Sunday, October 28, 2012

Monkey Drum Deluxe GIVEWAY

One of the developers of "Monkey Drum" read my recent review of the app. (If you missed the post, follow this link As a thank you, he provided me with 2 free codes to access the deluxe version of the app with all instruments unlocked and no in app purchases.

I will be using one of the codes as a giveaway to my readers. You may enter the giveaway 2 ways:

1) Comment below on your favorite post by "Music With Mrs. Dennis.
2) Like "Music With Mrs. Dennis" on Facebook.

The giveaway will end at midnight on Thanksgiving day. I will randomly select a winner and notify them on Friday, November 23rd.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Halloween Music Door

We always have a trick or treat night where the students get to parade through the hallways in the costumes and trick or treat. Each teacher sits outside their door giving away treats. This year, out PTO decided to give prizes (gift cards to a store of out choice) for the teacher with he best decorated door and the best costume. Well, thanks to Pinterest, everyone had really cute doors. So, I knew I had to up my game plan. My door was going to be more than a decoration. I designed a door that enhanced my instruction.

I always use Halloween as a chance to discuss minor harmony. I used the door during instruction to also discuss several other musical elements. 

Recipe for Spooky Music 

Minor Harmony (dissonant chords make your skin crawl)

Unusual Sound Effects (usually from the percussion family)

Subito Fortissimo (suddenly loud)
Musical example: "Skin and Bones"

Accellerando (gradually get faster)
Musical example: "Hall of the Mountain King"

Melody Goes Higher (raising the pitch level increases suspense) 
Musical example: Jaws theme

Students in grades 2-5 completed an exit slip before they left class. They completed a sentence "Our music sounded spooky because . . ." I picked a few papers from each class to frame my door. Here are a few student responses

The winners of the door decorating contest have not yet been announced. I'll let you know if my time and effort is rewarded.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Energizer Bunny

Our school trick-or-treat night was tonight. This is a costume idea that I have has for 5 years. It is impossible to find pink bunny ears at Halloween. I finally found these pink ears at Easter time for $1 at Target! The last item that was very hard to find was pink pants. I could not find adult sized pink sweat pants anywhere. I finally found some pink scrub pants that worked nicely. If it wasn't for the baby bump the drum would be strapped on and I would be sporting this down our street on Halloween!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Monkey Drum App

Monkey Drum-Free App

This is another FREE app that I think will be very useful in the music classroom. The main menu allows you to pick 2 ways to play. This is how the menu looks on an iPhone or iPod. When you click on the center image, you enter the most basic type of play. Here, you can play rhythms and melodies on instruments and when you pause or finish your phrase, the monkey will be a copy cat and repeat exactly what you just played. (Get it? Monkey see, monkey do!) The more you play, the more the monkey starts showing he likes your music by clapping or even dancing. 

After playing a little while, you and the monkey are rewarded with a banana to feed the monkey. After eating 3 bananas, you get 10 free hearts to use to purchase more instruments, more animal characters, or even accessories to dress up your monkey. You also get 15 free hearts each day you play. Just check the mailbox on the main menu to get your daily free hearts.

The game comes with 3 instruments unlocked for free (djembe drum, thumb piano, and xylophone). Other instruments available to unlock with heart coins are congas, an acoustic guitar, and a microphone. 

Another way to play is the Song Maker. For the youngest children, they can just have fun exploring sounds by drawing shapes on the boxes. For older children, they can carefully compose intricate rhythms, melodies, and harmonies. the bottom right corner features a page turner. Each page features 8 beats. (If you choose a faster tempo, you may treat each page like a 4 beat measure allowing you to compose with eighth notes and syncopation.) I believe you can have an unlimited number of pages/measures in your composition. (I scrolled down to 207 and it was still going!) When you hit play, you get to view the animals in video mode playing your composition.

There are also a few preloaded songs you select and then edit to create your own variation. Sometimes its a little overwhelming composing from scratch. Some students may like to start with a framework first. 

For more on the Monkey Drum app, visit

Classroom Application

So far, I have only used this app with one kindergarten class. We finished our lesson very quickly; they were being great listeners and following directions! We had completed all the activities in my lesson plan and still had about 10 minutes left. So, I opened the Monkey Drum app and had them echo some simple rhythms with quarter notes and eighth note pairs. First, I played some rhythms and let the students watch the monkey be the echo. Then, I asked the kids to help the monkey when it was his turn to echo. After a few examples, I had individual students come up to play a rhythm on the monkey drum. I would tell them a rhythm and they would try to play it on the drum. When the monkey would echo it back, it was a great way for the class and the student to hear what they did and evaluate their performance. Most of them could hear right away if the rhythm was not exactly what I had originally performed. On this particular day, I was just using the app as a time filler, but I immediately made a mental note to use it as an assessment tool in the future. I can watch the students performing rhythms (either by echoing me or by reading notation).

