FMEA Conference Wrap Up

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Hello readers!

I got just gotten back from a wonderful professional development conference here in sunny Florida, and I wanted to report back to you some of the highlights from my trip.

First of all, FMEA is celebrating it’s 75thanniversary. Hooray! Here’s to 75 more. And now, buckle up, because it’s been a full conference and I have a lot to share with you!

WEDNESDAY

All State Elementary Chorus Rehearsal with Dr. Kelly Miller

This is my very first year having a student in the All State Chorus. Whoohoo! And boy am I glad that 2019 was the year that it happened. This year’s clinician, Dr. Kelly Miller from the University of Central Florida was an amazing conductor, who not only is amazing at actually conducting, but also picked gloriously beautiful literature and knew how to connect with an elementary audience. That last one is not a given. I have seen many a clinician who is used to working with top-level ensembles, but really just has no touch for working with children, so I was glad for my student that she got to work with a conductor that she could really enjoy.

She started the kids off with a cool warm up. I thought it was great for getting the type of tone that you want for each vowel. She had them start singing SO-FA-MI-RE-DO on solfege, then switched it to the syllable “no”, then “oh”, then “oo”, then “ee”, and finally “ah.” As she progressed through each vowel, she would reference the vowel before. So for example, she said she wanted an “oo” with “oh” space, and when she got to “ee”, she said she wanted an “ee” with “oo” space.

Some other cool tricks she used included using movement to get students voices to do what she wanted. She would do things like have them “spin energy” in front of them, or punch down to make a note more accented, or jazz hands for that final note. At one point, she had the first and second rows face each other and same with the third and fourth rows. I thought it was a great way to get students to get students to listen across the ensemble.

Finally, I’d like to wrap up with some of my favorite quotes from the session:

“Vowels are the beauty. Consonants are the passion.”

“Out of the six songs that we are doing, there is a person here who needs to hear each one.”

THURSDAY

Popped by the morning Chorus Rehearsal. The students are really beginning to put everything together. I can tell it’s going to be a great performance. Then off to …

1st General Session

Like I mentioned before, it’s FMEA’s 75th anniversary, so of course that was being celebrated. Here some fun stats for you: This conference had over 2800 teachers, 2000 performers and 250 vendors. Way to go, Florida! Then, after watching a performance by vocalist Timothy Jones, I had to sneak out early to set up for …

FEMEA Curriculum Fair

As a grant winner, I was honored to present a poster about my recorder program at my school (you can check out all the info from my presentation in my Recorders For All blog post). However, I was far from the only presenter there. Here’s a small assortment of some of the other poster presentations that had some ideas I hope to use in my classroom:

  • using visual supports in the classroom (signs, directions on board, etc) to help ALL learners
  • using similar activities over grade levels, to cut down on prep between class (ex, using a parachute in different ways for two classes that are one right after the other in your schedule)
  • getting out of the way and letting the kids to decision-making and creating, in the classroom and even for a performance
  • an excellent lesson on spirituals and slave songs for upper grade levels

Now, I have to admit that I didn’t get one of each handout, as I rushed out to make it to the All State Elementary Chorus Concert, so that list is far from comprehensive, but it gives you an idea of the caliber of stuff available. If you are a Floridian and you’ve never been to the Curriculum Fair, I highly recommend it because it’s like the speed-dating version of going to a workshop. You can glean so much in a short amount of time, and the presenters are SO HAPPY to answer any questions you have about their stuff.

All State Elementary Chorus Concert (Dr. Kelly Miller)

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This concert was gorgeous! So many beautiful pieces! Some of my favorites included:

  • Let Me Fly by Pollo Dillworth (spiritual)
  • But a Flint Holds Fire by Andrea Ramsey: I thought about trying to video tape some of this for you, but I knew it would have been just no where near good enough to do it justice, and plus, I was too busy try not to ugly cry. This song is about the Flint water crisis. The song includes narrations and a forward that help contextualize it for listeners, and contains quote from children of the Flint area. What I think is most critical to know about this song is that the students who lent their voices to it wanted everyone to know that Flint is their home, and that they are proud of it and don’t want to be pitied or seen as a worthless, sad town. This song is POWERFUL.
  • Endless Song by David Brunner: a beautiful song, but I think this one is actually only available for SATB and Dr. Miller specially requested it for the All State Choir. So they may been the only SA group to ever perform it!

