Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Digipalooza 2015

Wow! Digipalooza 2015 has been jam packed with some excellent techie information that I can't wait to incorporate into my classroom next year. I am so fortunate to work in a school district that is leading the way in regards to technology in the classroom. As a result, we host this amazing two-day educational technology conference in my home town.  This has allowed me numerous opportunities to present about technology in the elementary classroom, not just in the music classroom. 

This year I presented two sessions at Digipalooza. My first session presented Web-Based Tools in the Elementary Classroom. This session was a crash course on some of the simply, but useful learning tools that are available on the web.  Just click on the image to download the presentation. 

The second session was titled " Blogging Platforms: Inside and Outside the Classroom." This session discussed the blogging platforms that are best in the classroom.  From Weebly to Blogger, learn the pros and cons of using each platform, whether for classroom use or personal blogging. 

If you were lucky enough to attend Digipalooza, I hope you enjoyed your experience at SCSD2. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Musical Road Trip: Folk Dancing

Hello everyone! Today, I am very excited to be participating in the Musical Road Trip with an amazing group of music teachers. This is the third stop on the road trip as we head to the midwest and stop in my home state of Indiana! 

For this blog hop, each blogger will discuss a musical topic.  The third stop on this road trip is right here in Indiana, where we will be discussing folk dancing! 

One of my favorite things to learn while in college and at conferences is folk dancing! I love attending folk dancing sessions at conferences, such as the National Conference for AOSA. It is such a blast to just learn and dance with hundreds of other music teachers up into the wee hours of the night. Not only do I enjoy participating in folk dancing, I love to share this experience with my students. 

Typically, I teach folk dances throughout the year in every grade...yes, even with the kinders. Even though we may learn simple circle dances in kindergarten, they are still learning the basics of building community through folk dancing.  I also teach a large folk dancing unit with my fifth graders.  In the spring time, the fifth graders are beginning to get very antsy as they are ready to move on to the middle school.  I am sure all of you know what I am talking about ?!?! By incorporating this unit during this time of year, they stay actively engaged and excited about music.  When I first mention folk dancing to them, they typically moan and groan, but by the end of the first day, they are all leaving with a smile on their face and eager to come back for more. 

So today, I am going to give you some tips and tricks for incorporating more folk dancing into your classroom.  You do not have to do an entire unit in your curriculum.  Instead, incorporate a dance or two throughout your units to reinforce musical concepts, such as form, rhythm, and melody. 

Tip #1: Find folk dancing resources that are worth the investment.  
There is an abundance of folk dancing resources available online and in book form.  Through the numerous resources I have purchased or perused through, I have discovered many resources that are worth the investment and are a great addition to your library!

Resource #1: 
Anything by the sweet and adorable Amidon's is a fantastic resource for your classroom.  Each book comes with a CD and very descriptive directions for each dance.  

Here you can find all of their folk dancing resources with books and CDs.  One of my favorite things about the Amidon resources is that they play and record all of the music.  If you ever have a chance to see them in person, DO IT!  Mary Alice usually plays the accordion, while Peter Amidon leads the dances.  It is a blast of fun and entertainment! 

Resource #2: 
Even though this resources is a pretty penny, the book, 120 Singing Games and Dances for Elementary Schools, is completely worth the investment.  Along with dances, it also includes directions and resources for a variety of singing games. 

This resources comes in a spiral bound, and it can be incorporated with all grade levels. 

Resource #3: 
My last resource I will be discussing is created by John M. Fiereabend, titled, The Book of Song Dances.  This book comes at a very reasonable price, and it is filled with a variety of dances.  I typically use my Fiereabend resources for my younger students. 

In this book, the dances are organized by type (circle, double circle, square dance, etc.). Each dance comes with clear and written instructions. 

Tip #2: Avoid the term "couple" or "partners"
Through my years of teaching, I have realized that the older students tend to have issues with being partnered up with students of the opposite gender.  The fear of cooties has finally set in! In the past, I would use the term couple or partner when teaching the dance steps.  However, it often ended up with giggles and/or moans and groans.  So, I have resorted to the use of "pair."  For example, I would now say a phrase like the following, "The top pair will sashay down the middle."  The students don't even react to it.  This term also works very lovely when you have same gender partners.  

