Thursday, June 18, 2015

Show and Tell Your Travels: Making Connections in Your Classroom

Whether I travel far or near, my students are in my mind wherever I go. Because my husband is a professor and he gets to go to conferences sometimes, I have gotten to take a few fun trips. I have also gotten to go to some fun places with my family in the past 5 years, as my kids have become adults. I have been able to bring a few things back to make some connections to our learning. No matter what kind of teacher you are, you can use your travels to make some wonderful connections and help bring the learning to life.

A few years ago, I, my husband, daughter and youngest son got an opportunity to visit South Florida because my son had spent two years there and wanted to show us around. I loved the relaxing sounds and feel of the beach, especially early in the morning. I loved picking up the shells and saved many for my kindergarteners.

In kindergarten, we sing a song called, "Seashells".  It is how we begin thinking of high and low and steady beat. We go on a "trip" to the beach by saying the Rhyme, "Engine, Engine, Number Nine" as we beat the steady beat on our laps. We do vocal play as we pretend to be dolphins or whales at the beach, making our voices match our hands as we go up and down. We pick up shells on the beat, high and low as our voices go high and low. We eventually make our bodies go high and low. I am amazed at how the kids really can hear the high and low and they discover whether their bodies should be up or down. Kids do solos using tiny shells to pick them up on the beat as they sing. When every student has done a solo with the shells, I give each one of them a shell that I picked up on the beach in Florida to take home. During this process, I show them my beach picture of me picking up the shells, and seeing a dead whale on the beach. I also let them see my huge conch shell and "listen" to the ocean. For many of them, this is new and many in my low income title one school have never been to a beach. The fact that I picked it up for them and they can see the pictures of me on the beach makes the learning come to life and is so magical to them. We use this song in first grade as we make our beat books. Get my free beat book for "Engine Engine" here.

A Dead Whale we saw on the beach

Two years ago, in the summer, my husband had a conference is England. He had lived there years ago before we were married, and had gotten a driver's license (much harder than the US to get) so we rented a car and had a wild ride on the other side of the road. We were able to see a little bit of London, Stratford Upon Avon, where Shakespeare lived, Lake Windermere (the Lake District), Newcastle, and the White Cliffs of Dover. It was so wonderful, but the White Cliffs of Dover had extra meaning since I sing a song about going to Dover. You can hike on top of the white cliffs and it is so peaceful and beautiful. Across from it, you can see France. Now I could actually show pictures and tell the kids I had been there! I even brought home a little bit of chalk from the cliffs.

The White Cliffs of Dover

We sing this song and do a fun play party with it. We get into a circle side by side in partners as we go around the circle. When we get to "three times over", we take our arms over our heads and turn around. This works best if you practice it by itself. Some kids will have a hard time, so you help them feel the motion they are supposed to do by physically helping them move the right direction. They all get it with help. Next you have the kids take hands with their circle-- the kids in the outside take hands with their neighbor and the kids on the inside take hands with their neighbors. We actually practice switching hands. I will say, "partner" and then "neighbor". Both circles (concentric circles) go in opposite directions on the part that says, "Sailing East, Sailing West" to the end. When you get to the first syllable of the word Ocean, the circle go around until on the final syllable, you stop at your partner. It takes some work to get this good, but the kids love it and love showing their teachers when it is perfected. This is always requested in 4th grade and in 5th grade, we play it on the recorder once students get past their black belt. 

These are some of my third graders doing the play party

This last May, my husband got a paper accepted into a conference in Florence, Italy. It was for the next to last week of school. It was VERY difficult getting ready to go-- trying to wrap up all of the end of school year projects, and making sure my 6th graders were ready with their graduation songs since I had no more teaching time left when I got back.  To make things even more challenging, my son's wife's grandma died right before we left, so we knew they would be coming from California to the funeral and would be in our house, so I had to really clean the house for company. (AND I didn't get to see my 4 cute grandchildren!) 

