Archive for March, 2013


Tech Bite: Listening lessons with Word Clouds

March 31, 2013

Happy Easter, everyone!

As we are gearing up to go back to school in a few days, I thought I would share a simple way that I have integrated a bit of hands on technology into my classroom.  It is easy for the tech to take over and become the focus of a lesson, but in Music class we want the music to take center stage. Additionally, not every school has a class set of iPads for all of the children to use. The ideas I am going to share today not only puts the music as the main focus of the activity, but it can be accomplished as a whole group or in learning centers once the students are familiar with the program.

What you need:

– laptops or computers

– a listening example of you choice

In the past I have had my students write a list of adjectives on a piece of paper to describe the music they are hearing. This time I shook things up by adding the laptops and a website called Tagxedo. Just like Woddle, Tagxedo allows you to create a word cloud with words of your choice. Inputting the words is fairly straight forward and the program allows you to choose the color scheme and shape of your cloud.

In my classroom, I used this activity to introduce the students to one of the songs they will be performing in the Spring Concert. Once they all had a laptop (we have a cart, but this can easily be done in a computer lab) I played a recording of Bashana Haba’ah.

As the students listened to the choir singing, they typed a list of words that described the music.  I encouraged them to use appropriate music vocabulary (ie. Tempo names, dynamic markings, instrument names, etc.) I asked the students to come up with as many words as they could think of. I have to admit, their lists were far longer when using Tagxedo than when we have done this on paper. They love to fill their word clouds with as many words as possible!

Once they had created their list of words I gave the students a few minutes to choose a shape for their word clouds and a color scheme.  I told them that the shape should reflect the music in some way. Full disclosure, I did not tell the students anything about the song beforehand, not even the fact that it would be part of our concert repertoire. As the song is in Hebrew, none of my students understood the words. Their responses were based solely on the music.  I think they turned out beautifully. The end result looks great printed out and hung on a bulletin board or posted on your classroom blog/website. The kids are itching to take theirs home!

This is a very basic listening activity. It can work with tech savvy 1st graders, yet the “big kids” love it, too.


We start with some eggs

March 26, 2013

Having just returned from the OAKE National Conference, I am filled with a renewed excitement for my craft. It is a feeling that these sort of events engender in me every time I attend. I come home energized and filled with more ideas than I could possibly put into practice before the school year ends. I run out to scour the stores for materials and feverishly work to create manipulatives, worksheets, and new curriculum.

This year, one of the things I walked away excited to try was a professional blog. I have a blog for my classroom that is targeted at my students and their parents.  I share student work, concert repertoire, and information about events happening at the school.  Instead, I wanted to try writing and sharing for my colleagues. So this is it, the start of it all.  Today, we start with eggs.

imagesIt is the end of March and despite experiencing a late season chill, Spring has actually sprung. Mother Nature is just a bit confused.  Many of us are on Spring Break celebrating Passover, while others are preparing for Easter. When you walk into the grocery store or craft store you can’t miss the display of colorful baskets, candy and eggs.  Bunnies and chicks peek out at you from shelves and bins. It is those colorful plastic eggs that have me all excited. Denise Gagne presented a workshop at the conference called “Dimestore Diva.” She was showing off all of the great manipulatives that she has discovered at her local dollar store. As one participant expressed, “Man, I want to live by her dollar store!” Puppets, glittery hearts, chopsticks, baking pan music staves…she had so many fun items with which to play.  So inspired, I set my skepticism at the local offerings aside and ventured forth to the $1 Mart.  I entered through the doors with an open mind. I immediately gravitated to the Easter aisle. I’m not sure I have ever seen such a selection of plastic eggs.  The variety of colors and sizes was impressive enough, but then you notice the less traditional eggs: soccer ball, baseball, carrots, animal print… I snatched up four dozen tradition eggs and two dozen of the carrot shaped eggs.  The carrot eggs I need to mull over. I have an idea, but it needs a bit more time to devel

What to do with four dozen traditional Easter eggs?  I have two ideas for you today.

Idea #1: Rhythm Egg Hunt

This can be done with any grade level that you feel will still enjoy the hunt.  Instead of filling the eggs with candy or pennies, write a four beat rhythm pattern on a slip of paper.  You can either fold or roll the paper and stuff one into each egg. All of the slips can be different or you can have two of each pattern.  Hide the eggs around your room. When the students arrive for class greet them at the door.  Explain that you are having an egg hunt. You can play music while they hunt.  You can either tell the students to continue to hunt until the music ends or to sit at the ________ (rug, chairs, desks, etc.) after they have found a set number of eggs. That number would depend on how many eggs you made. You want to make sure every student get to find an egg.

From there the possibilities are many. You can have each student read their patterns aloud.  You could have all students with the same color egg work together to arrange their rhythm patterns into a song. Perhaps all of the patterns combine to create a known song.  Maybe they are random patterns with which the groups can create an original rhythm composition.  If you have a small class and a ton of eggs, you can have the students collect two to four eggs and arrange their own slips into a song.  If you made two copies of each pattern so that two eggs have the same rhythm, have the students find their “rhythm twin” who will then be their partner for the next activity.

Idea #2: Passing Game


Each egg has two halves, top and bottom. Using a permanent marker, write a four beat pattern on each half of the egg.  Since my 4th and 5th graders are practicing syncopation right now I made sure to include it on my eggs.  Take the eggs apart and put all of the tops in one bag and all of the bottoms in another bag.  When the students enter the class or you are ready to start this activity, allow them to reach in an randomly choose one half from each bag. It does not matter if their halves are the same color. Seated in a circle, sing the song “Epo E Tai Tai E.”

For the passing game, the students hold the bottom half of the egg in their left hand.  They will pass the top half of the egg with their right hand.  The passing pattern I use is a four beat pattern that goes, “pick up, tap, tap, put down.” All of the top halves should be placed on the floor in front the students. On beat one they pick of the top half with their right hand. Beat two: tap the egg on their left knee. Beat three: tap the egg on their right knee.  Beat four: put down the egg half on the floor in front of the person to their right, usually in front of their knee. To start the pattern over, the student will reach across their body and pick up the egg their neighbor placed in front of them. Ultimately, the pattern travels across the body from left to right. For the “Epo E Tai Tai E” the passing pattern will be repeated eight times.  On the last pattern at the end of the song, beat four is changed. Instead of placing the top half on the floor, they will snap the top half onto the bottom half they have been holding in their left hand. Any student whose top and bottom match colors gets to read their pattern out loud. This is a fun activity to do when you need to assess rhythm reading. It keeps the students engaged and gives you a chance to hear the students read an eight beat rhythm pattern.

If you are not familiar with the song you can hear it and see the music on the staff in this video. It indicates that the song if from Hawaii (which is what I had learned) but I am seeing many posts listing it as a song from the Maori peoples of New Zealand.

This activity could be done with any song and any set of known rhythms. In fact, I will likely be heading back to the $1 Mart to buy up a few dozen more eggs. I don’t want the 2nd and 3rd grade classes to feel left out!

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