Thursday, 28 February 2013

Games on the Floor Staff

Before I was willing to start recorders with my 5s and 6s I desperately wanted to make sure that they had a solid understanding of how to read notes on the staff. I keep telling them that I'm training them for Grade 7 Band...and I am!

The Grade 4 Music Play resource has a number of fun activities using the floor staff. I set up four of them in my room using painter's tape. I followed the tiles on the floor to make each staff super straight and dug up some foam circles I had bought from Michael's years ago. I used a permanent marker to write the line and space numbers on one side of each circle and the corresponding letter name on the back. 
Looking back on it now I probably shouldn't have matched up the lines and spaces with the letter name. Some students clued in right away and flipped the circle over to look at the line numbers and then placed their circle on the correct line. Oh well! 

The two games that the students really enjoyed were "Staff Jump" and "Staff Relay". We played these games using line and staff numbers for the first few days and then played the same games but used note names instead. 

Staff Jump - I had two of the four teams face each other at one time. Half of each team were lines and the other half were spaces (that way students wouldn't be too crowded on the staff) I would call out a line or space number and the students would jump to that line or space. The last person to make it was eliminated. (I know, I know everyone should be involved and I try to do that as much as possible but the kids wanted to play elimination and I can be competitive myself - but not with sports...only things I might actually be able to win at!) The other two teams would face off once everyone was eliminated. 

Staff Relay - For this game we used the foam circles. The students stood in line behind the staff and when I said, "Go!" each person had a turn to put the circle on the corresponding line or space. I made each student high-five the next one in line and only allowed them to put one circle on the staff at a time.

I found that playing games on the floor staff were a great alternative to the traditional pencil and paper technique of teaching note names. Maybe instead of "alternative" I should say "addition" as we did do a note naming worksheet later on along with some Mad Minutes (more info to come!).

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Pick A Stick

I don't know why I had never noticed this at any of my other schools before. I'm assuming it is not just me (that is really just to keep my self-confidence in tact) and not just this school, but this year and really the last few months I have noticed that as soon as I start to give instructions for a task the eyes of my students begin to glaze over. Not all of them, mind you, but the students who should really be paying attention begin to not pay attention. It drives me nuts and I cannot understand it!!!

So lately I have been using a strategy that I learned in teacher's college and that I have used successfully in the past - "Pick-a-Stick". When you have 10 classes like I do it takes a bit of time to set up. You start off by writing each student's name on a popsicle stick. I picked up some coloured popsicle sticks from Dollarama so that I could colour coordinate them for each class. Sadly, they didn't have 10 different colours so I had to settle for 5.  I separated them in to one of the millions of plastic baskets I have stored in my cupboard (yay for beating the temptation of wanting to buy new, prettier baskets!) and placed them on top of my piano where they are easy to reach.

Basically, you ask a question and pick a stick and whoever's name is on that stick is the one who gets to answer your question. You can differentiate by picking the stick first and choosing a question that you know that student should be able to answer successfully. 

I have been using this strategy in a number of different ways. I have been asking simple review questions, choosing students to repeat back the instructions for a task, putting students into groups "randomly" using the sticks, and have also been choosing students in my band classes to play individually in front of the class. For example, we were doing a lesson on playing slurs and I had some patterns up on the Smart Board. I modeled how to play the pattern on my flute ("You sound like a mermaid!" said one of my students. Ha ha!), we played them a few times as a class, and then I drew a few sticks and those students played the patterns. That gave me a chance to do a quick, informal assessment at the same time that it gave them more experience playing solo. 

This strategy makes students uncomfortable but it also trains them to pay a bit more attention. I have decided my goal for the next few months is to figure out new ways of keeping my students engaged. Stay tuned because yesterday I ordered this book from Amazon - "Total Participation Techniques: Making Every Student an Active Learner"

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Mallet Madness Begins

Today I did something I have been really nervous to do ... I used Orff instruments. I know it doesn't seem like it should be a big deal but I've been really intimidated by them.

Mallet MadnessI ordered the "Mallet Madness" resource by Artie Almeida from Themes & Variations and took a quick look through it last week. It just seemed really fun and I decided to give it a try with my Grade 4 class. This class is a tough class. I would take the Grade 8s over them some days but I feel like I haven't been trusting them enough lately and wanted to get over that feeling. Almeida's book gave me some confidence because the first lesson in it is all about routines (I do love routines) and teaching the students how to identify the instruments, correct posture and tone production. My favourite part, however, is the chant he uses to have students switch instruments:

"1 - 2 - 3 - 4, mallets down get off the floor, 5 - 6 - 7 -8, hurry don't be late! (strike)" (and they strike the instrument on that next beat but only if they are seated and ready to go).

We spent a fair chunk of the period today just rotating from instrument to instrument. The kids really ate it up and were very well behaved. I'm looking forward to our next "Mallet Madness" class! Now, if only I didn't have to transform my room every period from band to recorder to Orff classroom. I am getting a workout!

