Friday, February 20, 2015

Over The Edge: Music Game Assessing Rhythmic Durations

I've been including more centers in my classroom this year in order to allow me time to assess students in small groups. Most frequently, I use centers during 4th grade recorder playing tests, but have used centers at some point for all grade levels. If you have missed my previous posts on music centers, follow this link.
Many centers I have created myself, but I have also found some amazing printable centers shared by other music teachers. Jennifer Fink, at has several resources for music educators available to download and print for FREE! Thank you, Jennifer! Follow this link to find a complete list of her resources. I have previously posted about her game "Alphabet Path" used to reinforce the order of the musical alphabet.
Today, I will be sharing another game from Jennifer called "Over the Edge". This game reinforces note and rest values.
Students each have their own game board with a river and rocks. They take turns drawing cards which display a note or rest. They determine the beat value of the note or rest and place that number of glass beads on their river. If a player fills up all the rocks in their river and fall off the waterfall, they are eliminated from the game. The original rules allowed students to say "Pass" if they were getting close to the edge and the winner would be the person closest to the waterfall without going off.
I modified the rules to make it easier for a variety of ages. I did not allow students to pass and told them the last person to fall off the edge is the winner. In the picture above, you will see an additional instruction sheet that I created with these modified directions and with a beat value chart for the notes and rests. You can also see that I substituted Bingo chips instead of glass beads. I have an abundance of bingo chips and didn't feel like purchasing glass beads specifically for this game. I also printed the game on cardstock and laminated for durability.
If you think your students would like this game, follow this link to
download "Over the Edge" from
Follow this link to download my modified instruction sheet to accompany Over the Edge.

Monday, February 16, 2015

"Fishing For Pitches" Music Center

All summer, I scavenged yard sales, Goodwill, consignment shops, and peddler
malls for board games that could be converted into music centers. On my list was the classic battery powered fishing game called Let's Go Fishin'. While I never found that particular version of the game, there are several licensed adaptions.
I happened to find two games from the Disney movie Cars. One was at a Peddler's mall and one was at a consignment shop. I paid less than $3 for each of them. Instead of fish, this version of the game has the player fishing for tires.
First, I labeled the bottom of the fish with the letters of the musical alphabet (ABCDEFG). Since there are 21 fish/tires in each game, it worked out nicely that there would be 3 of each pitch. Since my tires were black, I printed letters on mailing labels. If you acquire the actual fishing game, a black Sharpie would work perfectly fine.
One game I purchased was missing the fishing poles, so I created new poles using pipe cleaners and straws. Actually, the strings from the original game tangle so easily, I also replaced those with straw and pipe cleaners poles.

Fishing For Pitches

For 2-3 players
Objective: Be the first player to catch a fish matching the pitch of  a note on the staff.
1) Draw a card to select a note on the staff.
2) All players race to fish and catch the name of the pitch.
3) The first player to catch the correct pitch is the winner.
I also created a more advanced version of the game . . .

Fishing For Chords

For 2-3 players:
Objective: Be the first player to catch 3 fish spelling the chord on the staff.
1) Draw a card to select a chord on the staff.
2) All players race to fish and catch the three pitches names.
3) The first player to catch three fish which spell the chord on the card is the winner.
The cards for both versions of the game are available for download on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It is best to print double-sided on cardstock and laminate for durability. The games are available to download separately or as a discounted combo pack.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Monthly Newsetter from the Music Room

This year, our principal asked our special area teachers for ways to better communicate with parents. In addition to updating our classroom blogs more regularly, we decided to send home monthly newsletters.

Reducing Paper

I had never thought of starting a newsletter in the past because it seemed like a waste of paper to send home a newsletter with every child in the school. But, in efforts to save paper, our school started an email distribution list. Each family may choose to receive all school communication via email rather than the weekly Tuesday Take Home folder. The principal scans all letters, flyers, lunch menus, etc. into one big pdf file each Tuesday morning and forwards the attachment to the classroom teachers. Each classroom teacher then forwards the email to their parent distribution list. If a family has not signed up for the email list, they will still receive paper copies in the traditional Tuesday Take-Home folder. But, in efforts to avoid sending multiple copies of the same information, only the oldest child in each family will receive the information.

Music Newsletter

Our special area newsletters go home at the beginning of each month. I named my newsletter "Notes from Mrs. Dennis". The librarian named her newsletter "Pages from Mrs. M_____".  The PE teacher named his newsletter "Playbook from Mr. _____." Our STEM (science technology engineering math) teacher named her newsletter "Updates from Mrs. ____"

Each newsletter features a greeting from the teacher with any special information for the month. There is a box for each grade level summarizing what the students learned in the previous month. I also included a section "Ask Me To Sing . . ." and listed the songs we had learned in class. The other teachers changed their sections to "Ask Me About . . ." and listed vocabulary words and concepts they had covered in the previous month.

The back page of the newsletter features photos of students engaged in classroom activities. My photos are interactive videos which come to life with the Aurasma app. (If you have not seen my previous posts on Aurasma, follow this link.)


Download the Template

If you would like to create your own newsletter, I have a template available for download if you want to save some time formatting. Just edit the red text to customize it for your classroom.
My newsletter uses a font AR Christy which may not be preloaded on your computer. But, don't worry, it is available for free download at the following link:


Snowman Chords and "Let It Go"

Do you still have Frozen Fever? Most of my students, and some teachers, are still obsessed with Frozen!  (Theresa, I'm calling you out!) I saw a post by Dyan Robson using snowmen to build chords on a staff. I immediately saw an opportunity to teach a lesson using music from the movie Frozen. Her blog post can be found at this link.

