Beethoven Symphony No. 5

Back at school- a new one this year. I usually do a composer at the beginning of each class. Sometimes it is the composer for a month and other times it might be for just a week. Depends on the composer and how my time is distributed in the month.

To start off the school year I began with Beethoven. Not knowing these students I wanted to start off with a composer I figured they knew. I was correct and they love him. So today I decided to do the Beethoven section from the Playing with the Classics Vol. I by Peggy D. Bennett. I also created a Smart Notebook lesson to go along with it that you can download here.***You will have to attach your own sound files to the lesson but those can be found with the book.

Since the students were already familiar with Beethoven, talking about his music was an easy conversation. I told the students that some composers want us to think about something in particular when we listen to their music but in the piece we were going to listen to no one was really sure what Beethoven was trying to say. We listened and then I asked them what they thought. First graders were not very forthcoming with suggestions and so I asked them if they thought Beethoven was saying "Now go to sleep....." or perhaps "Here comes a storm....". They liked the 2nd suggestion and immediately I had students saying "Here comes a storm...." or their own variation of that sentence. I also noticed they quickly had their hands on the floor tapping out the rhythm pattern. No encouragement needed there! I jumped in though and showed them a different way to use their hands as instructed in the book, tapping and then bringing my hands high like a conductor. They picked it up quickly again. I followed the script in the book, it worked well. The students responded nicely. We listened, did the hand pattern, and then followed the map.

This was a very easy and fun lesson to present. Doesn't take too much time. It was a nice lesson to use after all of our discussion about Beethoven. Gold star for this lesson!

***For some reason, when I save and then open this file in IE, it does not save as a Notebook file. In Mozilla Firefox, no problem. No issues with Chrome either. Go figure.


The Farmer in the Dell and the end of the school year

The end of this school year came faster than I expected. I am leaving my present school and moving to a new school in the diocese. Which means that I had to pack up over 27 years of material. Not so much fun. It was a good time though to clean and purge out those things that have long ago become useless. Lots of recycled things! And since I am at the end of the year, no classes, but as I said I will reflect on past lessons and get some of my files uploaded.

The Farmer in the Dell
I used the Farmer in the Dell from the Song Play book, " a collection of playful songs for ages 4-7, written by 8 Montana educators and compiled and edited by Dr. Peggy Bennett." I love this book and really enjoyed the Farmer in the Dell. This particular version comes with a script for the storytelling of the song. My students loved this even though 99% of them already knew the song. Which I think proves that everyone loves listening to a good story. Good storytelling is whole other discussion but one worthy of investigating. Not today though.

Back to Song Play- I used the story in the book but I also created and used a Smart Notebook lesson file. There is one on the Smart Exchange site if you prefer but you are welcome to access my file here.

During my lesson, I told them the story and then we reviewed through the characters. We stopped and talked about each character. For instance we spent a lot of time discussing farmers; where they lived, what you might find on a farm, what a farmer might grow and so on. We also discussed if a farmer could be a girl or a boy. Each character in the story had many things to talk about and this could easily be an entire lesson just with sharing their thoughts and ideas. Unfortunately, most of us don't have time to hear every comment so you will have to gently set parameters about how many answers you need or tell children that if they did not get to answer they will get to the next time. It is very important that children understand that you respect and value their contributions to the class discussion.

We moved to the song next, sing each part and using the images on the Smart Notebook lesson as a guide. By the time we got to the game the song and story were well established in their minds and we were able to easily play. The Song Play book has wonderful directions and script to go along with this song. This is certainly one of my students favorite lessons.

Hop Old Squirrel Lesson File

Since I am nearing the end of the school year I won't be able to share my classroom happenings. Now would be a good time to start sharing my lesson files. Attached here is a Smart Notebook lesson for the traditional song Hop Old Squirrel. This is a lesson geared towards Kinder-First grade. It is a work in progress although I have included some questions to ask as you teach and some movement ideas. Feel free to change/adapt as you need. You will notice the Creative Commons license on the first and second pages. It is an "Attribution-Non-commercial-Share Alike" license. Thanks for looking and sharing!


Nessun Dorma and Young Authors Day

So I promised that I would post a clip of my first graders performing our version of Nessun Dorma at our Young Authors Day. Unfortunately my camera's battery died right before we started so I had a friend use my iPhone to video the performance. She was sitting on the floor so you can't see all the little ones "asleep" on the stage. I guess she was afraid she would block some parents if she stood up. Oh well... It was cute and they were fantastic! I wish she had caught them announcing it so you could hear little Julian say "Puccini". I thought I was in Milan listening to him say it. Adorable :-)

Remember that Nessun Dorma will be coming in Peggy Bennett's new Playing with the Classics book due out very soon. I was introduced to this segment at the Music EdVentures conference inVancouver this year.

