Catching Up in a Small Way

It has been quite the busy semester, and it's apparently I haven't kept up on this blog! But, the semester is almost over (which includes my PhD classes for a few weeks), and I just want to post something small here to keep you up-to-date until I can develop more lesson plans.

Friends posted this link on using arts integration in common core, and I think it's worth a look:

Use Arts Integration to Enhance the Common Core

If you get a few minutes over your winter break, check it out! Looks like some great ideas.

And as Susan Riley, arts integration specialist says:

"Arts integration allows us to build chefs who make choices; not cooks who merely follow the recipe."

Mortimer...........BE QUIET! Fun

Kindergarten Literacy Common Cores:
1. Without prompting, ask and answer key details in a text.
2. With prompting and support, retell familiar stories.
3. Actively engage in group reading activities with purpose and understanding.

Music Objectives
1. Identify whisper, speaking, singing, and calling voices
2. Distinguish between loud and soft
3. Use instruments to enhance a story
4. Understanding the musical directions of "up" and "down".
5. Following musical cues and story cues for playing

Robert Munsch has to be one of my all-time favorite children's authors. The fun we have with his books (and his understanding of the human heart) has been pretty expansive in my career. So here is ornery little Mortimer, who is just dying for attention the wrong way. So much fun for kindergartners and older kids! Here is a lesson unit utilizing Mortimer to help demonstrate and assess the various voices and loud and soft.

I had previously introduced the four voices intertwined with a nursery rhyme unit, so we reviewed the various voices. I then read Mortimer to the students and asked them to identify where the voices could be found in the story. For Mortimer's famous "clang clang" song, I used the tune of the Mortimer lesson from Artie Almeida's Mallet Madness. Since the story does not have any "whisper" voice, I added Mortimer saying "Yes, sir", or "Yes, m'am" after every "MORTIMER, BE QUIET". Finally, the students and I would use sing-song voices for the "thump thump thump" of the stairs, ascending to higher pitches when someone was going "up" the stairs, and descending to lower when going down. Second reading, the students joined me. This was the first 15 minute lesson.

One Day Two, we reviewed where the voices were in the story. I then asked them, "Is 'MORTIMER, BE QUIET' loud or soft?" When I received my answer, I said told the kids we weren't going to say that anymore. (Sounds of moans). I told them I thought we could use........INSTRUMENTS! (Excitement!). I went over to the sand blocks and rubbed them and said, "This is loud enough, isn't it?" Of course, they said no. (There is a reason I demonstrated incorrectly with sand blocks first.) I demonstrated with a hand drum, using a mallet, and the students agreed that it was pretty loud and awesome. I told them, though, that I really wished we could use the sandblocks somewhere (opening the door to some higher level thinking). In every class, at least two students said, "WHISPER!". BINGO! We had our instrumentation. After instrument distribution and instrument rule review, I told them there was one more thing. I brought out my Peripole bass metallophone, damper off, and told them we needed stairsteps. I demonstrated the up and down on the bass for the stairsteps. (At the stage of the kindergarten life, we are still learning how to not play a drum by hitting it on our heads, so we are not quite ready for barred instruments.)

In our third telling of the story, the students either played the drum rhythm (or approximation of) for "Mortimer, be quiet!" or the sandblocks for the whisper "yes sir, yes, m'am.".  When we got to the point where everyone was arguing, I surprised them by bringing out two people clackers. (These used to be available at West Music, but I have heard they are difficult to get now. I imagined possibilities of using yellow plastic castanets or the red ones and converting them to people. I'm sure there is a way). I used the clackers myself to keep peace in the family. This lesson turned out terrific! At the end, since Mortimer falls asleep, the drum students deciphered that scratching the drum head could be snoring. :-)

I have also been getting into the habit of teaching my kindergartners the art of self-assessment. I have two faces for each student that I pass out: a green smiley and a yellow "straight face". The students will hold up the appropriate one based on their feelings about how they did. Yes, many kindergartners will hold up green when they really don't understand because they think they were awesome and the activity was awesome, but there are some who will hold up yellow. It's pretty easy to guess why certain students do that, so we hold little talks about what we can do to make us feel better about how we did. The kids love the faces. It's an easy way to check how a student truly comprehends what he or she is doing and if he is cognizant of what is taking place.

