Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Planting Daffodils

As the academic calendar relaxes and my adrenaline pump slows down, my thoughts turn to Spring (even though it is December 21st - Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year).  I am a sun-bunny at heart and do not tolerate cold temperatures well.  Because my life is extremely hectic during the month of December, I make it a point to rest, read and get out in nature while I am not required to be at school.  The temperature is supposed to be in the low 70s on Thursday and I feel a fishing day coming on...

Today, however, I planted daffodils. 

There was something peaceful about preparing the soil and planting bulbs that were specially cultivated for warmer climates.  It will be months before they peek out from beneath the earth and greet the morning dawn with their bright, yellow flowers - but I am ready.

As I reflect on the previous four months of cultivating creativity in my classroom, I have been tilling the soil, fertilizing it regularly and encouraging growth in the area of musicianship where my students are concerned.  It is hard to believe we are already nearing the mid-point of the school year.  As I look ahead to the new year and realize what must still be accomplished, I fully expect to see "tender shoots of knowledge" and "quality musical experiences" springing forth from my "garden" in the months to come. 

We plant, expecting a harvest.  We teach, expecting learning gains to be realized and a deeper understanding of the content to take hold in each student entrusted to us.  Growing life-long learners is every teachers' expected outcome.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'Tis the Season for Holiday Musicals and More

My life as a music teacher is cram-jammed and filled to capacity during the month of December.  It always has been.  The days are long and the nights are longer.  I walk around in a fog for weeks, waving at myself coming and going.  I've come to understand that my body will be pushed to its limits and my brain extended beyond its capacities in December.  It is simply an occupational hazard with which I must contend.

Before I began teaching seven years ago, I was a church musician.  Need I say more? Christmas Eve and Easter are the two biggest "high feast and holy days" on the church calendar.  We began preparing for Christmas Eve service in September and Easter services in January.  And so it goes with the second and third grade musicals.  Before I am finished with one, I am already "prepping the other."  It's just part of my reality.

This week, my work with 200+ second graders culminated in a grade-level production entitled, "Once on a Housetop."  I have been rehearsing the songs in this musical since August.  It is now mid-December.  Yesterday, I conducted 2 dress rehearsals, 2 musical programs and 2 Recorder Club performances - all in one day! Best part is, I get to do it again tomorrow for the other half of the grade level!

My after-school arts enrichment program also comes to life in December.  The Chets Creek Recorder Club has been rehearsing since September and performed at the Jacksonville International Airport last week as part of their Holiday Fest.  As a service project to our second graders, they perform pre-show music before all four musical productions.  They will also play at the Bennie Furlong Senior Center in Jacksonville Beach on December 15th and at the St. Johns TownCenter Mall (in the courtyard near Cantina Laredo and the Capital Grille) on December 16th.

Chets Creek Recorder Club Pre-Show Performance

As I ease into the Christmas holidays, I am grateful for the opportunity to create lasting memories for these children.  They may not recall what they made on the FCAT twenty years from now, but they will remember being part of a large musical production or a performance group that allowed them to bloom where they were planted.  Cultivating Creativity.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

Until next time...

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Food Court "Hallelujah Chorus"

Last year, it was the "Silent Monks sing the "Hallelujah Chorus."  This year, it's even better.  Enjoy!!

Click here: YouTube - Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus - Must See!

Merry Christmas, Ya'll

Until next time...

Holiday Fest at the Airport

Yesterday, the Chets Creek Recorder Club made its annual trek to Jacksonville International Airport to perform for their Holiday Fest.  Schools, both public and private, are invited to participate in this event each year and this was our third trip with the Chets Creek Recorder Club.

Half of my students had never been to the airport, so it was an educational experience for them as well.  We performed upstairs in the atrium near the food court where it is acoustically "live" and the sound resonates like you're in a cathedral.  It's a completely different musical experience from rehearsing in the music room.

The sound man is the Master Electrician for the facility, but attended the University of Florida on a full music scholarship.  His music studies began on the recorder.  He then moved from the recorder to the saxophone and finally settled on the bassoon.  He is so animated when he runs sound for me each year, it cracks me up. 

The students played extremely well and I was so proud of them!  There were more parents and grandparents in our audience than holiday travelers (it's still a little early), but they were a great crowd nonetheless.

Many thanks to the parents who transported children in their vehicles yesterday and a special salute to Mrs. Willingham for taking a gazillion photos of our group for the yearbook page.  A big "thank you" to Delta Airlines for providing a wheelchair for one of my students who had recently broken her leg.  I greatly appreciate everyone's support!!

