Bulletin Board Giveaway!

The new school year is upon us and I’ve been crafting new bulletin board headers to spice up the area outside my door. You can enter to win a set of your own scrap-booked bulletin board headers. It’s in 2 pieces, 6″ x 12″ each. I’ll include a few pieces of coordinating papers for the lucky winner (mailing within the U.S. only, please).

The first way to earn an entry is by subscribing to my blog. There are several other ways you can earn extra entries, but the contest closes at midnight on Wednesday, August 15, 2012. Simply click the Rafflecopter giveaway link below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tongo – Polynesian Canoe Song

This awesome folk song has multiple uses. Its pentatonic range of low la up to la (la, do re mi so la) allows teachers to use it with multiple grade levels. The syncopated rhythms and dotted quarter note and eighth note rhythms make it engaging for upper elementary as well. The call and response format makes it very easy for students to learn. Finally, the opportunity for improvisation makes it a winner. Let’s dig in!

For the game, my students sit in long rows of equal length, as if they’re sitting in canoes. After singing the song, I clap a four beat pattern and they echo me. Actually, I do four different four beat patterns and they echo each one. Then I immediately sing the song again. By teaching them not to talk after each “set,” I’m also building good classroom management habits.

After we’ve tried this a few times, the head of each canoe chooses an unpitched instrument. During the final phrase of the song, they stand and face their row. They improvise four beat patterns and their row/canoe claps back the four beat patterns. Be prepared for a bit of chaos the first time. The students have to get used to listening for just their leader’s instrument and the four beat patterns. My student teacher made a sign that said, “Play” with four hearts under the word. She stood at the back of the canoes and pointed to the beats while the leaders were supposed to improvise their patterns. It helped the “leaders” stay together. When the song begins again, they should hand their instrument to the next person and walk to the back of the canoe.

Another helpful tip: Clap some patterns for the students while singing phrases that match such as, “Doggie, Doggie, where’s your bone?” “My paddle’s keen and bright” “Rain, Rain, go away” etc. so they get some ideas and realize they can use rhythms from songs they already know.

Eventually, ask your class who would like to be the singing leader. You’ll be surprised and delighted to hear your students take over. The full song with lyrics is also available under Resources for Teachers near the bottom with full lyrics. Tongo in F

Differentiation in the Elementary Music Classroom

Differentiation. It’s a word we hear in staff development all the time and most music teachers probably think, “I differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students in every class!” Although it’s true that we do this through our activities, I’ve never done it with worksheets. However, considering all the new students who weren’t in my class last year, I’m having to do more reteaching and remediation than I’ve ever done before. So, I decided to provide my third grade classes a choice this week. I called the worksheet levels blue, green, and black.

The blue is the simplest worksheet and included labeling the tone ladder, identifying pitches to Phoebe in Her Petticoat, and then writing four pitches on the staff. The green level began the same way, but instead of writing four pitches, students transposed Phoebe in Her Petticoat into a new key. To make it a black level challenge, they added the rhythm stems. The green and black levels also allow students to create a new melody on a blank staff.

A majority of students chose the harder worksheet and worked at the green or black level. A few chose the blue level but finished too quickly. They determined that they should have chosen the harder one. Those students either took a blank staff and worked on transposing Phoebe in Her Petticoat or assisted other students who raised their hands. A few students chose the blue worksheet and it was just right for them. (See the worksheets under “Resources for Teachers” or click the links above.)

A final thought: Carol Ann Tomlinson wrote, “Students who consistently fail lose their motivation to learn. Students who succeed too easily also lose their motivation to learn. For learning to continue, students must believe that hard work is required, but the hard work often pays off with success….Challenges must grow as students grow in their learning.” p. 19 The Differentiated Classroom

Are you challenging your students in any special ways? I’d love to hear about it!

Hogs in the Cornfield – the first song request!

Here’s a big “Thank you” to Lori for suggesting a song to post. It was a good choice, too! Not only is Hogs in the Cornfield a useful song, but it’s a fun game for the students to play. Here are a few ways that I use Hogs in the Cornfield:

1. Phrase 1 for ta-dimi prep

2. Phrase 2 for takadi prep

3. Phrase 2 for high do’ prep

Rather than elaborate on all three concepts, I’ll just touch on the third one, do’ preparation. Everyone learns in different ways, so it’s important to provide kinesthetic, aural, and visual learning opportunities. Kinesthetic activities might include singing and clapping in contour, pointing to a picture or the words in contour, or even moving the body higher or lower as the voice moves. Aural questions involve identifying the pitches for each beat of phrase two and calling do’ “high.” It’s important at this stage to identify how far the “high” sound is from la. (a skip, or two steps) Finally, students should have the opportunity to create a visual representation of the phrase on their own. I like to use Unifix cubes, but almost any small object will work. Some teachers will allow their students to use anything in the room to make their picture. Brave souls! Personally, I like Unifix cubes because four cubes equals one beat and each student receives a baggie with four beats. Some students can make a melodic picture very quickly while others may need to sing the phrase several times or receive one on one assistance. Need to show your principal differentiation? Ask the more advanced students to figure out the rhythms, break the cubes into a rhythmic representation, and then move them into melodic contour.

While you’re prepping a new melodic concept, students should demonstrate known melodic concepts. Why not have the students read or write the solfége to phrase 1 prior to the kinesthetic, aural, and visual steps? It’s a great way for students to hear the interval from so to do’ (end of phrase 1 into phrase 2) and should help them identify do’ to la (beginning of phrase 2) as being closer.

For more information about preparing and presenting high do, I recommend Kodály Today by Mícheál Houlahan and Philip Tacka.

Which techniques have worked well in your classroom? 

Hogs in the Cornfield solfége and rhythms in F



Song Requests?

As a holiday gift to music teachers everywhere, I would like to open the floor for song suggestions. Is there a song you’d love to see posted as a .jpg for your visual aids? Just leave a comment with the song title and the most useful format for your song. For example, Bow Wow Wow in F (do is F) with rhythms, solfége, and words. Or, Bow Wow Wow with rhythms only! I’ll put all the suggestions in a hat and draw from there. FYI, if I don’t know the song, I might need your help in locating it, but I’m always excited to learn new songs! (Naturally, I can only post songs in the public domain.)

BTW, there are new versions of Come Thru Now Hurry (Alabama Gal) under Resources for Teachers!