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

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