With the older students, I think the Song Maker feature would be great for composition. First, the students could compose rhythms (or even a short melody) on paper. After I graded their work, they could try to notate it on the Song Maker. Obviously, not every student would have time to try it on the app if I only have one iPad. However, as I was introducing the Blob Chorus app to the students I started polling the students asking them who had an iPod touch at home. More than half in each class would raise their hands. I bet the students would love a chance to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). If I attempt this, I will let you know how it goes.


My 2-year old daughter also loves this app! She loves to take turns playing with the monkey and she loves to feed the monkey the bananas. But, I think her favorite thing to do is to check the mail! She loves to open the mail and try to read the letter. This app can entertain a wide range of ages!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hall Passes

What do you do with the blank CDs that have errors and cannot be used to write music or data? I make mine into hall passes!

I have used CDs as hall passes for several years. This is the second set I made. For the first set, I used an entire rainbow set of Sharpies and drew bubble letters with shadowed lettering and everything. I spent a lot of time coloring on both sides of the CDs and getting a Sharpie headache. By the end of last spring, all the CDs had cracked or broken because kids had started bending them. But, the first set lasted at least 4 years. (I did change out the string just for hygienic reasons.)

This year, I decided that the time spent making an artistic masterpiece that was destined to go into public restrooms around the neck of children who may or may not wash their hands was not the best use of  my time. I just wrote the words quickly and drew some eighth notes. Do the kids care? Probably not. Did anyone even notice my detailed artistic work on the original set? Probably not. Do the kids still think they are awesome because they are shiny CDs? Absolutely.

I also found a cute treble clef coat hanger a few years ago at the Dollar Store for $5. This hangs right by my door under the light switches.

Occasionally, while standing in line waiting for their homeroom teacher to come, a kid will notice that the musical notes are not accurate and that the treble clefs only go at the beginning of the staff. I just use it as a teachable moment and have them explain what is wrong and how it should be changed in order to be accurate.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Rhythm Cat App

Another app I have downloaded for the iPad is Rhythm Cat Free. With the free version, you get 15 levels of rhythms. There is background music that plays and one measure of clicks to count off and tell you when to start playing the rhythms. You hold down the green button to play the rhythms. Here is a screenshot of Level 4.

As you play the rhythms, the notes and rests that you perform correctly turn green. When you are finished, you get a score of 1, 2, or 3 stars (similar to Angry Birds). 

This is a screenshot of Level 5.

You must hold the notes for their full duration or the note will not be counted correctly. The music accompanying the rhythms comes in various styles and tempi. Level 6 first introduces dotted-half notes. Level 10 introduces 3/4 time signature.

Beginning with level 13, there are two buttons to play the rhythms. The green button plays the black notes as normal. A blue button appears on the left side of the screen and should be used to play the blue notes. The screenshot below is Level 15. 

The eighth notes are really supposed to be blue. At this time, I do not plan on paying $2.99 to upgrade to Rhythm Cat Pro. It features 60 levels, but I think it would be too advanced for elementary students. The screenshots on iTunes show 2 and even 3 different color buttons and many complex, syncopated rhythms including ties over the barline. Unless you have students who are taking private lessons on an instrument, the free version will challenge them enough.

Classroom Application

We have only had our iPads for a couple weeks and I have not yet been brave enough for individual students to try games individually. I have demonstrated this app to a few classes if they had a few spare minutes at the end of class. The kids were immediately intrigued and seemed excited about this app. I think I will definitely try this individually in December. Level 11 features the "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" from the Nutcracker Suite. The rhythm is simple using quarter notes, eighth note pairs, and quarter rests. I think most students in grades 2-5 could perform this rhythm correctly. I will certainly take a screenshot of the rhythm and show it on my Activboard so we all can practice it as a class before the students are asked to perform it individually. I have not yet decided whether this could be counted for a grade or not. There is no real score in the end, only a rating of 1, 2, or 3 stars. But, it may get the kids excited about performing rhythms. If I give them a chance to play the app in class, perhaps some kids will download it on their iPods or other devices when they get home and get more practice reading rhythms.

I wish . . . 

After you play a note or rest, they turn blue. However, every note (regardless of the duration) turns into a blue quarter note after you play it. This is a glitch that will hopefully be fixed in an update.

I also wish that you got a number score to accompany the star rating (as you do in Angry Birds).

Several reviews on iTunes mention a request for the ability to practice some exercises at a slower tempo. A few of the levels are very, very quick. I agree that it would be very helpful for younger students to be able to practice the rhythms at a slower tempo.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Blob Chorus: Free Ear Training Game

In a previous post, I announced that we would be getting iPads. I have only had the iPad for 2 weeks now and have already found some amazing and FREE apps to enhance my elementary music curriculum. If you love technology, stay tuned and become a follower of my blog; I'm sure I will have many posts about integrating the iPad into music classroom.

