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Monday, February 10, 2020

Nailed It! for ORCHESTRA



Have you ever seen the show 'Nailed It' on Netflix?  It's a show were non-professional bakers try to bake and decorate some pretty intricate cake designs.  The end result is often less than spectacular. 

I thought it would be fun to bring awareness to our progress in class by playing a similar game in orchestra.  Are students able to 'Nail it?' 

Here's how I did this in class today:

1.  To introduce the game, I showed SHORT clips from this video.  DISCLAIMER...this video has some language.  I was very careful about which clips I showed to my class.




2.  I told my class I would be checking them throughout the class period to determine if they could 'nail it' while playing their music.

3.  For beginners, I had to show their bow holds to their stand partners and let stand partners determine if they had 'nailed it.'

4.  Play D scale with the focus being - is the bow traveling in a straight line between the fingerboard and bride?  If they 'nailed it' - they tell me by showing me their bow holds.  You could have them just shout out 'nailed it' at the end of each exercise, but it was quieter and more controlled to have them 'tell' me by holding their bows above their heads.

5.  Play D scale while focusing on intonation.   Could they plan in tune which correct finger placement the whole time?

You get the idea.  We did variations with bowings, fingerpatterns, method book exercises, and excerpts from our concert music.  Students focused really well and were putting extra thought in their playing because they were really trying to complete each skill carefully.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Work on position and release of tension in string playing


Sometimes you need an activity outside of the norm.  Something students won't expect...something that maintains interest and intrigue.  I saw this game called Goat Yoga and thought it would be fun to incorporate the idea into my classroom. 

https://www.amazon.com/Kikkerland-Goat-Yoga-Party-Game/dp/B07X3XMLSR/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=goat+yoga&qid=1580778791&sr=8-1



I had been wanted to revisit correct position to help students fix minor issues and help them learn to play without squeezing their thumbs.  I did this little 'Instrument Yoga' activity with all grades I teach (7-12) and they all LOVED it.  It was a great way to mix up the regular routine and review position without it seeming too basic.



For the mini-lesson on position review and release of tension, I showed a minute of so of this video:


I pointed out to students that the people doing yoga had to maintain position and balance even when baby goats where jumping all over them.

I then turned out this video for some background yoga music and told students we were going to do some instrument yoga:


Next I used my more soothing, velvety voice to instruct students through the following routine:

  1. Place bows on your music stands.
  2. Go to rest position.  Curl your back forward like you're rolling into a ball.
  3. Plant your feet.  Grow your body upwards like a tree.  Your feet are the roots.  Sit tall on the edge of your seat with your back straight.
  4. Go to play position.  Violin/viola - place the instrument on your shoulder.  Place your left hand on your right shoulder and maintain that position while keeping instrument still.  Cello/Bass - bring your instrument to your body while maintaining your position with back straight, feet planted.  Hug your instrument.
  5. Violin/Viola, place left hand on fingerboard.  Become aware of your thumb and check thumb placement.  Feel your thumb completely relax.
  6. Cello/Bass, place left hand on fingerboard.  Place fingers in the grooves between the middle 2 strings.  Slide your forward and fingers up and down the fingerboard with a relaxed smooth motion.
  7. Violin/Viola, tap your fingers one at a time on the tapes.  Watch for the placement of the fingers. Aim for the thumb-side corner of each finger.  Check to make sure fingers hover directly above each tape.
  8. Cello/Bass, place left hand in 1st position and tap each finger on the tapes.  Watch to be sure fingers hover above tapes.  Be aware of the thumb to keep it relaxed and soft.


Also students could do bow exercises with the yoga music to work on release bow hand tension.

As I went through this exercise with students with the peaceful yoga music, I was able to walk around the classroom and make minor adjustments or help students when needed.  Super easy!

For a fun friday activity, I let my students pose and play the game I bought on Amazon - Goat Yoga.  We talked about how it's important to be able to hold and maintain posture when playing an instrument.  It's a crazy game, but my students liked it.  I had to work with my 2nds and violas for 10 mins at the high school and I let the other sections play that game while I drilled the music with the students who needed it. 

I'd like to have students create their own poses and draw them on a paper to create our own version of the game.  I have a styrofoam violin and it would be fun to use that as the object students have to balance.

