Thursday, March 7, 2013


Last week, I shared a Step/Skip game which reinforces upward/downward steps and skips on the staff. In third grade this week, we transferred the game to individual white boards. These boards allowed me to check each student's progress while the entire class worked. I wanted to make sure they were able to place notes on the appropriate lines and spaces and move them the correct direction and distance.

Rather than draw from two stacks of cards as we did in the game last week, I decided to look for an app to do the job of telling the students where to place their next note. I found a free app, Make Dice Lite, which allows you to customize your own dice. It added a cool factor to the game that the children really enjoyed. I simply placed my phone under the document camera and rolled the dice to see where the next note needed to be placed. If you have an iPad that you can connect to your projector, that would be ideal. I was excited to find this app, because its possibilities are endless!
The students began by drawing a whole note on line 3. I thought it would be more fun to practice drawing steps and skips if the students had a finish line as a goal. Therefore, I told them I wanted to know when they reached the top line or the bottom line. I spontaneously told them to call out "Bingo!" when they landed on line 5, and "Bongo!" for line 1. Since this was our first time to draw steps and leaps on the white boards, we actually checked our work as we went. Later, we may play without stopping for each note. The students will know they are on the right path if they reach Bingo, or Bongo at the appropriate time.

When the students came for their second lesson this week, they wanted to play again. They asked what the game was called, and I decided that "Bingo!/Bongo!" was its name-oh. :)

I hope these ideas spark your creativity as you plan your upcoming lessons.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Pinterest Picks

I love using Pinterest as a resource for finding new lesson ideas. So many music teachers have blogs and share their plans and materials, and Pinterest is a place to find many of these ideas in one centralized location. Click on a pin that interests you, and poof! You are taken right to a web page to explore further.

I have about 300 pins on my "Making Music" board on Pinterest. I only pin links after I click on them and make sure it is something that I would really want to refer to again and possibly use in my classroom. This past week, I utilized two lesson ideas that I found through pins on Pinterest. They were both a hit with my students, so I thought they were worth mentioning.

Fruit Loop Rhythms

Mrs. King's Music Room blog is a wonderful resource for engaging music lesson plans. I am a follower, but noticed her latest post through a pin on Pinterest before I had even seen her blog post on Fruit Loop Notation. I recently started teaching rhythmic notation to my first graders, and I immediately knew they would love this method of differentiating between one or two sounds per beat.

I enjoyed finding a cute font to create a Fruit Loop worksheet. You can download a copy below.

I used coffee filters to hold the cereal for the students. They are cheap and work perfectly! I measured out 1/4 cup for each student, which was usually just the right amount. 
As you can see, the students were engaged and enjoyed working on their rhythmic notation:
When I introduced ta's and ti's, I used 4 stools to represent 4 beats. As we spoke a phrase from a poem, the students determined if there is one or two sounds on each beat. If there was one sound, one student would sit on the stool. If there were two sounds, two students shared the stool. When two students shared, they put their arms around their partner's shoulders to visually represent the beam over eighth notes.

After we worked from text, I called students up to the stools to create different rhythmic patterns. We used words first, like "birthday" and "cake" for one or two sounds. Ex.: "Birthday, birthday, cake, cake." Then we moved to reading the pattern as "ti-ti, ti-ti, ta, ta."

I put a Fruit Loop Rhythm worksheet under the document camera, and demonstrated how to complete an example. If I didn't have the document camera, I would have put a worksheet on the floor and let everyone watch as I completed one pattern.

Since this was my students' first attempt at rhythmic dictation, I used the percussion setting on my keyboard and played two different sounds for the quarter notes and eighth notes. I typically used a higher pitched percussion sound for the eighth notes and a bass drum for the quarter notes. If students struggled, I added the words we had used (birthday & cake) or spoke the ti's and ta's. Most of the students were able to successfully notate the rhythms without the words or syllables.

The nice thing about this activity, is that I could sit at the keyboard and see how students were doing from a distance. I played the example several times. When most students appeared to be finished, I had them tap their boxes as I played it again to check their work.

We played a little game to check the students' work. Since I had numbered the beat boxes, I had used letters for each example. So I taught the students sign language for letters A-D. Then I played an example and they found it on their worksheet. They held up the letter for the pattern I played. I could assess how well they had done as they identified the examples. Of course, I had to try to trick them and repeat one before playing the last one. I got a few on that one when they immediately guessed the example I had not played yet. We had a good giggle over that. :)
The following lesson, we used bottle caps and mini craft sticks to represent notes. Although it wasn't as tasty as the Fruit Loops, the students still had fun as they practiced rhythmic dictation.
Next week, students will begin reading flashcards and playing rhythms. I will have them speak the rhythm prior to playing it. I use the phrase, "Say it, Say & Play, Play" They speak it first, then speak and play, then think the syllables while they play. We usually use the barred instruments set in pentaton for this activity, but any percussion instrument will do.

Thanks to Pinterest, I also found a game to use for reading and playing rhythms. I can't wait to try it with my students. It's a game from Amy Abbott, who has a fantastic music blog named Music a la Abbott. The game is called St. Patty's Day Poisoned Rhythm Game. Check it out!

Step/Skip Game

Last summer, I scoured Pinterest looking for ideas for music centers. I was reviewing some of my older pins and noticed one that would be perfect for my 3rd graders, since they are working on melodic notation. We have been using individual music staff white boards to notate line/space notes, scales, and solfege patterns. Some students were struggling with line and space notes, so I wanted a fun way to reinforce this concept.

When I am introducing line and space notes, I use my head and arms to demonstrate the difference. I put my hands on both sides of my head like an arrow going through my head for the line note. Then I put one arm over my head and one arm below my chin for a space note. I go back and forth and let the students call out which kind of note I am representing. I also tell the students that although we say a note is "on" the line, think of it as being stamped on, rather than sitting on the line. Some students may imagine that if a note were sitting on the line, it would actually be a space note. I find that stamping it on the line helps.

Okay, back to the game that I found! It came from Jennifer Fink at Pianimation. The games and resources that she shares are amazing. The game I used last week was Floor Staff Races. Follow the link to read about the game and scroll down the post for the link to the game cards.

Before playing the game, we practiced identifying space/line notes, steps/skips, and up/down. 

For the game, students drew skip/step cards and up/down cards and raced their toy from the ledger line to the top of the staff. I definitely recommend using more "up" cards than "down" in order to finish a game. I made two game boards and divided the classes in half to play and thought that would work well. However, that ended up being too many students per game, in my opinion. So the next time we played, I divided the class into 4 groups. Two groups played one game, while two groups played this one. We rotated halfway through class, so everyone got to play both games.

I even used this game with one of my 4th grade classes while I listened to individual students play for recorder karate belts. We took the game one more step by having the students identify the pitch name after they moved the animal. If they could not name it, they had to return to the previous position (unless they had moved downward, in which case they had to remain there).

What are you waiting for? Run over to Pinterest and plan your next lessons. If you need a starting point, you can check out my music board by clicking here.

See you on Pinterest!