Chets Creek Recorder Club - 2010

Performing Holiday Favorites

Robert getting his shoes shined

With this trip to the airport, our performance season has officially begun.  The group will play pre-show music at school on Tuesday, December 7th and Thursday, December 9th for our second grade musical entitled "Once on a Housetop."  Pre-show begins at 5:30 and 7:00 with musical performances at 6:00 and 7:30 p.m. each night.

On Wednesday, December 15th, they will perform at the Bennie Furlong Senior Center in Jacksonville Beach and again at the TownCenter Mall on Thursday, December 16th in the courtyard near Cantina Laredo.  I hope you can join us!!

Until next time...

Monday, November 22, 2010

Five Fat Turkeys

'Tis the week of Thanksgiving and all through the school, the turkeys are hiding from cooks trying to rule (the roost, that is). 

In Kindergarten, we've been dramatizing a song entitled, "Five Fat Turkeys" using a Chef's hat, a plate and a spoon for props.  We learned the song by rote, we talked about the main idea and we figured out the main characters in the story. The lyrics are as follows:

"Five fat turkeys are we, we slept all night in a tree;
When the cook came around we couldn't be found
So that's why we're here, you see."

Music Connection, Grade 1, p. 217

My five fat "little turkeys" decided to hide under the piano so that the cook was unable to find them.  Too cute!

Happy Thanksgiving, Ya'll!

Until next time...

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

All-State Elementary Chorus

On November 29, 2007, I put the final touches on my first-ever "Five Year Plan" and submitted it to my principal.  Our theme that year was "Dreams Begin Here" and I was dreaming big-time.

One of my long-term goals was to send a student from Chets Creek Elementary to Tampa, Florida to participate in the All-State Elementary Chorus.  That was three years ago.  I had no idea what was involved in the audition process, but was willing to give it my best.  I am very happy to say that my dream finally came true this fall for a very sweet young lady named Katie.

Katie and Mrs. Tamburrino

Katie is a fourth grader at CCE.  She is currently learning to play the recorder and she has a lovely singing voice too.  Last year as I was rehearsing the 3rd grade musical, Katie always sat in the same seat, right in front of the piano.  I could tell that she was able to maintain pitch and was very quick to learn the material.  She kept coming to mind over and over again as I thought about who I might audition for All-State this year.

I approached her parents over the summer and asked for permission to audition Katie.  I had never attempted anything like this before, but they were willing and I was excited to try.  Students must be able to sing "America" a cappella and as a solo, sing "Are You Sleeping?" in a round with the teacher and maintain their part and must also be fairly proficient with tonal memory (teacher plays an example on the piano; student sings it back correctly).

Over the summer, I asked my media specialist if she would assist me by downloading a free software program (Audacity) onto my laptop so I could use it to make an audition CD for Katie.  I purchased an external microphone and recorded a rehearsal CD for Katie to use to learn the required audition pieces.  Once the official "2010 tonal memories" were uploaded to the FMEA website, I arranged for an audition with Katie.  This was back in September.  We had to wait six weeks before we knew whether or not she had been selected to participate.

Katie was one of three public school students from Duval County selected to participate in the 2011 All-State Elementary Chorus.  Her family is so proud of her and we are all extremely excited about this musical opportunity for Katie! 

Her concert music arrived in my box today and I can't wait to get started on it! She will be part of a 200-voice choir that performs on January 14th and I will be sitting in the audience cheering her on.  Katie is one of those kids that makes an entire learning community extremely proud to call her one of their own!

Until next time...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Teaching the Tough Stuff

I recently had a "Purple Cow" moment when my principal came in to do my annual observation a few weeks ago.  I preconferenced with her on Monday to show her my lesson plan and explain the concept I would be teaching (syncopation).  On Thursday, she quietly entered the room, sat down in the back and made notations in triplicate while I taught.  When she finished writing down everything she could think of, she quietly slipped out.  The following day, I debriefed with her.

In my debrief this year, she made a profound statement to me that has been mulling over in my mind for several weeks.  She said, "I have nothing more to say to you.  Your lesson was flawlessly delivered and perfectly scaffolded.  There is nothing I can say to you that would make it any better."  I thanked her for her extraordinary compliment, but then she continued.  "Mrs. Tamburrino, you teach the most difficult concepts in your lessons.  99% of your students don't have the proper schema or background knowledge when they walk into your classroom to be successful.  Somehow, you manage to present the material in such a way that they get it.  It is an amazing thing to watch.  I learn something new every time I visit your classroom."  She then went on to compare what I do everyday with a classroom teacher who has struggling readers they are trying to teach. 

