The Last Days of School


I’m baaaaaack.

I haven’t posted here in several weeks, and I humbly apologize for my absence.  Aside from a couple of major personal issues, I’ve been riding the Retirement Rollercoaster……the emotional ups and downs which occur at the end of one’s career.  Nevertheless my presence and participation were required, so here are some of the activities I used to keep the kids as productive and attentive as possible.


To keep the little ones going, I resort to books at the end of the year.  Some of my favorites:

“This Old Man” and “Old MacDonald Had a Farm”  by Carol Jones.  Each illustration is covered by a page with a hole in it.  The students can only partially see the picture, and must guess what the next item is before we turn the page. (e.g.  He played knock knack on my DRUM).

I love “The Musical Life of Gustav Mole” and its sequel, “Gustav Mole and the Lost Music”.   “Musical Life” begins when Gustav is a baby mole and chronicles his experiences with music growing up.  He winds up becoming a composer with a wife and 5 little moles of his own.”  “Lost Music” continues the story, when Gustav’s children decide that they will never practice music again.  He takes them around the world showing them how important music is in other lands as well as their own.  Of course, there are demonstrations of all sorts of instruments that are native to other cultures.  Both have recorded narration and music.

Some of my favorites are authored by the actor, John Lithgow.  “Marsupial Sue” and “I’m a Manatee”  are both songs by Lithgow which have been turned into children’s books, and come with recordings of him singing the songs.  I always read the books first to the kids so we can discuss any words they might not understand and to be sure they catch the gist of the book.  Then we read it again as the author sings it.

I’ll be listing all of these books and others in the never-ending retirement sale soon, so stay tuned if you’re interested.

Music Express Magazine

Music Express is a great source for wonderful musical arrangements, but also for listening maps and composer lessons.  March of 2003, Vol. 3 #5 contains a partner arrangement for “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” that was perfect after our “Quaver” video on form.  I used “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” as A, the partner song “Triple Play” as B, and had them first sing it as an ABA arrangement, then AB partner songs together.  There is a third spoken part, but because I used this in 2nd grade I just went with the two.  Used as presented in the magazine’s teacher edition, this is actually an intermediate lesson. The following week we reviewed and followed the listening map for “Casey at the Bat” in the same issue.  The whole 12 minute poem is there, set to music.

First grade used the same issue to learn “My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean.”  Some already knew it, but many did not.  Once everyone could sing the song, we played the “B” game.  Students stand or sit each time they sing a word that starts with the letter “B”.



Have the students count off by fours to divide them into 4 groups and place each group in separate areas of the room. Each group should have 1 recorder with a sheet of paper and a pencil. The students are given a category, and 5 minutes to list everything they can think of that will fit into the category. They should work as quietly as possible, since the other groups are allowed to steal their answers. (This actually works. Heheheh). The group with the most correct items on their list wins the round. Categories: Composers, Musical Symbols, Instruments, Songs We’ve Learned, (at any time), and Scientific Terms that Relate to Sound.


I have a video series at school called “Amazing Music”.  There are 4 videos in the set:  Emotions in Music, Pictures in Music, Instruments and Jazz.  They were recorded by the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and hold the students’ attention well.  They are available from Plank Road Publishing.

Other videos that have come in handy are “Bugs Bunny’s Overtures to Disaster” and “Make Mine Melody”….soon to be listed in the retirement sale.


Jane Rivera, May 2012, All Rights Reserved

April 24-30, 2012, The Star Spangled Banner


This will be an easy post for me: we did the same lesson in grades 1-5 this week.  Our field day will be coming up in a couple of weeks.  Our Phys Ed teacher sets up all kinds of games and activities on the playground and out in the field.  The whole school goes out and rotates through the activities.  Before we begin, though, we have opening ceremonies.  We sing the school pledge, say the pledge to the flag and sing the Star Spangled Banner.

The national anthem is nothing new to the 2nd through 5th graders.  Still, I like to make a big deal out of it at least once a year.  I use the book “Oh Say Can You See“.

Oh Say Can You See

I begin by asking the students what a star-spangled banner is.  If they can’t answer right away we break it down.  A banner is a flag.  A star-spangled banner is an American flag, spangled with stars.

The book is a wealth of patriotic pictures, information and discussion starters.

Oh say, can you see, by the dawn’s early light

The first photograph is a picture of THE Star Spangled Banner….the very flag that the song was written about.  The book has little flaps with “secret messages” underneath the flap.  The message for theism photo says that the original Star Spangled Banner, which is now 200 years old, resides in the museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.  My school is in Pennsylvania, so this opens a discussion about how many of the students have been to D.C., and how fortunate we are to live so close to many historic monuments.  The picture shows some extensive holes in the flag.  They’re there, not because the banner is 200 years old or flew in the midst of a battle,  but because there was a time when, for some inexplicable reason, people felt that it would be ok to snip  off a piece of the original Star Spangled Banner and take it home as a souvenir.  Since that time the flag has been placed under glass.  We can still look at it, but no one is allowed to touch it.