The Mortimer story is a nice "voices" lesson that can easily segue into the loud/soft lessons and unit. If you get the Mallet Madness book, there is a lesson that is perfect for the Orff approach of "filing it away and bringing it back later". I haven't done it yet, but I'm pretty sure there are some pretty cool sixth grade possibilities for this book! (Filing the idea away for later....)

I did record my class sessions with this activity and hope to be able to post at least one clip, but since it's past midterms and all the technology permissions are still not in, it might have to wait! As soon as I can, I hope to share what my kids did.

More Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Fun!

As a final phase to the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom unit, the first graders had created their own little verses to the first part of the book. I took advantage of this to introduce chord bordun to the students as well and used it to keep a beat to the new "creations". Here is a class session when the kids brainstormed some ideas for their Chicka Chicka Boom Boom verses:

Here are some samples of what the kids came up with:

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Revisited Redux!

Last post, I mentioned Chicka Chicka Boom Boom and my ideas for using it with first grade. I thought I would share some video of some of my students working out their two-pattern body percussion (part of Step One of the lesson:)

(Check out the midline crossing! First grade! Booya!)

Later this week, we're going to start developing our "rewrite" of a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom rhyme. Will the letters go to the playground instead of up the coconut tree? To the moon? To bed? To the swimming pool? Stay tuned.................................

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Revisited

In first grade, several of the Common Core literature standards deal with participating in collaborative conversations, creative writing, and simple command of understanding details in a text. One of the Common Core Maps  for first grade involves an activity in which the class collaborates to write their own ABC book, based on ideas from books such as Dr. Seuss's ABC and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

Because many kindergarten teachers (and kindergarten music teachers!) use Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, you can "pull" an Orff "take it and redo it another way" idea using the same book in first grade for basic beat patterns and for some creativity.

1.   Review Chicka Chicka Boom Boom with students by telling them you are reading a story from last year. Ask them to quietly find a beat however they want to, except it needs to be two different moves. Demonstrate a couple of different beat patterns.
2.   After the first read-through, read it again, asking students do show two-pattern moves while standing up with a partner. Again, use a student for demonstration and show the students a couple of ideas. As the students move with their partners, you can do simple assessment while whatever scoring guide is convenient.
3.   Ask the students to sit and tell them “What if the letters weren’t up a coconut tree?” Guide them to brainstorm other scenarios or scenes for this story.
4.   As the brainstorming continues, students can then contribute ideas as to what the letters do. Will they fall out? Run away? Cry? Ask individual students to write ideas on Smartnotebook or large paper. (Large post-it note pads work well for this.)
5.   Students will then narrow choices down to complete their own Chicka-Chicka Boom Boom style story. To complete this part of the lesson (or begin on another day), students can decide what types of voices to use as they read or say their story. (By the way, demonstrate some vocal inflection in your reading! Kids love it, and it will be easily for them to imitate vocal inflection and later, pitch match, when you do so). 

Here are some extension ideas to this lesson:

1.  Pass out paper to the students (whatever type the teacher uses for writing) and ask the students to copy a certain part down (depending on how long your "story" is). Emphasize certain words where the students would move on the beat and ask them to underline those words. (Common Core=getting into higher order thinking on Bloom's Taxonomy. You COULD copy it and have it underlined for them, but where would the fun be for them?)
2.  If your class can handle it, they could underline the odd number beats in one color and the even numbers in another color.
3.  Using their written text as a "score", students can play unpitched instruments or play a simple bordun on the underlined words. For a challenge, one group of instruments can play on one certain color line, and another for the other color. (You might also have this same visual displayed on an interactive board for assistance).

      Remember to break this lesson up into small segments. First graders don't have that great of an attention span. Devote 10-15 minutes tops on this lesson, then go on and do something else and return to this.

     I plan on doing this lesson myself this week. Hopefully I can provide some video so you can see how it went with my own first graders. Waiting for those technology permission forms to come through!

Starting off with This New Venture

For 45 states, the new buzz in education is "Common Core". There seems to be some confusion about what Common Core is, where it developed, and what it's for. From the Common Core Standards website:

The Common Core State Standards Initiative is a state-led effort coordinated by the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). The standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators, and experts, to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare our children for college and the workforce.

