Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmas Card Music Rhythms

While looking through old Christmas cards from last year, a thought came to mind.  
Wouldn't it be great to recycle these cards and use them in music class?
The answer was "yes", so the journey began to think of the "how to do it" part.
Christmas Card Rhythms
The thought was to play a game called "Christmas Card Rhythms". Each student would take a recycled Christmas card from the decorated holiday gift bag. (You can use cards from past Christmas' from friends or family. Or you can buy seasonal cards at a discount after the holiday is over.)
 The kids who do not celebrate Christmas enjoy learning about the tradition of sending cards to family & friends for this holiday.
Once the student has taken a card from they bag, they are to look at the card and silently read the rhythm written on the inside.  After the students have practiced the rhythms in their heads, they will then choose a partner & share their rhythm.  
Christmas Music Game
This activity is a great way to have the kids practice rhythms & share what they have learned with their friends.  Here are some extension ideas that can be done with this game.
1. Students can partner with a friend to combine their card rhythms & create movements & share their creations with the class.
2.  As a mixer, students would keep saying their rhythm while walking around the room & try to find another student with the same rhythm. This would be a great way to have students to work with someone different than their best friends.
3. The teacher can play the rhythm on the drum & students can identify if it was their rhythm.
4.  Students can choose non-pitched instruments to play the rhythms. Or each card can have the name of a non-pitched instrument on the card for the students to play.
5. Students can add pitch to the rhythm on the card & play it on a pitched instrument. Maybe the students can be told to create ascending or descending pitches for the project.
Additionally, older students could have more challenging rhythms written on the cards.

Any of these ideas can be used in conjunction with the Christmas songs in the Making Music series.  
If you have any other ideas you would like to share for this activity, 
please comment so we can learn & share with each other. 
Merry Christmas!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Ticket Out the Door

The "Ticket Out the Door"  is a concept that is not new, but it was new to my classroom this year.  Based upon my 5th and 6th grade classes, I realized that I needed something tangable that would allow students the opportunity to self reflect about their behavior during class and help me to identify ways to help them improve their learning.

Although I do believe the behavior self reflection part of the ticket is good, I find the flip side of the ticket to be a more valuable tool for me to become a better teacher.  After the students leave class that day,  I find myself quickly digging through the "tickets" to discover what they had learned during the lesson and what made learning difficult or easy for them that day.  I am able to take notes and adjust my upcoming lesson to address any concerns or issues from the prior class.   

Overall, students seem to appreciate the chance they have to express their concerns or successes from the class.  In order to explain how the "ticket" worked, I made a slide show presentation that demonstrated what was expected when they filled out the ticket.

Click on the link below to see the presentation.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Half Rest, Whole Rest

Visual aids around the classroom can be a fun thing to do.  Not only does it help in the decor of the room, but it allows for students to review a concept at their own pace.  One of my favorite visual aids is the use of a top hat to discuss the value of half and whole rests.

While cleaning out my son's toy box, I discovered a top hat that came from a magic set.  He no longer wanted the hat, so... "poof"!  It is now a half or whole rest!  Looking at this top hat reminded me of when I was in elementary music class and my awesome music teacher told us about a top hat and a whole rest.  I believe this is how the story goes...

Back in the Victorian era (around 1837 to 1901) men wore hats around town.  There were special rules that went along with wearing a hat in a building or during special occasions. Can anyone here think of a special rule when we wear hats today? (Answers will vary. Students may says things like, we can't wear ball caps in the classroom, not in church etc.)  

One day, a man walked into the town general store.  As he walked through the door, he removed his hat from his head.  

 The lady behind the store counter said, "It's so nice to be greeted by a "WHOLE" gentleman.  I mean one who knows to take off his hat when inside a building."  Another lady inside the store immediately joined in the conversation a stated firmly, "Yes, I agree!  The other day when I was at the bank, a man walked through the door and did not remove his hat.  Well, I turned to my daughter and told her he must be "HALF" a gentleman because he kept a hat on his head while indoors!"  
The gentleman kindly smiled at the ladies and said, "Well, sometimes even I forget to be a 'WHOLE' gentleman and take off my hat in a building.  And I guess when I do, I am just 'HALF' a gentleman.  But...I would rather be 'HALF' a gentleman, than fall into a great big 'HOLE'!  Good day ladies."  He then turned towards the door, and as he walked through the threshold, he put his hat back on his head. 
The End~

After sharing this story with the students, I would draw a very large music staff on the board.  We would discuss half and whole rests, (which we had used in class a few times before this lesson).  We would then play the game, "Half a gentleman or a Whole Gentleman".  I would place the hat on the staff to show either a whole rest or half rest.  The students would raise their hands to share with the class if they thought it was a whole rest or a half rest.