Next is a picture of Francis Scott Key, who wrote the poem.  The secret message under his picture tells that he wrote it on the back of a letter – the only piece of paper that he had on hand.  This was because he was on a boat, seen in the next picture.  The secret message says that it was called “The Surprise”.

This is a perfect time for me to give a brief synopsis of the events leading up to Francis Scott Key’s inspiration for “The Star Spangled Banner”.

“He was on a boat, watching a battle on the shore, at Fort McHenry.  The year was 1812.  He knew that as long as the  flag was flying over the fort the Americans still held it, and had not surrendered.  But then it started to get dark, and he couldn’t see it anymore…..  UNLESS an aerial bomb went off.  Have you ever been to the fireworks on the 4th of July and seen an aerial bomb?  It’s not one of the real pretty ones.  It’s just a bright light, followed by a boom so loud that you can feel it in your chest.  The whole sky lights up, and for a few seconds you can see everything around you.  Whenever one of those went off at Fort McHenry in 1812, Francis Scott Key would look to see if “our flag was still there”.  Do those words sound familiar?  They should, because it was this experience that inspired him to write the words of “The Star Spangled Banner”.

There is a picture of Betsy Ross, with a brief comment about her possible connection to the flag, and also one of our current American flag, explaining the 13 stripes and original 13 stars.  The kids always know the reason that there are now 50 stars.

I sing the first phrase while  pointing to the words, turn the page and do the same with the second phrase.  I stop to translate it for them.

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming

“This is a question.  First of all, when are dawn and twilight?”

They rarely get that one right on the first try, but once we’ve established that dawn is sunrise and twilight is sunset, we can figure out that the question is: “Say, now that the sun is coming up, can you see what we proudly saluted last night as the sun was going down?”

There are more pictures on this page.  I go through all of the Washington D.C. pictures first.  Each has a secret message about the photo under the flap.  Some students in each class have been to D.C., so each picture generates quite a bit of discussion, and I learn things as well.  For example, I learned that since the earthquake last August, no one is allowed inside the Washington Monument, and in fact, the entire perimeter is off-limits.  Apparently there is now a crack in the monument, and for safety’s sake people must keep their distance.  We felt the earthquake all the way up in PA, so of course we had to take a moment to discuss where they were at the time and the circumstances they encountered. The information under the picture of the White House is especially interesting to them.

Also on this page are pictures of the Liberty Bell, (Philadelphia), and the Statue of Liberty, (NYC).  None of these monuments is more than 4 hours away from us, and some are considerably closer.  We’re very fortunate to live near  some of our greatest national monuments.

I go back to the first phrase now, and connect it to the second.  We discuss the meanings of the words “Perilous” and “ramparts”.  Translation: Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the dangerous fight, streamed over the barricades.”  (A barricade, or rampart, is a bunch of piled up stuff that you can hide behind to stay safe).

And the rockets’ red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.

The information around the edges of these pages pertains to the origins and use of fireworks on Independence Day.  I call attention once again to the connection between the words and the actual situation in which Francis Scott Key found himself: waiting for an aerial bomb to go off so that he could see whether the flag was still there.

The last page opens to show a representation of the 300 million people in the United States at the time the book was published.

O day, does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

Since I have a number of bilingual students in our school, I mention how very fortunate the person is who can speak and understand more than one language.  In the past I’ve found that students are sometime embarrassed by their ability to speak a language other than English.  I make a point of asking in each class if there are any students who can speak more than one language.  When they see all of the students who are eager to tell me that they can count to ten in Spanish, they feel better and are able to take pride in their ability to speak Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Swahili or Kikuyu.  (One of the languages spoken in Kenya).

The last thing we do before standing to face the flag is a review of flag etiquette.  1.  Stand.  2.  Remove your hat.  Hold it over your heart, at your side or under your arm.  3.  If you’re a scout, you may salute. All others may place their hand over their heart or at their side. 4.  If someone is singing the anthem, listen quietly and respectfully.  We never talk during the Star Spangled Banner.  5.  If the anthem is being played it becomes your job to sing it.

I assign one person to hold the flag.  The rest of us face it and sing “The Star Spangled Banner”.

It is the one song I can always get everyone to sing.


