Sunday, October 22, 2017

Four Magical Phrases Every Music Teacher Should Know (and Use!)

Teacher talk... Eduspeak... Whatever you want to call it, there are some life-saving phrases that every music teacher should know - and use! It's almost magical how well they work!


Here are four (or five!) phrases I find myself repeating over and over in my class. Hopefully they will be helpful in your classroom!
"Now you sing!" 

This is one of the most basic phrases you can use to remind the students (and yourself!) that you won't be singing with them. 

Most beginning music teachers sing with their students for one main reason: they love to sing! It's an honest mistake that can be detrimental to vocal chords. It's best to model the song and echo-sing phrases, instead of singing along with students. 

It not only helps voice strain, it allows you to step back from the sound and listen closely. When I started really listening to my students, I began to hear wrong notes and intonation issues that needed addressing.

The first time you allow the students to sing without you, there will be a natural dip in the sound as they realize that you're serious and that they will have to carry the sound. And they do! 

I use this phrase a lot in Kindergarten and 1st grade and of course when I'm at a new school, while I'm training the students with non-verbal conducting cues. 

"Who's Going to be First?"

I use this phrase all the time in all levels of music! Usually, it is when we're getting ready to transition and I need students to move more quickly. Every time we are stacking up Unifix cubes, I say this and it's like magic! The students suddenly move with purpose and energy! 

Another way to use this phrase is when you're picking a student to go first. You've never seen students sit up straighter or "catch a bubble" faster than when you are trying to find someone to go first. 
"Tell me Later"

This phrase is a gentle way to let Kindergarteners know that it's not appropriate to share their story at that time. Has anyone else had a class derailed by the sweet stories of 5-year-olds? Teehee.

Before I learned this phrase, it happened daily. And of course, when one student shared, the rest of the students would raise their hands (or just start talking! LOL) and want to share as well. I've learned to let them know that I care, but that we won't have time for storytime during music every day.

"Repeat after me!" 

I have never found a phrase more useful for echo-singing than this one! I literally make them repeat that phrase, too! "Repeat after me!" "Repeat after me!" And then off we go!


It almost completely cuts out the stubborn few that refuse to wait until I model. I use it for giving instructions, echo-singing phrases, or just to get their attention! It's magical!


Bonus! 
"No Big Deal! Maybe Next Time!"

This is one of the most-used phrases in every Kindergarten class of mine! I blogged about it here - check out how I use this to curb those super-sad/kinda-mad faces when they don't get a turn.

And the best part?!?!?!? Now I don't have to play every game 47,953 times! Hallelujah!

What magical phrases have you used in your elementary music classroom?


Sunday, October 15, 2017

Bunnies, Instruments, A Tech Fix, and a Game!

Literature Connection: Little Bunny Foo Foo Play-Along

My Kinder babies love the song Little Bunny Foo Foo! Did you play that hand game when you were a kid? Here are the very simple finger play that I use to teach this in Kindergarten:

Phrase 1: Little bunny Foo Foo went hopping through the forest (bunny hands - 2 finger hop across)
Phrase 2: Scoopin' up the field mice and boppin' 'em on the head (scoop with one hand to make a fist, hit the other hand on top)
Phrase 3: Down came the good fairy and she said (jazz fingers sliding down from above the head)
Phrase 4: Little bunny Foo Foo, I don't wanna see you (bunny hop 4x, shake pointer finger 4x)
Phrase 5: Scoopin' up the field mice and boppin' 'em on the head (scoop with one hand to make a fist, hit the other hand on top)
Phrase 6: I'll give you 3 more chances (3 fingers up), but if you don't listen (tug on ear), I'll turn you into a goon! (shake finger)
"The next morning..."  and repeat!

Ending: I gave you 3 chances (3 fingers up), but you didn't listen (tug on ear), so I'll turn you into a goon! Poof! (spread hands)
"The moral is: 'Hare today and goon tomorrow!' Sounds like 'Here today and gone tomorrow.'"

