Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anti-Pinterest Classroom Pictures

In August, bloggers usually post pictures of their classrooms prepped for the beginning of school.  Everything is clean and organized with true Pinterest perfection! This year thought I would post some anti-Pinterest pictures. What does your classroom look like when preparing for summer?

4 Classroom Pictures You WILL NOT See On Pinterest!!!


1) Dirt

You will not see piles of dirt on Pinterest. Does anyone else loathe the dirt that accumulates under a large area rug? Is it truly dirt or is it the bottom of the rug deteriorating? You should have seen the floor when the rugs were first rolled up. At least this dirt has been swept into a nice pile. I think my custodian is trying to convince my principal to buy me a new rug. My rugs are in rough shape.

2) Mismatched Boxes

In the world of Pinterest, all the boxes would be matching sizes and modpodged with cute wrapping paper.  The two diaper boxes do look out of place on top of all the matching Lowe's boxes. This is actually a spare room which will store my instruments for the summer so it will be temperature controlled. Our floors are getting ripped up and replaced this summer. My wall of wooden cabinets had to be emptied and boxed up. I'm so thankful for my old post on Organizing Instruments. I'm certain I will be using it as reference when unpacking boxes.


3) Stuff Covered In Plastic Table Cloths

If you type "plastic table cloth" in the search window on Pinterest, you will find many creative and beautiful uses for this cheap party supply. People use them for backdrops, chair covers, curtains, ceiling swags, pom pom flowers, and more. However, you WILL NOT see them draped over computers and printers. We are not certain what kind of dust and debris will be created when they replace the floors this summer, so everything must be protected. 

4) Unlabeled Boxes

This picture MOST DEFINITELY does not belong on Pinterest! As I began the packing process, all of my boxes were labeled neatly with all the contents, down to the last egg shaker. I even made matching pink labels reading "MUSIC ROOM 129, FRAGILE INSTRUMENTS!!!!". However, at the end of the packing process, I got tired of being neat and organized and started shoving things in boxes and throwing them on the purple table. You will also see more plastic table cloths covering textbooks that are not even boxed. That laziness would definitely not show up on Pinterest!!!

In order to offset the chaotic disarray of my classroom at the moment, I would like to declare one last thing . . .
Before I began the packing process, I attacked my filing cabinets with a trash can and a label maker!!! Lots of things got thrown away and minimized. I made new labels for the drawers.

The drawer I use most throughout the school year got new file folders with new printed labels. My handwriting is atrocious, so I will be able to locate things much quickly now. I can't wait to tackle the other drawers in the fall! I'm sure I will search Pinterest and find more projects to put my label maker to use around the house this summer!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Art With Mrs. Dennis: Rotational Symmetry

Many of you may not know that I also teach visual art in addition to music. My school does not have a full-time visual art teacher and hasn't had one in many years. Three years ago, at the request of my principal, I began teaching one art lesson a month. I have had no formal training in teaching art, but I personally enjoy using my creativity and creating art.
I am very thankful for Pinterest and many art blogs for helping me discover art projects for my students. My fifth graders love this project from Mrs. Brown's Art Blog.
  1. Trace a plate and cut a paper into a circle. We used white printer paper
  2. Fold the circle in half, then in half again, then in half again. When you open the circle up, you should see eight sectors "slices". 
  3. While the circle is folded, draw a word stretching the letters to the top and bottom edges of the fold. We used pencil first, and then traced with a black marker.
  4. Open the fold and trace the pattern onto a neighboring sector. We took a "field trip" to the lunchroom were there is an entire wall of windows. We used the windows and sunlight as a cheap and free tracing box!
  5. Continue to open and fold the circle until you can trace the pattern onto the remaining sectors.
  6. Fill in each section with color to form a symmetrical design. We used crayons or color pencils.
Mrs. Brown has provided a wonderful Powerpoint to accompany this lesson. It usually takes two 50 minute lessons to complete this project. We cut, fold, and trace the design during one lesson. We finish tracing and coloring in the second lesson.
This year, I observed a table of fifth graders working on this project, and noticed that none of them had chosen to write their name. Instead, they chose characters or words from a book series. This sparked an idea that this project should not be limited to our names. I thought the 5th grade students should create something to present to our school as a type of service project. Each class would create a large canvas with a word hidden in the symmetrical design.
Can you view the words in each design? Try isolating one sector (pie slice) and read from the outside to the center. The words are "CEDAR", GROVE", and "VIKINGS". Cedar Grove is the name of our school and our mascot is the Viking. I chose "VIKINGS" because "Elementary" has too many characters. This design looks best with words that have 5-7 letters. If you are still having trouble viewing the words, I have helped you in the image below.
Our school colors are purple and gold. I chose to use shades of purple and silver on the outer canvases with shades of yellow and gold in the center canvas. The canvases measure 24" by 24". To create the design on a larger scale, I first followed the steps above to create a paper version. taped the circle to a black paper and cut the excess paper to form square frame. I scanned the image and used the projector to trace the design onto the canvas. I did have to do some adjusting to size the image to fit the canvas. The students were given detailed instructions of which color to paint each section. They worked on this in their homeroom classes during free time.
We unveiled the canvases to their parents at the 5th grade send-off ceremony. The following day we unveiled them to the entire school on morning broadcast. The canvases are now hung in our front lobby above the main doors and below some windows. We have some beautiful architecture and skylights in the front lobby but people rarely stop to admire it. Now, the artwork catches your attention and draws your eye upward. It is a wonderful improvement to the aesthetics of our building. The canvases and paint were purchased by our Parent Teacher Organization and all the supplies cost only $70. 

Now, the 5th grade teachers have asked what we will do next year! I think I have started a tradition that they would like to continue. I'm excited to add beauty and art to our building, but I am in desperate need of some inspiration and ideas for next year! I may have to search Pinterest all summer! If your school has completed a mural or art project for the school, please share ideas below!

This concludes the first post of "Art With Mrs. Dennis." Music teachers, please share the idea with your art teacher, if you are so lucky to have one. I promise I will post more topics soon! Thank you for letting me share a glimpse into my other world as an art teacher.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tangle-Free Ribbon Wands

Are you looking to purchase some ribbon wands or do your ribbon wands keep getting tangled? You need to read this!
Eight years ago, I completed my first level of Orff Schulwerk training and devoted a big portion of my classroom budget for creative movement props. One of my biggest regrets, until now, was purchasing a class set of ribbon sticks from Oriental Trading. A very similar product is still found on orientaltrading.com.  They come in sets of 6 and are currently $8.

I had immediate buyer's remorse when I discovered how easily they would tangle. These ribbon sticks do not allow for the ribbon to swivel 360 degrees and therefore the ribbon tangles very easily. Also, once the ribbon is tangled, kids start yanking on it and cause the rubber end cap to come off. For years, they have been stored in the cabinets without being used.

This year, I pulled them out of the closet again after finding the "Chinese Ribbon Dance" lesson in Artie Almedia's Mallet Madness. I was determined to find a solution and put these props to use. 
 I searched online and found the Tikkido blog which suggested using swivels that are used for fishing lures. I had actually purchased a small package of swivels and had planned on investing in some new dowel rods. Since I had not purchased the dowels, I had not repaired them yet.
But, this week, two third graders showed ingenuity and solved my problem without the purchase of extra hardware!
My ribbons were connected to the stick with an eye hook and a metal clip. They discovered that if you remove the eye hook and rubber end cap, you can slide the biggest side of the metal clip around the stick. Then, simply replace the black end cap. The end caps may need a drop or two of glue to ensure they won't come off. My students are begging to come back to glue the end caps on another day! I was going to try super glue or a hot glue gun. But, if I let students repair it, I may use a safer adhesive.  Yes, the metal clip will slide up and down the stick. But, when you are using the ribbon your arm is continuously moving, so it does not slide around until you stop.
When these two showed me their discovery, I was elated!!! They repaired all 30 of my ribbon wands for FREE! (Although, I do plan on buying them some M&M's) 
 I have one last picture to show you how I store my ribbon wands. This is similar to my Boomwhacker storage, if you have seen that post. I separate each color in a smaller box which fit inside a bigger box.

The skinny boxes were actually very long boxes I kept when I purchased some wooden decorative shelves for my home. I had 3 boxes and simply cut them in half down the middle. I'm sure you can find similar sized boxes if you look or ask around. I am very conscious of our planet and try to reuse or repurpose things whenever possible!

I am so excited about the ribbon wands. This summer I plan on going through my Orff Level binders and searching the web for ideas to use them in lessons. If you have any suggestions, please comment below. I will leave you with one last picture of my problem-solving duo, Hunter and Leah, demonstrating the tangle-free ribbon wands!!!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

National Boards Update

I have submitted my portfolio retakes! I have one more computer assessment in a couple weeks, and then will begin the long wait for scores ... 
In the mean time, you can look forward to seeing more frequent posts!

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!