Monday, December 15, 2014

Go Caroling Day

Putting together the calendars for Activate! over the last several years has resulted in me knowing about all sorts of random named days. One such day is "Go Caroling Day," which is celebrated this Saturday, Dec. 20. I am not sure who came up with this date or day, but I do think it is a tradition worth honoring.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Master Plan for Elementary School Performances

I truly believe there is an art to hosting elementary school performances (well, pretty much any event, but especially elementary school performances). And believe me, this art (like all art) is cultivated through experiences—both the good and the bad.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Motivation in the Music Classroom

In his book Helping Students Motivate Themselves, Larry Ferlazzo reviews and recommends strategies to encourage intrinsic motivation in students. Ferlazzo warns teachers of the damaging nature of incentives and rewards, citing that they discourage student autonomy and therefore damage students’ ability to be self-motivated. While he does acknowledge that rewards have proven to be effective to get people to do simple routine work, he feels strongly that they don’t promote growth in anything that requires a higher level of thinking in the long run. Ferlazzo also acknowledges that everyone expects and needs “baseline rewards” for good work, but he says to use these as surprise bonuses—not as motivation to complete a task.

Instead Ferlazzo suggests that teachers should regularly reinforce student self-motivation in the following ways:

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Singing A Story: The Magic of Musical Books

Part II: Choosing a Book to Sing

Brigid Finucane here from Merit School of Music in Chicago, where I teach early childhood music and movement classes.

In my first post, I wrote about benefits of adding singing books to your classroom. Past issues of Activate! have great ideas for literacy fact, the February/March 2014 issue is devoted to children’s literature. Featured stories include Eric Carle’s The Very Lonely Firefly, Deborah A. Imiolo’s The Squeaky Door, Lucinda McQueen’s (illus.) Little Red Hen, Pete Seeger’s Abiyoyo, the beloved adaptation of a Bantu folktale and many more!

How were these books first chosen, though, and what makes them successful in the classroom? The short answer is that each teacher has to decide for his or herself what will work in their classroom, for their students and the concepts they want to support. That being said, here are some considerations!

Friday, August 29, 2014

"The Star-Spangled Banner" Quiz Show, developed by Nicole LeGrand

Looking for a creative way to honor and celebrate the 200th anniversary of "The Star-Spangled Banner" with your students this month? If so, look no further! Nicole LeGrand has created a fun and interactive game to help your students connect with and learn more about our national anthem!

Here are the instructions for the game:

Print each of the category posters and five sets of the point cards (laminate these for durability). 

Affix sticky tack or magnets to the back of each of the posters and cards. Arrange them in a traditional style Jeopardy game board.

Divide the students into small groups or teams, giving each group a small dry erase board and marker.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

This is Your Brain on Music

Over the years, there has been plenty of circumstantial evidence about the connection between music and academic success, but, if you are middle aged (or even more “mature”), much of what we learned was based on speculation. With newer brain imagining tools, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI), scientists can actually see neurons firing. With more rigorous scientific studies, researchers can dig deeper than the chicken-and-egg theories that were the best we had twenty or thirty years ago (remember the one about music and SAT scores? Did music cause higher SAT scores or did kids with higher IQs gravitate toward music?). The current research is exciting because the correlations are being drawn and they are strongly supporting the theory that music participation creates better brains. As music teachers, it is important that we keep up on what current research is saying about how participation in music improves our thinking. Share these morsels with your administrators, students, and their parents to remind them that music is not just an activity, but an integral part of academic development.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Monday, August 4, 2014

Save Your Voice!: Tips for Maintaining Vocal Health in the Elementary Music Classroom

Every teacher knows that the most essential tool in our teaching is our voice. Our voices are overused and often tired. We strain them on a regular basis. And if we are hit with an unfortunate case of laryngitis, it can take weeks if not months for our voice to be back at 100%. It is in times like these that managing the classroom becomes more of a challenge. 

