Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Describing Music using Music Terminology

One of the things I'm really working on with my older students (3-5 grade) is describing music using musical terms. I explained to one of my principals that I feel this is an important skill that can really help students appreciate music in a whole new way. How cool is it when a student can pick out instruments in a pop song or describe differences in tempo. This is a skill that all kids can learn and use even if they never continue on in music.

I first emphasized this skill during our outdoor music classes (read more...).

When we went outside I had my students sing I Love the Mountains. Later, I had my students write a short reflection on the difference of sound singing outside verses inside. They were encouraged to use music words from the word wall.

Most of the reflections said things like:
  • The sound echos more inside than outside
  • We sang quieter outside rather than inside
  • There were other noises outside like leaves rustling and birds chirping
  • Our sound was much more blurred together outside

After this reflection I realized I really needed to show students HOW to use music terminology in their reflections without having to change what they are saying. In order to do this I came up with a reflection assignment students had to do for homework. (I rarely give homework, but this was a simple assignment and they were given 2 weeks to complete it)

First, I showed students some examples of reflections they wrote:
I Love the Mountains sounded different outside because it echoed less outside than inside. I also thought we sang a lot quieter outside. I also noticed that outside the music was much more blurred together where as inside it was much more disconnected.
Then, I showed them how they could just substitute a few words for music words and it still was saying the same thing.
I Love the Mountains sounded different outside because it echoed less outside than inside. I also thought we sang at a piano dynamic outside. I also noticed that outside the music was more slurred or legato rather than inside where it was much more staccato.
Finally, I gave them the assignment (this was partially an idea I was given by my school principal to also include some technology):
Students should write a short music reflection about a song that they have listened to during the month. This allows students the opportunity to listen to any song they enjoy and still be practicing writing and using music terminology. *NOTE:I even allowed non-school appropriate songs as long as they had permission from their parents. That way they could truly listen to whatever kind of music they like*

All responses were emailed to me unless they could not because of not having internet or computer access at home. I also printed out a few paper copies for these students, but they were responsible for picking them up from me.

I posted all information on my school website so students could access it at anytime. Along with this I posted: the questions they were to answer, links to music videos they may like to watch for the assignment, a word bank of musical terms to use in their reflection.

This assignment was due by Halloween and I do have to say it was such a fun experiment. I did have quite a few students that I was constantly hounding to turn in their assignment (what is new), but the responses were great! I also had quite a few students that were really excited about the assignment and enjoyed the videos I posted. It was also a great way to include technology and writing into my curriculum. (Two school goals for Fairview Elementary.)

You can see all the directions for the assignment, video links, and word bank all on my school website -->here<--. Feel free to steal the idea and even the word bank, just let me know how it works for you. :)

Happy Halloween! BOO!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get Ready to ROMP!

Shake, Shake Shudder
near the sludgy old swamp.
The dinosaurs are coming.
Get ready to romp!

The outdoor lesson for 2nd grade was using the story Dinosaurumpus!

As I have mentioned before, I like to use literature in my music classes. It reminds students of the connection between music and literature, but also there are so many great music stories I want to share with my students!

What I noticed about Dinosaurumpus! was that it had a lot of rhyming, but also had a nice steady beat. Along with this, it has tons of onomatopoeia words. This allowed for some fun sound effects. I broke the story into 6 parts and then gave each group of 3 students a part. They had to create sound effects for all the words I underlined. I told them that since Dinosaurs would roam around outside they had to create all their sound effects using their mouths, bodies, or items found in nature.
Sound Effects

After a day of work they preformed their parts for the class.

Some groups were really creative with how they came up with sound effects :). Other groups, sounded as though they did the same sound effect for everything :/.

To stretch students creativity, in the future, I would change some of the directions for the project. First, I would make sure to state that they should use at least two sound effects with their voice, two sound effects with their body, and two sound effects using nature. I would also stress that the sound effects have to be different. Not just hit the stick on the ground, then hit it on a tree, then hit it on something else. Instead scraping the stick, breaking the stick, hitting the stick, etc.

