Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhyme "Sana, Sana" on the Recorder!

We hear lots of educational buzz phrases like culturally appropriate, engaging, and prior knowledge. But what does it mean for teaching music to students who primarily speak Spanish at home? For me, I incorporate Spanish songs and chants into my curriculum.

This year I started my third graders learning the recorder by adapting a well known Spanish nursery rhyme. I found the chant "Sana, sana" in the book El Patio de Mi Casa by Gabriela Montoya-Stier. I set the chant to an easy rhythm and assigned notes of B, A, and G. I only used one A, as the focus of the song is really learning B and G.

Sana, sana, colita de rana,
Heal, heal, little frog tail,

Si no sanas hoy, sanarás mañana.
If you don't feel better today, you'll feel better tomorrow.

The chant is said to children by an adult when the child is hurt. I found that many of the children at my school who speak Spanish at home were familiar with the chant.

I found this to be an excellent beginning song for my students.  The song reflects and values their culture, they were engaged because they were able to use their knowledge of Spanish, and they used their prior knowledge of the chant to further develop their musical skills.

Leave a comment if you use this, I'd love to hear feedback! 

As with everything on my blog, you are free to use this in your own teaching. You may not use this in any way where you make a profit. If you would like to repost this, please link back to this post.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Academic Discourse in the Music Room - "Find Your Partner"

During the first year teacher induction program last year, my district gave me a little book they had put together called "Routines for Accountable Academic Discourse." All of these techniques are designed to increase student talk and decrease teacher talk. I used "Find Your Partner" to reinforce instrument names and sounds. 

I have found that, over the summer, students seem to forget the names of instruments. When the students turn in their forms after my traditional instrument demo day, I get forms back where students have written the name of one instrument, but they really meant another instrument. Or I get things like "clumpet." My goal when doing instrument demos this year was to add an activity that would reinforce instrument names and result in students asking for the instrument they meant to ask for.

"Find Your Partner" is an activity where the teacher prepares sets of things, such as the first and last halves of a sentence. The teacher passes these out and the students go to find their partner, the person who has the other part of their sentence. During this time of trying to find their partner, students use lots of academic language while talking with one another. This can also be done with categories of things, which is how I used it. 

To prepare, I made cards with an instrument's name, a picture of the instrument, a description of what it looked like, and a description of what it sounded like. 

Find Your Partner is easily differentiated! I gave my ELL and special needs students the easier cards that had either just the single word or the picture and I gave my better readers the cards that described the sound of the instrument. To ease reading anxiety, I read each card as I handed it out. 

This activity can be used to randomly group students or you can have preassigned groups that they discover after the activity. 

One could say that based on the pre-assessment of how the forms were filled out last year and the post-assessment of how they were filled out this year, this activity is successful! The number of correctly filled out forms increased dramatically. 

I will definitely use this Routine again because it was easy to implement and fun!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Inductive Learning in the Music Room - Common Core Strategy!

Inductive Learning is one of six essential strategies presented in The Core Six by Silver, Dewing, and Perini.

The basis of the strategy involves students grouping items before the lesson, making predictions based on the groups, and then evaluating their predictions based on the lesson. 

For the music room, I decided to try this with my second grade classes for learning about the instruments of the orchestra. 

To prepare, I made cards with a picture of each instrument and the instrument name. I laminated them and put magnets on the back. (I get business card size adhesive magnets from Staples.) 

As students entered I gave them an instrument. To make the groups, I held up an example card and had them evaluate if their instrument should go with mine. The easiest ones to start with were the brass instruments. These students came up to the board and I asked this group, "Why do these instruments go together." They made some great observations including size, color, shape, valves, and mouthpieces. The group put theirs on the board and I labeled the group with its name.

Once all the groups were on the board I asked the students to think about what they thought the group would sound like. Soft or loud, fast or slow, like a party or like a lullaby. I gave them lots of options and words to use to form guesses. I wrote the guess on the board in black. After someone made a guess I told the class to listen to see if they agreed or disagreed.

With my iPad mirrored to the AppleTV (you could also just plug the iPad into some speakers), I played the instrument families sections on the app Benjamin Britten's Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra. After each prediction, I played the section, and the students gave evidence that agreed or disagreed. I wrote this on the board in green for agree and red for disagree.

While we were listening I had the students move to the music, one distinct movement for each instrument family. After the agree/disagree discussion was finished I then played the recording of the piece showing the video so the students could see the instruments we just heard being played. While they were listening, they showed me what they heard by moving for that instrument family's movement.

The children came up with some great observations about the instruments before they even heard what they sounded like! predicting what the instrument family groups would sound like was a little hard due to limited language. 

The kids really liked it and it was a fun way to introduce the orchestra!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Using EduCreations as Visual Aid for English Language Learners

My school has a high population of English Language Learners. When I teach songs I make sure that all students know the meaning of the words.

One of the ways I do this is through using the EduCreations app. I search for images from Google Images and save them to the iPad. In the app I select a picture and then type lyrics on top. I move forward one page and repeat the process for the rest of the lyrics. The last step is to go back to the first page, hit the record button, and then I sing the song along with the images.

Watch the video on the educreations website.

During class I mirror my iPad to the AppleTV. I play the video and we sing along. I can pause and we can discuss the picture and the words. I can also point to each word as we sing, like live karaoke! 

I think this process helps all the students learn the words of the song.

How do you use EduCreations?

Monday, January 27, 2014

App in Focus: Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra

The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is free application that is a must for any music classroom! It contains an essential introduction to the instruments and players of the orchestra as well as aural quizzes and form games.

At the core of the app is a recording of Benjamin Britten's piece performed by the Royal Northern College of Music Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Sir Mark Elder. The recording can be played with either a scrolling condensed score or with a video of the performers. 

At the left of the score are icons of who is playing which line. Above the score are notes about what is happening and what to listen for. I plan to use this with some guided questions or a graphic organizer for students to follow as they listen and watch. Easily adapted for use across several grade levels.

But the fun doesn't stop there! My next favorite part of this app is the Aural Quiz. It starts out with identifying instruments into their family groups and the difficulty increases as the levels continue. I could see children easily loving this game. With my iPad mirrored to my Apple TV, we could play this game as a class.

There are two games that teach and play with form in the app. Both are very user friendly and make learning about fugue and variation fun. Both also have example recordings with the same kind of extraordinarily helpful explanation text that follows the music as it plays. Children can create their own composition using the variables provided and use musical terminology to explain their choices.

As if that wasn't enough content for a FREE app, there's still more! There are video interviews with the university students who play the music and information about Benjamin Britten's life.

Wonderful app that students and teachers will enjoy! Download it today!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

But what's in it for music teachers?

There is a common perspective among music teachers that professional development has to be music specific if it is to be of any relevance to their teaching. This attitude belies the richness of professional development and the possibilities it brings for music education.


I just got back from a weekend of training at an International Baccalaureate conference. Full of ideas, inspiration, and teachers working towards improving their practice, I found the conference invigorating despite the fact that I didn't run into another music teacher the whole time I was there. The workshop I went to was called "Making the PYP Happen in the Classroom" and was an introduction to the Primary Years Program (PYP) philosophy and practice.

Inquiry is at the heart of the IB program. How can we design experiences for children that allow them to wonder and ask questions? This kind of lesson design results in student directed learning, which increases achievement. It also decreases the amount of teacher talk, since the ideas and questions of the students are used to initiate possible new lines of inquiry. Instead of instruction as monologue, it is instruction as dialogue.

While at the conference my creative teaching mind was inspired! I started thinking about how I could design an inquiry unit for my second grade students about string instruments. 

How could I introduce string instruments in a way where all of the knowledge came from the children and their observations about the instruments? I'm still deciding how this will look, but our first lesson in this unit will be an exploration. The students will describe the look, feel, and sound of string instruments on poster paper. After we have explored several different string instruments we will compare the similarities and differences between the instruments. Then we can come up with a list of common attributes that creates the string instrument category. 

I'm still writing and thinking about this unit and nothing is set in stone except one thing. Professional development is about learning how to be a good teacher, and that applies to all subject areas.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rap a Tap Tap - Music, Dance and Literacy Lesson Plan

Tap your feet and tip you hat, here comes a lesson for Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles, Think of That! by Diane Dillon. This lively book tells the story of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, considered by many to be the best tap dancer of all time. 

Integrating books and literature into music lessons increases cross-curricular learning and student engagement. However, being in my first year of teaching, I don't already have a collection of books to use. I am fortunate to work at a school that still has a library and in perusing the shelves I found Rap a Tap Tap.

The book alternates between a line of new text and a repeating phrase, perfect for young music learners. I set the repeating phrase to music, taught the words and rhythm first, and then added the music. While teaching the words we practiced using our different voices, our big bear voice, our little mouse voice, and then we used our singing voice.

We read the book together, all singing the "Rap a tap tap" part together. We talked about dancing, about making sounds with our feet, and how that sound could be music.

I asked the children if they would like to see Mr. Bojangles dance. Of course they said yes!

 For this video I played the introduction and then skipped to the part where Mr. Bojangles dances. I first let the kids just watch the video, and then we all stood up and danced with the video on the second viewing.

This video is very fun as Shirley Temple plays a little girl who doesn't want to go to bed. The children can certainly identify with this!  I also like the video because it shows the children that kids their age can do this type of dancing too.

I did this lesson with kindergarten children, so we just explored moving our legs and arms the way Mr. Bojangles does. They have a blast moving their feet and bodies around to the music. If you have some tap dance background, you could do a similar lesson and teach a few steps with older children.