Tuesday, June 14, 2016

What about the other guys? Teaching music beyond "the classics"

Having taught in the inner city for over 25 years, I want my students to learn more than the “old white dead” composers – no offense intended. But seriously?!? 

My students listened to a variety of composers over the years. In the beginning of my career, I thought I should only expose them to the music that they wouldn't hear on the radio or at home - "the classics". After all, these people have stood the test of time. Right? But...I changed my mind.

Since it is now 2016, I think musicians (not just composers) who made or have been making music for over 40-50 years have definitely stood the test of time! Yes, we as music teachers have acknowledged the contributions of Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald but we are missing the opportunities to share the great gifts of newer musicians. And they don't have to be dead yet!

My students also need to know that people of color have contributed significantly to the music world - and not just hip hop. The kids need to see themselves as music makers. Therefore they need to see role models that look like them.

I began creating my "Musician in the Spotlight" sets because I wanted to take the emphasis off of composing and place it on performing. Also having taught in poor schools, I knew that I had spent TONS of my own money on materials. Even printing posters from TeachersPayTeachers can be expensive when you add in the cost of ink. I kept this in mind when I created these products. The musician photos DO use more ink but the rest of the product has mostly white space with an appealing border. 

For myself, I print one musician per month for my bulletin board AND I insert it into my SmartBoard files for the month. Using my beloved SQUILT (Super Quiet Un-Interrupted Listening Time)
minutes at the end of the class, we listen, discuss, recite the 3 peat and quite frankly just soak up the beautiful sounds. At the end of the year, my students request more SQUILT in order to hear more of their favorites. And that is music to MY ears!


Buzz on over to my store and check out all the musicians I have included. You can go to the top of this blog and click on "SHOP" and it will take you right there. Maybe you will find an old familiar face to share with your students.



Sunday, June 12, 2016

Great reads -part 3

As I continue my reading suggestions, you have probably noticed that they are not about content. You already learned that in college. THIS is the stuff you probably didn't learn there... Management. And quite honestly, you can know all the content in the world but if you don't have management of your students, you'll never be able to teach them.

*Doug Lemov's Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College

This book is great for short, easy to apply strategies. One of my favorites is "Threshold". I greet my students at the beginning of every class. I shake their hands and smile and make connections, ie. notice a hair cut, great colored top, a recorder brought to class. Some kids prefer a fist bump and that's fine ~ really it's about making connections. I had one student tell me it was the highlight of her day and she looked forward to it every music class.

These 49 techniques were gleaned from super successful teachers - Lemov did not think them up. Again more resources from this book are available at their active Facebook page and website (www.teachlikeachampion.com ).

Teach Like a Champion is full of strategies that can be implemented immediately. Some are super simple ie. threshold, and others are more involved. Many of the techniques are focused on the general classroom  BUT as I mentioned before, take what you like and adapt it. You are creating your own organized environment with routines and procedures that manage student behavior.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Great reads part 2

Continuing with the theme of reading professional books that REALLY help you, here is my next suggestion.

*Chris Biffle's Whole Brain Teaching for Challenging Kids: (and the rest of your class, too!) 
*Chris Biffle's Whole Brain Teaching: 122 Amazing Games!: Challenging kids, classroom management, writing, reading, math, Common Core/State tests 

Again like Harry Wong, these books have alot of material for the general classroom,but there are some great strategies for the Music Room. Also there is a website (http://www.wholebrainteaching.com/ ) where you can see these strategies spelled out and even videos of teachers using them. My students really enjoyed many of these strategies but as the year went on, I needed to step up my game, add more interest and even challenge the kids a bit more. Stale strategies are boring for everyone including the teacher.

NEWBIE ALERT!! Do not try to implement every strategy at the beginning of the new school year. You will frustrate and overwhelm yourself. Choose 1-2 to try for the whole year. Perhaps you choose the 5 Rules and use them religiously. Or maybe you want to use the Scoreboard or the 3peat. There are MANY great strategies ~ just don't expect yourself to master them all over the summer!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Great Reads... whether you are new or seasoned

Ahh... summer is here (or almost for those in the North). I love this time to be on my own time schedule and reflect on the past year and what I'd like to try in the Fall. Reading professional books are one of the ways that I do this. Over the next few blog entries I will suggest a few books that I consider INVALUABLE!

*Harry Wong's  The First Days of School ~ although it is geared for the general classroom, there are great ideas about management, rules, procedures etc. that I adapted into my music class. I specifically taught the procedures and we actually practiced them. We practiced lining up BEFORE we were ending the class. We practiced the procedure for using the recorders even if we weren't ready to use them that day. AND we practiced more that one day, we practiced several days. Not for long periods, just a quick review and practice.

