Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Back to School!

I can't believe it's already been four weeks since the start of school! That means music classes in both the Lower and Middle Schools have been meeting for three weeks. This trimester's Middle School classes include 1st-year (5th grade) Music Rotation (general music) and a class called "Ukuleles and Glee!" in which we are learning ukulele and singing popular songs. Our big group song is Jason Mraz's "I Won't Give Up," which we're arranging with multiple ukulele parts and harmony. I'm already a Jason Mraz fan, but that song is something extra special. The Middle School is also looking forward to auditions for our annual musical, which will be "Seussical, Jr." Auditions are in October, rehearsals begin with second trimester electives in November, and performances are in February.

Lower School is off to a great start! Forest and Mountain 3rd-years and new 4th-years received their recorders week before last, and they are already playing songs with their first 3 notes, B-A-G. If you visit campus at lunchtime, you might even hear some enthusiastic students playing their recorders on the playground! We've especially enjoyed playing songs from the new Quaver recorder curriculum, including the instant classic (and earworm) "Perry the Sheep" (fell asleep, did a sheep sleep walk, and ate a recorder...). River and Sky classes have learned several new songs, sung a round, played drums, and learned about steady beat and meter.

We've also started our first round of music parties, a reward for classes whose music notes make it to the "Party Space!" Our parties have included traditional play-party games like "Old King Glory" and "Jump Josie," freeze dancing, and a couple of OK Go videos!

Our Lower School has a wonderful new librarian, Natalie, and we are talking about a possible collaboration in which students will make book soundtracks. Stay tuned, and in the meantime, check out Natalie's blog here!

Lots of exciting stuff coming up, so I'll post more soon!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Go In Peace

I took some time this Labor Day weekend to record my little song "Go In Peace" with my two older kids. I wrote this song last year as an exit song for our weekly Meeting for Worship time in the Lower School (oops! I say "yearly" on the video. I was quite distracted by my 1-year-old busy destroying the house off-screen). Here it is:

The lyrics:
Go in peace, go in peace
With this blessing in your heart
May your light shine brightly wherever you are.

Go in peace, go in peace
May this silence teach us grace
To help each other make the world a better place.

Feel free to use this song if it works for you, but please let me know in the comments!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Staying Organized with Evernote

*note: I wrote this post because I have used Evernote for years and truly think it's an amazing tool. I have no affiliation with the company and this post is based entirely on my personal experience.

I'm always telling everyone about my very favorite organizational tool, Evernote, but somehow I've never written about it other than a mention in my post about my PLN workflow. One of Evernote's greatest features is that it is just as simple or as complex as you need it to be. Google "Evernote and..." and you'll find thousands of ideas of how to use it in any context you can imagine. Here's a screenshot from Evernote on my Mac:

And here's why I find it so awesome:

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Recorder Tunes and Tracks at Teachers Pay Teachers

Over the summer, I've gotten to know the popular site Teachers Pay Teachers. Kind of like Etsy, it is most valuable if you have some time to spend combing through resources to separate the truly useful/relevant materials from the fluffy–but I suppose that is true of any teacher supply/curriculum resource! There is quite a lot of great stuff on there for music educators, from bulletin board ideas for the non-crafty (that would be me) to printable songs and entire curricula. It's a fabulous opportunity for creative teachers to share the resources they've worked so hard on without having to write a whole book and find a publisher. Check it out!

As an experiment, I've just created a store myself. I've listed some reproducible recorder songs with accompaniment tracks. Two of them are FREE! If you play or teach recorder, I'd love your feedback. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Lesson Plans and Resources for the New School Year

It's that time of year... Everywhere I look I see music teachers posting questions about lesson plans, preferably inexpensive or FREE! I like to change up my activities every year–both because I have combined-age classrooms and would need at least a 2-year cycle to avoid students repeating the same curriculum, and because that's just how I roll! This year will be the first year I've had the Quaver's Beyond Marvelous Curriculum for the entire school year (I gradually rolled it in last year, starting in October), but because I see my kids twice weekly, and because I obsessively customize any curriculum I use, AND because I spend a lot of time following the lead of my students, I'm constantly looking for new ideas anyway.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of online resources. These are simply the resources I've used the most, and a great jumping-off point for teachers looking for new ideas. Most blogs have a handy-dandy "blogroll" on the sidebar linking to THAT teacher's favorite blogs and resources for further exploration. So here are some of my favorites:

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Recorder Interactive SALE!

I've got several posts in the works... but in the meantime, I wanted to let you know that my enhanced iBook recorder method, Recorder Interactive, is on a summer/back-to-school sale for just $3.99 in the iBookstore for a limited time! I've enjoyed the feedback I've received and hope the book is a good resource for both budding recorder players and general music teachers. Enjoy!

To purchase or download a free sample, visit the iBookstore.

For more information, check this out!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Recorder Interactive is Here!!

