figure it out, but you can certainly fill their "toolbox" with a variety of tried and true strategies to use once they are on their own.
Create time to collaborate on lesson plans
Find some time to sit with your student teacher to simply talk about lesson planning.  How do you choose the content you are going to use at each grade level?  How do you select songs to teach at every grade level?  How do you sequence instruction over the course of a year?  How do you create curriculum maps?  These are life-saving skills to begin to develop in young teachers. Also, create an overview schedule for your student teacher with what you expect them to teach and when.  It will give them time to research and learn songs and chants to use in their teaching.  (And please don't turn your entire classroom over to them all at once.  Do it gradually with grade levels they feel comfortable with first.)

Discuss how you handle parent communication
Communicating with parents can feel daunting to young teachers.  It's easy to feel intimidated when you are much younger than many of your parents.  Share examples of the behavior slips you send home, choir notes, recorder notes, newsletters, etc. with your student teacher.  I always have my principal read any major communication sent home.  Encourage your student teacher to check with their future principal about how they would like communication handled as well.  Talk to your student teacher about how to handle parent e-mails (especially the angry ones) so that they understand that all digital communication can be accessed via FOIA.  I worked with one principal who encouraged us to always respond to an e-mail with a phone call.  A phone call can often de-escalate an issue quickly.  I also keep a list of listening and questioning prompts next to me when talking to parents to ensure I am listening instead of reacting to the parents concerns.
Talk about how you handle performances/informances in your building
Help your student teacher to understand how to approach performance expectations with their building principal.  What are the traditions in the school?  What traditions must be honored and where is there flexibility for change?  Is there a budget for performances?  Do they need to fill out a building request?  Is there a building/district calendar to check your concert dates against to avoid conflicts?  Do they need to rent chairs?  Pay for an accompanist?  How do you select repertoire that is instructional yet, highlights the musical strengths of your students?  How do you create a program?  Do you involve classroom teachers in your performances?  These are all important things a new teacher needs to know!

Allow for mistakes
Mentor teachers, there are going to be ups and downs with your student teachers.  Like every other student in your room, they are going to make mistakes.  Identify them, discuss them, and move on.  Some of my best student teachers made HUGE mistakes in my classroom.  Sometimes the mistake isn't with kids - sometimes the mistake is with you.  Forgive and move on.  I could write a book with all of the mishaps that have occurred with student teachers.  Some would make you cringe and others would make you laugh.  All of my former student teachers have turned into fabulous teachers and amazing adults, parents, and community members.  Be that mentor that makes them see and be the best that they can be!

For those of you who have had student teachers, what else would you add to this list?  Leave me a comment below!

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Get Moving with Nutcracker: Movement Activities for Elementary Music

What I love about teaching music, is that with every season, comes the opportunity to introduce my students to the classics!  For most music teachers, Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Ballet is a standard for December and provides a rich variety of material to draw upon for instruction. 

Nutcracker: March Movement Activity
Several years ago, my friend, Kristin Kreiss, shared with me an amazing movement activity she created for the Nutcracker March.  With her permission, I am sharing it with you. 
To begin, pair each student with a partner.  Ask each pair to decide who will be partner one and partner two.  It is very important that each partner know his/her role!  Explain to your students that this is a follow the leader activity.  Partner one is going to move in pathways around the room and it is partner two's job to follow.
A Section - Each time the trumpet theme is played, partner one marches 8 macrobeats around the room. At the end of the trumpet theme, partner one stops.  Now it's partner two's turn!  As the string theme is played, partner two marches 16 microbeats, chasing after their partner.  On the 16th step, they should tap their partner on the shoulder, as partner one moves again.
B Section - During the B section, I have partners scatter anywhere in the room, but they have to be back with their partner by the end of the B section.
A Section - Have partners reverse roles.  Partner one is now partner two and vice versa.
Nutcracker: Trepak Movement Activity
You can do a similar with Trepak as well.  To vary it a bit, I used foam swords from that I purchased from the Dollar Tree last year.  

Partner the kids together.  Ask the students to decide who is going to be partner 1 and partner 2.  Partner 2 begins by holding his/her sword still as Partner 1 taps macrobeats against it for 4 beats.  Then Partner 1 holds his/her sword still as Partner 2 taps microbeats against it for 4 beats.   You can see a video of my students do this.  If you can't use foam swords in your classroom, pool noodles cut in half or rhythm sticks would work just as easily.
Nutcracker: Dance & Freeze
Another fun way to get your littlest ones moving to the Nutcracker is simply doing a "Dance & Freeze" using music from the Nutcracker.  I love to use movement cards to help students who may need a prompt to imagine how to move their body.   I have an interactive product called, Dance & Freeze: The Nutcracker Edition that allows students to click on all the different characters of the Nutcracker to reveal a new movement to explore in their bodies. 
I hope this gives a few ideas to get your students listening to and moving to The Nutcracker this year!

Let me know how you like to use The Nutcracker in your classroom!


Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why I Teach Music

I know many music teachers are in the trenches, feeling overwhelmed with the demands of the profession.  Sometimes it's nice to take a moment, breath, and remember exactly why we were drawn to this profession.  I am teaming up with some amazing music education bloggers this week on a series called #whyiteachmusic.  We're all sharing why we love what we do and hosting a giveaway as well, because, who doesn't like free stuff?
I can tell you with all honesty, I did not choose teaching.  It chose me.  I always loved working with children, but I also loved music.  I loved playing, practicing, and performing on my flute.  My undergraduate degree was in flute performance.  My senior year, I took a class called Early Childhood Music.  All my friends took the class their junior year and every one of them loved it.  "Go sing with the babies!"  "It's the best class ever!"  So I enrolled in the class to fulfill the final 3 credit of my degree.  It changed my life forever.

In that one little class, I learned that every child is musical.  Every child has an aptitude for music. There isn't a person alive without the capacity to learn music.  I learned that every child can sing, chant, move, and play, but it was up to me find that access point in the child and move them forward. What I learned in that early childhood music class never left me.  It was such a powerful experience that instead of going to graduate school for flute performance, I went to school to get my teacher certification.

Twenty-one years later, I'm still using everything I learned in that class each and every day.  Every child that enters my room has the potential to learn music.  I simply have to find their access point.  
I love finding that one thing a child loves musically, and helping them to grow and see themselves as musicians.  The best thing is that I get to champion children who may be lost in the shuffle.  The child who struggles in the classroom is the best drummer in my class.  The child who is the outlier in her classroom shines as a singer in my class.  The disabled child who is non-verbal hums along to every tune in my class.  Every child has music aptitude.  Every child has music in them and I get to bear witness to that development each and every day.  Why I teach music?  Because it chose me and I cannot do anything else.

So want to win some amazing prices?  Enter our giveaway!  Here's what you need to do:  
  • Comment on my blog post!
  • Share your inspiration on social media using #whyiteachmusic
  • Share my blog post with your friends on social media so they can enter too!
  • Share every day until Monday, November 21st
Every blogger is giving away a different prize.  You can win a copy of my Differentiated Recorder Bundle!  It's a fantastic resource to help every student in your room!

Make sure to enter the giveaway below!  And leave me a comment!  Good luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Workarounds for Microsoft Office: Using PowerPoint in Dropbox

Workarounds for Microsoft Office: Using PowerPoint in Dropbox - play fun interactive PowerPoint games using Office Online!
Have you ever purchased a game on Teachers Pay Teachers that uses PowerPoint?  You're so excited to play it with your students!  You download the game, enter in slide view but something about the game doesn't seem right.  Thought there was supposed to be sound?  Or animation?  Why isn't it working?
That happened to me with one of MY OWN games!  I was so excited to show my students the first interactive PowerPoint game I made for them.  I created the game at home on my computer, but when I got to school none of the sounds worked!  I almost cried!  The hours of work I put into creating the game felt wasted.
But I've learned that where there's a will, there's a way...
The game was created using Office 2011.  My school computer runs Office 2003.  Older versions of Office don't like the younger, newer versions.  They don't recognize many of the functions of the newer versions.  So what's the workaround?
1.  Open a Dropbox account.  (If you already have a Dropbox account, go to step #2) 
Dropbox is free online storage system.  With your account, you receive 2 GB free of storage.  You can purchase additional storage if necessary.  Once you've created your account, you will be prompted to download Dropbox onto your computer.  You don't have to do this, but I HIGHLY RECOMMEND it.  I run Dropbox on both my home computer and school computer.  It allows me to share files from home to school without the use of the flash drive.  No more worrying about losing or forgetting a flash drive ever again!  
2.  Once you've logged in, you'll see this screen.  You can simply drag and drop files into your Dropbox account.  Save the PowerPoint game you want to use to your Dropbox folder.

3.  Now find the PowerPoint file you want to open.  Click on it ONCE.  If you double-click, it will open using whatever version of PowerPoint is on your computer.  ONE click is all you need.

4.  Now that you've clicked once, you'll see the file appear in the screen like this.  You're almost done!

5.  Look in the upper right hand corner.  See where it says open?  Click on it, then click on Microsoft PowerPoint Online.  Dropbox and Office have partnered so that you can use their online version through Dropbox.  I know, amazing, right?

6.  We're almost done!  Click on View and select Slide Show!  Your PowerPoint should enter into Slideshow view and you should be set unless...

7.  Depending on your browser, you may have one final hurdle.  Some browsers see the SlideShow as a Pop-Up.  I use Chrome, which automatically blocks Pop-Ups in its browser.   Other browsers will ask permission for the Pop-Ups.  You need to allow the Pop-Up.  If you're in Chrome, go to the menu at the top, click on Chrome, Preferences, Settings, Content Settings, Pop-Ups, and Manage Exceptions.  Copy and paste the URL of the slideshow into the box under Hostname pattern.  Click Done, then go back the PowerPoint page.  You should be good to play!  (If this all seems to complicated, simply try another browser like Firefox!)

Please note - you must always access the files from Dropbox via the web, instead of your computer for this to work!  Hope this helps you!  Let me know one of your favorite tech workarounds!