You’ll Be Popular (Christopher Burns)

Christopher presented some great pop tunes that you can use in your classroom such as Feel It Still, Somebody That I Used To Know, Don’t Stop Believin’ and more. You can use pop music as a way to move, to add boomwhacker melodies (check it a YouTube resource he mentioned, called musication, that animated boomwhacker melodies so you can play along with the video), or even to create a complete Orff arrangement. The possibilities are endless

Recorder Romps (Artie Almeida)

I make it a point to always attend Artie’s sessions. She is endlessly creative, and I adore her motto: Heavy Academics Delivered Joyfully. She has some new (at least to me) recorder resources available through Plank Road Publishing – “Easy Echoes and Excellent Ears” and “Fun Foundations For Recorder.” These are great resources for warmups and for focusing on individual skills. Some of my favorite activities included:

  • warming up fingers (finger taps) to Axel F
  • study buddies: one student plays their instrument’s mouthpiece, the other student puts their fingers on their partner’s recorder and plays the holes. Teamwork! For the ultimate challenge, stand in a circle and try this, so everyone is playing their fingers on the instrument of the person to their right in the circle.

FRIDAY

Working With Functional Harmony (Roger Sams)

Dang, guys! I really enjoyed this workshop. He really processed out how to make chords easy in your classroom. Put simply, here are the steps:

  • teach the melody
  • teach the chord roots
  • sing them both together
  • stick it on an instrument

You can also, label the chords (I/V). And you can have students venture off the chord roots and into other notes of the chord. But to pardon my pun, chord roots are the “root” of it all. It made it feel so accessible to me.

2nd General Session

For the second session, we had a performance from the Melodica Men. The melodica, for those of you who – like me until Friday – were not super familiar with a melodica, it is basically a mix between a harmonica and a keyboard, with a tube on the end that you blow in to. They wanted to advocate the melodica for use in the classroom. They had some good points. They mentioned how melodicas immediately start out with a good tone, they are relatively inexpensive (comparable to ukuleles), and the skills are easily transferable to piano and other instruments.

Also during the general session, they mentioned that NafMe (the national association for music education) has something called the NafME Academy, which had 80+ hours of online webinars you can take, and the cost is only $20 a month. Can’t beat that price (my parking ALONE for this conference will exceed $20). Definitely sounds like something worth looking into.

Improvising With Orff (Josh Southard)

Josh did some really fun activity to show different ways to improvise in the music classroom. He used some standard contexts to help students with creation, such as using word rhythms or a call and response format. I LOVED a cute book that he used called Bedtime in the Swamp!

World of Musical Play (Jay Broeker)

I will definitely be printing this handout when I get home (all of our handouts are online – which is awesome for saving trees, but sad when I want it in my hand to jot notes on it during the conference). Every song (and there were like 10-12) was a fun dance or game from some part of the world. From classics like Al Citron to Akar Bakar – a fun song from India, or Hei Tama, Tu Tama – a Maori folksong. I loved how diverse this was and that there were some simple games as well as more complex ones. Will be using this stuff for many years to come for sure!

All State Orff Ensemble Concert (Cyndee Giebler, Michelle Fella Przybylowski)

This performance had some really cool ideas that I loved in terms of staging and presentation. The students started spread throughout the audience, and when cued, made their way to the stage, making different night time noises (owls, crickets, etc). Often we forget that there are a variety of ways to start you show. Think outside the box, or stage in this case.

There were also some neat movement ideas. I often think that when I am choreographing a song, it has to be actual dances moves. But for one of their songs about coming out to play, students were staged in groups at the front of the stage, and were simply doing a play motion – tossing a ball back and forth, spinning a hulu hoop on their arm, etc. Simple, effective, brilliant!

Sing a Story, Play a Poem (Jay Broeker)

This session shows some great ways to take speak and turn it into music. Everything from spoken ostinatos to adding instrumental parts to a story and more. My personal favorite was an activity that he did with the book Fortunately by Remy Charlip and recorders. If you are unfamiliar with this cute little book, the premise is that there is this guy and he had some good and not so good things happen to him throughout the course of the story. This would be a good song for beginning recorders and only uses the notes A and B. But by adding a cool piano accompaniment, he changes the mood each time to fit what is happening in the story. I lack his stellar piano skills, but would like to use the same idea, but with simple cadences in major (fortunately) and minor (unfortunately). Depending on where my students are with things, I may even discuss major vs minor with them as we play.

