February 13-16, The Week in a Nutshell, Intermediates.

Grade 3

I guess it’s safe to say that recorders are now in full swing in third grade.

Our recorder curriculum is one of the resources that come with the complete MusicPlay set.  It’s the basis of our recorder playing program, but I also use additional materials.

We are already on our third lesson, and next week I will test them on a little piece called A and B Blues.  As you can imagine from the title, the piece is various rhythm patterns of A and B, using whole notes, half notes and quarter notes.  A cd comes with the set, but I just use the piano to accompany this blues in the key of D Major.

I presented the rubric for their tests to them last week.  They each have one in their folder.

4.  Perfect.                                                                                                                                                                                        I’m excited to play any of the assigned pieces, and volunteer to be tested.  My hand and finger positions are correct.   I use tonguing unless otherwise instructed.    My tone is good, with no squeaks.  I can play the piece by myself.  I am ready to help other students with recorder playing.

3.   Very Good.                                                                                                                                                                               I volunteer to be tested.  I use correct hand and finger positions. I make no more than 2 mistakes, I know when I’ve made them and I fix them myself. I use tonguing unless otherwise instructed.  My tone is good with no squeaks.  I can play the piece by myself.

2.  Some mistakes.                                                                                                                                                                        I wait until I am asked to be tested.   I make 3 or more mistakes, but I know what they were. I have some trouble keeping the holes covered.  I squeak from time to time.  I need to play in a group or with another person. I need some more practice.

1.  Entry level.                                                                                                                                                                                  I cannot complete the piece by myself.  I make many mistakes and squeaks.  I need extra help with this.

I mentioned in a previous post that Martha Stanley,  a member of the MusicK-8 mailing list discovered and shared 2 great apps for the iPad 2.  One of them is called “Recorder Master”.

Up until yesterday I had no idea how to hook my iPad up to a projector, but my boss had, and lent me, an Apple VGA adaptor.  He had to finagle the projector a bit, using the menu button to get to source —> auto, but had it working in no time.  (And  now I know how to do it too).  So, Friday night I told my husband that I thought we should have dinner at my favorite restaurant, which just happens to be right next to the Apple store.  Naturally, I stopped in and got my own VGA adaptor,  ($29 plus tax), because both apps recommended by Martha were a tremendous hit!

You don’t necessarily need an iPad to play recorder master…..there’s a website that will work with any computer that has a microphone.


So, third grade on Friday consisted of going over their homework, which was playing B in various rhythm patterns, with tonguing, A the same way, and finally, G.  We then wrote in the counts for B and A Blues.  We count quarter notes 1,1,1,1; half notes 1,2  1,2; and whole notes 1,2,3,4.  We practiced B and A Blues a couple of times, and I told them to be prepared for their first test next week.

Then we played “Recorder Master” for a few minutes. We only had time to try levels one and two, but already I can see that it will cause them, as a group, to keep their tone under control and use their tongues.  They loved it, and it worked, even as a large group activity.  (That may not be as true when the levels become more complex.  We’ll see).

Grade 4

4th grade is a week behind 5th, and  has moved on to trying to decode unfamiliar rhythms.  I say trying because not every class is having an easy time with it.  I used the last phrase of “We Come From Pluto”, found in MusicPlay, grade 3, dividing the phrase in half for two dictations.  It’s not a difficult rhythm:

