Friday, August 30, 2019

Friday Reflection: Isolating Your Senses

I hope to share ideas and tips on a more regular basis, so I am starting a series called Friday Reflections. Each Friday, I will reflect on my week and try to share a highlight which may be helpful to you.  It may be a resource which I use that I would like to recommend. It may be my favorite moment from the week. It may be a revelation I had to improve my own practices. These posts will be shorter than my usual posts and I hope they may be beneficial to someone.

Today's reflection is highlighting a 1st grade lesson which I have taught for many years. I tried something new and it really improved our musicianship. This lesson uses the rhyme "One, Two, Buckle My Shoe" and is based on the lesson presented in the Mallet Madness books. All students use the Orff instruments and freely improvise with a given rhythm. There is a sequence which starts simple isolating the numbers or isolating the words. After a few turns clicking mallets, playing, and resting,  we discuss the difference between wooden bars and metal bars. I assign the numbers to the metals and the woods to the words. They have to learn to rest when it is not their turn.

We eventually play the rhythms without our voices. The students must internalize the words in order to stay together. This particular group was playing a little sloppily. I asked that they try one more time, but with their eyes closed. They performed again and it was much more clean. By closing their eyes, they could not watch my conducting cues. They were forced to use their ears listen for the groups talking back and forth. They ended up hitting the bars more in unison instead of sounding like popcorn. When we opened our eyes everyone was smiling ear to ear. These tiny first graders could tell that we made something magical happen.

I've taught this lesson many years. I don't know why I decided to ask them to close their eyes, but I am so glad I did. It will definitely one of my top memorable moments. I have tried something similar during other lessons where I taught a portion non-verbally. By communicating with gestures only, the students were less distracted and listened more carefully to the sounds they were playing.

Have you ever decided to eliminate sight or speech during a lesson? I would love to hear your thoughts on isolating your senses.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Another Use For Binder Clips

A teacher's plight-getting things to stick to the cinder block walls. Most of the time, I can use masking tape hot glue, sticky tack, Stikki Clips, or any combination of those. However, I have 4 large posters which were laminated with the cold laminator. It made them very heavy and NOTHING seems to stick to that cold laminating film. Here is a picture of the posters from my classroom tour in 2012.

After years of trial and error, here is my solution. I hope it can help you too. They are in a new location now where they are stacked vertical. I first taped them together. I left some sticky tack on the back to help it stay straight, but the tack was not going to be bearing the weight of the posters.

I punched 2 holes in the top corners of the poster. I attached binder clips to the metal trim for the drop ceiling. I opened a paperclip to form an S hook to attach the poster to the binder hook.

These have been hanging with this method for several years and have never fallen down. I hope this could help someone with some stubborn posters. But, please check your fire code to make sure this would not violate any regulations. Do you have any tricks for hanging things? If you do, please share them below.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Ukulele Cabinet Update

I have 40 Kala Waterman Ukuleles which I store in a plastic double-door cabinet. If you would like to learn more about how I created this custom storage, click on this link to a previous blog post.

All last year, I stared at this circular handle on my ukulele cabinet and I imagined a sound hole. I just KNEW this bland cabinet NEEDED a ukulele on the front doors. But, there is never enough time during the school year to tackle a project like this. This summer, I finally made my vision a reality.

I have several teacher friends with Cricut cutting machines who would have graciously helped me create my design with vinyl. But, the front of the cabinet is textured and also slightly bowed, so I knew the vinyl would not stick. I was going to have to paint it. 

I first sketched the ukulele with a crayon and used a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser when I had to adjust my lines and make it symmetrical. I used Painters brand opaque paint pens to paint inside the design. The most pain-staking part was shading the teal body. 

The music notes surrounding the ukulele were inspired by my classroom door. These were re-positional wall stickers and they have lasted 4 years now. They are not peeling or scratched at all. My door is on a corner and gets high traffic through that hallway. I'm very pleased with how long they have lasted. I love the whimsical combination of the music notes and swirls, so I used this design to inspire my ukulele mural.

I didn't update much in my music room this summer, but this cabinet is definitely eye-catching. All the students this week have been ooh-ing and aah-ing over the cabinet. It took about 3-4 hours to complete this project, but it was well-worth it to see all their smiling faces!