Friday, September 27, 2013

How to Survive an Hour-Long Kindergarten Music Class

Last year when I started at my school, I was given a specials schedule that required me to teach hour long classes to each grade K-5. I had never taught such long classes to primary grades before, so this was a big adjustment for me. The worst part? Kindergarten was at the end of the day.

After weeks of trying to fill every second with "meaningful and instruction-based" musical activities, I realized that ending the class with a silly movement activity or a coloring project was the only way to go. By the time the students entered my classroom at 2:40, they were exhausted from a day of schoolwork and ready to check out. So each week I make sure that the class ends with something fun. This schedule has carried over to this year, so I have come up with a few more activities to pull out of my back pocket.

Here are some of the end-of-music activities I have come up with for Kindergarten:

1) Freeze Dance:
      Obviously the easiest one is Freeze Dance- and the kids LOVE it. I always have stickers handy, so that I can reward the winners. The trick to this is that you can use ANY kind of music, so I have a CD handy that mixes classical music with pop music to really spark the student's dancing creativity.

2) Coloring!
      Sometimes the kids really just want to sit down and color and have a conversation with one of their friends- and I figure that at 5 years old, they deserve that at the end of the day. I often connect my coloring activities with a concept that we have learned that day in Music and then hang the finished products outside my classroom for the school community to see. Here are a few examples, some of these I made myself and some I searched for online:

3) Chicken Dance
      We did this for the second week of our farm unit when we were singing about Chickens. They LOVED it, especially the part where it slows down and accelerates gradually. I used this YouTube video for the recording: 

4) Kindergarten Game Plan has a really great activity that goes along with the farm unit. It introduces colors that correspond to different movements. The kids love adding a new movement each week and it just gets them up and moving. Even if you don't have the Game Plan series, you can easily make some color cards of your own and do this activity with your students:

Red- Stop
Green- Walk
Yellow- Jog
Blue- Tiptoe
Purple- Jump
Pink- Hop
Brown- Gallop

5) Musical Simon Says
      Kids love to volunteer their own ideas for things we are learning in class, so since we begin the year talking about steady beat, I have students come up and say Musical Simon (or Sally) says: Keep the beat on your (insert body part) or by (insert movement). If the sentence does not begin with "Musical Simon (or Sally) says," and someone changes their movement, they are out! I start out the year being Musical Sally, but then allow student leaders to take over once we are comfortable with the game.

      Found this activity on Pinterest and have used it several times. Great way for kids to show off their individuality without feeling too self conscious.

That's all for now! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Listening Journals with a Pop Twist

Hi everyone!

    This week I thought I'd share my procedure for my listening journals in 4th and 5th grades. Each student receives a journal on the first day of class and I explain the activity and play the first example. Now, by the 3rd week of class, they know to come into the classroom, get their journal and a pencil, and sit in their own personal space ready to listen.

     In 4th grade, the students are given 3 options: 1) they may write a paragraph (defined as 3-5 sentences) that summarizes their reaction to, or their feelings about, the piece I have played, 2) they may write a story explaining what they think is happening in the music, or 3) they may draw a picture showing the story of the music. For my 5th graders, I eventually eliminate the picture option, so that they are encouraged to write more and explore their imagination through words and not just pictures.

     Last year this worked really well, and it allowed me to differentiate instruction for the students who were not as high in writing. It helps to have the picture option in there for my special education students or second-language learners, because they can share what they are thinking without being stressed about writing a lot.

    The music I present to the students varies, honestly depending on my mood that week. I often hear a song on YouTube and share it with my students that week during our 10-15 minute listening activity. The past couple weeks, I've been looking for interesting versions of songs that my kids are listening to on the radio (often songs that I can't play normally in the classroom because they are uncensored) and playing them as listening examples. Here is the one I used last week, a ragtime version of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis' "Thrift Shop" (starting at :40 because I had to skip over some minor language):

The students responded very positively to this, especially because they had previously asked me to include "music that we know" in the listening examples. The majority of them actually liked this version better than the radio version!!

I've also found this one, a Doo Wop version of Miley Cyrus' "We Can't Stop," however I'm still trying to figure out how to censor the material, therefore haven't shared it with my students just yet:

If you have any suggestions of videos or songs like these that you think students might respond to, please feel free to comment and let me know!!

Happy journaling!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

2/4 Tuesday Linky Party!

Hi everyone!

   I wanted to join in the fun (albeit a day late) of sharing some of the things I'll be using in my classroom this year! Steph at Stay Tuned suggested that all of us with music teaching blogs share 2-4 things we use that we've either made or found somewhere. Here are mine, and be sure to check out the links to my colleagues blogs at the end!

1) Incredibox: - This site allows students to experience with layering and creating their own unique blends of musical ideas. It is a great way to get them used to using technology before moving on to Garageband or something more complicated.

2) Movement activity from GamePlan Grade 1- enhanced:

      Students walk around the room in response to quarter note beats on a drum (played by the teacher). When students hear the teacher tap ti-ti ta- they freeze! This is a great way to allow students to differentiate between the two rhythms at the beginning of first grade.
       I added my own twist to this game. Once students are used to freezing on the cue rhythm, ask them to move to the quarter note beats like different animals (eg. monkey, frog, bird, crab). The students love to make noises and be silly- but the challenge is that they have to always be listening for that cue to freeze! (ti-ti ta)

3) Xavi Lozano's weird instruments:

     Have you ever wanted to do a Found Sounds project? Well, this is a great movie to show that you can make music using anything you find around the house- and the kids love to see what he'll come up with next!

Check out my blog post on the project in which I used this video as an example: Is it Music? An Introduction to John Cage

Now check out some of the other blogs using the following links!

Lauren at Rhythm and Glues:

Lauren V at Music in the City:

Lindsay at Pursuit of Joyfulness:

Steph at Stay Tuned!: