How do you, step by step, go about assembling a performing group, decide on music, schedule rehearsal time and mount a performance?

Hello Friends!

Just a reminder…submissions for this month’s guest blogging contest should be submitted by November 1.  Read on for Mallory Martin’s submission, followed by one from Emily Quezada.  Thanks for sharing ladies!  The idea is to get lots of ideas out there!  You can email your submissions to me at or, or you can type your submission right into the comment box.

The prize this month is…..(drum roll)…..

Favorite Folk Songs by Peter Yarrow

From Mallory:

You asked for step-by-step, so you got it!

Assembling my performance group is pretty straightforward.  My performance group is a 4th and 5th grade extra-curricular choir.  I write an invitation letter every fall and distribute it to all 4th and 5th grade students.  Children must return the permission slip before the first day of rehearsal.  The permission slip contains the child’s name, grade, and home room; the parent or guardian’s name and signature, phone number, and email; and a check box for how they will get home after rehearsals.

There are no auditions; I accept every student who wants to join.  At this age, I think turning students away causes a lot more harm than allowing a weak singer into the group.  I have heard too many horror stories of people who gave up singing or music for life because of one music teacher who told them they were bad.  Plus, I am a music TEACHER!  It’s my job to TEACH them to sing well!  I usually get about 50% of the students to sign up for choir.  This number increases when there is a performance scheduled at a major venue such as a Twins game or the Mall of America.

Choir rehearsals are after school, once per week.  The two grade levels rehearse separately because my classroom is too small to house all of them and there are no other available rooms in my building at that time.  Last year, rehearsals were 45 minutes.  I found that was not enough time to really go into the music, so I extended it to 60 minutes this year.  I feel like we can learn a lot more.  And, although it’s a high-energy group, I can take a minute to wait for them to be quiet without feeling like I’m wasting precious time.

Since our performances are in the gymnasium (we have a stage with curtains, lights, and sound system in our gym), we do rehearse on stage the week of the concert.  I set up the stage myself (big big job!) on Tuesday, then we start at the beginning of the concert and get as far as we can.  The next day, we pick up where we left off and go back and work transitions, solo parts, wordy songs, or anything else that needs special attention.  On Thursday morning, I pull kids from class for 60 minutes (thanks to the classroom teachers’ flexibility!) for our final rehearsal.  We eat lunch together then perform for the entire school (and whichever parents show up) at 1:30.  We do not rehearse after school that day, but meet back in the music room at 6:30 P.M. to warm up, go to the bathroom, and line up for the 7:00 performance.

Setting up and striking the stage is technically my job, but luckily I have helpful custodians and students and parents.  And, I try to plan ahead so the job is as small as possible.

I select repertoire as far in advance as possible.  Due to my predecessor’s panache, my school community is used to big, dance-y, costume-y, showy, themed programs.  My principal supports my desire to showcase quality music in a manner that is engaging, educational, and entertaining (which means I am trying to tone it down a bit!).  So, I often select music with a theme, and plan on doing a “big” show once every other year, so each student gets to do a “big” show.  I love dancing and choreographing, so I will often create simple dance moves that are riser-friendly and musically appropriate.  I also think that simple costumes are fun.  Read on to see two of my ideas for simple yet effective costuming.

This December’s theme is seasons.  This way, I get to select quality music and let the students perform some holiday music without making a full-out holiday concert.

Song List

Spring: Shadowphobia, Emerald Isle, and Piney Mountain Home (all Music K – 8)

Summer: Red Dragonflies (Japanese); Love the Summer, and We Go for the Gold (Music K – 8)

Fall: I Like the Colors of the Fall, Do You Recall September (Music K – 8); Skin and Bones (Traditional: I use the arrangement from Share the Music Grade 1.  The fifth graders love it and have no idea it’s from a first grade textbook.)

Winter: Winter Holiday (partner song with “Jingle Bells”) and Holiday Sing-Along (from Share The Music Grade 6)

For decorations, the art teacher is giving me the 3rd graders’ leaves after she takes them down.  In addition, I am going to cut out a huge snowflake, flower, and sun and pin them to the back curtains.  Décor: check!

For flair, we have some simple choreography to “Shadowphobia” and “Love the Summer,” as well as sign language for “Do You Recall September.”  We will add rain, cricket, bird, and frog sounds to “Red Dragonflies.”  I will have students who participate in sports wear their uniforms for “We Go for the Gold.”  I will print off words for the Holiday sing-along and have the audience join us on some of the songs.