It's hilarious and fun and really engaging for a beat activity. After they know it by heart, we do it without saying any words!

This is a fantastic SILENT 'game' to play in the hall in line when you're waiting for the teacher to pick them up, or when you're waiting for an assembly to start. Get a group of kids audiating "Little Bunny Foo Foo" while the rest of the gym is screaming and you'll get some appreciative looks from your admin.

Bring it Back!
Of course I get a little more mileage out of Little Bunny Foo Foo in first grade when I bring it back for instrument play! 

After singing the song, we read this story:

And then we add instruments to our song! 

Woodblocks and claves for the hopping of the bunny each time (on the beat) and a big "bop" on the drums for the "boppin' 'em on the head." When the fairy comes down, we use jingle bells, finger cymbals, triangles or anything magical sounding (chimes!) for her entrance. 

My students love playing this song - it's goofy, but still a good musical experience.


You Tube "Popup" Fix

I love using Youtube in my classroom! It's a fantastic source of musical styles, instruments, funny clips, famous musicians, and of course silly instruments made from carrots. Ha!

Currently, I am showing this clip of America the Beautiful to my classes to demonstrate some beautiful vowel shapes. <click below>

As you can see, there are ads before the video begins and ads for videos on the sides. I learned about an awesome popup fix last year that removes the side pictures and the ad at the beginning for most videos!! (not all of them)

Here's the fix: click on the address bar and find the word "watch" with a ? beside it


Between the word "watch" and the ? type in _popup


That's it! Here's what you should see if you do it right:


No ads and no suggested viewing on the side - super easy! It doesn't work on all videos, but it's very helpful for the ones that work.


Biddy Biddy

My friend Lisa taught me a fantastic non-locomotor game that my older students love! I'm always on the lookout for non-locomotor, non-chase/race games for my students that are differently-abled.

For this game, we sing the song in a circle (either seated or standing) and students hold their hands in a cup. I walk around the inside of the circle with a fantastic blingy ring that I think I got at the Wals-marts.
As I walk around the inside of the circle, I have a student walk around the outside, watching my hands. This can easily be adapted - have the students sit in a special chair and watch as I walk around the circle. I drop the ring into someone's hand and at the end of the game, the person who is "it" gets two guesses.

I make it very clear that the students need to act like I gave them the ring even if I didn't drop it in their hands, because we are trying to trick so-and-so who is watching very closely. They become really good actors and try to trick each other into thinking they have the ring. It's a riot!

At the end of the game, I try to pick a student who is a good sport and then I keep the ring and don't drop it in anyone's hand - they love it when I do that! I make sure and thank the student for letting me trick them.

This is a great recording if you don't know the song:




Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Honoring Those Who Serve: Veterans Day


I love Veterans Day! I love the music, the colors, the energy. As an Air Force brat, it's important to get the kids excited about singing about our country, saying thanks to our veterans, and expanding their performance experience in the meantime.

How do you celebrate Veterans Day at your school? Here are some of my favorite tips and tricks and songs!

Favorite Songs

You're a Grand Old Flag - with ribbon dancers in the front.
I use the version that comes in the Spotlight on Music (McGraw Hill) textbook series. Figure 8's for the first verse, Circle & "lassos" for the second verse (instruments only) and figure 8's for the final verse. End with a snap down. This is a great opening number! (Usually sung after Star Spangled Banner or America the Beautiful.)
I get these from Oriental Trading - 
you can trim them shorter if needed.

This is My Country - super short song that affords a great opportunity for solo singing.

Motions:
Beginning - bounce soft claps side to side & bounce knees for the first section;
"I pledge thee my allegiance" - hand over heart;
America the "bold" - make muscle man pose, bend knees for bigger impact;
Ending - bounce soft claps side to side & bounce knees
"Have and to hold" - grab hands with a person next to you and raise into the air

Oh I Love America - I have a bittersweet relationship with this Music K8 song. The words are super easy, fun and repetitive. The "heart dance" that I came up with is surprisingly tricky. During the chorus, I have students broken into three groups; red, white or blue hearts. The phrase repeats three times, so we do a contagion with the hearts.

