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Friday, June 28, 2024

Fortnite for Orchestra - A Rehearsal Game


My students LOVE it when we play rehearsal games!  It's a great way to increase student engagement and focus on specific skills.  Fortnite is huge right now and it was really fun making this Fortnite inspired game.  I hope you like it!   

I designed the game in Google Slides.   It's fully editable - so teachers can change the notes, excerpts and rhythms as needed.  I used screenshots or 'music snippets' for each of those.  Best of all....It's FREE!

CLICK HERE  to access your free download

Monday, June 24, 2024

Empowered Note Reading for String Orchestra


I'm so excited...IT'S FINALLY FINISHED!  I've been working on this project for quite awhile and I can't wait to use it with my students.  My students do a lot of bell-work activities at the beginning of class and it's been working well to use that time for students to practice writing rhythms or note names.   It's a great way to help students learn notes...BUT...students need more than worksheets.  I have noticed my students get very good at writing note names and learning notes on paper.  When it comes to actually PLAYING those notes, the skill doesn't always transfer as quickly.  Students need practice to build note reading skills and that is what this resource is all about.  It's also about students taking on ownership and accountability for their progress.  That is why there are so many embedded self-assessments, questions for reflection, and multi-level parts.  I wanted to create something that could be challenging for students who had music/piano experience and those with none.  We can't expect all students to learn at the same rate, but we can help students work and progress on their level.  Also included in this resources are short pieces that can be used in performance.

Here the info and link to TPT!  CLICK HERE

Students need to PRACTICE note reading using a step by step process. This is a packet for beginning string orchestra and includes a 45 page book for violin, viola, cello, and bass (180 pages total!) This workbook empowers and motivates students to master note reading by utilizing student choice, multi-level parts, targeted practice, creative exploration, and self-assessment. AND, all strings are included in the resource! Violin and bass students practice notes on G, D, A, E. Viola and cello students practice notes on C, G, D, A.

Wednesday, June 5, 2024

FREE Warm up challenge for beginning orchestra


Do you know what students need more of?  CHOICE!  To motivate students, they need to develop ownership of their playing and progression.  One way to intrinsically motivate students is to provide options and allow students a voice in the learning process.  I just designed this beginning orchestra warm up game called WARM UP ROULETTE!  Try it!  Let me know how it goes.  


(It's like a slide show, so viewing it works best from a computer.)

Saturday, May 25, 2024

New music for VERY beginning orchestra


One thing I always wish for at the start of each school year is more VERY EASY beginning orchestra music for our first concert.  Our first concert is always at the end of October.  By that time, students are just solidifying note reading on the D string (perhaps some A string notes as well).  They have learned the standard rep all beginners have learned...Mary Had a Little Lamb, Twinkle, etc....but those tunes are so short (thought we often do perform those at our concert...there's time for them to perform everything they have learned!)   I also want them to learn a more substantial piece for their first concert.  At that time in their development, grade 1 music is too difficult.  I need music that is quick teach and enforces skills they have learned in their first couple of months.

Here are a couple of pieces I just finished:

1. The Champion (click title to view on TPT)

This piece uses only 5 notes: D, E, F#, G, and A.  The rhythms are simple.  Learning this piece will help reinforce note reading on the D string.  Dynamics were omitted on purpose.  You can use this piece to teach dynamics!  Let students decide when they would like to play soft or loud in order to 'tell a story.'  Notes on the page are slightly enlarged to help with note reading.  Score are parts for violin, viola, cello, and bass.

Here's the audio:

2. Night Quest (click title to view on TPT)

This piece uses only 6 notes: D, E, F#, G, A, and B. It's quick for beginners to learn because of the repeating phrases between the violin/viola and cello/bass part. Students and learn similar sections in unison, then put it all together.  Score are parts for violin, viola, cello, and bass.

Here's the audio file:

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Practice Challenge using Google Forms

 I've been working on creating this practice challenge to help my students finish learning one of our concert pieces: Lion Sleeps tonight.  I occasionally do practice activities in class for 10-15 minutes of rehearsal time.  This enables me to teach students how to practice, give them time to practice, and help them see the benefits of practicing (they can immediately hear/feel a different after these guided practice sessions).  Normally I made worksheets or games for guided practice time...but I had an idea to us a google form.  Students have to look at the music and answer some questions before they practice. Students are able to track and report their accuracy on their reps and reflection on their progress.  The music is all embedded in the form.  Students have to answer questions correctly in order to move forward on the form.

Check out a sample HERE and see what you think!

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Orchestra Stars the GAME!


I've been away from my students for a few days while I attended a conference.  Since I don't really know what (or how) they've been playing while I was away, I want to do an activity to reinforce good behavior and good practice.

I just designed this game called ORCHESTRA STARS.  In this game, the 'heart' icons are lives and students lose them if they are plucking or playing out of turn. It's a fun way to reinforce proper rehearsal protocols if you have students who ever play when they are not supposed to... :) Students earn bonus points (stars) for playing with proper posture and with quality intonation. 


FREE for a limited time!  Simply use the template to fill in your own warm-ups, method book lines, or measure numbers from your concert music. Students play the assigned music for each round 3 times. They earn one star for each time they play correctly. Student with the most stars wins!  Games like this really help students stay focused during rehearsals.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

Orchestra Rehearsal the GAME activity


It's fun making interactive games using Google Slides! I just made a new one called 'Orchestra Rehearsal: The GAME.  It's designed as a retro video game because I wanted to use the idea the 'hearts' as lives in the game...just like old Super Mario and Zelda games.  Students have to beat the game by 'defeating' bad position, poor tone, and mastering tricky measures from our music.  Because this was made with google slides, it is really easy to make changes and adjust the slides to work with any music we are rehearsing.  I opted to use note names, but it would also be really easy to use the Music Snippet add-on to insert music notation.

To play the game, the teacher clicks through the slides as indicated on the screen.  The teacher judges whether the students 'lose a life' or not...and can take away lives by simply clicking on the hearts on the screen.

This is a great game to use any time...and especially Valentines because you can challenge student so not lose their hearts!

Check out a preview HERE.

Available on TPT!

Saturday, January 6, 2024

New Year Workout for Beginners


Here's the thing about going back to school after Christmas break....most of the students (and even many of the teachers) are sad to be back to school!  It's an adjustment to get back into a routine....practicing....homework....sitting through classes all day long.  

I'd like my first day back with my students to set a tone.  I want them to remember how much fun we have together, how we work hard to make progress, and how music is important in our lives.  Recently I was reading some articles about the impact of music education and I found this quote so interesting:

I feel a responsibility to do all I can to help my students thrive and succeed in music.

For my video of the week, I'll be showing parts of this video about a kid trains and pushes himself to achieve his goal to run 100 miles:

For our warm-up, I'll stick to a work-out theme to help students get back into shape for the New Year.  We will review some of the skills we were working on before break.  I want it too feel like training exercises so I'll be timing them to see if they can complete the note reading and rhythm activities quickly.   

For a limited time, you can download this activity for free!  Visit my TPT STORE for your download.

After the warm-up, we'll have fun learning/review exercises from the method book and concert music.  I'll using my new GIANT sized UNO game to keep students engaged.  The numbers on the cards determine how many reps students need to play.  I'll be carefully selecting the measures and rehearsal excerpts so students are practicing exactly what I need them to accomplish.

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

The coolest thing I've ever done at a concert


I believe concerts should be engaging, entertaining, with the highest possible caliber of playing...even for beginners.  I had my holiday concert a couple of days ago and we did one of the coolest things ever.  I needed to fill an entire concert with just my beginners because my audiences get too large to fit when I try to combine all my students into one concert.  All of their pieces were quite short, and I wanted to add some length (and some fun) to the program.

I found a play along video on YouTube for 'Let it Snow' and created very simple sheet music so my students could play along:

I used some money from my school budget to purchase mini flashlights - one for each of my students, and a whole bunch of snowflake holiday specs.  If you've never experienced Christmas lights through a pair of holiday specs, you have to check it out!  Super cool and fun. They turn every beam of light into a shape.  Because we were performing 'Let it Snow,' I chose to purchase only the snowflake shape.