Struggling readers have difficulty decoding.  They don't often have certain life experiences or background knowledge to understand the text they are trying to decode.  They struggle with fluency.  Their working vocabulary is limited.  Often, they can't comprehend what it is they are trying to read.  It is the teacher's job to fill in some of the blanks by scaffolding lessons that build their schema.

Unless my students have had private music lessons, my students come in with nothing.  They are a blank slate on which I must write the music language code.  There are certain music symbols they must learn to decode in order to perform the music placed before them (quarter note, half note, treble clef, notes on the staff, etc).  They must learn to speak Italian (pianissimo, forte, largo, fermata, crescendo, etc.) so they can perform the music in a musical fashion.  They must be able to decode song lyrics and understand the history behind the lyrics (regional folk songs like "Alabama Gal," the "Star Spangled Banner," etc.).  They must be able to internalize the steady beat.  They must learn to feel it, count it, move to it, clap to it, dance to it AND read it.

I would like to invite you into my classroom to view the lesson I taught the day my principal did her observation.  I used a regional folk song entitled "Alabama Gal" to teach the concept of syncopation.  Syncopation happens when you shift the strong beat in a measure of music to the weak beat.  The syllable used to perform rhythmic reading of straight quarter notes is "tah."  The syllables used to perform syncopated rhythms are "synco-pa." 

My class periods are 50 minutes long.  The edited video you are about to see is 10 minutes long.  Much of the scaffolding I presented in the actual teaching of the lesson had to be cut.  You will notice that I laid the foundation for teaching syncopation during the "Introduction to Rhythmic Reading" segment at the beginning and closed out the lesson with a melodic rendering of the song at the end.  I used a map to show where Alabama was located, I gave students the opportunity to choose body percussion to write a rhythmic composition, we enjoyed lengthy discussion on several topics as the lesson progressed - most of which was edited out.  You'll have to use your own schema to fill in the blanks.  Enjoy!

Alabama Gal from athby tamburrino on Vimeo.

Until next time...

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Making of a Musician

Each Thursday, a group of Duval County music educators comes to Chets Creek at the conclusion of their work day.  They've been "in the trenches" all day long and they are here for a rehearsal.  They come from across the district, their educational backgrounds are varied, but the one thing they all have in common is their love affair with music.


From left to right:  Amanda Loos, Lisa Weindorf, Steve Gonzalez and Lorraine Roettges

This ensemble is playing recorders of all shapes and sizes.  From the sopranino (think piccolo) to the bass (think tuba), they are filling the music room with beautiful music.  It is not everyday that I am privileged to enjoy my own personal concert by a consortium of highly educated and musically talented adults.  It's like being transported back to Elizabethan England (c. 1600).

I asked each teacher to provide a brief bio for you to see what goes into the making of a lifelong musician. 
Their music careers began at about the same age as the students they currently teach.  Many years later, they are still extremely dedicated to their art form. 

Amanda Loos is an elementary music teacher in Duval County. She first started playing piano in 3rd grade and by the end of elementary school had joined the string program playing violin, handbell choir, and choir. She started playing her principal instrument, the clarinet in 7th grade. In high school she played in the All-State and All-County bands and joined the Brevard Symphony Youth Orchestra.  Amanda went to Stetson University to study Music Education and graduated in May 2009. At Stetson she played in various ensembles including Band, Clarinet Choir, Quintets, Quartets and Trios. Since her graduation she has played with Southern Winds and joined a recorder quartet.

Lorraine Roettges has been teaching in Duval County Public schools for four years. She is a classically trained flutist/piccoloist and has performed with numerous groups throughout her career such as the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, the Savannah Symphony, the Sarasota Opera Company, New York Gilbert and Sullivan, and the Eastern Music Festival Orchestra. She has promoted arts in education through numerous initiatives including the founding of Project Listen for Riverside Fine Arts Association. She was nominated for the Jacksonville Cultural Council's Individual Art Award for her work while maintaining the position of Director for Riverside Fine Arts Assoc. She has also held administrative posts as Associate Director of Development for the JSO, Symphony Guild Coordinator, Young People's Concert Coordinator, and Coordinator for Guest Artist Relations - all with the Jacksonville Symphony Association. Adjunct teaching positions have included Jacksonville University, the Bolles School, and First Baptist School of Music. She has been an adjudicator for competitions in the State of Florida: solo and ensemble contests, flute and piano contests; and as an adjudicator for the prestigious Canadian Young Artist's Competition. She recently won Teacher of the Year for Atlantic Beach Elementary School.

My name is Lisa Weindorf. I was born in Toms River, New Jersey. I attended college at Jacksonville University on an instrumental (flute) and vocal scholarship. I was involved in many musical ensembles including orchestra, band, Chamber Singers and Concert choir. I was also a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Chorus and Masterworks Chorale for many years.   I received a BME and Master’s in teaching K-6 from JU, magna cum laude. I am currently certified in Music Education K-12 and Elementary Ed K-6, as well as Orff levels I and II.  My teaching experience includes 18 years as music teacher (pre-K-8th grade) at Sacred Heart Catholic Elementary School in Jacksonville. My performing groups included a recorder ensemble, Orff Ensemble and a huge choir.  During that time I was also the Director of music for the church.  I am currently the music teacher at Englewood Elementary School. This is my second year teaching at this school and in Duval County. I love teaching and I love my job. I teach with an integrated approach, always trying to make as many connections to other subjects as possible. I believe in using a “hands on” approach and that children should experience and create music themselves (Orff instruction).  I am currently a member of the Duval County Recorder group, MENC, NFOC, FEMEA, NPM, Mu Phi Epsilon and Kappa Phi Kappa.

My name is Steven Gonzalez, I was born in Jacksonville, FL, but spent most of my life in Naples, FL. My father played trombone in the U.S. Navy and studied voice at Jacksonville University. With much exposure to brass instruments, I picked up the tuba in high school after becoming proficient on trumpet and baritone. Since High school, I've performed with the Florida Allstate Musicians on Mission (1998-2000), Center Stage Theatre Company in Naples, FL (1998-2002) The Florida Baptist Singing Men (1999), Jacksonville University Orchestra (2000-2005), Jacksonville University Wind Ensemble (2000-2005), Jacksonville University Concert Choir (2002), Jacksonville University Jazz Band (2004), Jacksonville University Brass Quintet (2002-2004), and the First Coast Wind Ensemble (2000-2003). I received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Tuba Performance from Jacksonville University in 2005. I am currently in my sixth year of teaching at Beauclerc Elementary School and Central Riverside Elementary School. I love my job, I love music, and I love playing the Bass Recorder, Tenor Recorder, Soprano Recorder, and Sopranino Recorder.

I often wonder what will become of the students I am currently teaching. Being privy to this ensemble's hard work and dedication gives me hope that the seeds I am now planting will one day take root and grow into something more wonderful than I could ever have imagined.
Until next time...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake"

Ballet.  Something I never did as a child.  Something I don't fully understand.  Something I've never seen done this way before.  Absolutely incredible!!

Until next time...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Teaching Future Teachers

Twice a year, I am called upon to provide supplemental music instruction to elementary education majors at the University of North Florida.  These students are taking a course that teaches them how to integrate the Arts into their everyday lives in the regular education classroom.  Their professor, Dr. Gigi David, is an extremely talented visual artist.  She has written and illustrated several children's books and is a strong supporter of arts education.  She enlists my help to teach musical concepts that are simple enough for the "musically un-trained" to replicate in their classroom.

In years past, I packed up half my classroom and carted it over to the university to teach two sections of her class over a two-day period.  This year, we decided to bring the students to Chets Creek for the workshop.  We wanted them to see what a music classroom looks like.  We wanted them to experience me interacting with elementary-age children and wanted the experience to be as "real" as possible.

UNF Students

The students came into my classroom to observe me working with second graders who are working on the music for their holiday musical.  They observed a 45-minute rehearsal followed by a workshop with me.  I taught a lesson that integrated social studies and music ("Star Spangled Banner" - the history behind the lyrics); we did some work learning to read rhythmic notation; we analyzed a simple melody and discovered that melody can move "up, down and stay the same;" we used manipulatives to show our comprehension of the material (just as I would do with my own students); we learned a multi-cultural song from Africa and learned to play tubanos (drums) and we played with Sound Shape drums and Boomwhackers - all in two and a half hours!

Rehearsing with second graders

Answering students' questions

As they were leaving, I asked them to complete a brief "exit survey" for me so I could re-work my presentation prior to the Spring semester, if necessary.  My favorite comment of all..... "Pure, unadulterated awesome!"

Until next time...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Welcome, Dave Rowan

When a college student joins a fraternity, he is initiated into the group and each group has their own way of handling the initiation process.  When a college student signs up for Field 1, this course of study is his initiation into the world of teaching.  Welcome, Dave Rowan!

