Monday, January 30, 2017

Celebrate Music with these Great Americans! Bulletin Board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board



With February being Black History Month, I wanted to create a bulletin board highlighting musicians and came up with the title "Celebrate music with these great Americans!"  It was hard to narrow the selection of who to include, so I think I will switch out some names halfway through the month (they won't all fit on my bulletin board at one time...).

I printed out the "condensed" file, trimmed and laminated each half sheet, and then attached them to a folded piece of colored paper.  If you'd rather save some steps, just print out the "double sided" file, fold each page in half, and you're ready to staple them to the bulletin board!

For each musician, I included their name and picture on the front and then their name/nickname, dates, instrument, profession, genre, and one famous title when you lift up the flap.

Here are the 24 musicians included (feel free to add your own):
  • Louis Armstrong
  • Chuck Berry
  • James Brown 
  • Regina Carter
  • Nat King Cole
  • John Coltrane
  • Duke Ellington
  • Ella Fitzgerald
  • Aretha Franklin
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • Billie Holiday
  • Scott Joplin
  • B.B. King
  • Wynton Marsalis
  • Bobby McFerrin
  • Jelly Roll Morton
  • Thelonious Monk
  • Charlie Parker
  • Florence Beatrice Price
  • Bessie Smith
  • William Grant Still 
  • Sarah Vaughan
  • Fats Waller

Celebrate music with these great Americans--heading

Names, pictures, and trivia (condensed)

Names, pictures, and trivia (print double sided)

Enjoy!


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board


Black History Month: Celebrate music with these great Americans! bulletin board



Monday, January 16, 2017

String Fest Reflection Letters



String Fest concert reflection letter

Our annual district-wide String Fest field trip and concert is done for another year!  Instead of having students write up a reflection sheet to share their thoughts about their experience, this year elementary orchestra students wrote letters to the middle and high school orchestra students.  They answered essentially the same questions I would have asked them anyway, but this way they were able to communicate with students they performed alongside last week.  We took a large chunk of time during full orchestra to write letters, and I graded them based on how many questions were responded to in the letter.  Next, I sent them to our middle and high school teachers to distribute to their students.  Hoping we'll get a response!  Students really got into this writing assignment because they knew they were writing to real people--some even addressed their letter to an older sibling or neighbor in orchestra :)



String Fest concert reflection letter


String Fest concert reflection letter


String Fest concert reflection letter

String Fest concert reflection letter

Monday, January 2, 2017

Inspirational Quotes for the New Year Bulletin Board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Happy New Year! For my first bulletin board of 2017, I displayed four inspirational quotes with images of fireworks.  For the two shorter quotes, I used my mom's Cricut to cut out the large letters, and then I just printed out the longer quotes.  A few colorful markers brightened up the fireworks, and then colored borders matched each quote to its author.

Quotes included:

"Whatever you are, be a good one."
—Abraham Lincoln

"Be yourself; everyone else is already taken."
—Oscar Wilde

"The expert in anything was once a beginner."
—Helen Hayes

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think."
—A.A. Milne


Happy 2017!

Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board


Inspirational quotes, New Year's bulletin board




Monday, December 19, 2016

Blue Danube Arrangement


Blue Danube sheet music arrangement beginning orchestra


Here's another arrangement I've written for this year's String Fest.  I've included two sections plus a DC al Fine to end up with an ABA form for "Blue Danube Waltz."  The intermediate parts give the melody to violas and cellos in the A section and to violins in the B section, while the basses get a more traditional bass part.  Harmony parts are either "boom" or "chick-chick," intentionally simple so we can spend more time working on the melody parts in small groups.  Violas and cellos have to play C# on the G string, while violins go up to F# on the E string.  All intermediate parts (except basses) include slurs.  I've also written parts for a beginning orchestra.  The A section is a simplified melody with notes on the D and A strings, and the B section is mostly open strings.  While the intermediate arrangement can stand alone, the beginning orchestra arrangement needs the addition of the intermediate arrangement to fill it out (and to provide a melody for the B section).

I introduced this piece to my sixth graders by listening to a recording of this famous Strauss waltz.  Many students had heard it before and were excited to be learning this piece in orchestra.  Students also learned how to dance a waltz--"forward-side-together, back-side-together" starting on left foot for the leader or "back-side-together, forward-side-together" starting on right foot for the follower.  A few kids partnered up and tried the dance together, while everyone else was content to just try the steps themselves.

Sheet music (all PDFs):



Audio (WAV files) to preview or for students to play along with to practice:



Intermediate melody (first 4 lines only), which I used when introducing the piece:



Again, I like to use clip art instead of labeling parts "beginning" and "intermediate," so you'll see matching images within the beginning and intermediate parts and scores.


Blue Danube sheet music arrangement beginning orchestra

Monday, December 5, 2016

Les Toreadors Arrangement


Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for beginning orchestra

My district has an annual String Fest, where all the orchestra students in the district get together for a day of rehearsing and listening with a big concert that evening in the field house.  Each grade level orchestra is featured for a piece or two, and then everyone plays a combined piece as the grand finale.  This grand finale piece has to be playable for first-year string players but still interesting to high school musicians.  My solution this year has been to arrange sections of "Les Toreadors" from Carmen by Georges Bizet in a multi-level format.  I did transpose it to D Major from its original A Major to make it friendlier for the beginners, and I shortened the movement to a simple ABA form.

