Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Bargain Hunt!!!

I am slightly obsessed with a store that opened in our area just last year. It is called Bargain Hunt. If you are fortunate to have one in your area, I suggest you check it out! Bargain Hunt is a store that sells items that are over-stock, returned, slightly damaged, or close-outs. It has a large variety of merchandise and you never know what you'll find when you walk into a Bargain Hunt.

The best part about Bargain Hunt is the pricing! All items are dated on their price tag. After they have been on the shelf for 30 days, they are discounted 10%. Each additional 10 days, they are marked down another 10%. Here is an example of their discount. 

I have purchased items from Bargain Huunt that have been 80% off!

I often enter Bargain Hunt expecting to purchase toys, clothing, or household items. But, I've been pleasantly surprised to find items for my classroom! 

Last summer, I found this toy by B Toys for only $15! The retail price of this item is about $60

It features several instrument pieces which are color-coded and the bottoms are different shapes and work as a puzzle. You can place up to 6 instruments on the stage and experiment with mixing timbre and texture. There are also buttons which identify each instrument family with lights and also buttons to identify melody instruments or accompaniment instruments. You can also change the volume or tempo of the 15 programmed songs. I have used this toy as a center and it was a big hit! Getting this toy at such a bargain makes me love it even more!

Just yesterday, I found a 10 inch Remo Floor Tom at Bargain Hunt. It was dated April 1, so it was discounted 40% for only $13.80! 

You never know what you may find when walking into a Bargain Hunt. Check the map below to see if there is one in your area. 

Check out their website for more details!
Disclaimer: I was in no way compensated for this review. I just REALLY love Bargain Hunt!!!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Happy Summer!

Yesterday was our closing day! I enjoyed my first evening practicing my ukulele in the backyard, listening to the birds chirp, and watching my children swing. To all my teacher friends, I hope you have a wonderful summer!!!

Please, no judgement on my uke skills. I just started learning in January and at the end of March I had wrist surgery after falling down the stairs. On a side note, the ukulele seems to be great physical therapy to improve my wrist flexibility!

Friday, May 27, 2016

Art With Mrs. Dennis: String Art

In addition to music, I also teach visual art. In recent years, we have started a tradition that the 5th graders complete a collaborative art project to leave their mark on our school before they move on to middle school. You can view past art projects by clicking the images below.

2014-Rotational Symmetry

This year, I was inspired by string art. The design was also inspired by our state song--Steven Foster's "My Old Kentucky Home". Below are pictures of our final project.

The weathered cedar wood was donated by our counselor and came from a disassembled tree house. To connect the planks, I purchased 2 pieces of wood 3/8 in. thick, 1.5 in. wide, and 3 ft. long. I had the helpful Lowe's workers cut the 3ft. pieces in half at the store so I had 4 braces. To attach to braces to the planks, I used 1 1/4  in. wood screws. I purchased a pack of 100 screws from Lowe's for $5.58 but have plenty left over for future projects.

To hang the art, we used braided steel wire which cost $3.48 for 25 ft. We have plenty of wire left over for future projects! We twisted the wire  to form 2 loops on the ends. We placed each loop between the outer braces and the cedar planks. The top screw went through the loop. With the braces screwed tightly, the wire is very snug.

Linoleum nails were used for the string art. I purchased 4 boxes from Lowe's at $1.30 each. The linoleum nails have a brass finish and a small rounded nail head which give a nice aesthetic look for this project.  I have about half a box left over for a project.

I created the design for the art on the computer and project the image on my Activboard. I traced the design onto poster board and cut out the state and words. I taped the poster board to the cedar planks to keep it in place while hammering the nails on the outline. A helpful Lowe's employee suggested I purchase a child size Build-And-Grow hammer for this project ($2.98). I'm so thankful for the suggestion! It was the perfect size and weight! I used needle nose pliers to hold the nails in place and avoid smashed fingers.

The string we used for the project was embroidery floss. I had this embroidery floss in the art room already, but it can be purchased at any craft store for less than 50 cents for each skein. I used 8 skeins of floss for the state of Kentucky in 2 shades of blue and 2 shades of green. I used 2 shades of floss for each word and did not use the entire skein. The picture below shows the project mid-progress.

I have a separate art room, but this project was actually completed in the music room. I planned music centers for the students and I was stationed at one center assisting them with the project. I had prepared the project by hammering around the state of Kentucky. Each student got to hammer at least one nail around a word and wrap a string around at least 3 nails inside Kentucky. This took one 55 minute class period for each class. During an extra planning time, I pulled a few extra students who were absent and they assisted me with finishing the words.  I placed superglue on the knots where I tied the string to begin wrapping and end the wrapping.

I estimate that 4.5 hours total was spent mounting the planks, tracing the stencils, hammering the nails, wrapping the strings, and gluing the knots. Less than $20 was spent on additional supplies for this project. If you do not have access to donated wood, that will increase your cost for this project.

The completed art project was revealed at the 5th grade Send-Off ceremony and is now hanging in our front lobby. The students, parents, and teachers were amazed at the final project and many are interested in creating string art to hang in their own homes!

Thank you for allowing me to share a glimpse into my other world as an art teacher. If you are a music teacher and do not have a visual arts teacher at your school, please don't be afraid to tackle a collaborative art project!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Field Day Improvisation

Today was Field Day and I forgot my whistle! I sent an email asking the staff to borrow an extra, but no one had one available. I was forced to improvise in order to save my voice.
I always despised this Basic Beat woodblock because it is ridiculously loud and ear piercing. It is terrible for indoors, but PERFECT for outdoors! I may start using it every year instead of a whistle.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Turning a Gym Into a Concert Hall: Part 2

My school does not have a stage, so all performances must take place in the gym. There's not much I can do about the acoustics, but I try my best to improve the aesthetics.  In a previous post, I shared pictures of our stage set-up for the Christmas concert. These pictures in this post are of the stage set-up from our Spring concert.