BTW- Young Authors Day is our version of a Literature Field Day. The whole day is dedicated to books, reading and writing. Activities include performances such as musicals, plays, story tellers and visiting authors. The day coincides with our Artfest where student art work is displayed throughout the school. Parents are invited to come view the art with their child. 


In the Hall of the Mountain King and mi re do

Oooooo, this did not go so well. I had already done this music and story, and posted about it. Kids loved it. It went well with how I used it previously. This time we were trying to play act the story and with not so much success. Hmmm, I think the story was too much. They had a difficult time following all the pieces and keeping the flow going. We were going to use this for our Young Authors Day performance but I may have to resort to something a bit simpler.

On another note though, and this one very encouraging. In a kindergarten class I told them I would be giving them a secret part of a song. I then proceeded to chin the song using "lu". I told them it was from a song we know but I was not going to tell them which song. They had to listen and see if they could figure it out. I chose the ending of The Farmer in the Dell, mi mi re re do, to use as my secret melody. Sure enough those smart little kinders had more than one song picked out! Not only did they say The Farmer in the Dell, but they also found A Hunting We will Go, Hot Cross Buns and one I forgot about, Circle Left! Pretty amazing listeners I have to say. It was very exciting! And of course they pointed out that it was also mi re do! Days like this make me smile for the rest of the week.


Nessun Dorma- None Shall Sleep!

Playing with the Classics
While at the Music EdVentures conference in February, Peggy Bennett introduced the crowd to her marvelous book, Playing with the Classics. I talked about this book in another post and again, it is a great resource. Really fun lessons for using traditional classical music in the classroom. Peggy also talked about her second volume of the book, due to come out very soon I hope. She led us through one of the new lessons "Nessun Dorma" from the opera Turandot.

As soon as I returned back to my class I used the ideas and lesson that Peggy taught us with one of my first grade classes. So much fun! Every time I see them now though they want to do Nessun Dorma and act out the story. Since we are enjoying this so much, we will be presenting Nessun Dorma at our Young Authors Day at our school. Young Authors Day is kind of like a literary field day. All the activities are focused on books and reading. We also link it to our Spring Artfest and display student art work throughout the building. We invite parents to come and tour our "student museum".

But- Back to Nessun Dorma! As I said, the children love acting out the story. This really shows how much children love a good story. Many of the activities in the book involve a story of some type or story making or acting out the story. If only all teaching were this easy. If you haven't ordered the book yet, do so. You won't regret it and your students will love you for it!

I first introduced the class to the story that would go along with Nessun Dorma. We picked a princess and her prince and the townspeople. The class acted out the story and then I introduced them to the composer. We looked at a picture of the composer, Puccini, and talked about the opera Turandot. There was much discussion about the singer we were about to hear and what we could expect from the voice, that it would not sound like ours. On our first listening, there was certainly some giggling at the "opera voice" but they thought it was a pretty song. They especially liked the story. Then we put the whole thing together; story and music. It was wonderful! I can't wait for them to perform it at Young Authors Day. I will try to record their performance and get it posted so check back in May to see if I was able to.


Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks

This week I wanted to do Mussorgsky's Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks. I really enjoyed doing Peggy Bennett's version, from her new book Playing with the Classics, when we did it at the MEI conference in Vancouver. I decided to do it with my kindergarten classes and first grade. I basically followed her suggested script in the book: discussing chicks, finding out what they know and don't know. The first graders had quite a bit of information about chicks and were happy to share it! They had some chicks in their classroom when they were in kindergarten last year and our discussion could have lasted hours. This is often one of the hardest things to do in a class when you are on a time schedule; cutting students stories short. You have to find the right words so that feelings aren't hurt and they understand that you really do want to hear what they have to say but it will have to wait for another time. If I ask them to "hold on to that thought" they are okay and will wait until later. It is important though to make sure you let them tell you at some point, either at the end of class or the next time you do the activity. Students need to know you care about what they have to say. Consider this principle from the SongWorks approach:

  • Students have the right to be treated with respect and dignity for their ideas, skills and stages of development.

Sorry- I went a bit off subject- important, but a sidebar.

Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks: This went very well. The students loved it. They were wonderful chicks in eggs. We even merged the ideas together. The first part of the music we were chicks in the eggs, then came the stretching and then we were chicks outside of the eggs walking and scratching about. It was a lot of fun and I think one of the first grade classes will perform this for our Young Author's Day at my school. Another side bar here- Young Author's Day is like a literary field day of sorts. The activities are all centered around reading, books and stories of all kinds. In the last two years we have combined it with our Artfest and have students' art work on display throughout the building. We also have a concession area after school and parents are invited to come in the evening for performances and to tour the "art museum".

Initially, I used my SmartBoard Notebook to display pictures of chicks, the composer and the title of the piece. This week, when we return to the piece again, we will do a Thinking Map when we talk about chicks and the music. I'll post more about Thinking Maps next post for those who are not familiar with them.