Saturday, January 25, 2014

Winter Games for the Music Classroom - 'Music Olympics' Ideas

This month I've been working with an amazingly receptive and creative elementary school faculty, and it has been invigorating! (A shout-out to these wonderful teachers and their administrator!) The only downside is that I've had very little time to blog or work on personal projects. But with the Winter Olympics coming up, I do want to post a few favorite ideas and let my followers know about my Winter Games sets.

My students and I have had a lot of fun and success with a 'Music Olympics' theme, based on both summer and winter events. And the teachers I've shared this with have reported great success as well. Here's an outline of some of my favorite activities:
A few of my printables and medals made from chocolate coins.
I create an 'OPENING CEREMONY' by having students move to a piece composed for the Olympics. My favorite pieces for this segment are Leo Arnaud's "Bugler's Dream" and John Williams' "Call of the the Champions" and "Olympic Spirit." 

Whether I have the children march and wave small flags (which I use for patriotic programs), move freely with ribbons, or engage them in choreographing a piece, my main objectives are to have them experience and express the joy and majesty of these pieces and hear the music multiple times. Once they've experienced the music and developed positive feelings about it, we are ready to explore the elements embedded in the music: rhythm, melody, texture, timbre, dynamics, etc. I do this simply and actively, often by challenging them to order cards containing melody, rhythm, or form patterns. Some Olympic melodic themes are very simple (even pentatonic). What a thrill for the kiddos to discover this!  

Next, I introduce (or review) common competitive events by showing brief video clips from the Official Olympics Website or YouTube. One really fun (and easy) activity I've done involves turning off the sound and having students create a soundtrack for the video clip. (I have also used the soundtrack technique at a much deeper level with middle and high school instrumental students.) Here's a sample sound track with graphic notation:

On the same day (or the next if time runs short) I give students text-based rhythm cards (with winter games words), which they use to compose measures. I have students add actions to their words/rhythms and perform them/teach them to the class. Being passionate about teaching composition early, I then have students combine their patterns to create various A-B forms or rondos. 

In a subsequent lesson(s), I create 'Music Olympics' centers, through which small groups rotate. Students actually work quite hard in these, but the novel activities feel like play. Some of the activities I use include note-placement on a floor staff (curling), slalom (racing through a course of music symbols), meter races (placing barlines), vocal explorations (half pipe or aerials), and note-spelling down a 'luge' course, etc.

I create medals (for everyone) with ribbon and foil-covered chocolate coins... so cute! You can also purchase inexpensive (plastic) medals through Party Land or Oriental Trading. 

Slalom Center
Speed Skating Center

I hope these ideas inspire you to try something like this with your students. It can be a lot of work, but it's worth it... and hey, it doesn't have to be a lot of work because... this year, I finally compiled three 'Winter Games' packets! These contain my best 'Winter Games' ideas, detailed teaching guides, links to resources including an online playlist, and a lot of useful ready-to-go printables -- everything needed to 'host' a great event (one day or several lessons). If you're thinking of doing a 'Music Olympics' this year or 'Winter Games' any year, please check out my materials. I've really put a lot of work into these so you won't have to, and I think you and your students will have great success with them. Thanks for stopping by!

Winter Games Centers or Whole-Class Activities

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Music Literacy Activities for Chinese New Year

Happy New Year! I hope your holidays have been joyful and rejuvenating. Mine were wonderful and filled with family fun. And now it's back to work for me... At least I'm passionate about what I do! : )

I am excited about some music activities related to Chinese New Year and the Chinese Zodiac, which I'll be doing in January and February. I have recently completed a packet of music literacy activities for Chinese New Year and two related, educational games for classroom projection or computer center. 

Chinese New Year begins on January 31, this year (2014) and continues through February 14th. (It always begins on the second new moon/no moon after Winter Solstice.) This holiday inspires many cultural and musical connections. Here are a few integration ideas and a printable music activity freebie (grayscale option and more links below):

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important holiday in the Chinese calendar. In China, people take time off work (sometimes several weeks) to get ready for and celebrate the New Year. Chinese New Year is also called "Spring Festival' because people are preparing to say goodbye to winter and greet the 'new' year (spring).  These are some things people do to celebrate Chinese New Year:
     Have family reunion feasts

     Decorate with poems on red paper
     Give money in red envelopes
     Shoot off or watch fireworks (to scare away evil spirits)
     Wear red clothing 

          (Red represents fire which can keep bad luck away.)
     Clean their houses to sweep away any bad fortune and make room

          for good luck
     Participate in the Lantern Festival (On the 15th day, people hang

          lanterns in temples and carry them to an evening parade.)
     Participate in a Dragon Dance or parade (This is the highlight of

          the Lantern Festival on the 15th day. Long dragons made of paper,
          silk, and bamboo are held in the air by a line of dancing young men
          who wind through the streets of the town.)

Consider which of these activities could be adapted and added to enhance students' enjoyment and understanding, e.g. wear red clothing, clean the classroom, create poems or red paper, create and decorate paper lanterns, or create a long paper dragon and a dragon dance. 
Have children move/dance to recorded music such as "Dragon Dance" by Heritage Dragon, "Dragon Dance – Festival Celebration" by Hanshin Chinese Folk and Dance Ensemble, or Ballad of Four Seasons by Hanshin Chinese Folk Ensemble.

Here's a link to an excellent post about Chinese New Year music:

When I found some darling Chinese Zodiac clip art on Etsy by ElsyDesign, I was inspired to get busy and update my oldie-but-goodie ideas as well as create some new digital and printable materials. 

Here's a link to a simple but very useful FREEBIE printable, which you can use to create rhythm patterns based on the syllables of the Chinese Zodiac animals. This will help your students practice simple rhythms (ta, ti-ti, rest combinations) while making cultural and calendar connections. Print, cut, and put in envelopes to create center activities such as (1) syllabic rhythm sorting and (2) measure-making, or (3) give one card to each student and have students form groups of four to create and perform measures of rhythm. 

Chinese Zodiac Rhythm Cards - Freebie on TPT
Pentatonic Memory Game using the Chinese Zodiac

These syllabic-rhythm cards are a natural and engaging extension for my Chinese New Year Measure-Maker:
Chinese New Year Measure Maker
The rhythm cards are a sample page from my 32-page set of Music Literacy Activities to Celebrate Chinese New Year. In this set, I include a variety of eye-catching printables with instructions for whole-class and center games/ activities, additional resources and suggested curriculum connections.
Music Literacy Acitivites to Celebrate Chinese New Year
 I have also created a great game for projection or computer center with the Chinese Zodiac/New Year theme, which includes sound clips of the melody patterns:  

Happy New Year, and happy Chinese New Year!