Saturday, November 28, 2015

Nutcracker Mania!

It's that time of year again - Nutcracker time!  I love using the ballet to teach a variety of music elements and skills in my classroom.  When I first started teaching, I used storybooks and videos to introduce the ballet to my students.  Now I use the pieces within the ballet to explore essential skills and concepts in music.  Here are a couple of different ways to use the Nutcracker Ballet in your room beyond watching the movie!

Exploring Form through Listening Maps
Some of my favorite pieces to teach form come from The Nutcracker!  Many of the dances are short and have repetitive, predictable sections.  I created a set of Nutcracker Listening Maps for the March, Russian Dance and Chinese Dance.  The maps are easy to follow and clearly outline A and B sections within the music!

Guided Listening
For older students, I like to use Guided Listening & Reading Activities.  The worksheets give students opportunities to make decisions about what they hear in terms of form, style, expression and timbre.  My collection has worksheets for both lower and upper elementary as well as the MLT Inspired Classroom and the traditional music classroom.  Additionally, there are worksheets with Guided Reading sheets that have the rhythms to many of the main theme within the dances.  This gives students the opportunity to practice reading rhythms in a variety of meters as well as levels of difficulty. 

My friend, Kristin Kreiss, is a master of creating movement activities to The Nutcracker!  Years ago, she created this cute movement activity to The Nutcracker March for students to explore macrobeat/ microbes movement.  I'm sharing it with you with her permission.

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.

If you have access to iPads in your music room, you might want to check out some of my favorite Nutcracker Apps!

San Francisco Ballet Nutcracker Interactive Storybook
The Nutcracker Musical Storybook

Pinterest board
For more ideas about using The Nutcracker in your classroom, be sure to follow my Nutcracker Board on Pinterest.  I'm adding things daily!  If you like what you see, why not follow my other Music Education boards?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Leader in Me Music Room

I teach at a Leader in Me Lighthouse School.  I love what the Seven Habits of Happy Kids has done for my students, parents and community.  Finding authentic ways to implement the habits in the music room has been one of my missions the past six years. 
As a Music Learning Theory (MLT) practitioner, I use Dr. Edwin Gordon's Primary Measures of Music Aptitude (PMMA) and Intermediate Measures of Music Aptitude (IMMA) to test students developmental music aptitude.  PMMA and IMMA give me snapshot into the tonal and rhythm development of my students.  I tailor instruction to each of my students strengths and challenges. 
Once my students take the test, I give each child a sheet with their raw score on each test.  My students graph their score, then make a goal based on the lower of the two scores.  It's an opportunity for students to know their aptitude and to own their development.  
Each lesson in the music room, I draw their attention to the focus of each activity.  If we do a chant and work on rhythm patterns, then we talk about the activity helping students with a rhythm goal.  If we sing a song and work on improvising a melody, then we talk about the activity helping students with a tonal goal.  
At the end of the year, students reflect on their goal.  Sometimes I test the students' aptitude again to assess their growth.  It's an opportunity for me and each student to know how they've grown musically over the year.
If you're not a MLT practitioner, there are other ways you can track student growth.  I also track students' Singing Voice Development.  It's a great tool for students in Kindergarten through Second Grade.  Another way to track student growth is Musical Progress Sheets.  Each grade level sheet has concepts and skills we are working on through out the year.  Each student reflects on their mastery/progress at the end of each semester.  
We also talk about how the habits impact our daily musical lives.  Our lessons are front-loaded.  If we want to get to the play party or folk dance at the end of the lesson, then we need have to "Begin With the End in Mind."  We talk about "choosing our weather" when we come in excited, or upset from something that happened before music class.  And we apply the habit of  Synergy in the context of our ensemble work, because all music making requires Synergy.
In addition to all of these things, our choir performs a Leader in Me song each year.  Our first year, we sang Jannah Bolin's Seven Habits Song.  From there, I started writing my own "piggy-back" songs.  You can access all of the Seven Habits songs for free in this Dropbox folder.

I've also included a copy of my Seven Habits for the Music Room

If you teach at a LIM school, share with me the ways you use the habits in your music classroom!  How do you have your students set goals or show growth!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Centers in the Music Room: Fourth Grade

I am a huge fan of centers in the music room.  Love them! L.O.V.E. them!  I know as music teachers, it can sometimes be hard give of our instructional time.  It can be even more challenging to give of our control in the classroom.  But music centers can be an invaluable opportunity to learn about your students - how they learn, what they know, and how they teach others.

Where to begin?  When I set up centers, I always consider the content we have been working on in music class.  If you've been working on melodic direction, how would you create centers to support that learning?  If you've been working on rhythmic reading, how would you create centers to support that learning?  Multiple centers should be set up to help students learn the same content.  Think how students need to learn through a variety of modalities - some learn through doing, some learn through seeing, some learn through hearing.  (And really, we all learn through all three modalities.)

My fourth grade students recently took a rhythmic notation pretest.  We learn notation through a system of solfege in grades 1-3.  By the end of fourth grade, they are expected to be competent in proper names of notation, durations and counting using a number system.  My students can read rhythmic notation fluently using solfege, but transferring that information to proper names can be tricky.  Rather than drill, I chose to create a series of music centers for students to interact with the content in a variety of ways.  The result was that students learned in the ways that were best for them, they taught and corrected one another, and they had a fabulous time learning.

If you're interested in learning more about centers, you can check out my Music Center Freebie on TeachersPayTeachers.

Curious about my fourth grade music centers?  Typically, with upper elementary, I set up no more than 3-4 centers at a time.  My expectation is that the students are able to focus differently and work though the content in a way that is more meaningful and beyond pure exploration.

1.  Dip Tray Workstations - This idea I got from Tracy King.  She has several posts about using Dollar Store Dip Trays for sorting activities.  After getting my entire extended family to save water bottle caps for me over the course of the summer, I had enough to create this center.  A few hundred caps, 6 dip trays, a one-inch hole punch (Fiskars), Modge Podge and a few free hours, several centers were created!  You can find Tracy's original post here.

2.  Notation Worksheets - I use a variety of music notation worksheets for students to interact with notation content.  The nice thing about the notation worksheets is that I can tailor them specifically to the content they need.  We did centers just before Halloween and I used Sara Bibee's Halloween Mega Pack of Music Worksheets.

3.  Notation Yahtzee - This is an idea I originally got from The Homeschool Den.  Most kids know the game Yahtzee and it transfers easily to music notation.  You can purchase small wood blocks from any craft store.  I used a paint pen (but a permanent marker would work as well) and wrote notation on each side.  The first time the students played the game, the simply had to take three rolls to get as many of each note as possible.  No scores were kept.  The purpose was to build their capacity to name notes and know durations.  The second time we played, students played and kept score using their Notation Yahtzee Sheets.

4.  Rhythm Cat - I love this app!  And it's available for both iOS and Droid tablets.  Students see a rhythmic excerpt with an accompaniment.  Each excerpt uses a different style or tempo of music, giving students lots of opportunities to practice reading and performing rhythms.  It is also a leveled game, making the appear similar to some video games.  My boys think using Rhythm Cat is amazing!  I had lots of kids download the program on their home tablets.