Jan. 9-13, 2012, The Week in a Nutshell, Intermediates

It’s assessment time.  Grades are due in a few weeks…the first of the year, for me.  (Specialists don’t grade until the 2nd marking period in our district).  I started all of my intermediate classes with an assessment on Tchaikovsky, and indirectly, Bach.  We began class by reviewing the animations  on Tchaikovsky that we saw at the beginning of the unit.



I then gave them a final review of the music of Bach, ( our first quarter composer), and Tchaikovsky by having them put their heads down and closing their eyes.  I then played a piece of music for them, one of the 7 pieces on the test, and  said, “Raise your hand if you think Bach wrote this “.  Then, “Raise your hand if you think Tchaikovsky wrote it”.  Next I gave them the correct answer.  This is the 3rd time we’ve done this little exercise, so they’re getting fairly good at being able to tell one composer from the other.  Finally, I gave them the test.  I’m quite pleased with how well they did, on the whole, especially on the listening portion. I think that in the future I will add one other thing: playing a couple of pieces they’ve never heard before to see how many can figure out which composer is which.   Click the link to see the assessment.


Third Grade

In third grade we reviewed “Ode to the Treble Clef”  and moved on from drawing the clefs to putting the notes on the staff and naming them.  We began with space notes on our next clean staff.  We numbered the lines and drew one G clef.  We sang the part of the song that says,

“the lines are EGBD and F, the spaces are F A C E.”

We put notes in each of the spaces from bottom to top, left to right.. and labeled them, spelling the word FACE.  On the next staff down, we did the same thing with the line notes, singing the song to find  the correct name for each note.  However, I also had them write in the words of the acronym as we did each note: next to their capitol E they filled in the rest of the word “Every”, followed by “Good Boy Does Fine”.  Next week we will go over it again and do some written drills on note positions and names.

Fourth Grade

In fourth grade, after we completed the test we reviewed “Sir Duke”.  Last week we spent a fair amount of time discussing the musicians mentioned in the song, as well as the words “record”, “groove” and “in the groove”.  Good opportunity for a lesson on the development of technology.

We looked at the record, found the grooves, (and the scratches), and I explained that with records, the information was recorded on both sides of the disk.  Before I played the record for them, I explained that the needle was housed in the arm, and touched it so that they could hear it pick up the sound.  I showed them the speed controls, and explained that different types of records had to be played at different speeds.  This particular recording is 331/3 RPM, meaning that the record will turn 331/3 times in one minute when the turntable is set to that speed.  We discussed the problem of scratching on vinyl recordings, and listened for extraneous noises.  Next we went further back in time, and looked at a 78.

“The album I just showed you is what I listened to as a kid.  It was made of vinyl, and could hold about 6 songs on each side.  This is what my mother listened to.  It’s much heavier, could only hold 1 song on each side, and would easily shatter if dropped.  An album in my mother’s day was an actual book that held 4 to 6 records which each had to be played separately.  ”

We played the 78, noting that it almost sounded as if the performer were singing through a telephone.  Lots of additional hiss, too.  I also mentioned that the first record players had to be wound up, and were not wired for electricity.  One of the kids told me that their grandma has one of those.  I answered, “Hold onto that!”

I told them about 45’s, but believe it or not, didn’t have one to show them.  One song per side, played at 45 RPM, cost: .56.  Funny, the trivial things you remember, like the cost of a 45.  From here we went to cassette tapes, to cd’s to mp3’s and iPods.  What’ll they think of next?

And of course, I had to show them how Ross Bagdasarian created Alvin and the Chipmunks.  They were fascinated by the whole lesson.

Sometimes kids create the perfect segue into a great example of exactly the things you’re discussing..  I finished up this mini lesson by telling them that when I started teaching 30 years ago, this very record player and a PILE of records were what I had to lug around with me in order for students to listen to music.  I informed them that their parents didn’t get to hear nearly as much music as they do, and that, since VCR’s and computers were not yet available, they didn’t get to SEE anything.  (We didn’t discuss filmstrips.)  As they were heading back to their seats, one of the kids asked if they could listen to Stevie Wonder perform “Sir Duke.”

“I’ll go you one better!  If I could have done this when your parents were kids they would have thought I had magical powers!”  YouTube, Stevie Wonder performing “Sir Duke.”  The additional technology here, of course, is a computer and a projector.


A word of caution.  I am a Stevie Wonder fan, know his personal style and have seen him in concert, so I was pretty darn sure there wouldn’t be anything inappropriate on this video.  Normally, however, I would not show a video that I have not previously screened.

Fifth Grade

Fifth grade reviewed the partner song “A Perfect Winter Day.”  I had them count off by 2’s and had the ones stand in a separate circle from the twos, assigned each a part, and off we went.  Then, because they  saw that the 4th graders had been working on “Sir Duke”, we had to sing that too.  Naturally, I couldn’t do that without also showing them the video.  (LOVE Stevie Wonder!)