As music teachers, our voices also have an additional strain: singing…all day, every day. After my first bout of laryngitis (which happened three weeks into my first year of teaching), I made a promise to myself: I would never again speak over children talking or playing instruments in order to gain their attention. I needed nonverbal cues to communicate with the students, not only for classroom management, but also for my vocal health.I introduced a rhythm to the students (ta ta ti ti ta) and had them echo clap it to me. I told them that anytime they heard me clap that rhythm, they should echo me followed by all of their eyes and ears on me. I immediately practiced this with the students until it became a solid routine in each of my classes. I must admit that it has really been nice to not have to work all that hard to get my students’ attention over the years. And it is especially rewarding to be able to quiet an entire gymnasium full of children. However, I must stress the importance that if students have never before echo clapped a rhythm that was used to get their attention, the step of teaching and practicing the procedure is imperative. In order to be effective, a solid routine must be established. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Singing A Story: The Magic of Musical Books - Part 1

Singing A Story: The Magic of Musical Books

Part I: Why Sing a Book?

Brigid Finucane here from Merit School of Music in Chicago, where I teach early childhood music and movement classes.

A passion of mine is music and literacy, and one of my favorite ways to share this with students and families is by presenting musical books at the end of classtime. When a book is sung, it goes beyond the simple and everyday – it’s elevated into a new and special experience! A musical book engages, invites positive communal participation, opens teaching opportunities and provides non-stressful (group) pronunciation practice, especially important for the many families and students I work with whose first language is not English.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What do you want to know?!

With summer comes tons of sun, fun, and quality time with friends and family, and our guess is that you’re more likely pondering next weekend’s cookout more than your fall programming. At Heritage Music Press, we understand that rib glazes are easier to pick than your fall curriculum and we want to help! Let us know what topics are interesting and relevant to you. Our writers are standing by to get you the information that you need to succeed.

Want us to review a certain book? Need specific technique tips?

Let us know in the comments below!

The thought of helping you makes us jump for joy!

- Your Heritage Music Press Team

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Book Review: "Teach Like a Champion," by Doug Lemov

On the Monday of Teacher Appreciation Week, my principal gave each of us a book called “Teach Like a Champion: 49 Techniques That Put Students on the Path to College,” by Doug Lemov. I actually enjoy reading books about teaching, whether they are about classroom management, curriculum, or just how we tick. I happened to be between books, so the timing was just right to crack it open. I became hooked right away.  

The gist of this book is that kids of any age want to learn and want to be successful, but that they often do not know the language and behavior of success. As teachers, it is our responsibility to teach them in a way that creates a pathway to college and beyond. Lemov and his partners watched hours of videos of teachers in the classroom and broke the best teachers’ skills into specific techniques that any teacher can learn to use.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Interactive Now – How it All Began

You might say that it all began at a 3-day SMART Content Creation Seminar in Lewisville, TX, over the Memorial Day weekend in May, 2009. Debbie Anderson and I were the only elementary music teachers present at the seminar, and we were anxious to learn all that we could about using SMART Notebook software. We decided to collaborate and share files that we created to help us teach music concepts in our elementary music classrooms. Why reinvent the wheel when we could work together, and we have had a great time as well!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

A Review of Don Dupont and Brian Hiller's "Too Much Noise!" (A Unison Musical for Grades K-2)

For starters, I am not a fan of canned music programs. I often find them too difficult and time-consuming for young children who I may only see once a week. I have used many of Don Dupont and Brian Hiller’s materials and have attended their workshops, so I thought I would give their Tuneful Tales Series a chance. I’m glad I did!!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Making Your Budget Go the Extra Mile

Outfitting an empty music classroom with $300

The things we hear about music education these days are often focused on under-funded programs and regrettable music program cutbacks.  So when teachers receive a budget of any amount, we feel an obligation to use it wisely.  Any amount that is budgeted for supplying the music classroom will inevitably disappoint us, with our wild hopes of filling our classrooms with all the best tools and resources.  No need to wallow in the disappointment, though; with a little research and ingenuity, a smart music teacher can find the best possible use of those precious dollars.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Creative Process – Different Approaches Part 2

Another approach to that intimidating blank page is to simply add your creative spark to an existing tune. Arrangements of Folk Songs, Spirituals, and Christmas Carols are always well received, and many of these can be used by both school and church groups. Publishers love to cross-promote these types of songs, and get a broader audience for their investment.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Top 5 Resources for Teachers on a Budget!

