Saturday, March 22, 2014

Minions Invade the Music Room!!!

My student teacher and I recently designed two lessons inspired by the Despicable Me movies. Both flipcharts are available for free download on Promethean Planet.

The first lesson focused on rhythmic ostinatos and complementary rhythms. It also finished a unit which had introduced sixteenth notes to fifth graders. We had a few students playing an ostinato on Bass Boomwhackers to accompany the chorus of "Despicable Me" (the title theme for the first movie). The rest of the class was assigned rhythmic ostinatos performed in pairs as complementary rhythms. You could add instrument sound effects for the rhythms, but we added body percussion. Unfortunately, I did not think to take a video of this lesson. But, the flipchart is now uploaded to Promethean Planet and is available for free download! The slides of the flipchart can be seen in the collage below.

The next lesson reviewed harmony and introduced chord building. Students learned how to build chords by alternating letters and stacking alternating pitches on the staff. We used Boomwhackers to play chords along with Pharrell's "Happy" from Despicable Me 2 (Oscar Nominee 2014!) The students also learned about call and response and chorus/verse structure. The flipchart is available for free download on Promethean Planet. Images from the flipchart can be seen in the collage below.
I also have a video of a class performing Boomwhackers for this lesson. It is far from perfect and my dancing is pretty embarrassing, but I will share it anyway! Please, don't judge! lol
I hope your students enjoy these lessons as much as mine did!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Don Gato

I love being a student teacher mentor because it keeps my curriculum fresh. As my student teachers explore books and materials from my shelf, they discover songs and poems that I have overlooked for years! Last fall, I had my first student teacher for just 8 weeks. Ms. Morrison discovered the Mexican song "Don Gato" in an old textbook. (Grade 3, Music Connection from Silver Burdett & Ginn)  The book suggested students play the chord roots on Orff instruments along with the recording. However, the chord progression was very challenging for many of the students in the short amount of time provided in the lesson. Also, the instruments were so loud it was very difficult for the students to hear the recording and stay with the tempo of the song. Although the lesson didn't go as well as planned, it was a great teachable moment and allowed for Ms. Morrison to practice self-reflection.

This fall, I had the pleasure of mentoring a second student teacher for an entire semester! Ms. Moreman and I cotaught "Don Gato" with some modifications. The original goal of the lesson was to teach about a ballad. The students would still learn about a ballad, but we decided the main focus of the lesson would be chord building. We had just studied the order of the musical alphabet with some relay races and small group games. (Click here to learn more about the staff games!) We wanted to reinforce this concept because some students were still struggling to remember that A follows G. We also decided to use Boomwhackers instead of barred instruments. The Boomwhackers were much more quiet and did not overpower the recording. The students LOVED  this lesson!

Lesson Sequence 

  1. Discuss the term "ballad". Play one verse of "Don Gato" at a time, asking students what is happening in the story and how the plot has changed. I display the words of each verse on the flip chart as we discuss it.
  2. Display the slide with "tempo" and "dynamics" definitions. Ask the students when they hear these musical elements change and how that was related to the story. (The music gets quieter and slower when Don Gato dies and louder and faster when he comes back to life.)
  3. Review the definition of "harmony." Using a xylophone, demonstrate how to build a chord by skipping every other letter. Give the students a starting letter and ask them to spell the chord and build a triad (diatonic). Play each triad on the xylophone and ask them if it sounded major or minor.
  4. Divide the class into 4 groups, one for each chord in the song (D minor, C major, G minor, and A major). Each student will play one or two Boomwhackers from their chord.  Ask  to play with a steady beat and then ask them only to play when you point to their chord grouping on the board.
  5. Display the harmonic progression to accompany the song.  Practice the progression in tempo without the music and then try to accompany the recording, remembering to change tempo and dynamics on the appropriate verse. 
  6. We also tried to sing the song without the recording so we could hear the Boomwhackers more clearly. I was able to conduct the groups and Ms. Moreman changed the slides to display the lyrics. (this could easily be a job for a student helper) The students' favorite part, by far, was singing "meow, meow, meow" in each verse.

Music Recording

I used the textbook CD to accompany the Grade 3 Music Connection by Silver Burdett & Ginn. If you don't have that textbook series, you can use the audio from this YouTube video.


How Many Boomwhackers Do You Need?

