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Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Lessons to Celebrate Singing

For Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM®), I thought I would share some of my favorite lessons for celebrating different forms of musicking. These are the lessons where we just bask in the joy of music-making- what's better than that? And (because I can never help myself) there are always musical skills and concepts students get more practice with in the process. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite lessons that celebrate singing!

1. Moose Song

I saw a video of the wonderful Maria Ellis doing this echo song as a choral warmup several years ago and it quickly became the number one favorite song for my Kindergartners to sing! Here's that video, and here is the slide I made with the lyrics for each verse on it (because honestly, the Kindergartners aren't reading it, the lyrics are just there for me to remember the words):

This song is perfect for Kindergarten because it's an echo song, and of course it's silly! But the "on the loose" part at the end is perfect for getting them to sing in their head voice, and the chorus gets them singing in a strong middle range. The song has nothing to do with singing like the others on today's list, but it's just so fun to sing- my students always really get into the jazzy feel, they love it!

2. Sing Your Way Home

I love this song because it feels good to sing. It's in a singable range, and the lilting feel and uplifting lyrics make it such a nice, peaceful, happy song to sing together with lower elementary! If you've never heard it, this site has sheet music and a recording. Here's the slide I use:

The other great thing about this song is the triple meter. I use this song with 2nd grade to explore the difference between duple and triple, and it's perfect for adding some movement with the downbeats or a clapping pattern to reinforce the triple meter feel. I also use it to explore dynamics and review dynamics vocabulary, singing it at different volumes and asking students to identify the word that matches.

3. Let Us Sing Together

This is a great one for 3rd-5th grade because it is a round! It's another one that's easy to learn and in a comfortable singing range. Here is a recording, and here's the slide I use:

This song also happens to have a "syncopa" rhythm pattern in it several times, which makes it perfect for 4th and 5th grade! It's also really easy to add in dynamics, tempo, and even articulation review. I have students sing the song with different elements as I point to the vocabulary words or symbols on the board.

4. Sing

It doesn't get better than Sing by Pentatonix for upper elementary / middle school! The only thing I change to make sure it's in a singable range is at the beginning of the chorus, when it says "sing" 4 times, I have them stay on do (or alternate between do and mi to make it more interesting), and obviously sing the bass singer's melody part on verse 2 up an octave. The rest is well within their range for this age and not too difficult to learn. Here is the original music video (which I highly recommend showing your students), and here is a video with the lyrics that I use for students to sing along with:

I honestly don't do a ton of other concepts with this besides working on good singing tone, but I do have students improvise (or rehearse and perform) body percussion patterns during the rap section. I have students take turns doing 4 beats each and go around the room (there are 8 measures of 4 beats each).

Of course there are many others that come to mind, but these are my highlights for each age group. I hope you can use them to enjoy singing with your students! If you have other favorites that your students love to sing over and over again, I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below. 

Want to catch up on the other posts in this series? Click below for my posts on lessons celebrating:

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

MIOSM® Bracket Song Lists

I love doing a March Madness- style bracket of songs each March for Music In Our Schools Month! It's a lot of fun, but the hardest part is coming up with a list of songs that are all school-appropriate for even the youngest students (I have students as young as preschool participating) while still being cool enough for the older ones (my oldest are 6th graders), and represent a broad spectrum of styles, artists, cultures, and genres. Here are all the lists of songs I've used over the years so you can easily implement it in your school too!

If you aren't familiar with the concept, the idea of the song bracket is to have students listen to 2 songs each day and vote on their favorite, and then have the winning songs go against each other in a March Madness-style bracket until a final winning song is selected at the end of the month. It's a great way to get the whole school listening to music every day, and it's the perfect opportunity to incorporate a broad range of styles, artists, genres, and time periods that students (and the rest of the school community) may not normally listen to. 

