Monday, August 29, 2016

Take Part In A Musical Year! Bulletin Board


Take Part In A Musical Year bulletin board for orchestra beginning of the year


For this fall, I played on the words "take part" as an opportunity to display instrument and bow parts.  I don't mind puns when I can use them as a learning opportunity :)  And a special thanks to my mom who came up with the phrase...I knew I wanted to do something with instrument parts, but couldn't think of a good back-to-school phrase.

My mom and I used the overhead projector to trace the instruments onto poster board, and then I outlined them in permanent marker and filled them in with water colors.  On the bulletin board itself, I stapled black yarn to connect each instrument part to its label.  I really like how this one turned out!  Now as students in all grade levels are walking to and from music class, they might pick up a few new vocabulary words and have a greater appreciation for all that orchestra students are learning about next door in orchestra.



Take Part In A Musical Year bulletin board for orchestra beginning of the year


Take Part In A Musical Year bulletin board for orchestra beginning of the year


Take Part In A Musical Year bulletin board for orchestra beginning of the year


Take Part In A Musical Year bulletin board for orchestra beginning of the year


Take Part In A Musical Year bulletin board for orchestra beginning of the year



Thursday, August 25, 2016

What Will YOU Create This Year? Bulletin Board


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


For this back-to-school bulletin board, I browsed through manuscripts on imslp.org, eventually ending up choosing works by Bach, Brahms, Paganini, and Sousa.  It's neat to see the handwriting from these different composers, and students are encouraged to imagine all that they will create and achieve (music-related and otherwise) in the coming school year.  Win-win!


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music


What Will YOU Create This Year--beginning of the year bulletin board orchestra/band/music



Monday, August 22, 2016

Small Group Learning--Creating a Rotating Schedule


Elementary orchestra sample small group instruction rotation schedule


My elementary orchestra students have their small group learning ("small groups") once a week for 30 minutes on a rotating basis.  Notice that this is called "small group learning" rather than "lessons."  The term "lessons" suggests one-on-one time with a private teacher, performance-based, outside the school day, and generally paid for by the student's family.  What I teach is a comprehensive musical education where students are composing, learning about history and culture, listening, writing, etc. as well as technique and musical literature.  The careful choice of "small groups" and not "lessons" helps to reflect what students are actually doing in orchestra and helps to validate orchestra as part of a well-rounded education.

Anyway, during my first year of teaching, I created a semester-long small group rotation and posted it outside the orchestra room and inside each classroom.  However, I quickly realized that field trips, school assemblies, standardized tests as well as simply getting to know the students better and changing enrollment meant that ongoing adjustments would need to be made.  I have since switched to posting a monthly schedule, which allows me more flexibility with scheduling around conflicts and modifying small group personnel as needed.

Students know to check the schedule each week to know when their small group time is that week, and at the end of the month, I simply post the new schedule.  Sometimes there are still last-minute changes such as when an assembly is scheduled after the monthly orchestra schedule has been posted or I find out about a field trip a few days before, but then I just pencil in the corrections.  I make sure that every student has a small group time each week, which means that some weeks have "combined small groups" to fit everyone in when a block of time is not open for orchestra that week.  Students get a kick out of the few times they have "giant small groups" with perhaps up to three groups scheduled at once.

These schedules can be tricky to visually decipher by students, so I intentionally label each group with a letter, spell out the month (instead of using numbers), include the day of the week, and then finally the time.  Otherwise, numbering the groups and referring to the month by its number results in a lot of numbers on the page and a bit of confusion on the part of the students.  At the beginning of the year, I coach students to check their small group letter first, then find the date, then read down to locate their small group letter and finally over to see what time they have orchestra.  My goal, of course, is for students to independently check the schedule each week and come at their scheduled time with the other students in their group.  I also cross out the day's column at the end of the day so it's easier to quickly find the current day next week.

When I figure out the rotations, instead of just moving each small group down to the next slot for the next week, I like to skip a couple of spots, usually three, so I can avoid having a student miss the same subject multiple weeks in a row.  Otherwise they may miss the first part of, say, math one week and the second part of math the next week.  Of course, sometimes this is unavoidable due to limitations of scheduling combined groups when standardized testing wipes out a few slots and then there's an assembly at the end of the day, but I do my best to keep the schedule rotating evenly.  Skipping a couple of spots also creates more variety for the students with regard to having morning or afternoon small groups rather than staying stuck on morning times for an entire month.


Things to include:
  • School/Grade level (name of ensemble)
  • Month
  • Upcoming concert dates and other important events
  • The table itself
  • Small group assignments (by letter and instrument)--list students' first names and homeroom teacher
  • Disclaimer that the schedule is subject to change and that students and teachers will be notified

I've also started including a picture of a composer whose birthday falls during the given month just as a way to visually differentiate between the old- and new-month's schedules and as another exposure for my students to composers.  I had been using clip art for each month, but I like the composer pictures for now.

I also color code each orchestra's schedule for easy identification by students and myself.  I teach two grade levels at two schools, and all my schedules, attendance sheets, and grade sheets are all color-coded by ensemble.  They are posted outside the orchestra room and at a designated location in each of the classrooms, which just takes a few minutes to change at the end of each month.  These are also posted on my school website as PDFs so families can access them from home, if desired.

Here is a totally generic sample small-group schedule that can be modified to match your teaching schedule:


Enjoy!


Elementary orchestra sample small group instruction rotation schedule


Elementary orchestra sample small group instruction rotation schedule


Monday, August 15, 2016

Tempo Markings


Tempo markings bulletin board

Here's a simple bulletin board using the three colors of lights on a traffic light to correspond to a different tempo marking: Andante, Moderato, Allegro.  My students tend to get Andante and Allegro (the two tempo markings that we study that start with "A") mixed up, so I'm hoping that the green corresponding to the fast, happy Allegro marking and the red for Andante (which I'll have to be sure and explain that it doesn't actually mean stop in this instance) with Moderato right in the middle will help students keep these straight.

Monday, August 8, 2016

"Field Trips"


World map in orchestra classroom for field trips


We go on a lot of "field trips" during small groups in orchestra throughout the school year.  It's gotten to the point where one of my students sings his own field trip traveling music complete with train whistling sounds :)

Here are the different destinations for our in-class field trips:
  • World map--point out where a composer is from or a folk song that we are learning to play
  • Keyboard--learn to find the notes that correspond to the open strings or play the scale we are studying on our string instruments or the notes on a given string
  • White board--write in rhythms together on the board or practice drawing musical symbols together
  • Solfege scale ladder--work as a group to unscramble and attach the notes of a scale in order
  • My laptop--to watch a YouTube video of a piece we are studying (sometimes over several weeks students will be introduced to a couple different performances or versions) or as an introduction to using Finale Notepad.  After walking through how to set up a new document in Notepad, each student types in a measure's worth of notes and then we all get a kick out of hearing it played it back.  Students are impressed to learn the secret to how their compositions get transformed into the typed up composition packets I create for them.

Sometimes we'll pack up at the end of small groups and then come over to my lap top to watch something so that the next group of students can quietly come in and get unpacked while we're finishing up.  Usually, though, the field trip happens in the middle of small groups to get kids moving and out of their seats for a little bit and break the half hour up.  Learning in orchestra is so much more than learning how to play a string instrument, and I try to create a rich learning environment where students experience so many different layers of what it means to study music.


Solfege scale ladder in orchestra classroom for field trips


Solfege scale ladder in orchestra classroom for field trips


keyboard in orchestra classroom used for field trips


keyboard in orchestra classroom used for field trips