Thursday, October 23, 2014

Arts Integration: Line and Melody

In addition to music, I also teach visual art. My student teacher for the fall, Ms. Reed, had a very short placement (only 8 weeks). I didn't want the time in the art room to impede her learning and experience teaching music. So, we decided to integrate art and music for those lessons. 
We compared the art element LINE to the contour of a MELODY. Fourth and fifth grade students got to choose their favorite song and draw the shape of the main melody. They practiced drawing the lines with small chalkboards. Ms. Reed and I walked around the room and asked each student to sing their song while tracing their finger along the line. We offered suggestions to change the melody, if needed, to make it more accurate. The students chose a piece of construction paper from an assortment of pastels. The students drew their melody line and then added additional lines in the background in attempt to hide their melody. The chalk lines should be very thick to prevent paint colors from mixing.
After drawing the lines, the students used watercolors to paint each section. Some chose to create color patterns while others preferred a random method. It took two 50 minute classes to begin and finish this project. We began painting in lesson 1. At first, the students were disappointed in the darkness of the watercolors. At the beginning of lesson 2, they were able to see how the colors are more vibrant when they dry. They also enjoyed comparing how colors looked different on different colors of construction paper. (Yellow paint on green paper looks different than yellow paint on pink paper) The original plan was to wipe the chalk away and reveal the background color of the paper. But, most students liked the chalk and didn't want to wipe it away.
If you are fortunate enough to have an art teacher at your school, this would be a great opportunity to collaborate! Students could draw their melody lines in music class and complete the chalk and painting in the art room. I really fell in love with this project because each student created a beautiful work of art that was truly unique. I try to plan lessons that give the students freedom of creativity to influence the outcome of their art. The response papers allowed students to comment on something they loved about their art and something they wish they could do better. One student commented that she loved "how we could make it our own". This was great reassurance. For that moment, I could pretend that I was a real art teacher and not just a music teacher pretending to be an art teacher. ;)

This post was featured on Fermata Fridays
on September 18, 2015.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Recorder Playing Tests

Several people have asked on music teacher Facebook groups how others handle playing tests for recorders. Here is an overview of how I assess recorders . . .


I teach recorder in 4th grade. For each unit, I provide at least 3 songs with varying difficulty. (Buzzword: DIFFERENTIATION!) I don't follow any particular recorder method book. I have gathered songs from several books, from my Orff levels courses, and from various workshops and conferences over the years. Lessons in the unit may also involve games, dancing, or playing accompaniments to the songs on barred instruments.

At the end of the unit, I hear each student perform one of the songs for a playing test. On test day, the students rotate in centers. My classes are 50 minutes long. I try to allow 10 minutes at each station. That leaves 10 minutes for instructions at the beginning of class and maybe a couple minutes of clean-up before they line up to leave.

One center is the playing test where I am stationed. I hear each student in the group perform a song and then I tie their strings before they rotate to the next center. I used to hear students one at a time and it took a long time for students to come back to me and then go back to their seat. Many times, students would be very nervous playing for me it would take forever to get them to even begin their song. In small groups, it seems less formal and the students are also very supportive of each other. While I'm formally assessing them on the rubric, they are watching their peers and offering suggestions like--"Your thumb hole wasn't covered all the way." and "You didn't have your right thumb kickstand."

Before they play for me, there is a center with an exit slip or short quiz assessing any new vocabulary or concepts we learned in the unit. These students have finished their written assessment and are working in small groups preparing for their playing test.

Two other stations are games or activities which reinforce music skills taught in the unit. This was the first recorder playing test and we are still learning the lines and spaces of the staff. The students chose either relay races or Twister with the giant floor staff. The next station was Treble Toss where students draw a popsicle stick and then aim their beanbag at a specific line or space on the staff. If you would like to learn more about my music centers, follow this link to previous blog posts.


My rubric addresses posture, breathing, fingering, hand position, steady beat, rhythmic accuracy, and pitch accuracy. If you would like to download my Recorder Rubric, click here. If I need to save time before the rotation ends, I wait for class to finish to add up the scores.


For each note the students learn, they receive a different colored string tied on to their recorder. I use embroidery floss cut to 12 centimeters. I sometimes have students or parent volunteers cut the strings for me. After the strings are tied, the students love to fray the ends. Some units introduce two notes, so the students would get two colors. Some units introduce only one note, so the students would get one string. We start on red and follow the order of the color wheel. The last string is a black string. There is a bonus string in the last unit. The last note we learn is F#. If the students can play "Frere Jacques" (in the key of D) in a round with a partner, they get a gold metallic string tied on their recorders.

I store the strings in my organizer station. Each color has its own drawer. I also have drawers for office supplies like paperclips, sticky tack, rubber bands, pushpins, etc. This organizer sits on a bookshelf behind my desk and makes things so easily accessible. Follow this link for more information on how I organize my classroom, including printable labels for your own organizer.

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to comment below!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Grab My New Button

My blog got a small facelift. I also got a new button. First of all, thank you to those bloggers who were already sharing my button! If you have the old button, please consider updating your blog and replacing my old button with my new button. If you are not already sharing my button, please consider adding it to your blog. Just copy the code under my button and paste it into a box on your sidebar. My button will appear on your page.  Thank you so much!
Music With Mrs. Dennis

If you have a button, please let me know and I will add it to my blog too! If you are interested in creating your own button, a very easy code generator can be found on this link:

All you have to do is insert your Blog Title, your Blog Link, and the URL Link for your desired image. It is suggested that blog buttons be 125 pixels by 125 pixels.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Masterpiece Bulletin Board

I've seen this bulletin board on many teacher blogs and my student teacher and I decided to tackle our own version. We both fell in love with the quote "Each Individual Is a Single Note--Together We Make A Masterpiece". Some of the displays we used as inspiration can be found at the bottom of this post.


The Notes

Each student cut out their note and wrote their name. (The kindergarteners wrote their initials.) Second grade and up got to also write either their favorite instrument, favorite song, or favorite singer. Each grade level was given a color from the color wheel--K-Red, 1st-Orange, 2nd-Yellow, 3rd-Green, 4th-Blue, 5th-Purple. I had about 4 different shades of each color.

The Staff

I first attempted to put electrical tape on the wall. Overnight, most of it had fallen. So, I cut poster boards in half and still used electrical tape to create the staff lines. I laminated them so they can be reused in the future. The notes were scotch taped onto the staff.

The Title

I traced the words onto small poster boards using my projector. Then, I hand painted them with black acrylic paint. For those of you who do not care to paint, I added a nice art gallery frame around the title. You can download the title and music notes from my Teachers-Pay-Teachers Store.



Other Bulletin Board Examples

Musical Musings and Creative Thoughts used a die cut to cut the notes. Unfortunately, my school does not have a music note die cut.


A Cricut could also help you cut the music notes very quickly.  This picture was found on Fantabulous Cricut Challenge Blog. The names of students and staff were handwritten on the notes.

Another teacher allowed students to draw their own music notes an symbols. They were assembled in more of a collage instead of on a staff.

Mrs. Mattson's Music Room created a very colorful board. If you don't have time to let students help create their own note, you can add the notes yourself.

Another example added the National Standards to the music notes.

Music Centers Assessing the Treble Clef Staff

I have previous posts on how I use centers in my music room. You may click this link to read those posts.  
I recently planned a lesson for 4th and 5th grade classes to review the pitches of the treble clef staff using centers. My class periods are 50 minutes. So, we planned for 10 minutes or so to explain the centers and then each group would have about 10 minutes to rotate at each of the four centers.

Giant Staff Twister

 In one center, students played Twister using the giant floor staff. I used gym tape to create the staff lines on my floor and used the existing 12 inch tiles to keep my lines perfectly parallel. I have one spinner with the letters of the lines of spaces and one spinner to determine which body part should touch the correct line or space. The spinners are available on my teacher pay teacher store. I introduced Giant Staff Twister last year and it has become a favorite for the students.

Treble Toss

Many people who have blogged about the giant floor staff have had students try to toss bean bags on a specific line or space. Here in Kentucky, cornhole has become a very popular backyard game and I knew my students would love the challenge of tossing a bean bag through a hole. So, I used 2 trifold display boards (like you would use to display science fair projects) and created a staff with holes on the lines and spaces. Students would draw a popsicle stick to randomly select a pitch letter. Then, they had 3 chances to toss their beanbag into the correct hole. After their turn tossing beanbags at the spaces board, they would get in the back of the line for the lines board.
This game was a hit! To set up the boards, I borrowed a couple spare student desks from our furniture storage room. One flap rested on the top of the desk and I set a heavy object (a chromatic glockenspiel) on top of the cardboard. You could use a few heavy books or whatever items you want. The bottom flap would rest against the legs of the desk and caused the board to be slightly tilted which helped stabilize the board when the beanbags were tossed. The boards fold flat and lay horizontal in my cabinets, so it will be easy to pull these out and use them again in the future.

Staff Wars

The third center involved the Activboard. I downloaded Staff Wars from The Music Interactive. This is a free download for your pc. They have a new app version which is only 99 cents. The object of the game is to click the correct letter name of each note as it scrolls across the staff. The game gradually gets faster and more difficult. You can select the clef of your choice and also adjust the range of the  notes it will give the students. The students LOVED this game! There are also several other free music games available on I look forward to downloading some more and trying them out.

Exit Slip and Flashcards

The fourth center involved an exit slip assessment which would be graded. The exit slip had students identifying letter names of some notes on the staff. The students were also asked to practice drawing a treble clef. The exit slips can be downloaded on my teachers-pay-teachers store

As the students finished, they got to quiz each other with flash cards until it was time for the next rotation. The flash cards were a free download from Making Music Fun! The cards are one sided, so I added the letter names on the back so the kids could quiz each other. I printed these on cardstock so they would be more durable.

 I know your students will enjoy these games as much as mine did! Enjoy!