When I taught this lesson  I used 5 sets of diatonic Boomwhackers and 6 Octavator caps. The small black rectangles represent the octavator caps which lower the pitch of the Boomwhacker a full octave. When teaching the lesson, I challenged the students to guess what the small black rectangles would represent. There was at least one student in each class who remembered the Octavator Caps from a previous lesson.

If you only have diatonic Boomwhackers, the A major and G minor chords will feature only the root and the fifth of the chord. 

If you have 24 kids in a class, each group would have about 6 kids. So, you would need:
  • Group 1: DFA, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 2: CEG, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 3: GD, 3 of each pitch, 3 Octavator caps on G 
  • Group 4: AE, 3 of each pitch, 3 Octavator caps on A
I have since purchased 2 sets of chromatic Boomwhackers. So, next year I plan on using this set up:
  • Group 1: DFA, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 2: CEG, 2 of each pitch
  • Group 3: GBbD, 2 of each pitch with 4 Octavator caps on G and Bb
  • Group 4: AC#E, 2 of each pitch, with 2 Octavator caps on A
 For this set up, you would only need 4 diatonic sets, 2 chromatic sets, and 6 Octavator Caps.

I also purchased a set of bass diatonic Boomwhackers and plan rewarding one student in each group with the big Bass Boomwhackers. These sound best when you place an Octavator cap on them, hold them vertical, and tap the cap end on the carpeted floor.

 ***In the uploaded flipchart, both versions are available (with and without Bb and C#). You can choose which version to use according to your available resources.


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Free App Alert! Rhythm Cat Pro

I posted about the Rhythm Cat app in 2012. To read that post and learn more about the app, click here. I had downloaded the Lite version which was free. To unlock more levels, you had to purchase the Pro version for $4.99. Thanks to AppShopper, I have just been notified that Rhythm Cat Pro is currently marked down and is FREE to download! ENJOY!

Click here to learn more about AppShopper so you can make your own wish list and be notified of future price drops!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

AppShopper Wishlist

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about two free apps to get young students composing--Tune Train and  Music4Kids. Unfortunately, the Music4Kids app was only temporarily free and is now $2.99. I'm sorry if you missed out on the sale. To insure that you won't miss out on any future sales, may I recommend AppShopper?

AppShopper is free and available as an app on your device or online from their website. You can create a wish list of apps that you would like to purchase in the future. You will receive a notification if the price changes on the app. If you don't think you will log into the site or don't want to install the app on your device, you can also request to receive email notifications when any of your wish list apps go on sale.

Make sure you check out the App Activity to see the price history as well as update history. You can see how often it goes on sale and predict when it might go on sale again. Below you can see that the Dr. Seuss Band was on sale from February-April 2012.  If it ever goes on sale again, it would likely be part of the Seuss birthday celebrations around March 2nd.
I have started my wish list of music apps that are not free in hopes that I can catch a sale in the future! Below you can see screenshots of my wish list. Are there any awesome apps I should add to my wishlist?

Dr. Seuss Band is only 99 cents. This is a great price for an app, but I haven't attempted spending school money on apps yet. The process described by our tech department sounded very complicated and I've avoided it, so far, by downloading free apps.
If you missed my post of 110 Free Music Apps, follow this link!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Free Apps For Young Composers

I have found two more free apps that allow young students to explore music composition.

Tune Train

The first app is called Tune Train. There are 10 musical worlds available to explore.  Each world features a different musical style.

 iPad Screenshot 5
On each beat, you see people high and low. They essentially outline a chord. You use the train to draw a path and select people/notes you want in your melody. If you want to omit a note on that beat, you can make the train bypass that stop completely. This gives you options to alter the rhythm as well. Each student could create a truly unique song even if they selected the same musical world.

iPad Screenshot 2

You can also view the actual music notation at the top of the screen.

iPad Screenshot 4

Here is a video demonstrating the app:

The second app I have found is called Music4Kids. In this app, you see an actual treble clef staff. When you place a note on the staff, the pitch name also appears above it. Each note defaults as an eighth note. To make longer durations like quarter and half notes, you must hold your finger on the screen for a longer time.
iPhone Screenshot 1
There are 5 different musical planets available: birdy, hamster, octopus, fox, and ghost.
iPhone Screenshot 4
There is an option to save your composition to your "My Tunes" library. This may be a helpful tool for teachers. If students create a song during class, the teacher can go back through later to view what their work.

