06 July, 2015
Implementing games and activities

Implementing games and activities

Hi everyone! In my last two blog posts, I discussed organizing your games and activities and choosing your games and activities. In this post, I'm discussing the best ways I've found to implement those games and activities that you have organized and chosen.

Implementing games and activities: How to implement games into your yearly and daily music lessons!

There are a few layers of implementation. The first layer I tackle is plugging all of those games and activities into my long-range year plans, so that I remember to play them! I briefly discussed long-range planning in this blog post, but I'll give you a peek at a year plan and how I decide what to do, and when to do it!

Let's say we are looking at third grade. This year, my third graders will be practicing re and half note at the beginning of the year. Because of this, I made sure my half note folder was organized well. I even added my own sets to my "files to use" folder so I wouldn't forget to use my own files! Here is what the half note folder looks like:

Since I'll be reviewing half note right at the beginning of this year, I'll probably just need the "all year" files. After opening up the "all year" folder, I see lots of stuff to use!

So much to use! The fuzzy patterns are a great way to review rhythm reading, as is the rhythm squares file by Karla at C Major Learning and "Wild Rhythm Races" by Lindsay Jervis (especially since I'm using a wild "jungle" theme in my room this year!)

I love using "Sammy Sackett" and "Who's That Tapping at my Window" for half note practice, so I could use those files (one by me and one by Lindsay Jervis.)

Centers are a great way to review and practice rhythmic concepts; I could use my "I have, who has" game during centers so I could work with students in a smaller group.

The "Which animal" file is a great way to identify half note patterns, and could be used as an assessment. Poison could also be used for half note identification as a whole group.

Oh, but there's so much more in here that I want to use! I haven't yet used "Rhythm Basketball" by Pitch Publications, and it looks quite fun. "Sakura" is such a beautiful song...and those wristbands are so stinkin' cute!

But I have to make some decisions (and only have so much time in the year before moving onto 4/4 preparation), so here goes!

On my year plan, I have several categories that are listed in vertical columns, such as reading, writing, partwork, improvisation, etc. Then the months are listed in horizontal columns. On my third grade year plan, I went ahead and plugged in "Sammy Sackett" and "Rhythm Squares" under reading, at the beginning of the year, like so (thanks to the Paula Kim Studio for the cute arrows!):

Then I plugged in "Which animal" as an assessment, and the Jungle Rhythm Races as a fun activity to practice half note:

After looking at "Rhythm Basketball" for the song "Happy," I realized it actually would work really well as a 4/4 AND half note practice activity, so I plugged it into October's plans:

Of course, I still have lots of work to do, as I need to plug in files for re, 4/4, ti-tika, etc., until my year plan looks fleshed out AND I can make sure to use lots of the great files I have!

Another layer of implementation comes to actually using it in the classroom. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was from my Kodaly Level I teacher, Julie Swank, about playing games. "Keep them wanting more," she said. Up until then, I had played a game over and over again until all students have had a turn, and that's pretty tedious and time-consuming! Although she was referring to singing games, I think this also applies to games and activities you play for student understanding. I don't want any of the games or activities to last too long...because I want them to play the game again in some other lesson!

The last layer of implementation has to do with how much you play a game, but instead of within the same lesson, I mean within the year. Although my students would play Poison every single lesson and probably would love it, I want to make sure to keep them wanting more...so I may play it a few weeks in a row, and then leave it alone for several lessons. If students ask for it and we have time, I may play it...or I may not, so they are EVEN more excited when we do!

I hope this 3-part series has been helpful for you, from organizing your digital resources, to choosing which games and activities you will play with your students, with how to implement into your year plans and your daily lessons. Do you have any advice for games and activities? Feel free to comment below!

05 July, 2015
Choosing games and activities

Choosing games and activities

In my last blog post, I discussed ways to organize your digital games and activities so you can access them easier. In this blog post, I will discuss how to go about choosing the right games and activities for your students. Please note that the post isn't necessarily about singing games, but musical games to deepen students' understanding. Here is the criteria for how I choose games and activities for my students.

Looking for games and activities for the music room? This blog post includes guidelines for choosing the perfect games for your music lessons!

#1: Fun and engaging
Do the students ask for the game or activity over and over again? Do they get visibly excited when you say the name of the game? Then by all means, play it! The students will learn without realizing they are learning because they are having SO. MUCH. FUN. One of my favorite games and activities that the students repeatedly ask for is "Poison." To play, you simply write a rhythmic or melodic pattern on the board--which is the poison pattern--and students have to echo you...unless you sing or play the poison pattern! You can keep adding to the patterns, and students get SO excited about the challenge! You can simply do this with dry erase marker; you can see my ta and ti-ti poison set here.

Another favorite of my students is "Write the room," by my friend Karla from C Major Learning. You could hear a pin drop when my students did this game...and they are SO excited to find all of the patterns around the room! Here is a picture of some of my students writing their patterns:

Choosing games and activities: Includes reasons to choose games and activities as well as examples of great music games like "Write the Room"!

