19 February, 2015
From body percussion to instruments

From body percussion to instruments

This past month, as my fifth graders were learning tim-ka, or dotted eighth/sixteenth, I started going through my resources to see how I might best practice this rhythm with them. It's been many years since I've taught this concept--as I've not had students long enough to get to the rhythm--so I was excited to see what I could find in my resources!

I found this resource which I admit I've heard great things about but just haven't used very much! Click on the picture to see the book at West Music.

If you are an Orff-trained teacher, you likely have a well-worn version on your bookshelf. Although I've had some Orff experiences, I do not have training....but I know that good teaching is good teaching, and Orff can complement Kodaly-inspired teaching very well!

So I thought I'd write how I used this book to practice tim-ka, explore body percussion, and begin to learn a piece on instruments. 

From body percussion to barred instruments: Ideas for using body percussion to learn an instrumental piece!

Two disclaimers: first, because this is a copyrighted resource, I cannot include any music from the book. Secondly, because I am Kodaly-trained, I might have a different process than an Orff-trained teacher, so if you are Orff-trained and have anything to add, please comment below...I'd love to hear your thoughts!

The book has tons of usable material--from songs with Orff arrangements, to body percussion pieces, to instrumental pieces, and much more! I paged through the book and found an instrumental piece with tim-ka that I thought I could use (it's #34 in the book.) I should note that the process I'm writing about can be used with any piece--not just #34!

Now, I'll be honest, sometimes when looking at this book I get a bit overwhelmed, because I know it would take LOTS of work to perform the piece as written with my kids, and even after lots of work it might not happen successfully. So I've learned to take what I can use and simplify as I need to. So in #34, I took three measures that could stand alone as a usable motive. The first measure I used had tim-ka on the fourth beat which I thought was different and interesting. 

I thought it would be great to learn the melody for these three measures on barred instruments, but thought maybe I should start with it as a reading activity. So after learning tim-ka, I put the three measures on the board and had them read the rhythm.

The melody starts on E, then goes to G, and also uses C and D. So I changed all of the E's to patting my lap, all the G's to snapping, all of the C's to stomping, and all of the D's to patting knees.
Before I put all that on the board, I performed for the students and had them figure out what I started with (patting lap), what happened after that (snapping), etc. Once they started to figure out what happened where, I put "P" underneath the rhythms that were patting laps, "S" for snap, "K" for knees, and "C" for clapping. Then I had students take a few minutes to practice on their own.

This is where I was surprised. I thought students might enjoy this, but no, they LOVED it. Students were excitedly and intently doing the body percussion piece on their own; excited whispers of "I got it!" resounded throughout the room. I realized at this point I need to do more body percussion! Kodaly believed that students need to start making music with their voices because it is their own instrument, but our bodies are also our own instrument, so it follows that we should do lots on our bodies too!

That process above was maybe 10 minutes of one lesson. In another lesson I brought it back, reviewed it, and polished it. I also had volunteers come up and try the body percussion on their own as a solo or small group, which they really enjoyed!

In the next lesson, we reviewed the body percussion, then I explained that we would transfer this to barred instruments. Every time we pat our laps, we will play E (at this point, I erased "P" and replaced it with "E.") Every time we clap, we will play G (I erased "C" and replaced it with "G,") etc. Once I had the melody on the board, I played it for students, then had half of them go to barred instruments and begin practicing (the other half try afterwards--I usually rotate because I don't always have enough instruments for everyone.)

After a few minutes of independent practice, I had students play the last measure (the easiest), then play the second and third measures, then play all three measures. It wasn't perfect, but it was WAY better than if I had just done the instrumental part without doing body percussion first! They had internalized the rhythm and could play it so much better on the instruments because of that! 

Another thing I loved about this is that after having a discussion about what melody is (a discussion inspired by the book "Making Thinking Visible") I put the rhythm on the board, and asked them if there was a melody up there; they discuss that it's just the rhythm. Then I added the melody with note letters, and they figure out that NOW there is a melody. It's a great way to distinguish between rhythm and melody, as first they learned it as a body percussion piece, and then they learn it as a melody.

Our next steps with the process is to polish the melody, and add one or two ostinati. I'm thinking we could also have each class figure out their own arrangement of the piece, alternating between body percussion, melody, ostinato, etc.!

I hope that all makes sense and that you can use it with whichever piece you'd like! Have anything to add? Feel free to comment below!

14 February, 2015
Five Favorite Pins of February

Five Favorite Pins of February

Hi everyone! Today I'm finally resuming my five favorite pins linky party! Sorry I've skipped a month...life got crazy busy!

#1: Music makes me _________ bulletin board
What a great way to celebrate music! Take a picture of students holding up a word about how music makes them feel and then post!

#2: 19 Free iPad apps for Musical Creativity
This is a wonderful list of very creative apps! 

#3: How to remove vocals from a song
I will definitely be looking at this tutorial next time I have a program and have to create an accompaniment track for students.

#4: Solfege and Taylor Swift? Why not?
This is an excellent blog post by my friend Christopher Roberts on our collaborative blog, the Kodaly Corner. Great thoughts about how and why to incorporate pop music (with moderation) into the music classroom.

#5: People who found success despite failures
In our success-driven culture, in which kids and adults feel like they always have to be successful at everything ALL THE TIME, I love this (you'll have to click the pin below to see the whole graphic.) Such a wonderful reminder to kids that sometimes failures can be wonderful learning tools and can help us to succeed.

