Monday, November 5, 2012

The Power of a Green Monster

Now I know what you are all thinking, it is after Halloween, why are you talking about monsters? However, the green monster I'm talking about is not THAT kind of monster. In fact, it is a smoothie. Now you are probably wondering why I would be talking about a smoothie on my teaching blog, but read on!

As some of you probably know, I teach Kindergarten - 5th grade in two school districts. I teach four mornings a week at one school and five afternoons a week at the other school. My travel time normally cuts into my lunch hour. By the time I get from point A to point B I usually have 15-20 minutes to prepare for class AND eat. I'm sure some of you face this same problem and wonder what the solution could be. You could skip eating lunch all together, but at least for me I am completely drained of energy when I do that. Plus, I am starving as soon as school is done and all I can think about is getting home and stuffing my face. (NOT exactly the healthiest option...)

So, here is my solution... A Green Monster (read more about this revolution here...). If you haven't heard of them, they are smoothies that use spinach as a main ingredient. That is what makes them green. It may look gross to some or freak some people out, but I for one love spinach. Plus, anyone who has drank a green monster can attest to the fact that they taste NOTHING like spinach.

Still skeptical?

I began researching Green Monsters back in September. I found out how many vitamins they are packed with and how many people said they were very filling. So, I began to go to work. I created many different flavors, created a whole pin board on pinterest, and just started experimenting. I decided to make one for each day of the week and freeze them at the beginning of the week. During my rush to get going I would grab my drink from the freezer and go to work. After finishing teaching in the morning I would hop in my car and drink my green smoothie on the way to my other school. (Or sometimes I drank it at school or while I was teaching) I noticed after a couple days of doing this, I did not feel super hungry after school each day. I also did not feel as drained and tired.

About two weeks ago, I did not make my green smoothie drinks for the week. Instead, I fell back into some of my bad habits of skipping lunch or eating junk. By Wednesday or Thursday I noticed myself really dragging. I could NOT figure out what was wrong with me. Then it hit me! My green monster drinks really do give me a lot of extra NATURAL energy. So, I returned to making my green monster drinks as my lunch.

It is so important for us as teachers to stay energized throughout the day. How many of us feel exhausted after a long day of teaching? Imagine what an extra dose of vitamins, nutrients, fiber, and natural sugars could do for you! I seriously recommend you give them a try. They really are yummy!

Here is my favorite combination, so far:
  • 1 cup soy milk
  • 1/3 cup greek yogurt (for protein!)
  • 1 T flax seed or wheat germ or both (this is just added protein and fiber)
  • 1 Handful of frozen pineapple (I actually freeze pineapple juice in an ice cube tray and then I put the whole ice cube tray of pineapple juice in my blender)
  • 2 Handfuls of spinach
  • 1 ripe banana (I normally freeze mine, but it doesn't really matter!)

Put all the ingredients in a blender and blend! Comes out to taste like a tropical smoothie, YUM!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Describing Music using Music Terminology

One of the things I'm really working on with my older students (3-5 grade) is describing music using musical terms. I explained to one of my principals that I feel this is an important skill that can really help students appreciate music in a whole new way. How cool is it when a student can pick out instruments in a pop song or describe differences in tempo. This is a skill that all kids can learn and use even if they never continue on in music.

I first emphasized this skill during our outdoor music classes (read more...).

When we went outside I had my students sing I Love the Mountains. Later, I had my students write a short reflection on the difference of sound singing outside verses inside. They were encouraged to use music words from the word wall.

