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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Orchestra Poster - Orchestra is HOT

This is my latest poster that I created for my class for a bulliton board and for bumper stickers that I will distribute when I go recruiting.  This will be my theme for the next school year and I will try to motivate students to 'ignite' their talent by practicing and reaching their potential.

copyright Angela Harman

An inexpensive alternative to lapboards

I was recently wishing that my students had lapboards with a staff printed on them so that I could create some quick formative assessments for my students.  If all students had a lapboard, I could easily check for understanding as I teach new notes, fingerings, scales, etc.  We have been learning the notes of the G string, and I wished I could have students draw the note really quick and show me so I could make sure they were really able to know the note names and fingerings.  I priced lapboards and found them to be quite expensive.  Then I started looking for other options and I found these:

I just got these in the mail from, and I LOVE them!  I have already placed a paper inside of each pocket with a staff.  Students can use the staff side to draw notes, key signatures, music symbols, etc, and they can use the back if we need a blank surface.  Also, I love that I can replace the paper inside to be anything I need it to be for my class...these are way more versatile than lapboards (and way cheaper).  I could place a blank fingering chart inside, or rhythm many possibilities.  Also, the expo marker can be stored inside the pocket, so it will not get lost.

We just used these in class yesterday and my students really enjoyed the activity.  I had them work in groups of two to quiz each other on the new notes we have learned and to take turned drawing them on the staff.  As I circulated around the room, I saw great things happening.  My students were on task, and they were helping each other learn the notes. 

After students worked in their groups, we played a game where I call out a note and students race to be the first person to draw the note and hold it up for me to see.  After a few rounds of this note-race, I began to say words and students had to draw the notes for the word I called out (for example:  faced, baggage, bead, dad, bag).

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Learning the G string notes: Pre-test

Just thought I would share this little pre-test I created for my students.  We just learned the notes on the G string and this will help me see who gets it and who needs more practice.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Tangled tapes - problem of the past

So, I have posted before about the car pinstripe tape that I use for fingerboard tapes.  The only problem with the pinstripe tape is that it is impossible to keep it in a nice orderly roll and my tapes end up tangled and twisted all together in what I call my 'tape basket.'  Check out what I found at the kitchen store outlet...

I love these little magnetized mini-bins that I just filled and stuck on my filing cabinet in my office!  They were only $1.50 each and they have a little hole in the lid so I can thread my tapes through the side of the lid and easily just grab what I need.  I just re-rolled up my tapes and put them in my new bins.  I also used them to store my little mini-teaching aids that I use in class for bow games and position.  It feels good to finally have my office a bit more organized.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Teaching the dotted quarter note using cookies

In years past, some of my students have struggled with counting a dotted quarter note, even though I felt I taught the concept well and we practiced the rhythm many times.  This year, I decided to try teaching the dotted quarter note differently and I feel students were able to understand how to count a note worth 1.5  beats much more easily.

I happened to have a bag of cookies on hand, so I used cookies  in my lesson, but you could use anything else to represent the beat as long as you can break it in half.

First, I drew 4 quarter notes on my white board and I selected 4 students to come up and stand under each of the notes I drew.  I gave each student 1 cookie which they were to hold out in front of them to represent 1 beat.  We counted the 4 quarter notes together as a class by saying "Yum, Yum, Yum, Yum" - (Yum = 1 beat).  Next, we counted the quarter notes by saying "1, 2, 3, 4".

Next, I added a dot to the first quarter note and told students that now, the first quarter note is called a dotted quarter note and it gets more cookie!  It gets to steal half of beat 2's cookie.  The student under beat 2 had to break their cookie in half and give it to the beat 1 student.  I then showed students how we have to change the 2nd note to an eighth note...because now that student only has 1/2 of a cookie left.

We then practiced counting the dotted rhythm...holding the dotted note through beat 2 since they had more cookie.  At the end, I let students eat the cookies.  Today, when I asked students how many beats were in a dotted quarter note, they said, "One and a half cookies!"

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sometimes, you just gotta have fun - The Orchestra Flamin Hot Cheeto Challenge

Last week I worked all of my orchestras really hard so that we could get back into shape for the new year.  Students worked on a New Year's practicing assignment, plus they had a playing test on Friday.  Normally, students do not love playing test days because they each play alone for me in front of the class and some get really nervous.  Since we had a pretty serious week, I decided to make playing test day a little crazy and fun.

We watched this video on YouTube about an orchestra that stops in the middle of a piece of music and each orchestra member eats a hot pepper.  The orchestra then continues the music and it is very entertaining to watch.  The idea is to put some passion and 'spice' into your performance:

I then pulled out a bag of Flamin Hot Cheetos and gave students the option to place one hot cheeto in their mouth before playing their playing test for me.  This was totally optional, and about half of the students in each class decided to try the 'Cheeto Challenge.'  It was hilarious to watch and students really got into it.  My students had fun, they bonded, and it was a great way to end a week of hard work.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Getting back in shape after a long break...

Tomorrow means back to school after a long Christmas break and I know that my students will be a little rusty.  I'm sure most of them didn't do much practicing over the holiday, so it's time to get them back into shape!  My video of the week tomorrow will be a funny work-out video showing animals working out.  We will focus on getting back into shape with our playing by doing bow games, careful warm-ups with quality intonation, perfect position games, and finger pattern 'reps.'  Students will also be given this assignment to work on throughout the week:

Happy practicing everyone!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Be aware of Orchestra-itis

I made up an imaginary illness that I tell my students about.  We have all seen those students in our classes who barely make a sound and play as if they fear they will be heard.  I tell students to be on the lookout for symptoms of orchestra-itis and we talk about a cure.  Orchestra-itis is a fear to be heard and an attempt to hide with symptoms being poor position, crooked bows and abnormally soft playing.  One of my students just made a website about our imaginary orchestra illness and I got quite a kick out of reading it.  Here's the link: