Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Happy Easter, 100 followers and a forever freebie!

Last Friday (March 27) I reached 75 followers on Teachers Pay Teachers, so I posted a little freebie I developed to the "Bunny Hop!"  You can find it here.  It's been pretty popular, and now I'm over 100 followers, so I'm throwing a sale today!  Everything in my store is 20% off!

Here's a preview of the freebie:


I developed a little rhythm stick play-along for my 1st graders, as they are practicing ta and rest right now.  The form of this song is so repetitious, it is so easy for my 1st graders to follow along:



Then, I thought it would be fun to extend this into a stick-passing game.  Now, I don't know if you have ever tried stick passing games with your young ones before, but it is basically impossible to ask 1st graders and Kindergartners to pass sticks to the beat.  They just haven't developed enough yet.  But, I am preparing them for the future.  So, when you first start a passing game, just work on passing the correct direction.  Also, start with only one object.

Once they are doing well with the right direction, you can start encouraging them to pass only on the downbeat.  This reinforces the downbeat, as well as slows it down enough so that your kids can be successful.  Add more objects as your kids feel more successful.

Older grade levels could have fun with this as well.  Have them pass to the rhythm of the rhythm stick play-along.  On the fourth measure every time, though, have them hold on to the stick instead of passing it right away.  They tap to their right (in front of neighbor), then in front of themselves, then to their right again, where they finally pass it.  It's kind of like the end of "Pass this Shoe," if you've ever played that one before.  If not, check out Amy Abbott's blog here.  She has a fantabulous post about shoe passing games.


Of course, the Bunny Hop would not be complete without actually doing the dance.  Here are the steps, if you are not familiar:


You can also see people doing it on the Lawrence Welk show here:


My kids are really enjoying this!  Hope you have fun with it as well!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Play Parties and Pie!

I have always loved the song "Great Big House."
The melody is so catchy that even though I usually use this in 2nd grade for "re" and half note, I have used this very successfully in older grades for improvisation, I-V harmonies, etc.  The kids love it.

Of course, I prepared a file for Teachers Pay Teachers (found here) that has all of my regular stuff - intro to the rhythm, melodic preparation, etc.  It's all great stuff, if I do say so myself.

But, that's not why I'm here.  I'm here because I recently attended a conference, and up until then, I had no idea this song had a "game."  It's really an old play party song - so it's traditional and everything!  And, my goal for this year was to make the kids do more folk dances and move more, so this fits right in with my goal.  Yay!

Formation:  single circle, with class divided into partners

Verse 1:  The whole class stands in a circle and walks to the right (or the left, it doesn't really matter).

Verse 2:  Partner #1 walks to the center of the circle and joins hands with the other #1s.  Then, Partner # 2 reaches in between the center circle to join hands with the other #2s.  On "put one arm around my wife," the #2s raise their arms up and behind the #1s, and on "the other round my daughter," the #1s raise their arms up and behind the #2s.

Verse 3:  All shuffle to the right or left while still holding their hands in a "basket weave." 

The kids love this!  It is so much fun!  I am so surprised I didn't learn it until recently, but I'm so glad I did.

Here's a video of some random 3rd grade class I found on YouTube for better visualization:




Monday, March 2, 2015

I've Been Impaled!

How do you teach solfa?  How do you get your kids to remember it?  I am a Kodaly teacher at heart, so I love the sequence of teaching these notes, but sometimes my kids would still struggle with remembering which ones go where on a staff.

I teach that my solfa notes live on a magical mountain called "Melody Mountain."  (Next door is "Rhythm Valley" for when I teach rhythmic concepts).  I've seen other people use "Music Street" or "Pitch Hill" kinds of ideas - and these are great.  I love the mountain concept because it helps the kids remember which notes are higher than others - because they can see it visually.

Last year, I had an entire bulletin board specifically for Melody Mountain.  I wish I still had that.. My principal also doesn't want us hanging stuff on the walls because of holes/residue....anyway, I'm trying (still) to figure out how to get it up without a bulletin board.  I'm supposed to get one eventually....


I made the rise on the hill smaller for mi-fa, and again for ti-do (this really helps my kids with half steps).

When I introduce a new note, I tape one of these guys up on a house:
I don't know if you can tell (so sorry about the picture quality), but I alternated girls/boys with them.  Do is a girl, Re is a boy, Mi is a girl, etc.  I did that for one main reason:  lines and spaces on the staff!  My kids used to really struggle with this, but now, they are so, so good.

I make up silly little stories about each note.  For example, "do" is a girl who just really loves rocks.  Her favorite music is "rock and roll," her favorite candy is "pop rocks," and her favorite game is "rock paper scissors."  She always does "rock," of course.  And, because she built her house out of rocks, it is pretty heavy, so it has to be at the bottom of the mountain.

Each of my stories helps the kids remember where the note is in relation to the others, as well as the hand sign with the note.  Then, the kids remember that when do is in a space, all of the other "girls" are in spaces too, and when do is on a line, all of the other "girls" are on lines as well.  This quickly resolves which note goes where.  All the kids do is find do, or look for the do clef, and they are all getting great at alternating lines and spaces on the staff.

This technique has worked pretty successfully for me for a few years, and then came along the movie "Frozen."  For some reason, this little clip stuck with me:
My kids love this part!  We talk about how when notes live in spaces, they don't even really touch a line, but when they live on a line, they are "impaled" by that line.  The kids just giggle about that - they love it so much :)

Whenever I show a "mystery measure" on the board when the students come in, sometimes the first thing I hear is:  "Oh, look - the girls are impaled today!"


Or - "The girls are in spaces, so the boys must be impaled today!"



It's just these little things that make me happy :)