My concert next April will be the revue “My Planet, Your Planet” published by Music K – 8.  I have written my own dialogue about some aliens who come to Earth because their planet was overtaken by garbage.  They want our help and end up teaching us about being “green.”  The choir will get T-shirts (paid for on their own unless there is a financial hardship, when the PTO will cover their cost) that are green with alien eyes on the front and the Earth on the back.  Students portraying aliens will wear the shirts normally with sunglasses and students portraying “Earthlings” will wear the shirts reversed with some sort of “Earthly” headgear such as a baseball cap or cowboy hat.

I hate spending money on props and costumes!  So, I try to: 1. Use items students already own.  2. Use items students will be purchasing anyway.  3. Buy items that are versatile and can be used over and over.

My gymnasium has a sound system and I have two fifth graders somewhat trained in how to use it.  Basically, they stand backstage to adjust the gain (volume) and start and stop the CD player.

I have an accompanist for any songs that will not be performed with CD.  She is paid from district funds at a standard, stinky district rate.

I am free to schedule my own concerts, but I make sure not to conflict with any concerts of our “feeder” schools (the middle and high schools that we feed into).

I have not had any negative comments from parents about my performances.  I am very sensitive to the inclusion of sacred music.  I am careful to find a balance between sacred and secular music and always choose sacred music for its educational value.  I am ready with a list of educational merits of each sacred song in case a parent or administrator wonders about the appropriateness of my song choice.

Thank you for the opportunity to participate in this essay contest!  I look forward to the opportunity to read other teachers’ submissions and glean many new ideas from them.

Mallory Martin

From Emily

My classroom teachers take on grade level performances (this began after we participated in an arts integration grant), so I am only responsible for giving performances with my after school groups. I have chorus (3-5) and Orff (4-5) who meet separately once a week to rehearse. The only requirement to join these groups is to have a signed contract and pay the activity fee. Auditions have their place but for these groups, I don’t feel it is necessary. We usually have 10-13 rehearsals before a performance.

In addition to my after school groups, I like to feature a class from another grade. Last year it was a 2nd grade class who performed Giddy-up My Burro.

My basic plan starts with knowing that my winter concert will always be something holiday/winter themed and my spring is always a musical. From there I narrow it down. When I am planning a winter concert I like to come up with some sort of theme to help narrow my song selection.

For example, last year’s winter concert was “A Passport Through the Holidays”. We performed music from around the world and the kids read a script describing where the piece came from and the celebration it is from. Here’s what we performed:

Giddy-up My Burro
La Pinata
Lo Yisa Goi
Kwanzaa Celebration
African Noel
Sleigh Ride (Recorder)
Christmas Comin’
Jingle Bells (Recorder)
Lion Dance

Once I have my theme I select songs that will highlight each group separately and then a few that feature both. I also like to find a way to incorporate recorder and movement; whether that be dance, sign language, etc. Some of the songs that we performed were simple but I made some tweaks to the arrangement to up it to where my performing groups were.

Emily Quezada

Questions and Answers

Hello Friends,Retirement is every bit as busy as teaching was, hence the long delay between posts recently.  I’ve received several comments that contained questions or requests, so “Question and Answer” seemed to be the best way to format a new post.

Question 1 is easy: “Are you ok?”  Yep….I’m fine.  My schedule was frustratingly full during August and the beginning of September – so much so that I was beginning to ask “When do I get to start my retirement?”  Things are starting to slow down now, so I’m ready to get back to one of my top priorities: blogging.  Thanks so much, Judy, for your concern!

Question 2 was a request for weeks 4 and 5 of lesson plans.  One of my goals is to  write some of the activities that I’ve used in other years, but for now here are the links to the lessons that I did last year.

Primaries, week 4

Intermediates, week 4

Primaries and intermediates, week 5

An easy way to access these lessons is to use the “Search by Month” drop down.  There is still one more lesson in September, so you would choose September 2011 from the drop down menu, and it will take you to all of the lessons that were posted last September.

Question 3 was actually a series of questions from Theresa Ogan.

“How do you decide “when” and “what kind” of music program (theme, topic, musical, instrumental, vocal, or combination) each grade level will perform?2) Suggestions for how to schedule rehearsals. (The past few years, our school has been over-loaded which has dramatically affected the quality and what type of program we can do.)3) What Musicals have been your favorites and of course including your students, staff and family favorites?”