Most of the reflections said things like:
  • The sound echos more inside than outside
  • We sang quieter outside rather than inside
  • There were other noises outside like leaves rustling and birds chirping
  • Our sound was much more blurred together outside

After this reflection I realized I really needed to show students HOW to use music terminology in their reflections without having to change what they are saying. In order to do this I came up with a reflection assignment students had to do for homework. (I rarely give homework, but this was a simple assignment and they were given 2 weeks to complete it)

First, I showed students some examples of reflections they wrote:
I Love the Mountains sounded different outside because it echoed less outside than inside. I also thought we sang a lot quieter outside. I also noticed that outside the music was much more blurred together where as inside it was much more disconnected.
Then, I showed them how they could just substitute a few words for music words and it still was saying the same thing.
I Love the Mountains sounded different outside because it echoed less outside than inside. I also thought we sang at a piano dynamic outside. I also noticed that outside the music was more slurred or legato rather than inside where it was much more staccato.
Finally, I gave them the assignment (this was partially an idea I was given by my school principal to also include some technology):
Students should write a short music reflection about a song that they have listened to during the month. This allows students the opportunity to listen to any song they enjoy and still be practicing writing and using music terminology. *NOTE:I even allowed non-school appropriate songs as long as they had permission from their parents. That way they could truly listen to whatever kind of music they like*

All responses were emailed to me unless they could not because of not having internet or computer access at home. I also printed out a few paper copies for these students, but they were responsible for picking them up from me.

I posted all information on my school website so students could access it at anytime. Along with this I posted: the questions they were to answer, links to music videos they may like to watch for the assignment, a word bank of musical terms to use in their reflection.

This assignment was due by Halloween and I do have to say it was such a fun experiment. I did have quite a few students that I was constantly hounding to turn in their assignment (what is new), but the responses were great! I also had quite a few students that were really excited about the assignment and enjoyed the videos I posted. It was also a great way to include technology and writing into my curriculum. (Two school goals for Fairview Elementary.)

You can see all the directions for the assignment, video links, and word bank all on my school website -->here<--. Feel free to steal the idea and even the word bank, just let me know how it works for you. :)

Happy Halloween! BOO!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Get Ready to ROMP!

Shake, Shake Shudder
near the sludgy old swamp.
The dinosaurs are coming.
Get ready to romp!

The outdoor lesson for 2nd grade was using the story Dinosaurumpus!

As I have mentioned before, I like to use literature in my music classes. It reminds students of the connection between music and literature, but also there are so many great music stories I want to share with my students!

What I noticed about Dinosaurumpus! was that it had a lot of rhyming, but also had a nice steady beat. Along with this, it has tons of onomatopoeia words. This allowed for some fun sound effects. I broke the story into 6 parts and then gave each group of 3 students a part. They had to create sound effects for all the words I underlined. I told them that since Dinosaurs would roam around outside they had to create all their sound effects using their mouths, bodies, or items found in nature.
Sound Effects

After a day of work they preformed their parts for the class.

Some groups were really creative with how they came up with sound effects :). Other groups, sounded as though they did the same sound effect for everything :/.

To stretch students creativity, in the future, I would change some of the directions for the project. First, I would make sure to state that they should use at least two sound effects with their voice, two sound effects with their body, and two sound effects using nature. I would also stress that the sound effects have to be different. Not just hit the stick on the ground, then hit it on a tree, then hit it on something else. Instead scraping the stick, breaking the stick, hitting the stick, etc.

Overall, I was very happy with this project, though. I love watching my students be creative and get the opportunity to explore music outside of the music classroom.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Outdoor Instruments

As I talked about in my previous post, all my classes at Fairview went outside last week for music class. We had many different activities outside and the students learned a lot!

The Kindergarten and 1st graders were given a task of finding an object in nature that could be used as an instrument. After finding their make shift instruments the Kindergarten students got to share the instrument and play it for the class. I was impressed with the amount of creativity shown. A couple Kindergarteners used pinecones, leaves, sticks, rocks, or a combination of items.

1st grade students filled out a short worksheet to go along with finding their object. This gave them a chance to continue practicing reading and writing skills, as well as, show me what they are learning.

The first part of the worksheet was telling me what their instrument was and drawing a picture of it. After that we figured out how the instrument could make music. I had several ways and each one students tried. As they tried them they would x out the ways that didn't work and circle the ways that did work. (We went one by one as a class so the ones that had more difficulty reading always knew the task.) My 1st graders loved trying to find out the ways their instrument made music. They enjoyed hitting, shaking, scratching, etc. their instrument to try to make noise. I really enjoyed watching them try all the different ways and was SO happy to see them only using their instruments as instruments and not as weapons. (We did talk about that before hand JUST in case.)

At the bottom of the worksheet 1st graders had to come up with a rhythm using quarter notes and eighth notes. I created four boxes and explained that they had to choose either a quarter note or a pair of eighth notes for each box. They could not put BOTH in any of the boxes. All the kids followed the directions! YAY! Finally, each 1st grader got to play their instrument for the class sharing both their rhythm and instrument. It was so much fun!

Here are some of the finished worksheets:
Worksheet Example #4
Worksheet Example #3
Worksheet Example #2
Worksheet Example #1

Interested in seeing the worksheet I created. Find it -->here!<---

To finish the day, I always like to share a songtale or story with my Kindergarten - 2nd grade classes. This is part of the routine of my classes and students have come to expect it and know that story time means the end of music class. To go with the theme of being outside in nature I sang the story There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Leaves.

The kids chuckled at the silliness of an old lady swallowing a pumpkin. They also liked guessing what the old lady sneezes out after swallowing all the things she does. What a great way to end the lesson!

Make some musical memories today!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Outdoor Music Class!

Sound Effects
Last week I decided to take all of my Fairview students outside for music classes. I decided to do this after having a short chat with a 2nd grader who often acts up in my class. He had kind of a rough day about two weeks ago and broke down in tears after music class. I asked him if he was crying because he got in trouble, to which he replied "No! I just really miss my mom!"

Fairview has an outdoor classroom that they refer to as The School Forest. At first, I wasn't sure what we should do outside. It would be easy to just go out there and sing different songs we sing in music class. However, I feel that when you are going to a new environment you should take advantage of it to the best of your abilities.

After much thought I came up with lesson plans for each class. I will introduce the ideas here with a brief description, but I'll also post more details on each project in later blog posts. This way you can get the materials I used for the lessons, as well as, see some pictures. (I don't want to bombard you with a whole week of lessons in one post!)

All my classes had to walk on the forest path in silence. While they did this they were to listen to the sounds of fall. When we reached the outdoor classroom, I then had students share what they heard. We talked about what music was and how the music of fall would be different than the music of winter. They imagined some of the sounds they may hear in the winter rather than the fall. I especially found this activity cute when one of my kindergarteners on the second day of going to the forest told the class that he heard some beautiful music on his walk to the school forest. This was without even being told to listen for music! :)

Sound Effects

In Kindergarten and 1st grade students had to find an item in nature that could be used to create music. They then shared these instruments with the class and showed them how to play their instrument. (Read more about outdoor instruments...)

2nd grade was working on a sound effects project out in the school forest. (Read more about sound effect project...)

3rd grade was finishing up their ostinato patterns, so the first day they shared their patterns with the class. The second day they did something similar to what the 4th and 5th graders did. (Read More about the Ostinato Pattern Project...)

4th and 5th graders went out the school forest and sang I Love the Mountains. Afterwards they were asked to write a short reflection on this experience. They were to describe the difference in singing outside versus inside. We then talked about what makes a good reflection and ways to describe the sound of our own singing or of instruments playing, etc. 4th and 5th graders then created their own 2 beat ostinatos with a partner, as well as, a 3 beat ostinato with their partner. Students created and practiced them the first day and then shared them the second day. (Read More about reflections...)

Overall, I really enjoyed taking the kids out for music class. I was surprised by how many of my students, that don't always care for music, were really excited about music since we were going outside. I also noticed that some of my overly rambunctious students were actually really well behaved outside.

Have a musical day!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Go Pack Go!

