Archive for the ‘Song’ Category

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Popcorn Song

February 1, 2014

My PreK students start school at three years old.  This year we even had a few who were not yet three. Very young! The past year and a half has been a learning adventure, to say the least. Kindergarten had been the youngest age in my previous schools.  I love it, but man, they kick my butt!

One song that was a hit from day one, was the Popcorn Song. It was so popular that the kids are still digging it a year later in Junior Kindergarten. I cannot take credit for writing this song. I found it in the goldmine that is YouTube.  Bianca Merkley is the creative genius behind it. Seriously, my kids would sing and jump around to the song all period if I let them.

To keep it from getting too boring for me (because how many times can you sing the same song before going crazy?) I have added in some popcorn related activities.

1) We created shakers they we filled with popcorn kernels. These were much fun to shake as we sang the song.

2) We read the book The Popcorn Dragon by Jane Thayer. It is a great story that teaches kids it is better to share than be selfish and boastful. Also…super cute dragon pictures!  I have a dragon puppet that I plan to use this year with the kids, as well.

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3) We have an imaginary popcorn party! I have a student with a corn allergy so actual popcorn was not a viable option. Instead, we “popped” some cotton balls on the parachute. What little kid doesn’t love the parachute??!?!

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I love when you can find a song that provides such a wonderful launching pad for extension activities and aesthetic musical experiences. When you find a song like that it is definitely worth sharing!

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From Classroom to Stage

May 3, 2013

One of the challenges in general music is how to balance curriculum with performance prep. It really boils down to philosophy, and whether you are more process or product oriented. Personally, I am all about the process. I want my students to learn and understand. I want them to create and analyze and write. If the end result is not performance worthy, I am not terribly upset so long as they can articulate what they have learned or can clearly demonstrate the newly acquired concept. Don’t get me wrong, I want them to learn to sing with a beautiful, healthy tone and to perform to the best of their ability when on stage. I am simply focused more strongly on what we learn on the road to that performance. I want to develop musically literate students. Not every activity ends in a performance opportunity.

The reality, however, is that most schools require concerts or assemblies throughout the year. Very few of us will teach students whose parents are musicians or music educators. Most of the school community will look to the performances to judge the quality of the school’s music program. So how do you strike the process/product balance and walk away feeling good about both the learning and the show?

Honestly, if I had the definitive answer I could sell my ideas and never have to work again! While I don’t have the answer, I do have a few ideas that I have implemented over the years.

1) The Informance
For those of you who have not heard of this, an Informance is a performance where the students present songs and activities from class. Individuals act as narrators and inform the audience what the song/activity is, what concepts were learned, etc. The students take on the role of teacher, helping their families to understand what it is they have learned in Music class. For example, the 4th graders were learning about Dynamics. Together we created a sequence of Dynamics to represent the life of a storm (piano…crescendo to forte…decrescendo to mezzo piano…fortissimo…etc.) We used this sequence as we performed a sound scape with non-pitched percussion. The student “teachers” explained aha Dynamics are, and defined each term (“piano means soft, or quietly.”)

I have done these in the past with great success. The students gain a sense of ownership over the learning and their performance. The parents and administrators gain a deeper understanding of just what it is we do in the classroom. It was amazing how much smoother the parent conferences were after that Informance! I barely heard anyone say, “But Bobby loves to sing at home, isn’t that what they do in your class? Sing?”

2) If an Informance isn’t the right fit for your school, what about expanding selections from your classroom repertoire into performance pieces? For the concert I have coming up next week, I have done this with a few of my songs. The 2nd and 3rd grade students are singing a Folk Medley comprised of three do pentatonic folk songs that we have been working on in class: Rocky Mountain, Great Big House In New Orleans, and Dinah. We used the songs to learn “re” and sixteenth notes. The 3rd graders are finishing up an arranging project that focuses on form and instrumentation. I developed a form for the piece that includes unison and partner song singing, and added a body percussion pattern to ground the piece. The kids love it and it looks rather impressive. The best part? I didn’t have to teach them another new song that would be too difficult to incorporate into the curricular learning.

Another way I have expanded on known repertoire is by writing and adding new material to an old favorite. The Kindergarten and 1st grade students have been singing “Rain Rain Go Away.” Using the folk song as a refrain, I wrote two verses and a bridge to extend the rain theme. The kids love that they already knew part of the song and now feel quite grown up that they can sing such a long song.

 

Here is the recording I made of the song for my students so that they could practice at home. They think it is so cool that they can sing with Ms. Mueller at home!

 

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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

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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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