Jane Rivera, April 30, 2012, All Rights Reserved

February 20-24; The Week in a Nutshell, Primaries

Grade 1

In first grade this week we continued  reading sol and mi on the staff using a chart called “Hey Ho, ‘Round We Go” which was written by the late Aden Lewis.   The chart uses the entire 5 line  staff, repeat marks , and  space notes in the 2nd and 3rd spaces.  (l = du, quarter note, TT = du day, 8th note pairs.

ll:  m s mm m mm ss mm  :ll    l l TT l TT TT l l (repeat)

ss s mm m      TT l TT l

sssss s TTTTTT l

mm s mm m TT l TT l

mm ss mm m  TTTTTT l

ll: Hey Ho, round we go.  Round we go together. :ll

Sometimes up, sometimes down

Sometimes turning round and round.

Tell us please, you know how

Guess what we are doing now.

I begin this chart by having the students show me space notes with their hands and heads.

Space note head

(Her other hand is under her chin.)

I then show them the chart with the sols and mis in the spaces, and ask them to identify which kind of note it is by showing me.  We sing “Sol is higher, mi is lower” as I point to sols and mis.  We then read the sols and mis from the staff.  I have them practice the rhythm separately using the dus and du days, then practice melody and rhythm together.  Finally, I teach the words by rote, and then teach the following game:

 One person stands in the center of the circle with their eyes closed.The students walk in a circle to the beat as they sing “Hey Ho round we go , round we go together”
On “sometimes up” they stand tall.  “Sometimes down,” they crouch. ” Sometimes turning round and round” they turn in a circle in place.    When they sing”Tell us please, you know how, guess what we are doing now” they do whatever you have chosen to do…stand crouch or turn.  The person in the middle needs to guess which.  Then they can pick a quiet person to take their place.  I run through the game about 6 times before moving on.
We reviewed “Presto Largo”.  (See  )
Book to sing:  “Three Swingin’ Pigs”. 
We’ve been talking a little about Jazz.  Last week they viewed “A Jazz Time Tale” about Fats Waller and Ragtime piano.  They’ve also read/heard “The Jazz Fly, which touched on improvisation  and echoing.  This week was about scat singing.  As you read the book, try as much as possible to improvise a melody whenever singing is involved in the story.  Make sure they know you are improvising….we talked about that word 2 weeks ago.    Also, whenever the book calls for audience response, have them echo back whatever you sing to them.  Got this book from our library.  I love it, and the kids love it!

The Three Swingin' Pigs by Vicky Rubin

Grade 2

I introduced “re” in second grade this week.  I began by running them through the hand signals for do, re and mi, while singing the tones for them.  Then I showed them a chart for “Hot Cross buns” using the letters d, r and m…but they were placed on the lines and space of a 3 line staff.  We noted that do and mi were both line notes, but re was not.  Then we used do and mi on spaces, and re as a line note.  Finally, we moved on to  “Pease Porridge Hot”, using note heads instead of letters.  After having the students sing some mi’s re’s and do’s by following random hand signals, I ask them to identify which is which by sound.  I’ll hum one without singing the syllable, and call on individuals to tell me which one they think it is, reminding them all that the pitches are high, medium or low.   Next we work on the rhythm of the song, speaking; clapping and speaking;  clapping without speaking.  (I tell them to say the syllables in their heads.  We use du for quarter notes, duday for eighths and, when necessary, shh for rests, although I ask them to try to do it with no sound at all, since that’s what a rest is supposed to be.)  We work on the melody without rhythm, then add the rhythm.  Finally, I sing the song through for them one time, then tell them what the words are, phrase by phrase, and have them sing them using the correct pitches.  Finally, we sing the entire song. Next we get ourselves a partner and face each other.  The steady beat pattern is patsch (lap), clap, partner’s hands, clap.  After practicing it a few times we set it to the music, starting slowly, and gradually speeding up each time.

Here is the melody:  (Z = rest.)

d dr m Z  Pease porridge hot.

d dr m Z  Pease porridge cold

d dr mr d r m r Z  Pease porridge in a pt, 9 days old.

d dr m Z  Some like it hot.

d dr m Z Some like it cold.

d dr mr d r m d Z   Some like it in a pot, 9 days old.

We also read “Three Swingin’ Pigs”, and, of course, worked on music for our upcoming Second grade program.  ( I decided that it’s not quite long enough, and am adding a song introduced by Count von Count called “Counting Backwards in Spanish.”).

That’s it for now.

Later!  :0)


February 6-10, the Week in a Nutshell, Primaries

I LOVE writing this blog.  I love taking the time to look back on what we worked on during the week, and am always amazed at how much we music teachers do in a day, no less a week.  I love hoping that what I’m posting here will be useful to someone else.  And, strange as it may seem, I love the physical act of putting pen to paper.  (I write it all out long hand and edit as I type it into the post.)

Having said all that, it’s an activity that usually has to wait until the weekend, since I not only teach elementary school music, but serve on our church’s worship team, which involves a fair amount of rehearsal time, teach private voice lessons, and attend a Monday night Bible study.  There just isn’t much time left over in the week.  All of which is to say that, once again I’m combining 2 weeks of activities into one post, because I just couldn’t get it all done last weekend.

