August 2014 Music Education Blog carnival


This blog carnival is a collection of posts about teaching music. The blogs were submitted by a variety of people in the music education community over the past month. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this month’s carnival! You can go back and read the posts from June (Host: Justine Dolorfino) and July (Host: Aileen Miracle). September’s carnival will be hosted by Amy Willis Burns. If you are able to host one month, please contact Justine here.

Recycled Percussion by Catie Dwinal (@musiccargirl14)- Through the Quaver Curriculum, students learn about instrument families and get to create their own instruments using left-over office supplies. 

Puppets – A Newfound Love by Christine Skog (@msmusic4life88) – Use stuffed animals (beat buddies), puppets and finger puppets to help students with beat, form, and solo singing.

BAG No More by Jennifer at The Yellow Brick Road (@theylbrickroad)- A different approach to beginning recorder connecting literacy and solfege with instrumental technique.

Best Notation Apps for iPad by Katie Wardrobe (@katiesw1) – A review of Noteflight, Notion, and Notate Me for use on iPads by teachers and students.

3 Summer Practice Tips for Young Musicians by Donna Schwartz (@donnasax)- Tips to share with students to keep them motivated to practice during summer (and other) breaks.

Cross Curricular by Any Other Name is…Cross-Curricular by Karen Stafford – Thoughts on integrating music with other subjects both in the music room and regular classroom, keeping learning relevant and interesting.

10 Strategies for Rhythmic Reading and Writing by Aileen Miracle (@aileenmiracle) – 10 activities to engage students in reading and writing rhythms using manipulatives, games, whiteboards and flashcards.

STOMP: A Rhythm Composition Unit by Jennifer Chobotiuk (@musicmom99) – Create rhythmic compositions in the style of the musical group “STOMP” using everyday objects. 

Carnival of the Animals – Piano Carnival by Anne Lyon – Use the free iPad app “Piano Carnival” to learn about Saint-Saen’s “Carnival of the Animals” using pictures, videos, and music. 

Questions to Ponder as You Setup Your Music Classroom by Tracy King (@tracyking)- Guiding questions and suggestions to help teachers create an organized, functional space for a variety of music classes. 

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STOMP: A Rhythm Composition Unit

This is my favourite scene from the video “STOMP: Out Loud.” 

Each year I show the video to my grade 6 classes and have them create their own performance. I find the students love the complicated rhythms, funny “scenes” and wide variety of “instruments”.

I begin by explaining that STOMP is a group of musicians and dancers who create music using everyday objects. Then we watch the video, which I purchased many years ago when I created the project.

While they watch, I have them document as many “instruments” as they can and I leave them with the question “Why do the performers need to trust each other?”

STOMP Worksheet

Often students find themselves tapping along with the video & joining in with the audience portion at the end. They always have insightful answers about the trust question as well.

Next comes the fun (and very noisy) part! I have the students get into groups and create their own STOMP-inspired scenes:

STOMP Performance Project

I do not allow students to use anything that belongs to the school. (It is amazing how quickly the class garbage bin gets dented!) And I remind them that before they bring things from home they must have their parents’ permission. I bring the contents of my recycling bin from home, just in case students forget to bring something – and I remind them that they can always use body percussion. I have had a wide variety of objects arrive in my room: plastic containers, cutlery, hockey sticks, soccer balls, pots, pans, tap shoes, and even a giant prop fork! 

I find the students need about three to four 45 minute classes to have a piece ready to perform for the class. I spend time with each group coaching them through the creative process. Some groups need help starting, others get stuck on only one rhythmic idea, some focus too much on the “scene” and not enough on the sound, and some require assistance in mediation.

I always record the groups on performance day. The next class is spent watching the performances so the students can do a self/group assessment. It is fun to hear a student, after watching herself, say, “That sounded better than I thought it would!” 

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Calling All Music Education Bloggers

Come one, come all!

In June Justine Dolorfino brought back the Music Education Blog Carnival.

July’s carnival was hosted by Aileen Miracle.

Now it is my turn to host. If you have a music education related blog post that you would like to submit during the month of July, please leave a comment below or send me a tweet. (@musicmom99)

I’m looking forward to reading all your submissions!!

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How To Teach A Song Without Teaching The Song

How do you choose and rehearse a song with an entire grade when you don’t get to teach any of the classes? This is the challenge I was issued this year. Thanks to advances in technology and the collaboration of my colleagues I believe I found a way to meet the challenge!

Due to a scheduling issue I taught my grade 7 music classes on a semester system this year. I saw two of the classes for the first half of the year and I saw the third class for the second half of the year. Add to this many lost classes for special events and I had very few actual lessons with each group. This complicated things when it was time to choose and rehearse a song for the entire grade to sing at their grad.

I chose to survey the class using Google forms. I sent this form to the entire grade a few weeks ago and gave them a week to respond. A number of students sent song suggestions and a few even emailed me rewritten lyrics.

Once I had a list of songs from the students I shared a Google Doc with all of the song suggestions including links to each original song on Grooveshark and the rewritten lyrics. The students had a few days to listen to the choices and read through the lyrics. Then I sent the students this form to collect their votes and ask for volunteer musicians.

Finally we had a student selected song and a group of students who will play the accompaniment on piano, bass and drums. I’ve shared the song lyrics with a link to a karaoke track to each student and to the other grade 7 teachers. I’m lucky to have a great group of colleagues who have been taking time from their lessons to sing through the song with each class. I’ve been meeting with the “band” during lunch breaks to rehearse. I will be recording them and posting the sound file to SoundCloud so the students have a better backing track with which to practice.

In a couple weeks the entire grade will get together to rehearse the song before performing it at their grad. I hope that with all of the prep my colleagues and I have done they will need very little help once they can sing it as an ensemble. I can’t wait to hear the final results! The future is awesome!!

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Just take the compliment!

I am often irritated when people won’t take a compliment. It often seems that when I show my appreciation for something someone has done they come up with excuses as to why their accomplishment isn’t as great as I think it is. Often I find myself quipping, “Just take the compliment!”

I need to listen to my own advice.

Today the school choir which I lead participated in a community event to raise money & food for the local food bank. The choir sang for 15 minutes as part of the entertainment during the event. Once they were finished many parents, organizers & school admin took the time to personally thank me for bringing them to the event. I countered each “thank you” with comments like:

“It’s all part of the job.”

“Thank YOU for bringing your children.”

“The kids have worked so hard.”

Then a member of the admin team said, “I just wanted you to know that we appreciate what you have done.” In my head I could hear “Just take the compliment!” I acknowledged that it was great to be appreciated and that I was happy to help represent the school at the event.

Teachers often put much more into the job than their day to day teaching duties. When others take the time to show appreciation for all the extras we do we need to enjoy the acknowledgement and simply say, “you’re welcome.”

How well do you take a compliment?

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Why Do We Have To Write It Down?

While working on her Poetry & Composition project one of my students asked,

“Why do we have to write it down? I can remember it, I don’t need it written down.”

When my students ask why they need to do something it lets me know that I haven’t covered the objectives of the assignment well enough. I told her it was a great question and decided that we would have a class discussion in which the students could answer the questions together.

I gathered the class together and explained the question that had emerged. We dove into a great discussion about why people write anything down. They came up with four main answers:

  • To remember something
  • To teach something to someone else
  • To communicate 
  • To document & have proof of an event

We discussed many questions:

  • When did people start writing music down?
  • Was music always written in the same way?
  • When a piece of music is performed today, does it sound exactly the same as it did when it was written?
  • How do we write music so that someone else can understand it?

This made me realize that my students were lacking an audience for their writing. I proposed an experiment:

Each group would do a sound recording of their composition and write the music down using invented notation. Then the written music will be given to a group from another class. The new group will try to play the music from the notation and record their version. Then the two versions will be compared.

This new addition to the project gave them an authentic audience for their writing – something I will consider for future projects. I’m very excited to hear the original and new versions of everyone’s work!

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Top Tweets of May


Aileen Miracle is starting a “linky party” for the top tweets of May. Here are my top three tweets:

1. The “Enter Slip”


Read this post by Amanda Stanec about how she uses Enter Slips to help connect with students. This can be a difficult thing to do as a specialist teacher when you only see students once or twice a week.

2. Ending the School Year


Read this post by Catie Dwinal full of great activities to keep music students engaged right to the last day of school. Here is one of my favourite ideas:



3. Sesame Street Aliens Discover Dubstep


This is my just-for-fun post. I loved the original when I was a kid and the remix is even funnier. The kiddos and I watched it over and over, LOL-ing the whole time!

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