Students hold their hearts at their side until it is their turn to bounce the heart - red, then white, then blue - and wow that's hard! We spend most of our time working on the movements to this - but when we finish it looks so good!! Variant: Have the red-white-and-blue hearts all move at the same time; I've done this successfully with students as young as Kindergarten.

At the end of this song, they turn around their hearts to reveal a "surprise" flag on the back. So cute!
Yankee Doodle - our textbook recording offers three verses, so it's a great song to feature some tambourine "dancers" in the front. The tambourine team copies the hand motions of the entire group, but with a tambourine in their hand.

What was Yankee Doodle's horse's name? Macaroni! (just seeing if you're paying attention!)

Fifty Nifty United States - I sang this when I was in 5th grade and I still love this song! When I first started doing this song, I had a parent cut out the shapes of the states and glue them to paper. Now, I use a set of State Cards that I had printed in color on card stock, and laminated. Each student is assigned to a state and raises their card when they hear their state.


I blogged about it here! I shared tips for how to teach this song with my State Cards resource and how to do a surprise on the back and a Fifty Nifty Club!

We Will Not Forget - very short and repetitive song. For this song, I have students hold a photo of their favorite veteran. Not a dry eye. After years of requesting, it's finally available on a separate CD from Music K-8 - no subscription required! Woo!

or

I'm Proud to Be an American - emotional and powerful! There's a great version by Jump Five that's kid-appropriate, and a little jazzy. I've seen the hardest of students sing this song with great emotion and tears in their eyes.

American Every Day - This is a great crowd stopper and a good finale for your Veterans Day program! I teach it to the whole school and we all stand (either on risers or in their places in the audience) to sing this at the very end.

Motions
We are American every day - Both thumbs pointing to self, bounce 4 beats
Livin' we are livin' the American way - Hands on hips and nod head 4 beats

If you listen, you can hear it - one hand cupped around ear
All around us, there's a spirit - switch hands, other hand cupped around other ear
It's the freedom we are living - arms crossed over heart
And the blessings we are given - spread out arms towards ground

For the days of the week, I have seven students hold cards that say the day of the week. They hold them up when we call out the day of the week. On the back, there's a surprise - we spell out A-M-E-R-I-C-A at the end for the last repeat of "America!"

Bonus: If you have a super responsible group, you can add a stomp-clap during one of the last choruses, when the brass drops out and it's only voices and percussion. For my students, a pretend stomp works best; they lean to the side and do a pretend step, then do a soft clap.

Tip: I learned a long time ago that when students clap at a program, they rush. Any time I want the students to clap during a song, we talk about how clapping is loud. If we clap louder than the music, we can't hear the music! (It's a shock, I know!) We listen to how loud 25-30 people sound when they clap and then talk about how many kids are in the grade level that is performing. The kids generally understand that we have to almost "pretend-clap" when we have such a large group.

Logistics

I start practicing songs with my students about 8 weeks ahead of time. After learning the songs in class, I send home packets to each student. I hold "auditions" in class several weeks out. I have interested students do group auditions (I use a simple rubric to give a score) in class and they get a note to go home if they get a part.

Most of the students who audition get some kind of special part - I write up extra speaking parts and buy extra ribbons, borrow extra tambourines to cover all the kids that want a part. I try to find a way to make it special for each student! Can they hold up a picture of the Statue of Liberty? Can they hold up a letter to spell out America? What about passing out programs or getting people at the door? Passing out flowers is another job to fill, as well as passing out tambourines, cards, or ribbons.

Finishing Touches

Local Veterans, Scouts:
In addition to inviting local veterans (we send home an invitation to each family to invite a local veteran friend or family member), I invite the local Boy Scout troop to do a flag ceremony, and recently, I had a Girl Scout troop serve cookies and welcome the veterans as the entered our school.