Dave is a pre-intern from the University of North Florida who is studying to become a music educator.  He is spending the fall semester with me at Chets Creek.  I've had other UNF students in my classroom; an intern that played French horn and a percussionist that beat anything he could get his hands on.  Now, I've got a vocalist.  YEE-HAW!!

Mr. Rowan began his music study on the viola, but he also has a lovely voice.  We stood by each other in a classroom last Wednesday and sang the "Star Spangled Banner"  and the kids went wild.  Maybe I should ask him to sing at flag-raising.  Hmmmm.........

A pre-intern's greatest responsibility is to observe the veteran teacher in the classroom.  His assignment is to pay careful attention to rituals and routines, procedures, classroom management, classroom set-up, teacher interaction with students, etc.  Each time he comes into my room, he has a focus question that must be answered before he leaves.  For the "Teacher Observation Project," he must shadow me for an entire day while carefully notating what happens in my world from the time I arrive to the time I depart.  He is also required to teach three lessons during the course of the semester.

He taught his first lesson last week using a wind instrument called an ocarina.  I was not familiar with the instrument or the video game for which the instrument is known, however, my students were! (He played "Zelda's Lullaby" from "Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time." The ocarina was the instrument of choice prior to the recorder. 


It is made out of clay and is simple to play.  The sound was very pleasing to my ear and hearing one was a brand new experience for me.  He had purchased his ocarina in Italy last year and the kids wanted to know if the school could purchase one for each of them.  At $85 each, that is not likely to happen anytime soon.

Until next time...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Congratulations, Lorraine!!

Lorraine Roettges
Teacher of the Year - 2010
Atlantic Beach Elementary

For the past two years, I have had the privilege of working alongside a wonderful human being who is incredibly talented and extremely concerned about our children's music education.  She is an itinerant music educator in Duval County which means she splits her time between two schools.  Her main school is Atlantic Beach Elementary but on Mondays, we are blessed to have her here at Chets Creek.

Lorraine is a classically trained musician that plays the flute and piccolo.  She has performed with numerous ensembles throughout her career including the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, The Savannah Symphony, The Sarasota Opera Company, New York Gilbert and Sullivan and the Eastern Music Festival Orchestra.  She is a strong advocate for arts education and founded "Project Listen" through the Riverside Fine Arts Association.  Lorraine is married to Les Roettges, principal flutist of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra.

I have grown to love Lorraine as a musician and friend.  She is an inspiration to me and I am so glad her colleagues chose her for "Teacher of the Year" at ABE.  This honor is a testimony to her dedication, her love of music and her willingness to share her passion with others.

Congratulations, Lorraine! I am proud to call you friend.

Until next time...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Old Mac Boomwhack

Music is made up of three components - rhythm, melody and harmony. 

Since we're cultivating down on the farm this year, I thought it might be fun to use a "farm song" to teach two of the three musical components - rhythm (the beat) and melody (the tune).  This lesson was taught in 3rd grade and the students greatly enjoyed it (once they got over the fact that their teacher used a "baby song!" in their lesson).

We began by singing along with a CD accompaniment of "Old MacDonald Had a Farm."  After determining  the form of the piece - Line 1 (melody); Line 2 (melody); Line 3 (rhythm) and Line 4 (melody), we changed the words on Line 3 from ("chick, chick here and a chick, chick there") to "tap, tap here and a tap, tap there; here a tap, there a tap, everywhere a tap, tap" and transferred that pattern to our laps first, and then to a sound shape drum. I notated the rhythmic pattern on the board for use as a visual aid.
After rehearsing the rhythm section several times with the entire group, I pulled 5 students to play the melody on boomwhackers.

Boomwhackers are colored tubes cut in various lengths that can be played in the palm of the hand or on the thigh (or the head, if you're really creative!)  Each one corresponds to a pitch in the C-major scale.  For this activity, we needed a G, a D, an E, a B and an A (the recording is in the key of G major).  The students were set up in a straight line in the following order (left to right) - B, A, G, E, D.  I notated the pitches on the board for use as a visual aid.

After rehearsing with the melody group, we put it all together and performed with the CD accompaniment.
Rhythm Section with Sound Shape Drums

Boomwhacker Players

Everyone rotated through both parts and played their little hearts out! (even if it was a "baby song!")

Until next time...

Friday, October 1, 2010

Visual Aids in the Classroom

I never realized just how much of a visual learner I was until I began teaching.  I recall sitting at my desk as a young person and writing things down as fast as I could or drawing a sketch of something that the teacher was trying to explain so that I wouldn't forget it as soon as she had moved on.  If the teacher drew it on the board, I had to draw it in my notes.  They say, "a picture is worth a thousand words" and I believe them.