Monday, January 20, 2020

I know you're desperately looking for sub plan for your string orchestra classroom. Here you go. You're welcome.




Are you desperately searching for an easy sub plan for your string orchestra classroom?  Here you go.  It's free.  It's editable.  It's easy.  You're welcome.  Now enjoy your day off!

DOWNLOAD FREE HERE!







Friday, December 27, 2019

6 TOP TIPS for ORCHESTRA MUSIC TEACHER CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT


A few days ago a received a letter from a reader:

I teach 4th and 5th grade beginning strings and orchestra. I absolutely love your website and use many of your ideas and tips! I am wondering if you have any advice on classroom management within orchestra rehearsals.

 I have 60 fifth graders who have been playing their instrument for about a year and a half. I am mainly having trouble at the beginning of class. Oftentimes there are about 15 kids lined up for me to tune their instruments, kids asking me a million questions about going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water, calling their mom before the end of the day, etc. At my school, the kids have orchestra every other day for 40 minutes during the last period of the day. After I've gotten around to tuning many out of tune instruments and tending to my needy students, 10 minutes have passed before we begin warming up. My orchestra teaching colleague has suggested having the kids immediately find their seats and not ask any questions, not ask to be tuned and never use the bathroom during orchestra (unless it's an extreme emergency). I followed her advice recently and it seems to have gotten a bit better but there are so many instruments horribly out of tune during rehearsal and kids who still call out to me with all of their needs and it's a bit overwhelming. I am still very young and soft spoken and have a difficult time putting my foot down so that may be the main issue. 

If you have any insight on how to address needy 5th graders at the beginning of orchestra and would be willing to share, I would greatly appreciate your help. 



Here are my TOP 6 tips for classroom management:

TIP 1:  Find a management plan that fits with your personality.


Classroom management is a big topic.  There are so many ideas and methods for classroom management, but I believe to be successful in this area you must stay true to your own personality and style.  Several years ago I went to a great conference session about establishing ‘pin-drop quiet’ rehearsals.  There was some useful information and I thought I’d give it a try.  I experimented with the procedures as taught in the session, but quickly discovered that those procedures were not true to my personality.  I didn’t have fun while doing it and my class felt different.  The tone wasn’t what I wanted for my class.  That method might work for some, but it just wasn’t right for my own personality.  We all tolerate various levels of ‘noise’ or chaos.  I happen to be able to tolerate a high level of chaos, but only when I have complete control.  Sometimes a room of 50-60 beginners can get loud.  That’s not abnormal.  I don’t expect pin-drop quiet all the time.  But I do expect students to follow directions, be quiet as required, and work hard.  My personality is not that of a stern disciplinarian.  I don’t mind having some laughter and fun – and of course focusing and getting to work.  My classroom management suggestions come from that frame of mind and I hope some will find it helpful.  I recommend teachers try lots of different ideas until they find one that fits with their own style and vision.  I enjoyed reading some books about Whole Brain Teaching (WBT) in regards to classroom management.  You don't have to be mean, but you do have to be in charge.  You're the boss.  Expect students to do what you say and follow procedures. 

TIP 2:  Keep them busy




I believe most classroom management issues occur when students are bored.  They get bored when they are waiting, they get bored when they are lost,  and they get bored when they are not sure what they are supposed to be doing.  To ease the burdensome feeling of being bored, they creatively find things to do.  It’s not hard to find things to do while holding loud instruments and sticks.  The first step to great classroom management is well-planned, fast-paced rehearsal with highly efficient use of time.  I try to keep my students so busy they don’t have time to act up.  While creating lesson plans, think about what students can be doing during ‘down’ times, like tuning.  Or when you’re working with another section.  I keep students busy during tuning with bell-work activities.  Sometimes these are just rhythm or note-reading worksheets.  Bell-work can also be little practice exercises – like running through finger strengthening drills, bow games, or plucking a certain passage of music 10x perfectly.  When students are waiting for me to finish tuning, they know to finish bell-work and it put all of their music in order as listed on the board.  Sometimes I check and give points for following this procedure.  Once my rehearsal begins, there is no time for students to act up because my pacing is very fast.  While students are playing, my brain is constantly assessing and determining what I’m going to do next.

