Saturday, March 26, 2016

Three Things

I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle of Mrs. Miracle's Music Room this week to talk about Three Things that were magical in my classroom! 
Little Red Hen
I have a pretty diverse school with students from all over the world.  Doing Easter songs and activities can isolate some of my students, so instead, I focus on spring!  A classroom favorite this week was the telling of the story, The Little Red Hen.  I use Kaye Umansky's version from The Three Singing Pigs because it's interactive and rhythmical.  I use my own Little Red Hen puppet to tell the story.  This week, my hen laid eggs all over the room and the students had to collect them.  Each egg had a rhythm pattern in it.  My first graders practiced reading the patterns themselves, then to a friend.  Then they chose one pattern to read to me as an exit slip.  (I know, brilliant, eh?)
Cello Wars
Two weeks ago, our school had the privilege of hosting the Aeolus String Quartet.  They performed for us, shared their interactive website with us and even wrote and performed stories for us.  It was truly a wonderful experience for my students.  To follow up, we reviewed the instruments in the string family and watched short YouTube clips of each string instrument playing.  The hands-down student favorite was The Piano Guys "Cello Wars."  If you haven't seen this clip - watch it now! (Disclaimer: Make sure your boys know Lightsaber Bows are not included with the purchase of a cello.)
Four Corners
It was a crazy, crazy week and there was a great need for my students to move.  Alot.  We ended each class with a game of Four Corners.  Given that we just had the string quartet visit, it seemed like the perfect time to play a String Family Four Corners game.  My students did great remembering the violin, cello and bass, but were struggling with the viola.  In each corner of the room, I had a picture of each string instrument: violin, viola, cello, and bass.  One child sat in the middle of the room with eyes closed as all the other children chose a corner.  The child in the middle called out a string instrument and any child in that corner was out.  All the students had a blast and by the end of class everyone knew the viola!

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Differentiating the Recorder

Oh recorder.  I have such a love/hate relationship with you.  I actually enjoying teaching it only because I don't.  Let me clarify: I don't explicitly teach each and every skill, note or fingering.  I teach a mini-lesson, then my students work in small groups and teach each other.  I observe.  I test.  I correct.  But mostly, I get out of the way.
I think it's really important to get out of the way in music.  In trying to keep everyone on the same page, we do more harm than good.  I have kids who will zip through the book in two weeks, while others struggle to make it through two pages in two weeks.  My job is to challenge students and engage them wherever they are.
My students have been using an altered version of Recorder Karate for some time.  I like the structure of Recorder Karate alot, but I find the songs aren't enough of a challenge for most of my students.  So what do I do with those kids who zip through the book?  I simply differentiate their instruction.   They get another book with the same songs, but this time there are harmony parts for each song.  The advanced student plays alongside the struggling student.  They earn the belt for the song at that level and an additional belt for learning the harmony part and helping a friend.
For my struggling students, I also differentiate instruction.  Have you ever had a student that just couldn't learn a song?  They get stuck and no amount of tutoring or peer help seems to help them overcome the hurdle?  It happens to my students as well.  For those students, they get an alternative song.  It teaches the same skill as the first song, but sometimes students need a change.  Sometimes they need a familiar song, or a song with a different rhythmic structure.  Sometimes, they just need to be lifted up and a different song with the same skills can make them feel special.  

I created the Differentiated Recorder to meet the needs of all of my students.  No matter what their level of development, each student can be challenged.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Spring Forward

This winter, I found myself smack-dab in the middle of a funk. A funk I could not shake.  I've been teaching twenty years and my lessons felt stale.  Do you ever find yourself in the same boat?  I began researching new songs and materials, tweaking processes and routines in my room.  In the end, it proved helpful.  My teaching was reinvigorated, my students were engaged and my funk all but ended.

Reflection about our practice is so important in our profession.  It's so easy to blame behavior, administration, schedules, full moons, changes in barometric pressure (teachers, you know what I'm talking about...)  But how often do we put the blame squarely on ourselves?  We all go through seasons in life and sometimes we have a season where we are the problem.  We need to shake things up, try new things, re-evaluate why we do what we do and how we do it.

I find one of the best things to do when I am the problem is to get outside of myself and give back.  It helps me change my perspective.  Give of my time, my talents - it doesn't matter.  This got me to thinking - what could I give you you?  Then it hit me!  Let's "Spring Forward" together!

So I'm hosting a giveaway with some of my favorite things.  Spring songs,  activities, lesson plans and storybooks.  The winner of the giveaway will win a copy of my Spring Songs and Activities for Little Ones, Spring Worksheets for the Music Learning Theory Inspired Classroom, Listen to the Rain Activity along with a copy of the storybook and one of my favorite spring storybooks - Jennie Jenkins!  It's my hope that all of these resources might help inspire you and help you have the best spring possible with your students!

Entering is simple!  Click on the Rafflecopter link below. 
The winner will be announced on St. Patrick's Day!
Good luck!
a Rafflecopter giveaway