The other night my husband and I were discussing Tuesday Music.  He said that it will probably keep me somewhat busy during my retirement.

“Writing about what?” I replied. “I won’t be teaching.”

He suggested adding plans that I’ve used in the past as I think of them, and I probably will do that, but it got me thinking…..if any of you have plans or activities that you’d like to post, I’d love to have some guest bloggers add their ideas.  Any takers?

But, I digress…here’s what’s happened in my primary music classes recently.

First Grade

2 weeks ago we took sol and mi from hand signals and little s’s and m’s to line notes and space notes. My learning target was recognizing sol and mi on a 2 line staff.  To begin, I showed the students what a line note looks like in print…the line goes right through the note head.  Then, I put my hands on either side of my head and asked them to do the same.

“Voila!  Your head is now a line note!”

Line note head

line notes

“But there is also something called a space note. A space note squeezes in between the lines, so that there is one on top and one on the bottom.  Sometimes they sit on or under a line, but there is no line through a space note.  So, put one hand on top of your head, and one hand under your chin.  Voila!  Your head is now a space note!”

Space note head

(By the way, Betty recently asked on the MK8 list whether we had to get permission to use kid pics on blogs.  In my case I never show faces on this blog.  On the blog that my kids write at school, I have a separate permission slip for allowing their picture to be posted with their writing.  Without it I will not post a picture of them.)

So, to sum up, we began by defining what line and space notes are: A line note is a note with a line going through it.  A space note is a note between 2 lines, above a line, or below a  line.  There is no line through it.

Moving from hands and heads, I showed them line notes and space notes on a 2 line staff.  We have always sung “Sol is higher, mi is lower” using hand signals. Now we begin doing it using the higher line and the lower line, or the higher space and the lower space, noting that, in order to know which is which, all they need to do is notice which one is up higher (sol) and which is down lower (mi)  Then we practice singing each in the simple quarter note/rest pattern shown in the picture.

You can add any simple words that you’d like:

This old man. Z  He played one. Z  He played knick knack on my thumb. Z

Or, Make up rhymes with the kids:

“Art is cool.  Z  Phys Ed too. Z  Music’s what we like to do. Z”

This past week I followed up by putting some rhythm to our sols and mis.  We read the tones and rhythm patterns for “Engine Engine Number Nine.” I made sure to tell them that it doesn’t matter how many lines there are on the staff….sol is still in the higher position and mi in the lower position.  I had them identify the type of note these are by having them show me with their hands and heads.  (Space notes.)  Once they’d read the tune and the rhythm, I taught them the words by rote.  Normally I would do the rhythm separately from the words, but in this case it wasn’t necessary.  Seems they automatically read eighth notes faster than quarters.

The movement involves making a train by holding onto the shoulders of the person in front of them. They move their feet to the 8th note beat, but any time the melody moves from sol down to mi they have to bend their knees to show the lower note.  We chug around the room a couple of times….they love it.

We also learned the MusicK-8 song “Presto Largo” from my competitive, rival puppets, Presto the Bunny and Largo the Turtle.  (Aside from reading sols and mis, my learning target this week included knowing what these two terms mean.)  Presto sings his part (with the recording) while hopping madly from kid to kid.  (They’re sitting on their hands by the way…the rule is that if they want to see all of this manic little show they may not touch and must stay in their seats.)  Largo looks Presto right in the eye, along with some students, as he sings his slow part of the song.  By the time it’s over, they all have a clear understanding of what each word means.  Then I teach the song by rote and we sing along with Largo and Presto.

"Presto" and "Largo" being held by our school nurse.

Other Activities

I used several books in the past 2 weeks.  The final “Bear” book with Jerry Garcia and Dave Grisman is “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me.”  The kids easily picked up the chorus, and had fun finding all of the bugs in pockets, on heads and noses etc.  One small caution: one of the last pages reads ” How in the heck can the old folks tell if it ain’t gonna rain no more.”  On the recording he sings “How in the hell can the old folks tell”.  I always sing over it and no one ever notices it…but it’s good to know that it’s there.  The recordings for all of these books come from the recording “Not For Kids Only” by Jerry Garcia and Dave Grisman.

The Teddy Bears Picnic

There Ain't No Bugs on Me

The Jazz Fly by Matthew Gollub

I also used “The Jazz Fly” by Matthew Gollub.  There are several important ideas you can bring out before listening to the book.

A.) Call and response/echo/conversation.  Every time the fly asks his question in “jazz” a chorus echos it back to him, and some other animal answers him.

B.)  Instrumentation.  Examples of Bass, Sax, Piano and Drums are played.