Make sure to label the space where you want the veterans so that they feel comfortable as guests at your school.

Thank You Flower and/or Note/Poem:
I usually reserve the tear jerker song for my oldest/best group. Either before or after their song, I have each student who brought a veteran come to the stage and get a flower to take to their veteran.

It's a touching moment when the students take their veteran a flower, shake their hand, and say, "Thank you for your service." (We practice that in class!)

Decorate:
Off course you want to make it look festive, but it doesn't have to break the bank! Once I started doing this vertical flag design, I've never looked back! Trust me when I say hanging sheets of paper vertically is much easier than horizontally! Ha!


Wall of Honor:
One of my absolute favorite additions to the Veterans Day programs that I've done is the Wall of Honor. Every student in the whole school is encouraged to create a "brick" for a veteran friend or family member. This is a sample of the note I send home.

My mom and I pointing out some of our favorite veterans!


The start of the Wall of Honor






By the end of Veterans Day, this wall was completely covered as people added their own "bricks" to the wall with their loved ones. I made some bricks for the U.S. Presidents that were veterans as well!

How do you celebrate Veterans Day at your school? Connect with Sweet Sounds on Facebook and share your favorite Veterans Day songs!


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

50 States to Sing About

I happen to love a certain song about the 50 states - I sang it when I was in 5th grade and I still think it's pretty nifty, almost 25 years later!

I like to teach my students the nifty state song for Veterans Day each year. It's a great way to celebrate our country, but also learn something along the way.



Every year, I assign each student a state to hold during the song. I printed a set of state card props that we use that has one state on each card. I have 2 sets because there are always more than 50 students in my participating grade level. I also make a few extra of our home state, just in case that student doesn't show up at the performance. (AmIRight?)

Write their name on the back of the laminated card with a sharpie - you can wipe it off later by coloring over it with dry erase marker!



After years of printing out the state outlines and cutting them out, gluing them to card stock, writing the state names, laminating, and cutting out one last time, I made some on my computer! These can be sent to the print shop or printed on any color printer. I like to print them on card stock & laminate for durability. 

During the naming of the states section, students hold up their card for 3 seconds and bring it back to ‘ready’ position, under the chin (I say, “1-2-3 and down!”).

For years, I used a fantastic version of the song (McGraw-Hill) that has a slow section, followed by a fast section. The students LOVE holding up their card during the fast section, too - I remind them to count to 3 before bringing their card back down - otherwise “mamaw and pawpaw” in the audience can’t see the state on the card. 

At the end the students raise the cards above their head in a “slow-mo” wave. It’s very simple, but effective!

Surprise on the back!

At the end of the song, the version that I use leaves a blank to fill in your favorite state. If you live in a state with a ginormous amount of state pride, you can print the name of your state on the back of each card. Then, just before it’s time to yell out the best state, have students quietly turn cards around. When it’s time to yell - pop the card up high so the whole crowd can see the state’s name!

For other states, a little saying might be added during the 3-note or 2-note instrumental pause. (For example: Indiana - the best!) You can also write this on the back.

Logistics

Attach a paint stir stick (free from many stores that sell paint!) to the back to make a nice handle. I have also had students place their hands in the middle of the card so that the card doesn’t flop around. Have a student demonstrate the right way & wrong way to hold these.

I have students place their card between their shoes (vertically) while singing all of the other songs in the show. Then, when it’s time to sing, we gently bend our knees and get our state cards ready. 

Make sure to sing this song BEFORE any song that has locomotor movement or feet choreography!! I learned that the hard way!

Fifty Nifty Club 

I got a great idea from my new co-teacher this year! Any kid that can say the 50 states by themselves gets to be in the "Fifty Nifty Club." I'm putting up a big banner and each kid will get their name on a little flag on my wall for being in the Fifty Nifty Club. It's that simple!

How do you teach your Veterans Day songs? Head over to Sweet Sounds on Facebook and let's connect!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Double Star Day

Let's be honest - some classes are more difficult than others. Some combinations of classes are rough.  

