Thursday, February 28, 2013

Paint Bag Rhythm Dictation Review

Today, I tried a new way to do rhythm dictation review with my kids and they LOVED it!  I had seen an idea like this one on pinterest for helping kids practice letter writing, so I morphed it into something that would work in the music room.

To prepare for this activity, I took ziplock bags and squeezed in some neon paint that I had.  (I have since learned you can put too much in.  A small amount of paint goes a long way for this activity).  Then, I sealed the bag and put packing tape over the top and seal.  (My secretary laughed at me when I asked for the packing tape and told her what I was doing.  She said there would be paint everywhere.  I invited her up today to see that there was no paint anywhere and the kids were loving it :-) )

Upon entering the room today, each student got a paint bag and a q-tip for writing rhythms.

Paint Bags Ready and Waiting for Students
Then, I had them smooth the paint in their bag out.  I clapped a four beat rhythm pattern and they had to dictate it, using their q-tip on the paint.  I walked around as they worked to assess their dictations informally.  Then, I drew the correct pattern on the board for them to check their work.  After we checked work and discussed the pattern, they cleared their paint pallet and were ready to dictate again.

They loved it and would've spent the entire class period if I had let them.  It was a quick 10 minute way to do some rhythm dictations in a fun way!

Dictating rhythm patterns in paint

A complete rhythm pattern.  After time, the patterns did disappear, but the goal was for students to audiate and dictate what they heard, checking their work and assessing their own progress.  


Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Fairy Tale BAG Recorder Stations

It was time for another rotation of recorder belt testing in my 3rd grade classes, so this week's project was to create another round of stations for students to rotate between while I tested and worked with small groups, grouped by belt level.

The kids have been LOVING the stations, as it is very different from our normal routine in the music room.  They are producing some nice work and getting focused practice from the options that are provided.  I've been impressed with how on task they continue to be. 

The new theme for this round of stations is "Fairy Tales." 

Included in the kit are:
Character Melodies: Students write 2 beat melodies to match the rhythms of famous fairy tale characters' names. Then, they practice performing the melodies on their recorders and share them with their group. An example is given to help the students understand what is expected.

Hansel and Gretel's Pathway: Students play Hansel and Gretel's bread pathway of BAG notes to lead them to the cottage. After practicing playing the pattern, students create their own B A G pathway to help Hansel and Gretel make it to the cottage, by notating B's, A's, and G's on the loaf of bread music staff template.

Character Feedback: Students practice the song they are working on. As they practice, they self reflect. Then, they give themselves feedback from the point of view of Cinderella and the Prince.

Princess and the Pea Melody: Students play 2 measure BAG lullaby melodies to help Princess Winifred fall asleep on top of the pea. After mastering the beautiful, clean sound of the lullabies, students write their own 2 measure lullaby for Winifred, using B A and G.

Download the kit from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store today!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

When I First Came To This Land

A picture book that I just love is: When I First Came to This Land, by Harriet Ziefert and Simms Taback. 
I use this book with my 5th graders to encourage writing in the music room.  We learn the song, via the book, and practicing singing it, taking note of the rhyme scheme used.  We also listen to several recordings of the song and compare and contrast the versions.  Lastly, we use the book as a mentor text to model writing our own verses.  I use the worksheet below:
This worksheet is simple, but is a free download at my TpT store, if it is a time saver for you.
We share our verses, and compile a list of our favorites to create an "add-on" version of the song.  The kids enjoy coming up with whacky verses that work with the rhyme scheme.  They usually perform this song with great energy and vocal clarity.

This wonderful picture book is also great to use as a listening closer with primary students.  Sing the song or share a recording of the song with the students along with the picture book, and have them listen to quality singing as a calming closer to your lesson.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Treble in the Classroom Got a Facelift!

The new blog has been revealed.  Thanks so much to Design by Christi.  Check out her awesome blog design site!  She's great!

What do you think of the new look?

Monday, February 18, 2013

Rhythm From Head to Toe for Smart Board

My "Rhythm From Head to Toe" activity is now available for use on Smart Boards.  No cutting out required.  Just touch and dress the doll for an instantaneous rhythm composition. 

This activity has students drag a hat, shirt, bottom, and shoe to dress the paper doll.  By dragging the clothing, students are creating a four beat rhythm pattern from head to toe.  Quarter notes, eighth notes, quarter rests, and sixteenth notes are used.  The patterns can be performed by clapping or body percussion for each different article.  Unpitched percussion or recorders could also play the rhythmic patterns.  Pitch could also be added to the rhythms to compose a rhythmic melody.

Both boy and girl paper doll notebook slides are included.  What a fun way for a class to compose, perform, and create together.

Download it today from my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

A paper version of this for individual student or group work is also available in my store. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

3 or 4 Leaf Clovers

This new activity that I created this weekend is great for the upcoming St. Patty's Day Holiday season.  My students have been working on identifying meter and time signature, so I think this will be a fun addition to that learning.