C.)  Improvisation.  The Fly is expected to come up with something new on the spot at the Jazz Club, and he does.

And, speaking of Jazz, which I always cover in February in honor of Black History Month, Martha Stanley posted on the Music  K-8 mailing list about a couple of iPad apps, one of which is called “A Jazzy Day.”  I got it and used it with great success yesterday….look for a separate post , coming soon.  It’s geared for primaries, but I used it successfully in all grades.  Including 2nd…..speaking of which….

Grade 2

2nd grade is tough for me right now, because once again, we’re working on a program in one building but not the other.  (Happens twice a year.)  I’m trying not to get too far ahead in the non-program building, so this week , after reviewing “The Jazz Fly” and discussing all of the attributes of Jazz that I mentioned above, we watched “A Jazz Time Tale.”

I introduced it by recalling for them some of the many forms that Jazz can take, including Big Band swing music, Be-Bop, Vocal Jazz and Scat singing, Dixieland and Ragtime.  The video is a story about Fats Waller, narrated by Ruby Dee.  It brings into discussion topics such as Jazz, (like Rock and Roll,) being considered evil when it was first developing,  Ragtime piano music, silent movies and vaudeville.

In the other building my Muppet program is beginning to evolve: the Art teacher is going to help some of the kids work on Kermit collars and Oscar trash can lids made from paper plates and foil.  I ordered some Swedish Chef hats and Rubber Duckies from Oriental Trading Company.  (The duckies don’t squeak….not sure if that’s good or bad.)  I borrowed 8 pink feather boas so we can have some Miss Piggies, and I’ve been checking out Statler and Waldorf videos on YouTube for some schtick ideas.  I’ll give details when it finally all comes together.

I think I’m finished.  For now.

Have a great weekend!

January 30-February 3, The Week in a Nutshell; Intermediate

Grades 3 and 4

When the week started, our recorders still hadn’t arrived, so I thought it would be a good time to touch up our “Science of Sound” studies.  In our district we introduce the science of sound in 3rd grade music, then spiral around and review in 4th grade, just in time for the students to take the state tests in April.  This week I’ve been using BrainPop, an animated website that addresses all kinds of educational topics.  It’s not free, but you can try BrainPop  for 5 days.   You’ll need to create a user name and a password, and for 5 days you can use the entire site.

I used two different animations this week:  Sound, and Hearing.  The brief videos addressed my list of learning targets:

1.  What is a sound wave?

2.  How do sound waves help you hear?

3.  What is an echo?

4.  What is pitch?

5.  What is volume?

6.  What is frequency?

7.  What is amplitude?

The two videos actually contain a fair amount of overlap, so viewing the hearing video after the sound video provides a reinforcement of the information. Each animation is also followed by a quiz.  , I skip questions that don’t address anything on which we’re focusing.  Once we’ve been through videos and quizzes, I have the students fill out a short  “What do you know?” sheet…not an assessment for me, but a way for them to evaluate for themselves how much they’re understanding and remembering. (I skipped over the voice stuff, unless they had a burning desire to know the answers.  We haven’t gotten to that yet, and won’t until early spring.)

This took up about 3/4 of my 45 minutes.  I had just enough time left to introduce a song, without actually teaching or singing it.

When I first utilized the book, “Don’t laugh at Me” in class, I started reading it to the kids without having first read the whole thing myself.  As it turned out, I had to have one of the students finish the reading for me.  I didn’t know what an emotional book it would be.  This week I ran into the same problem.  I choke up.  It’s a good thing for the kids to see, though. At first, the kids thought that the cartoonish illustrations meant that the book was supposed to be funny.  Within 2 turns of the page they caught on: this is not a funny book.  It generated a lot of honest discussion.  We talked about the fact that you can find something about anyone to laugh at…..any one of them could be in the position of being teased.  How much better to develop the qualities of kindness and respect for other people. In one class one of the boys was also touched by the song/book.  I had to explain to everyone, that being able to feel what someone else feels is called empathy, and that feeling sad when someone else is bullied, teased or excluded means that you have a good heart.  I asked how many of them had ever had their feelings hurt, and almost every hand went up.  “Doesn’t feel very good does it?” I asked.  “Here’s what you can learn from that:  You don’t ever want to make someone else feel that way.”

By the way, I haven’t taught this song in several years.  I decided to bring it out now because our 5th graders are getting to the ” ‘tude” stage, with us teachers as well as with each other.  In one of my 5th grades I had 3 students sign up for chorus.  When chorus time rolled around at the end of the day, 10 kids from that class showed up.  They just didn’t want certain other students to know that they like to sing and wanted to join, for fear of having to take  flak.  I see it alot…they’re suddenly afraid to sing, afraid to speak up, afraid to participate.  It’s a common problem with pre-teens.