TIP 3:  Don’t be afraid to adjust and change.




This year I started some very large classes of beginners – 55-60 in each class.  One day I had some bellwork for students to pick up as they entered the classroom and it was taking forever for students just to get through the door.  I had inadvertently created a traffic jam.  Students couldn’t pick up papers fast enough so there was a huge line of students trying to get in the room – then trying to get in line to be tuned.  It all look way longer than I wanted and I realized there was too much chaos for my classroom.  It was chaotic because entering, picking up work, getting tuned…it all took too much time and students were left WAITING….which is a classroom management no-no.  I talked to my class about it and said, ‘It seems like the start of class was really chaotic today.’  I saw students nod their heads -they wanted a smoother start and so did I.  We spent a couple minutes talking about how we can set up faster and how we could distribute necessary bellwork more effectively.  (I now ask students who come to class early to pass out bell-work.)  Students appreciated having their voices heard, and the next day we started some new procedures that were a better fit for such a large class.

Classroom management is moldable and changeable.  If something doesn’t work, you can change it right then.  You can establish new procedures, revise old procedures…you are the master.  Students like routine, but they can also learn and adapt to new routines. 

TIP 4:  Establish procedures.


Procedures are the heart of classroom management.  Students should always know what to do and how to do it.  What do you want students to do when they enter?  How should they act when they enter?  What is your tuning procedure?  How should students act during rehearsals?  What should they do if they have a question?  You and your students should be able to answer all of these questions.   One of my favorite ‘rules’ for my class (after tuning) is - NO ONE GETS UP.  I don’t want students out of their seats, ever.  My classroom is so packed it is very unsafe students to try to move through the group.  Since I don’t allow students to get up, there has to be a procedure for them to get papers they need, get tuned, etc.  It cuts down on chaos when students stay put. 

Here’s a list of basic procedures I use in my classroom:


TIP 5: Tuning in 5 minutes or less.




It can be daunting to tune a huge class of beginners, but I believe it can be done quickly.  I give myself 4-5 minutes total for tuning all 55-60 students.  I have students line up as they enter the classroom and get out instruments– violins on my left, viola/cello on my right.  I can fly through the whole class in record time.  For me, that is fast and easy.  But everyone is different.  If you don’t want students to line up, you can to go to them.  I’ve done this too, but I think it takes just a little longer.  Some days I like to go to them because then students can pluck the strings while I make the adjustments.  Then students are involved in the tuning.  Just before Christmas I spent a week and taught my beginners how to tune themselves and established a new tuning procedure where they tune themselves.  It’s pretty great!  Read more here: 



TIP 6:  Establish student-led procedures for the start of class.




Teaching orchestra is high energy, busy, and tiring.  Last year I was feeling exhausted after teaching a full day of 400+ students.  I didn’t like the feeling of starting each class as an exhausted, tired teacher.  I decided I needed to give my students more responsibility so I didn’t have to feel so drained.  I’ve been experimenting with having students start class and lead the group though tuning/warm-ups and it has been AWESOME!  It frees me to help students, watch how students are playing/focusing, and gives me a moment to think.  Here’s how it works:


I allow a student to be a ‘leader.’  As soon as the bell rings, the leader stomps loudly on the podium – a signal to the class to go to rest position and listen.  The leader plays 4 long open A’s and the class echos the open A’s while tuning.  The leader then repeats the 4 A’s, and the class echos/tunes.  I’m free to move through and help students if needed.  Once a student is in tune with that string, they go to rest position.  When most of the class is in rest position, the leader goes to the next string…etc.   This tuning procedures only takes 2 minutes.  Next, the leader goes through the warm-ups I outline on the board.  I get to watch and observe my students and assess their progress.  I take over after that – mentally ready to do my best and reach my students. 


I hope this is helpful!  I’m passionate about teaching and maintaining a well-run orchestra classroom.  I’m not perfect and I make mistakes, but I enjoy the problem-solving process and love the thrill of helping a group of students to discover new abilities and talents.  I believe in my students.  They want to do well, they want to sound good, they want to be their best selves.  I am just one of their life-guides to help them discover the power in themselves for goodness.  Your class will rise to your leadership. 

