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!