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Sunday, May 21, 2023

End of Year Review notes and rhythm


Here's a simple, easy activity you can do with your beginning orchestra students to review notes and rhythms at the end of the year.

Teachers clap (or perform) the appropriate rhythm as listed on the answer key. Students determine which rhythm was clapped and use the letters next to the rhythm to de-code the words. Students practice note reading by drawing the notes on the staff. Fun, simple activity with no prep required!

FREE for a limited time HERE!

Saturday, May 13, 2023

Last days of school - orchestra lesson plans

 It's the last 2 weeks of school for me! I like to make sure students are engaged and busy through the end of the year.  Otherwise teaching can start to feel too much like babysitting teenagers.  Here are my plans for the rest of the year!

Some have asked how to play Apples to Apples orchestra edition.  Here's a tutorial:

Thursday, May 11, 2023

Instrument Switch-a-roo Day

 Through-out the school year, my students beg to try and play different instruments. I always promise to let them try a different one at the end of the year.  In the past, I very informally allowed students to trade instruments with others in the class and I taught them how to play Bile Em Cabbage.  This year I am going to teach them much like real beginners, but covering the basics very quickly.  By the end of the class period, I am hoping students will be able to perform Twinkles on a different instrument with correct notes/fingering and decent tone.  I won't be using any music stands and don't want the hassle of passing out music, so I will use a Google Slide presentation to get them going.

Free to use HERE 

And if you teach beginners and want to start the next school year flying, you'll love my resource called 'From Rote to Note.'  It's AWESOME for starting beginners and I use it every year to get my students playing right away.  We finish that book before cracking open the method book.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

Rehearsal games for the weeks before concert


My concert is just a week away!  I feel my students are ready and will have a successful, rewarding experience.  To make sure they are ready, we've been playing rehearsal games.  These games are fun, but also very telling.  They help me and students know which passages need extra practice.  We then target our rehearsals to meet the needs of students.

Here are the games we've played lately:


This is a very simple game with no prep work or set up time required.  I drew 3-4 circles (or face shapes) on my smart screen (you can use a white-board or chalk board).  I told students the faces represented our audience.  One student was chosen to draw faces on the circles as we played half of a concert piece to demonstrate how they feel we sounded.  Sometimes happy faces to demonstrate how well we played...sometimes barfing faces to show we played some out of tune notes.  After playing, the student who drew the faces would explain the inspiration and reasons for drawing each particular facial expression.   If there were things to fix, we worked on them before moving on to the next piece.  It was a great way for students to imagine playing for a live audience and think about how people could react to our performance.  They want to do their best and they worked very hard to perfect their playing.


We did this game by dividing the class into 2 teams: Violins and Viola/Cello/Bass.  I chose short passages of our concert music for each team to play.  The opposite team got to choose one 'secret weapon' to attempt to sabotage the other group and get them to play incorrectly.  Each group was only able each secret weapon one time, so they had to strategize the best time to use each weapon according to the passages I chose from the music.  This helped students focus intently on their playing and work through distractions.  


This game was inspired from a cooking show on Netflix called 'Nailed It.'  Contestants in the show have to attempt to replicate professional looking cakes and treats.  In class, students had to attempt to replicate 'professional' playing.  I created slides with a series of short snippets from our concert music.  I played the snippet first, then the students all echoed the notes back, trying to match intonation, bowing, and rhythm.  They got a point each time they were successful.  We did variations of this game for a week.  On the first couple of days, I had the entire class play the snippets at the same time and gave the class a point for each time they played correctly.  Later in the week, I only gave points in they got it right on their first try.  On the last day, students did the challenge with themselves and kept track of the their own points.