I would use this simple staff/rest game as a mini review lesson while waiting in line for their teacher, or as a simple review when we had an extra few minutes.

In addition, with the older grades, the historical reference of a top hat could be a conversation starter when examining music of the Romantic era.


Monday, March 4, 2013

Inclusion- How to Involve Special Ed Students in a Show

Many times while preparing students for a program, we may struggle with ideas as to how to help our students with special needs.  What accommodations will they need?  How can I best involve a student who has difficulty singing?  How can I work with the staff to best support the kids?  Here are a few ideas that may help a young performer prior to the show.

  1. Talk with the teacher and staff that help support the student.  Ask them to share input on where a student might need to stand for the show, (maybe for a quick exit if necessary).  By speaking with the staff, you might discover that the student relates well with another student and support from a peer, may be just what that child needs.  Asking a teacher or staff member for suggestions with the student can make all the difference.  
  2. Search for the child's strengths.  Although a student might not be able to sing all the words to a song, they might be able to introduce a song or sing a simple part of the song.  Can they hold a sign, or participate in performing simple actions during a song? 
  3. Be flexible. Don't expect perfection.  Keep in mind the show belongs to the students, not the adults putting on the show.  Nothing ever goes as planned and being flexible can help ease the stress for all involved.  Go easy of yourself. It's a show in the school cafeteria, not Carnegie Hall.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for help.  Most teachers have a strong desire for their students to succeed and because of this, are willing to take the time to help their students.  Maybe they could work on the songs in their classrooms outside of music class time.  Involve other specialists that the student may see at school.  For example, if the student has a speaking part, you could ask the speech therapist if they think this child may need extra help and if they could work on it during speech time.  Sometimes a student needs extra support from an adult during rehearsals and the show, ask the staff for support and thank them for helping to include their students.
  5. Be supportive AND realistic.  Some students might be able to stand and sing through the whole show without becoming inpatient, others may only be able to be on stage for a few songs.  That is OKAY.  The goal is to help the student to be shown in their best light.  If the student is on stage for the whole show, but becomes frustrated and begins to scream on stage, not only does this bring negative attention to that student, but it also disrupts the show for all the other students who have been working so hard.
  6. Be willing to take a risk because it's the right thing to do.  Let's admit it.  Most of the students on the stage will have many typical opportunities in their lives, such as going to prom, having a job, driving a car, getting married and so forth.  They will have chances in high school to be an active part of the drama club, marching band or athletics.  A special needs kid does not.  Although they might be allowed to take part in these clubs, most will not be truly accepted into these situations.  This is an unfortunate truth of life.  In elementary school, this is their chance to shine.  It is such an important gesture not only for the student, but for the families of these children.  It means the world to many of the parents of these kids.  Not everyone will support you, not everyone will agree with you.  But you have the chance to make a difference in a child's life because it is the right thing to do.
Many times, special needs students like to know and take comfort in knowing what will happen next.  Because of this, the use of a Thinking Map Flow Chart to display the order of songs in the show can really help to put a child at ease (as well as the staff member who is helping out).  Here is an example of the flow chart being used for the order of songs in a show.
Special Needs Elementary Music
Thinking Map Flow Chart for Order of Songs in a Show

Saturday, February 23, 2013

It's A Spring Thing! - A Show In Front of the Curtain

Sometimes when putting together a performance, you really don't need to use whole the stage.  During these times, it seems in the best interest of the students to place them in front of the curtain. Not only does this help with volume for the young singers to be closer to the audience, but it also is a great introduction to being on stage with less distractions.  A curtain can be a strong backdrop, but can also be very boring to look at, and does not help to tell a story about the songs being presented.  One option to create the perfect "photo opt" during the performance is to hang items from the curtain.  Although some schools may be opposed to putting holes into the stage curtain, our Magic Paper Lady has discovered an easy way to accomplish this task without causing any damage. 
A Tag Gun, which is used in a store to place price tags on clothing, is a great way to hang items on the curtain.  Not only can you purchase the proper needle length for the thickness of the curtain, but you can simply snip the plastic holder for quick tear down.  This is also much easier to use then large safety pins, as the weight and strength of the curtain is difficult to pierce and can leave holes.

Our Magic Paper Lady, can create any item with paper and for this show to stick with a spring theme, she created beautiful flowers.  By crinkling, crunching and shaping the paper, she was able to produce flowers that would be able to hang flat while having depth.  They turned out beautiful and truly enhanced the backdrop.

The use of strong color created the illusion of real flowers.  When placing flowers on the curtain, it is important to put them where they will not be blocked by the students standing in front of them during the performance.  For this, a sheet of green paper was placed on the bottom of the curtain and cut into blades to create the image of grass.  And here's the final result! Enjoy!

spring stage set music class ideas