Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Piratical Fun in the Music Room!

My dearest readers, I have a confession to make: I have a slight obsession with pirates. Their depiction in cinema, the history and lore around them... I love it all! 

I'm on the far left in this photo with some of my best friends from college.
We were on our way to a local pirate festival!
Holding a live parrot! 
My first ever race was a pirate themed 5K in 2013!

You could imagine my excitement when my good friend and fellow teacher/blogger, Molly Patrician, gave me her copy of Teach Like a Pirate by David Burgess:

My facebook fans will recognize this photo from last summer!

I share all of this with you, dear readers, so that you can imagine my excitement every year when I get to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day! If you've never heard of this remarkable holiday, check out the background of it here

I love to honor TLAPD in my music room with a week of piratical fun songs and activities. Here's a sampling of some of the things I've done in the past few years to celebrate:

The Gallant Ship
I learned this song from a professor in a college practicum course, and I've taught it every single year since then. The kids LOVE it. I've looked everywhere for a source for the song. The closest source I can find for the lyrics online is the last verse from the sea shanty titled, "The Mermaid."

This is the melody as I learned it. If you know a source, PLEASE let me know! :)

After singing the verse for the A section, we do a spoken call/response for the B section:

She sank?
She sank.
In the sea?
In the sea.
Are you sure?
We're sure.
How sad!
We agree.

So there you have it! The A and B sections can repeat ad nauseum. I typically add class percussion instruments to the A section as well. You could also add a bordun on G-D on Orff instruments and have students switch instruments during the B section. Lots of fun possibilities and great for practicing eighth/sixteenth note combinations! 


Pirates of the Caribbean listening example
I've played this fun recording of the Pirates movie theme for some of my younger classes this week. We used scarves as we listen and responded to the high and low sounds in the melody.


Pirate Rhythm Patterns

I originally created this resource for my PreK students as a pre-reading exercise. As I point to each pirate symbol, the students clap and say its name. While using it in class today, I started to discover that there are about a million different ways to expand on it and use it with older students as well.

  • Practice keeping a steady beat and distinguish between beat and rhythm
  • Practice left-right tracking skills
  • Identify patterns and repeated symbols
  • Use an IWB to draw the rhythm symbols under each picture 
  • Clap or play on percussion instruments
  • Encourage improvisation by having students think of new words/patterns
It's free in my Teachers Pay Teachers store until Talk Like a Pirate Day on September 19! 


Just Dance! Kids Pirate Video

For a fun movement activity, I played this video for my Kinder students. We practiced marching like pirates to the steady beat and following along with the moves in the video.


Pirate Vocal Explorations

I love vocal explorations and I wanted to create one with a simple story line. I wrote a little story about a pirate named Annabelle and her parrot, Blackbeak. As I read this story to my students, they follow along with their voices.

I've found that my students really like when there's a story that ties it all together. The last time we read one like this, they all clapped at the end! How cute! You can purchase this story in my TpT store.


Well, readers, I hope I've inspired you to add some pirattitude to your music lessons this week. If you have any other awesome pirate activities, I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below.

Also, stay tuned for one more pirate-related announcement on Friday evening... a few music teachers and I have something fun planned!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Music on Wheels: Making the Most out of Down Time

I've been thinking a lot lately about how I use down time in the classroom. As a teacher on wheels, I have come to embrace the fact that my classes are always going to need some transition time. I need time to get my cart in and out of the room, set up my files on the computer, and prepare any instruments or manipulatives that we are going to be using that day. That's what inspired me to write my next installment of Music on Wheels:

Making the Most
out of Down Time

When we teach music on a cart, there is inevitably going to be a lot of transition time, especially right at the beginning or end of class. We as teachers know that transitions can make or break a lesson. If given no direction, the classroom will devolve into a chaotic mess of screaming children and flying pencils.

... or will it?

This will probably sound controversial to some people, but I actually believe that in the right setting with the right classroom chemistry, down time can be very beneficial. It can give students a minute or two to mentally refocus and go from math/reading/whatever to music mode. They might choose to just put their heads down and tune the world out for a minute. It can be a time to rearrange their desks and books. It can give them time to socialize quietly with their peers. It's a good opportunity to take a water or bathroom break. If we give our students a chance to do these things before we start our lessons, then they are more likely to give us their full attention once we are ready to begin. 

As we add more and more rigor into every subject of the day, kids (and teachers) are under a lot of stress to fit everything in. So when I can offer my students a minute or two to relax and chat with their classmates, I embrace those opportunities.

However, you have to know your students and be aware of what they can and can't handle. 

Depending on the grade level or just the chemistry of the kids in a particular class, I might choose to give them a little more direction during this transition time. 

For instance, for PreK through 1st grade, I work to minimize down time. From the moment I enter the room, those classes know that we are getting started and that they need to be quiet. I usually pick a helper who goes around the room and high fives the students who are quiet with their "five things ready" (hands, eyes, feet, mouth, ears.) This fills the down time while I'm pulling up our songs on the computer.

With 2nd graders, I will often come into the room and give them a discussion prompt. I'll say, "talk quietly at your table to see what you all remember learning in music class last week" or something like that. It gives them time to have a focused, meaningful discussion while I'm setting things up. I might also have one or two students lead vocal warm-ups or a rhythm exercise.

Usually by 3rd grade, I find that the students are mature enough to handle down time. They have to be able to monitor their actions and do what's appropriate. In those classes, I have set the expectation that while I'm setting up for the lesson, they can use that time for bathroom, water, or just quietly sit and talk with their neighbors. So far, it has worked like a charm. I find that when I've given them this down time to relax, they are less likely to interrupt the lesson and therefore we get through just as much- if not more- material during the class period. We have also discussed the importance of quieting down and focusing once I am ready to get started.

It's all about trusting your students and knowing what they are capable of. If your standards are high, you might be surprised how they can rise to meet them.