A couple years ago, PTO raised funds to purchase 12 Wenger Flip Forms. I am very thankful for their support of the arts! These are enough to provide a stage for my Orff instruments and risers for my Choir. At Christmas, I only used 3 sections for the Choir and 6 for the Orff Ensemble. I welcomed many new members to both groups in January, so in this picture you see 4 sections for the Choir and 8 sections for the Orff Ensemble.When the drama club performs, they use all the Flip Forms to form a larger stage. I have metal folding risers in storage if the choir is performing with the drama club for a musical.

Maintenance installed a tension wire across the back side of the gym. 

Our background is a black curtain comprised of 4 king size flat bed sheets sewn together. At the top of the sheets, there are button holes and we hang the curtain with index card rings.

To decorate the back drop at Christmas, I hung paper snowflakes and snowflake ornaments.

For the spring concert, I purchased 3-dimensional plastic music notes from a local novelty store. These can also be purchased online at a variety of stores with a range of $5-7 dollars per package. Each package contains one treble clef, 2 quarter notes, 2 eighth notes, and 2 pairs of sixteenth notes. I purchased 2 packages. The notes are black and I had a black background, so I spray painted them silver and then added some multicolored glitter to make them sparkle and shine.

I attached the notes to the backdrop with string and safety pins. This allowed the notes to remain in place if the gym teacher needed to slide the curtain out of the way.

If you also have to perform in a gym, I would love to see how you transform your space into a performance hall. You may follow this link to Facebook to add your pictures.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Broken Fan Tutorial

Props can be a great way to peak student interest in a classroom activity or add a polished touch for a performance. If you are purchasing props for an entire class or grade level, it can become expensive. It is sometimes difficult to find an inexpensive prop that is also durable and can withstand the nervous hands of a student awaiting show time.

Recently, my Orff Ensemble performed the Korean folk song "Arirang",  which included a fan dance. These fans were only $1 each from the Dollar Store. They are made of plastic and fabric and come in a variety of colors. I purchased them from the store in December, but they are currently out of season for their brick and mortar stores.  They are still available online but you must purchase a minimum of 24. Follow this link to the Dollar Tree online store.

During rehearsals, we had no trouble with these fans. While waiting to perform, two students accidently broke their fans. I'm so glad I had extra! After the performance, I tried to find a way to repair the broken fans instead of throwing them away. I am very pleased with the results. Actually, I think the repaired fans are going to be more durable than the originals. Follow this simple tutorial to save your broken fans!

Broken Fan Tutorial

To repair your fan, you will need a large paperclip and some needle nose pliers.

Step 1: Straighten the inside of your paperclip, pulling it open to form a 90 degree angle.
Step 2: Insert the straightened clip through the end of the fan.
Step 3: Using needle nose pliers, form two more 90 degree angles so that your paperclip forms a box around the end of the fan.
Step 4: With pliers, coil one end of the paperclip around the other.
Step 5: With pliers, continue coiling and then snap off any excess paperclip by bending the piece back and forth repeatedly.
Step 6: With pliers, bend the coil down and make sure there are no sharp ends that would scratch your hand while holding the fan.

I hope you find this post helpful! I originally purchased 12 fans, I will definitely be ordering some more to have a complete class set. If you have any lesson ideas that use fans, please add them in the comments below!

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Mallet Wrapping

Do you have fraying mallets and a very small budget? This was my problem. But, it is not a problem anymore! I was brave and patient and learned how to rewrap my own mallets. The photo above shows blue mallets that were very frayed. The red mallets have been rewrapped by me! With a little patience and practice, you can learn how to wrap mallets too and free up some money in your classroom budget for other resources.

Before gaining the courage to make that first cut and unwrap a mallet, I watched at least 2 hours of video tutorials. There are several different techniques and videos out there in cyberspace, but I found that Episode 198 from Drummer Talk provides the most comprehensive and clear demonstration.

I suggest you watch this entire video BEFORE attempting to wrap your own mallets. These are the supplies Dave Kropf suggests before beginning your project:

  1. Scissors
  2. Darning Needles (Size 18)
  3. Yarn (Size 3)
As you wrap and cross the yarn over the top of the mallet, it should be placed off-center. This creates a nice crown which will be stitched to keep the yarn in place. When first attempting to wrap, I found it easiest to keep the yarn off-center on mallets that have more of a flattened core on top. If you have one, begin with this style core rather than a spherical core.

After wrapping about 4 mallets, I found a groove and my wrapping and rotating technique became more automatic. During several evenings, I would sit on the couch and wrap mallets while watching television. Below, you can see many of the mallets I have rewrapped. The mallets with the white shafts were crowned with the technique Dave uses in the video because that is how they were crowned from the factory. Most of the mallets with black shafts were crowned with a back-stitch because I tried to imitate how they came from the factory.

I encourage you to find some confidence and attempt to learn something new! After wrapping several pairs, I looked back at the first pair I wrapped and decided to cut them off and rewrap them again! My technique had improved so quickly, that I was not happy with my first pair anymore. I even got a little wild and crazy and made RAINBOW MALLETS!!! These are a great incentive. I reward a student who is doing a great job and allow them to play with the rainbow mallets like a ROCK STAR!

Go forth! Be brave! Happy wrapping!

Update: This post has been featured on the March 2016 Music Education Blog Carnival. Check out the rest of the carnival by clicking this link.