Because I am not very skilled at drawing, it pays to be married to an artist.  Anytime I need a visual aid to use as a teaching tool in my classroom, I can call upon Mr. Tamburrino to assist.  He will verify that I am not a "big picture" person; I am not conceptual at all.  I am painfully linear in my thought processes.  I will never be a composer (that's too conceptual for me), but I can teach a song that someone else has composed from beginning to end with no trouble at all...and that suits me just fine.

In my classroom, I provide both Orff instruction and recorder instruction.  Orff instruction requires the use of the barred instruments (xylophone, metallophone and glockenspiels) which are laid out like a piano keyboard.  I have dubbed my visual aid for these particular instruments a "BAR CODE."

One must be able to easily locate the pitches prior to playing them and with this handy-dandy visual aid, I can black-out the bars that are not needed and use the others to teach the pattern.  The black bars are attached with velcro dots and are removable.  When the pattern changes, simply replace those and remove the others.  It's a snap! Because a xylophone is basically lots of vertical lines, I was able to make this one myself using a ruler and a sharpie on a piece of poster board.  I laminated the poster and the bars, prior to attaching the velcro dots.

In my recorder classes, it is quite useful to have a fingering diagram written on the board when trying to teach new pitches on the instrument.  Because I have eight classes that rotate through my classroom, I would have to re-draw the fingering diagram eight times.  While attending a workshop in August, an instructor from south Florida had this nifty little gizmo she had made that used the outline of a recorder and red buttons that were velcroed in place.  If the hole was covered with a red button, you covered that hole with your finger.  If it was not, it was played as an "open hole."  It was a stroke of brilliance and I took her idea and ran with it.

Knowing that I would need some assistance with the drawing of the instrument, I purchased the supplies and delivered them to Mr. Tamburrino with a blown-up picture of a recorder.  I explained what I was trying to create.  I told him I needed a simple outline of the instrument and I could handle the rest.  Together, we created something I hope will be extremely useful in my classroom for years to come. 


Supplies needed for this visual aid were foam board, black sharpie, velcro dots and something with which to cover the holes.  (The buttons are magnets that were purchased at the Dollar Store and the leftover velcro dots from the Bar Code visual were used to attach the magnets to the foam board).

Get creative in your classroom! If money is tight, ask your art teacher for assistance.  She may have some supplies in the art room you can use.  She may even be willing to draw the picture for you!

Until next time...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Data-Driven Instruction



   Physical Education

MAP Test Results are in!!

Duval County Public Schools holds all teachers accountable for learning gains in the classroom, regardless of the subject matter they teach.  Schools, as a whole, must make "annual yearly progress" or suffer the consequences imposed upon them by the district.  It is the teacher's responsibility to move the students forward and not allow anyone to fall behind.  Safety nets are in place for the "general education" student, the "exceptional education" student, the "gifted and academically talented" student, the "English Language Learner," and many others.  On the fringe are those of us who teach electives and what is commonly called "resource" at the elementary level.

All 2nd grade and 5th grade students in Duval County are tested in Music, Art and Physical Education twice a year.  A pre-test is given at the beginning of the school year to determine their baseline scores.  We "resource specialists" then teach our standards (YES, we have standards too!) throughout the course of the year and a post-test is administered in June.  Learning gains are then measured against the pre-test.  If you are fortunate enough to land in the top 25% of all teachers that hold your certification across the district, you are rewarded with a performance pay bonus the following year.

The MAP test results from last year were recently posted.  After calculating percentages for over 400 students, I am very pleased to announce that my fifth graders increased their test scores by 15.5% as a grade level and my second graders increased their test scores by 13% across the grade level.  It's definitely time to celebrate!!

My principal would attest to the fact that I take my job very seriously.  Although I am not the only music teacher in the building, I feel personally responsible for the music education of over 1300 students entrusted to me at Chets Creek Elementary.  Twice a month, they pass through my classroom and I have approximately sixteen opportunities to work with them during the course of the school year.  It is never enough time to accomplish everything I would like, but it is evident from their improved test scores that they are learning.

Personally, I would be remiss if I did not share my success with the other three teachers whose efforts in the music classroom last year contributed to student growth over the course of the year.  I would like to thank Lorraine Roettges, Jane Plank and Samantha Lambros for their diligence and dedication to the students of Chets Creek Elementary.  Although they split their time between two schools, I am so grateful to each of them for their willingness to serve.  Thank you, ladies!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

America's Got Talent - The Finals

It's finally over.  Pop music won out over "legit" music.  The fourth place winner was Prince Poppycock, the third place winner was Fighting Gravity and I'll let you watch the video for yourself to see who won the grand prize.