I could keep on inquiring, but want to respect your precious time and everyone else that reads your  blog!!”

First of all, ask away!  Questions really help me know what to write about.  I’d love to know what you’d like to read about!

The “when” of music programs in our district is, in many ways, a limited decision.  Our district has become large enough that the programs in an elementary building could easily interfere with a middle or high school program for families that have children at 2 or more levels.  Therefore, we decide upon our calendar of events together in a department meeting, to avoid conflicts as much as possible.  When a conflict is unavoidable we schedule the elementary concert early, (6:30), and the middle or high school program later, (7:30 or 8:00), so that parents will be able to get to both performances.

At the elementary level, all second graders participate in a performance.  We alternate between the holidays and early spring so that those of us with more than one building won’t have to do 2 programs within a week of each other.  e.g., in my building A there is a program in December, while building B does theirs in March.  The following year we switch, so that no one always has a holiday program while another always has a spring program.

Our 4th and 5th graders have the option of performing during both of those years by joining chorus and/or band.  That performance is always near the end of the year.  In addition, they sing at a local craft fair in December, as well as the school wide holiday sing along.   Rehearsing with 4th and 5th grades is a challenge, because, although they rehearse during recess, they do not have the same recess time.  4th grade is having lunch while 5th grade is having chorus.  We worked this out by alternating chorus weeks by grade,,,4th grade would meet on week A, 5th on week B.  They learn their parts separately.

As we got closer to program time I asked the cafeteria monitors to  please allow chorus members to get in line first, and then let them come to the music room as soon as they were finished eating.  In that way, I received some time with both groups together.  I was only allowed 45 minutes of rehearsal with both groups on stage the day before the dress rehearsal, because they had to be pulled from instructional time in order to attend.  Not ideal, but we made it work.

Themes of the programs were up to me.  During the holidays we did multicultural programs like “December in Our Town”, or added additional songs to “An All American Christmas”.    In the spring it was a bit more difficult to decide.  For the last 2 years I had to make do with whatever I already had on hand because of budget restrictions.  Last year I used my Music Express magazines to put together a program of jazz pieces that included “Route 66”, “Birdland”, and “It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Aint Got That Swing”.  The year before I used a different volume of Music Express for a program of Broadway songs including “Put on a Happy Face” from “Bye Bye Birdie”, “Seasons of Love” from “Rent” and “For Good” from “Wicked”.  One year I downloaded karaoke tracks from iTunes and made my own arrangements.

I can see I may have to do an entire post of favorite pieces…..

Question 4 is from me to you:

How do you, step by step, go about assembling a performing group, decide on music, schedule rehearsal time and mount a performance?

This will be our second contest!  You may give general steps, or use an actual program that ou are working on.  (That would give us multiple repertoire ideas….!)  Once again I will submit all responses to a panel of music teachers for selection.  the prize will be:

Favorite Folk Songs, The peter Yarrow Songbook.  12 songs with cd.

Submission time begins now and will close November 1.  This gives lots of time for busy teachers to get their thoughts together.  Ready?  Go!


What’s Your Favorite Back to School Activity?

Some teachers have already gone back to school, some will be going back next week, and others within the next 3 or 4 weeks. SO…… What is your favorite back to school activity to do with your students?  Submit yours by August 13 by typing it into the comment box.  All submissions will remain on the blog for others to use.   Stephen Rivera, middle school general music, Melanie Hazelrigg, k-5 general/vocal music and I will select the winning  submission.  The winner will receive  “From Sea to Shining Sea.  A Treasury of American Folklore and Folk Songs.”.  Brand new, hard cover, 399 pages of songs and folk tales.  It’s win/win!  Everybody gets multiple back to school activities to try, and one person wins a book!  The winner will be chosen on August 20.

From Sea to Shining Sea

Here We Go Again


Tomorrow is August 1st…the first day of school can’t be too far in the distance.  Personally, I plan to be on a beach when my district resumes classes, not because I particularly want to continue the “fun in the sun” too much longer, but to fend off any feelings of homesickness for my school that may try to assert themselves.  Last year at this time I was beginning the planning process for setting up my room, acquiring new resources, writing seating charts and all of the other things that need to be done before the kids walk in the door.

Because blogs are sequential by nature, all of my beginning of the year plans and activities are waaaayyyyyy back at the beginning of the blog, so I thought I’d  repost some links in sequential order, in case anyone may be trying to find something specific.