Most specials teachers can name the day of the week that is tougher than others. (And the day of the week that they wouldn't miss for the world! #AmIRight?) 


At one school where I worked, Thursdays were ROUGH across the board - no matter what we did, Thursdays "spun" like the Friday before a break. Kids were wild and wooly on Thursday and the SAME KIDS would come back on Friday friendly and happy to be there. Whiplash!

This year, my Wednesday schedule is turning out to be one of my tougher days. I have a group of kids in the afternoon that try to argue constantly on Wednesday, and come back to me on Thursday morning like little angels. There are differences in time of day, circumstances that happen, and of course differences in body levels (are they hungry? did they just take their medicine? did they just wake up?). Regardless of the issues, we still had work to do and things to learn!

So, today I tried something a little different - double star day! 


You might remember from this post that I use a system of stars to track group behavior in my classroom. For the older kids, we do points. Classes set a goal at the beginning of class and attempt to reach that goal during the day. 

This year, I added charts (thanks to Sing Play Create!) that track weekly goals. So, for example, if they reach their goal that week (4 stars, or 40 points), they get a smiley face on the chart. 

The chart has 8 blanks per class, since I see the classes twice a week this year (wow!). This means if they reach their goals consistently, they can earn a "reward" every 4 weeks or so. 

Today I took a page from my old principal and did double star day! It was a HIT! Not only did the kids get excited, but I could move them all closer to their goal (even my roughest classes finally got to move up!!).

At the end of class, I took the total number of stars (or points) earned and doubled it. They were SO excited to get the huge number of points or stars and that's half the battle! As an extra incentive, I allowed some classes to earn "double moves on the chart" - aka 2 smiley faces. This helped me move those classes that were behind a little closer to the same schedule as the other classes (for my sanity!).

I can't wait to try this out with my Monday classes (whom I feel like I never see and they are constantly behind - anyone else?). I'll let you know how it goes!




Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bobby Shafto: Canons in First Grade

I know what you're thinking - canons in first grade - no way! But it's actually not as hard as you'd expect.


1. Independent Singing

First I teach Bobby Shafto with hand motions:
Phrase 1: Bounce a salute at your hat rim 4x
Phrase 2: Bounce your fists on alternating knees 4x
Phrase 3: Pretend drive a steering wheel (back and forth 4x)
Phrase 4: Alternate hands and salute 4x (Right - Left - Right - Left)

After a few weeks of them singing and me doing the hand motions*, I say, "Ok, boys and girls, let's see if you can do it without my help!" And then I don't even do the hand motions with them.

*Teacher voice note: Don't sing with your students every time! Sing as a model and then get out of the way so you can hear them! 

2. Teacher-Only in Canon

IF they can do this successfully, I say, "Now I'm going to try to trick you!" and I do the "wrong" hand motions.

Of course, music teachers will know - I didn't do the "wrong" motions, I did the motions in canon! I started with phrase 4, then phrase 1, 2, 3. Differentiation: Some classes can't handle if I start at the same time, so it's ok to start when they get to phrase 2; that's what we are eventually moving towards.

After they do this I say, "That was too easy! This time I'm going to sing with you, but I'm not going to sing the right words. I'm going to try to trick you. If you sing with my words, that means I tricked you!" After they start (with motions), I sing it in canon with motions.

Then I ask, "What was I doing that was tricky?" Almost always, a student will say, "You started after we did!" And then I explain, "In music we have a fancy word that means "started after" we call it canon!"

I always say, "Your mom and dad probably call it a round and that's ok - tell them canon is just a fancy word for round." It's so cute to hear back from parents - they really do tell them!

3. Small Group w/Teacher in Canon

The next step is my favorite!! I pick a group of students and have them sing with my and "try to trick" the other kids. They stand around me in a small circle and we start after the whole group.