Recorder Interactive: A Magical Method has finally been released in the iBookstore! Designed from scratch for iBooks on the iPad and Mac, this new recorder method includes 75 pages of instruction, over 30 songs, and over 100 audio files and scads of interactive features. Suitable for ages 8 to adult, it can be used for self-instruction, as a lesson book, or as a classroom method. I'm hoping to have it tested out in some one-to-one iPad schools–please contact me if your school is interested!

Recorder Interactive is priced at $7.99 in the iBookstore, but you can download a free sample that includes the entire first chapter and several pages from later in the book for your perusal. If you are a music educator, I have a few free promo codes if you'd like a review copy. Thank you so much for checking out this labor of love!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Musical Storybooks on iPads

Here is another of my handouts from my 2013 NCMEA/TI:ME presentation, "iPad Projects that Work." This plan uses the app Book Creator ($4.99), and is especially effective if your students are already creating books with their language teachers. If your school has iPads and your classroom teachers AREN'T using this app (or something similar), you might want to show it to them!

Musical Storybooks
Level: Grades 1-4
National Standards: Depending on how the lesson is implemented, it may include: 2. Performing on instruments, 3. Improvising melodies, 4. Composing and arranging, and/or 8. Understanding relationships between music, the other arts, and disciplines outside the arts.
Purpose: To create a soundtrack for an original story, created independently or as a joint project with your students' language arts teacher.
Materials: iPad(s) loaded with Book Creator app or similar, and one or more student-created storybooks; virtual instrument apps and a variety of classroom instruments.
1. Show your students a video clip that demonstrates the importance of soundtrack. Possibilities include excerpts from Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Star Wars, etc. For students in grade 4 and up, also consider the video "Star Wars Without John Williams" available on YouTube for a humorous example of how much music can affect the impact of a scene.
2. Depending on the length and scope of this project, decide whether students will work individually on their own stories (longest), in small groups with one story per group, or as a class, with each individual/group assigned a page, scene, or character.
3. Depending on step 2, students plan where to insert music into their storybook.
4. Students create music depending on your guidelines, the scope of the project, and the age of the class. Any sound file that can be put into iTunes can be used in Book Creator. If you have enough iPads, consider using virtual instrument apps or GarageBand. You can also record live performances directly into Book Creator.
5. Share your completed stories with each other, your students' language arts teacher, and/or a younger class of students!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Ten Ideas for Using GarageBand on iPads in the Classroom

Hello strangers--it's been a while! Who knew that raising three kids while teaching full time and conducting a little orchestra on the side could be so hectic? Okay, that does seem obvious now that I write it down. Sorry to say, the blog has been on a waaaay back burner for quite some time. Time to stir the pot!

Since the NCMEA conference in November, I've been meaning to post blog versions of the handouts from my tech sessions. Today's post is from my "iPad Projects that Work" session. I know lots of teachers and students who love GarageBand, but sometimes it's hard to turn that fun exploration into a definable project. The desktop version of GarageBand is more powerful (though the iOS version is catching up quickly), but I love using GarageBand on the iPad in the classroom because kids are naturally drawn to the virtual instruments over the built-in loops. If Apple figures out how to bring a video track into the iOS version of GarageBand, I'll be in nerd teacher heaven!

10 Ideas for Using GarageBand on iPads

  • Give students a chord progression that fits with a song you're singing or playing on instruments. Have them create accompaniments for the song using Smart Instruments. Optionally, record the song over each accompaniment.
  • Teach about scales and modes by improvising melodies on virtual instruments with scale restrictions turned on.
  • Explore popular styles by creating songs using a single category of built-in loops (i.e., Urban, Blues).
  • Lead student songwriters through a studio recording experience as they record each part of their song onto separate tracks.
  • Load a premade accompaniment into GarageBand (easily done through iCloud) and have students compose or improvise additional tracks on recorder, voice, or virtual instruments.
  • Arrange students into bands and show them how to have a Jam Session.
  • Teach about I-V-I, I-IV-V-I, etc. using smart guitar, strings, or keyboard.
  • Have each student record one rhythmic or melodic “snippet” into an audio track. This works well with recorders or xylophones arranged into a pentatonic scale. Individually or as a class, rearrange and/or loop the snippets to create a single song.
  • Keep a class collaborative song in the cloud or on one iPad that each student may add to during free or project time. Depending on the maturity of the students, you may need to create strict rules about modifying vs. erasing other students’ contributions.
  • Show students the joy of your first Casio keyboard by recording sounds into the built-in sampler. Challenge students to create interesting songs from their sampled instruments.

And a few hints:

  • Use headphones! Splitters are inexpensive and very useful for pairs and small groups.
  • Be aware that it is VERY easy to edit other students’ songs, and that GarageBand automatically opens into the most recent song. Teach students to return to “My Songs” before quitting, rename their files to something recognizable, and sort the songs into folders by class or group. If you are not saving documents in iCloud, students will need to use the same iPad each class.
  • Teach to the concept you’re covering, but don’t overteach how to use the app. You’ll be amazed how quickly students of all ages will learn all its features simply by exploring.

Do you use GarageBand in your teaching? Please share your ideas and tips in the comments!