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Friday, November 21, 2014

Five for Friday

Woooo hooo!  It's Friday!  I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching on this fabulous Friday.

1  A Shocking Realization
I have a FULL day of school on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  Holy moly!  It has been on the calendar the entire school year but for whatever reason I didn't realize it.  It was shocking.  It was sad.  Most schools in our area have a half day on that Wednesday and some of you lucky ducks have the whole week off!
I'm trying not to grumble too much.  Unlike other schools in the area, my district was off Monday and Tuesday of this week for deer season.  :-)

2  It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas
Okay...maybe it is, but in music classrooms everywhere it has SOUNDED like Christmas since the first part of October.  I learned a long time ago that some songs will sour to my ears during concert rehearsals and that I will never ever again be able to enjoy them.  Songs that have made this list in the last 20 years include "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer", "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Everlasting Fruitcake".  I am also irrationally annoyed by that barking dog version of "Jingle Bells".

3.  Shake Ya' Tailfeather
This week I've been dancing and frolicking with my classes using these Thanksgiving Creative Movement cards with my classes.  They are great for brain breaks and really show me how creative my kiddos are! I've used them with Kindergarten through Fourth grades and wow!  Such fun!

4.  The Bearytones ROCK!
I have a choir of 70 4th, 5th and 6th graders.  This is such a talented group of kiddos!  They are working on "Medieval Gloria", "Dona Nobis Pacem" and several other pieces that are challenging and they are doing a fabulous job!  So excited to hear their improvement every week.  I'm finding that on every choir day I spend every single free minute preparing for them.  Typing and copying reminder letters, prepping the music and planning the rehearsal are just a few of the things that take up that time.  I am amazed at the choral directors that deal with groups this size (and bigger) every single day.  Their organization skills must be superb!

5.  Thankful
A few things I'm thankful for:  my awesome family, my fabulous job, my fabulous other job, homemade beef jerky, great ideas, tubanos, PowerPoint, that funny woman at McDonalds that always acts like she knows me and you-my blog reader. 

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Songs of the Month

Once upon a time I nearly had a music teacher breakdown.  It wasn’t because of the increasingly difficult amount of paperwork, the political takeover of education or even challenging students.  One April I looked back at the number of songs my kids had learned in a year and was flabbergasted by how FEW there were for some grade levels.  One grade had only learned 15 songs (that included songs for two concerts).  Now, they had composed, improvised, explored, played keyboards and more but they didn’t sing too much more than that.  YIKES!
It was then and there that I devised a plan to remedy that.  There is such a wealth of folk songs, seasonal songs and more that I could not allow this to happen again.  I sat down and devised a plan for Song of the Week.
My plan was to introduce a song (folk song, patriotic, children’s tune, MK8 favorite, camp song, etc…) every week.  I knew that it would be a little tricky because at that time I was teaching Preschool through 8th grades.  I decided that some classes would just “experience” the song.  Some weeks that meant that PK-2 used the song as a way to keep steady beat and/or explore movement or form.  Some weeks that meant that 7th and 8th Graders used that song to identify pitch names, add rhythmic ostinatos or sang it as a warm-up. 
I used a rainy day to compose a list of songs that I might like to use and I sketched a few bulletin board possibilities.  I wanted to create a display so that when we had a few minutes at the end of class we could pick some of our favorite songs of the week to sing.  Here are a few that I've tried over the years.

When I started song of the week I saw my classes for 30 minutes twice a week.  When my schedule changed to see my kiddos just once a week for 50 minutes, I needed a new plan.  I would sometimes go a couple of weeks without seeing a group (especially if they saw me on Fridays).  So, Song of the Week became Song of the Month.  This worked well because students could sing or “experience” the song a few times that month.  They were still getting about 10 “bonus” songs every year and I was thrilled that my whole school new many classics!
Some Ideas for Songs of the Month
Star-Spangled Banner (every August, every class)
She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain
The Apple Song (MK8)
My Aunt Came Back
Wheels on the Bus
I Love the Mountains
Eight Legs (MK8)
There’s a Spider on the Floor
Grandma’s Feather Bed
Pumpkin March (MK8)
Over the River and Through the Woods
Mashed Potatoes (MK8)
Jingle Bells
Something patriotic for Veteran’s Day
We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Christmas Makes Me Sing (MK8)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Frosty the Snowman
Mary Had a Baby
Joy to the World
Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
Oh What a Beautiful Morning
What a Wonderful World
Let Me Call You Sweetheart
Follow the Drinking Gourd
Wade in the Water
Peace Like a River
Music Alone Shall Live
I’ve Got Rhythm
Music is Always There (MK8)
Over the Rainbow
Danny Boy
Old Irish Blessing (MK8)
Red River Valley
Take Me Home, Country Roads
You are My Sunshine
The Bunny Hop
You Make Me Smile (MK8)
This Land is Your Land
Oh Susanna
Home on the Range
Cat Came Back
American Tears
I know that some of these songs seem random.  *shrugging*  They may be chosen for the month based on a holiday or theme or may just be songs I like doing around that time of the year.  That’s the beauty of Songs of the Month.
Do you do Songs of the Week/Month?  What are your favorites?  Let me know in the comments.
This year I am using this bulletin board to record our Songs of the Month.  I’m just writing the name of the song(s) on each sheet with a dry erase marker.  I’ve laminated them so I can save them and use them for something else if I want.  You can snag them here.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bottle Cap Staff: Practicing the Treble Clef Pitches


Shhh!  Don't tell.  I might be a hoarder.  A crazy, crafty, fun-loving, what-the-heck-is-she-gonna-do-with-that hoarder.  Really, it is something I inherited from my mom.  She saved all sorts of things and sometimes even used them.  She must have got it from her mom too.  One time I needed some empty milk jugs for a VBS project.  I went to my Aunt Marsha.  She had almost FIFTY.  LOL.  Handy!

For a while I collected bottle caps.  Bottle caps from 2 liter bottles, water bottles and 20 ounce soda bottles work best.  I was amazed at how many I had saved on my own and was overwhelmed when I put out a request to parents and the bottle caps started rolling in.

I tossed them in some soapy, hot water and let them dry on a towel.  I knew that if I was interested in playing with the bottle caps (stacking them, sliding them, making patterns) that my students would be too.

Mrs. King's Music Class Bottle Cap Staff

Here's what I do with them:

Kindergarten:  Distinguish between line notes and space notes.  Notes that move up, down and stay the same.

1st Grade:  Review what we've done in Kindergarten and experiment with step, skip and same.  Towards the end of the year we learn C, D, E with Mr. Everybody and I hope to use the bottle cap staves to "compose" with those notes this year.

2nd Grade:  Melodic dictation.  Easy melodic dictation that moves by steps and repeats.  We also use it as we learn CDEFG with Mr. Everybody.

3rd-4th Grades:  During the end of 3rd grade and most all of 4th grade we learn the names of all the treble clef staff pitches including a few notes above and below the staff.  We use them to review the names.  I'll say "Everyone put a bottle cap on C."  Walking through the room, I am able to see who knows it and who doesn't.  In 4th grade we spell words with the pitches of the treble clef.

5th-6th Grades :  Usually we just use this activity for review, but with some groups it FEELS  a lot like starting over.  We will play games that help students find pitch names, spell words, notate ostinatos for Orff instruments and more.

I would really like to do more with melodic dictation and hope to use the bottle cap staves when I introduce new solfege.  Please share your ideas for bottle cap notation in the comments.

You can get the bottle cap staff set here.

Mrs. King's Music Class Bottle Cap Staff

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Monday, November 3, 2014

Music of the Armed Forces

I am using music of the armed forces with many of my classes this month.  It ties in nicely with election day and Veterans Day.   Most of my students were familiar with a few of the songs and really enjoyed hearing different versions and learning a little about the history of each branch of the military.  Here are the versions I'm using:

Army:  The Army Goes Rolling Along
Marines:  Marine's Hymn
Navy:  Anchors Aweigh
Air Force:  The Air Force Song
Coast Guard:  Semper Paratus

We are using listening glyphs to record our observations about tempo, dynamics, tone color and personal preference.  My 5th and 6th graders really enjoyed doing the glyphs as they rarely have an opportunity to color any more!   It has been eye-opening for me to see how some students respond in this format.  I'm definitely going to explore more ways to use this for listening activities.


I am also using a presentation created by Sara Bibee that coordinates PERFECTLY with my glyphs and the armed forces bulletin board I have displayed.


This handy guided listening unit lets me introduce each branch of the military and show students examples of each of the songs.  My favorite part about this set is that the videos are linked via Safe Share TV.  That means that I don't have to worry about what might pop up at the end of the video as an advertisement.  We have used the same clipart in our projects so the listening unit and listening glyphs look like a seamless unit. 

On Tuesday, November 4 we are celebrating Election Day!  You can get my Armed Forces Listening Glyphs and Sara's Music of our Armed Forces Guided Listening Set for 40% off!  Get them together and your plans for next week are done! :-)


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Sunday, November 2, 2014

November Bulletin Board Ideas

It's November!  It's time to change your bulletin boards!  Here are a few ideas for you to try:

Elect to Be...

This bulletin board was created several years ago when Red Ribbon Week and a major election both came about in just a few days from each other.  The candidates were my principal and superintendent.  The bunting ad campaign posters at the bottom at interest and a 3-D element that are eye-catching.  You can use this same idea for other themes. "Elect to be Excellent"-study skills, character traits of the month, etc...  "Elect to Read"-reading strategies, AR goals, etc...

 Thankful for These JEANiuses

This turkey was made using a pair of my toddler son's overalls.  The feathers contain the names of my band and choir students.  This display could work for classrooms or any group.  It would be great to create a board that celebrates teachers by putting their names on the feathers.

Our Armed Forces

I have this board in my hallway right now.  It is actually 5 bulletin boards!  Each of the bulletin board kits represents each of the five branches of our armed forces.  The bulletin boards contain the name of the branch, their colors, motto, mission, song and lyrics, a little history and more.   I used just a portion of each kit so that my board focused more on the music and less on the history of each branch.  You can get them all in one bundle HERE.

Instruments of China

Any month is a great time to focus on world music and cultures of other countries.  This bulletin board kind of has fall colors in it so I think it works for this time of year  It is SUPER easy to display.  Print and post.  No cutting or trimming needed.


This bulletin board references a slightly older version of Facebook, but students will totally make the connection.  It highlights a few composers who give "status updates" in the form of quotes or short narrations.

Composers of the Month

Aaron Copland's birthday is in November.  Celebrate it with this Composer of the Month bulletin board set.  It also comes with writing prompts.
 Schubert's birthday is not in November, but the date of his death is.  LOL.  That might be a little too gruesome!  This is also a good option for November.  This board is ready to go with the Thanksgiving theme and autumn colors. 


Author of the Month

Not a music teacher?  Try an Author of the Month Bulletin Board.  This one features Beatrix Potter.
What bulletin boards are you planning for November?  Let me know in the comments!
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Saturday, November 1, 2014

Five for Friday

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday.  Let me tell you about my week!

1.  I survived Halloween week!  WOOOOT!

I am very thankful that my district makes Halloween an early release day.  The whole day is fun and frantic.  Lunch starts at 10 am, followed by a Halloween Parade downtown at 11:00, by 11:45-12:00 classroom parties start and everyone is stuffed full of sugar and pushed out the door by 1:00. 
Most teachers at my school dress up for Halloween.  This year I came as a wacky witch with purple striped socks, a big fluffy tutu and a flamboyant witch's hat with a feather trim.  I may have looked a little like Patti Labelle. :-)  (Thanks Vic!)

2.  My kiddos loved doing creative movement with Halloween Freeze Dance and Creative Movement.

The Zombie Wobble and Ninja Pig were my favorites to watch!  *giggle*  We used some fun, spooky music like "Monster Mash" and "Ghostbusters" while exploring some creative ways to move.

3.  I sat down to plan for November and it is going to be a crazy month!

  My school district gets off a couple of days for deer season (be jealous!) and I will be traveling to our state teacher's convention and I'll be traveling to Branson, MO to teach a few classes at College of the Ozarks.  I'll be teaching future classroom teachers how to use music to teach children's literature and how to use music to make math lessons come alive.  Combine those days with the days we get off for Thanksgiving and I've got to plan a LOT of concert prep into just a few days!
My 1st and Second Graders will be presenting A Rockin' Christmas.  They are working on songs like "Hip Hop Reindeer" and "We Will Jingle".  So much fun!
Students in 5th and 6th Grades will perform A World of Celebration.  This concert will feature songs like "O Sifuni Mungu", "Stille Nacht" and "Medieval Gloria".  Some of these pieces are pretty challenging. I'm looking forward to seeing what these talented ladies and gentlemen will do

