Monday, November 11, 2013

The Birth of Music Madness

I hope that my K–6 colleagues around the country are enjoying teaching with our new collection of Interactive Whiteboard Games: Music Madness. My Bear Lake students certainly are having a good time dunking the teacher, catching some funky fish, trying not to get splatted by eggs, and blasting galactic goonies.
I have been asked by a number of teachers how these games came about, and thought I would share the backstory for Music Madness.

During my first year of college I wanted to be a music theory major. However, as I began taking music education classes, I fell in love with the joyful response that young children bring to the music-making experience—leading me to a K–6 music education focus.

As a young teacher I had very few supplies or instruments with which to teach and had to push a cart from room to room for my classes. I still had my strong love of music theory and desperately wanted my students to leave my program in sixth grade with a solid music theory foundation and being comfortable with reading notation.  But my theme in teaching has always been “Heavy Academics, Delivered Joyfully,” so I wanted to deliver the instruction in very fun and childlike ways.

For this reason, I designed a series of bag games, folder games, and manipulatives to teach all aspects of music theory. We went Rhythm Fishing with a magnetic pole and clip art fish, we picked apples off a poster board tree to show our understanding of note and rest values, and we “flew” around the room in our spaceships delivering Galactic Goonies to the correct planets. Academic games are still one of my favorite teaching tools, and I frequently utilize my old, low-tech games and proficiency packs in my lessons.

However, educators have amazing technology available to them these days and most young children’s lives are filled with cutting-edge tech devices, electronic games, videos with astounding animation, and more. I want my classroom to be reflective of the newest educational tools, so when Jeanette Morgan (Heritage Music Press Classroom Resources Editor) asked me about reincarnating my bag and folder games into interactive materials I was very excited!

Teachers have a lot on their plates these days, with extensive accountability requirements, complex lesson structures, and lengthy lists of standards to be addressed. I wanted the Music Madness games to be a “total package from start to finish” for teachers and their administrators, with behaviorally stated learning goals, lesson review materials, heavily academic game materials, and assessments where possible.

Jeanette and I also wanted exciting artwork, fun voice talent, custom music, leveled games for grades 2–6, and a script that would appeal to children. The folks at Heritage Music Press made this happen, and I could not be more pleased with the games!

My sweetest moment with my little Bear Lake bear cubs was the first day I got the folio of games. We played a couple of the games during the last half of my third grade class, and I did not tell the children that I was the creator. When the children were lining up at the door, I asked them if they enjoyed playing the interactive games and they all cheered and pumped their fists. I was so moved, and I told them that those games were my “baby,” my design. They all shouted and gave me a group hug (which thankfully I lived through because my classes are large).

It was a tearful and tremendous moment for me . . . seeing the games that I made 35 years ago reincarnated in a 21st-century design and once again delivering my music concept material in a way that today’s children love.


Artie AlmeidaDr. Artie Almeida has taught for 34 years and is the music specialist at Bear Lake Elementary school in Orlando, Florida, where she teaches 1100 K–5 students. Her dynamic performing groups have performed for MENC, AOSA, and on the NBC Today Show. Artie was chosen as Florida Music Educator of the Year, and was also selected as an International Educator 2006 by the Cambridge England Biographical Society. She was a Teacher of the Year at the school level 6 times and was recently chosen as a University of Central Florida Alumni of the Decade. In addition to her public school teaching duties, Artie is an adjunct professor at the University of Central Florida, teaches applied saxophone lessons and performs on historical winds with the early music ensemble Ars Antiqua.

You can visit her site at

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