Saturday, August 12, 2017

DIY Double Decker Gong Stand

My school started back last week. SUMMER IS OVER!!! Boo boo. I didn't change my music room set-up much, but I would like to unveil my new double-decker gong stand! I have a small gong and a large Thundersheet (purchased many years before I was here when textbook funds still existed and could be used for musical instruments). When I found them, they had no stands. The gong didn't even have a string. I added a shoestring to the gong and used an old chart rack to hang them.  I would swap them out when I needed them, but that was a pain. I ended up leaving the Thundersheet on the chart rack and holding the gong by hand. The chart rack was also very wobbly. I attempted to stabilize the rings by slicing sections of garden hose to wrap around the top bar. This helped prevent the instruments from sliding left or right and falling to the ground. But, I still had to hold the rack or step on it to make sure it didn't fall over after a forceful hit. With this set-up, they weren't used very often.

Last spring, a teacher was trashing some pieces of PVC and I rescued them from the garbage before they were taken to the dumpster. I believe the pieces were left by a previous teacher and used as a backdrop for a photo booth. I only had to purchase 2 more T connector joints for less than $3 to create this new double decker stand to hang both the gong and Thundersheet. Now that they are readily accessible, I'm certain I will find more ways to utilize them in lessons.

The pipes were 1 inch diameter (Measuring the opening of the pipe). I'm not sure how much this project would cost if you were to purchase all the materials yourself, but I'm certain it is much cheaper than any gong stand currently on the market. If you are not inclined to attempt this yourself, I'm sure you could ask for a parent volunteer to offer their skills. If you have any more questions about this project, I'd be happy to answer them! 

Sunday, March 26, 2017

31 Days of Rhythm: Teach Rhythm with Game Centers

Happy Music In Our Schools Month! I am teaming up, once again, with some fellow music ed bloggers for "31 Days of Rhythm". My first post on March 17th was about Rhythmic Popcorn. Today, I will be sharing ideas for teaching rhythm with game centers.

I began using centers about 3 years ago. Centers provide an opportunity for the class to be engaged in activities while I work with small groups. I use centers every time I have recorder playing tests or when I want to hear individuals sight read short rhythms or melodies on flash cards. I have also used centers to isolate a small group on ukulele and provide more feedback to individuals correcting hand positions and strumming technique. Centers are also great as emergency sub plans! Most substitute teachers have no background knowledge in music. Centers allow my students to reinforce music skills while I'm not there.

I have many posts about centers, but today I will briefly describe a few that make connections to rhythm.

#1) Over the Edge

"Over the Edge" is a game to reinforce rhythmic durations. It is a free printable from Students each have a game board with a waterfall. They draw cards and place bingo chips or glass pebbles on their river to equal the number of beats of the note or rest. The object of the game is to be the last person who has not filled their card and fallen off the waterfall. My full post on Over the Edge can be found at this link.

#2) Rhythm Rockets

Rhythm Rockets are part of Artie Almeida's Music Proficiency Packs. This game tests students' ability to read and perform rhythms and their ability to recognize them aurally. Each student gets a rocket with identical rhythms. The official instructions may be different, but I'll describe what works best with my students. I have a small group sitting in a straight line. One student stands in front of them and chooses a rhythm from the rocket to perform for the group. They can either count it out loud using rhythmic syllables or perform it with body percussion. The students identify which rhythm the individual was performing by placing a clothes pin on the side of their rocket. Then, they must put their rocket on top of their head. This will allow the individual performing the rhythm to easily recognize who got the correct answer first. The winner will get to perform a rhythm for the group next. My full post describing Rhythm Rockets can be found here.

#3) Sneaky Snake

Sneaky Snake is another Music Proficiency Pack by Artie Almeida. This game requires students to recognize notation symbols such as notes, rests, clefs, bar lines, etc. I have found this game works best in pairs. The symbols appear on one side of the paper while the written name appears on the back. There are holes in the cardstock beside each symbol. Partners sit facing each other holding the snake page between them. One partner calls out a symbol and the other partner must identify it by sticking a straw in the corresponding hole. My full post describing Sneaky Snakes can be found here.

 #4 Beat Strips

Beat Strips are another Music Proficiency Pack from Artie Almeida. They provide opportunities for students to compose 4 beat patterns using quarter notes, eighth note pairs, and quarter rests. This can be done to freely compose and perform for a partner. This could also be a dictation game. One individual could perform a rhythm from a list you provide and the group would have to notate it on their beat strips. My full post describing Beat Strips can be found here.

