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...