Overview of parts:

  • The beginning students get a simplified unison version with limited range--mostly D string notes plus a section with  hopping 2nd finger notes (B on the G string and C# on the A string) and open G.  
  • The elementary (second-year) parts have the same simplified rhythms but an expanded range--mostly notes from the D Major scale plus the bass part gets some 2nd finger notes and a fun chromatic passage.  I also included "challenge" intermediate parts which include more finger work, more eighth notes, and a slightly wider range to sound more like the original melody.  The "B" section is the same between the regular and challenge parts.  The different voices would be regular parts (vln/vla/cello basically in unison), challenge parts (vln/vla/cello basically in unison), bass part.
  • And then the advanced parts come from Bizet's original, just transposed to D Major.


Here are the openings for the different violin parts for comparison...

Beginning orchestra:

Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for beginning orchestra

 Intermediate orchestra (regular part)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra

Intermediate orchestra (challenge part)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra

Advanced orchestra (Violin I)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra

Advanced orchestra (Violin II)
Les Toreadors sheet music arrangement for intermediate orchestra


Sheet music (all PDFs):

Audio (WAV files) to preview or for students to play along with to practice:


Intermediate melody (first 4 lines only) and challenge part (first 4 lines only), which I used when introducing the piece:

With all the different versions, you can mix and match to differentiate for individual students.  I like to use clip art instead of labeling parts "beginning" and "intermediate" etc., so you'll see matching images within the beginning and intermediate parts and scores.

Feel free to try out with your orchestras!


Monday, November 21, 2016

Transposition


Transposing: Transposition card for elementary orchestra



During sixth grade orchestra, students study the keys of D, G, and C Major.  Students play scales, write compositions, and perform pieces in each of those keys throughout the school year.  At the end of the year, we make connections between the three keys by transposing melodies from one key to another.  We talk through a worksheet together (I usually don't take the time to have students write out all the transpositions on the worksheet, though at least they have the sheet if they'd like a reference or to fill it out on their own later), and we use the solfege Velcro scales as a visual to move from one key to another.  The opening to "Frere Jacques" is the melody we work through together.

Next, I bring out the laminated transposition cards.  These are color-coded by clef, which makes for easy sorting.  Each student gets a different card, and they follow the directions, playing the melody as given and then transposing it to the two other keys starting on the given pitch.  Once completed, students can trade their card in for a different one.

There is a bit of range between "easier" and more challenging melodies as well as between very familiar melodies and not-so-familiar ones, so I take that into consideration when I'm passing out the initial transposition cards.

If I were to adjust these transposition cards, I'd write in the starting solfege syllable for clarity.  While the instructions do say which pitch to start on, students don't always realize that a piece doesn't necessarily start on "Do" and try to start a piece that begins on "Mi" on a G in G Major, for example, instead of a B.  Still, most students have success working through these cards either on their own or with my support.

There are options about which octave to start in, and some students make the connection quickly that many of these can be played with the same fingering but up or down a string.  Once they have caught on to that, I'll have students play up or down an octave so that the fingering will have to change (which usually means that the low second finger will be needed).

While we don't spend very much time on this unit, I like how it ties the whole year together and students can see how they can move between keys.  Students enjoy looking through the different cards and choosing their favorite melodies to transpose--and they enjoy the satisfaction of successfully playing their melody in the various keys.

Transposition handout:

Transposition cards with melodies and directions:

Melodies included (in no particular order):
  • Mary Had a Little Lamb
  • Largo from the New World Symphony
  • America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)
  • Ode to Joy
  • Yankee Doodle
  • Long Long Ago
  • French Folk Song
  • Mattachins (Sword Dance)
  • The Alphabet Song
  • Yankee Doodle

Others that I have since typed up, but aren't included here are:
  • Happy Birthday
  • Spring
  • Jingle Bells

Enjoy!


Transposing: Transposition card for elementary orchestra


Transposition worksheet with major scales for elementary orchestra



Transposing: Transposition card for elementary orchestra


Transposing: Velcro Solfege Scales


Transposing: Transposition card for elementary orchestra

Monday, November 7, 2016

Playing Checkups



Elementary orchestra playing checkup assessment sheet


From time to time, we have checkup days in small groups, where each student plays for me individually and then I can give some one-on-one feedback to each student.  I prefer to emphasize the value of the individualized feedback, talking about what's going well and where there is room for improvement, rather than calling it a playing test and emphasizing the grade part of it.  I do enter grades from these checkups, but I don't think that's as useful to students as the one-on-one mini-lesson part of it.  I try to keep the atmosphere relaxed, low-key, and positive to keep students from feeling too anxious or nervous.

I usually pair checkup days with compositions--I get everyone started on their compositions and then I ask who would like to play first while the others begin work on their compositions.

I've created a generic checkup sheet that can be easily modified.  I like to put the grade level and name of piece on the top.  I also add a 4/3/2/1 for each characteristic listed; it's quick to circle numbers for each bullet point.  I write in the student name and instrument ahead of time, and I have the sheets already in the order I'll be seeing students that day so I don't have to take any time writing names or digging for the right slip.

While students are playing, I will circle numbers, underline phrases, and write specific comments.  Afterwards, we have a quick conference, talking through the comments I wrote and trying out the comments I had.  It really is like a mini-lesson.  I keep the slip long enough to make a copy of everyone's for myself (to record grades into my grade book later), and then I return the originals to students hopefully by the end of the same day so they can be a reference during home practice.

My district uses achievement based grading, so I enter 4s, 3s, 2s, or 1s into whichever categories are being recorded.

Checkup sheet (generic)


Feel free to modify and use with your students!

Elementary orchestra playing checkup assessment sheet


Elementary orchestra playing checkup assessment sheet