Since we special area teachers do not see our students every day, we must review alot and realize that classroom teachers will have their routines in place much quicker than we will. If you don't like how something is working in your classroom, YOU get to change it! Remember this is your space/time - you are in it all day. Rituals and routines give your space structure. Make it comfortable for YOU!


Monday, April 11, 2016

Beginning Recorders on E

Today I want to talk about RECORDERS and the new "program" I've been following. Freebies to follow.  For over 20 years, I have taught recorders beginning on B and then moving on the A and G. This year I embraced the idea of starting on E and adding G. I LOVE IT!!!

First I purchased Claire Burns' "Recorders Rock" A Beginning Recorder Method on TpT  . Claire begins on low E and G. I had heard of this starting place before but had no idea where to begin.

Here's what I did:  

1. we learned songs about the notes on the staff    

2. we talked about  the recorder - breath, covering holes completely, tonguing (a little bit)

3. we discussed how to correct "squeaks"

4. we worked through the first song "John the Rabbit" combining singing and playing only E

5. we learned new G and did the same for "Rico's Pizza" and "Cuckoo" singing and playing

6. we learned a song in which the entire melody could be played on the recorder - "Pease Porridge Hot"

7. we added a new note A and learned "Apple Tree"

8. we learned another song using E, G and A - "Hammer Ring". This was a substituted song instead of Claire Burns' choice of "Rain Rain". We sang "Hammer Ring" earlier in the year and I thought it made sense to use it now.

9. we added another new note B and learned "Hot Cross Buns"

Click here to get FREE copies of my PDF's of the songs.

If you are using "BELTS" similar to Recorder Karate by Plank Road Publishing, here is the Claire Burns/ Harmony in the Hood list.


Pease Porridge Hot = Red

Apple Tree = Orange

Hammer Ring = Yellow

Hot Cross Buns = Green

UPDATE!
Merrily We Roll Along = Blue          

Old MacDonald = Purple


Monday, March 21, 2016

More strategies for management

As my career has evolved, I have struggled with the issue of respect. I have found that it has deteriorated over the years. Many of my urban kids come into my class with a HUGE chip on their shoulders - acting out emotionally and physically. And even though I try to be sensitive, kind and gentle with them, there comes a time when you as the teacher have to move on. All those other darlings who ARE ready to learn are counting on you to teach them and engage them in the lesson. The exceptionally needy kids cannot get what they need from you in one music class. Or maybe ever....

Sometimes the kids who are most disrespectful are the most needy but... should they command all of your attention? Nope.

I have also been in a situation where my administration has been overwhelmed with other issues and cannot really support me. So what do you do? The disruptive ones cannot be sent to the principal's office. Or if you do send them, they are back before your class is over - ready to begin the disruption again.

I recommend a few choices.

1) hook up with a buddy teacher whose room is near yours. If you have a student who is acting out beyond the usual behavior and is truly disrupting the lesson, send the kid to the buddy teacher. Maybe you have a clipboard ready with a music word search or written activity. Of course be willing to reciprocate if your buddy teacher needs a break from one of his/her kids.

2) create a small separate space for a student to be removed from the group activity. Maybe it has a desk or a clipboard for writing. Make sure you can see him/her. Depending on the child, you could give them a writing assignment or just let them sit and chill out. Some kids need a music word search or puzzle to help them redirect their behavior. And do not worry if you implement different things for different kids - you want to be FAIR not EQUAL.

3) be in contact with parents. I resisted this for LONG time after an unpleasant experience. However this can be very motivating for kids. I recommend calling home for a good reason if possible FIRST. That way you have established a positive relationship with the parent - also the students will know that when you say you are going to call home - you mean it!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Management in the Music Room


So management is likely the most important part of my teaching day. If I do not have rituals and routines in place, no matter how great the kids are, there’s going to be chaos.

Over the past few years I have implemented the Whole Brain Teaching structure into my Music Room. Now I have not adapted ALL of their strategies but I have integrated the basics.


5 CLASS RULES: these pretty much cover EVERYTHING!

CLASS-YES: I sing all my “class”s and the kids echo back with “yes”.

TEACH-OKAY: Each student has a predetermined teaching partner who sits right next to him/her. We use this to re-teach (repeat) quick directions, short important points and the 3peat.

3PEAT: During the music history portion of the lesson, I create a 3peat: one sentence that captures an important fact about the composer, ie.  Bach wrote fancy rounds called fugues. This 3peat is spoken to the teaching partner 3 times.

SCOREBOARD: OH YEAH-OH NO (Mighty Groan) is basically a tally sheet. I have one I made for my Smartboard. The kids score a tally (Oh Yeah!) for doing something great and I score a tally (Oh No!) when they make poor choices. The object is to have more Oh Yeah’s than Oh No’s. These tallies are used to earn a few minutes of a highly desirable activity at the end of class. We are currently LOVING www.incredibox.com [Check out the Freebies on this site.]