If you haven't heard, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a two day Teacher Appreciation sale, May 9-10! My entire store will be 20% off, and you will receive an additional 10% with the code THANKYOU17. So now is the time to stock up on resources for the end of the year and even looking ahead to next year.
I also will be giving away a $10 TpT gift card. You can enter by filling out the form below, from midnight on 5/9 until midnight on 5/10.
As always if you have any questions or specific requests, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for your time and support! Happy shopping!
Beth's Music Classroom
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Sunday, March 5, 2017
I hope you are enjoying the last of winter - at least, I hope it's the last of it!
If you're like me, any time that you can possibly save is worth it. Whether I am typing lesson plans, creating PowerPoint presentations, or making spreadsheets/charts, I like using keyboard shortcuts. Several years ago I spoke at a workshop for soon-to-be music teachers. I was also asked to specifically talk about Microsoft Office, especially Excel. I encouraged my audience to make sure they utilize and take advantage of any and all of the technological resources that they possibly could.
Well, for this entry, I want to focus on keyboard shortcuts. Yes, this can be a bit overwhelming, but yes, it can save you time. My school has Microsoft PowerPoint 2010, and I understand that some of you may have newer editions. Some of the shortcuts may work, but I do know that some have changed.
I have created a list of some common keyboard shortcuts, but it is definitely not an exhaustive list. If you have any others to add, I'd love to hear from you, or you can comment below. Let me know how it works for you.
Thanks for reading and for checking out my blog! Click on the right to "follow by e-mail" for updates and more musical information.
Saturday, February 4, 2017
At my school, we have a three year rotation of composers, with a different one each month. As a Kindergarten through 3rd grade building, this ensures that the average student will learn about each of the composers while at the school. When it comes to the composer lessons, I am always trying to explore new ways to teach them. I don’t merely want to give my students facts about the composer’s life, birthplace, family, music, etc. – not that those aren’t important. They do have their place, but I want my young students to appreciate the music of each composer and to have a deeper appreciation for that music because their life, family, etc.
David Elliott, in his book Music Matters, uses the word “musicing” to refer to musical doing. He uses this word in the “collective sense to mean all five forms of music making: performing, improvising, composing, arranging, and conducting.” He also calls the people making the music the “musicers.” If we spend too much time talking about music (i.e. facts, dates, definitions), then, I believe, that our students will miss out on the enjoyment of “musicing” and being a “musicer.” When active listening and performing to music is effectively used in the lesson, the music, “musicing”, and “musicer” are woven together into a wonderful musical experience. *If interested in reading Music Matters, you can find it here.
So, when teaching a composer lesson, here are a few activities that I use to encourage creative thinking and active “musicing” in my young students.
1. Listening Maps: Anytime you can use (or create) a listening map for students, they help in so many ways. First, they keep students on task and all at the same place in the music. They provide the visual students in your classroom with something to focus on while the music plays. Also some maps may show the form, themes, instruments, and dynamics used in the piece. This is a great way to encourage young kids to analyze the piece, noticing similarities and differences. Other maps may show a story-like picture relevant to the piece. I have even used some animated listening maps for The Nutcracker, and my students absolutely loved them!
2. Using Graphical Scores: If you’re not familiar with graphical scores, they are basically just videos that show the sound in different colored and sized bars that match the music. I came across a few by searching with the added tag of “listening” or “graphical score.” My students just love these. It gives them another one of their five senses to use – not only their ears. I love how the colors even show the different instrument families heard. It can provide a great discussion with elementary students, connecting what they hear with what they see.
Here is one of my favorites for you to check out:
3. Adding Instruments: Students love playing instruments, and I always try to provide them some time to play along with the composer’s pieces. Depending on the piece, I will either plan to add certain instruments to match the form or to possibly match the instruments in the recording. This obviously needs to be planned out ahead of time, however, there’s always those times where you have a brilliant idea on the spot! My preference is to match the form with different instruments. Here is one example that I recently used with Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca. On the A section, I had tambourines play their rhythm, displayed on the board. The B section belonged to the triangles, and in the C section, all played (tambourines, triangles, and rhythm sticks). Then D section was only rhythm sticks. This encourages listening as they must follow the piece and listen for their theme to come in again. In this particular piece, it goes back and forth so many times.
4. Listening Glyphs: Listening glyphs are another great way to encourage meaningful listening to all types of music. Basically, students listen to a piece of music, identify key attributes of the music, and color according to the directions. I used these with my 3rd graders studying The Nutcracker in December. It was a great review of dynamics, tempo, instruments, and form, and the kids enjoyed doing it! If you’re interested in these, a quick search of ‘listening glyphs’ on TeacherspayTeachers.com will probably provide you with many choices.
5. Movement: Movement to Baroque, Classical, and Romantic music can come in a lot of forms. Folk dancing, mirroring games, and scarf routines are just a few. I have found a lot of great ideas by searching YouTube for videos, and I also really enjoy making up my own.
Several years ago, I took a class with John Feierabend, and I was so inspired by his movement to classical music. With my students, I call it mirror time – as compared to echo time (do it after me). I love watching the kids’ faces as they watch me. I will try to pass my teacher’s cap onto a student who would like to be the “mirror leader.” I just tell them to make their hands and feet feel and be the music. It also works well to do in pairs, with partners taking turns being the leader. With this activity, I could tell that the leaders are really listening to the music.
Folk dances work really well with short simple compositions or dances, such as Mozart’s 12 German Dances for Orchestra. Use simple repetitive steps for Kindergarten and 1st grade, and then you can add a more complex step for your older students.
I will normally wait to use these movement activities until after we’ve listened to the piece a few times with some of the other above methods, and they already have an aural grasp of it.
Listening to music is so important in music education and to young children. I hope that you can benefit in some way from these ideas. Feel free to e-mail me if you have any questions or comments. Also I’d love to hear about how you encourage active listening in your music classroom. Thanks for reading!
Sunday, January 8, 2017
Happy 2017! I hope that you enjoyed your holidays!
The days are just flying! I’ve already finished one week back to school since Christmas break. Even with it only being a partial week, it seemed to last forever. It’s hard for students and teachers alike to get back into a schedule, after sleeping in and staying up each night. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my break and time spent with family, I was really looking forward to getting back into the groove of a normal schedule.
On my first day back I found myself reviewing my lesson plans. With two days left to finish up the cycle week, I didn’t really want to teach the same lesson – Christmas songs and rhythm games. I was looking for a fun way to practice the rhythm of “syncopa” with my students, something that would tie in January and New Year’s. So I got to work, finding myself on my lunch break, writing a short and simple poem/chant.
At that time I just wrote the lyrics and the rhythm.
When I taught it to the kids, as active as they were that first day back, I decided to add instruments, a good incentive for positive behavior. I gave them some choices about what instruments to play for each line. First I had them find the line with all syncopas (line 3), and they decided to add some jingle bells and cabasa for that part. Everyone spoke the chant with instruments only on that line. Then we discussed how the last line had no syncopated rhythm at all. Hand drums and wood blocks were assigned to that part. Again we performed it with instruments on lines 3 and 4 now. Looking at lines 1 and 2 (the ones without instruments), they discovered that they had the exact same rhythm. So we added in maracas and tambourines to play the first 2 lines.
Finally, all the instruments played their assigned rhythm/line as we all spoke the words to the chant. Although slowly at first, it became very easy to pick up the tempo, and the kids loved it! It was a great way to assess their understanding of syncopa – through reading, speaking, and playing it.
If you’re interested in my final product, check it out by clicking here or on the picture below. The teaching process is slightly different than what I used above. I provided suggested instruments, as well the opportunity to make up your own arrangement to accompany the chant.
I hope that you can find some benefit from reading this today. I'd love to hear what kind of songs and activities you are doing with your students this new year. Always feel free to leave a comment or e-mail me at email@example.com.
Happy New Year!
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Thanksgiving...the unofficial start to the holiday season and my favorite time of year!
As I write this, the wind is howling outside so loudly, whipping the fresh snow up all over the place. Although weather reports predicted only about 1-2 inches, I measured 7 inches about 5 hours ago!
When I was outside shoveling snow earlier today, I was thinking about one of my favorite Thanksgiving songs, “Over the River and Through the Woods.” Specifically, the text that came to my mind was “it stings the toes and bites the nose.” I sang this song a lot with my elementary music classes last week, and will have a few more chances this week before Thanksgiving break. I have loved this song since I was young.
When I have used it in my classroom over the last several years, I normally just have students add jingle bells and temple blocks to the beat or the “clip-clop clip-clop” pattern to accompany the song. This year I added a little bit more to my lesson, discussing with my 2nd and 3rd graders the history of this song.
The songs’ lyrics were written by Lydia Marie Child, who was born in Massachusetts in 1802. She first published the poem in 1844, but it was actually titled “The New England Boy’s Song.” Later the melody was added and the name was changed to how we know it today. The novelist wrote this poem, recalling her childhood trips to her grandfather’s house every Thanksgiving Day as a child.
As I told my students about this, they seemed to truly enjoy hearing about all of the background and history. They asked lots of great questions, like “How long did it take her to get to grandfather’s house?” My reply was “not too long,” as I knew she grew up in Medford, Massachusetts, and her grandfather lived in the same town. After discussion, we added some instruments: just rhythm instruments with Kindergarten and 1st grade students, and rhythm and melody instruments with 2nd and 3rd grade students. They loved it, and although some classes seemed to sound much better than others (it always happens), I was pleased.
When I first started planning for this Thanksgiving lesson, I got busy early on, creating a presentation to supplement the lesson and to show students pictures of the author, birthplace, etc. You can check it out here.
I love this song so much that I even added a simple dance routine. My after-school Folk Dancing Club enjoyed it as well! If you’re interested, here it is:
Thanks so much for reading this, and I hope that it can help you in some way in your classroom! Happy Thanksgiving!
Saturday, November 12, 2016
This year is moving faster than I ever imagined it could! It is already November, and I just cannot believe it. I'm sure you feel the same way.
My goal was to have written a bit more often than this, but as a new blogger, I struggled after my initial posts. I thought what I had to say wasn’t important or that others are much more knowledgeable than me. I follow a lot of other fantastic music education blogs and I felt like I just couldn’t compare to them. Then after much time and thoughts, I decided to just do it, if only for myself. I am going to write my thoughts and if they should inspire or assist you at all, I will feel honored and blessed.
Each year I like to create new or even update some of my old PowerPoint products to supplement my lessons. I had a blast revamping my materials this year.
I find that students of all ages understand and grasp difficult musical concepts much better when it is related to everyday life. I recently began planning for a 1st grade unit on beat vs. no beat, and found myself needing some concrete real-life examples of things that had a steady beat and those with no beat.
Through discussion and listening examples of these items, such as ticking of a clock, jumping rope, brushing your teeth, blowing of the wind, etc., I felt that my students grasped the concepts a little bit better.
Somewhere on my journeys last year, I picked up an adorable book that matched this lesson perfectly. It is a short children’s book/poem called “The Wind Blew” (by Pat Hutchins). Along with the folk song “The Wind Blew East," I used it to help recognize steady beat and no beat within a piece of music.
I also added the traditional song "Who Has Seen the Wind" (Text by Christina Rossetti). An interactive listening game also helped me assess the students' understanding of beat/no beat.
Another activity I used for further practice was having students play egg shakers or maracas to the sound of a bouncing/rolling ball. I tossed a ball in an open space in my classroom, and the students had to shake their instrument in the style and speed that the ball was moving. Sometimes the ball would bounce off items or it would bounce high up into the air. Each movement the ball made had to dictate how the students played their instrument – with a steady beat, bouncy, free, with no beat at all, etc. They really seemed to enjoy it.
If interested, you can check out my Steady Beat vs. No Beat Lesson and Game here.
I want to thank you so much for reading this entry, and I will definitely be writing more often now. So stay tuned for some Thanksgiving lesson ideas – coming soon!
Friday, August 12, 2016
I am so excited to have hit a milestone on my Teachers pay Teachers store - 100 FOLLOWERS! To celebrate, I will be offering:
- Mystery Freebies: Tuesday-Thursday, August 16-18, 2016: Search my store for 3 mystery freebies located in my store. Get them before they’re gone for that day!
- Storewide Sale: Friday, August 19, 2016: 20% off my entire store
If you're not on Tpt, it's a great place to find new resources, lesson plans, games, and all kind of products for your classroom. You can find my store at:
It's that time again:Check out these newest arrivals:
I will be updating and adding new products often, so check in frequently, and as always, feel free to e-mail me with any questions or special requests: