Thursday, March 28, 2013

Caution! Elementary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 4

Playing the Pipes!
This center just works. I am here to tell you that you can put this center in front of children within the ages of 5 and 11 and they can stay busy creating music, improvising, creating patterns and learning how instruments work for the entire class time.  This has been the BEST center and the experience that my students have had while at this center has informed their work as they moved around from station to station.  I believe that it is successful because it allows students to be truly and entirely creative.  Their interaction with the pipes is entirely open ended and because the pipes are low pitched, they have a pleasing sound no matter how hard they are played.  Students of all ages discover the variety of ways that they can be played and even practice vocal exploration.  Since this particular series of centers have all been focused on music composition, I provided paper for the students to carry and keep track of any notation they wanted to remember.  Sometimes at this center students would notate rhythms, sometimes they would notate pitch and sometimes they provided elaborate scientific drawings that were labeled with descriptions of how adding a length of pipe would change the sound.  I intend to add more pipe, and find ways to incorporate this one often.  - I love that although it would make an obviously brilliant instrument center, it functions really well during composition stations. 

Set up: I bought the flip flops on clearance at an end of season sale at Hobby Lobby almost two summers ago.  They sat in my closet waiting for some pipe to play.  Over spring break, I found my way to Home Depot which I might have been to twice in my life and purchased some 2 inch plumbing.  IF you can find some pipe elbows and other pieces that are missing some of the "twisty - tightening" pieces, then you can get them at a discount. ..... I took mine to the register not even realizing I had selected pipes that were missing hardware.... good thing the clerk knew her plumbing..... I got a discount!
2-3 years ago during the summer I decided to type in "music centers" into the search on YouTube.   I discovered a variety of videos that have been created by Mark E. Turner.  At that time I found a video about centers that he had posted that contained a big box of PVC pipes and some flip flops.  I'm not sure if I've uncovered the video that originally intrigued me, but I have discovered his channel of videos and he has a TON of great ideas and solid thinking about children and music and how to teach them.  It's so much to take in that you could spend a good while exploring and watching the almost 200 videos he has posted!  Since I got the idea of using PVC pipe and flip flops from him I wanted to be sure and share his videos so that he can get credit for his great work.  Check out his YouTube channel, LOTS to learn and LOTS to think about! Thanks Mark for sharing your insights and practice on YouTube where we can find your work!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Caution! Primary Music Centers Under Contruction! - Part 3

Quiet Please We're Testing!  Those are not the words a music teacher wants to hear when she shares a wall with a testing room........ ALL my speakers are on the "testing" wall..... My instruments were bleeding through to the other side...... what to do.... what to do....?????? 

This next set of centers were developed out of pure necessity.

We've been working on composition centers, but many of my composition centers require students to either play or improvise melodies and rhythms on instruments.  Basically, I came up with these  in a pinch ideas when I had a room full of students and not enough centers to go around. 

Before I scrapped all of my composition centers, I first modified most of them.  Instead of using un-pitched percussion, my students used body percussion, instead of pitched percussion, my students sang.

I'm pretty sure we did ok, because no one came to the door to tell us to be quiet. 

Additionally, I added a couple of centers to replace some of the more rambunctious centers.  Sometimes the simplest ideas are the best. 

Finale Notepad!

Set-up - headphones and headphone splitters allow for more than one student to hear their work while working on a computer.  I use Finale Notepad quite a bit with my older students, so the FREE! download is already on my computers.  The trickiest part is getting students logged on.  I try to pair a student who I think will be independently successful with one that needs some support.  The more independent student uses their log-in credentials.... Since my students have easy access to computers in their classroom they are well used to logging in. 

Kinder - nope, didn't do this one with kindergarten..... during kindergarten I just added an extra person with my other centers.  They didn't miss it, they were having too much fun.

1st/2nd - I helped them log in and find Finale and then after a quick tutorial on how to manipulate the application I left them alone to doodle and listen to their doodles.  I wanted them to have the experience of notating something and then playing it back to see how it sounds.  I told them to start with quarter, and eighth notes and they did pretty well.  When it was time to go, I helped them save their work. 

Rhyming Books
Set-up ...I have a great collection of books.  I asked my students to read independently and with each other.  I  chose the books that are rhyming because they are more rhythmic than others and they are ones with which the students could add instruments if we were allowed to be loud. 

Kinder-2nd grade I was shocked by how intrigued and on task the students were.  They REALLY enjoyed getting to read my special music books that they don't see everyday.


Reflections upon centers in music

Caution! Primary Music Centers Under Construction Part 1

Caution! Primary Music Centers Under Construction Part 2

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Caution! Primary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 2

Here it is, another favorite center from the last several days of center reconstruction!

Compose a rhythm!
First I wrote quarter notes, quarter rests and eighth notes on foam sheets.  Using foam sheets instead of cardstock in need of lamination saved so much time!  The best part about this center is that it is very easy to differentiate for the instructional needs of each grade level AND interest can be keep alive simply by changing the instruments used while reading the rhythm. Before introducing this center I considered creating some sort of 4-beat frame.  For now I decided against it in favor of flexibility.

 Before opening this center I asked students reviewed the rhythms and asked students to help me create a rhythm pattern.  I guided them through the process of choosing six cards and we practiced counting them together. 

Their favorite part was mixing up the cards and putting them in order. They did pretty well reading and playing the rhythms.  It was amazing to me how many different configurations they came up with.  Some students made long "rhythm snakes" while others automatically arranged their rhythms into 4-beat patterns without any direction from me. This center will

1st grade center:
I set this center up almost identically to kinder.  I made a much bigger deal about the rests and we practiced before they worked independently. 

This center seemed to catch first grade at just the right place to really enjoy it.  One group decided to arrange their composition in a long line.  Then they lined up at one end and hopped down the line with one foot on each side.  When they landed on a card they played it.  As my friend Randy would say "It was as if they knew what they needed!" 

2nd grade
The set up for this center started similarly in that I reviewed the rhythms.  However, just like in the melody center, it seemed wise to use a song to facilitate their play.  In addition to giving them time to create their own rhythms, I asked the students to find the rhythms for Rain Rain Go Away.

2nd grade was truly intrigued by the idea of composing and were excited by everything.  They took turns composing and conducting their patterns and really could have stayed at this center longer.  In order to keep the challenge of the center relevant, and to make them feel like their compositions matter, I'll provide a way to write down or record their work.....Nothing motivates like the opportunity to share. 

For more information about the centers that I am working to develop, check out this link for the post below!
Caution! Primary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 1

Friday, March 22, 2013

Caution! Primary Music Centers Under Construction - Part 1

Although I'm not ready to fully roll out centers for all of my classes, my schedule this week has allowed me the time to experiment some and try centers with a few individual classes in kinder, 1st and 2nd grade. 

Today I'm going to share one of my centers and how I adjusted it to fit the needs of the 3 grade levels I've used it with so far. 

Compose a melody!
First I wrote the pitches for a C pentatonic scale on foam sheets.   I wanted students to be able to create patterns, and because I want the freedom to adjust and learn as I go without a huge commitment to materials I included only 4 "do" cards and 2 of each of the remaining pitches.    On a purely practical note, this center was really easy and cheap to create and only required about five minutes of preparation because you don't have to laminate foam sheets.  This is a center that will always be a part of my center rotation in one version or another.

1. I prepared each xylophone to be played in C pentatonic.
2. Before opening this center, I had students help me model creating a pitch pattern in front of the xylophones.  Then we modeled taking turns playing the xylophones.  We modeled how to play the xylophones appropriately. 
3.  My kinder students were asked to take turns creating melodic patterns for their partners to play. 

Centers were made for kindergarten and kindergarten was made for centers.  My little ones were so happy to have the chance to explore this center.  With the VERY quick addition of some bright stickers that labeled the scale on the xylophone itself.....(I hadn't thought of that until I had a class full of kids)..... they were off to the races. The very first thing they did was find the F and B bar and put them back on the xylophone, but even with them on, I noticed that they made a real effort to follow the melody created by their friend.  Because there was no rhythm value on the cards, they took the time to hunt for and find the pitch on the instrument.  However in kindergarten creating and playing a melodic pattern lasts about a minute and a half and then it's time to improvise!  My favorite part is that using a center like this with just one or two of the really "cool" instruments allowed my kindergarten students to hear what they were playing because the music room wasn't cluttered with 10 other instruments playing together.... There were just two instruments and they had permission to play something new and self directed. 

1st grade center:
1.  Before opening this center, I had students help me model creating a pitch pattern in front of the xylophones.  Then we modeled taking turns playing the xylophones.  We modeled how to play the xylophones appropriately. 
2.  My first grade students were asked to take turns creating melodic patterns for their partners to play. 

1st grade were almost as excited about this center as kindergarten.  I didn't pre-set the xylophone into C pentatonic,  since we have recently been playing as a class together,  they automatically took off the bars.  The biggest growth was in their ability to help each other get their patterns right.  First graders read the cards out loud to each other while helping their partner to find the right bar. They were able to sustain the planned activity for a longer time before they started improvising.  Their improvisation was more informed and conversational.  They dialoged with their partner about what they should try next.