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Focus during rehearsals




Rehearsals are hard work.  At least they should be!  I think students sometimes get too comfortable with the predictable routine of rehearing and may start to become distracted and work less effectively.  In rehearsal we have to repeat and drill music daily to reinforce skills.  It can be difficult to get students to maintain their highest levels of focus and skill building.  Minds are prone to wander. 

I decided to make a self-assessment regarding levels of focus to hang in my classroom.  I explained the levels of focus to my students and they used the posters to evaluate their productivity in class.  Students easily understood that a 'Level 4' focus would be best for individuals and would most benefit the entire class.  All students want to do well...and developing a habit of focused rehearsal skills is an important part of progressing.






Over the last couple weeks I've referred to my posters when I need more focused effort in my rehearsals.  It's helped snap our work back into place.  It's also a great tool to direct individual students to step it up!  Sometimes I just say a student's name and point to a poster and they get the hint.  :)

Download free at my TPT store!

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Note Reading Secrets - make note reading stick



I'm passionate about teaching my students to read notes because I want them to love learning an instrument and play in orchestra.  How can it be fun to play an instrument and perform in a group when you're always lost because of note reading struggles? 

I begin by teaching students to read open strings and we memorize those notes first.  I explain to students that they must remember where those notes are 'parked' on the staff. (I tell a story about forgetting where I parked at a parking lot and how I was wandering around forever to find it.).  Students practice drawing open strings on my staff packets - a dry erase packet with a staff and expo marker.  Within minutes, students are able remember those few notes, draw them, and play them.


Next students work on my ROTE to NOTE packet.  This resource is awesome because the 'rote' portion is notated like notes on the staff.  Without even realizing it, students are 'reading' note names on the staff.  This helps them transition to actual note reading.  I've been using this book for the last few years and have it's been my little secret.  Now it's available on my TPT store!





Rote to Note has been great for my students!  On the note reading pages - I make sure students practice each exercise 10 times to GO PRO.  Note reading takes a great deal of repetition and I like how each note reading line has the 'go pro' tracker to help students remember to repeat each line as they practice.



These tips help my students when it's time to read music from a page:

1.  Always keep perfect play position and hover left hand fingers OVER the tapes.

2.  Focus on the notes and don't look back and forth between the notes and your fingers.  Check hand position before you start to make sure everything is lined up, then trust your brain to get the fingers to land in the right place. 

3.  While reading notes, always look ahead to the next note while playing. This helps you read notes faster.

4.  When practicing at home, only move the bow AFTER the left hand is set on the tape.  That little bit of space between the notes helps develop accuracy.




Last week I had students play this game and it help them so much with developing note reading skills!  After completing the activity I asked students to raise their hands if the game helped them get better at note reading and almost the entire class shot up their hands.  It's so easy and simple, but so effective.  HIGHLY recommend this for beginners - and for days when you need a sub plan.




Saturday, September 7, 2019

Looking for an AMAZING deal?


Looking for an AMAZING deal on a brand new violin, viola, or cello?



We’ve all been taught to shop around and be smart with our money.  Especially with larger purchases.  It makes sense to look for the best deal.  I do the same thing.  But sometimes, despite my best intentions and thorough research, I’ve ended up with a product that ended up being more junk than deal.  Once I bought my son a couple of huge brick building sets that looked a lot like Legos, but were a different brand.  They were WAY cheaper than Legos and I was feeling pretty proud of myself for saving money.  On Christmas morning we began to build and soon discovered the pieces would not align properly, no matter how hard we tried.  Our structure would not stay together and there was a lot of frustration and tears.  We were following the directions.  We were qualified builders.  But the set did not allow us to get a successful result.  The discount building sets were in the garbage before lunch time.

My children learned a similar lesson from buying toys at a local dollar store.  One of my kids wanted a Barbie and was excited to find something that looked like a Barbie for only a dollar!  Once home it was easy to tell that a dollar doll and a Barbie doll are not really the same at all.  A dollar doll has a huge ugly bald spot on the back of her head and her hair falls out way too easily.  Her arms and legs won’t bend, and worst of all, her head pops right off!  My children finally learned it is better to save a little more money and buy something quality made that will last longer.