And that’s it folks! I will not be able to attend the Saturday sessions for this conference, so I will not have a summary of any of those presentations although they do look amazing and I look forward to hearing which songs Dr. Miller picks to explore during the elementary choral reading session, since she did so well picking ones for All State this year. Thanks for sticking around for this extra long post – those of you who are still reading!

Next week, stayed tuned for a great tool to keep you organized and help you make the most of your New Beginnings this January. Not yet following the blog? You can click the follow button or like my page on Facebook and get immediate updates on when I have posted new material.

 

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New Beginnings

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Hello readers! I am super excited to be starting 2019. This year, I have made it a goal to plan more of my blogs posts as part of a larger ideas. Parts in a series, if you will. Don’t get me wrong. Not every post will be part of a series, but the good majority of them will be.

My first series is called New Beginnings. As I write this, I am sitting outside the convention center in Tampa, right at the beginning of the annual music education conference here in Florida. And what better time to think about new beginnings?

Our professional development conference, here in Florida (and up in Michigan back in the day) was always a chance to grow and be inspired and be refreshed in the reasons that we went into this profession and why we continue.

I already have one post available in my New Beginnings Series. Recorders For All is my post that accompanies my poster presentation that I am doing here in Tampa. I like to think of this post fits into the theme on new beginnings, not just because I am presenting it at the FMEA conference, but because it speaks to a new riff on an old idea. I’ve always used recorders in my classroom. And I’ve always made sure that each student had access to a recorder for instruction. But this year, I’ve begun a new way of implementing that, which has really freshened up my recorder teaching, both for me and for my students. So this post serves as a reminder that “new beginnings” don’t necessarily mean starting from scratch. It may be just changing something small to breathe new life into something you’ve done for many years. Maybe even just changing your perspective on something you do will help you find a “new beginning.”

Here’s to New Beginnings!

Teach on.

Recorders For All: Providing Recorders to ALL Students (and how to make recorders a useful part of your curriculum)

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Hello Readers!

So this week I am headed off to the FMEA Conference (Florida Music Educators Conference) in Tampa. And I’m excited to be doing a poster presentation on a grant I got last year. I was set on making sure every students could have a recorder of their own. Up until that point, I had a class set of recorders that had to be sanitized at the end of every day. I didn’t like it (who has time to sanitize recorders every day?). My kids didn’t like it (who wants to think about putting your mouth on a recorder that someone else used the day before)? So, luckily, with the help of a grant from FEMEA (the elementary wing of Florida’s music education association), I was able to get the funds to make my goal possible. Check out this post to find out how to make this happen in your own classroom, as well as links to helpful resources for using recorders in your classroom.

Getting Funding

If you are in my old position (have just a classroom set of recorders you have to sanitize), then I strongly encourage you to look into your options to get personal recorders for each student. Here are some possible ways to make it work:

  • apply for a grant (consider your state professional association, your county, or other local chapters of professional organizations like Gordon, Orff or Kodaly). You’d be surprised how often chapters have money to give away and nobody applying for it!
  • ask your PTA for money
  • ask your principal if they can fund it out of a school account
  • sponsor a fundraiser
  • do it a little bit at a time
  • request donations from fifth graders at the end of the year. Many of them will not have a need for their recorders going into middle school, and you can get a bunch of recorder for free!

As a side note, I still give my students the opportunity to purchase a recorder of their own. I would say 50%-70% of my students purchase their own recorder, so I only have to provide recorders to those students who don’t already own one, which makes the whole process much more feasible.

Getting Organized

So once you’ve got the money, I recommend buying recorders that come in a bag of some sort. This is an extra barrier from germs and helps with labeling recorders as well.

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Here is a link to the recorders I bought with my grant money. They are incredibly affordable but still have good tone and come in a little plastic bag. One warning: the bag is super cheap and can rip easily, so the little strap at the top that is supposed to hold the top flap has broken on several, but they are still functional. I bought mine all in the same color (white) so nobody would be complaining about not getting the color they wanted.