We’ve been doing a lot of singing in 5th, and I had one more song this week that I want them to learn.  It’s called, “It’s All Gonna Happen Here”, and I wrote it 13 or 14 years ago for the dedication of the building they now learn in.  I have a pretty self-serving reason for teaching it to them:  I’ll never have another chance to record this song again, and therefore have it to hear for myself.  They have to learn to sing anyway, so I figured I’ll teach this, and at least one other song that I wrote for school, grab my best singers during recess one day, and record them.

All classes ended by viewing our latest animation on our new composer: Franz Joseph Haydn.  Following that I asked a few questions to see how much they absorbed.


Next week I start assessing pitch.

Stay tuned for Primaries.  Thanks so much for reading!




Aaaaaaaand…..We’re Back! Intermediate Lessons, Jan. 3-6

Happy New Year Friends.

Today was the first day back to school in our district. I know that some of you were back already on Monday. I rolled in a little after 8:00, with my first class starting at 9:35. Even with almost an hour and a half to pull myself and my materials together, it was a mad dash.

First thing I did was sit down and look at the plans I’d jotted down before I left on December 23rd. I went and ran of copies of “Ode to the Treble Clef” from Music K-8 vol.18 #3 for third grade, and “A Perfect Winter Day” from Music K-8 vol.7 #2 for fifth grade. Fourth grade worked on “Sir Duke” from Share the Music, Grade 4. Disc 1 has a recording in an appropriate key for kids.

I always like to come back and get them singing right away.

Grade 3:

Third Grade will begin recorder at the end of January, so I try to prepare them for note reading ahead of time. “Ode to the Treble Clef” is a fun 50’s style song with lots of information about the staff, lines and spaces, the treble clef, and note names. We learn the song first, and then go over the terminology that it contains. Along with the song I give each of them a sheet of staff paper.

After learning the song, we take the first staff on our paper and label it: staff. This way they’ll know what I’m talking about whenever I refer to it, and I don’t have to keep defining it as we go along. Next, we number the lines from bottom to top, so we’re all clear on which line I mean when I say “line

Today we only got as far as drawing and labeling a treble clef. I have them fill a staff with treble clefs once they’ve learned how to draw the first one. As they label it “treble” I play notes above middle C and explain that the word means “high pitched.”. “Since your recorders are high pitched instruments, we’ll be using the treble clef”. We label another of their practice clefs “G clef”. When we draw the clef, we put a dot on the second line to begin, then circle around the line before drawing the vertical loop. “the notes on the staff are named by letters of the alphabet: ABCDEFG, then we start again at A. Since we are drawing a ‘G clef’ guess what the name of the note on the second line is”? Seems obvious to me, but I usually have to tell them the answer.

Next week we’ll review the song and move on to the names of the lines and spaces. FYI, everything we’re learning about here is in that song!

Grade 4

Eventually I will work “Sir Duke” into a series of lessons on jazz. For today we followed the lyrics and listened to Stevie Wonder perform it. I taught the song by rote, (it’s always a hit), and then went over the meanings of phrases and vocabulary as well as the full names and instruments of the people mentioned in the song. (There are pictures of Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington right on the same pages as the song. Five jazz lessons right there).

“Just because a record has a groove don’t make it the groove” contains a mini lesson on what a record is and how it works, as well as slang terms such as “in the groove” and “groovy”. I love the answers I get when I ask them what a record is.

“One of those big cd’s that you put on this thing that goes round and round with that long thing that you put down on it”, complete with gestures to show me what the thing that goes round and round looks like. Makes me smile. :0). I showed them a record, observed the grooves, and explained the difference between a record/record player and a cd/cd player. (The record player uses a needle to read analog information. The cd player uses a laser to read digital information).
Next week I’ll pull out an old record player and play a record(ing) for them. We’ll sing the song again, then let it sit for a few weeks, bringing it back just in time for Black History Month.

Grade 5

My learning target for 5th grade today was to sing in two parts. “A Perfect Winter Day” is a partner song which I describe to them as a small argument between two kids, one of whom likes winter,and the other who definitely does not. We always listen to the whole song before beginning to learn it. The whole class learns both parts. When it comes time to sing the whole thing, I divide the class in half and have them sit so that they are not facing one another. We sing the song twice, switching off who will sing part one and part two.

For all classes we will begin listening to and learning about Haydn. At the beginning of these lessons we had a brief review of facts about Tchaikovsky and identifying his music. Next week we will have a written assessment, which I will post as soon as I make it up. At the end of class we listened to “The Surprise Symphony”, listening, of course, for the surprise. The surprise for me was how many of them had never heard it before.

I started my Haydn animation on goanimate4schools this afternoon. Stay tuned. :0)