Overall, I was very happy with this project, though. I love watching my students be creative and get the opportunity to explore music outside of the music classroom.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Outdoor Instruments

As I talked about in my previous post, all my classes at Fairview went outside last week for music class. We had many different activities outside and the students learned a lot!

The Kindergarten and 1st graders were given a task of finding an object in nature that could be used as an instrument. After finding their make shift instruments the Kindergarten students got to share the instrument and play it for the class. I was impressed with the amount of creativity shown. A couple Kindergarteners used pinecones, leaves, sticks, rocks, or a combination of items.

1st grade students filled out a short worksheet to go along with finding their object. This gave them a chance to continue practicing reading and writing skills, as well as, show me what they are learning.

The first part of the worksheet was telling me what their instrument was and drawing a picture of it. After that we figured out how the instrument could make music. I had several ways and each one students tried. As they tried them they would x out the ways that didn't work and circle the ways that did work. (We went one by one as a class so the ones that had more difficulty reading always knew the task.) My 1st graders loved trying to find out the ways their instrument made music. They enjoyed hitting, shaking, scratching, etc. their instrument to try to make noise. I really enjoyed watching them try all the different ways and was SO happy to see them only using their instruments as instruments and not as weapons. (We did talk about that before hand JUST in case.)

At the bottom of the worksheet 1st graders had to come up with a rhythm using quarter notes and eighth notes. I created four boxes and explained that they had to choose either a quarter note or a pair of eighth notes for each box. They could not put BOTH in any of the boxes. All the kids followed the directions! YAY! Finally, each 1st grader got to play their instrument for the class sharing both their rhythm and instrument. It was so much fun!

Here are some of the finished worksheets:
Worksheet Example #4
Worksheet Example #3
Worksheet Example #2
Worksheet Example #1

Interested in seeing the worksheet I created. Find it -->here!<---

To finish the day, I always like to share a songtale or story with my Kindergarten - 2nd grade classes. This is part of the routine of my classes and students have come to expect it and know that story time means the end of music class. To go with the theme of being outside in nature I sang the story There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.

The kids chuckled at the silliness of an old lady swallowing a pumpkin. They also liked guessing what the old lady sneezes out after swallowing all the things she does. What a great way to end the lesson!

Make some musical memories today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Outdoor Music Class!

Sound Effects
Last week I decided to take all of my Fairview students outside for music classes. I decided to do this after having a short chat with a 2nd grader who often acts up in my class. He had kind of a rough day about two weeks ago and broke down in tears after music class. I asked him if he was crying because he got in trouble, to which he replied "No! I just really miss my mom!"

Fairview has an outdoor classroom that they refer to as The School Forest. At first, I wasn't sure what we should do outside. It would be easy to just go out there and sing different songs we sing in music class. However, I feel that when you are going to a new environment you should take advantage of it to the best of your abilities.

After much thought I came up with lesson plans for each class. I will introduce the ideas here with a brief description, but I'll also post more details on each project in later blog posts. This way you can get the materials I used for the lessons, as well as, see some pictures. (I don't want to bombard you with a whole week of lessons in one post!)

All my classes had to walk on the forest path in silence. While they did this they were to listen to the sounds of fall. When we reached the outdoor classroom, I then had students share what they heard. We talked about what music was and how the music of fall would be different than the music of winter. They imagined some of the sounds they may hear in the winter rather than the fall. I especially found this activity cute when one of my kindergarteners on the second day of going to the forest told the class that he heard some beautiful music on his walk to the school forest. This was without even being told to listen for music! :)

Sound Effects

In Kindergarten and 1st grade students had to find an item in nature that could be used to create music. They then shared these instruments with the class and showed them how to play their instrument. (Read more about outdoor instruments...)