It is that time of year... Football season! Though, I myself am not a particularly devoted football fan, I spent most of my life in Green Bay, Wisconsin. This means that I probably bleed green and gold whether I would like to or not. This weekend I actually went to the Packers vs. Saints game, which made me even more excited about my latest composition project. I can't take all the credit for it, I got the original idea from a book a retired music teacher gave me. It allows students the opportunity to take chants they would hear at a football game and turn them into rhythm ostinatos! This was perfect since my grade 3-5 classes have been working on rhythms and ostinatos! :)

I broke this project into just two 30 minute music classes (which in my opinion is a rather quick composition project compared to some others I have done). The first day is a brainstorming day. I pair the students into groups of about 3 or 4 students. These groups then brainstorm and come up with at least 10 chants they have heard or would cheer at a sporting event. (Note: I said sporting event to reach some of my students who do not like football, but may enjoy other sports)
Ostinato Cheer Composition
Ostinato Cheer Composition

The second day was devoted to writing the rhythms that go with the chants. We talked first as a class about how to figure out the rhythms. We talk about where the beat lands and how sometimes we stress different parts of a word or phrase. I give them a couple examples of my own (I chose non-sports related things so they weren't just using my examples). The groups then worked on their chants. I had the 3rd graders have 3 final cheers, 4th graders 4 cheers, and 5th graders 5 cheers. I was really impressed with some of the cheers that they created and how well they put the rhythms together. The ones that had a little bit more difficulty, or just added quarters for all of their chants, were easy to help. I just read through their chants as written and they told me if it was right or not. If it wasn't we figured out how to fix the problem together.

I found that just like with many other group activities you have those groups that get done in 10 minutes and then the other groups that work the entire 20 minutes. For this situation you should probably have some extra game or work for the groups that are done quickly. This stops students from wandering around the room or just chatting about nothing in particular.

For my quick finishing groups, I created a simple game to work on for the remainder of time. Each group got a baggy with 3 sets of music letters and 3 sets of treble clef staff notes to match. One teammate would create a word using the music letters (i.e. DAD) and then the other group members would work to match up the treble clef staff notes. This way they were working on treble clef note reading without getting bored and distracting their teammates.
Note Reading
Treble Clef Notes
Writing and reading music

After the compositions were finished I brought students outside to share their chants with the class. I chose to go outside, not because it is particularly a loud process (though it can be) but because the snow will soon be coming here in Wisconsin and my students love being outside. That and I am really working to reach all of the multiple intelligence's in my classroom this year and one that I am particularly weak on is the nature intelligence. You will probably see more nature based lessons in the coming week as I prepare to bring my little ones outside to explore the music of the fall!
Ostinato Performance
Ostinato Chant Performance
Ostinato Chant Performance
Ostinato Chant Performance

If you are interested in this project you can get the document I created --->HERE<---

You can also use --->my rubric<--- that I created for grading the compositions.

Happy composing!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rhythmic Repitition

I decided after our review the first couple weeks that ALL of my classes (mostly 3-5 graders) needed to brush up on their rhythms. I wasn't sure how I was going to do this at first because it really seemed like we needed to go back to basics on this. I noticed the most difficult part for students was remembering, which note is which and how many beats it gets.

Solution? New rhythm game using quarter notes, quarter rests, and eighth notes. Once students get good at the game I'll add in other harder rhythms and hopefully get us back onto track. I call this new rhythm game Rhythmic Concentration. It was based off of a music concentration that many of you probably have heard about.

Here is how it works:

Rhythm Concentration
Everyone in the class sits in a circle on the floor.

Rhythm Concentration
Each student is given a basic rhythm that was written on an index card. (I used only quarter notes, quarter rests, and eighth notes, however you could add in other rhythms your students know)

I then put a piece of tape or something to mark the 'beginning/end' of the circle. The person on the right of the marker is #1. The goal of the game is to be #1 at the end of the game.

The #1 person claps their rhythm and then #2 claps their rhythm immediately after. This continues all the way around the circle. During the first round, I normally just let them practice their rhythm. However, after that it gets harder.

Students continue clapping their rhythms as they continue around the circle. When someone misses their turn or hesitates that student has to go to the end (to the left of the marker). Their rhythm stays where it is and then students fill in the spaces. For example: if #5 of #10 misses their turn #10 shifts to #9; #9 shifts to #8; #8 shifts to #7; #7 shifts to #6; #6 shifts to #5; and #5 shifts to #10!

For those visual learners like myself, a model of the switch!:
rhythm concentration switch

After that it gets even more difficult. I start sending people to the end of the circle for clapping the wrong rhythm, not doing it in beat, and I have even added the metronome for some of my older students and they have to stay in beat.

Rhythm Concentration

My students really seem to like it. What I like most about it is it is fast paced, so those that get frustrated with waiting for everyone to get a turn don't feel that way during this game. I also like it because they are practicing their rhythms without feeling like they are practicing rhythms!

Rhythm Concentration

If you try this out, please let me know how it goes or any changes you made to make the game run smoother! Also feel free to ask me questions about it, I'll do my best to answer them. Have fun!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tweet for Education


I decided to write a blog post about tweeting, since last week we had a mini-in-service about the significance of tweeting as a professional practice. Now I know what some of you are thinking: How can you use Twitter as a professional practice? How will it better your work? What should you tweet about? What does it mean to follow someone or be followed? These are all questions I will try to answer in this post.

I myself am of the 'younger' generation. I'm what some refer to as a millennial or generation Y. The millennial generation are typically people born anywhere from the late 1970's through 2000. Millennial kids are generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. This means I have no qualms with using new technology and am constantly finding ways to use new technology in my music room. (I already have a smartboard at both schools and recently was given an iPad to use in one of my classrooms. I'm sure you will see more about this technology later in the year as I find ways to use it.)

Though I am excited about using technology in my classroom, I will admit I was a bit skeptical of twitter at first. How can you really learn anything just from 140 characters or less? However, I have found that many do not just post random things like "Today my job was super great!", but instead, they post things like "Today I played an awesome #music game with my students! Check it out (URL here)! #musiced #musedchat" They then link their post to a blog they wrote or read somewhere. These types of tweets can be really helpful.

How do you find relevant posts? By using the search bar. You can put in words or hashtags into the search bar. Hashtags are made up tags that connect people that are talking about the same thing. Some important hashtags to know, if you are a music teacher: #musiced, #musedchat, #music, and #musedmot. By searching for these hashtags you will see ALL of the posts related to that topic. You can then read different posts people made and eventually decide to follow them. To follow someone just use the simple steps highlighted below:

1) Find someone interesting and click on the post:

2) That will open this mini-menu:

3) Click the FOLLOW button:

As you follow more people you will get more tweets here in your tweet feed:

If you are being followed they are getting your posts!

Now, you are making links with interesting people and hearing what they find to be interesting through retweets.

What is a retweet? Well, when you find something super interesting (which believe me you will!) just click the retweet button as shown below:

After you retweet it, all YOUR followers will see it, too! You will also see things that your followers retweeted, which eventually can connect you to more professional music teachers! (Isn't social networking fun?)

After spending just ONE week on Twitter, I have read MANY articles about music advocacy. I have found tips for parents to use music at home. I have found ways to network with other teachers. I have found teaching tips. All of that in just ONE week. (And I only am following 12 people and followed by 2). Start small and just keep building. The more people you start following the more people that will start following you.

What should you tweet about? Anything you want to share! Wrote a recent blog post? Tweet about it! Did something awesome in your classroom? Tweet about it! Looking for helpful tips? Tweet about it! Just make sure you add hashtags so other people can find your posts! It is also okay to not tweet anything and just follow people. However, I am guessing once you start tweeting you won't be able to stop.

One more thing, while following tweets this last week. I stumbled upon something AWESOME! Apparently, there is a music education motivation day planned for September 29th. I don't know a whole lot about it, but you can learn more here. You can also look up #musedmot on twitter to find it!

Have you used twitter as a professional tool? If so, who do you follow and what have you learned or found? Have you ever considered using twitter as a way to grow professionally? Feel free to follow me @bndelaruelle and I may follow you back.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Those Great UNPLANNED Teaching Moments...

It is hard to believe that I am already almost finished with my second week of teaching this school year. Last week was the typical 'getting started' lessons. Lots of discussions about expectations and some introductions. However, this is the first year I already know most of my students. It is so nice to be able to call most students by their names. It definitely helps with classroom management when you already have an idea of what to expect from certain students.