Tip #3: Pick partners (pairs) in a fun way! 
I always try to randomly partner up my students so they aren't always partnered with their best friends or even the same students dance after dance.  I feel that this avoids students being left out as well.  Instead of the teachers just picking the students, try something new like dividing students up based off what they are wearing, their birthdays, height, picking sticks, name them off by fruits, etc.  Many TPT sellers also have partner picking manipulatives to make it easier and fair for your classroom.  There are an abundance of ways to partner, just be creative!

Tip #4:  Less talking, more doing! 
I can say I am guilty of this, especially during my first two years of teaching.  However, the less talking the teacher can do, the better!  I have made it a personal goal to talk less and to just do it! I have even challenged myself to teach an entire class period without any vocal commands, using only hand and facial gestures and movements.  It was very uplifting learning experience for myself and my students.  By just doing the dance with your students, instead of talking them through it and explaining the steps,  they will be able to visually see the dance and follow along. 

Tip #5: Don't let them count! 
I feel that a major part of folk dancing is being able to feel and react to the music.  If students are counting the steps, they aren't using their ears to listen to the musical changes, but are instead just focusing on the numbers they are counting.  First, if needed, model the steps for them with the music playing, then have them do it.  This way, they are actually using their ears to perform the dance.   If they are struggling with the steps, I find it helpful to add a sound cue, such as a triangle hit, to cue the next set of dance steps or different section of the music. 

Tip #6: Use visuals for formations.
In the beginning of my teaching career, I would often set the students up into the dance formation (double circle, square dance, longways sets, etc) by placing each pair of students in the correct place.  This would take a lot of time away from my lesson, and often students would begin to misbehave as they waited.  As a result, I created a set of formation posters that I have posted in my room at all times.  I literally just have to point to the correct poster, and my students make the formation on their own. Of course, the younger kiddos have a few more issues so I offer more guidance. 

Tip #7: Use hand stamps or scarves to differentiate left and right. 
 Still to this day, many of my 5th graders even struggle with differentiating their lefts from their rights.  I know many educators tie a scarf onto the left or right hand to differentiate between the two.  I often don't want to drag my scarves out and take time tieing, so I just place a stamp on one hand to differentiate between the two. This saves a lot of time and confusion. 

Tip #8: HAVE FUN!!!!!!
GET IN AND HAVE FUN WITH YOUR STUDENTS!  Enjoy this experience with your students. 

And there are my top tips and tricks for folk dancing in the classroom!!!

As part of my folk dancing post, I will be having a 25% off sale on my Folk Dance Formation Posters.  These have been a major time saver in my classroom, and they added some brightness to my room, too! These will be on sale for the next several days. If you are a blogger, feel free to link up your post below about folk dancing and/or folk dancing product on sale for 25% off. 

Our next stop is at Music a la Abbott in Colorado on June 24th! 

Here is the rest of the itinerary for the Music Road Trip!  Hope you follow along with us as we travel across the states in our musical adventure!

If you are a blogger and/or music seller and want to link up, here are the directions:
  • Link up with a blog post specifically about rhythm/ rhythmic concepts, AND/OR
  • Link up to a folk dancing product on sale for 25% off (you can leave it on sale until Wednesday, June 24.)
  • You can do either simply by clicking on the button below!

Link up here with your folk dancing blog post or a discounted folk dancing product! 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Free Apps for Rhythmic Practice

During my search for the best free apps for rhythm practice, I came up short handed.  Even though there are tons of rhythm apps available in the App Store, the majority of them are not free.  On the other hand, I did find 2 free apps that are excellent rhythmic review. I hope you enjoy them as much as my students.