2nd grade was working on a sound effects project out in the school forest. (Read more about sound effect project...)

3rd grade was finishing up their ostinato patterns, so the first day they shared their patterns with the class. The second day they did something similar to what the 4th and 5th graders did. (Read More about the Ostinato Pattern Project...)

4th and 5th graders went out the school forest and sang I Love the Mountains. Afterwards they were asked to write a short reflection on this experience. They were to describe the difference in singing outside versus inside. We then talked about what makes a good reflection and ways to describe the sound of our own singing or of instruments playing, etc. 4th and 5th graders then created their own 2 beat ostinatos with a partner, as well as, a 3 beat ostinato with their partner. Students created and practiced them the first day and then shared them the second day. (Read More about reflections...)

Overall, I really enjoyed taking the kids out for music class. I was surprised by how many of my students, that don't always care for music, were really excited about music since we were going outside. I also noticed that some of my overly rambunctious students were actually really well behaved outside.

Have a musical day!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Go Pack Go!

It is that time of year... Football season! Though, I myself am not a particularly devoted football fan, I spent most of my life in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This means that I probably bleed green and gold whether I would like to or not. This weekend I actually went to the Packers vs. Saints game, which made me even more excited about my latest composition project. I can't take all the credit for it, I got the original idea from a book a retired music teacher gave me. It allows students the opportunity to take chants they would hear at a football game and turn them into rhythm ostinatos! This was perfect since my grade 3-5 classes have been working on rhythms and ostinatos! :)

I broke this project into just two 30 minute music classes (which in my opinion is a rather quick composition project compared to some others I have done). The first day is a brainstorming day. I pair the students into groups of about 3 or 4 students. These groups then brainstorm and come up with at least 10 chants they have heard or would cheer at a sporting event. (Note: I said sporting event to reach some of my students who do not like football, but may enjoy other sports)
Ostinato Cheer Composition
Ostinato Cheer Composition

The second day was devoted to writing the rhythms that go with the chants. We talked first as a class about how to figure out the rhythms. We talk about where the beat lands and how sometimes we stress different parts of a word or phrase. I give them a couple examples of my own (I chose non-sports related things so they weren't just using my examples). The groups then worked on their chants. I had the 3rd graders have 3 final cheers, 4th graders 4 cheers, and 5th graders 5 cheers. I was really impressed with some of the cheers that they created and how well they put the rhythms together. The ones that had a little bit more difficulty, or just added quarters for all of their chants, were easy to help. I just read through their chants as written and they told me if it was right or not. If it wasn't we figured out how to fix the problem together.

I found that just like with many other group activities you have those groups that get done in 10 minutes and then the other groups that work the entire 20 minutes. For this situation you should probably have some extra game or work for the groups that are done quickly. This stops students from wandering around the room or just chatting about nothing in particular.

For my quick finishing groups, I created a simple game to work on for the remainder of time. Each group got a baggy with 3 sets of music letters and 3 sets of treble clef staff notes to match. One teammate would create a word using the music letters (i.e. DAD) and then the other group members would work to match up the treble clef staff notes. This way they were working on treble clef note reading without getting bored and distracting their teammates.
Note Reading
Treble Clef Notes
Writing and reading music

After the compositions were finished I brought students outside to share their chants with the class. I chose to go outside, not because it is particularly a loud process (though it can be) but because the snow will soon be coming here in Wisconsin and my students love being outside. That and I am really working to reach all of the multiple intelligence's in my classroom this year and one that I am particularly weak on is the nature intelligence. You will probably see more nature based lessons in the coming week as I prepare to bring my little ones outside to explore the music of the fall!
Ostinato Performance
Ostinato Chant Performance
Ostinato Chant Performance
Ostinato Chant Performance

If you are interested in this project you can get the document I created --->HERE<---

You can also use --->my rubric<--- that I created for grading the compositions.

Happy composing!