Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ode to an Elementary Music Teacher

There once was a teacher who loved what she taught
Music, her forte, was not taught for naught;
Her students were learning and growing, you see,
Until Spring arrived in Tallahassee...

Our Senate and Reps think they know what it's like
To work in a classroom, both day and night;
I think they should try it, just for a week,
They'd then understand what we mean when we speak
Of our jobs and our homes and our families too;
"Let's cut the Arts and P.E., that should do;"
"Those subjects are frill, they're just fun in the sun;"
"Our kids just don't need it; they need 1 + 1."

Agreed.  They need math and the sciences too;
Reading and writing and spelling, Ya-hoo!
But what about beauty and things of the heart?
What about fitness? Where does that start?

Why is my job always "Line Item One?;"
It's the first on the table when all's said and done.
I wish, for a moment, the "powers that be"
Would visit my classroom so they could see
That my students are learning and hoping to be
The most well-rounded students in Duval County.

Until next time...

Friday, February 18, 2011

Happy 50th Birthday, Mrs. Tamburrino!

Yes...I realize it's very hard to believe (even for me!), but Mrs. Tamburrino reached the half-century mark today.  I have been showered with phone calls, hugs, gifts, a cake, balloons, white-board greetings and marquis greetings too!!  I am "feeling the love" and the day is still young!

Thank you to everyone who made my day so very special.  The list of names is too long to mention here, but you know who you are and each of you are a blessing in my life today.  I tried hard to capture the day in pictures so enjoy...

The other side lists my classroom expectations :)

She even scored the opening notes of "The Birthday Song" correctly!

Not sure who left this one, but I appreciate it!

The Resource Team celebrated with cake at lunch today

A second grade class JUST HAD TO make me a birthday card!

My sister popped in at some point, although I never saw her.
I loved the balloon that says, "YOU'RE HOW OLD????"

PTA Fundraiser

It just doesn't get any better than this!!

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Big Orange Barbershop Quartet

Would you like to know how to stop a class of 37 kindergarteners dead in their tracks???  Have a barbershop quartet open your classroom door and burst into song!!  That'll do it everytime!!

The students were absolutely mesmerized...

I had the most unique Valentine's Day gift from my husband yesterday - A barbershop quartet from the Big Orange Chorus (Orange Park, Florida) delivered a "Singing Valentine" to me during my kindergarten class.  They sang "Let Me Call You Sweetheart" and showered me with a rose, a cupcake, a card from my husband and took my photo with the group.  It was an experience unlike any other.

The Big Orange Chorus Barbershop Quartet 

Have a listen...

I was told by my eldest son who attends Stanton College Prep that they had visited his principal as well and it was the talk of the campus.  They also visited Twin Lakes Elementary just before coming to see me and knew exactly where to find me.  (Our schools share the same architectural design).

What a great fundraising idea for their organization.  They delivered singing Valentines all over Jacksonville from Saturday through Monday.  It was fabulous!! Thank you, Steve, for a unique and musically exciting Valentine's Day gift.  I absolutely loved it!!

Until next time...

Monday, February 14, 2011

Singin' the C-Major Scale

Did you know there are several different ways to sing a C-major scale?? Just as you can "speak, clap and count" rhythmic patterns, you can sing up and down the scale using three different methods - on the letters, on the numbers and using solfege syllables. 

Each step of the scale is called a "scale degree" and each one has its own resonating capacity in the ears and in the body as you sing it.  The ear must be able to differentiate between half-steps (white key to neighboring black key on the piano) and whole steps (the equivalent of two half-steps on the piano).

Singin' the C-major Scale is one of my favorite 5th grade lessons.  It's an extension of a previous lesson on melody.  This presentation involves visual processes, audiation and kinesthetic movement using Curwen Hand Signs while singing Latin syllables.  It is a multi-sensory process that builds ear-training skills.

As I share with my students, someone made millions of dollars effectively combining scale degrees 1-4 (plus an added 7th for effect).  The melody of the song "Lean on Me" is a perfect representation of this.
1...1-2-3-4...4-3-2-1...1-2-3, 3-2....
1...1-2-3-4...4-3-2-1...1-2-3, 7-1
Can you hear the melody inside your head? That is audiation.
Good singers depend on good audiation skills for sight-singing and ear-training.

Our lesson is closed out by viewing a video clip from "The Sound of Music" where Maria attempts to teach the children how to sing using "Do-Re-Mi" syllables.  Anytime you can get 5th graders to sing in class, it is a good day in the music room.

"The Sound of Music" starring Julie Andrews (1965). 
Words and Music by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II

Until next time...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

To Compose or Not to Compose

MU.A.3.2 states "The student reads and notates music."  That's a rather broad music standard for upper elementary students.  The art of musical composition is filled with all sorts of intricacies that must be understood before this task can be attempted, much less, accomplished. 

To begin, one must have an understanding of how music is put together.  One must have a working knowledge of music notation (how to read the symbols and what the symbols mean), how to lay it out on a piece of staff paper, voicings, range, meter, key signatures....the list goes on and on.  One can be easily overwhelmed when your teacher says, "O.K. class, now you are going to compose a piece of music.  Here is the rubric.  You have 20 minutes.  I will perform your piece on the piano at the end of class."  Some students are paralyzed by this assignment; others take it and run with it.  The ones that take it and run are those students who have had private music study outside the classroom.  I have found that piano students make the best composers, especially when these compositional skills are just emerging.

On a whim, I decided to challenge my 5th graders with a compositional assignment at the conclusion of a unit of study on melody.  I created a rubric that set up the parameters for their composition:
  • Your composition must be four measures long.
  • Your key signature is C-major (no sharps/no flats)
  • Your time signature is Common Time (4/4)
  • You will need to set up your paper before you begin (bar lines, time signature, double-bar lines at the end of the fourth measure; save space for a title on the top staff)
  • Your composition must begin on C, move to G in measure 2; begin on G in measure 3 and end on C in measure 4
  • You may use whole, half, quarter and eighth notes and their respective rests
  • Your piece must have a title
I thought this task was simple enough (I wrote a sample piece for them in 60-seconds).  I had no idea whether or not they could accomplish this task, but I was determined to let them try.

We began the process by reviewing the notes on the staff and playing a spelling game using the seven letters of the music alphabet (A-G).

composition set-up on the left; spelling words on the right

This is the word "baggage" spelled  using the music alphabet.

After 15 minutes of review, I turned them loose in the back of the classroom to work in small groups for 20 minutes.  I moved from group to group to offer any suggestions and scribe for those who needed my assistance putting the notation down on the staff paper.

At the end of class, I performed each group's piece of music on the piano. 

Several groups followed the rubric perfectly; others used "artistic license" to create that which sounded good to them.  Some were paralyzed and required much oversight; others were happy trying to do the assignment on their own with little input from me.  It was definitely an enriching and multi-level creative experience for all.

"Beach Breeze" by Terrell, Aaron and James

Titles by other students:   "A Night on the Caribbean," "Jamaican Cruise," "Element," "Swaying of the Palms," "Smooth Melody," "Rain Drops," and "Ocean Waves"

Until next time...