4. Large Group w/Teacher in Canon

If this is successful, the next week, I pick another group of students. After a while I say, "Let's see if the whole back row can do it." I have the back row turn and face back (with me) and we sing in canon with the class.

Generally, that's either a disaster or a huge hit! If it's a disaster, I go back to smaller groups until they know the song better independently. If it's a hit, I say, "I wonder if we could break the class into two groups and sing in canon?" Then we play around with dividing the class in half or by rows. With an exceptional group you might be able to do 3 rows!

It's a movement canon, so it's really cool to see, as well as hear. Make sure you have your class turn and face the back and go the opposite direction so all kids can see the canon coming towards them. It's a really neat experience.

Catch up with me on Facebook and let me know how it goes!

Lori

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Classroom Organization Tip: A Peaceful Music Room

When I first started teaching, I thought my room had to be perfect! I wanted bright, flashy displays of every instrument, every composer, every genre. I felt like I had to cover every inch of wall space with concepts and inspirational posters.

Now that I've been teaching for over 13 years, I've learned the value of white/blank space, peaceful decor and bringing beauty into the classroom.

My friends with special needs also appreciate that my walls aren't vibrating with color and stimulation. I try to keep it simple & organized so that all kids will be able to take a breath and enjoy music class.

I also decorate for myself - hey - I have to look at it all day every day, so I want it to be something nice to look at.


My inspiration for my classroom this year comes from the home reno shows that I've been watching in the background all summer! #musthaveshiplap

I am in love with the rustic, farmhouse look and I wanted to see what I could do in the classroom to evoke that kind of softer, peaceful atmosphere. I found some fantastic ideas on Pinterest so I started a Pinterest board to bring all my ideas together.

How cute is this?
Love how they mixed the different types of baskets - 
so much nicer to look at than my previous mismatched plastic tubs!

What about spelling out Music or Sing? 

I have the perfect ribbon for this! I love the look of this for my tone ladder - with a bow on top!

Even a small accent can add to the room!

Love those magnolia wreaths!

After checking out the local arts and crafts stores, plus one or two home stores, I began to design my class decor set around shiplap (the wooden board background), magnolia leaves and cotton bolls. I was easily able to find lots of useful classroom items that complemented this style.



My dynamics posters go up in a spectrum - loudest to softest. I used a 2 inch ribbon to connect them and show the flow from each dynamic level. The hand held set will go in the board basket with magnets so that we can choose which dynamic to sing/play when working at the board.


My tempo cards will also go in a line to show the spectrum of beat! I love having a hand held set to use with magnets with Kindergarten and 1st grade beat charts. Just one more thing for them to "choose" for when we sing a song!


These bucket labels will go on the outside of each bucket or basket to help when students put away instruments. The Orff instruments will get a label attached to each instrument and the drums and rain stick will have a label on each shelf. 


I'm a little different than some people when it comes to solfege - I don't want them to see what's coming ahead in the next concept. In my Kodaly training levels, we discussed that they need to experience the sound before they label the symbol. So I have a set of these on velcro that only come out when we are working with a new solfege syllable - and only the ones they know!




I'm in love with these binder covers! swoon! I love having a main binder to keep me organized and a few additional binders for all the extra stuff. I don't need to carry home every IEP, 504 or BIP every day; however, I need to know where they are to be able to access them when needed. I have a separate binder for those forms, a binder for choir music and permission slips, one for each musical and a binder for parent communication logs & administrative paperwork like PO's and grades.

Inside my main binder are my grade level checklists, a copy of my yearly plan, lessons for the week and upcoming week (if needed), music and whatever else I'll need for the week. I have gotten into the habit of carrying around a stapled packet with my lesson plan checklists during each class. After the week is over, I can prep the next week's lessons easily by looking at what we accomplished, and file the packet in the binder for reference.


Grab this Shiplap Music Room Decor Set for 10% the bundled discount during the #MusicTeacher101 event!

It's a growing bundle, so I'll be giving you a sneak peak at the rest of the product next week before the bundle grows and the price goes up to match!

Happy Summering!