I have created two versions of the activity, basic, and advanced.  The activity is the same, but the rhythms are more difficult in the advanced version, making it more appropriate for older or more experienced students.  You could even differentiate your classes by giving some students the basic and some students the advanced depending upon their individual readiness.

In this activity, students need to sort rhythm patterns.  Some are 3/4 patterns with three beats and some are 4/4 patterns with 4 beats.  Students will write the rhythms in a column under a three leaf clover, if they have three beats, and they will write them under a 4 leaf clover if they have four beats. 

An answer key is provided if you care to have a substitute or parent grade the activities for you! 

As an extension of this activity, after completing the worksheet, the teacher could clap one of the patterns from the rhythm sheet and students could create a three leaf clover, by joining hands with two other students, or a 4 leaf clover by joining hands with four other students, to move and assess understanding.  Get those kids moving as much as possible!!!

Both the advanced and basic version are available for download in my teachers pay teachers store.

We Luv Garage Band and Apple TV

Our iPads were loaded with Garage Band this week, so my 6th grade students were able to begin creating the backing tracks for the raps they are composing. 
Students creating their background tracks in Garage Band
After learning about hip hop and rap, as well as listening to some examples of rap using the book, "Hip Hop Speaks to Children," I started the rap project by having students compose a repetitive chorus and three verses to alternate with the chorus.  Each group was told to choose a theme for their raps content such as school, food, sports, etc.  They were instructed to write in AABB rhyme scheme, with each phrase being four beats long.  The first and second phrases ended in a rhyme, as did the third and fourth.  They had a template worksheet for this and worked on their rap speech in groups for two class periods.  I supported groups, checking that their rhythm and rhyme scheme worked.  Given a structured task, the students focused, worked hard, and had fun in the process.

This week, we started to lay the loops in Garage Band that will serve as the background for their composed rap.  Students have to choose 3 loops to layer, from at least two different instrument families, keeping in mind the genre of music we are working with.  We were just laying the loops for the Chorus of their rap this week, as the Garage Band app allows you do divide the loops by form and measures.  Next class, hopefully, we will get the loops composed for their verses and begin to record the vocal track on top of the loops.

I was amazed at the cool loop combinations my students were coming up with.  They were thinking creatively and musically.  They adjusted volume levels for balance and some groups even patched different loops together to make an overall loop.  They blew me out of the water with their musical thinking.

The Garage Band app is great, but it is definitely not quite as straight forward as the computer application. There are fewer loops to choose from, but maybe that is a good thing when working with elementary students.  The kids maneuvered the app quite easily, but it did take me some time to figure things out, even though I was very familiar with the computer application.  Some of the features from the full version are not accessible on the iPad version.  However, being able to have a way to work with Garage Band IN the music room, without having to get lab time, makes the app version more appealing to me.
Showing my work on my iPad via the Apple TV hook up

My Apple TV was set up this week too, making this process AMAZING.  I was able to work on my iPad and demosntrate what I wanted the students to do on their iPads, while walking around the room with my iPad in hand.  My work was projected onto my Smart Board Screen through my projector.  I was also able to put up the work of other groups by hooking up their iPad to the apple tv and sharing their cool ideas with the class, to help spark each group to work to their best potential.  Students were also great about giving specific feedback to each other.

I can't wait to use the Apple TV more and finish these projects.  I'll be sure to share some of the students' finished work on my blog as soon as they wrap up their work. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monster B A G Recorder Stations

When I first started teaching, I used the Recorder Karate method for introducing the recorder to third graders.  The kids were highly motivated to earn their belts and they worked hard to learn the required songs.  However, after two years, I discontinued the program.  I felt like my students were playing well, but they weren't reading the notation as they were playing.  They were simply learning to memorize fingerings and melodies for familiar songs, but were not becoming musically literate. Thus, I discontinued the program and used some other resources.

This year, I decided to bring Recorder Karate back from the dead.  I wanted my students to have the excitement about playing recorders that I knew the belts provided in the past. 

Thus, I've been working like a crazy woman to create supplements that help the students practice reading and writing music, in combination with the recorder belt songs, while keeping them excited and enthused.  I've tried to set these supplements up as stations, so students can work in small groups, have a variety of opportunities to interact with their notes, and work in groups that are of similar readiness.  The station set up also allows me to work in small groups with students for belt testing and support while everyone else is actively working on someone else.  The kids have been thrilled with the stations and I have been thrilled to see their note reading and recorder performing progress. 

So, here's my newest set of stations this cycle, now available at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 

Color by Note has students identify B's, A's, and G's, and color in the bodies of the monsters based upon what pitch is inside the area.

Monster Dance B A G Recorder Composition allows students to write a B A G song based on a simple poem about Monsters that I wrote.  They dictate their composition and practice performing it at this station.

This station has students play for each other and provide specific positive and constructive feedback for improvement via a checklist.  Since I can't be with every group at all times, I'm hoping this will be another way for students to improve their musicianship.  It also provides me another tool to learn about student strengths and weaknesses.

All of these resources are set up for stations, but would also work as full class activities.

I glue the cover sheets to the front of a file folder, and put the worksheets and/or directions inside for students, so that when they rotate to a station, they have everything they need.

