Monday, October 28, 2013

Rhythm Dictation with Popsicle Sticks

I have a baggie of Popsicle sticks for every child.  I use these in a variety of ways and activities. In these pictures, the students are "writing" the rhythm that they hear me clap. Depending on the class level, I will say the Ta and Ti ti, but ultimately the goal is for them to be able to write the rhythm without me saying "ta ti-ti" but by them just hearing the rhythm via clapping.  I will also have students clap a rhythm for the class to dictate. Student will pair and share rhythms that they write on their own. There are a lot of ways to use these. I love having them on hand. The kids like the hands on - another way other than  paper and pencil.


Monday, June 24, 2013

The Best End of the Year Music Activity!

Very simple. Very fun.

"Just Dance" video game. Game console not necessary.  Youtube videos of the kids favorite songs (school appropriate of course) and voila! Movement + Music + Entertainment + fun = BEST EVER lesson plan for the end of the year! What a hoot and I loved it too!

To make this easier, my husband (who is an IT, computer wiz) built me a media pc for school. I use this for all my music and videos  for teaching.  I put the youtube  videos on this computer, open them up using Media Center, and played them straight from my pc to the projector and it worked great! This would also be a great indoor recess activity!

Variation - I also found karaoke (sing-a-long) videos from Youtube of songs the kids love and they read the words and sing with the video/music (with the actual karaoke versions - not the music videos). This was very fun too!

Another side note: I don't know about you, but the end of the year is crazy and sometimes the PE teacher and I have found it easier, and more fun to combine our classes... these activities were perfect in the gym with a large class size.

Example videos:


Friday, November 16, 2012

Make Measures

I made these flashcards using index cards. I used one index card for each beat, so if it is a whole note, there are four index cards attached to each other.

One activity I do with this is "Make Some Measures". Students are paired together with a packet of cards.  I give the students a time signature, four example 4/4 and they need to make four measures (or rows) of four beats each.  Once they have the four measures they clap the rhythm with their partner.  Some groups finish faster than others, so for the pairs that finish quickly I will tell them to rearrange and make new rhythms with the same meter. When I see that all the pairs have made the measures and have clapped their rhythms, I will give the whole class another time signature and repeat the process.

I really like the visual duration the kids see with the attached cards. I've noticed it helped those kids who still struggled to remember the number of beats for each note. They see the duration of the notes and finally the light bulb turns on!

Interactive Turkey Time Bulletin Board

When teaching meter, time signatures, note values, measures etc., I like to use this "Turkey Time" board:

Each feather has two measures of varied combinations notes and rests to make with the same amount of beats.  Students choose a feather out of the folder and figure out what time signature it is and they attach the feather to the correct time signature on the turkey.  

I do this as a class, but also have used this as a center.  

Saturday, November 3, 2012

"Talent Day"

Twice a year each class 1st-5th grade (I teach K-5) receives a "Talent Day". This is a day set aside for those who want to perform for their class during regular music class time.  I usually plan the Talent Days at the end of October, and right before Spring Break.

Purpose: I believe that students need to have the opportunity to get up in front of their peers performing on any level. I also believe that students need to learn proper concert etiquette and proper audience behavior.  So here is how I set it up.

First of all, I make it clear that this is not a HUGE school-wide talent show for all to see. It is not a competition. Its informal (but important).

*I tell the student a few weeks in advance when they will have talent day and remind them often.
*Options for talents include but not restricted to: Dance, sing, play an instrument, gymnastics, juggling, hula-hoop, beat-box, comedy skit etc. As long as it's something they can do in my room that won't hurt themselves or my instruments (like ball throwing!).
*They can perform alone or with anyone else in their class.
*If they are using music, students need to get it approved by me BEFORE talent day or they can't use it. I need to make sure it is school appropriate.
*We discuss the importance of planning, practicing, preparedness.
*On Talent Day, I go over how to be a good respectful, encouraging audience. I make it very clear that if I see them laughing at, or making fun of, or talking etc during a performance they will leave my room  for the duration of Talent day (I will give them a "refocus"/problem-solving form I use for behavior issues) and they may not be able to attend then next time we have one.  I set up my class so that everyone can feel safe in front of their peers. It is VERY important to me so I am strict about it. I think for this reason I get a lot of students who will perform.
*If a student performs they get to write their name and teacher's name on a paper and put it in a drawing. After all of my classes have had talent day, out of about 475 students, I draw six names. The winners get a king size candy of their choice. :)
*It is great fun. It's a great activity for performers and the audience. Depending on the class, there might be extra time if everyone who wanted to perform has. At that point I will let students go a second turn if they want, or we will change the activity to a game, or whatever.

FYI - It takes a few times having Talent Day for the kids to "catch on" to the idea and to become brave enough to perform. You might find that not many students perform the first time but that is because they don't really know what to expect. Don't give up! The students who take private lessons will perform, and your strong singers and personalities will perform and be good examples to the rest. The next time you say there will be a talent day, you'll see more participate. The second year you do it, you'll have even more participate!!!

You'll find that each class is different. One class will have a lot of kids who want to do something, and some classes only a few.  That's OK.  That's just how it goes.

With the younger children, you'll find you will need to encourage them, coax them and/or to give ideas of what to do. For example, in a first grade class I will say, who would like to sing. It can be any song that i have taught you, or you know from camp, home, church etc. If one student wants to sing a song but is too afraid then I ask the class "Who else knows that song that wants to sing with Johnny". There is always someone who will get up and help their class mate. And they both sing. And all is happy.

You will also notice that with the younger kids, they copy what they see someone else do and that is fine! It gets them up in front of the class, even if it is a simple somersault!