Here is the storage that I used. You can read more about that here.

Procedures

My students have one of three things happening with their recorders.

  1. They brought their own.
  2. They have a rental from me.
  3. They forgot their recorder at home.

For students who have their own or have a rental at the school, they are all set. The students who forgot theirs for the day have to use a borrower. Those are the old ones I had before – the classroom set that has to be re-sanitized after each use. I have a clean bin and a dirty bin, and now, even with three grade levels playing recorders, I only have to sanitize them about once a week. The kids are much more accepting of this than before, as they recognize that the only reason they have to use these recorders is because they didn’t come to class prepared.

As of right now, students with rentals must keep their recorders at school. I do have one class that I have allowed to take theirs home. They are my “test group.” And based on how good they are at returning them at the end of the year, I may allow more students to take theirs home (or not) next year.

My Recorder Unit

Here are some helpful links one how I structure my recorders within my classroom.

My fifth graders do an extended recorder karate type of unit. While I don’t use the specific “Recorder Karate” system, I love the idea of structuring songs into levels from easy to hard and allowing students to work at their own pace (with a little nudging for those kids that would allow themselves to slip through the cracks and do nothing!).

I also have my students do a self-assessment of their playing at the beginning, middle and end of the recorder unit (my unit takes about two quarters – or 18 weeks, and is usually done alongside another unit, since there is other stuff to learn besides recorders).

Finally, at the end of the recorder unit, we do a composing unit where students get to use motives they learned in the recorder songs and arrange them the create their own song.

Other Fun Ways To Tie Recorders in with Curriculum

In addition to my big recorder unit, there are lots of other ways that I tie recorders in within different parts of the curriculum.

 

I hope this gets you off to a good start with some useful resources. And don’t forget to follow my blog – I post new material every week – for FREE! Or follow the Sunshine and Music blog on Facebook to see new posts there. Have a great start to the new year!

 

10 Best Blog Posts of 2018

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The year is coming to a close, and it’s time to take a look back at some of the greatest blog posts this year. If you’ve enjoyed any of these posts, or would like to see more like them in the new year, make sure to follow my blog or like it on Facebook to stay up-to-date on each weekly post.

And now – countdown to 2019 …

#10 – All Star Behavior Chart

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Want a simple way to incentivize good behavior? I love using this system with my class. Students earn rewards as a class and most of them are free rewards that I don’t have to purchase, which keeps the cost down.

#9 – Lapbooks for Learning

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Lapbooks (also known as interactive notebooks) are a great way to store information learned throughout the year. These cool foldable, graphic organizers are a great way to have students record and store information about instrument families, vocabulary, notes of the staff and basically any musical facts that you might be teaching throughout the year. You can create your own, or checkout the kit available on my store!

#8 – Inspirational Wednesdays

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This series that I did back in 2015 is still very popular. It includes quotes and inspirational messages from a variety of settings. Because every teacher needs a couple inspirational words from time to time to keep us going!

#7 – Learning to Uke: Amazing Grace

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I’ve been slowly learning some basic ukulele chords. This post shows some of my ukulele skills and a simple song that you can use with your students.

#6 – Rockin’ Rhythms with Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb

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This is one of my first blog posts, and its still in the top ten! And it makes sense. This book just begs to be used in a music class room. With it’s rhythm phrasing and repetition, Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins is a great book to pull out when you want to use the hand drums and tubanos!

#5 – Lesson Planning Made Easy

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Ready to plan next years lessons? What if planning was as easy as copy and paste? For me, it is! Don’t worry. I don’t exactly repeat everything from year to year, but I can copy and paste a sequence of activities I did with a specific song, simply by having my lesson plans in an Excel spreadsheet.

#4 – Plan Your Lessons in a Snap with This Simple Filing System

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This idea from Head Over Heels Teaching has really helped me organize my resources. When coupled with my Excel grid (see #5 on this list), these two life hacks have made lesson planning so much smoother from year to year. I’m noticing that 2018 was the year of the lesson plan (2 out of 5 posts in the top ten were lesson planning).