The book  comes with a cd of the song, which was also recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary.   Check out the video.  Incredibly moving.

Don’t Laugh at Me by Steve Seskin and Allen Shamblin. ISBN10:1-58246-058-2

 A word about the lyrics in the video: they are different from the lyrics in the book and I was concerned enough to ask my Principal if I could use the video because of it.  He gave his permission and no one has ever asked me any questions about it.  I show it before I teach the song, and at that point the kids don’t seem to notice the discrepancy.  You might want to come up with a generic answer, in case anyone would ask.  I’m sure you’ll catch it when you see the video.

 Grade 5
In 5th grade we continued with our 6/8 review.  After their warm up they learned two 6/8 rounds by reading the rhythms, then reading the words in rhythm.  I taught the melodies by rote. (They had both songs in front of them, notated, on a song sheet to keep in their folders.)
Sing Me Another
(TTT=triple 8ths, l.=dotted quarter.)
Sing me another before we depart.
 (melody) DDDRRRRDT1D      (rhythm) TTT TTT TTT  l.
Sing to the praise of our musical art.
Sing, sing, sing, sing
l. l. l. l.
Do do do sol sol sol sol sol sol do.
Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell is buried and dead.  Ho, Ha, buried and Dead.
TTT TTT TTT  l.  l. l.  TTT l.
We took the time to practice “Sing Me Another” as a round.  I usually do this by having them sing part one while I sing part two, then gradually adding students to part two by calling them up to the piano to sing with me.
I had them take out a sheet that I had placed on their chairs before they came in.  On one side I had them copy the rhythm of “Sing Me Another”….rote learning on how the notes are written, where to place the bar lines, how many beats in a measure etc.  Once this was finished I had them put their song sheets into their folders, where they couldn’t look at them.  On the other side of the paper I had spaces and bar lines marked 6/8, so that I could dictate “Oliver Cromwell” to them.  They’ve had enough experience with 6/8 by this time that they really had very little trouble.  I simply warned them ahead of time that they needed to overlook the words and the melody, and translate the rhythm into doo’s and doo-day’s.  Next week I will dictate something to them that they’ve never heard before, and then move on to 6/8 when the dotted quarter is replaced with a quarter and an eighth.  (doooo  di).
Again, all of this took about half an hour, and I finished up with “Don’t Laugh at Me.”
We are continuing to self assess at the end of class using Artie Almeida’s “Critic’s Corner” rubric from “Recorder Classroom.”
So.  Bring on February, 2012.  Human Race: 1.  Mayan Calendar: 0

January 30-February 3, The Week in a Nutshell; Primary

I didn’t post my primary lessons last week….time just gets away from me!  So, I’ll cover a few extra things this week.

Grade 1

Last week I introduced “Skinnamarink” to first grade by playing the recording from “Share the Music”, Grade 2, and then teaching the song by rote. (I also reviewed it with second grade, who learned it last year.)

Once they know the song I have them sing along with the recording while I play a steady beat game.  I keep the beat by pointing at a different student on each beat.   Whenever the phrase stops, my finger stops and points at whoever it was on at the end of the phrase.  (The implication being ” I love YOU”,  “Yes, I DO”, etc.)It is so touching to me that they are genuinely pleased when the beat stops on them.  Everyone needs to be told that they’re loved.  The song plays through 3 times, so I have plenty of opportunities to love various students.  Then I tell them that it’s their turn to keep the steady beat.  (Great assessment  song; you can watch for 3 verses).  Again, I am amazed at how little embarrassment there is, and how much pleasure at telling each other they “love” them.  I always do this a few weeks before Valentine’s day, and I mention it now because I reviewed it with them at the end of this week’s lesson.

We’re continuing to work on sol-mi.  Last week we worked on “Fuzzy Wuzzy was a Bear, which  utilizes mi-sol.  Before we reviewed it this week I read them So-Me book #3, which also introduces reading the interval “backwards”…starting on mi instead of sol.  (“So-Me, Oh, and Romeo”.  The books are available from MusicPlay).  The kids love these little stories.  Every time So-Me’s name occurs I sing it to the kids, along with all of the other patterns of mi, sol and la that are incorporated into the stories.  A cd comes with the books, but I prefer to read them myself.

So Me....Oh and Romeo

So Me....Oh and Romeo

Our new chart this week is “Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around”.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around

We learn the rhythm on doo, (quarter notes), and doo-day, (eighth notes). We speak it, speak it and clap it, and clap it while thinking it silently in our heads.  We practice singing “Sol is higher, Mi is lower” several times with the correlating hand signals, the read the S’s and M’s underneath the rhythm.  Where there is no letter, the students speak the rhythm syllables.

I sing them the tune using a book by the same name, by Steve Scott.  ISBN 0-694-01162-2.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear

The melody is:





(Z = rest).