The NGA Center and CCSSO received initial feedback on the draft standards from national organizations representing, but not limited to, teachers, postsecondary educators (including community colleges), civil rights groups, English language learners, and students with disabilities. Following the initial round of feedback, the draft standards were opened for public comment, receiving nearly 10,000 responses.

The standards are informed by the highest, most effective models from states across the country and countries around the world, and provide teachers and parents with a common understanding of what students are expected to learn. Consistent standards will provide appropriate benchmarks for all students, regardless of where they live.

These standards define the knowledge and skills students should have within their K-12 education careers so that they will graduate high school able to succeed in entry-level, credit-bearing academic college courses and in workforce training programs. The standards:

  • Are aligned with college and work expectations;
  • Are clear, understandable and consistent;
  • Include rigorous content and application of knowledge through high-order skills;
  • Build upon strengths and lessons of current state standards;
  • Are informed by other top performing countries, so that all students are prepared to succeed in our global economy and society; and
  • Are evidence-based.
Common Core standards were NOT developed by the Department of Education, but they are a springboard reaction to 21st Century Learning standards. Also, there are only Common Core standards for language arts and math, no other subjects.

Sooo, what does this mean for music?

There are arts organizations who are working together to update national arts standards to meet 21st Century Requirements. (One of these organizations is the National Association for Music Education, formerly-NAfME-formerly MENC). It's still up in the air as to whether the arts will be formally assessed, or where this is going. But, there is no reason why music teachers can't support Common Core standards without losing the integrity of music! This is where I hope this blog can help you. 

I am working on my PhD in music education at the University of Kansas, while still teaching. My emphasis is music education, particularly in the area of elementary curriculum. I've been fascinated by disciplines integration and cross-curricular activities and how all the subject areas can play nicely without "selling out". In my district, I offered to help develop lesson plans for our other elementary music teachers that would integrate with Common Core, without losing the focus of music. I'd like to share these ideas with you and let you share what you are doing in your own districts and states.

I teach in Missouri. Currently, we are going into a transitional phase in Common Core this school year, learning about it, before it's formally integrated into schools in 2014. However, Missouri is keeping the old music GLEs (Grade Level Expectations), so music teachers are sort of in limbo until the new National Standards are implemented. But, one of the focus points of 21st Century learning is higher order thinking. What do we do in music?? :-) Higher order thinking!

So, I'm going to start off with one of the kindergarten lesson plans I developed. I checked with Curriculum Maps, which is a website where lesson plans for language arts are submitted, that include other areas (including music). The lesson plans I'm sharing are lesson plans for music teachers. I used the suggested literature and listening examples from the maps to develop these lessons. Hope you enjoy these!

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Lesson One-Kindergarten
Music Standards
Steady beat
Common Core Standards: LA): RF.K.2(a): Recognize and produce rhyming words.

  • TSW learn beat with a song about the alphabet
  • TSW learn to listen for rhyming words

Materials needed:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Book


1.   Ask the students if they have been learning their alphabet and the letters and guide students to name their letters.
2.   Distribute letter magnets to students and ask them to identify the letter they were given.
3.   Read “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom” and ask students to bring up their letters as they are said in the story.
4.   Repeat some of the rhyming pairs in the story, and ask the students what makes them sound alike.
5.   Continue with other daily objectives and return to this book on another music day.

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom LessonTwo-Kindergarten

Music Standards:
Steady beat
Following cues
Common Core Standards:(LA): RF.K.2(a): Recognize and produce rhyming words.

  • TSW learn beat with a song about the alphabet
  • TSW learn to listen for rhyming words
  • TSW listen for appropriate playing time in the story
Materials needed:
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Book (or recording)
Hand drums

1.  Review sections of “Chicka Chicka Boom Boom”, pausing at the end of each couplet to allow students to randomly call out the rhyming word to end the phrase to informally assess understanding of rhyme.
2.     Distribute hand drums to each student. Ask the students how many times in a row they will hit when hitting on the phrase “Boom Boom”. (2).
3.     Assess the students visually while reading the book (or using recording of the book from ITunes) for  correct playing (On the beat, following cues). Record using +, √, or 0 in grading sheet.

Have fun!

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