Monday, October 28, 2013

Dem Bones Lesson Plan - Halloween or Health

The kids love this one, from 1st through 3rd, this one is fun! To introduce the book I sang the chorus using the phrase "dancing bones" instead of the traditional "dry bones. First I "read" the book by singing the song. I love using singable picture books in music class because it helps engage students in music and in reading. One of my classes clapped when the book was finished!

The song "Dem Bones" is a traditional African American spiritual.  I particularly like Bob Barner's book because the skeletons are all playing instruments!

On the second sing through I had the kids touch the place on their body that the song is talking about and invited them to sing with me if they wanted. It is an easy melody and they catch on very quickly.

Then we watched this video and danced along! I like this video because they changed the lyrics "Hear the word of the Lord" to "That's the way it goes" so I can use it in the public school classroom. I modeled doing some bone dances to get the kids thinking about different ways to move their body to the music.

There is nothing that really ties this book to Halloween specifically, so it could also be used when the students are studying the systems of the body. The book has facts about each bone in the song for further discussion and for those students who always want to know more!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Weather Song Lesson Plan - Special Education/ Special Day Class

What's better than music class once a week? Music class twice a week! The students in the Special Day Class at my school receive music instruction during with their classroom teacher and they also come for music as a special day class group. This group of eleven kids ranges in grades from 2nd-6th.

When I was in their special day classroom observing, the teacher was talking about how to know what to wear based on the weather. I thought this weather song would be a good tie in.

The first week I taught them the weather song by rote. I like how this video models teaching the song with the speaking voice first and then adding the melody. Afterwards, I sang and they sang back to me keeping a steady beat on their body.

I showed pictures of each of the types of weather that the song discusses using my iPad. When we were singing about sunny, there was the picture of a sunny day. I asked for which two we should focus on and we sang the ending phrase on just those two.

The second week I reviewed the song using half drawings. I wrote Sunny, Rainy, Cloudy, Snowy, and Windy on pieces of paper. Then I started a drawing of each one. As we reviewed the song, I used these for the new visuals. The students then finished the drawings in pairs, adding something to the picture that had to do with that type of weather.

I finished our review of that song on that day by singing the song again with student volunteers coming up to the board and pointing to the order of the pictures that occurs in the song.

Next week when we review our song, we will talk about how the weather is predicted and what type of clothing we should wear for each type of weather.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Clarinet Troubleshooting and Repair

This week I showed my elementary music teacher colleagues quick fixes for clarinet repair and thought I'd share here too!

Problem: No sound is coming out or the clarinet keeps squeaking.
- Check the reed! Kids are notorious for chewing on, maiming, or destroying reeds. Crooked reeds also won't play.
- Check the ligature! Ligatures that are too loose, too tight, too high, or too low won't be holding the reed on in the right place.
- Check the player's embouchure.

Problem: Some notes play, but others don't
There is probably a pad leaking or missing somewhere. Check everywhere! It might be a pad that isn't used a lot. It could also be a pad that is still attached, but where the membrane has worn off. If the membrane is worn, then air can leak through.
- If the pad is there, put a piece of teflon tape around it to hold the pad in place. If there is no pad, use a piece of silly putty as a makeshift pad and hold in place with teflon tape.

Problem: No ligature
- Rubber bands or hair ties work to get through concert night.

Problem: Loose or wiggling keys.
- There is a screw missing or loose. Screws often just come loose on their own. Invest in a dollar store eyeglass repair kit. The screwdrivers come in a variety of sizes so you can use the one that is the right size for the screw. When putting the screw back in, try your best not to damage the metal.
- A spring has come loose. Compare the none working clarinet to one that is working. There are many small springs that are simple rods. The rods need to be in the right place to apply pressure so that the keys spring back up.

Problem: Joints are too loose.
In older clarinets the corks can become very worn down. Use as much teflon tape as you need to get a secure connection. You will need to take it in to get the cork redone.

Problem: Joints are very hard to get together and apart.
Common in new clarinets. Use a polishing nail file to gently sand some of the cork away. Make sure you don't sand any of the wood, that you sand evenly, and that you only sand a bit off at a time.

Hope this helps!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Power of a Positive Focus

One of the most powerful teaching tools that I have is maintaining a positive focus. I first read about this in one of my favorite books Managing Challenging Children by Gerard Gordon.

The real test of this tool comes on days like today when the classroom does not look anything like what you had planned for. When the 2nd graders came to my room today these are some of the things they were doing during the first five minutes of class: talking over me, shouting instead of speaking our opening chant, laying on the ground and not participating whatsoever, and turning completely around so they were not facing me.

When I first started teaching I did what most people do and talked about what was going wrong that I did not want. However, talking about these behaviors gives attention to the very students who are not doing what you would prefer. And what Gordon points out is what you talk about you get more of.

Today, instead of talking about all the students who were not doing the right thing today, I just started in talking about what they were doing right. Sometimes in those first fifteen minutes there were only five kids doing what I wanted. But I talked about them. I used their names, looked them in the eye, and told them using specific language what they were doing right. Brian is facing me. Sally made the T right after I said, "Time." Nguyen is patting the beat and her hands are moving right when my hands are moving.

It was like a slow magic. The last fifteen minutes of class were productive. Most students were engaged. No one was lying on the floor anymore and no one was talking over me. There is power in maintaining a positive focus. This class showed me that, if I can keep my positive focus even amongst chaos, productive and wonderful learning can take place.