#3 – All Ears: Creating Listening Maps for Your Classroom

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Want a great way to share classical music with your students without them getting lost in its complexity? Listening maps are a great way to guide your young listeners through any classical piece in a way that they can pick up important details and stay engaged. This blog post shows you a couple helpful steps to create your own listening maps for students in your classroom. Or press the “easy” button and just hop to my store, where individual listening maps sell for $1.00.

#2 – Carnival of the Animals Activities

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Carnival of the Animals is one of those iconic classical pieces for children. Each piece just such a good job bringing the animals sounds and movements to life. Check out this post if you want to move and play along with one of Saint-Saens’ most famous works.

#1 – Fight Song for Recorder

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And this years top prize goes to … Fight Song. I was just reading an article about how we should consider pop music the “native” music of our students, and try and use it to tap in to their interests while teaching them important musical concepts. Maybe that is why this blog post, about taking the song Fight Song by Rachel Platten and learning about things like recorder notes and verse and refrain has earned the number one spot this year.

What to Look Forward to in 2019

I can’t wait to share with you some of the new and exciting things that are coming in 2019. I’m starting to think more big picture with my blog, and I have several multi-part blog series in the works, as well as some plans for new products that will be coming your way on my TeachersPayTeachers store. And of course, I will have lots of fun lesson ideas to share with you. Which means now is the best time ever to subscribe to the blog and follow along! Happy New Year!

Thanksgiving Throwback: An Awesome Song to Learn Rhythm Syllables

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Howdy, Folks! I know what you are thinking. Why is this blog post about Thanksgiving? My Thanksgiving leftovers have been consumed long ago and we just finished our Christmas concert season last week. Well, stay tuned my friends. I know that Thanksgiving has past, but I just had to share this fun and easy little activity that I was doing with my first graders – AND I even shared some ways to make this activity relevant in any season.

Link for turkey prop: click here

 

Winter Performances Stressing You Out? Five Steps You Can Take To Be on Your A Game for Your Holiday Concert

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It’s the holiday season. It’s a time that can try the patience and stamina of even the best veteran music teacher. And if it’s your first time dealing with a musical performance, it can be downright overwhelming. So I’ve compiled a guide of things that might help you make sure you are on the right foot as you prepare for your big night.

  1. COMMUNICATE! megaphone-1019915_1920.jpg
    • That means making sure it’s on the school calendar, the district calendar (if that exists for your district) and definitely on the performance calendar for your Chorus or other performing group. I even send little invites to my administrators so they feel like VIPs for the show.
    • Also, make sure you’ve clearly mentioned what uniform students should wear and be specific. If you want only solid colored white shirt that are long-sleeved, make sure you mention all those aspects upfront. I recommend that you pick simple costumes when working with large performance groups, to ensure it is something that all students will be able to achieve. Unless you are making all the costumes or providing them to the students. In that case, go to town and do whatever you want!
  2. PRACTICE EVERYTHING arrow-2889040_1920
    • I’m sure you know to practice the music. But did you ever think to practice getting on and off the risers? Roll a riser down to your room (if possible) to allow each class to practice getting on and off correctly. Or better yet, practice on the stage if you can.
    • Tryout the sound system AHEAD of when you want to use it. Especially if you are new to the school and have not yet used it, you need to make sure it actually works. I’ve been at schools where it didn’t. And that’s a rotten surprise to ruin your rehearsal time. Even if you have been at the school for years, you still should check, as you never know who else has been monkeying around in the space while you were out of performance season.
    • TRANSITIONS!!! Definitely practice transitions. They are one of the biggest things that can derail your performance if they have gone unrehearsed. Practice things like moving from one song to the next, grabbing props they might need for the song and then putting them away again and getting to their spot after the song. And the biggest thing, practicing having the other students be quiet while transitions are happening.
  3. ORGANIZE THE SPACE businessman-2108029_1920
    • I saw the best idea ever when I was performing in a show one year, and now I use it every year in my own shows. The stage manager had every single prop on a table, and then there were boxes made with painters tape around each prop with a label of what prop was supposed to be there.
    • Painters tape is your friend. You can use it to tape down microphone cords, label spots on the risers, or mark where props should be placed for a scene. You can even buy it in different colors if you want to color coordinate.
  4. MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK people-3152585_1920
    • Reach out to parents and/or staff to get assistance prepping for the performance and for performance night. Here is an AMAZING website to make sign up a snap: SignUpGenius. And here are some of the ways that I have delegated tasks.
      • Set night: Parents came after one of our evening rehearsals and helped put the set together or finish creating costumes.
      • Recruiting an audio booth person to play the CD
      • Backstage helpers to help with costumes and set pieces (and let’s face it, sometimes behavior)
      • Check-in helpers: make sure each student is checked in for the show and help get costumes on if needed. Maybe supervising kids to use the bathroom before the show. NOTE: One thing I do is highlight any of the kids with important speaking lines, etc, and tell the parents to let me know if they don’t show up by a certain time, so we can put together a plan. Usually for any main role I make sure we have an understudy from the get-go.
      • Striking the Set – have some parents sign up to help bring props and stuff back over to your room after the show and generally get the stage and your room back to normal.
  5. KEEP IT SIMPLE, SILLY! meditate-1851165_1920
    • Are things spiraling out of control? Are there too many things on the to do list? Or have some of the songs just crashed and burned? It might be time to scale things back. Parents won’t know that it doesn’t have the sparkly hand made costumes and elaborate choreography you originally envisioned. Some ways to bring it back a notch include:
      • Sing to a CD with the words, verses an accompaniment CD
      • Take out the dance moves (or only give them to  featured dancers that know the moves)
      • Put IN dance moves. If the kids are struggling to remember words, movements can actually HELP them remember better. The moves should be related to the words (wave on hello, point down on the word down, etc).
      • Assign a specific song to a specific class. Or give each class a verse and then every sings the refrain.
      • Take out instrument parts, or make them easier
      • Let students read from a script instead of being memorized
      • Finally, if all else fails you may just have to cut a song – or accept that it will be less than perfect. I probably would never cut a song unless it was an absolute train wreck and I have enough other material to perform
      • Need to fill in a hole in the show because you had to pull a piece. Why not have an audience sing along to carols everyone knows, like Jingle Bells?