4.  November's Song of the Month

It is November 1st and I still don't know what the November Song of the Month will be!  Each month I choose a song that all grade levels will experience on some level.  Sometimes it is a song that some classes will sing and dance and analyze and other classes will just listen to.  Sometimes they are pop songs, folk songs, seasonal songs or campfire songs.  I really just need to decide so I can plug it into my lesson plans!  Here's what I'm considering:
Over the River and Through the Woods
Thankful for the USA
Seasons Change
Don't Laugh at Me (see below)
This is  not exactly the version I will use.  There's a great book with accompanying CD that I'll use instead.

5.  I love cold weather! :-)

I like the nip in the air and decorating for the holidays and cold weather clothes.  I'm happy that it is November.  Don't tell the kids, but I'm kind of looking forward to a snow day or two also! :-)
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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Rhythm Instruments: Cutting Down on the Chaos

Mrs. King's Music Class
I have had the opportunity to present workshops for regular classroom teachers and soon-to-be teachers.  Usually in these sessions I talk about how to incorporate music into their regular classroom reading and math plans.  I give them practical ways to incorporate music while teaching children's literature, working on spelling words and introducing new concepts in math.
One of the most frequently asked questions by regular classroom teachers is "What can I do with this box of instruments I have in my closet?"  I have heard some scary stories about teachers just sitting the box of instruments on a desk and calling it a "Music Center".  Yikes!  They didn't even have to tell me what happened next.  I knew! CHAOS!
Without guidelines, this would turn into noise, not music in milliseconds!
I've talked with music teachers that feel the same way.  They feel that they SHOULD use the classroom rhythm instruments but just haven' found authentic ways to use them other than keeping the steady beat.  I get it.  For my first few years I only pulled them out occasionally and hated it.  Now?  One of my favorite things to do!  I love the excitement on my students faces and how engaged they are!
Here are a few tips for cutting down on the chaos:

1.  Be the meanest teacher in the school.

No, really.  I have a couple of rules that I repeat every single time we get instruments out.  "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."  It doesn't matter what color your rhythm sticks are or if you start with a tambourine or maraca.  We are ALL making music together.  I also say "If you play before I say, I will take your instrument away!"  And I do it.  First time.  Just once.  Instruments don't ever "accidentally" play themselves.  I follow through.  This means that next class period I have a classroom of believers.

2.  Choose whole group activities that keep students playing.

One of my favorite activities to do with rhythm instruments is to have students read icons for their instrument.  I use a 16 block grid to lay out 4 measures of 4 beats.  Each of these beat boxes has an instrument in it.  This represents a quarter note.  I also include quarter rests and eventually barred eighth notes (for two sounds on one beat).   Scroll up to the top of this post to see a picture of this activity taking place.  Once we are great readers, I'll play music in the background and have students play the patterns with the music.  Since they are in a common meter there are many songs that work.   You can find the file I use for this lesson HERE
I use Greg and Steve's "The Freeze" for one of our first beat keeping experiences with instruments. We take turns playing and when the music stops we switch.  This helps students identify the instrument that they have in their hand and gives them the opportunity to hear the different timbres of all of the instruments.  I also love Hap Palmer's "Tap Your Sticks".
Later when we are great at identifying instruments we'll play a round or two of Mystery Instruments.  Such fun!

3.  Combine rhythm instruments with children's literature.

I use rhythm instruments to accompany poetry quite often.  Sometime we will play the steady beat as we chant the poem.  Other times we will substitute words in the poem for an instrument sound.  This is a fun and creative way to get students thinking about how to organize sound.
The same thing can happen with children's books.  Use the instruments to create sound effects or accompaniments.  Students listen closely for their part and get to experience great literature AND music making.  Win win! Artie Ameida's Mallet Madness books have tons of great ideas for this kind of activity. 

4.  Organize

Have a plan for how students will get instruments and how they will be put away.  I usually call rhythm sticks up by color.  "If you have red rhythm sticks, bring them up and put them away."  If we are playing several different kinds of instruments I call the noisy tambourines and maracas up first.  I think they make noise when kids just LOOK at them!!!
By following some of these guidelines I've really come to love putting instruments in the students' hands.  Please feel free to share your tips for cutting the rhythm instrument chaos in the comments section.
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