Thursday, February 21, 2013

Patriotic Fun

February is a great time to brush up on patriotic songs and American folksongs in the music classroom. It's also a fun chance to work on steady beat with kindergarteners. "Yankee Doodle" and "You're a Grand Old Flag" present wonderful opportunities for playing drums or rhythm sticks and marching around the room.
Today, I had two kindergarten classes in a row. The first class did an amazing job with rhythm sticks. They paid attention, worked on their steady beat, and used self-control with their instruments. They even marched around the room and played in a parade. I was so proud of them and was pleased with how well the lesson went. My next class would be a breeze!

As my next class entered the room, I noticed a boy carrying a tiny stuffed animal. Children do not typically come to class with toys, but for some reason I didn't feel the need to take it away. This was an active boy, but the animal was not causing a problem. Instead, it inspired me to try something new with the class. I know... I said the lesson had just been a success. Why would I want to change it? I think I can always improve upon a lesson. Also, variety helps ME enjoy the lesson more, which makes it more fun for the students. Therefore, I am constantly tweaking and trying new things. I also look for innovative ways to engage the children, and I believe that novelty is a great way to keep students actively involved in the learning process.

We have tons of stuffed animals in the music room. We use them for rewards quite often, and we use some of the animals, like Winnie the Pooh, with specific songs and lessons. Children LOVE the stuffed friends. Even 6th grade boys beg to hold them. So, today, after being inspired by the child with a tiny elephant, I handed each child an animal to bounce on the steady beat while we sang.
The children bounced cats, dogs, bears, and bunnies to the beat of "Yankee Doodle." They passed the animal to the next person between the verse and refrain, and then passed again at the end of the song. Smiles were everywhere, and the animals made it all the way around the circle.

As much as I enjoy using rhythm sticks with kindergarten students, I have to admit that the quiet bouncing of a stuffed animal on the steady beat was a welcome change, and the students had a blast.

We also used the animals to show the melodic direction of pitches in the song, "Mr. Lincoln." Children would lift their animal high then touch the floor on "picture", "penny", "Lincoln", and "penny" to show the do-sol interval.
Later, we will add Mr. Washington on the quarter.
If you do not know this song, here is the melody & rhythm:
     la ti do sol la sol do sol     (ti-ti; ta, ta, ta, ta; ta, to-o)
     re mi  |  fa sol mi re  |  sol     (ti-ti; ta, ta, ta, ta; to-o-o)
     la ti  |  do sol la sol  |  do sol    (ti-ti; ta, ta, ta, ta; ta, to-o)
     re  |  mi fa mi re  |  do      (ta; ta, ta, ta, ta; to-o-o)

Whether we used drums, rhythm sticks, or stuffed animals, we had a great time playing the steady beat with songs about America. Have fun as you find innovative ways to keep your lessons fresh and engaging!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Valentine's Day Songs

It's been a crazy couple of weeks! Of course, that's pretty common for music teachers. We just had our annual talent show. This year, over one hundred 5th & 6th graders were involved with 35 acts, announcing, and working stage and tech crew. Students presented three performances during the school day for the student body and parents. Although it required a lot of effort, seeing the students share their talents on the stage made it all worthwhile.

Now I'm looking forward to next week, when our first graders will travel to a local retirement home and perform on Valentine's Day. The students are very excited, and they are working hard to learn all of the songs. They even practice at home by going to our school music web page and looking at pictures of the PowerPoint slides that we use in class. Since I am a visual learner, I can relate to the way some students find it easier to learn lyrics when they can visualize how they looked in a picture. I also try to find clipart and photos to make the presentations engaging for the learners.

Here are a couple of songs that we will be performing this week. You might already use some of these for Valentine's Day activities. Feel free to copy and paste the images into your own Powerpoint presentations.

You Are My Sunshine/Valentine

Mail Myself to You (By Woody Guthrie)

I hope your Valentine's Day is filled with fun!