Finally, I teach simultaneously the following words and corresponding movements:

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, turn around,

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, touch the ground.

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, tie your shoes.  (Pretend to tie shoes.)

Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, that will do.  (Shake finger.)

I teach this to them s l o w l y.  We repeat the song numerous times, each time a little faster.  I use the keyboard to control the tempo, using the chords C and G.  By about the third time through they begin to understand what’s happening, and the smiles start to appear.  We keep going until we’re singing and moving as fast as we possibly can.  Seems like such a simple, silly thing to do, but it’s little things like this that make music class fun.  Yesterday, when we were sitting back down on the rug I hear one tiny girl say, “I love Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear”.  Made me smile.   By the way, just about the entire lesson this week happened with the kids on the rug in front of my chair.  I had a lot of things I wanted them to be able to see.

Since last week was about the bear “Fuzzy Wuzzy”, I’d brought out the book, “The Teddy Bears’ Picnic.  This week was about Teddy Bear, so I brought out “Jenny Jenkins” performed by the same bears: Jerry Garcia and Dave Grisman.  ISBN 0-06-028263-0, Bruce Whatley, illustrator.

What Wll You Wear, Jenny Jenkins?

I go through the book, singing the song, asking what color we will sing about next, noting details in the illustrations, (like how cute Jenny looks in her beige robe and slippers, or “I bet that banana peel on the ground will have consequences on the next page.”)  By the time I play the recording, (and go through the book again), they’ve got the tune, the pattern of the words and just need a little help with “roldy-poldy-tildy-toldy-seeka-double-use a cozza.”  There is one more book in this series, which I will use next week:  “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me.”  After that, all of the books on this page except for the So-Me book will be for sale.

We finished up this week with Skinnamarink, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post.

So, in this lesson we did:  solfege, rhythm and tone reading, singing, movement, and 3 children’s books.

Grade 2

A while back I taught a chart called “Valentine, but only used the solfege syllables as words.  Here’s a re-cap of that lesson.

“Here’s how the song actually goes:

Mi Sol Do

But this is all the kids ever see. I teach “Swinging” and “Round we go” by rote.

Once they can sing the whole thing, they stand and face a partner. “Mi” is a patsch on their lap, “sol” is clap their own hands once, “do” is two fists, hands at sides. “Swinging, swinging to and fro” take partner’s hands and swing from side to side. (Gently….always tell them, gently.) Mi sol do as the first time. “Round and round and round we go”, take partners hands and walk in a circle. (Slowly…always tell them slowly.) We do the dance several times. If they’re a particularly mature group I might start slowly and speed up each time.”

 That was back in October, so you can see why I didn’t use the Valentine words at that time.  This week I reviewed what we did in the fall, and added the Valentine words.

Won'tcha be my Valentimes

Complete lyrics:

Valentine, Valentine, won’t you be my valentine?

Valentine, Valentine, yes, I’ll be your Valentine.

I’ll never forget the student who used to sing, “Valentimes, Valentimes, won’tcha be my Valentimes.”  I still smile when I think of him.

So, now we have 2 verses for the clapping game, which we DO start slowly and speed up.  Why do they find that so enjoyable?  Don’t know, but I run with it.

You may recall that we’ve been adding “la” to our do-mi-sol reading, so in addition to reviewing “Valentine” we also worked on “Little Snail.”  All quarter notes and quarter rests, again, the Z = a rest.

S S M M S S M Z      Little Snail I cannot see

S S L L S S M Z         Why you always hide from me.

D M S S L L M Z      Little Snail oh don’t be shy.

D M S S L L M Z      I won’t hurt you, no not I.

S S M M S S M Z      Little Snail I cannot see

S S L L S S M Z         Why you always hide from me.

The rhythm is so easy that we go directly to the melody, singing from a chart with the rhythm stems with the letter for Do, Mi, Sol or La underneath.  (Sorry…I forgot to take a picture.) It’s an easy song to learn and remember, so once they have it down I have them line up behind me, and hold the hand of the person in front of them.  Then, as they sing, I start to turn in a circle, right in my personal space.  This has the effect  of winding them all tightly around me, turning us into a snail.  I have the last person lead us out of the snail as we sing the song one more time.  Caution:  tell the students they may not run, push or pull, or someone will fall and get hurt.

I sang them a book, The Ballad of Valentine, by Alison Jackson, ISBN 0-525-46720-3,  stopping for vocabulary and terms that they might not, (and most did not) understand: Morse Code, Smoke Signals, Homing Pigeon.  It’s a silly song to the tune of Clementine, about all of the different ways this guy tries send a message to ask Valentine to be his valentine. It also gave me a way to explain to them what a ballad is.  That will come up again as the year goes on.  (Think  “Senior Don Gato” and “The Cat Came Back.”)