Download this fun set now at 

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music Library

In thinking of ways to increase the musical impact I have on my students outside of the classroom,  I collaborated with my librarian to create a "music library."  Through grant funding and some PTO support, we have been able to order a series of CD's, cases, and storage equipment.  Students are able to borrow the cd's, listen to them at home, and return them the next cycle.  Teachers can also use the cd's as resources to incorporate music across the curriculum in their classes.  It has been a huge success.  The next challenge will be to figure out how to do this once cd's become obsolete!

When undertaking this endeavor, we started with the spinner of cd's.  Eventually, the spinner was too full, so we purchased a storage rack.  
Music is classified by genre on the cd cases and on the rack.

Dots on the spine of the durable cases we purchased alert students (and those who shelve the cd's) to the genre classification of the music.

As cases break, we replace them.  Every few years, we add to the mix of repertoire for our students.  I try to select a wide variety of quality music that represents a broad range of categories, relates to the Common Core or National Standards, and is interesting to students.

We make sure to include albums from all of the Artists-in-Residence who have visited our school, as well. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Coolest Free App EVER!

I discovered an amazing free app this week, Falling Stars by Trident Gum.  Though it may not be a meaty note reading or composition app, it is a great app for teaching the elements of composition to primary students in a brief session.  I am planning on using it to have my part time learning support classes explore making music in this way as well.  Music reading and writing is a struggle for them, but with this program, they can make and save a composition on the spot!
Students can drag different lines across the screen.  Star drop from the sky.  When they hit the different lines, they make the sound specific to that line.  Sounds are layered when more stars are dropped.  The stars in the sky can be double tapped to increase the speed that the stars fall. 

Compositions can be saved as videos and emailed. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Kings and Queen's Folk Dance

This week, I taught my second graders one of my favorite folk dances.  I learned this one from the Amidons when they visited our school, and it is available in their wonderful book with accompanying cd, "Sashay the Donut."
This longways set dance works best with a boys' line (kings) and a girls' line (queens).  I  tell my students to act as proper and royal as possible, and they eat it up.  They love the chance to act and be dramatic while dancing. 

Directions are given on the New England Dancing Master's Website, for a free download:
The dance is to be performed with the song, "On the Danforth."

My students' favorite part is the "gypsy walk."  I introduced the dance last class period without music and told the students to come ready to be kings and queens this week.  Some 2nd grade boys even wore ties to class for the occasion! 

Enjoy this gem.  It is great to teach students folk dance terminology and moves, as well as to work on beat and phrasing.  The kids love the dance and are getting a meaty musical lesson from participating. 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Rhythm From Head to Toe

This fun idea flew into my brain this week while I was teaching my third graders. 

Each student gets a paper doll.  They have four hats to choose from.  Each hat has a one beat rhythm on it (quarter note, eighth notes, quarter rest, sixteenth notes).  Then, students need to select a top.  There are four different tops with four different rhythm patterns on them.  Pants are up next, with once again, four different options with four different rhythms.  To finish them up, four different pairs of shoes complete the outfit.

Click here to check it out!
This is a sample of the girl paper doll options.  A boy set is also included in the kit.

This activity can be done individually or in groups and transfers well to body percussion performance or the use of classroom instruments.  Students can create many different combinations and practice using the different rhythms in different ways.

Pending permission from the creator of the clip art, I will upload a Smart Board Notebook for this to be a whole class activity on the Smart Board as well. 

Valentine's Freebie

Happy Valentine's Day!!

In honor of the upcoming holiday, I've shared a new free download.  This simple rhythm packet includes two worksheets.

The first one has student write four, four beat patterns.  Students can then perform it by clapping or by playing it on instrument.  

The second worksheet is a dictation.  The teacher would clap four different four beat patterns, repeating each one several times.  Students would dictate what they hear.

Enjoy!  If you love it, leave me some feedback on TPT!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Communication Cards

To have students share their learning with parents and to advocate for all the great things that are happening in music class, I have my first grade students take home small cards every few classes.  The cards ask the parents to share a task with their child (have their child sing the song for two people, have parents do the motions while the student sings, etc.)  The cards also share the lyrics of the songs, in case students need help remembering them at home.  As an added measure, I have uploaded performances of me singing/speaking the assignment onto my district teacher webpage.  Parents can log on and click to hear it and help their students in this way too.

Feedback on this is great.  Parents love to see what their kids are learning and the kids love sharing.  They love to have their parents complete silly motions or movements to a song.  It's a great way to build music making outside of the classroom.  It works well with first grade because so much of their repertoire is public domain folk repertoire and because they are still incredibly excited to perform for their parents! 

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Teachers Pay Teachers Super Sale!

Happy Super Bowl Sunday!  Just wanted to let you know that today, Teachers Pay Teachers is holding a GREAT sale.  Everyone's items are 10% off.  Individual sellers are adding additional percentages off to their stores. 

At my TPT store, you can take an additional 5% off today!  Stock up now on all the items that you've been waiting to buy!