A snowman is the perfect visual for a triad chord in root position. I created an interactive door display to get students excited about the lesson. I reused some decorations from my daughter's Frozen-themed birthday party. I traced Olaf onto a poster board using the projector and painted his outline. (At the party, he was used for a game of "Pin the Nose On Olaf".) The door engages the students to learn about the chords. They can quiz themselves to match the letter names to the snowman chords. They lift the flaps to check their answers.

I taught the chord lesson to my 5th graders. They reviewed note names by labeling the chords.
We reviewed the concept of major and minor by listening to some chords used in the song "Let It Go." The students played the chords on Boomwhackers, but I also played the chords on the piano to make it easier for them to hear. Even though I displayed the chords in root position, I added octavator caps to A flats, B flats, and B naturals.
The students were seated in a horseshoe shape and I distributed the Boomwhackers in order chromatically. The students were responsible for looking for their pitch name. Those students with chromatic Boomwhackers knew to look for both sharp and flat equivalencies. We practiced the chord progressions and then played along with "Let It Go" via a YouTube video.

I had to remind the students not to sing along unless they already had the song memorized. Often they would be busy trying to read the lyrics and missed their turn to play the harmony.
At the end of class, students completed an exit slip naming the pitches of some snowman chords.
My interactive flipchart is available for download on Promethean Planet. If you do not have an Activboard, the still images from those slides are available on Teachers Pay Teachers and included in a combo pack with the bulletin board printables and exit slip assessment.

Shake It Off!

I love Jimmy Fallon and the Tonight Show! Occasionally, Jimmy and the show's band, The Roots, perform popular songs with one of their musical guest using elementary classroom instruments. If you are not familiar with these videos, just search "Jimmy Fallon classroom instruments" on YouTube or follow this link.
Inspired by Jimmy Fallon, I would like to share some awesomeness from a colleague and good college friend, Jamie Albritton. He and his staff stayed afterschool yesterday and learned an Orff arrangement for Taylor Swift's "Shake It Off". I have already begged Jamie for the notated parts and will share them with you if I am granted permission. In the meantime, enjoy their performance!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Guess Who: Music Instruments

I have planned lots of new music centers for this year and my students have really enjoyed them. I will be blogging more about the centers soon. This first post will be about a modified version of the classic Guess Who.
I scavenged yard sales, consignment shops, and Goodwill all summer on the look out for games that could be modified for music centers. I found two of these electronic Guess Who games for dirt cheap. This version is technically called Guess Who Extra and features 3 rows with 8 windows in each row. One was at Goodwill for $1.50. The other was at a children's consignment shop for $2.50. Over the summer, I saw a pin on Pinterest where someone modified Guess Who to reinforce US presidents and other historical figures. When I saw these versions, I immediately thought of a musical adaptation. This would be a great way to compare and contrast music instruments.
Guess your opponent's mystery instrument before they guess yours.
How To Play
1) Each player slides the plastic window over to secretly select a musical instrument.
2) Players open all the doors to reveal the instruments.
3) Players take turns asking "yes" and "no" questions to help them narrow down the choices of instruments.
 4) Players only have one chance to guess the specific name of the instrument. If they guess wrong, their opponent wins.
I also included an Instrument Fact Sheet to assist students when asking and answering questions.
Before beginning the center rotations, I demonstrate each game. I shared many examples of questions with the students and they took turns asking questions to discover a mystery instrument I selected.
Some example questions included:
Does your instrument belong to the percussion family? (string? woodwind? brass?)
Is your instrument made of wood? (metal? plastic?)
Does your instrument make a pitch?
Do you play your instrument with both hands?
Do you use your mouth to play your instrument?
Could your instrument fit into a backpack?
Does your instrument have a reed?
I also created a game board using the classic version of Guess Who which features 4 rows with 6 windows in each row. This version was manufactured in 2009 or later.  

Both versions of the game are included in one PDF file and are available for download in my TeachersPayTeachers Store. I suggest printing in color on cardstock and laminating for extra protection.

 Do you have another idea for a Guess Who game? I have blank templates available so that you do not have to do all the precise measuring. All you have to do is fill in the boxes with text and pics. Both templates are available to download and edit using Microsoft Publisher.

I know your students will have fun using Guess Who to learn about instruments and other content. Keep your eyes open at second-hand stores and you can snag the games for super cheap. You may even get some donations by sending out a request to parents. Good luck on your hunt!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

In Memory of Doc T

In Memory of

Dr. Michael Tunnell


I am deeply saddened to hear that my former trumpet professor, Dr. Michael Tunnell, lost his battle with cancer yesterday morning. He was always full of kindness and compassion and had the most gentle heart. Doc T actually played a major role in shaping my career and future.

In March 2001, I was a country girl from a small town with no history of private music lessons. I sat in his studio with my tarnished trumpet scared to death. I felt so out of place. I have no idea what he saw or heard that day, but I am forever thankful that he offered me a music scholarship. Combined with an academic scholarship for good grades, I was able to graduate with my bachelors in music education completely debt free.

Attending the University of Louisville opened many doors which shaped who I am as a musician, who I am as an educator, and who I am as a person. I cannot imagine what my life would be like today if Doc T had not decided to invest his time (and the school's money) on this small town girl. Doc T, thank you for making me a Louisville Cardinal. I hope I bring honor to you and to the university as I continue my career as a music educator.

Rest in peace, Doc. May God be with the Tunnell Family.

Follow this link for his full obituary.