Several years ago, I had a truly wonderful opportunity to teach elementary music methods as an adjunct professor. It was a really amazing experience and gave me the opportunity to spend some time thinking very carefully about what I did as a music educator, why I did it, and how. After requiring my students to spend hours making visuals and coming up with original lessons to address all the music-making activities, I thought it might be helpful to give them a list of some of my tried and true resources. Back then, I wasn’t the editor for Activate! or Heritage Music Press, so this is my top five, unbiased list of essential tools for every new music teacher.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What to Teach When: A Guide by Brian Hiller and Don Dupont

We came across a wonderful article on the West Music blog! Brian Hiller and Don Dupont share the ideas and details behind their curriculum series What to Teach When.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

The Creative Process—Different approaches Part 1

We’ve talked about how to get started if you have an idea that you would like to use as the basis for an original song, writing a beautiful, poetic lyric, and a memorable, singable melody. But there are several ways to “ease in” to songwriting without having to come up with something completely original on your own.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bucket Drumming Basics

Bucket drumming has come to the elementary music classroom with teachers and students getting in on the fun of pounding a pail.  Forming a bucket ensemble is easy on the budget while providing a great vehicle for learning rhythms and exploring tone colors. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Footnotes: In Search of the Meaningful Relationship

Exploring the Marriage of Music and Text—Part 2

Like in any relationship, the more sensitive each partner is to the other, the better the relationship will be! The same is true with the relationship of music and text. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Join Heritage Music Press at these February events!

It’s convention season again! Are you ready for all of the upcoming -MEAs, -CDAs, and spectacular local reading sessions? We are—in fact, Heritage Music Press and many of our spectacular writers and composers will be traveling the country to bring you the latest ideas, resources, and techniques to use in your classrooms.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cabasa Technique

Strike it, scrape it, shake it!  This little percussion instrument is packed with lots of interesting tone colors.  Check out Mark Shelton as he demonstrates some cabasa techniques that you can share with your students.

Monday, January 20, 2014

I Know Sousa Not Sopranos!

A Survival Guide for the Band Director Teaching Choirs

About a month ago, I was asked for an interview by Andrew Berman, a contributing feature writer for the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) publication, Teaching Music, as part of an article for February, 2014, entitled Trading Chairs! The article is about music teachers who were trained in one area, yet ended up teaching in another area. I was reminded of my book with Heritage Music Press, I KNOW SOUSA, NOT SOPRANOS! A Survival Guide for the Band Director Teaching Choirs.

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Creative Process—Melody

Often in the process of songwriting the words and music seem to be so deeply intertwined as to be inseparable. Think about the carol Silent Night or the folk song Mockingbird. It’s difficult to think of those lyrics with any other melody, isn’t it? This should be a songwriter’s goal—to create a work that is more than the sum of its parts, and a work where the lyric will seem married to its melody.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Troubleshooting Transition Time

Transition Road SignEarly in my career I established a very predictable routine for the beginning of every class. I think somewhere in my methods class, someone must have discussed the need to address times of transition. And though it is true that children thrive on routine and attention to transition periods, I truly think that I developed these routines more for my own benefit than for that of my students. As it turns out, I also thrive on routine! My first year of teaching was pretty overwhelming as I was placed in three different buildings, saw over 1100 children per week, and was well over my contractual minute-count. In order to keep my sanity throughout the day, I quickly realized that I had to do something to give me a bit of breathing room as the children cycled in and out of my classroom.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Developing the Solo Voice: Studio Rules

I often work with students who are new to private lessons, and many of them are nervous because they don’t know what to expect. When I begin with a new student, I take some time to talk about the rules of my studio—both what I expect from the student and what the student can expect from me. I will share these rules with you in hopes that they might encourage you to define the rules for your own teaching.