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I am an elementary school music & chorus teacher living in Cambridge, MA.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Winter Concert

A little late on this post, but our winter concert was at the end of December since our original date was postponed due to snow! It was a fantastic night and I was extremely proud of both the chorus and band.

The theme was "Home for the Holidays!" We traveled to Africa, Israel, and Spain before ending with "Home."
*We began with "Funga Alafia," an African welcome song with choreography. I added in congas and claves. The chorus members loved this song, it's easy, and it's a great way to get the concert started!
*Next was "Bidi Bom" by David Eddleman, a fun Israeli piece that gets faster and faster!
*Next was a neat arrangement of Feliz Navidad, called "Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad" from Music K-8. Great 2-part song with original melody.
*We ended with "Home," recorded by Phil Phillips on American Idol. I like doing one song that students know and love. Plus, we got a high school student to play guitar! There may have been some tears!

I loved this concert theme- there are so many repertoire options and opportunities to learn about different cultures!

I also realized how easy, and important, it can be to involve older students in performances. It's a great way to connect the district, give students performance experience, and expose younger students to a musical role model. Definitely something to keep in mind!
We made the concert festive with a backdrop made by our art teacher, lights, and poinsettias! 

Miss Dye, the band teacher, and me, feeling great post-concert!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day is an important tradition at our school, and I was happy to continue our annual 3rd grade Veteran's Day concert. Last year, we performed all the songs from the 5 branches of the armed forces, which was a learning experience for me too! This year I did a different program and was really happy with the final performance.
We sang:
*Star Spangled Banner
*5o Nifty United States (Their FAVORITE)
*Music K-8 "Battle Hymn for Gettysburg" (very cool!)
*Music K-8 "Thank a Vet" (there we some tears) 
*Medley of "Grand Old Flag," "Yankee Doodle Dandy," and "America the Beautiful", with sign language and choreographed movements with mini flags (ordered from Oriental Trading)

Tips for a Veteran's Day Performance
*Talk to the classroom teachers! We made this into a cross-curricular project by having the kids do a take-home assignment. Many of them interviewed the Veterans in their lives, and I chose several to share their stories at the performance. 

*Collaborate with the art teacher! She made this amazing backdrop, and the kids decorated posters of the 50 states, learning about state birds, landmarks, flowers, and interesting facts in the process. 
*Invite local Veterans. During one point of the performance, have all Veterans stand to be recognized. 
*Teach the history and meaning of each song. We loved watching George M. Cohan sing "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and telling the story of Francis Scott Key. It made the performance so meaningful, and they will remember the songs for the rest of their lives! 
*Have the students introduce the songs, thank the audience, talk about what Veterans mean to them, and share poems and stories. I just adjusted the microphones! 
*Use student artwork to make displays in front of the stage or in the lobby. I also sent an optional slip home for parents to fill out the name of a Veteran, relationship to the student, branch of U.S. military, years of service, and any awards/honors. I then used the information to make laminated red and blue stars. Here is the one I made for my grandpa:
It was a great day, and the audience and Veterans especially truly appreciated the tribute to the United States. A Veteran's Day Concert is a great way to teach students about why they really don't have school on November 11th. Thank you to all our Veterans! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fall Songs and Activities

And I'm back! I haven't gotten the chance to put many new products on TPT with the start of the school year, but I feel back into the swing of things and have a lot of new stuff in the works!

This is a collection of my favorite fall/apple lessons. I just finished this unit with my 1st graders. They loved the interactive smart board activities, writing their own lyrics, and exploring movement with Vivaldi's "Autumn." 
I had fun making up a little song and activity to sort apples into baskets based on syllable count. Then, we transfer them to quarter/eighth notation. 

Massachusetts is so beautiful at this time of the year, and just about everyone goes apple picking. 1st graders can name a ton of different types of apples! I learned some new ones! Yum....better use this before autumn turns to winter....it's already getting chilly! 


Chorus is a voluntary activity for 4th and 5th graders at our school. We meet altogether on Wednesdays for a half hour, and I alternate grade levels on Mondays. 

The beginning of the year is always hectic with recruiting, getting settled, getting music ordered and distributed etc...which is why I think it's so important to have clear expectations for students and parents. I always have my students and their parents sign a contract before they can join chorus. 

I am a firm believer in high quality, diverse music at the elementary level. I plan my repertoire carefully to get the right amount of fun, challenging, and enriching musical experiences!
Our winter program has a "Home for the Holidays" theme. 
*"Funga Alafia" arr. Jill Galina
*"Bidi Bom"- David Eddleman
*"Merry Christmas, Feliz Navidad"- MusicK8
*"Home"- Phil Phillips 

I decided we needed a logo, so I made this one on my computer! I'm hoping to get T-shirts for my spring concert. My goals for chorus this year are to minimize talking and maximize singing, emphasize sight reading, and increase parent involvement. 

Check out my Elementary Chorus Pack on TPT with teacher's guide (including lots of warm-ups!), student contract, and concert reflections. Happy singing! 

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Sept 21st is International Day of Peace!