1.  First Week Procedures offers some of the things I worked on to get my classroom and self ready to roll.

2.  “Back to School Already?”  addressed warm ups and opening activities for kindergarten and 1st graders.

3.  Grade 1, Music Literacy Lesson #1 addressed teaching the concept of phrase to kinders or 1st graders.

4.  Second Grade, Lesson 1, Music Literacy Review addressed warm ups for primary students, and a review of concepts that second graders had under their belts: 8th notes, quarter notes, quarter rests, mi, sol and la.

5.  The Voice Lesson gave some ideas for teaching basic vocal techniques to elementary students.

6.  Grade 3, Lesson #1, Music Literacy focused on intermediate warmups and a review of tme signature, repeat marks, half notes, quarter notes , 8th notes , quarter rests and do re me.  It also includes the note value pyramid.

7. Grade 4, Literacy Lesson #1, review includes all of the Curwen hand signals, note values, solo singing and fermata.

8.  Grade 5, Music Literacy Lesson #1 addresses time siganture, bar line, bass clef, do re mi fa, quarter rest, quarter note, eighth note.

9.  Finally, for anyone who may be wondering not only where to start, but where to go next, take a look at the curriculum flow chart.

I hope these are helpful.  I’ll post the next sequence soon.


Jane the Retired


Jane Rivera, August 2012, All Rights Reserved

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

April 18-23, 2012, The Week in a Nutshell


I’m back to teaching on my own.  Ms. Weber has gone of to graduate and become a certified Music Educator.  She did an excellent job.

Grade 3

3rd grade was easy in terms of planning.  We just continued with BAGE recorder pieces.

Grade 4

In 4th grade we did a folder review.  I had the students take from their folders whatever was on top when they opened it up.  I asked them to think about our purpose in studying whatever they pulled out.

The first song in every class was “Boll Weevil”, and I was pleased to find that they remembered the learning target for the song: understanding and performing accents.

Once the students realized what I was about they conveniently rearranged their folders so that whatever they wanted to review just happened to be on top.  That’s ok, though.  I’m glad that there are things they enjoyed enough to want to review them.

So, we went through:

Test Me – objectives: good singing , enjoyment of singing and encouragement for them to do their best on their state exams.  The song gives lots of tips for successful test taking.  MusicK-8.

One Nation – Objectives: good singing technique, commemoration of 9/11.  Music K-8

Sir Duke – Objectives: Introduction of Jazz and some of its greatest performers.  We also used this song to launch a mini unit on old technology.  (“Just because a record has a groove don’t make it in the groove”).  We took the time to examine records and find out how a record player was used.  Share the Music

I Should Have Known Better – Objective: sing a fun song with an important message  regarding peer pressure, tobacco and other choices that will need to be made as students mature.  Music K-8

Grade 5

Last week the 5th graders learned MK8’s “What Shall We Do With a Water Waster”, and altered version of “What Shall We Do With a Drunken Sailor.”  The original learning target was to be able to identify and perform harmony.

This week we practiced the song again in 2 parts, and then I called the students to the rug so that I could read them “Roger the Jolly Pirate”, which just happens to include the song, “What Shall We Do With Our Jolly Roger”  Before reading and singing the story to them I explained the origins of the song, including the title and the purpose of Sea Shantys.  (They were work songs, designed to relieve the drudgery of hard labor, and to provide a steady beat by which that labor could be coordinated).  I sang them one original verse and chorus, with a disclaimer that “we are not going to be singing about drunken sailors”.  Then we began the book, which has plenty of places to insert verses about Roger the Jolly Pirate and the things that he did that got him a flag named after him.  After each verse the students joined in the chorus, which is the same as the  original song:

“Way hey, and up she rises,way hey and up she rises, way hey and up she rises earlye in the mornin'”.

Roger the Jolly Pirate

For quiet listening in both 4th and 5th grades I used “Cathedrals” from Animusic 2.  Ms. Weber had begun using the Animusic dvds last week, and this particular one includes “instruments” from every family.  I quickly reviewed the families of instruments , their characteristics and how they are played, and asked the students to draw as many facets of the room as they could and label each part Brass, Woodwind, String or Percussion.