If you don't have an iPad, iPhone, iPod, or other device to use in the classroom, don't stop reading! The first app I will be sharing is also available in a web version and can be used on any computer connected to the internet! This would be great if you have a projector or interactive white board.

"Blob Chorus"

My favorite app so far is "Blob Chorus." This app is a free download but is also available in a web version at
It is an ear training game. The green blobs each sing a different pitch. Then, the King Blob sings a pitch. You have to select which blob is singing the same pitch as the King. On the bottom of the screen, there is a "hear blobs again" button so you can listen to the blobs as many times as you need before selecting an answer.

If you select the wrong blob, it explodes but allows you to continue guessing until you get the correct answer. You may also click "hear blobs again" to hear the remaining blobs sing.

The other button on the bottom of the screen is "Options" and allows you to change the difficulty of the game. You can have as few as 2 blobs to choose from or as many as 8 blobs to choose from. The default setting opens 3 blobs every time.

After 10 questions, the app gives you a score and percentage.

Classroom Application

So far, I have shown the app to a few classes if I had 5 extra minutes left at the end of the lesson. I explained the game and had students listen to the blobs sing. I did not allow them to shout out answers. I asked them to show me the number of the blob on their fingers. This allowed me to quickly scan the room and estimate how many people were hearing the pitches correctly. This will be a great tool to use when students are in line waiting for their classroom teacher to pick them up. Instead of expecting them to wait in silence, they will want to be quiet so they all can hear the blobs!

In a few weeks, I plan on using this as a type of exit slip for 2nd grade and up. During my regular lesson, students will take turns going back to the iPad, completing a game of 10 questions, and recording their score. If I don't think the students will be honest, I may have to leave one student at the iPad the entire time to ensure honesty and help out if they have a question. I will let you know how this goes when I attempt this assessment.

Several of my students went home and immediately downloaded the app on their iPods! I'm sure your students will enjoy this game as much as mine do!

On a side note: 

My 2 year-old even enjoys this app. But, she wants to get the answers wrong. She loves to see the blobs explode. She says, "I made a messy, messy, mess!" She gets upset if she guesses the correct answer! LOL

Leap Back Home to Me

I love using children's literature in the classroom. Last spring, when browsing the book fair, this book immediately caught my attention. The title, "Leap Back Home to Me," made me think of how we call the pitch "do" home base. A few weeks ago, this book was used in a second grade lesson to introduce melodic improvisation, phrasing, and ending a phrase on "do."

Even though I had been looking forward to using this book in a lesson all summer long, my student teacher was actually the one who got to teach this lesson. The book is very rhythmic and is set up in stanzas of 4 lines. In each stanza, the first 3 lines are different places that the baby frog leaps when playing and exploring away from the momma frog. The 4th line always repeats the phrase "leap back home to me."

When my student teacher first read the book she used a speaking voice until she got to the phrase "leap back home to me." On this phrase, we used a simple melody "mi, mi, re, re, do." The students naturally began patting a steady beat and soon caught on to the form of the stanzas and began singing along with the recurring phrase "leap back home to me". 

After finishing the book, the student teacher directed the students' attention to the magnetic hand signs and had the students echo the pattern "mi, mi, re, re, do." She brought the students' attention back to the form of the poem asking how many places the frog leaps away from the momma before leaping back home. She asked them to pat a steady beat and count how many beats are in each sentence. (Answer: 4). Then, she asks them to calculate how many beats we pat before we sing "leap back home to me" (Answer: 12). They practice this pattern of patting 12 beats and then using hand signs to sing "mi, mi, re, re, do" before moving to the barred instruments.

Once at the instruments, she instructs them how to properly remove the F and B bars for C pentatonic. Using the "fake instrument," she has them echo some short melodies with mi, re, and do. Some melodies end on do and some do not. She asks them which phrases sound like they are finished (Answer: the ones that end in do). Then, she has the students echo the pattern "mi, mi, re, re, do" from the phrase "leap back home to me."

When the students can successfully play the melodic pattern, she asks the students to click their mallets for 12 beats and then play the melodic phrase. When students can successfully perform the pattern of 12 clicks and then the melody, she allows them to improvise on the 12 beats picking 12 bars to play before playing the   phrase "mi, mi, re, re, do."

Lastly, the students are asked to play along while the teacher reads the book again. At first, the students were playing way too loud. Even though the teacher was using the pendant microphone, it was still impossible to hear the book with 24 kids playing very loudly on their instruments. After asking the students to pretend like they were tiptoeing instead of leaping, they were playing quiet enough to hear the story. The students seemed to enjoy the book and were not afraid to explore the instruments and improvise. By the end of the year, I will introduce rhythmic building blocks and begin to get students comfortable improvising with rhythms using ta and titi.

Where Can I Find This Book?