I recently saw a post on facebook that broke my heart a little.  A mom had posted a question on facebook about where she could find a cello.  People responded with some worthwhile suggestions and good information.  After all of that, the mom said, “Thanks for your help, but I found one on ebay with everything I need for only $145.   It will save a lot of money!”  This well-intentioned mom doesn’t know that the instrument coming in the mail is about to cause some grief and the student using it will struggle. 

Parents don’t always realize that when looking for instruments, there are drastic differences between the ‘lowest best deal online’ and an actual playable instrument.  They can look so similar. It is very deceiving. 

Why do these inexpensive ebay/amazon/online instruments cause grief?  Let me explain. 

Grief #1

The instrument will look like a string instrument, but the pieces won’t be fitted together correctly.   It’s like buying a puzzle that hasn’t been cut right so the pieces don’t quite fit.  Because of this, the instrument will be almost impossible to tune.   A patient teacher can get it pretty close, but it will never maintain a correct pitch for long.  Strings will constantly be stretching, pegs will constantly be slipping, and the instrument will not sound right.  

Result:  Everything that is played on the instrument (even when it is played correctly) will sound off and out of tune.  The student will think he/she is not as good as the others because the sound from their own instrument doesn’t match the group.  Often the student will begin to doubt their own musical ability and question their choice to learn an instrument.    The student might feel others in the class are more talented, when really the difference was only the quality of the instrument.



Grief #2

The instrument can only deliver a small, thin, sound.
Quality instruments are made from only specific kinds of wood which are carved in certain ways to create the best possible, resonant sound.  Discount instruments are made from inferior materials.  The wood and strings on a discount violin can not produce the same full, ringing sound as quality instruments.

Result:  The student can not hear him/herself while playing in a group.  When a student can’t hear the tone from their own instrument, it is very difficult to make small adjustments necessary to improve and fix intonation.  The student will learn to play out of tune.  The student will then believe he/she has little talent and may become frustrated. 




Grief #3

The instrument comes with many parts that will immediately need to be replaced.
The pegs in a ‘discount’ instrument are not fitted correctly, the bridge has not been shaped correctly (making it harder to play on one string at a time), the strings are too thin (making the sound too soft), and the fine tuners won’t work. 

Result:  To make the instrument playable, it will need new pegs, new bridge, new strings, and new tailpiece.  The discount instrument now requires an additional $200+.  Money that could have been used to purchase a quality instrument.


It’s wise to do research and to find good deals.  When it comes to instruments, please don’t be deceived by what we call VSO’s (violin-shaped-objects).  They look like the real thing, but are actually impostors.  These inferior ‘instruments’ won’t help students progress and learn and they make learning harder.  For a student to succeed, they must be given quality materials.  A quality instrument sets students up for success.  Some parents may be worried about investing money into an instrument when they are unsure if their child will like it or not.  Don't fear.  A child who has an instrument that works correctly and sounds good will LOVE it!  

 Please seek advise from your teacher when looking for an acceptable instrument.  Visit your local music stores and have them tune and play their instruments for you.  A student’s success in music depends on this most important step – finding a quality instrument that fits together properly with working pieces, stays in tune, and offers a full resonant sound.


Monday, September 2, 2019

SEATING CHART SHORT-CUT



Over the years I've spent tons of time making seating charts.  I believing in changing seats very frequently and rotating students around the section so no one is ever always in the back.  Every 2 weeks I make brand new charts for each of my classes.  As my program has grown, making new charts is taking more and more time.  I still want to frequently change seating, but I need it to be easier and faster.

So.......

I just created a color coded seating chart for each class.  I colored seats in each section a different color, then numbered the seats.




To easily change the seating, I created an Excel spreadsheet with the names of the students in each section.




I then created a formula to randomly assign a number to each student.  =RAND()



I then sort the sheet by columns - and instantly have a randomized seating.  Students just have to look at the chart and sit in the seat that corresponds to their number.



It's super fast and easy to create a new order...just drag the formula column downwards and it will replace all the numbers.  Instead of re-writing seating charts, I can use excel to get a new order instantly.  I project the list on my screen and students quickly find their new seats.  I might just change seating more often!


Saturday, August 31, 2019

New discoveries - How to prep for multiple levels

I survived the first 2 weeks of school and it wasn't easy juggling all the prep work for each class.  My schedule this year is packed full and I feel like I'm constantly running.  After my last class I check my Apple Watch and it always says I have 10,000 steps.  That's a big change after a summer of barely breaking 4,000/day.  It's an adjustment for sure.  :)

I've crammed my classes extra full (50-75 in each) so I can continue to teach at 2 schools - junior high and high school.  That means I have 5 different levels to prepare for each day.  It's hard to find that time to do everything I want to do...so I've found ways to save myself a little time by unifying and aligning my curriculum across all levels.  For example, my beginners have been learning bow holds.  To keep my mind sane, I'm also focusing on bow holds in ALL of my other classes.  I adjust the curriculum for each level, but it saves me time in preparing for my classes because each class has a similar focus/objective.   Teaching my beginners bow holds helped me with ideas and strategies to build better bow hold dexterity with my older students.

Here's an outline of what I did with bow holds at each level:

BEGINNERS

  • Straw bow holds
  • Basic bow exercises
  • Balancing games - balancing fun little bunnies on our bent thumbs
  • Bow hold pass-offs

When I was fixing bow holds in my beginner class I found many students were squeezing way too much.  To help students form a better bow hold, I had them flop their hands until they were relaxed and then lets their hands and fingers drop.  I added the bow behind their fingers and let the stick lift their fingers up so that the fingers were curved over the top of the stick.  This helped students relax their knuckles and stay flexible.



It was simple to then just place the pinky and thumb.  



Students were way more comfortable after having their bows placed with their hands in such a relaxed position.  This technique helped me teach my intermediate/advanced students how to hang fingers over the stick in such a way to use arm weight to create tone (instead of squeezing).  It was also a great bow hold review for intermediate/advanced students.

INTERMEDIATE/ADVANCED

  • Learn roles of each finger in bow hold:  hold bow with only middle finger and thumb and play a scale.  Ask class that the role is of thumb and middle finger.  Add 3rd and 4th finger - discuss that is gained when adding those fingers (more control).  Add index finger - discuss the role of the index finger.  I called it the 'power' finger.  We don't press, but it helps deliver arm weight to the bow.
  • Exercises to prevent squeezing - loosening the bow hold.
  • Dropping shoulder - adding arm weight


HIGH SCHOOL LEVELS 1 and 2

  • Building bow flexibility - play scales while moving thumb to prevent squeezing.
  • Practice right hand finger flexibility
  • String crossings using fingers
  • Bow changes using fingers
  • 16th note passages with relaxed hand and fingers


I've been using my new book - '18 Etudes for Advanced Orchestra Warm-ups' with my High School orchestras and it has been working perfectly!  So far I love using it.  The first pages contain advanced bow exercises to build dexterity - which works perfectly for my aligned curriculum.  The first etude is all about 16th notes and string crossings - so students have a way to practice maintaining flexible bow holds.  I'm so impressed at how well students are developing that skill - we sound like a more advanced group already!

TPT STORE








Saturday, August 24, 2019

Alternate Rhythm Notation Exercise



I recently posted about a worksheet I created using alternate rhythmic notation to help students learn to follow and keep track of beats.  https://orchestrateacher.blogspot.com/2019/08/pre-note-reading-activity.html

This activity worked so well in my classroom.  I did this with my 2nd year players on their first day of playing and it was a perfect way to help them focus and remember how to subdivide.  We tried to clap 'line A' without a metronome and quickly realized we were rushing like crazy, so I started a metronome and we practiced staying together as a class.  After practicing to maintain a steady beat and follow the code on the worksheet, we took it one step further and assigned each section a different line on the page.  The class had to keep their own part together while hearing other parts going at the same time.  (How many times do students get lost because they're listening to rhythms in other sections?)

After this activity, students sight-read some of their new music.  I couldn't believe how much better they were at sight-reading after practicing rhythm beforehand.  I wanted MORE rhythm code activities!