I don't send anything home telling parents about it. Some parents might call and ask because their child mentioned a "talent show" that they are performing in. I let them know that its a casual in class activity. They of course are welcome to come but not necessary.

The students always look forward to Talent Day.  I have students ask me often "When are we having Talent Day?"  I have done this for the 14 years I have taught and I still see the value in it and the kids still like it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Alphabet Witches' Brew

This is a simple activity for Kindergarten that focuses on using their "singing" voice during October.  Students sit in a circle. Teacher stands in the center with the witches cauldron.  Each student gets a letter (some students get two depending on your class size). Students keep the letter on the floor in front of them so all can see.  Make sure all students know what their letter is and if they don't, ask a neighbor or the teacher.

The activity starts with me singing a silly (something I made up on the spot - in fact it seems to change every time I teach it) rhyme.

What do we have in the Wit-ches Brew?
  so   so so    so    la la     so   so     mi
  ta     ti-ti      ta     ti-ti      ta    ta     ta--

Put it all  together and I'll make it    for you.
so so so so so so   la la    so    so    so mi
ti -ti   ti   ti  ti  ti       ti ti      ti     ti      ta ta--

The rest of the time it is call and response --

Teacher sings-
      Who has an 'A'?
       so   mi mi   so-mi
       ta    ti  ti      ta- aa (half note)

Student with the 'A' sings back -
I    have an  'A'
So   mi  mi   so-mi
 ta    ti  ti      ta- aa (half note)

That student puts the letter in the cauldron. The game is repeated until all the letters have been sung. I will sing my silly rhyme at the end and then they will answer "alphabet soup"
The activity moves quickly if you walk over to the student so they can put the letter in the cauldron without having to get up. I sing immediately to the next letter to keep the song flowing.

*Add a third step with the whole class singing "He/she has an 'A'" after the solo student sings.
*Repeat the game but sing the letters mixed up, not in ABC order.

Helpful hints:  My students are already used to singing alone because I do the "So-mi' attendance at the beginning of class where I sing their name with the pitches so-mi and they sing back "I'm here" with so-mi.
I also find that using one of those toy microphones ($1.00 store) helps them sing out more. I hold the mic and point it at the student who is singing and even though it's not close to their mouth, they still sing out wanting their voice to reach the mic. It's like magic! (I use the mic trick a lot!)

It's a Halloween activity so if you can't teach in a Halloween theme you can easily change the name and use a different container instead of a witches cauldron. I've changed it to a pumpkin theme and then it has magically become a harvest activity rather than Halloween. In fact, you can change it to any theme you want all year around!

The Nutcracker Movement Activity

In my school district, The Nutcracker Suite is a part of the 2nd Grade curriculum. I have many activities to teach Tchaikovsky, the Nutcracker music, ballet etc.  These movement activities are on my favorite list - and the students love them also!

Chinese Dance - You will need scarves (or something to wave). Discuss the difference between the sound of the flute and the string family. Show pictures of the instruments. Practice raising arms high when you hear the flute and low when you hear the plucked strings. Teach how to use your body at different levels. Move into "self space" (students scattered in room in personal space). Add scarves. Move around the room waving  the scarves high (and dancing "high") when the flute is played, and waving the scarves low (and dancing "low") when the strings are played. The ending is tricky when both are played at the same time. I like to watch the students the first time to see what they do during that tricky part. Then, before we start the song over to dance again, we discuss the ending: What is happening with the instruments, and how they can move when both the flute and strings are played together.

(sorry about the picture being upside-down, It's right side up on my computer but kept posting upside-down, *sigh*)

Another Nutcracker movement activity . . .

Russian Dance - Practice keeping the steady beat with the music patting on legs.  Pass out rhythm sticks and have the students play on the beat with the music. I have the students play on the beat but in different values if that makes sense. I will have the play on the whole note, the half note, the quarter notes so they can feel the different pulses.  You can do many other things to add to this idea.  Sometimes I teach accents and have them tap the rhythm sticks differently on the strong beat. Sometimes I have them play the rhythm sticks focusing on the dynamics. I've even had them march to this song while playing the rhythm sticks to the beat.

March of the Toy Soldiers - Have your class follow your lead with hands on thighs using tiptoe fingers (your fingers are tapping on thigh, not whole hand).  Can you hear the difference between the marching music and the "scurrying" music?  Practice with hands first. Play the March and when you hear the strong marching music, tap your thigh alternating hands on the beat. When you hear the "scurrying" music, have your hands "scurry" like a mouse up and down your arms or legs. Next,  in their "self space", staying in place, have the students march on the march, or scurrying like a mouse. When you feel they can do this well, make half the class soldiers and the other half mice. The soldiers walk in one line spaced apart led by the Nutcracker. Have a path for them to follow or choose a student who can lead well.  The mice also scurry in one line led by the Mouse King. When "their" music plays they move. When it changes they freeze. The mice move in between the soldiers but must get out of the way before the soldiers move again.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Musical Resources: The Truth About Piano Lessons

A great article to parents about Piano Lessons! Well written, well said!

Musical Resources: The Truth About Piano Lessons: A piano teacher looks at what it takes to succeed in music, why parents should care, and what they can do to help their kids.  To piano t...

Sunday, May 27, 2012


Do you know about It is a great safe alternative to youtube for educational purposes. I post my performances on here and share it with my parents.  I did explain the website first so that they understood it was safe to post their child on it. If I ever had any parents who still didn't want their child on it, then I wouldn't post the video on the site. I haven't had that happen yet!

You can check out my channel from the link below and see what I am talking about.  You can set up your own channel! There are so many options and great ideas!

Mrs. Sanders Schooltube Channel