#2: Age-appropriate
Sometimes a game that we think will work just doesn't, because it is too hard or too easy. Sometimes you can tell by looking at the game, and sometimes it just comes from experience. (All teachers have had the experience of something falling flat on its face...and that's okay, because you learn!) Think through the game and make sure it is sequenced out well enough that your students will be able to play successfully.

I love playing "I have, who has," but the youngest I typically do the game with is second grade, because it is a somewhat complicated game, and kids might get a bit overwhelmed. You know your students well and what they can accomplish, so by thinking through the steps and the developmental appropriateness, we can save ourselves and the students some stress!

#3: Challenging
It's good to think about age-appropriateness...but it's also great to throw in some challenge! The poison game I wrote about above can provide a nice challenge to students. Another challenging activity I love is Amy Abbott's "Every Birdie" series, because they challenge the students not only to read rhythms, but to do so in parts, which is awesome for their partwork skills AND a nice challenge!

The eraser game is another example of a challenging game. Write the rhythm to a known song on the board (or stick notation with solfa) and have students memorize each line. Just keep erasing until they can do everything from memory. They LOVE the challenge and it's great for their memory skills!

#4: Seasonally appropriate
Of course, I don't mind using a game with flowers if it's October...but I usually put away anything with shamrocks after St. Patrick's Day. I try to plan the games so they can happen before or during that holiday, as the kids are SO excited about the holidays and it helps keep them focused on learning! I'll write more in my next blog post about how to plan games and activities to happen at the right time of the year/ during the right season or holiday.

#5: Can be used to assess
I love using games and activities to assess, because students don't realize they are being assessed...they just think they are having FUN! Although assessments could be pencil and paper, they often don't have to be. You could use a game like "Unlock the door" to have students identify rhythm patterns, and "Clip it" by Tweet Resources to identify melodic patterns.

I hope this has been helpful! What are some reasons you choose games and activities? Feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for my next blog post, about how to implement those games and activities!
02 July, 2015
Organizing your games and activities

Organizing your games and activities

I've had such a great summer so far, but I know that with school a month and a half away, I should probably start thinking about the start of the school year. I'm not ready to sit down and write year plans and song lists quite yet (see this post about that process), but I am ready to organize so that the process of writing year plans and song lists is easier.

I know where all of my files, games, and activities are on my computer, but when I purchase a game or activity from another seller, or when I download one for free, it can get lost in a mess of files and folders. Then, even though it's a great file that I should use with my students, I either forget about it or don't know how to find it. So today, I'm going to write about organizing those games and activities.  This will be a three-part blog post; next time, I will write about choosing games and activities, and lastly, I will write about implementing games and activities. Please keep in mind that this process for organizing only works on Macs; see the end of this blog post for info about organizing files on a PC.

Looking for ways to organize your digital games and activities? This blog post includes organization suggestions for music teachers as well as any classroom teacher!

I have had a folder in my Dropbox for a year or two called "files to use." This is where I put anything that I purchase or download that I want to make sure to use. Because my mind works like this, I then put sub-folders into that folder, categorized by topics like rhythm, melody, instruments of the orchestra, etc.

I'm going to focus on rhythm today, and how I just organized that folder even better! Before I did the work, here is what it looked like:

Notice that I have folders for ta and ti-ti, tika-tika, etc., but then I have a bunch of other random files that aren't categorized. Of course, I may forget to use them because they're just sitting there in a mess of other files!

I heard about an amazing way to organize clip art (I will admit, I have a bit of an addiction to all things clip art!) so I decided to use this idea to organize my files. Here is the video I watched, but I'll explain each step in how I organized my games and activities. Keep reading until the end, as I'm sharing the pictures I'm using as a Dropbox link, so you can organize too!

I first went through each file in the folder and made sure it was in the right folder. Some of the games and activities covered more than one rhythm, so I created a various folder.  Then I created pictures that I could use on each folder, so I could quickly visually see what was in each folder. For my beat folder, I opened up the beat jpg I had created (which you can download at the end of this post), and then hit command A, command C, which selected the picture and then copied it to my clipboard. 
Then, I clicked on the beat folder so it was selected, like shown below:

 Then, you can either right-click and choose "get info," or click command-I, so "get info" pops up, like shown below.
 Then, I clicked the small folder icon (next to the word "beat," in the upper left hand corner), and clicked command-V so it would paste. Now, the beat jpg is decorating the folder!

I did this with all of the sub-folders in my rhythm folder. When I was done, it looked like this:

...so then I had to drag all of the pictures so they were lined up neatly, like this:

When I was specifically looking at my ta and ti-ti folder, I realized that I had a mess of holiday files. I wanted them organized so when it is winter time, I can find all my winter files easier! I created folders for each holiday, then copied and pasted those pictures. Now it looks so much more organized!

Interested in organizing your digital files? Click this link to download all of the pictures. Let me know if you have any questions. It seems confusing at first, but once you get the hang of it, it's very easy!

Update: If you are a PC user, Malinda at My Musical Menagerie wrote this awesome blog post about doing the same process on a PC!

In my next blog post, I'll discuss how to take all of these games and activities and choose which ones to use throughout the year to further your students' learning! 

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