Sunday, January 27, 2013

Safe Share Instrumental Videos

As I stated in an earlier post, I am currently working on teaching different instruments of the orchestra and various ensembles. In my experience, any time I can share a cool video with my kiddos they get SO much more excited about what we are working on. This is especially important to me because if the kids don't have fun learning about it they tend to not actually listen -or- learn. Plus, I find that some students will enjoy the work no matter what, but others need a little inspiration to make them excited about the subject.

My trick is to use videos of popular artists on YouTube or new and interesting videos that relate to the topic. On my professional website I list all sorts of links to these videos for my students to watch at home, at their convenience. I also show various videos in class when they relate. This gives me the opportunity to show or remind the students of these videos and spark their curiosity. My philosophy is to get kids excited about music and have them involved in music even outside of music class. If that means watching an orchestra play a Katy Perry song or Bruno Mars song, I feel I'm still building their music pallet. This is not something they would probably search out themselves, but they are still excited about it!

As I stated before, I have MANY videos on my school website, but I'm going to share just a few that I have used for this instrument families unit:

The Vegetable Orchestra - People creating instruments using vegetables. Great way to introduce the orchestra or just talk about non-traditional instruments.

Cello Wars by The Piano Guys - This is a piece by The Piano Guys. You seriously have to check them out and see more of their videos. I also shared their One Direction video with my 1st graders who are studying vibrations, and their Mission Impossible video with some of my classes. They are just a fun group and I'm sure your students would like any of their videos.

Crystallize by Lindsey Stirling - Another great strings player. She has some WONDERFUL videos and it is a great way to get students into some classical music. It is hard not to get pulled into her videos.

Lady Gaga played by Breaking Winds - This is a group of four bassoon players. I liked it because bassoon is an instrument students do not normally know that much about and may not have ever heard.

Somebody That I Used to Know perfomed by Pentatonix - If you do not already know about this group, you are missing out. They have such GORGEOUS arrangements of different pop/rock songs. The best part is they sing all a cappella, but the students have such a hard time believing it. Show them any video and your kiddos will be hooked. I have a 2nd grader who is begging his parents to go to one of their concerts this year and other students that tell me how they watched EVERY one of their videos.

Firework performed by Salt Lake Pops Orchestra - This group creates beautiful arrangements of pop songs for their orchestra. Wonderful videos, too!

Now, I know this is getting a little long winded, but I feel it is important I quickly talk about Safe Share. is a website that makes sharing YouTube videos with your students safer. You know how pesky those ads are and even the videos they may recommend you aren't always appropriate for your little ones eyes. So, you take the link, paste it into SafeShare and voila you have a safe video. Same video, no ads, no recommended videos, and no way to get to YouTube directly from the video. Much safer for sharing with your students. It is probably the best link I could possibly share with you. Hope you find it as useful as I have and please let me know if you share any of these videos! Or feel free to share YouTube videos you watch. I'm kind of a YouTube-a-holic.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Have You Been to Melody Street?

One of my favorite things to teach about are the instrument families and the various instruments. I teach this unit in three sections:

3rd grade learns about the four instrument families and the instruments from the orchestra that belong to these four families. We focus on the characteristics of each family and talk about how non-orchestra instruments would also fit into the four families.

In 4th grade we add on to their knowledge about the four instrument families and we focus more on the sound of each instrument and their particular instrument family. We talk about the word timbre and we learn how to describe music using various timbre words.

Finally in 5th grade we talk about various ensembles and how different ensembles use different groupings of instruments. They have to use their knowledge of instrument families and instrument timbres to arrange instruments into various ensembles. Some of the ensembles we focus on are concert band, orchestra, jazz band, and

This year, I'm more excited to teach instrument families than I have EVER been before. This is due to some of the amazing resources I have found. There are so many great youtube videos and games I plan on using for this unit. I'll share different ones in the next few days and weeks, but I'll start with one I have been using with my 3rd graders.

Last summer, I stumbled upon this gem. It is a story called Melody Street. Some of you may have already heard of it. It is a story about the instruments of the orchestra and it plays the sounds of the instruments as the story is read to the kids. The story is in three chapters and I find it to be very interesting.

When I first found the story, I was a bit worried about using it. I was excited, but 3rd graders can be so fickle at times. I love teaching 3rd grade, but they tend to be in that stage where some things are now too 'kiddie' for them. I decided to be brave and just try it this year as an introduction into studying the instrument families. To my delight they LOVED the story and many of them stated "That was really good!"

We have been reading the story in chunks. We read the first chapter the first day and then we got through part of the 2nd chapter. The only thing that bothers me about the story if you cannot start in the middle of a chapter. I want the kids to have the full experience of hearing all the instruments playing, but I am not sure how to finish the chapter without starting all over. (The second chapter is about 15-20 minutes!)

Anyways, there is also a Melody Street site with different music games and activities. One I particularly find useful and will probably use with one of my classes is one where the students have to identify the instruments by sound.

Hope you enjoy these resources as much as I do. Do you have any other cool instrument sites to share?