2nd grade
1.  Before opening this center, I had students help me model creating a pitch pattern in front of the xylophones.  Then we modeled taking turns playing the xylophones.  We modeled how to play the xylophones appropriately. 
2.  My second grade students were asked to take turns creating melodic patterns for their partners to play.
3. I gave them the extra challenge singing what they play.  I asked them to try and find the pattern for Rain Rain Go Away and to figure out how to play that song in addition to their composition.

2nd grade was truly intrigued by the idea of composing.  They took turns composing and conducting their patterns and really could have stayed at this center longer.

More information about centers coming soon!
You might also enjoy Reflections Upon Centers In Music


Monday, March 18, 2013

Reflections upon Centers in Music - Making every moment count

I have music centers on the brain.  I can't quit thinking about them because I want to make the experience my students have when using centers more meaningful and effective.  I'm almost.....sort of.... happy with my learning outcomes for some of my centers but not as happy with others.  Every year the actual management of centers gets easier, but there is always room for improvement.  As a tenacious optimist I think I can do better!  In fact, I've been thinking about centers all through spring break and am ready to jump in this week Melodysoup Centers 14.0..... 

Questions I ask myself when planning to use centers

1. Have I chosen wisely? Every center I choose must be interesting enough for students to want to participate AND instructionally important enough for them to construct meaning. If I find that some of my centers are "super cool" while others are "place holders" then it's time to figure out how to duplicate the "super cool" centers OR bring the "place holders" up to scratch.

2.  Do I have time? I don't see my students very often and I don't see them for very long.  I've recently realized that in some cases when I want students to practice certain things, as few as 2-3 centers help me to keep the class moving forward while building success and increased independence.

3. Have I stayed true to my objective? Centers can be really fun!  Centers can foster "play state" which is the best place for children to learn!  Centers can be all sorts of things, but did the opportunities I provided for my students foster the learning I intended?  Did I lead them through an opportunity to learn a musical skill? Or did I lead them through an opportunity to learn that their classmate eats crayons?

4. Do I have the right management in place? The most creative and fabulous centers in the world will fail miserably if the students can't get them out and put them up without eating up all of their time or destroying the center. Centers HAVE To be EASY EASY EASY EASY EASY to use!

5. Is this center transferable? The more grade levels that can use a given center, the better!

Coming Soon!
Melodysoup Centers 14.0

Friday, March 8, 2013


We have a winner! 

Everybody check your email and see if you received an email from me.  As soon as I hear back from the winner I'll announce who won and what the next give away will be!  :)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Last DAY!

Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a FREE book from MelodySoup! 

Monday, March 4, 2013

Carnival of the Animals - in a pinch, lessons that can pass between me and the sub

Carnival of the Animals is just great music!  There are about a thousand different activities and directions that you can explore with your students, so much so that this great work deserves several posts.  Today I'm going to share with you how I like to introduce these pieces to my students and why it's a work that should be revisited.

I'll be honest and admit that I typically save Carnival of the Animals for May.  I save it for May because I find that it just about teaches itself and when I'm busy or tired or just feeling uncreative, Carnival of the Animals is great to make sure that my teaching is as good as it can be ALL of the time even when I'm not at my best. 

This last week was just such a time.  I caught the BUG!  BUG in all caps.... I got SICK SICK SICK! Of course this happened right after TMEA no less!

I missed Monday and then on Tuesday I MADE myself go school on Tuesday.  I stayed home Wednesday and Thursday and then on Friday I drug myself to school.   I'm back at school today, but guess who doesn't have a voice?  THIS girl!!  So needless to say, Carnival of the Animals has become an important part of my teaching this week. 

First of all, I use the John Lithgow version of Carnival of the Animals with the older students.

I use the Jack Prelutsky version of Carnival of the Animals with the younger students.

My first goal is to assist my students as they listen to the work.  I really want them to experience the work as a whole, at least in the beginning.  However, my students aren't equipped to just sit and listen to much of anything.  So I use my handy dandy folded paper to help my young ones increase their listening time.    THE BEST part is that my sub can easily do everything I do without a fuss or bother.

Here is what we do.

1. We fold out papers in half 4 times.  My students are pretty good folding paper because I find it easier than creating worksheets and running copies.

2.  Then they copy the title.  I differentiate this for grade level and literacy level. 

3. Then while seated in front of the book we are using, they listen to the poem and then during the music they draw the animal. 

4.  I pause and repeat on some of the songs that are too short to draw and during some of the longer pieces I cut them short so that we can get through several animals in one class.

5.  I don't push the pace of the lesson, but I don't hold back either.  I've noticed that my students are proud of their work and often I'll post some of them outside my wall.

6.  If students need to get up and move to the music, we just set down our lapboards, move to the music and come back and draw the animal that we just became.