What are your five favorite pins of the month?  Feel free to comment below, and make sure to check out the favorite pins of the bloggers below. Also make sure to follow me on Pinterest for more pins like the ones above. Happy pinning!

07 February, 2015
Musical Activities for Black History Month

Musical Activities for Black History Month

Since we are nearing the end of the first week of February, I thought I'd blog about some of my favorite musical activities for Black History Month. Most of these activities could be used any time during the year--and in any classroom--but I know, for me, Black History Month is a great reminder to make sure I delve deeper into cultural and social contexts by reading, singing, and having thoughtful discussions with students!

Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!

Picture Books
One of my favorite ways to celebrate Black History Month is by reading children's literature about famous African-Americans, and teaching them about music history in the process. Below are several of my favorites; simply click each picture to view each book on Amazon or Alibris!

Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!     Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!

Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!     Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!

Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!     Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!

Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!      Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!

Another way to celebrate Black History Month is by performing a play or program about African-American history. In a few days, my fourth graders will be performing "Follow the Drinking Gourd," based off of this book:

Musical Activities for Black History Month: Picture books, songs, and more for your music classroom!

The students of course learned the song "Follow the Drinking Gourd," but they will also be singing other songs, such as "Freedom Train," shown below, and other favorites, like "Old House" (which you can find here) and "Red are strawberries" (found here), which they will sing after discussing how the slaves sometimes had berries to pick, and sometimes had no food at all to eat. Many of the songs and dances they are performing are African-American, but some are also serving as a way to illustrate the story of the Underground Railroad. Although some scholars now believe that this song may not have been used to teach slaves how to find the Underground Railroad, it does teach students about the plight of runaway slaves in an engaging way, and we've had great discussions about equality and fairness through the book and the song.

I have also used "I See the Rhythm" (shown above) as a program. The book is wonderful because it is like a chronological musical African-American history told with beautiful pictures and poetic prose. For the program, I had students learn "Ensemble #1" from World Music Drumming; the resource is shown below.

I also had them learn a dance from this great resource:

And of course, to celebrate Black History Month, we can sing! One of my all-time favorites is Freedom Train, which I learned from my Kodaly Level III teacher Joan Litman (I've raved about how amazing she is in previous posts, and I really must again! If you get a chance to see her at a workshop you MUST!)
Freedom Train works beautifully in a round. Although it seems like it is an Underground Railroad song--since the Underground Railroad was sometimes called the Freedom Train--I learned that this is actually a Civil Rights song (and I was able to have a great discussion with my students about Civil Rights by discussing its origin.)

Freedom Train: a great song for Black History Month! Blog post also includes picture books, resources, and more!

I also LOVE this resource, which comes with a book and a very, very helpful DVD (the author of the book teaches the songs to your students AND provides authentic field recordings of each song!)

I just made some major revisions to my "Songs and Activities for Black History Month Set," shown below. The set includes lessons for most of the picture books shown above, as well as several songs, PDF's with embedded music, and a bulletin board set. If you've already purchased this set, simply re-download under "my purchases."

What are your favorite Black History Month activities? Feel free to comment below.

01 February, 2015
Valentine's Day Activities for the Music Room

Valentine's Day Activities for the Music Room

Today is February 1...and so begins thecountdown to Valentine's Day! My husband and I are still trying to figure out plans for going out for dinner (just the two of us) but I've also begun plans for what my students will do to celebrate Valentine's Day.

Valentine's Day Activities: Songs, dances, and more for the music room!

Here are some of my favorite activities to do with students the week before and the week of Valentine's Day:

1, 2, 3: A song for Valentine's Day
A couple years ago, I wrote about this song, which is based off the melody to "Bow Wow Wow." Click here to see the blog post with song notation and dance instructions!

Popsicle Stick Dictation
Since Valentine's Day is all about hearts, it's a great time to dictate with heartbeats and popsicle sticks! Click here to see a blog post about popsicle stick dictation.

Love Somebody
This is a gem of a song...it can be used during Valentine's Day or any other time during the year, to prepare or practice sixteenth notes. Here is the notation:
Love Somebody: A great song for Valentine's Day! Blog post includes other great activities for Valentine's Day for the music room!

To play the game, choose one child to be "it," and have them sit in front of the class. Have that child choose a friend in the class they love as a friend. Then, we sing the song, and the child who is "it" gets to choose a child to guess who he/she is thinking of. After three incorrect guesses, we sing the song again; I do this a total of three times (or nine guesses) before the child who is "it" tells us who they he/she is thinking of. If someone does guess correctly, the child who guessed correctly comes up  and gets to be it.

Love Somebody Disappearing Game
I picked up this awesome file from Amy Abbott during the last $2 Tuesday...I love her disappearing files, and this was is no exception. What a fun way to practice tika-tika AND 2-beat meter! Click here to see it in her TpT store.

Write the Room
My friend Karla from C Major Learning just posted this set, and I was so excited to use it! She saw classroom teachers doing "Write the room" and thought to adapt it to the music classroom, which is brilliant! It's kind of like a scavenger hunt, where students look for the right rhythm cards and write them down. Such a great way to practice rhythm writing! Here is a picture of my students writing their rhythm patterns:

Valentine's Day Activities: Songs, dances, and more for the music room!

Tika-Tika can be hard to write..some students want to write six lines down and three lines across, so this is a great way to practice! Karla's bundle also includes sets for ta and ti-ti and quarter rest.

Looking for more ways to celebrate Valentine's Day in the music room? Check out this set:

Happy Valentine's Day! Enjoy!

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