I found some great connections for songs in Florence. Italy is known for their leather and there was leather everywhere. We sing a song in first grade called Lucy Locket Lost her Pocket and play a fun game of looking for the "pocket" (purse) using the voice in dynamics. One student goes out of the room, just outside my door. One student will hide the small purse. Then the student from outside the door comes in. As they get closer to the "pocket" you all sing louder, as they go the wrong way, you sing more quietly.  If they are good at listening to the cues, they will find it quickly. Some kids are not as good, but we always have fun! I found a cute little leather purse to use for this song while in Florence. As I bring this out to use, I will show beautiful pictures of my time in Florence and will take the opportunity to show where it is on the map. 

Can you tell my daughter is thrilled to be in this picture?

I found one other item that my kids will love. Italy is known for having fine silk. We sing several songs for which we use a scarf. One of my favorites is "Little Johnny Brown".  I sing it in Kindergarten, working on beautiful singing and moving creatively. I got a beautiful scarf in Florence that the students will love and I can't wait to show them more beautiful pictures of Florence, Italy. Funny thing. When my sub was there for a week while I was in Florence, she did this song with the first graders too and they requested it when I got back. Boy had they improved on their creativity and movement in one year. I think I will bring it back in first grade this coming year!

Finally, there are so many gorgeous churches and cathedrals. We spent much time exploring them and walking up hundreds of stairs in each one. Many of them had beautiful bells ringing in them. I had to take a video of the Duomo in Florence to show my students. I sing a song called "Bells in the Steeple".  95% of the kids don't even know what a steeple is, so we have to discuss that and I show them a picture of a steeple. Until now, I haven't had a good way to show them a good example of real bells in a steeple. Now I have both pictures and sound. We use this song for teaching do mi and sol, as well as working on the 3/4 time signature.

The leaning tower of Pisa had beautiful bells in it

Working bell at the top if the Leaning Tower of Pisa

Duomo (Cathedral) in Florence, Italy

I LOVE bringing these connections back from my travels. It is part of what helps me to get excited about the next year as I know the kids will be excited about these new connections. Have fun in your travels and be sure to bring your travels back to your students, no matter where it is- even in your home town!

My daughter, me, and my husband on the Ponte Vecchio Bridge in Florence

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Make Someone Else's Trash Your Classroom Treasure

Every year at the end of the year, there is this huge purging of things in my school for various reasons. Some teachers are retiring. Some are moving. Some teachers are cleaning out old files.  For whatever reason, there are things left on tables, free for whoever wants them. Every year, I find treasures among their trash-- things that will help me to teach. 

The librarian gets rid of books each year to make way for the new ones. I found one I have used for years to calm kids at the end of a class after a game and before the teacher returns. We use our voice to make the wind sounds. It is short but the kids love the silly ending when the things that have blown up in the air fall back in the wrong places. Click on the book to go to it.

I found another wonderful book about composers. Everyone knows that Beethoven went deaf, but there are so many other fun facts in this book about the composers than we already know. I am excited to tell my students more fun facts to get them excited about music. Click on the book to go to it.

I found some soft math (I am assuming) foam manipulatives that are the exact size to use on a felt staff. A kind neighbor of mine sewed lines on my staffs, but you could use sharpie marker to do the same thing. (I would use a light color of felt if you use a sharpie) My felt staff is 18 inches x 8 1/2 inches. The lines are 1 1/4 inches apart. You could use a die cut machine to cut felt circles if you can't find something else. The kids love using these to make the songs we sing. I can sing a song and have them figure out the notes in solfa (solfege) or I can sing the solfa (solfege) to them or even sing the notes names for older students. Once a student has made the song I have sung and shown me, I let them create their own song. A bonus for using these foam circles is that they are red on one side and white on the other so you could have the students put red ones for the ti-ti's (eighth notes) and the white ones for the ta's (quarter notes). This is a big hit and I love that each student is actively learning!

I found flashlights in the discarded pile this year. There is so much you can do with flashlights. I had a western theme one year where my person of the day wore a western coat and a cowboy hat. We started the year with a "campfire" singing folk songs from the west and I used flashlights to make my campfire. You can use flashlights to make a light show during a classical piece of music while the kids listen. 