There is also a part of the game called "Challenges." This is a simple introduction to melodic dictation. Initially, the app will show you the music notes and play the melody. Then, you must notate the melody. If you need help, you may listen to the tune again, but it will not show the notation a second time.
Here is a short video demonstrating the app:


Both apps are very kid-friendly and easy to navigate. The fact that they are free is also a wonderful bonus! I look forward to using these in the classroom.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Treble Clef Candy Cane Video Tutorial

Many of you may have already seen my previous posts about Treble Clef Candy Cane ornaments.

This is the 3rd year I have made these for my Choir and Orff kids. I've gotten pretty fast and efficient at making them over the years. I decided to make a video this year. Perhaps it can give you a few tips to save you some time as well.
I have also uploaded the file for the Christmas card in case you don't want to start from scratch.
I uploaded it as a publisher file instead of a pdf so you may edit it to suit your needs.

I apologize for not posting this sooner. I'm sure all of you are on Christmas Break already. I'll try to post holiday tips in advance next time. I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blubbr Vs. eduCanon: Creating Online Video Quizzes

I have recently been introduced to two websites that allow you to create quizzes using videos on YouTube or other websites. I have explored both sites and would like to share my observations to assist you in selecting a tool for your classroom.

I created an easy infographic above, but will give a more detailed explanation below.


Video Selection

If you want to combine clips from more than one video, Blubbr is the choice for you. You can only select one video for each quiz with eduCanon.
If you want to show more than 19 seconds of the video before inserting a question, eduCanon is the choice for you. But, with eduCanon, you have to show the video in its entirety. You cannot trim the video or skip to a specific time marking. With Blubbr, you can select any clip (up to 19 seconds) from any part of the video.


Creating Questions/Answers

Blubbr has a minimum of 5 questions and you MUST create a 4 option multiple choice question. EduCanon has no limitations or minimum requirements on questions. With eduCanon, you can create 2 or more multiple choice selections for each question.
EduCanon also allows for more customization offering different font choices, bold, italics, font color, font size. You can even insert pictures or charts into the question.
Below is a screenshot while editing in Blubbr:
Below is a screenshot while editing in eduCanon:


Blubbr times the questions and gives you 20 seconds to answer each question and you are rewarded more points for answering more quickly. You are shown a score at the end of the quiz, but individual scores are not reported to the quiz creator or teacher.
EduCanon gives the student unlimited time to answer the question. If the video is shared publicly, there is no score tracking. However, if students create usernames, the teacher can assign specific videos to students and get a report of their individual scores.

Viewing the Quiz

When each question appears on Blubbr, you cannot see the video anymore. You can see colored dots at the top of the screen tracking your progress in the quiz.  They change green if you answer correctly and red if you answer incorrectly. The student has the option to skip the video clip and advance directly to the question if they wish. Below are two screenshots showing the video screen and then the question screen:
EduCanon questions appear to the left side of the video screen and you can still view the paused video. You can view the timeline on the bottom to show your progress in the quiz. Little question marks are used to show the student where the upcoming questions will appear. You are not allowed to skip ahead and advance the video. Below is a screenshot of the quiz:


When you share a video publicly on eduCanon, a user will still need a URL link to view your quiz. Teachers can also assign videos to their students so they will automatically appear when they log in. At this time, EduCanon does not have a way to search for videos created by others.
If you post a video on Blubbr, it is automatically made public. There is no option to keep a video private. Blubbr has developed a great database to search for videos by title, keywords, or even category. When creating a video, you can pick up to 2 categories (Music and Education are available options) and you can also list many keywords. The education category is the largest and has more than 3000 trivs. Music is the second largest with over 1,300 trivs. Click here for a link to browse Blubbr categories.

Both sites allow you to share by URL or embed the quizzes into a website using html code.


I decided to use Blubbr to create a video quiz for my Nutcracker unit. I really liked the freedom of eduCanon to insert questions wherever you would like, but I ended up choosing Blubbr because I could not show the full ballet and needed to be able to trim selections. Ideally, I would love a combination of these two sites which would allow me to use clips from multiple videos, but show video clips at least 30-45 seconds long. In the future, I will probably use both of these sites and evaluate the needs of each project before selecting the right tool.
Click below for links to my Nutcracker Blubbr Trivia!