Friday, January 29, 2010

"Sleepover Under the Stars"

Today was a big day in the life of our First Graders at Chets Creek. They celebrated the culmination of a unit of study on the Solar System. (For the record, they didn't really have a sleepover, but I bet they wished they could have!) The day began with a pre-dawn flashlight parade followed by a super-galactic pancake breakfast.

Mission Control preparing for the Flashlight Parade

This is me during the parade singing "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star"

Our students then rotated through various centers. They went on an asteroid hunt, they learned new songs about "Spaceworms" and danced the robot to "Rap of the Solar System." They created picture frames for their (unofficial) NASA photo, they used a SmartBoard to test their skill at matching icons to space-related vocabulary words, they visited a blow-up planetarium and attended a Constellation Ball - all in their PJs!

Mrs. Tamburrino and the Storm Trooper. He hails from a planet called Landstar

"Spaceworms crawlin' in the night, spaceworms crawlin' outta sight, spaceworms love to talk and they love to do the Spaceworm Walk!"

Teaching "Spaceworms"

I closed out our time in the music center with a technology presentation entitled, "Blue Beauty." It was filled with spectacular photos of earth taken from the space station. Check out the following link to view it for yourself. It was awesome!

This grade-level event was completely revamped to address the first grade science standards and the kids absolutely loved it! Hats off to the Chets Creek Resource Specialists - without their help, this day would never have left the launching pad!! You guys are simply stellar!!

Until next time...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Wilson" the Tennis Ball

At an Orff workshop several years ago, a teacher in St. Johns County pulled out a tennis ball that she had decorated with a patch of black hair made of yarn, two google-eyes, a red bow tie and a smile. The topic was "teaching children to use the voice correctly" and I couldn't understand what the tennis ball had to do with vocal instruction in my classroom - until I made one myself and tried it with my kids...

Allow me to introduce you to Wilson, the tennis ball. He has become one of my favorite teaching tools ever. I use "Wilson" (think Tom Hanks in the movie, "Castaway," except his buddy was a volleyball) in second grade to help my students understand the difference between "head voice" and "chest voice."

Children have four voices in their little bodies that they must be able to engage on demand. Each serves a different purpose. The "playground" voice (technically labeled the "calling" voice) is easy for them to use properly. Every kid I know can scream, holler, yell and shout. [We also talk about synonyms in this lesson!] The "library" voice (technically labeled the "whispering voice" is usually easy for them to engage and use properly. The tricky part is differentiating between the "head" voice (technically labeled the "singing" voice) and the "chest" voice (technically labeled the "speaking" voice).

I use my little tennis ball friend to help them learn to flip the mechanism in the larynx from their speaking voice to their singing voice without ever asking them to sing a note. This activity is non-threatening to the students and EVERYONE wants to have a turn.

The student can ask Wilson to do anything (within reason) using their chest voice, however, Wilson will not respond to their request. He shakes his head "no!" and sits very still in my hand. When the student asks the same question of Wilson using his singing voice, Wilson smiles and does whatever they ask of him. Of course, in addition to drawing on his smile, I cut a slit for a mouth with an Exacto knife and it delights the kids to see him "talk" to them using his singing voice. My only regret is that I am not a ventriloquist and they usually figure out that it's me operating the mouth by squeezing the ball and I'm the one using my singing voice, not Wilson.

The best part is when my kids return as 3rd, 4th and 5th graders. Not a year goes by that several of them don't ask, "Mrs. Tamburrino - Can we play with Wilson today?"

To me, that is the best part of all!

Until next time...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

FMEA Conference - Tampa, Florida

As a music educator, I belong to several professional organizations that provide content-specific teacher training for me. These organizations allow me to network with other music educators from across the state of Florida and across the nation. My students always stare at me with quizzical looks when I tell them, "I am going back to school for a few days so that I can become a better teacher." At the elementary level, they do not always understand the concept of "life-long learner" and "once a teacher, always a student."

Currently, I am president of the Duval Elementary Music Teacher organization which provides training for elementary music teachers in our district on teacher planning days throughout the school year. I am an active member in the Florida Elementary Music Educators' Association (a component organization of the Florida Music Educators' Association and Music Educators' National Conference). I am also a member of the Northeast Florida Orff Chapter and served on its Board for two years as Professional Development Facilitator for Duval County teachers.

Each January, FMEA hosts our state conference in Tampa, Florida. Members of the various component organizations (Florida Vocal Association, Florida Bandmasters Association, Florida Orchestra Association) converge in Tampa for four days of continuing education opportunities and hands-on training. Performance groups from around the state share their unique and wonderful music with us. I cannot express how refreshing it is to be an active participant in the audience and not have to concern myself with conducting or troubleshooting the sound system. I can simply sit back and enjoy...

The Disney Main Street Philharmonic performing for us

Kim Rose's session "Imagination + Creativity = Musicianship"
Kim teaches at Wards Creek Elementary in St. Johns County

This is me receiving an award from Karen Bouton, President of FEMEA for achieving National Board Certification. I was one of three teachers in the state of Florida to achieve this honor in 2008-09

This year's conference was entitled -
"Music and the Creative Mind: Wired for Success."

We now have hard data that shows the correlation between the Arts and Academics. Our brains are "wired for success" and students who participate in arts education from their kindergarten years through their high school years are more likely to graduate with their cohort than those who do not. They also score higher on the FCAT in reading, writing and math. Complete data is now available on the FMEA website (

At our conference, there were numerous opportunities for learning. We could sample music software in the Mac lab, observe master teachers from across the country in various teaching settings; sing, dance, play, perform on world instruments and listen to various genres of music in "live performance" settings from jazz to orchestral music and choral groups to steel pan bands.

World Drumming with Kalani

It is always an uplifting and rejuvenating experience to attend FMEA each year and re-fill my tank. A big "thank you!" goes out to my principal for allowing me to do so.

Until next time...