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Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Music Teacher Job Search

I know there are a lot of people getting into job search mode right now. Whether you're getting ready to graduate and looking for your first job, hoping to move to a different school or position, or even trying to decide if you should stay in music education or look for something in another field, here are some thoughts and resources for you to consider.

First the topic that seems to be on so many teachers' minds right now: do I even want to continue in music education or look for a job in another field? Do I just need to find a better school/ position or do I need a complete career change? I wrote the post below in 2019, pre-pandemic. I absolutely think it's important and completely legitimate to think through whether you want to remain in teaching in the current pandemic environment, and what teaching/ school has become, specifically. But I also think it's helpful, in terms of discerning whether you maybe just need a break/ need to find a different school environment or if you're cut out for teaching entirely, to think about it through a pre-pandemic lens. No, I don't think all of our current struggles are temporary and things will magically go back to pre-pandemic life, but I also think it's helpful to think beyond the pandemic to what is really at the "core" of music teaching in thinking this through. That's a long explanation to say, as I re-read this post now, I think this is a helpful, concrete framework for those who may be pondering whether to stay or leave the profession:

For those who are looking for a music teaching job, whether it's your first one or you're looking for a different school/ position, here are some specific tips on some of the most common questions I hear: questions to ask the interview panel in your interview, and how to write a philosophy statement for your resume or job application.

Looking for advice on how to look for jobs, what to put in your resume, what questions to expect to get in a job interview, and more? Who better to get insight from than from administrators doing the hiring? Here are all the top tips I got from a building principal and fine arts department director:

And finally, if you're thinking ahead to what you need to do to prepare for your first elementary music teaching job (whether you're coming from secondary music or it's your first teaching job ever), here are the things I think are most important:

Change can be stressful, but it can also be the one thing you need more than any other! I hope you find something helpful for your situation, or you find something you can pass along to someone else who may be looking for some clarity. If you have any questions, please leave them in the comments. I love hearing your thoughts!

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

Science of Sound in Elementary Music

I recently got the chance to design a few brief lessons on the science of sound for my 6th graders and I am really excited about the resources I found to share with students! I'm hoping to expand these lessons more in the future, but today I wanted to share some of what I used in my lessons.

I have done a few one-off lessons here and there, but for the most part I haven't really ever taught my students specifically about the science of sound. This year I happened to have a couple of lessons between units so I decided to throw it in, and it went really well! 

We started off by learning about Evelyn Glennie, the Scottish percussionist who is hard of hearing. After watching her perform a concerto, I explained to students that she mostly plays by feel rather than by hearing! She has some wonderful videos talking about how she feels vibrations, and we watched a short excerpt of this video to help students see what that's like. After talking about their prior knowledge around soundwaves, vibrations, etc we watched the first half of this video, and I asked students to look for examples of soundwaves in the video as they watched:

After discussing some of the phenomena they saw in the video, we got out the ukuleles that they learned to play in the fall and watched the strings vibrate when they pluck them, thought about how the tuning pegs work, why the note changes when you press the frets, and noticed that you can feel the strings vibrating under your fingers when you press down on them and play.

The next lesson, we started off by watching this video about the science of hearing:

It was interesting for the students to think about not just how sound is produced but how it is then received and interpreted by humans to hear it. Most of the students had some familiarity with the concept of soundwaves before but they hadn't really thought or learned about how the body hears! 

After discussing the points from the video we got out the tubanos and tried to mimic what Evelyn Glennie demonstrated to feel vibrations on the drums. We reviewed the different hand drumming techniques they learned previously (bass, tone, and slap) to get different sounds from the drum, and discussed how that works. Then we talked about listening- not just hearing, but listening. I split the class into small groups and had each group take turns improvising together, pointing out the importance of listening to each other to not only stay together in the groove but also to fill in some gaps, step back when someone else is filling in, and try to give everyone space to shine. It really got them thinking and listening in a way they hadn't before!

Obviously there is so much more we could do with this, but I was really happy with the discussions and experiences we had through these lessons, and it was a great way to get my older students to actually listen to each other- something they are not particularly inclined to do this time of year! If you have other lesson activities or resources you've used to teach the science of sound in elementary music I'd love to hear about them in the comments!

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

3 Lessons to Teach Triple Meter

After working on triple meter with a few different grades recently I was reminded of how much fun it is to teach! If you're looking for some new, fun, engaging ways to teach triple meter, here are some of my favorite lessons.

1. Tinikling

I do a unit on music from the Philippines with my 3rd graders every year, and one of the reasons I do it is so they can review triple meter with Tinikling! If you haven't heard of it, Tinikling is a traditional dance from the Philippines that looks like this:

Obviously it's a great way to reinforce downbeat in triple meter and get that 3-beat feeling through movement for both the dancers and the people moving the poles! I do this with 3rd grade but it's a great way to review triple meter with older grades as well. You can read more about the unit I teach on the Philippines, including Tinikling, in this post.

2. Tititorea

I also do a unit on Maori music with my 2nd graders, and my students learn Tititorea, a traditional Maori musical stick game. 