I've been doing this since 2019 and each year I have chosen a theme for my song list tied to the theme that NAfME puts out for Music In Our Schools Month® that year. But you certainly don't need to feel tied to a particular year's theme, and to be honest many of them could easily connect to any broad theme from NAfME anyway! Here are all of the song lists I've done (and I plan to continue adding to this post in future years so bookmark this page) so you can find the one you want to use (or get inspiration to make your own!):

2019 bracket tied to the NAfME theme "All Music. All People", focusing on diverse cultures/ genres:

2021 bracket tied to the NAfME theme "Sound of My Heart", using songs with the word "love" in the title:

2022 bracket tied to the NAfME theme "Sound of My Heart", using instrumental pieces that portray different emotions:

2023 bracket tied to the NAfME theme "Music Is All of Us", using songs with the theme of friendship/ unity/ togetherness:

2024 bracket tied to the NAfME theme "I See Me in Music Education", using songs with the them of self identity/ being yourself:

Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below- I'm always happy to help! I do a lot of different activities in music class beyond the annual song bracket to celebrate Music In Our Schools Month®- check out all of my previous posts here with lots of ideas that are easy to implement and fun for the whole school community.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

Setting Up Your MIOSM® Song Bracket in Google Slides®

I recently shared my plans for my 2023 Song Bracket for Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM®). This has become one of my favorite school traditions and I can't wait to get started again in March! The last few years I have set up the audio files and voting process in Google Slides®, which has really improved the process for everyone, and today I'm sharing how I do that for anyone who would like to try it at their school as well.

When I first started the March Madness- style song bracket for MIOSM, I had the principal play snippets of each song on the morning announcements each day. In 2021 when we had a good portion of our students on zoom and we weren't doing morning announcements in the building, I switched to using slides to have students listen to the tracks and vote in their homerooms whenever the homeroom teacher wanted to do it each day, and it was so much better! Homeroom teachers could share their class' vote right in the slide instead of remembering to email me, and they could incorporate the listening into their day at the time that made the most sense for them. 

I've described my setup before but I know it can be hard to visualize how to actually do it without seeing it in action, so here is a video tutorial showing my setup for this year:

I hope this helps explain the process for anyone considering trying this out this year- I highly recommend it! Not only do the other teachers in the school not find it a burden, they actually look forward to it too and excitedly tell new teachers that join the building about how awesome it is. 

Please don't hesitate to ask in the comments below if you have any questions- if you missed it, here is my post where I shared my song list for 2023 along with copies of my slides templates for this year!

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

3 Ways to Teach Orchestral Instrument Families

One of the topics most of us teach in elementary general music that can easily become dry and boring to teach (and to learn) is the instruments of the orchestra. But it doesn't have to be! Today I'm sharing my 3 favorite ways to teach lower elementary students the 4 families of instruments in the orchestra.

1. Classical Pieces

I'm sure this is an obvious choice for many- Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra is an oldie but a goodie! The piece very clearly gives students a sense of the characteristic sound of each family, and it's short enough to hold young students' attention. I particularly love using this video that I found last year because the visuals are very clear and helpful but also colorful and fun:

Another great way to explore the instrument families and watch an actual orchestra performing is with the London Symphony Orchestra's interactive videos that lets you view a performance from several different cameras at once, so you can focus on the different families at the same time. They have several pieces they've made available this way, but this one of Shostakovich's 5th Symphony is a good one that shows all the families well.

2. Instrument Family Four Corners

In the basic game of 4 corners, you go to one of four corners of the room when the music stops, and one person who isn't looking calls out a number. Everyone at the corner that corresponds to that number is out. In instrument family four corners, it's the same basic idea but each corner matches an instrument family. There are a few ways to play it- play an example of a family or instrument playing, and tell students to go to the family they hear, or have everyone choose a corner and then whatever family plays after, all the students in that corner are out. It depends on how well students can identify the families aurally. Obviously you can use any sound examples to run the game yourself, which is what I did for a long time, but you can also now use these pre-made videos that basically run the game for you!

3. Poster Project

I love doing this because it gets student work up on the walls! I give small groups of students a few pieces of paper with lots of different instrument pictures on them, and then I assign each group to one family of instruments. They have to figure out which instruments belong in their family, cut those pictures out and glue/ tape them to a piece of construction paper, and then decorate and label their posters with the name of the family. I love listening to the groups talking to each other to discuss which instruments are in their family, and the students love seeing their work displayed in the classroom!

I hope this helps you breath fresh life into your lessons! For all of my full lesson plans on the orchestral instrument families, and the materials to go with them, you can get my full 2nd grade curriculum set here. And check out my post on Teaching Instruments of the Orchestra for how I sequence those concepts across grade levels.