Happy Holidays: Songs for the Season by Grade Level

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Howdy, folks! We are smack dab in the middle of the holiday season, and I’ve done a run down of some of my favorite go to songs for each grade level. I hope you find something you enjoy!

Kindergarten

Song: Feliz Navidad

Why: I love doing this song because we are learning about about the steady beat, and we are learning about classroom instruments. We learn the song and during the refrain, we shake maracas to the beat.

Song: Jingle Bells

Why: Again, this song is great to introduce a classroom instrument (jingle bells). During the first part we play to the big beat and during the “Jingle Bells” part, we play to the little beat. It’s a great way to start introducing big beat verse little beat.

First Grade

Song: In the Window

Why: The main reason is because one of our standards in first grade is singing a song with multiple verses. In this song you sing a verse for each night of Hannukah. However, I also like this song because it is about Hannukah, and I like to represent holidays other than Christmas. And I like that this song is in minor tonality.

Song: First Snow by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

Why: It’s FUN! You’ve got to let loose some of that ENERGY the last week.

Second Grade

Song: Trepak (Russian Dance) from the Nutcracker

Why: Gameplan has this awesome dance that can be learned very easily and helps kids bust out some energy before break. OR If you need a calming activity, I found some awesome listening glyphs on TeachersPayTeachers that they can color along with as they listen. Also, second grade is going on a field trip to see the Nutcracker, so it lines up perfectly!

Third Grade

Song: March from the Nutcracker

Why: Artie Almeida’s Kidstix book has a great activity to this song. Students get to have their own little drumming kit and play along with the famous song by Tchaikovsky. And it works out perfectly has Tchaikovsky is one of the composers we learn about in class this time of year.

Fourth Grade

Same as third grade. I try and keep things simple by having my 3rd and 4th graders learn the same composers each year. Then, I flip to a 2nd group of composers the next year, and then back to the first group. That way, I don’t have to work twice as hard, but over the course of two year, my students still learn two different groups of composers. Working smarter, not harder.

Fifth Grade

Song: Jingle Bells (recorder)

Why: We are working on our recorder skills right now, so this can tie in. Kids love to bring it home to share with their family too! Jolly Old St. Nicholas is a good one as well.