Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Organizing Mouthpieces

How many times have I heard the phrase, "Oh no! I can't find my mouthpiece!" Surprisingly, not very often this year. Teaching close to 180 band students with most students sharing three to an instrument means some serious mouthpiece organization is in order. 

I cannot take credit for this idea but it works marvelously. I call it the "Cup in a Cup System." I am fortunate enough to have an itinerant musician who comes in twice a week for two period to assist with my program. My itinerant has been doing this job for over 30 years and I am soaking up a lot of his knowledge right now. He came up with this genius idea:

  1. Find a shallow box or a box lid. We used lids from boxes of photocopy paper.
  2. Glue some paper cups into the lid. White glue works just fine but I was in a rush so I used the E6000 glue.
  3. Place another cup inside the glued-in cups. 
  4. Give each student a label or piece of masking tape to write their names on and have them stick the label inside the top cup.
  5. Students place their mouthpiece and reed inside the cup.

Each lid is  labelled with the class code and I managed to clean out two shelves in one of my cupboards so it is super easy for my students to just open up the cupboard when they come in and collect their mouthpieces. 

There you have it!  A place to store mouthpieces that is more effective than having them loose in an instrument case or at the bottom of a backpack or locker. 

Saturday, 12 January 2013

GPS Sign-Ups

I'm going to be honest here. This week felt extremely long. The Christmas holidays are now in the oh-so-distant past and I'm starting to gear up for report cards. Don't get me wrong...I'm not ready to start writing them but my thoughts are definitely turning towards assessment and evaluation. 

For my band students (Grades 7 & 8) I use an OMEA program called GPS. I'm not going to go into too much detail here but basically it is a series of tasks that students need to complete before the end of each term. The number of tasks they complete correspond to a letter grade which makes up the playing part of their Music mark. 

This is my second year using this program and I love it! One of the challenges I came across last year was "How do students sign up to play a task?" Since I was on a cart at one school I was limited in how I set up my sign-up sheet. I ended up using the classic clipboard with a weekly chart where students signed up ahead of time. There were a number of problems that I ran into:

  1. I often forgot to print out a new sign-up sheet every week which annoyed my students!
  2. Some students would sign up and then forget to show up which annoyed me and my students!
  3. I just wasted a lot of paper.
Over the summer I came across this pin on pinterest:
I don't have much wall space in my classroom but I do have a wall that has a peg board on it so I used some metal pegs, cardstock, ribbon, and clothespins to create my new GPS sign-up. 


I love this and especially love that I don't have to waste paper or remember to print off new sheets each week. Students sign up with their clothespin when they are physically in my room so that avoids the problem of people not showing up. Some tricky kids do put their clothespin ahead of others but the other kids tend to police that themselves. Next year I might laminate the class cards (8A, 7B) to prevent them from getting ripped off the hook but so far I've just had to repair the 7A card. I tried using duct tape but it kept falling off so I just stapled the bottom of the hole and it has been holding up no problem!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Theme and Variations

 Happy New Year! I love the feeling of coming back to school and feeling refreshed and relaxed. It doesn't always last for very long but I'm enjoying it nonetheless. 

Theme and Variations Bulletin Board

Before the break, the Grade 6s started a unit about Theme and Variations. This lesson idea came from one of my favourite sites, OMEA. I love the Minds On activity in this lesson. 

The "Theme" sheet for the circles
I started off by giving students a sheet of paper with three blank circles and asked them to change the circles into four different objects. I gave them about 5-7 minutes to do this or else they'd be at it forever! The students shared their pictures with a partner and we discussed the elements of art that they used to change their circles. I then related it to music. Don't you just love the Art/Music connection in this activity?

Here are some of my fave variations:

We are currently in the process of listening to a number of variations of "Jingle Bells" and identifying the elements of music that the composer changed. For our summative assessment, students will do the same activity but for "Are You Sleeping." Check out the Grade 6 unit on the OMEA site for some blackline masters and mp3s of "Are You Sleeping."