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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Frog Appreciation Day for Beginning String Orchestra students


Learning how to properly hold a bow is crucial for beginners.  It takes time, patience, attention to detail, and good fine motor skills.  Students are more likely to focus on the details and work to master bow holds when it is FUN!

Here are a few ways to make learning bow holds fun:

1. Have a 'Frog Appreciation Day.'

My students learn bow holds using straws on the first day of school.  Moving up to a real bow is a big deal!  You can make it extra exciting by highlighting the day as a celebration.  I designed a serious of 'Frog' posters and included them on a google slide presentation that helps teach students some bow basics:  parts of the bow, how to care for a bow, bow hold, bow exercises, open string cycle.  These slides contain a series of 6 activities students to celebrate 'Frog Appreciation Day.' You can download the presentation HERE ..adjust the wording on the slides to fit your own teaching style.  You can use the images on the slides for a fun set of classroom posters.

2.  Bow Hold Olympics

String players have much to think about while playing.  I've found it very helpful to isolate bow skills by having a 'Bow Hold Olympics' while students are learning to master bow holds.  This involves one entire class period practicing only bow skills.  I clean up all chairs and stands and students spread out to complete various Olympic events.  The open space allows me to freely walk through the group and help students are need to make bow hold adjustments.

You can design you own Olympic bowing events, or use my slides HERE.  8 total event challenges are included with descriptions on each slide - 22 slides total.  Some challenges require teams for relay-type events while other events are individual.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Rounds for Beginning Orchestra Warm Ups and more


Last year, I noticed I was getting in a bit of a 'warm-up rut.'  I kept doing the same old warm-up routine and was needing some variety.  It was time to re-energize warm-up time with something new and fun.  I started using rounds as warm-ups and my students loved it!  Students enjoy learning rounds. They are quick to learn because all parts are unison. When ready to try as a round, there are so many possibilities!

Rounds are very versatile.  Here are a few ways to use rounds in your classroom:

1. While in unison, you can focus on intonation, rhythm, and bowing skills. Once students are ready, divide into 2 parts and try the round.  Beginners especially love to hear the new harmonies and it motivates them to keep playing.  The round adds depth and helps students listen/tune pitches. Students must carefully count and maintain a steady tempo. These are important ensemble skills that will strengthen your group as you move to more complex ensemble music.

2. When dividing into 2 parts, use a variety of combinations: upper strings/lower strings, stand partners, rows, birthdays Jan-June/July-Dec, Marvel vs. DC, etc.

3. Rounds are great to use for student group projects. Allow students to form small groups and learn a round together to perform for the class. Rounds provide a basic foundation for future chamber work. Students can form small groups using any instrument combination and easily work together since parts are unison. Students can creatively create arrangements/variations of the round to perform.

4.  Rounds are a fun way for students to practice together! Encourage students to get together with friends to learn and harmonize together.

5.   Rounds can be easily performed. There are a variety of ways to arrange a round to work in a concert setting. (For example, play one time in unison, play as a round, one section plays melody, play as round with different grouping of students,.etc.)

6.  Many simple rounds are played on only 2 strings: D and A. Try having students play each round on the G and D strings.

7.  Try changing the key signatures to create a different sound and rehearse alternate finger patterns. Teach advanced skills like shifting/fingering options as a way to differentiate in a mixed class setting.

I just finished writing a resource called "Rounds for Warm-Ups" available HERE.   Traditional rounds are included as well some some original compositions.  This resource contains a Conductor Score, Rote pages for each round, Parts for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Bass. 62 pages total.  16 rounds included.  BONUS: Access to the rounds on google slides is included to use as a visual while teaching.