To celebrate, our awesome art teacher started a project called "Pinwheels for Peace" at our school. (http://www.pinwheelsforpeace.com/pinwheelsforpeace/home.html)
All 450+ students, K-5, made their own pinwheels using the website's template and wooden dowels. This Friday, the entire school will arrange their pinwheels in the shape of a giant peace sign. Our local newspaper and news channel will be there too, which the students are really excited about! Everyone is wearing blue and white in honor of world peace. 

This calls for music! I thought it would be really special to have the whole school (teachers included) sing the same song together. After some consideration about which song would be appropriate for this occasion, and appropriate for 6 grade levels, I came across "Peace Like a River" on Beth's Music Blog. Thank you, Beth! 

I learned the sign language from the links provided. The song itself is repetitive, so it's a perfect opportunity to learn sign language. 

Lesson Ideas:
*Have students follow the shape of the melody line with their hands.
*Add I-IV-V7 chords and have students raise their hands when they hear the chord change.
*Explain that this is a PENTATONIC song (how many sides does a pentagon have? how many notes does this song have?).
*Sing tonal patterns with the pentatonic scale.
*Put students in groups and give them 5 boom whackers (F, G, A, C, D) to figure out how to play the song. 
*Use as an opportunity to learn dotted rhythms.
*Show this video. Precious video & beautiful arrangement..the kids were entranced. You could also show a choral/orchestral arrangement and discuss it as a class. 

*Talk about the history of the song. Spirituals often use water as a symbol of peace (Down by the Riverside, Down to the River to Pray, Deep River...). You can connect this song to a unit on spirituals or Black History Month. 
*Discuss symbols. Since we are also getting ready for Veteran's Day we also discussed American symbols like the flag, eagle, Statue of Liberty....
*Teach other sign language signs like "hello," "goodbye," "thank you"
*Make up your own verse: I got ______________ (happiness, friendship, freedom) like a ______________ (stream, pool, lake). Have students brainstorm words for both columns. My personal favorite was probably..."I got relaxation like a swamp." HA! 

Other songs for peace:
*Dona nobis pacem (101 Rounds for Singing)
*Let there be peace on Earth and let it begin with me- I love this song, but thought it might be difficult for the little ones. 

I'm looking forward to Friday and hope to get a video! 

Do you know any other great songs about peace? 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

My Classroom: 2013-2014

The 2013-2014 school year is officially underway! We've had 3 days of school and I've seen all my kiddos. It's good to be back, but I have so much to do!

I decided to do a "sweet" themed classroom this year (I'll probably be craving ice cream all the time!) Pinterest really helped me out. Here are some pictures of my classroom:

Bulletin board and "Sweet Notes"- recorder fingering
I downloaded the bulletin board here...for free! You should check out Mrs. Kings' blog and other bulletin boards, she's awesome! Another title you can use is "Music is a Treat." All you have to add is a bowl and cherry on top!
I also purchased the recorder fingerings from TPT...saved me some time, and they're so cute!
Going a little velcro crazy..
I love my solfege chart! I use velcro so I can adjust it to fit the song we're working on.
I also purchased these dynamic posters on TPT...and also added velcro to monitor our "class dynamic." For example, I'll put it on mf when we're doing group work, and pp when we're listening. Hopefully it doesn't get to ff too often....
My word wall...I just need words!

My music rules....see my previous post for body percussion ideas.

View from the door! I love my smart board and these carpets!

The back of the classroom. All students have an assigned riser spot.

The lollipops and candies were really easy to make. All you need is colorful paper plates, cellophane, ribbons, and wooden dowels. I spent maybe $10 at Michael's and they really brighten up the room.

I also found a stuffed ice cream cone that is actually a dog toy...but it was perfect for the first day of school! To explain my bulletin board, I had them give me the "scoop" on their summers. When they had the "magic ice cream cone," they spoke into it like a microphone and shared one fun thing they did this summer. It worked perfectly, because they all had a lot to say!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Best Teaching Resources!

My classroom is fully equipped with the Silver Burdett Music books, but to be honest, I didn't use them too much this year! I found I got a lot of my ideas from blogs/TPT (see my favorites below!), my college background, my own imagination, and these amazing resources!

Chimes of Dunkirk- Perfect go-to folk dance book, with step-by-step instructions, categories, and CD!

Jump Right In!- Wonderful source for K-2 music curriculum based on Music Learning Theory- the recorder book is excellent as well.

Mallet Madness- I LOVE this book for mallets & Orff activities- great literacy connections too!

Action Songs Children Love- This whole series (movement songs, singing songs) is great for K-2!

Sound Ideas: Activities for the Percussion Circle- Excellent ideas for percussion activities that I've used in 1st grade-5th grade.

Music K-8: I think everyone knows Music K-8! Sometimes corny, but always a crowd-pleaser! I've found some fantastic performance songs in the Music K-8 magazines. Another great thing to know about is their Idea Bank on their website, where music teachers share brilliant ideas! I also use a modified version of Recorder Karate.

And my favorite online resources:
The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra presented by Carnegie Hall- Students go on an interactive instrument safari to find all the instruments of the orchestra. I used this on my smartboard when we did our 3rd grade instrument unit- so fun!
 Classics for Kids- Excellent lesson plans and worksheets based on classic composers & pieces!
Other excellent websites include: San Francisco Symphony KidsDallas Symphony Orchestra (check out the lesson plans), and Quaver's World of Music, a fun site for kids to explore.