Because I’m playing a melody they’ve never heard before on the piano it completely throws some of them.  After giving enough time and repetitions for those who understand to write the first set, I sing it using “du dah dee and du.  Then, of course, the light bulb goes “ding.”
“Ohhhhh! they exclaim.
The second set goes a lot more easily, but we’ll be needing more practice taking dictation from unfamiliar  rhythms.
“We Come from Pluto” is a song that they enjoy because of the idea of being “Number One” and because of the nonsense/sound effect words.  Denise Gagne has also made the recording appealing  with the sound effects that she’s added at the beginning and end of the song.  We read as much of the rhythm on the page as we can in order to learn the song.  (They do have some experience with 16th notes, which occur right before the refrain.)  Then we do “2 things at once” by reading the words and rhythm at the same time.   They listen to the recording of the song and read along.  Finally, I teach them the music by rote.
At the end of the lesson on Friday I used the “Jazzy Day” app, again suggested by Martha Stanley.  Because the story seems to be for younger kids, I picked it up at the instrument demonstration, let it play to the end, and then let them take turns coming up to the iPad formtheninstrument sight and sound identification game.  (Don’t forget, it’s projected, so all can see what’s going on).  Again, it worked wonderfully and was a huge hit.  I hope they come out with a similar app for the orchestra.
 Sorry about the sideways view on these videos…just when I think I have video capability all figured out WordPress fixes the original problem and everything I post goes back to being upside down or sideways.  I’ll fix this…but for now, tilt your head to the side a little…..    :0)
Grade 5
In 5 th grade we revived “Follow the Drinking Gourd” as a lead in to Blues.  Then I used p.3 of “I See the Music” to demonstrate how work songs and songs about adversity became the Blues.  (I just improvised some blues on work song lyrics in the book.  I keep beating on that word with them…improvisation.)
I wish I’d had a real blues song to teach them, but I didn’t/  (Note to self…have them write one.)  Meanwhile, we worked on “Scoo be doo” from MusicPlay, grade 5.  It can also be found in “Jazz It Up”, a separate book of jazzy songs and Orff activities, also rom MusicPlay.  It’s a nice , jazzy song for them to work on, and incorporates up to 4 part harmony when you layer doo doo doo, scooby dooby doo and bab do wap.  I may insert it into my chorus program, since I’ve got some great songs, but an awful lot of unison singing.  I need something with more part singing.
Rhythmically we began making 6/8 BINGO cards.  They folded an 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of blank paper into  16 squares.  When it’s complete each square will have a different 6/8 rhythm pattern in it, comprised of triple eighth notes and/or dotted quarters and /or the quarter/eighth unit.  (Spoken du da di, do oo oo, and du   di.)  They’ve never written the du   di pattern before, so I had them take out their rote writing sheet and copy a couple of flash cards  using that pattern.  When we filled in our BINGO squares I dictated the more familiar patterns, ( du da di and do-oo-0o),  and although I spoke the du  di pattern, I had them copy all but the last two.  By that time they were starting to get the idea of what that unit looks like, and I was able to dictate it without showing it to them.  When they’re completed we’ll use them to play BINGO, (obviously).  They’ll have to be able to recognize the rhythm patterns and mark them with Smarties.
On a brief side note….tomorrow I enter the Land of No Return.  Heather will be subbing for me, while I go and file my final retirement application with the state.  Wow.  A little while ago on Facebook a friend of mine posted on how lucky she is to have small problems and big happiness.  I commented that I feel the same way.
I said, “With retirement on the horizon I’m very aware of the number of people who are qualified for, and hoping to receive my position. When I stop to think about it, the fact that I’ve had a steady job, doing what I love with people that I love for 30 years, it seems like a small miracle. Scratch that word small…..seems like a miracle. I am one lucky girl. Blessed, even.”

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. De in Ohio
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 13:02:10

    Hi Jane, Mk8 list fan here. thank you for thaking the time to share your remarkable journey with us. I was deeply challenged by your comments on your career. I currently have 4 schools that together make a full time (plus) job for me. I often think I need to let one go because my bosses do NOT understand the nature and challenges of part time.their expectations are FULL time always, for me and my program. Guess what my weekness is?? Saying NO…so I take all those expectations on and they drown out the joy that I should be focused on…loving the jobs, loving the music, loving the students making their own music with me. BUT your words put the picture in focus. Someday I will be standing in your shoes, although I will be much older, because I stayed home with my family. I want to say what you said..that you were blessed to do what you love. with people you love. Neat stuff. thanks so much.


  2. Jane
    Feb 23, 2012 @ 13:16:00

    Thanks De. Your comment brought tears to my eyes.

    Saying “no” has always been a problem for me as well. Only in the last few years, when the job and life in general have started to become overwhelming, have I finally begun to learn that I don’t HAVE to do everything that is asked of me, and that needing some time for myself and my family is legitimate. If you can keep that balance, I think you can keep the joy.

    Also, I know that all schools are different, but I think it’s possible that we in education have a better idea of how to work as a team than most of the outside world. I know that the people I’ve been blessed to work with go out of their way to help each other…there’s a sense of community, and even family where I work. From what I’ve heard of the business world, it’s pretty competitive….and here I am, working with people who help each other.

    Thank you so much for this lovely comment. We are blessed indeed.


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