Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Three Things Linkup

Happy Sunday, everyone! I hope those of you who are back to teaching have spent some time this weekend relaxing and recharging. My husband I enjoyed spending time in our pool this weekend while the weather is still nice and warm. Now, I'm reflecting back on my lessons from this past week, which was our first week back at school. I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share three things that went really well this past week! 

At the beginning of the school year, I believe very firmly that the first few music classes should focus on practicing rules/routines and community building rather than jumping straight into teaching content. It is so important to me that my students feel comfortable to try new things and make mistakes when they are in my music class. If we don't spend that time getting to know each other within a musical context, then the rest of the year feels disjunct and forced. For that reason, all of my lessons this week focused on introductions, name games, and ice breaker activities.

1. Thumper Name Game

I wanted to do something different with my intermediate students this week. So I brought in a game from my childhood. I remember playing this game all the time with my friends in elementary school. However, an internet search turned up no results for the source of the song and game. So I took it upon myself to transcribe it so I could share it with all of you. Click on the picture below to download the song and gameplay directions.

Note: I have no formal Kodály training (yet!) so I don't have very much experience in transcribing or collecting folk songs. If you have any comments or questions about the content, PLEASE let me know! Constructive criticism is always welcome :)

When I taught this game to my class this week, we started out with a simplified practice version. In the practice version, you don't pick other kids' names at random. Instead you go around the circle, each person saying the name of the kid next to him/her. That reduces kids' anxiety because they know exactly when their turn will arrive. They can also practice saying the names ahead of time.

Once they have practiced a bit, you can really let loose and have them get competitive with it, if they are the kind of class that enjoys that sort of thing!

2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?

I love this book! I'm sure I don't have to waste too much time singing the praises of Eric Carle here, but just in case this classic children's book is not already in your library, here is a link to purchase it. I'll just say that my students love the familiarity of the format and catch on quickly when we read it. I actually sing the words to the first phrase on so mi and la (s-m-s-m-ss-l-s-m) and the next phrase on fa-re-so (f-rr-f-r-ff-s-f-r.) 

Then, when we finish reading and singing the book, it turns into a game:

I replace the animals with children's names. So if it's Judy's turn, the whole class sings, "Judy, Judy, what do you see?" Then she must pick another student and sing, "I see [another student's name] looking at me." This is a great way to get students to open up and sing on the first day of school. (If a child is feeling very shy and doesn't want to sing out, I will walk over to him/her with Arpeggio the Cat and give the child the option to whisper softly into Arpeggio's ear instead of singing out loud. That usually works like a charm.)

I often have students begging to play this game again and again after the first day of school!

3. Getting to Know You BINGO

I made this game at the suggestion of someone in a Music Teachers Facebook Group. A teacher was asking for suggestions for getting-to-know-you bingo prompts. I offered to put them together on this bingo card and then gave it to everyone in the group for free.

It's actually still available for free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store, so you can download it for free if you'd like to use it in your classroom.

I played this with my fifth graders and everyone had a great time. It gets kids up, moving around, and talking to each other about music. The rules are as follows: Each student gets a bingo card. They must walk around and find a classmate who can do the thing in each square. When I did this with my fifth graders, I also added the rule that they could only put a single person's name on their card one time. Standard bingo rules apply: in order to win, students must be able to fill in four in a row or four in a column, or four diagonally across.

I also told my fifth graders there would be a prize if anyone was able to fill their card by the next day. And one dedicated student was able to do it! He told me that once I posed the challenge, he couldn't think about anything else until he had done it! I'd call that a successful music class.

I hope you like these three ideas. They all worked great in my classes this week and I can't wait to share more next Sunday. Don't forget to see what everyone else has been up to by checking out Mrs. Miracle's Music Room!


  1. Great ideas, Rachel! I've never seen that "Thumper" name game...I'm always excited to add another name game to my collection! Thanks for joining the party! :)

  2. I added "Brown Bear" to my library after seeing it in the 'extra' pile at school. So glad that I have an activity for it now!!! Thanks for sharing!