Saturday, September 30, 2017

Beating the Sunday Night Blues

The Sunday night blues is a real thing! It can sometimes rob you of half of your weekend. You wake up Sunday morning and you realize you have to plan for Monday (tomorrow) and it bums out you! The amount of time you spend thinking, dreading and doing it really saps your energy too.

Why not try making the "start" of your week on a Wednesday?

You wake up Sunday morning and you realize, "hey, I've already done my plans! I can relax, enjoy doing things that I want to do and not have to worry/dread/stress about planning for this week."

As a Music teacher or special area teacher, you probably plan for the span of time between when you see the same class. Your classes could meet once a week, once every 6 days or something different. You probably plan one lesson for each grade level and you don't need a new lesson until you've taught all of your classes. Generally we consider Monday as the start of the week. But it doesn't have to be. Why not pick another day? You'll still see the same classes, just teach them in a different order.

For example, Wednesday is now your "new Monday". You think about your upcoming lessons on Monday during your planning period or after school and write down your plans. Then on Tuesday,  you fine tune the plans, create any powerpoints, Smart board notebook files and/or playlists and double check that you have all the materials you'll need. On Wednesday you begin the new lessons and teach them until next Tuesday. And voila! No more Sunday night blues!

Give it a try and let me know how this worked out for you!

Happy Honking! Ellen

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Making the Most of a Few Instruments

Using hand instruments in the music room seems like an obvious activity...unless you don't have many instruments.

How do you give your students the opportunity to play when you only have a few instruments?

First, choose an ACTIVITY that can be performed with both BODY PERCUSSION (clap, snap, pat, etc.) and hand INSTRUMENTS. You can adapt an Orff piece from some of the myriad of resources available or from your text series. Change it up: substitute body percussion for each of the parts and these will later evolve into instrument parts.

Disclaimer: Make sure you REALLY like the piece because you are going to hear it ALOT!!

EX. You have 5 triangles, 5 hand drums and 5 sets of rhythm sticks.

A) You teach everyone the 1st part with body percussion. Have them perform it successfully without you. Then have them perform the 1st part while you play the 2nd part. Teach them the 2nd part.

B) Divide the class into 2 groups. Have each group perform 1 of the patterns at the same time. Switch the parts giving students an opportunity to perform both parts. Then have them perform their parts while you perform the 3rd part. Teach them the 3rd part.

C) Divide your class into 3 groups. One group for each part - all using body percussion. Give every group an opportunity to play each part while the other parts are playing along too.

D) Now you add the INSTRUMENTS! YIPPEE! Demonstrate the proper way to hold and play each instrument.

E) Five kids out of group 1 play their rhythm on the triangles while the rest of Group 1 supports them with body percussion. Five kids out of group 2 play their rhythm on the hand drums while the rest of Group 2 supports them with body percussion. And the same for group 3 and the rhythm sticks.

F) Perform the piece several times. Then WITHIN EACH GROUP those who were playing the instrument will SWITCH back to body percussion and those who haven't played an instrument take their turns. Again perform the piece several times.

G) Now the groups will ROTATE to the next instrument. Group 1 kids will now play the hand drum part. Group 2 will now play the rhythm stick part. And Group 3 will now play the triangle part. Again, only about 1/2 of the students will be playing the instruments, the rest of the group will still be doing body percussion. Then SWITCH with the group.

H) REPEAT this one more time so that each group of students will have played all 3 of the instruments.

Use the space of the room you are teaching in and separate the groups physically. When you are ready to have the students move to the next space (group), have a SIGNAL. For example, before giving directions about where each group goes begin with "when I clap, group 1 goes to where group 2 is, group 2 goes...etc." The clap is the signal that they should be waiting for. If your students move before your signal, stop the class, have them go back to where they started and wait for the signal again. FYI having kids transition with NO SIGNAL = CHAOS!

I hope this was helpful. I'd love to hear how this worked for you so please leave a comment below.

Happy Honking! Ellen

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Saturday, September 16, 2017

4 Reasons to Dance

Kids need to move - we all know that. And yes, GoNoodle is a wonderful brain break for the kids in the classroom. But using dance in the Music room is different.

Phyllis Weikart is the accepted authority on using pattern dances in the music class. Her Rhythmically Moving series is the ultimate source for step by step instructions for folk dances from ALL over the world.

But when your principal walks by your room and questions why your students are movin' and groovin', here are 4 valid reasons to give to him or her.

1. It's truly engaging. The idea is simple. All of us retain whatever we are learning if we are truly interested. Because dancing is so enjoyable, your students will be focused and joining in the fun. Even reluctant students will see their classmates have a blast and they won't be able to stop themselves from giving it a try.

2. Kids are actively listening, not passively sitting. Now knowing how to listen to music in a concert is definitely a desired skill to have your students master. This kind of listening is different. Students must listen to the music in order to move at the correct time. They listen for melodies, repeated sections and changes in phrases and tempo. And they can demonstrate with their bodies that they are understanding what they are hearing.

3. Dancing is social. Brain research tells us that we are social creatures and we retain material better when we are participating and sharing it with others. It requires using appropriate behavior. It encourages cooperation and support among all peer groups. When students make mistakes, their classmates are ready to help them get back on track in order to keep the dance going. Students frequently laugh at their own mistakes so the stress level of trying something is reduced, even eliminated.