The Ballad of Valentine

We finished up with Skinnamarink and the steady beat game.  Always a hit.

Wow, I’ve been sitting here writing for an hour and a half, and I still have intermediates to go.  It always amazes me how much stuff we do in a week.  Stay tuned.



January 16-20, The Week in a Nutshell, Primary

First Grade

In First grade this week we continues working on our new notes, sol and mi. As soon as we’re done warming up we use the hand signals as we sing “sol is higher, mi is lower” several times, always working on matching the pitch, which is still tricky for a significant number of them.

Last week’s chart was “Star Light, Star Bright”, using sol, mi, quarter notes and eighth notes.  This week we set “Fuzzy Wuzzy Was a Bear” to sol mi, quarters, eighths and quarter rests.

Fuzzy Wuzzy was a bear.     ss mm mm s

Fuzzy Wuzzy had no hair.   ss mm mm s

Fuzzy Wuzzy wasn’t fuzzy.   ss mm mm ss

Was he?                                    ms Z Z Z

The tricky part here is that they are not just alternating sols and mis….they have to actually read a new pattern and sing higher for sol and lower for mi.  ( A common problem is that they’ll sing the right syllable, but the wrong tone). It usually takes several tries before they understand that they must sing what the chart says, rather than what they expect it to say.

Because it’s a bear song, I tie in “the Teddy Bear’s Picnic” using the “Dead Bear ” book and recording by Jerry Garcia and Dave Grisman.    ( “Dead Bears” were Grateful Dead Teddy Bears, not literally dead bears….just in case ya didn’t know.). I read through the book with them first, then show the book again as they listen to the song.  There is an instrumental interlude part way through.  I just sing along with it to hold their attention.  They quickly pick up “That’s the way the Teddy Bears have their picnic.”.  (I tell them that when they come to school all of  their Teddy Bears climb out the window and have a picnic in the woods.  “Nuh-uh”, they say).

The Teddy Bears Picnic

The book originally came with a cassette recording of the song, but it is also on an album of children’s songs by Jerry and Dave called “Not For Kids Only“.  The  album or individual songs from it are available on iTunes.  Other books in the series include “Jenny Jenkins” and  “There Ain’t No Bugs on Me”.  The kids really enjoy all of them, and it’s a great introduction to another style of music.

Finally,  we began listening to “Carnival of the Animals” and reading along as  John Lithgow narrates his book by the same title.  We only had time to get through  “Aquarium”, which is fine, because the book is too long to get through in one sitting anyway.  I just reblogged my original series of lessons on this ….I think if you click on the “previous” arrow it should come up. Then click on “reblogged from Tuesday Music.”

Second Grade

Second grade is continuing to work on Muppet songs for their program.  This week they learned “Rubber Duckie”, as published in the Reader’s Digest Children’s Song Book “.  That makes our fourth song, and we go over the others in addition to learning the new one.  (“The Muppet Show Theme”, “The Rainbow Connection” and “Sing”).

ISBN 0-89577-214-0

STILL figuring out what to have them wear and how to glue the whole thing together.  Jokes?  Very short skits?  Any ideas?

Last week we worked on do mi sol using”49 Bottles.”. This week I threw  la back into the mix, using a game chant called “Little Sally More”.

Little Sally More

I always start with the rhythm patterns, spoken on dooday for eighths, doo for quarters and a silent, covered mouth for rests.  Say it, say it and clap it, clap it while saying the rhythm in our head.

This song begins with the typical “nya nya nya nya nyaaaaaa  nya” playground pattern, and I tell them that first thing to help them get the sound in their ear.  We review that        “do” “mi”and “sol” are all line notes…bottom line, middle and top, and note that “la” has no line through it…it is different in that respect from “do”, “mi” and “sol”.  We sing through the tones using hand signals several times, to help them get the pitches in their ear, then slowly read through the song.  Several tries may be necessary.  Once I’m happy with their reading I teach the words by rote, and then put them in a circle for the game:

One person sits in the middle with their eyes closed.  If it’s a girl she is Sally, if a boy, Johnny.  Sometimes we have also played using the student’s real name.  All of the students in the circle sing.  The child in the middle rises when the song says to, stretches out their arm and points while turning first in one direction, then the other, and finally back in the first direction.  they stop moving when the song is over, and whomever they are pointing at becomes the next Sally or Johnny.   Such a simple game, but they love it, and naturally we must play until everyone has had a turn.


I don’t think I mentioned that in first and second grade, as with the older students< I assessed their pitch using “Jambo.”  Arrow back 2 posts if  you haven’t read about that yet.

Ok, I think this one is ready to go.  Stand by for some retirement sale books, coming up soon.

Thanks, as always, for reading.  :0)

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