Rhythm Cat Lite-  Rhythm Cat Lite is a free app that provides students with a game type of practice.  With this app, lines of rhythms are displayed across the screen.  After the countdown, students tap the rhythms on the green button.  By pressing the green button, the students ry to play the correct rhythms in time with the music.  As the app suggests, it is much easier to play when using headphones.  The lite version features a total of 15 levels.  You can upgrade the app for a cost of $4.99.  The free version is limited in the types of rhythms used.  Below is a screenshot of the screen in Rhythm Cat Lite. 

Rhythm Training (Sight Reader) - The Rhythm Training app is a fantastic free app for sight reading rhythms.  This app features 7 musical instrument options, metronome functions, and beat prompts and hints for user.  The design of the app is organized and very child-friendly. Rhythm Trainer is perfect for beginners or more advance musicians.  It also features multiple levels, at any tempo, with a variety of time signatures and rhythmic values.  Take your students sight reading skills to the next level with this free app!

Out of the free apps available for rhythm, these two were excellent in practicing playing and sight reading all types of rhythmic concepts.  If you find any more free rhythm apps, please let me know, and I would be happy to review them and add them to the list. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

5 Free Music Apps for Melody

We all know that the app store is full of amazing apps.  However, where there are great apps, there are also some app duds.  How do you find the best apps?! Research and practice! After searching on the App Store for ratings, search Google for reviews on apps, read a blog from other teacher's, and use it on your own.  And when I say 'on your own,' you need to learn all of the ins and outs of the app.  You never know what you will discover in an app, and you want to find it before your students do. 

After doing my own research, I want to share my findings with you.  Today, I am going to show you my 5 favorite apps to use for reviewing/teaching melody in the elementary music classroom. Even though I am focusing on melody, these apps can be used for a variety of concepts.  

Here are my 5 favorite apps for melody: 

 Tap and Sing by Storybots - This engaging app allows students to tap and sing with adorable robots while they learn about notes, scales, and chords.  The free version of the app also includes three songs for students to tap and sing along. For the three songs, the student can turn "autoplay" on to watch the robots dance and sing the song or the student can tap the melody on their own with the help of highlighted robots along the way. The app also comes with four syllables for singing: bum, la, Do-Re-Mi, and C-D-E. Use this app in a variety of ways in the elementary music classroom to review melodic concepts. In my classroom, I will sing a pattern on specified Solfege, and the students echo back on the app.  It allows them to visual see the melodic contour and the skips and steps between the pitches.

Monster Chorus - Voted #1 iPad music game for kids, the Monster Chorus app allows students to participate in their on monstrous symphony.  Each monster sings a note, which can make a melodious song.  These beautiful and engaging monsters sing a major scale on a "la" syllable.  The app also includes four songs for students to discover the melody of the song.  My favorite feature of this app is that it allows you to record your own singing voice, and the monsters will echo what you sang.  The app also has numerous hidden sound effects and hidden monsters. 

 Do Re Mi Zoo - This app allows students to play the color-coded piano, which also has cute characters on they keys.  With this app, as you press a piano key, it records the Solfege syllable in a rolling staff at the top of the screen.  Younger age students can also play melodies of familiar songs, such as Addam's Family, Happy Birthday, and We Wish you a Merry Christmas. If you miss a note, it plays a funny sound, too!  You can even Tweet, post, or copy your musical composition that you created. 

Tune Train - Tune is one of my favorite apps to use for melodies.  The goal of Tune Train is to aid children to compose their own melodies while building a world of their own structured by music theory.  The app allows kids to write their own melodies by drawing paths for a train to connect the people through the trees, in the clouds, and on buildings. The trees represent musical pitches, while the buildings represent the chords. The app also includes a teacher's guide to use Tune Train in the classroom.  The game includes multiple levels with a variety of backgrounds.  The app even has an option to show the written music as you compose. 

Do-Re-Mi 123 Lite - This app is great for primary level students.  Learn songs by ear with the help of cute characters.  Not only can students play songs, but there is also a free play option.  The characters sing with Solfege, numbers, colors, and sounds.  This app also has some hidden treats in the background.  You can even record the melody you create! 

Stay tuned next week to find out my favorite free apps for rhythm!