I can now return to my normal bedtime (8:30 or so for this old girl!) and enjoy the fact that I made it all the way through to the end.  What a great ride for the vocalists that were competing in the competition.  Every one of them earned their place in the finals and their lives will never be the same again.  I wish them all the very best!

Until next time...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jackie Evancho

Once in a lifetime, someone comes along that is so incredibly talented, the world actually stops to listen.  This particular singer is a child.  Her name is Jackie Evancho.  She is one of four finalists in the "America's Got Talent" competition that is currently airing on NBC.  She and Prince Poppycock (see blog post of 8/28/10) made the cut last night and will compete against each other on Tuesday, September 14th.  This broadcast will be "live from Hollywood" and the winner gets a million dollar grand-prize and a headline show in Las Vegas.

I have been around extremely talented vocalists most of my life and I've never seen nor heard anything like this child.  Her technique is flawless.  She is ten years old! I cannot compare her sound with anyone elses -  it is so unique.  It is gorgeous.  She is gorgeous.  God has blessed her with a gift unlike any other I've ever witnessed. 

The following video clip is from her performance last night.  She sang, "Pie Jesu" in Latin and the crowd went wild.  The judges were at a loss for words.  Her performance was incredibly touching.  Take a look....

If you would like to watch the final four compete for the grand prize next week, the show airs at 9:00 p.m. on Tuesday on NBC.  I hope you can join us!

Until next time...

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Beginning Recorder Study

Each year the Chets Creek Elementary PTA purchases a recorder for every fourth grader in our building (approximately 200 students). Their gift provides an avenue for large numbers of students to learn to play an instrument and build their music-reading skills over the course of the year.

The recorder was a very popular instrument in Elizabethan England during the Renaissance period (circa 1600). It was easy to master and could be enjoyed as a solo instrument or preferably, in an ensemble setting with all four voicings playing simultaneously.

As with any instrument, the first few months of acquainting onesself with the instrument can be somewhat painful. One must figure out correct playing position, correct fingerings, correct tone production and endure much screeching until the amount of airflow needed to make a nice sound on the instrument is realized. For some students, it comes very easily. For others, their parents require that they practice in their bedroom with the door closed.

At our first class meeting with the fourth graders, I give them the opportunity to "blow the bejabbers out of it" while I plug my ears. This is their one and only opportunity to do so in my classroom. From that moment on, we work really hard at trying to produce a good tone at all times on the instrument.

Before they ever touch the instrument, we use colored reinforcement circles to create a practice instrument on their forearm. We go through the process step-by-step as a group activity. Once our circles are in place, we practice fingerings for B-A-G without having to worry about airstream, hole coverage ("leaks make squeaks") and note-reading. The students love this activity and it gives me time to build in the rituals and routines that will guide our instructional time when they return for the next class.

Until next time...

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Prince Poppycock

As an elementary music educator, I often wonder where my students will end up in life. Will they simply be consumers of music or will they actually take the "seed of song" that has been planted within them and grow it into something more meaningful; something that touches the heart and the soul.

I have been following an individual on "America's Got Talent" this summer. I couldn't tell you his real name. He is known to America as "Prince Poppycock." This person has created a persona that is larger than life. He is a machinist by day and an opera singer by night. My children are fascinated by him and have grown to appreciate his talent. America loves him and keeps voting him through. He has made his way through the semi-finals on the show and each time he returns, his performance is more astounding. Here he is performing his version of "Bohemian Rhapsody" on Tuesday, August 24, 2010.

IF he wins the talent competition, he will receive a headline show in Las Vegas and one million dollars. I will be completely dumb-founded if he actually wins, because pop culture in America always takes precedence over true talent. When I watch his performance, I see someone who was deeply touched by his elementary music teacher, greatly impacted by his middle school music teacher and pushed to performance level by his high school music teacher. I see someone who is dedicated to his craft; someone who has spent many hours studying vocal performance; someone who is not afraid of hard work and long hours and someone who understands showmanship. He has an uncanny ability to draw a crowd into the moment. Prince Poppycock -you have my vote!

Until next time...

Monday, August 23, 2010

Down on the Farm

What a great day for our kids! Most of us city-slickers don't have any idea where our food comes from, but today our students got a first-hand look at farming from a group of farmers right here in Duval County, Florida. The Duval County Farm Bureau brought watermelons, tractors, livestock, a mule-drawn wagon, bees (self-contained) and seeds for our kids to plant.

I worked the "CCE Watermelon Patch" this morning and learned a great deal about watermelon. They originated in Egypt, they are a first-cousin of the cucumber, a medium-sized watermelon has approximately 1530 seeds in it and they're grown right here in Duval County!

"Jubilee" variety of melon

Every kid got a piece of watermelon from the watermelon patch (all 1350 of 'em!)

Beekeeper's Association

Beekeeper's gear

Beautiful Bovine Baby

A mother hen and her chicks

Have a great year, Ya'll!

Until next time...

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Back-to-School 2010

It's that time of year again...when teachers soak up the last few rays of summer sun, parents dash from store to store collecting school supplies and purchasing sneakers in the next size up; where tax-free shopping rules the day and sports physicals are an absolute necessity.

Yes - it's "Back-to-School 2010."

Welcome Back Teachers!

Our theme this year is "Cultivating a Community of Excellence" and we're heading down to the farm.

Opening day for faculty and staff is filled with games, skits, food and fun! Prizes are awarded for the best skit and the best costumes. Oh, we'll work a little too - review policy and procedures, talk about the data and how we plan to shore up our weak spots - we'll discuss our plan for implementing the new "Response to Intervention" tool and spend a little time reflecting on how to make this year our best ever.

Mrs. Phillips works really hard at including everyone in the opening day festivities and making our new teachers feel welcome. It is truly a great way to build community and prepare us for the coming year. Check out these photos!


Props from our Skit - "The Resourceful Farming Company, Inc."

Holy Cow! It's Dee Dee and Ray!

Building a weather vane with Tinkertoys (the hard way!)

Working on "Eggstrella's Egg Mover"

The team-building activities were the toughest part of the day. Have you ever tried to build something while getting your cues from a liason who can only say, "Yes, No or I don't know"? That was an experience I will never forget!

Until next time...

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Orff Level 2

"Tell me, I forget...show me, I remember...involve me, I understand." Carl Orff

Carl Orff (d. 1982) was a 20th Century German composer who taught early childhood music by involving the children in the learning process. Philosophically, "Orff-Schulwerk is a way to teach and learn music. It is based on things children like to do: sing, chant rhymes, clap, dance and keep a beat on anything near or at hand. These instincts are directed into learning music by hearing and making music first, then reading and writing it later. This is the same way we all learned our language." (American Orff Schulwerk Association).

For the past two weeks, I have spent my days in class studying melody, harmony, rhythm, bordun accompaniments, movement/dance - and my nights composing Orff arrangements using various compositional techniques that are accessible for young children. I have spent countless hours practicing the alto recorder which has different fingerings than the soprano recorder. I have had aesthetic experiences in class that I have never before experienced. I have created music, dance, movement and song. I am completely exhausted, but extremely fulfilled. It was a wonderful opportunity to grow as a musician and as an educator. Each of the music teachers at Chets Creek shared this experience with me and we will be better music educators because of it.

Lorraine Roettges, Dee Dee Tamburrino, Samantha Lambros and Jane Plank

This summer's professional development opportunity was a gift to each of the forty-eight music educators from Duval County Public Schools that attended. In June, several of our teachers traveled to Stetson to take Level 1 so they could be part of Level 2 at the University of North Florida in July. I greatly admire their tenacity!!

Two years ago, Patsy Butterbrodt wrote a $1,000,000.00 grant that was funded by the Federal Government for teacher training in Orff 1, 2 and 3. Last summer, Orff 1 was offered. Next summer, Orff 3 will be offered - free of charge - to any DCPS elementary music teacher who has completed Level 2. Thank you, Patsy, for having the courage to take that step to enhance teacher training in our district. We appreciate you! And a big 'thank you" to Mary Jeanette Howle for administrating the grant on our behalf! Without your faithful assistance, this professional development opportunity would not have been possible. "Well-done, good and faithful servant."

Orff Pedagogy Instructors: Gretchen Wahlberg and Sandy Lantz

Recorder and Movement Instructor: Linda O'Donnell

Orff 2 Alumni

Recorder Class (Dee Dee and Samantha)

Movement Class

Rhythm Class

Orff instruments stacked in the back of my station wagon

Transporting instruments back to Atlantic Beach Elementary at the conclusion of the workshop

Unloading the instruments

A huge 'thank-you' to Lorraine Roettges for allowing us to use her classroom instruments. You're the best!!

Until next time...