#5) Connect 4

Recycle that old board game and turn it into a music center! The classic version of Connect 4 is a fun game to compose with simple quarter notes and quarter rests. The red checkers could represent notes while the black checkers represent rests. This would be great for kindergarteners. To challenge older students, I found this Connect 4x4 game at a yard sale. It features 4 colors of checkers which could represent different instruments. In the picture below you can see construction paper squares that helped the kids remember which color they should play. It also has checkers with holes in the middle which could represent rests. The full post describing Connect 4 can be found at this link.

Thank you for visiting my blog for 31 Days of Rhythm. If you would like to read more posts from this event, you may visit Facebook and follow the MusicEd Blogs page.

Friday, March 17, 2017

31 Days of Rhythm: Rhythmic Popcorn

Happy Music In Our Schools Month! For this month, I am teaming up with some fellow music ed bloggers for "31 Days of Rhythm". I decided to share a post about rhythmic popcorn.

Brian Burnett is an amazing music educator. I was fortunate to have him as a movement instructor during all three levels of Orff training at the University of Kentucky. Last year, he also presented at our state convention. During his presentation on assessment, he stressed the importance of "branding" in the classroom. He explained that finding a gimmick and being consistent would improve student performance. This concept could be as simple as using a similar formatting for all your worksheets or Powerpoint slides. When students are presented information that is always organized in a similar way, they can easily digest the information visually and know what is expected with the activity. Brian also uses lots sound effects and vocal inflection similar to a car salesman. His dramatic expression grabs your attention. Key concepts and terminology are "branded" with short jingles or slogans. If they are presented consistently in this manner, the sound of the jingle will spark the memory of the student.

Over the past year, I have reflected on this advice and tried to incorporate some purposeful branding in my classroom. I often use analogies to help young students grasp an abstract concept. I soon realized that analogies are a perfect jumpstart to branding, I made some simple adjustments to the delivery of my message, making it more consistent and more dramatic.

Problem: Students are not performing rhythmically in unison.

Solution: Remind students to get rid of the popcorn.

Popcorn is delicious, but it makes a terrible steady beat! I have students visualize popcorn popping. I use descriptive language to trigger powerful senses such as taste, smell, touch, and sound. When popcorn pops, the kernels do not pop at the same time. I make a comparison to their musical performance and exaggerate a musical example where multiple people are playing before, on, and after the beat. It sounds like musical popcorn. I ask the students to get rid of the popcorn and demonstrate by becoming a rhythm robot that plays exactly on the beat. After hearing and seeing this animated analogy, the students' performance is usually flawless.

A key component of branding is that something is easily recognizable. The first time I explain the concept of rhythmic popcorn, I take my time, I use expressive language, and I make lots of individual eye contact to ensure the students are really "buying into" my product/concept. The next time I encounter this issue, the students do not need such a long explanation. Eventually, saying the single word "popcorn" should be enough to remind students to play on the beat.

I have presented this analogy of popcorn to all grade levels, kindergarten through fifth, and we always had a drastic improvement in our rhythmic accuracy. Just last week, a first grade class was reading ta and tadi rhythms on the board and I stopped them abruptly. I was about to remind them about popcorn when a girl in the front row spoke out and said "I heard popcorn!" SUCCESS! The branding works and it has created more active listeners!

Thank you for visiting my blog for 31 Days of Rhythm. If you would like to read more posts from this event, you may visit Facebook and follow the MusicEd Blogs page.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

40 New Ukuleles!!!

Thank you, Kala Brand Music!!

In December, we were very fortunate to be selected to receive 40 new Waterman ukuleles from Kala Music! The giveaway was announced on Kala's Facebook page. We were one of 125 schools across the country to receive this generous donation.

The shipment arrived just in time to surprise the students at our Christmas concert. I placed the ukuleles in their boxes on an old TV cart with a few unopened on the top level. I wrapped the cart with bulletin board paper to make it look like a present.

During the concert, the present was revealed and the entire school was screaming with excitement! I began learning ukulele last February after a student teacher introduced it to me. I've fallen in love with the instrument and play it often for the kids. They knew immediately what was in those boxes. On the video, you can hear one student screaming ,"Ukuleles! Ukuleles! Ukuleles!".


My first task was to find storage so I could access them quickly for distribution and tuning. Keeping them in their cardboard boxes was not going to be convenient. My librarian had an extra cabinet in her closet with a broken door. She offered it to me and, with help of the custodian, we repaired the door.

The ukuleles were too long to lay horizontal in the cabinet, so I experimented with tension rods to support the ukuleles at an angle. Due to the plastic walls of the cabinet, the tension rods would slip and fall from the weight of just a few ukes.

I searched Pinterest and google for ukulele storage ideas but didn't have funds to invest in wood and materials. Instead, I decided to utilize the cardboard boxes the ukuleles were shipped in.

