Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Monday, September 18, 2017

Arrrrr Ye Ready to Talk Like a Pirate?

Tomorrow is my favorite holiday: International Talk Like a Pirate Day! (It's a real thing, I swear!) 

I love pirates (and really any excuse to dress up and speak in a funny accent) so I usually bring the celebration into my classroom for the week and make sure all of my lessons are infused with a certain amount of pirattitude.

This year I've added a few new pirate activities to my arsenal, which the kids at my new school have loved so far. I'll share three new pirate activities with you today:

Pass the Parrot

This is based on a folk dance, "The Chair and Broom." I read about it recently on facebook and also got to try at a Kodály workshop a few years ago. I'm told that the source is an out-of-print book called Backwoods Heritage by Martha Riley. It is a partner mixer dance, which means that as students go through they will end up with different partners each time. It's a great beginning folk dance and great for socialization. 

The setup is one longways set with three students sitting in chairs in a row at the head. The child in the center holds a parrot (I didn't have a good parrot toy available so we used my rubber chicken with great success.) When the music starts, she chooses to either pass the parrot to the person seated to her right or left. Whomever she gives it to is going to remain seated. The child in the center gets up with the other child (the one not holding the parrot) and they sashay together down to the bottom of the set. Then, the child remaining at the head holding the parrot slides into the middle seat and the next person standing in each line in the longways set comes forward and takes a seat. The center child passes the parrot and the dance continues. 

Since the only dance move required is the sashay, it's pretty accessible for students of all ages. I did it with 2nd grade and higher today and everyone enjoyed it. It can be done to any jig. I forgot to bring my New England Dancing Masters CD to school today so I just pulled this Scottish jig medley off YouTube and told the kids it was pirate music. They loved it! 

Fire in the Hole!

For some rhythm review, I devised a simple game that uses flashcards and beanbags. I told the class that my rug was the pirate lagoon and we scattered rhythm flashcards all around the rug. One student would come stand on the edge of the rug and get to "fire the cannon," a.k.a. toss a beanbag onto the rug. Of course, before tossing it they had to shout "fire in the hole!" which made it infinitely more fun. When the beanbag landed on a card, the student had to pick it up, show it to the class and count us in as we all read it together. I used these black and white flashcards, which I printed on colored paper and laminated.

Port Side Pirates!

I'm always looking to add more great illustrated children's books to my library and I recently discovered the delightful publisher, Barefoot Books. The great thing about Port Side Pirates is that the entire thing is a catchy song. It comes with a singalong CD, and what's even better is that the CD includes an instrumental-only track so that once your students know the song they can sing it themselves. The melody is also fully notated with sheet music and guitar tabs in the back of the book, which I love having for reference. 

The song uses tons of really cool pirate vocabulary so I'd make sure to review things like port vs. starboard before singing and reading. If you want your own copy, it's available on Amazon. (Please note that this is an affiliate link, which means I receive a small commission off any purchases made by clicking below.)

I hope some of these pirate activities spark your interest! For more piratey fun, check out my TLAPD post from 2015: Piratical Fun in the Music Room

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Back to School 2017

We're baaack! By now, I'm sure everybody is getting back into the swing of things and starting up their school routines again. In Maryland, the kids didn't go back until after labor day. I've only had about a week of classes at this point, but it's been quite a busy time for me. 

I'm at a new school in a different county so I have lots of changes and adjustments to make... all good ones, though! I'm now teaching full time at one school, five days a week! No more traveling between schools or teaching on a cart. I am somewhat sad that I won't be posting too much in my "Music on Wheels" series anymore, but maybe I'll continue to add to it in the future if I can think of some helpful advice from my time teaching on a cart. 

For now, I'm focusing on setting up my classroom, getting to know all 800+ of my new students, and starting the school year off on a positive note! In case you missed it, a few days ago I posted a live video on facebook with a tour of my new classroom setup. You can watch it here.

One more announcement: the other exciting thing happening this school year is my husband and I are expecting our first baby! 

She's due in late October so this will definitely be a crazy school year as I prepare for my maternity leave. (The good kind of crazy, though!) Lots of exciting things going on in the upcoming months. I'll be sure to keep you posted about everything as this amazing school year unfolds.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

31 Days of Rhythm: Engage Students with Rhythm Sudoku

Can you believe that we are more than halfway through the month of March already? Spring is finally here and we are in the middle of celebrating Music in Our Schools Month! There is so much to be happy about! 

For today's post, I'm going to share a brilliant idea that I learned about several years ago at a workshop: Rhythm Sudoku. 

If you are anything like me, you probably first heard about Sudoku about eight years ago. Maybe you never really got into it because "math isn't your thing" (which is ironic because a Sudoku puzzle actually doesn't require any arithmetic.) Or maybe you have experience completing the puzzles and are wondering how on earth these number squares can relate to rhythm. 

Either way, I'm happy to show you! In this post, I'll walk you through the steps required to make your own Rhythm Sudoku puzzle (or for those of you more results-oriented, you can buy ready made ones in my store. But that really does take all of the fun out of it, don't you think?)

A traditional Sudoku grid is 9x9, but we don't need to get quite so involved with ours! Let's make a 4x4 grid to start out. Once your puzzle is complete, you can think of it like a composition with four measures of four beats each.

This will be the most time-consuming portion, but once you get the hang of creating them, you should be able to create a puzzle in a minute or two. 

You have to select four different rhythms to use in your puzzle. Start plugging them in the grid wherever they fit. You can't have the same rhythm twice in any row or column. 

Make sure you make note of what your completed puzzle looks like. Then, you can erase most of the rhythms so that your puzzle is ready! The more squares you erase, the more difficult your puzzle will be. For beginner level puzzles, I like to make it so that at least one row or column can be solved immediately.

Once you have created your puzzle, you are ready to share with your students. I like to create several puzzles of increasing difficulty levels to challenge my students as they are ready. Once they have solved the whole puzzle, they have a grid of music notation, which can be used for reading practice.

You can read them the "right way," as in read each beat from left to right. Or, for more crazy fun, you can read the lines backwards. Or you can read the columns going up or down. There are so many different combinations and ways to interact with the completed puzzle grid! It's a surefire way to keep kids curious and engaged while reciting rhythm syllables!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

31 Days of Rhythm: Prepare Quarter Notes and Eighth Notes using In the Hall of the Mountain King

This has to be one of my favorite pieces of music to use in my teaching. I love to use classical pieces that my students immediately recognize. They are so much more engaged when they've heard the piece in their lives already.

In this piece, there are just so many great musical concepts just waiting to be unpacked: tempo, dynamics, orchestral instruments, storytelling, pitch, and of course, rhythm. The clear rhythmic motive in this piece is so catchy and accessible for even my youngest students.

For our MIOSM blog series, I am sharing how I use this piece to prepare my young students for quarter note and barred eighth notes. Here are a few different tried-and-true ways to use it:

1. One of my favorite ways to introduce the piece is to play a recording of it while dramatically telling them the story of Peer Gynt’s attempt to flee from the trolls. I think that storytelling is one of the most overlooked aspects of our craft. It is arguably the oldest form of human expression, and I love being able to get my students' attention and help them hone their aural skills by telling them stories.

(If your school and administration is super open-minded, perhaps you could also play them this terrifying video? Just kidding. Don’t show this video unless you want angry parents calling you demanding to know why you showed their child this demonic video in music class.)  

Anyway, while I tell them the story, I begin chanting “tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe, troll” to the rhythm while our hero tries to escape. When the tempo and dynamics increase, I change it to “run run, run run, run run, troll!” It doesn’t take long before all of my students are chanting it along with me. Most are also singing along to the melody.

2. In a previous blog post, Listening Lessons Three Ways, I shared an awesome tool that was given to me by a former teacher: she calls it her "Marauders Map". It is actually two long paper rolls (they are a few feet wide and look great up on a chalkboard or dry erase board.) I start with the iconic notation and then when I'm ready to actually present quarter and eighth notes, I'll put the other one up side-by-side to compare.

3. In case you don't want to make your own map, here is a free printable/projectable one that I created using iconic notation:

4. Another fun activity to do with “Mountain King” is compare it to Mary Had A Little Lamb. I challenge my students to see if they can sing the lyrics to “Mary Had A Little Lamb" to the melody of "Mountain King." The same can also be done using "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and it's fun to try and do the movements faster and faster with the accelerando in the piece.

5. One of the things that makes "In the Hall of the Mountain King" so accessible for students is the fact that it is so pervasive in popular culture. It's been covered and re-recorded by a number of popular artists and it is frequently heard in TV and movies. I've been told it is sampled in the song "Hair Up" from the new Trolls movie (how appropriate given the subject matter.)

No matter the source, there is a good chance that your students will recognize the tune when they hear it in class, and that is a great way to get them engaged in the lesson! 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And the Zazzle winners are...

Congratulations to the three winners of my Zazzle Pin-to-Win contest! If you were a winner, check your email for the next step to claim your prize!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for participating!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Music on Wheels: The School is Your Classroom

As a teacher on a cart, it can be hard to do all of the folk dances, play parties, and movement activities that are crucial components of a music curriculum. I recently guest posted on the TpT Music Crew Blog about some fun, new ways to incorporate movement into the music room. But how can we manage to do all that when we don't have a nice open music classroom? I think the solution to this problem requires a slight change of perspective: instead of thinking that you don't have a classroom, think of the entire school as your classroom!

The School is Your Classroom

I am in the middle of preparing sixteenth notes with my third graders and we've been gradually learning more and more moves to the song "Old Brass Wagon." Today I wanted to teach them "promenade," which for this song would involve them crossing hands with a partner and then walking in a big circle.

I walked into their classroom and saw the teacher had rearranged all of their desks into rows for an upcoming math assessment. I sighed and momentarily considered ditching my plans to do that dance and considered teaching something else instead. However, after collecting my thoughts and thinking about how important it is that they get this movement experience, I got to work. The kids and their teacher were at lunch, so it was just me in the room. I moved all 20-something desks over to one side of the classroom so that we would have enough space. Was it a pain in the rear? Yes. Do I regret it? Not at all. 

Of course, with more advanced notice I could have recruited some student volunteers to move the desks over and help me adapt the space to suit my needs. However, I made a decision to do the dance today no matter what. 

It can be so easy to get discouraged when teaching on a cart situation because it feels like you have nowhere to go. Instead, I've learned to change my perspective and realize that I can go wherever I think will best meet my students' needs! When we are dancing in a longways set, we go make our two rows in the hallway! When we need to make a big circle, we do it wherever we will fit. A few Halloweens ago, I had a class of fifth graders learning the Thriller Dance in the middle of the library because it was the best space available at the time. 

Today, when one of the third graders walked into the room and saw that I had moved all of their desks to the side, she looked at me suspiciously. "Mrs. Tanenblatt," she asked, "did you get permission from our teacher to move the desks?" All I said to her was, "I'm a teacher at this school, too. I don't need permission." 

Of course, I have developed a good enough rapport with most of my colleagues at this school that I know I don't need to ask permission for that kind of thing. It's safe for me to just go ahead and do it and "beg forgiveness" later if I messed up where desks or chairs were supposed to go. I strongly recommend making sure you've had conversations with your colleagues about your intentions if you're going to start teaching in random places and rearranging furniture. I've found that a simple "heads up" email is usually more than enough to make it clear that you have a job to do and will need to make some adjustments to the space in order to do it.

What's the most "creative" place in the school you have taught? 

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Introducing Mrs. Tanenblatt on Zazzle!

Hello, everyone! In my last post, I hinted that I would have a fun announcement on my blog soon. So here it is: I opened a store on Zazzle

If you're unfamiliar with Zazzle, it's a huge online market place where I'm excited to be selling some products for music educators!


To celebrate the launch of my new store, I'm hosting a giveaway of one of my new products: music teacher bumper stickers!

I have THREE separate bumper stickers to give away, so I'll be selecting three winners from the people who enter using the rafflecopter form at the bottom of this page. To enter, you will need a Pinterest account (plus bonus points you can earn from other social media profiles.)

For details about how to enter the giveaway and a little backstory on my store, please check out the following video:

I hope you like the options I have available in my store. If you have another idea that you don't see listed on there, please let me know and I'll try to design something to suit your needs as a music educator! You can email me, rdtanenblatt(at), and I'd be happy to talk to you more about your ideas.

In the meantime, please enter my giveaway to win a Music Teacher bumper sticker! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Introducing the TpT Music Crew

Have you heard the news? There is a new collective of Music Sellers on Teachers Pay Teachers! We call ourselves the TpT Music Crew, and we are working together to collaboratively bring you the best resources for your classroom. If you hop on over to our site right now, you'll see that we're about to hit the road and travel to three music teaching state conferences this winter. If you live in the Southern US, you might want to go see if we are going to be coming to a convention center near you!

And if you're not in the South, you can still subscribe to our newsletter and follow our social media to get helpful teaching tips and great promotions. And did I mention that we also have a blog? If you check out the most recent blog post right now, you might see someone you recognize! (Spoiler alert: it's me.) 

I hope you're as excited about this new venture as I am! But don't worry: Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt isn't going anywhere! You can still read my blog for some of my very favorite teaching ideas and reflections. In fact, stay tuned for a fun announcement and giveaway some time in the next week or so...

Until then, have a great week!