This is another one that's great for feeling the downbeat in triple meter, and it's much easier than Tinikling for younger students. I love having students work with a partner to come up with their own stick pattern as well, to get them practicing creating in triple meter! And they are singing while moving the sticks so they're getting practice singing in triple meter too. You can read more about my unit on Maori music in this post

3. Sing Your Way Home

This song was a new discovery for me this year, actually, and I fell in love! Here's a recording, and here's the notation. It's just a lovely song that feels good to sing, and it's a great one for practicing things like phrasing, dynamics, and other expressive elements. I have students first sway with the downbeat while singing, then add a simple clapping pattern, then add some instrumental ostinati to further reinforce the meter. I used it with 2nd grade this year but it would work well with a broad range of ages.

Of course there are so many more great lessons for teaching triple meter but since we're talking triple I'm going to stop at three for now! If you have more favorite lessons for triple meter please share them in the comments below. And maybe we'll have to do a part 2! 

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Korean Music in Elementary Music Class

 Although I use music from a variety of cultures and traditions regularly in all grade levels throughout the school year, I spend about a month focusing on the music from a particular culture in each grade. I think it is so important for students to have the opportunity to really experience and appreciate the music (and, by extension, other elements) of a particular culture rather than always just including cursory overview lessons in elementary music (such as a "world music" lesson where students listen to, perform, or otherwise learn about music from a bunch of different cultures all in a short period of time). It can be difficult, however, to teach music from an unfamiliar tradition at more than a surface level if you as the teacher don't have experience with the culture yourself! I hope that these resources and ideas will give you the courage to delve deeper with your students- it really is a valuable learning experience for both students and teacher when you do!

I'm bringing back this series I started back in 2016 to share some lesson ideas for another country I shared with my 4th graders last year: South Korea! In the past I have focused on China with this grade, but students were so interested in Korean culture because of K-pop groups like BTS. If you haven't seen my previous posts on music lesson ideas for music from other cultures, I'm including links to all of my other articles with focuses on other countries / cultures around the world at the end of this post so be sure to read to the end.

I introduced students to the unit with this video with PSY. Not only does it depict modern and traditional elements from South Korea, but it also includes both traditional and modern music and dance styles:

To give them a quick sense of what life in South Korea is like, we watched this video. I also explained a little bit about the history of the Korean peninsula- most of my students are at least familiar with North and South Korea, but many don't know about the DMZ, or the history of the Japanese occupation, etc. I don't get too much depth with it but I do point out that Seoul, and many other parts of South Korea, have been rebuilt very recently literally from the ground up because of having everything demolished during the wars. I also tell them what I learned while living in Seoul, that South Koreans see North Korea as part of their family and long to be reunited. Many organizations work hard to provide humanitarian efforts to support North Korean people- my students often haven't separated the government from the citizens in their minds, which is an important distinction to make. I use the generic term "Korean" when I talk about traditional music, because those were all before the war and originate in both sides of the peninsula!

Once we had a basic introduction to the country, we dove into Janggu drumming! I showed students the first 3 minutes or so of this tutorial video, then (since this was the 2020-21 school year when I was on a cart going into classrooms) we practiced by using 2 sides of their metal desks as the drum and a pencil as their drum stick- it actually worked pretty well! When I do this again in my music room I'll place a drum on its side on a chair for students to play with their hand, then tap the edge of the chair on the other side with a stick or pencil. Once we learned the basic pattern demonstrated in the video, we practiced playing along with this recording of Arirang.

I emphasized the importance of the song Arirang in Korean culture by showing several versions with students, including this one and this one from North Korea. There are so many other ones you can show though! Then we learned to sing the first verse of the song in Korean, and practiced playing the janggu part while singing. 

We also learned about Korean traditional dancing by moving along with the dance at that starts at the 15:52 mark in this video, then I shared this example of sword dancing, this one of ribbon hat dancing, and of course, this example of fan dancing. If I can get my hands on some decent fans, I will have students try a few of the most common formations used in fan dancing, including the circle (front of the circle is crouched down low, back of the circle is holding their fans up high) and the wave (everyone stands in a line holding their fans out in front, overlapping each other, and then they make a "wave" with them). The students are always so intrigued by this and many of them have at least heard of it before.

One thing I like to talk about with my older students is the different ways different cultures have handled the preservation of tradition and modernization/ globalization. I introduced students to the musical group Leenalchi with the video below, and we talked about the modern and traditional elements that they combine in their music. They are definitely not the K-pop that most Westerners are familiar with but they are quite popular and well-known, especially in South Korea. This video is also one part of a series they did with the Korean Tourism Organization to showcase different parts of the country- I shared the entire playlist of all the other cities in my google classroom for students to watch on their own and see all the other parts of the country outside of Seoul.

Those are just some examples of lesson activities I've used with my students to explore the music of Korea. If you have other ideas that you've used in elementary music class, please share them in the comments below. If you want to see my other posts on lesson ideas for exploring music from other cultures, here are those posts: