Monday, September 19, 2011

Every day is a new day!

Each morning after breakfast duty, I run up to the office to help my 5th grade helpers as they do the announcements.  Then I run back to my classroom just in time to greet my first class of the day which is always kindergarten.  I think that kindergarten is great in the morning because they are still half asleep.  When they are still barely awake kindergarten is my favorite. In the morning thanks to our wonderful 1/2 time music teacher, I have approximately 25 students.

On every 7th day of school I get to see those bright shiny kindergarten faces again at the end of the day.  This is always a more interesting experience because they are wide awake, ready to go home and they've multiplied!  In the afternoon, when my side-kick is off teaching music at her other campus, I get 35 students all to myself!  Kindergartners in those numbers should not be allowed, but that's a soap box for another time.

So this afternoon my herd of kindergarten kids showed up at my door complete with their backpacks, full bladders, dry throats, hurt fingers, runny noses, untied shoes, and tag games still unfinished from recess, and there I was,,,,,,,, the adult in charge, by myself for 45 minutes!  I wanted to run and hide.

Did I mention that I'm supposed to be on vocal rest for 9 more days? So despite my trepidation I was a little glad that it was kindergarten because the nice thing about being 5 years old is that you can still be impressed! While they settled in their usual place on the floor, I started playing the piano.  As they immediately stopped what they were doing, and stared open mouthed at me  I thought, "this is brilliant!  they didn't even know I even had a piano in the room and now I've wowed them with my virtuosic skill!"  (the skills that last about 24 measures before I crash and burn)

As soon as I made my crash landing they burst into enthusiastic applause and then all of a sudden my piano starts acting strange.....

One of my little ones had crawled underneath and had started playing with the pedal with one hand while he had the other one draped over the top reaching blindly for anything he could touch which of course caused the perfect distraction.  At the moment of distraction, and before I could so much as breath about 5 things happened at once, my personal "teacher recorder"  had 5 year old mouth all over it, my activeboard had been unplugged, the sound to the activeboard had been unplugged, the piano pedal disconnected and my microphone turned off.  It was literally as if they had telepathically sent a signal to do all of these "no-nos" at once!

So my attempts at relative silence went out the window at this point.  I was able to refrain from yelling, barely, but I did give them sermon # 374 about the dangers of electrical plugs and why you shouldn't just push this or pull that to see what happens.

While I was in the process of pulling together the shreds of my lesson that had  been based on technology that regrettably relied on electricity and sound, one of the students said, "Are you mad?"

 I must have been frowning.

With a sigh of long suffering  I said, "No, I'm not mad, I'm just a little aggravated, but it will be alright."...... The word aggravated was as freakishly novel as my attempts at playing the piano.  The entire class suddenly focused  and started rolling their new found word around on their tongue.  They came up with a variety of 5 year old derivatives and shouted out things like "agi-ca-tated?" and "agri-jated!" and "ali-vated". When one finally asked. "What does "agi-jated" mean?"  I responded by saying it means "slightly annoyed".  We were off again, tasting the wonders of a new and bizarre sounding word.

And that was when the story of Peter and the Wolf came to my rescue!  To say that my original lesson was well and fully cooked is an understatement, but as my very curious 5 year old class had suddenly developed a fleeting interest in vocabulary, I thought I should go with it.  The grandfather in Peter in the Wolf is wonderfully aggrieved.  I am so happy that I had a CD that would tell the story, so that I could be quiet.  I had the students raise their hand when they got to the character who sounds aggravated which they loved and before we could get any further in the story, it was time to go.  They left talking about the characters in Peter and the Wolf as if that was what I had intended all along...

We should always remember that we teach children and not subjects.  They always have a funny way of letting us know what they need to learn about whether that is what we had in mind or not.

Monday, September 12, 2011

After school is where it starts

This is shaping up to become a truly great year.  In addition to my regular school day I've been given the chance to provide music classes to students who want to take them after school.  This year my half time co-teacher is coming back to campus each Monday afternoon to teach piano in the piano lab.  Because of her help I am free to teach guitar twice a week and a little class called "Melody Soup".

Guitar is a fun class to teach because the students who take it are VERY excited and they REALLY want to learn how to play guitar.  The only problem with guitar is that is a sincerely challenging class that involves mild pain until you get calluses formed on your fingers.... so the early days of guitar lessons are less than inspiring.  The students who have the will to stick it out are primed and ready to do great things.

My favorite class is turning out to be "Melody Soup".  Melody Soup meets from 4:30 to 5:30 each Monday and Wednesday and it meets with the same set of kids each class, so that means that this group of kids who attend Melody Soup each week are getting twice as much music each week in the afternoons as I am able to give them during regular school day.  How nice it is to see a group of kids twice in one week!  We are already getting so much done.  I can't wait until Wednesday because they will actually be able to remember what we did the class before.  I'm using the song experiences from Education Through Music as the basis, but I'm letting the students have a great deal of input.  After we played several games on Monday, we talked about what kind of final product we would like to produce.  They want to have a performance that involves costumes, technology instruments, games and singing.  SOOOOOO

We are going to put together an opera based on the songs that us folks familiar with ETM know go together well to form the libretto for an opera.  The students learn the songs, then put them together in their own order, figure out their own costuming add instruments (which will be new to me) and perform.

Today we learned "Are You Sleeping?".  We played the song using hand signs and trading partners.  Then we sang the song in a round.  Then we talked about the story in the song and then the children acted out their story.  Both stories were different and we had a great deal of fun.

Wednesday we are going to learn the second song "Where is John?".....

The wild card elements of this "Melody Soup" experience will really be the added instruments, the costumes, and the attempts we will make to video our work.

I am so excited to be able to use ETM in a small group with the same group of students each week in sessions that are close enough together for students to remember what we did AND with students who although tired from a days work are highly motivated.  What a pleasant way to end the day.  One of my Melody Soup kids told me " I had lots of fun making soup today..... I guess we are lucky because the other kids after school don't get to make music soup."  I like that!  Maybe word will spread and I will be able to add "Melody Stew" "Melody Bisque" and "Melody Casserole" to the roster in the spring.