Today, the art teacher at one of my schools told me to check out the google icon today. It was an icon to celebrate Clara Schumann's 193rd birthday! Here is a picture of it for those that may have missed it:

I took this as an opportunity to share a few details about Clara Schumann with my class. It seemed to peak quite a bit of interest and I reminded them that if they went home and clicked on the picture it brings up all sorts of information about Clara.

I love finding those unexpected and unplanned teaching opportunities. It may take sometime away from the originally planned lesson plan, but you have to cease the moment sometimes. :)

Have a fabulous day! Go ahead and check out Clara Schumann on google, you know you want to!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Decorating Fairview

Information Bulletin Board

After decorating Bonduel for two days, I spent FOUR days decorating Fairview. That is the most time I have ever spent decorating my room, but it was definitely worth it!

The first things I worked on was my word wall on the south wall. This wall has a whole bunch of music words organized in categories. I know a lot of word walls are alphabetical, but I like having words in categories to make it easier for students to find the word they are looking for. I posted both posters that I bought, as well as, posters that I created this summer:

Pictures Before Decorating

South Wall (Word Wall)

I also added an awesome bulletin board next to the word wall. This bulletin board was actually quite simple to make and I used black 'painters tape' to create the keys. It looks so great now that it is finished and it really adds something to my 'music story corner.'

Bulletin Board

The next thing I worked on was creating a small story corner. This is the corner I use when I sing a story to my little ones. That is one of my favorite things to do when teaching the little ones. I have all sorts of song storybooks and they love listening to the stories and singing along to their favorites like Puff the Magic Dragon and Over the Rainbow.

Pictures Before Decorating

Reading Corner
This is not a particularly good picture... but you get the idea.

The next step was adding the learning target dry erase boards and the music alphabet like I had in Bonduel:
Day 3 Progress

The final step, creating a Student of the Month bulletin board to show the great achievements my students:
North Wall

For more pictures check out my album on my Flickr Account.
Thanks for Reading!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Preparing for Another Year

I teach between two rural schools all school year. I absolutely love what I do, but there are obviously some disadvantages of teaching between two schools. One of them is that you have to decorate not just one room, but two!

This year I was a little smarter about how I worked in my classrooms. At the end of the school year I already prepared both of my bulletin boards in Bonduel. Bonduel finished school about 3 days earlier than Fairview. That meant that I could work my normal school hours by teaching at Fairview then driving to Bonduel and working in my classroom. By the time school was officially out, my bulletin boards were prepared for the 2012-2013 school year:

The first bulletin board used a black tablecloth as the background. I bought the downloadable and printable components of this bulletin board at the Music Bulletin Board website (great site for music educators to get ideas for bulletin boards). You can go to the downloadables part of the site and they have all sorts of great bulletin board sets. It is especially great for teachers like myself who have to work in two different classrooms. This way I can print off the items more than once and use them in both schools for the price of just ONE download.

This bulletin board highlights how music is related to all the subjects. The music notes explain 'how?' in more detail. It is a great reminder to everyone that comes into my classroom, why music is more than just a 'fun' class. It helps students grow academically AND emotionally.


The second bulletin board was also an idea I got from the Music Bulletin Board Website. It says conduct yourself accordingly and it has classroom expectations, as well as, concert etiquette:

To finish decorating Bonduel, I added a music alphabet (I drew all the pictures, colored them, and then laminated them). I did NOT create the characters, but used characters from Freddie the Frog by Sharon Burch. Sharon is a music teacher who wrote a series that teaches young kids about the notes on the treble and bass clef stalves. Students love learning about Freddie, his friends, different tempos, music notes, rhythms, and scatting.

I also created two simple posters. I created posters because they are simple to take down and put up as the seasons change:


Finally, I moved around the piano, changed my seating arrangement, and added posters of the instruments of the orchestra:

If you would like to see more pictures of my classroom in Bonduel, please check out my Flickr Account.
Thanks for Reading!