I cut each box in half and then made one side shorter (about 5" tall).

There are 4 shelves in my cabinet so I planned to have 10 ukuleles on each shelf. I measured and divided to determine the spacing needed and cut notches in the back for the neck to rest.

I cut some tabs in the front which fold down and keep the ukuleles from bumping into each other.

Here is a final pic with all the ukuleles nestled into their new home!


Now that I can access the ukuleles easily, I have began the long process of tuning. It is taking quite a long time to get the strings stretched to hold their pitch. The students keep begging to play them, but I told them to be patient. If they sound bad, I want it to be the students' fault and not the instruments' fault. 

Since tuning is taking such a long time by myself, I have started a Donors Choose project requesting funding for some clip-on tuners. The project is titled, "Tune Our Ukuleles". Hopefully our project will get funded soon so we can begin making some beautiful music with these new instruments!

Stay tuned!
I'm sure I will post more about the ukuleles in the future!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Monkey In My Chair

I would like to introduce you to Skylar.  I have taught Skylar music and art since kindergarten. This year, as a third grader, he very enthusiastically joined the Choir and Orff Ensemble. Unfortunately, Skylar has a difficult road ahead. He was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 Burkitt Lymphoma, a very fast, aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Skylar is on a schedule for chemo treatment for the next six months. Skylar's diagnosis was caught early, giving him better odds in his recovery. But, it will still be a difficult fight--one that no child should ever have to endure.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Skylar met with a Child Life Specialist and expressed concern that his friends would forget about him while he was out of school for treatments. The specialist returned with a Monkey In My Chair which Skylar named George.

George is Skylar's surrogate monkey in the classroom. He will sit in Skylar's chair in the classroom and travel to special areas with the class. George also attends morning rehearsals for Choir and Orff Ensemble. The monkey's hands are Velcro, so it made it easy to wrap around a music stand which stood in Skylar's spot on the risers.

Last week was our Christmas concert, and George was center stage ready to play his glockenspiel. We even dressed George in Skylar's music shirt. I used a few binder clips to secure the shirt and monkey to the back of the music stand so he wouldn't fall over.

The Monkey In My Chair program has been very helpful for many students who had a difficult time processing their emotions. The monkey is therapeutic and can provide a comforting hug when they are missing their friend. The monkey provides a continued line of communication between Skylar and his classmates. The other teachers and I occasionally send pictures of George involved in school activities. But, we all look forward to the day when we can bid farewell to George and see Skylar's smiling face back at his desk.

I end this post with one last request, can you please take a moment to send thoughts or prayers for Skylar and his family as they endure this long battle? If you feel so compelled, there are also links below for monetary donations towards Skylar's medical expenses, to sponsor a Monkey In My Chair, or towards research for a cure. Thank you so much!

Click Here if you would like to donate money to #TeamSkylar to cover medical expenses.

Click Here if you would like to help sponsor a Monkey Kit for another child with cancer.

Click Here if you would like to donate to the American Cancer Society to help find a cure for cancer.

The personal information in this post was shared with permission from Skylar's family.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A letter to Wells Fargo ...

These advertisements by Wells Fargo we're brought to my attention in a Facebook group for music educators. 

Of course, the entire arts community has a right to be offended by this ad campaign. Here is my response which I have already posted on their Facebook page:

"As an educator in the arts, I'm very disappointed in your ad campaign. You are suggesting that the arts will not prepare students for their future. Many people are employed in the arts. In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed which includes the arts alongside math and language arts in its definition of a "well-rounded education." I understand that you want to support STEM jobs, but it shouldn't be at the sacrifice of the arts. You could have easily changed "ballerina" and "actor" to "super hero" and "fairy princess"; the meaning of your ad campaign would not be lost and the dreams the kids are abandoning are truly fictitious careers. (This, of course, is assuming you didn't INTENTIONALLY mean to to post an ad campaign which implies that jobs in the arts are worthless in the future.)"

If you are also outraged, feel free to let Wells Fargo know how you feel. Here is a link to their Facebook page. 

Click "Posts" on the left column. You can write a new post in the center column. To view other visitor posts, click on the far right column.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Desk Tour 2016

Hello! I am linking up with some fellow music bloggers to provide a desk tour! In this video, I show you how I stay organized with schedules, lesson plans, and what I find essential to have at hands-reach on my desk. I hope you enjoy touring my desk! Don't forget to check out the linky at the bottom of this post and tour more music desks. Maybe something will inspire you!

There are a few things visible in the tour that I have written about in the past. Follow the links below for the details posts:

Canvas Quote

Sheet Music Lamp

Sheet Music Pinwheels

You can view my full classroom tour at this link: