Sunday, November 20, 2016

Over the River and Through the Woods!

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

Beat/No Beat Lesson

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!