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Saturday, August 15, 2020



I just realized I can't do what I normally do on the first day of school!  Ack!  I usually have students play Kahoot without devices - they answer questions by running to a corner of my classroom before the time runs out (each corner has a symbol that corresponds to each answer choice).  Students normally love that activity and it gets them all moving and bonding with each other as they find similarities. 

What to do, what to do.  No more running around the classroom.  I decided to do this activity with my 8th and 9th graders to see how well their coordination skills stayed intact over the summer.  They can all participate from their seats.  I'm going to have the class try several times per hand sequence so they can see that practice really does help them improve.  I want them to feel that the hand sequence gets easier as they increase their reps.  

There are 2 music tracks in the slides, so when the slower one starts to get easier, students can try the faster one.  Perhaps the class can do a challenge by row to see how well they can keep it together.  If some students master it before all the others, I suggest changing it up for those students......right hand only, left hand only, both hands at once, backwards, once hand forwards with one hand backwards.

*You may view and use this resource HERE.  

*If you would like a copy to edit, use THIS LINK.  

*If the audio tracks don't work for you, there is really nothing I can do.  Audio tracks don't share well on google.  You will have to find and insert your own audio.  I got mine for free from  I just clipped the music shorter to use for this exercise.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Music to get back into playing after covid


It will be great to get back to class to teach and make music with  my students.  Those first notes should be interesting...I'm guessing many of my students have not played their instruments in months.  My son who started learning bass in my class last school year was asking me how to play F# the other day.  That tells me a lot of review will be needed!

Since my district is not allowing any concerts to happen for at least 1st term, I'm going to focus on reviewing notes/rhythms, intonation, and technique.  I feel like a great way to review and keep students engaged is to use popular music they know well.  

I think I can use the tune Cheap Thrills to teach many skills.  It's not in a friendly key for beginners, so I recommend purchasing the tune in itunes, and using the app called AnyTune (I LOVE THIS APP) to change the key.  All you do is push the the 'flat' icon 2 times to bring it down 2 half steps.  You can then download the AnyTune modified version to use as a back-up track for your students.  Also in AnyTune, you can slow down the speed...making it a great practice tool.

I made this music sheet for students to learn the tune:

Here's what I'm thinking students can work on in this piece:

1.  Beginners can learn the back-up part 1 to learn how to play G on the D string and keep all fingers down...and to lift just one finger to switch notes to F#.

2.  Students can learn back-up part 2 to explore and review G string notes.

3.  More advanced students can try the melody notes - listening/matching/playing the rhythm by ear.

4.  Students can practice pieces of the melody and focus on tuning/intonation because they know what it is supposed to sound like.

5.  Tuning C naturals on the A string (using last line la la la la la la)

Cheap Thrills has been covered on YouTube by the Ember Trio.  I students students would enjoy working on the tune and watching this video:

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Listening Test for Beginning String Orchestra Students


Intonation.  The life-long pursuit.  People make jokes about how bad beginner orchestras sound.  I am a firm believer in teaching about intonation/adjusting right from the start!  Many people who come to my concerts tell me they can't believe my students are beginners. 

Sometimes students come and practice in my classroom in the mornings while I am getting ready for the day.  It's hard to listen to students practice without chiming in with 'fix that note!  higher 2! etc.'  I believe students need to be taught how to listen.  It's a common problem to play out of tune simply because of a lack of awareness.  Students get so focused on notes, they forget to listen for how the music is supposed to sound.  

I just created a LISTENING TEST activity for students to listen to some common tunes to see if they can 1. recognize the tune, 2. decipher and decide what 'in tune' sounds like.   I believe this will help students practice the art of listening and help them remember to listen more intently as they play their instruments.

This resource is FREE to use!  Find it HERE

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Save time by posting assignments online: Be An Amazing Note Reader for Beginning Orchestra

I start teaching in person in just over a week.  I've been thinking about all the safety protocols and cleaning that will have to be done during each class.  That could take a lot of valuable rehearsal time!  I really want to do all I can to be efficient and keep students moving forward in the time we have.  That means, no more bell work.  I won't have time to pass out papers, collect papers, throw pencils at students who forget pencils, etc.  The majority of my assignments will be online in Canvas.  That way I can have students complete assignments at home, or work on assignments in class when working in small groups.  I think to survive in-person instruction, I will need to think and work as if I am doing online instruction.  Everything I do in class needs to be intentional and carefully selected to utilize the time wisely and effectively.  

I just spend a TON of time re-creating my 'Be An Amazing Note-Reader' worksheets to be usable online.  I'm happy with how they turned out and I won't miss making all those copies!  This book follows the format of the print version.  Beginning violin, viola, cello, and bass students complete 28 lessons to learn about notes, staff, clef, ledger lines, music alphabet, skips/steps, D string notes, A string notes, and G string notes. These google drive lessons were created in Google Slides and can be easily attached as assignments in Google Classroom, Canvas, or other LMS.  

You can buy this resource now at TPT:  HERE!

One thing I'm SUPER excited about in this resource is the flashcards/quiz links in Quizizz.  No more copying and cutting out flash cards!  Students can practice flashcards directly in Quizizz by following the links in my resource.  

There are other quiz programs online, but I chose Quizizz because my children told me all about the programs their teachers use and how they see students cheat on some of them.  My kids recommend Quizizz because they like it using it the most.  

Here's a link to a sample Quizizz for note reading - you can click on 'quiz' to try the quiz or 'flashcards' to practice.  If you want to save a little time, turn off the 'Memes' and 'Power-ups' so the questions will load faster.

Quizizz is super easy and fast.  I highly recommend it for online learning!