Here's why I think rhythm code helps students:

  • Rhythm code - or alternative notation - simplifies rhythm and uses few symbols.  Students have less to keep track of at once.
  • Rhythm code helps students maintain a sub-divided beat because each sub-division is visually notated.  This helps students maintain a steady beat.
  • Rhythm code make it easy to track/play 'off-beats.'
  • Rhythm code helps students who are struggling with rhythm
  • Rhythm code helps an ensemble count and stay together.
  • Rhythm code is helps students follow a line of 'code' in preparation for following a line of music (which is a kind of code).  
And just for you (and me)...my next rhythm code/alternate notation activity...
Download free at my TPT store: ORCHESTRA CLASSROOM!



Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Another game to spice up your rehearsal



Games are serious.  A seemingly simple game can tell you a lot:  whether or not students are learning, which students need help, which students are leaders, which students need friends.  I saw the 'Random Instrument' game on Jimmy Fallon and thought it would be perfect for a fun orchestra class activity.  This game helps identify specific musical skills in a fun way.

Can students figure out basic instruments?
Can students use their ears to figure out a basic tune?
Do students understand pitch?
Do students understand how to adjust pitch?
Can students recognize in tune/out of tune notes?
Can students hear and recognize simple tunes?

Here's a few clips from Jimmy Fallon's show so you can see how the game works:









The plan for class:  divide the class into teams.  Collect a variety of instruments.  Have teams take turns sending someone up to choose a tune and an instrument.  That person tries to perform the tune while their team guesses.  Teams get points for calling out the collect tune.

Instruments I've collected for the game:
Toy accordian
Mini-violin
Otamotone
Xylophone
Boomwhackers
String Bass
Ukulele

Tunes everyone should know:
Twinkle
Mary Had a Little Lamb
Row Row Row your Boat
Itsy Bitsy Spider
Are you Sleeping
Star Wars
Happy Birthday
Wild - any tune
Bingo
Yankie Doodle
Head Shoulders


One fun way to do this is to use www.WheelDecide.com to create spinners.  I made one wheel for my instruments and one for the tunes.  Students get to 'spin' the wheel to determine their fate.




https://wheeldecide.com/index.php?c1=Accordian&c2=Mini-violin&c3=Guitar&c4=Otamotone&c5=Xylophone&c6=Boomwhackers&c7=String+Bass&c8=Ukulele&t=INSTRUMENTS&time=5

https://wheeldecide.com/index.php?c1=Twinkle+Twinkle&c2=Mary+Had+a+Little+Lamb&c3=Row+Row+Row+Your+Boat&c4=Itsy+Bitsy+Spider&c5=Are+You+Sleeping%3F&c6=Star+Wars&c7=Happy+Birthday&c8=You+decide+-+name+that+tune&c9=BINGO&c10=Yankie+Doodle&c11=Head%2C+shoulders%2C+knees+and+toes&t=TUNES&time=5

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Pre-note-reading activity



I grew up in Michigan where there was a solid elementary music program in place.  I had a great music teacher who taught me how to read notes and basic rhythms.  This helped me a lot when I began studying the violin and it helped me teach myself how to play the piano.  I wish every elementary school was able to help children with develop skills in music fundamentals.  

My beginners come to me with many different backgrounds.  Some have had years of piano training, while others have hardly seen what a quarter note looks like.  Rhythm is something that came so naturally to me...I sometimes forget that some students find it very difficult to measure time.  These pre-rhythm-reading/rhythm code worksheets are great for introducing students to the world of rhythm and counting.  Instead of reading notes, students simply have to notice whether a box is shaded or not.  These basic rhythms can be used in a number of ways in the classroom.  Students can perform these as a group by clapping, plucking open strings, air-bowing, or bowing open strings.  I may even get out some of my unusual percussion instruments for these exercises.  A teacher should use a metronome or drum beat to help students feel a steady pulse as they perform.  The challenge is to make it through a line without messing up with the entire group staying together.  These worksheets may also be used for group or individual practice.  



So many possibilities with these pre-rhythm reading worksheets!  The class could divide into 2 teams and play 'rhythm tennis' to see who could make it through a line without messing up.  If a team performs correctly, the next rhythm is passed to the next team, and so forth (just like tennis).  Students can create their own rhythms at the bottom of the worksheet.  These creations can be used as additional material for 'rhythm tennis.'



After completing the basic rhythm reading and learning the concept of quarter notes, quarter rests, and half notes, students easily begin writing the note values.  

Download them for your beginners HERE!