To perform the piece (students memorized it), all the lights were turned off in the auditorium.  Students waved their flashlights around in the air and the audience wore their snazzy 3D holiday specs - which turned all those little flashlight beams into snowflakes.  It was SO FUN and it looked AMAZING.

Here a short video of what it looked like when the flashlights were being waved around on stage (it looks WAY cooler through the glasses)

Here's a pic taken through the glasses when I had the audience turn on their phone lights and wave them around during a different piece in the program:

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Notereading doesn't have to be boring


Note reading doesn't have to be boring.  I actually enjoy helping my students master note reading because there are so many ways to practice and improve. Students get really excited when they see how much they are learning and progressing.  Here are a few of my latest note reading creations: 

click here for: CRACK THE CODE

click here for: SPEED NOTE READING

click here for: NOTE READING CHECK IN

Monday, October 30, 2023

Halloween freebie for beginning orchestra!


 Parts for violin, viola, and cello/bass!  Happy Halloween!

Also be sure to check out my new 'Roll A Rhythm Game!' HERE!

Sunday, September 24, 2023

Favorite Review Activity for String Orchestra Classes

I like to call Friday rehearsals 'Friday Fun Day!'  I want Fridays to be a celebration of all we learned during the week, but also serve as a meaningful review and reinforcement of material.  Last week one of my students said, 'It's funny you call Fridays 'Friday fun day' because every day is fun!'  Learning an instrument is fun...that means the pressure is off!  No need to spend hours and hours planning intricate games.

I've found my favorite Friday Fun Day is a review day using Ninja Belts as my theme.  Many music teachers use karate belts as a way for students to pass off tunes and achieve a certain level of playing.  When I taught small elementary string classes, I used the belt system and tied yarn on the scrolls of instruments and all of that.  While I feel it can be a good way to motivate students to practice certain exercises, the karate belt system can be leveraged in other ways.  I use karate belts as a review tool and self-assessment tool.  I adjust and change the belts as students progress. I don't give out any physical object - no real belts.  There's nothing I have to track or pass-off.  Students help each other and work hard just to achieve 'black belt' status. 

Here's how I do it...

I begin class with a short video showing some awesome ninja skills or a clip from 'America's Ninja Warrior' showing how people train and work to pass the 'obstacles' in the course.  Then I tell them we're going to see if students can pass each 'obstacle' in our training ground.

I made slides with each skill I want students to review.  Each slide contains a belt color and we rehearse from the simplest skill to the most advanced.  We rehearse some slides as a class...and some slides students practice themselves for a minute or so (all at once). Sometimes I give students a worksheet where they can track either progress as we rehearse/review the skills on each slide.  Sometimes students assess themselves and let me know with a simple thumb scale or finger scale how they are doing.  Other times I have stand partners assess each other and provide feedback.

Students learned how to switch from pizz to arco while holding the bow.

Each violin/viola student got a straw to put in the f-holes to use as a guide to keep the bow straight. Cello/Bass students practiced bowing in paint roller tubes on their instruments. After that, we all played the open strings with straighter bows.

We played 'Pandemic' with creepy music.  All students freeze in play position, but we decide on one thing they do incorrectly. A small group of 'doctors' walk through to try to find out what ailment is happening with left hands.

Pizz up and down the strings with great left hand placement (practiced in previous belt).

I called out any note in the D scale and students had to place the correct finger and pluck 4 times.

We played the finger twisters as a class...trying not to make a mistake.

I had to skip this one because of time..but will do it next time.


Twinkle using pepperoni pizza rhythm - students are getting better and better!

I didn't give a written tracker/assessment to students this week...but here's the one I gave them last time we did a Ninja Belt review activity.

I've done this type of review twice this school year...and both time my students were engaged, focused, working HARD, and thriving.  It's easy to prep...helps rehearsals stay relevant and meaningful...and it's fun!  When students notice and understand how much they are progressing, they have fun and they are motivated to keep working.