Monday, October 5, 2020

Fingering Chart Displays


Fingering chart violin viola cello bass

After seeing a fingering poster online that another orchestra teacher had created, I knew I wanted to make a set for myself.  I cut strips of black paper at various widths to show the strings from thickest to thinnest (1/4", 1/2", 3/4", 1"), laminated the poster, then used Velcro to mark where each note would go.  Each letter name bubble was cut out, laminated, and Velcro-ed.  I also taped a plastic baggie to the back of the poster to store the unused notes.  At one school, I have a strip of cork board above the white board, so I use a push pin to display the poster.  At the other school, I ran a couple strips of Velcro just above the white board, so I attach those posters with Velcro.

With beginners, I can have all the notes removed to just show the open strings, and then I can add the D string notes as we get there.  With the second-year students, I can start with the D Major scale notes, or show those low 2 notes, or whatever it is we're focusing on.  

This year I'm color-coding the tapes rather than just using black pin striping tape.  For violins/violas, 1 = red, 3 = black, and 4 = blue (no tape for 2).  For cellos, 2nd finger is red, and the rest are black (thumb goes behind red tape).  On bass, first position 1 and 4 are red, and third position 1 and 4 are black.  For the posters, I kept the red paper for the red tape notes and otherwise used blue paper.  Maybe I should have added an extra column for the finger numbers, but for now it's working to stick the numbers on a string that we're not using at the moment.

Open string labels (Word doc)

Open string labels (PDF)

Fingering chart note bubbles and instrument labels (Word doc)--should be enough for two sets; I printed the first page on red paper, the rest on blue--just double check it has all the notes you want

Fingering chart note bubbles and instrument labels (PDF)

Fingering chart violin

Fingering chart violin

fingering chart violin viola cello bass

fingering chart violin viola cello bass

Monday, September 7, 2020

Prepping Folders for Fall 2020

Prepping folders fall 2020

 In preparation for in-person and virtual students in the fall and the possibility of going totally virtual at some point, I prepped folders with all the music/handouts students would need through winter break.  A local music store kindly donates folders each year.  I color-coded papers as I normally would so students can find sheets faster.  To ensure students would have a pencil (as I won't be leaving pencils on the stands for students to share throughout the day this year), I bought boxes of pencils, sharpened them, taped a piece of yarn to them, and taped them to the folder.  To the pockets of the folders, I taped in a "Contents" list and a fingering chart.

So far they're working out fine--and only a few students have totally dumped all the papers on the floor when they were pulling out the pencil.  Not quite sure how they managed that :)

Prepping folders for fall 2020 plus fingering chart

Monday, August 24, 2020

Fingering Charts for Folders

Fingering reference chart violin viola cello bass


This fall I taped fingering charts into the folders for my students as a helpful reference for both my in-person and virtual students.  For second-year students, I included all the notes they should have learned last year and will be learning this year.  For first-year students, I included bubbles for the notes they will be learning this year so students can write them in as they learn them.

I used Finale to make the notes, using the Alpha note feature to add the letter name to the note head.  I made the bar lines and time signature invisible and played around with the spacing to get it to match the fingering chart above.  Then I took a screenshot and pasted that into Word.  For the fingering chart, I used Word and copy/pasted circles for the bubbles and text boxes without a border for the note names.  These just fit on the inside of a folder.  Feel free to edit to include the notes that you would like!

Fingering reference chart (Word document)--all the notes filled out

Fingering reference chart (PDF)

Fingering reference chart violin viola cello bass

Fingering reference chart violin viola cello bass

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

2020 Mask Bulletin Board


My district is planning an in-person return in September.  I'm nervous about this decision, but one small thing I knew I had in my control was the message in my back-to-school bulletin board.  Here's hoping this is the only year I'll have to use this one!

I found a website that lets you resize a picture of a mask to a photo that you upload, so I tried to add a variety of string players and composers. 

Monday, December 9, 2019

Name That Tune--Concert Prep

Name that Tune orchestra lesson plan--concert prep

For our last small group before a concert, we'll often play "Name that Tune."  First we rosin bows as I walk through the call time and concert details with the students.  Then, for "Name that Tune" I'll play a note or two or three of a part of one of their concert pieces.  Once someone correctly identifies the piece, I have students pull out their music to find the measure number(s) of the excerpt, and then we play the whole piece together and touch up whatever needs touching up.

A variation on this game is to make it rhythm only, and I'll clap a distinctive rhythmic pattern from each of their pieces.  Another variation (challenge) would be to include an excerpt or rhythm pattern that a different instrument plays--not a part that the specific kids in that small group play.

I'm often surprised by which students are quickly able to identify the concert piece--they're not always the strongest players--and the students like the game aspect of it (though we do not keep score in any way or recognize winners or anything).  It's also more of a fun way to review the different concert pieces than just playing through everything once more before the concert.

When we play through concert pieces on this day, I like to play a different instrument's part along with the students (like I'll play cello with a violin group or violin with a bass group etc.).  It helps to develop their chamber music skills and makes students more aware of what another instrument is doing while they're playing their part.  And there are always students surprised that I know how to play a different instrument than they're used to seeing me play :)  I also get students who look at the white board when they arrive and ask which song is "Name that Tune"...

At the end of this small group, we'll use a cloth to wipe the rosin dust off our strings and instruments so they're totally set to go for the concert, we'll get our music in concert order, and then I always ask which piece they're each most looking forward to performing at the concert.

What kind of lesson plans work well for you as you approach a concert?

Monday, October 7, 2019

Window Covering

music window covering for door

At my schools, we need to have a window covering handy in case of a lockdown.  I taped a few pieces of construction paper together, laminated them, added stickers, and then used Velcro to attach it to the door: voila!  During the school year, I'll tape student compositions or pictures of students or music quotes so the door is more interesting to look at.

music window covering for door

music window covering for door

music window covering for door

Monday, September 16, 2019

Hall Pass

band orchestra hall pass

I was cleaning out a cabinet the other day and came across these playing card hall passes I forgot I had made :)  These must have been from my first year or two of teaching.  Students come to full orchestra directly from lunch, so I would have made these for students to bring to lunch and show to the lunch supervisors as their hall pass to orchestra (and as a reminder for students not to head out for recess that day).  The playing cards are published by Alfred and feature a composer and bio on one side.  I added the hall pass info on the back side and laminated them.  Students would pick one up the morning they drop off their instrument in the band/orchestra room, and then return their card upon arriving to full band/orchestra.  Now I meet students in the cafeteria, so the cards are not really needed.

band orchestra hall pass

band orchestra hall pass

Since then, one of my schools has bought badge holders (something like this) to use for hall passes, so I color-printed this document double-sided (see below) and delivered a set to each classroom.  Students grab one out of their class basket as they leave for their small group for the week as their hall pass to walk to band or orchestra.

band orchestra hall pass