Saturday, 16 February 2013

FACEs on the Staff

You know those times where you see a really great idea and your students love it? Those times rock. You know those times when you want to punch that "really great idea" in the face but you can't because it is an idea and punching something is no way to solve a problem? Those times are annoying. 

While browsing around on Mrs. Q's Music Blog I came across her really cute idea to have her students make a face on a paper plate to remind them that the spaces on the treble clef spell FACE. Her students' faces were so cute and I wanted to do this with my 5s and 6s.
So I did! The kids came up with some great faces (see pictures below). My anger towards this project came when I went to hang them up. We had a very snowy day last Friday and I only had 4 of my Grade 5s come to school so I put two of them to work and had them hang the plates with masking tape on the door to the music room. On Monday morning I arrived and all the plates were lying on the floor. "No worries!" I thought to myself and promptly started to hang some of them with string and tape from the ceiling. 5 minutes later they started falling off. Now I was getting mad!

But I wasn't about to let these plates get the best of me and I wasn't about to disappoint my students by not displaying their work so I decided to put them on top of my really tall cupboards by taping them to some old trombone cases. You guessed it...that didn't work either and they all fell off. 

The plates that I had bought were really thick and high quality and I think that was the problem. Next time I will buy the cheapest, thinnest plates I can get my hands on! 

Finally, I had an idea that worked! I put the plates on the thin ledge above my chalkboard and used a thumb tack to stick the rest of them to the cork strip that lines the top. So far so good! None have fallen and they have served their purpose as all my classes and other teachers are admiring them and we will soon see if they remind the students that the spaces spell FACE. (They'd better!!!)

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Labeling Recorders

I am getting pretty excited about starting recorders with my 5s and 6s. I have been hyping it up and I think they are getting pretty excited, too! Although, I did have to say "Do not ask me when the recorders will arrive," because that question was driving me nuts. 
Yamaha Baroque Student Recorder Package 1
(Image from Music Play)

I ordered my recorders from Music Play since they have a great $10 package that includes a book, recorder and CD. I was very impressed with the service there as I ordered over 70 recorders and books and they arrived at my school within a week. 

Once the 70 recorders arrived my biggest task was to figure out how to label them to avoid any mix ups. Last year, I put circle stickers with the students' initials on them but that didn't work well. The stickers fell off and the initials smudged right off. That was annoying.

So, this time I decided to try using this gold Sharpie marker that I had in my desk drawer. I had previously ordered it from the Board to re-label instrument cases and decided on a whim to try it on the recorders and just put their initials on the back. 

And lo and behold, it actually worked! I let it dry for a few minutes before I touched the initials and there was no smudging. Sweet! I also wrote the students' full names on the top of the recorder case. We will see if the marker can withstand the test of time and children's fingers but I am optimistic!

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Report Card Comments

I have now crawled out of my report card cave! Yay! The last few weeks were busy with marking and writing report cards for 10 Music classes plus my Grade 5s. I have also had a slew of Grade 7 and 8s coming before and after school to play some GPS tasks for me which has been great since some students went from D's to B's on their report cards. The past two weeks have really enjoyed seeing their progress and love seeing the boost to their musical self-confidence.

I thought I would share some of my "parent-friendly" report card comments, strengths and next steps. Hope they are helpful!

(By the way, *N* = name of student, *4* = He/She, *2* = his/her)

Grade 4: 
In Music, *N* creates and performs for a variety of purposes. This was demonstrated through a performance of “The Magic Hat” to show differences in tempo and by making a found instrument to perform an ostinato pattern based on the theme of recycling trash.

*4* participates positively and with enthusiasm in all of our activities.
*4* is a cooperative member in our group activities and discussions.

As a next step, *4* will be encouraged to remain focused and pay close attention to instructions to ensure *2* full participation.

Grade 5: 

In Music, *N* described how to use the elements of music when performing and creating. This was demonstrated by reflecting on the use of themes in a “Musical Fairytale” and by using movement and writing activities to respond to music.

*4* very thoroughly describes *2* feelings and ideas when completing assignments.  
*4* clearly describes *2* feelings and ideas when completing assignments.

As a next step, *N* can benefit from listening to a variety of music and discussing with a family member how and why the music made *6* feel a certain way.  

Grade 6: 
*N* used the elements of music to create and perform and responded to music in a variety of ways. This was demonstrated through a Word Composition and by detecting the changes in a Theme and Variations activity.

(Strengths and Next Steps are similar to Grade 5)


In Music, *N* creates and performs by playing a variety of simple pieces using the first five notes on *2* instrument. 

*4* plays notes and rhythms with very few errors and has shown great initiative this term. 
*4* plays notes and rhythms with very few errors.

As a next step, *N* will be provided with modelling and reminders to play *2* instrument correctly and should practice daily at home or at school.  
As a next step, *N* is encouraged to make sure that class work and homework assignments are completed and handed in and to ask for help when *1* needs clarification about the task at hand.