Music K-8 has an idea for using flashlights to assess student learning on an ostinato pattern. On their website, it says:

"To assess that students are able to follow a simple melodic pattern, I use a fun flashlight game. The music piece the students studied was one we learned by rote on the xylophone, and it had an ostinato part that started and stopped throughout the recording. I made an extra large wall version of the ostinato pattern. I had student #1 from the circle sit in a chair in front of the wall pattern. Then, I turned out the lights and started the music. When student #1's part came in, they quickly turned on the flashlight and followed the pattern on the beat. When student #1's ostinato part stopped, they hopped out of the chair, turned off the flashlight, and handed it to student #2 (who was already in the chair and ready to start when their part came back in). We continued around the circle until everyone had a turn. The students had a great time!"

There are so many ways you could use flashlights for form if you put different colored cellophane over the edge and you have the A section turn on and dance the flashlight during one part, the B section turn on and dance the flashlight during their part. 

Another treasure I found was a US map. Whenever I sing a song or talk about a part of the world, I always turn to the map so kids can learn about the world around them. They are fascinated by places around the world. I keep a world map up at all times in the back of my classroom and kids often look at it and discuss different parts of the world as they are lining up, but I love the idea of having a US map too since we sing many US folk songs. One thing I especially love about this map is that it shows the mountains in the US. Since I live right by mountains, that is fascinating to me and to the kids. I took my map home last night to take a picture and my husband was also fascinated by the mountain ranges. 

Last year, I found one of those blue word strip hanging charts. I used it to put my daily Learning targets in. I have grade level cards printed and have laminated word strips to fit each pocket. I use a dry erase marker for writing my targets. I hang it on my back board. It works well. Check out my blog post about learning targets and get my free reusable exit cards here.

Finally, I found these cubes, that I assume are used for math, and remembered the post Aileen Miracle just did about using solfa cubes for your students. There are so many things you can do with this, but go to Aileen's post to read a wonderful list here!

I would love to hear about treasures you have found among the things discarded at your school! Happy hunting!

Monday, June 8, 2015

My VIP Chair

Every year, I do a theme of the year and I have a person of the day and my special person sits in my VIP chair.

Some of my themes have been:

Traveler of the day (world music theme)
Citizen of the day (bucket filling character theme)
Superhero of the day (all things superhero)
First Mate (or captain) of the day 

A couple of years ago, I went to the local thrift store and found an old tall chair, painted it to make it my music VIP chair. It has been a big hit, but it is getting worn. I plan to repaint it this year to make it beautiful again. Be sure to sand it, put on a couple of coats, and then put a protective coating over it. I used vinyl music notes, but the kids tend to pick those off over time, so I may just get a stencil or freehand it this time.  It makes the kids feel so special.

What does my person of the day do? 

He or she:

1. Gets to sit on the music VIP chair for the class period
2. Gets to get out our behavior incentive chart that goes along with my theme
3. Gets to get unlimited drinks. (I normally only let kids get drinks during a game at the end of class.)
4. Gets to go to the bathroom once without asking (I normally don't let kids go to the bathroom unless it is an emergency.)
5. Gets to be the first person to take a turn for any activity we do (first game leader, etc.)
6. Gets  to be the first vocal play leader
7. Gets to wear my costume for the year-
            Sheriff of the day(cowboy hat and coat)
            Traveler of the day ( Choice of Chinese coat or Mexican poncho)
            Citizen of the day (peace sign glasses)
            Superhero of the day (cape and superhero masks)
            First Mate- I got a pirate hook hand (for only while sitting), an eye patch, and a foam hat from amazon.

I choose my person of the day by pulling a card from the person of the day board. Here is the board for my superhero theme. 
Superhero of the Day Bulletin Board

Read about some of my themes of the year I have done.

Around the World
Bucket Filler Character Theme
Superhero Theme
Pirate Theme

Maybe you can make a special chair for your students to use!