4. Dancing exposes kids to music from all over the world.
The Music Education National Standards mention becoming familiar with folk music from all cultures. As we know, music, particularly from our own personal background, evokes emotion. Connecting students to music of different heritages brings an understanding on this more emotional level as well as an intellectual one.

Introducing dance into your music curriculum is sound pedagogy It's also really enjoyable!

As always, I'd love to know if you've used dance in your music classes. Please leave a comment below.

Happy Honking! Ellen

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Smart Organization: the Smart board

Smart boards are a GREAT tool in the Music room! If you are one of the lucky ones to have a Smart board in your room or in the rooms where you teach, it can make your lessons flow and keep you on track.

If you have no Smart board BUT you do have a projector and screen you can use this same strategy using Powerpoint or Google Slides.

This saves you from hauling a dozen posters with you to every room you teach in. It's in the cloud or on your flash drive. Let's take a look at this amazing tool slide by slide.

1. The board is displaying a message for your students to read as soon as they enter your room, ie. What can you tell me about Mozart? Or can you name a percussion instrument and explain how to play it?

I love "would you rather"s. Rachel Lynette has a bunch of free ones.

After briefly discussing the responses, you continue with the next slide.

2. In this slide there are pictures that link to various song lyrics in Powerpoint or other Smart Notebook files. Each picture represents a song for a grade level so if you teach 5 grade levels then you have 5 pictures.

I totally LOVE Music K-8 magazine!
They have created the powerpoints for you!

3. Rhythmic reading can be slide 3 (and 4, 5, etc. depending on how many grades you have.) One slide for each grade level. Rhythmic passages that scaffold from one grade to another help to keep you on track when teaching multiple grades. Students read the rhythms with syllables, clap them, and even add hand percussion.

4. Following the rhythm slides are the slides that display the main activity of each of your lessons. These are the slides where you have different types of locomotor and non-locomotor movements for 2nd grade. Or on the next slide you might visually break down the 3 body percussion parts of the 5th grade piece.

Make it interactive. Have the kids come to the board and circle their choice.
Thanks to David Row at Making Moments Matter.

5. Nearing the end of your music lesson, you might calm everyone with a listening activity. Slides that introduce or review a certain style of music or specific composer.

Or again make it interactive

Now you have reached the end of your lesson. Your students exit your room and you start the presentation all over with the next class. If you have different grade level classes every period, this can really save your brain! 

It's all contained in one place. 

It goes in the order YOU want the lesson to go. 

It is highly visual in a class that is basically auditory. 

It gives your students something to look at while learning and listening.

Does creating this presentation take time every week or every 6 days or however your schedule falls? Yes it does- the 1st year! Is it worth it? ABSOLUTELY! Just like writing plans or creating lessons takes time, it is an investment in your future as a teacher. The beauty of these presentations is that once you've made them, you can use them next year and over and over. It bears repeating - it is totally worth your time.

If you do something different that works for you, I would LOVE to see it the comments below!

Happy Honking! Ellen

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Parent Contact: the Phone Call (with a script!)

Following up on last week's post "The Secret to Parent Contact", I'd like to share another way to make positive connections with parents....the phone!

Positive phone calls home are great for a few reasons.

1. If you tell your students that you will be watching the class and making one positive phone call home to someone's parent, it is amazing how motivated students become to impress you in order to get that phone call. (sa-weet management strategy)

2. Parents LOVE to hear compliments about their kids! After all, your students are someone's "pride and joy". Who doesn't want to hear someone else find their child doing a great job?! And especially the teacher!

3. By calling the parent or even leaving a voice mail, you have made the first step toward establishing a good working relationship. Later if you need to make a call regarding the child's poor behavior, the parent knows that you are not just calling to complain. And let's face it, most calls from teachers to parents are about just that - poor behavior. If you have already shown the parent that you have seen the good stuff from the kid, they are more likely to support you when you call about some not-so-good stuff. You become a team, trying to shape this kid into a good human being. C'mon, that's one of the great things about teaching, right?

Don't be afraid of parent phone calls. And don't think that your input doesn't matter just because you are not the child's classroom teacher! IT DOES! chose one student a week or one per class. When do you find time to make these calls? Cause let's face it, there's never enough time. Choose a small block of time at the end of the day or end of the week.

Have the phone numbers ready and even a sheet of paper for a log to jot down whether you actually talked to someone or if you left a message. Then take a deep breath and make the call(s). It does not take much time to say a quick hello and praise their child. You leave the parent feeling good and you will feel awesome as well.

Eek! But what do you say exactly? 
Here is a sample script.

Hi, this is John Lee, the music teacher at Parker Elementary School. I'm calling about Jonah Smith. Is this Jonah's mother? I'm just calling today to tell you what a great job Jonah did in Music today. He was super helpful to his classmates, showing them the proper way to hold the recorder. He was patient and positive and his friends appreciated his help. I make one positive phone call each day (week) to share good news about a student, and today Jonah is IT! Would you please tell Jonah I called? He knows this is a big deal in my Music room and he will want to know! Thanks so much!

Be positive with a specific example of what the child did and why that was a good thing.

And voila - it's done! WIN-WIN! It's doesn't take much time at all and spreads really good mojo between you and your parents.

Give it a try! I'd LOVE to know how it worked for you!

Happy Honking! Ellen
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