I haven’t used these dvds in several years, and I’d forgotten how fascinated students are by them.  I let them watch most of the piece, then froze the video on a frame that showed just about the entire instrument “room”.  I started pointing to various instruments and asked people who had drawn them to volunteer what label they’d given.

At this point in their education I pretty much expect them to be able to identify and categorize the various instruments, and so they did.  I’ll have to choose a different “Animusic” piece for sometime in the near future.  They really enjoyed it.  The link below will show you the video…just not the HD version that you can get from the dvd.

Grade 1

In 1st grade we read our final “So-Me” story: “So-Me and His Secret”.  There are actually 3 more “So-Me” books, but I don’t use them because they introduce ta’s and ti ti’s .  Our curriculum no longer uses the Kodaly terminology.    When we switched to “Conversational Solfege” a few years ago we adopted the Gordon Syllables: du and du day.  I don’t want to confuse the kids so I just stop at Book 9.  It offers some great ear training opportunities.  “S0-Me”, “La-Me” and “La-So-Me” can all locate each other on a crowded playground by simply whistling each others names.  I stop the story for  a game of “Who’s This?”  I whistle, they identify the character.

I’ll say again, the kids really love these little books.  There seems to be a lot in them that very young students can relate to.

Next we moved on to our charted song for the week: “What Shall We Do When We All Go Out”.

(Letters close together are 8th notes, stand alones are quarters, Z=rest).

(Student tones)     S SL S SL S S M Z     What shall we do when we all go out Z

(Teacher tones)    F F R Z S S M Z          All go out Z All go out

(Student tones)    S SL S SL S S M Z      What shall we do when we all go out  Z

(Teacher tones)    F R D T D Z Z Z          All go out to play Z Z Z

This can be notated on the board using rhythm stems and  letters, or on a staff.  I always have them read the rhythm first, the tones second, rhythm and tones together third, and finally add the words.  Once they know the song we basically play charades.  While the class is singing the song, one student comes to the front and acts out an activity that they would participate in outside.  When the song is done the actor chooses classmates to guess what they were doing.  We get swinging, bike riding, swimming, baseball, basket ball, trampolines, pogo sticks, hopscotch….the possibilities are endless.  Kids are so easy to please…they love this simple little game.

In preparation for a year end showing of “The Marvelous Musical Mansion” I taught the students “My Hat, It Has Three Corners” with gestures and played the “leave out a word” game, where the gesture takes the place of the word.  “Marvelous Musical Mansion” is a “Wee Sing” production, and includes numerous traditional children’s songs such as “My Hat”, “My Aunt Came Back”, “She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain” and “When the Saints Go Marching In”.  I’m teaching them ahead of time, and when we watch the video we’ll be able to sing along.  It’s a fun and engaging video.  Here is a list of songs that are included on this 71 minute video:

  My Aunt Came Back
She’ll Be Comin’ Round The Mountain
How Do You Do?
Three Corners
The Orchestra Game Song
The Ballerina’s Waltz
The Doodle-Det Quintet!
The Marching Song
Vive La Compagnie
The Melody Song
The Magic Of Music
Hickory, Dickory Dock
Round The Clock
Oh Where, Oh Where?
Clap Your Hands
Reuben and Rachel
Hey Diddle Diddle
Oh Where, Oh Where?
The Magic of Music
Oh, When The Saints

Grade 2

Second grade is still playing catch up after presenting their program at the end of March.  This week we worked on “Little Snail” using sol, mi and la.

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

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

II: D M S S L L M Z:II  D.C. al Fine    Little Snail oh don’t be shy.   I won’t hurt you, no not I

This is a great little song and activity for a number of things:  D, M, S and La; D.C. al Fine, and repeat marks.  I actually use it notated on a staff, so that I can call the students’ attention to the fact that  D, M and S, are all space notes, and L is the only one that’s different.  Since we use  D, M and S extensively in our warm ups, hearing it is no problem for them.  So, we spend a few minutes listening for low, medium and high.  They try to identify which one I am singing by using the correct hand signal.  Then we go on to reading and singing them from the staff.  Once they’ve learned the song with the words I have them line up behind me, and join hands with the person in front of them.  I give a warning: no pushing, pulling or trying to go fast.  Then we begin to sing the song.  I turn in a circle, drawing the student line into a tight circle around me.  “What are we?”  I ask.  “A Snail!” they respond.  Then we sing it one more time so that the last person in line can lead us out of our snail formation.


Jane Rivera, April 23, 2012, All Rights Reserved

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