Engage Your Music Classes - Part 2

Our kids had way too much screen time during lockdowns, and we are still seeing the effects. How do we keep children's attention in a classroom, when they are used to watching 6 second TikTok videos? Even Disney movies are moving at a pace that's much faster than they used to. In this newsletter, I'm continuing the discussion on increasing engagement in your music classes.  Whether you're a brand new music teacher or have taught for 40 years, there will be ideas here for you!
Part 1 included:
  1. Get to know your students
  2. Use focus activities to set the tone
Part 2 includes:
  1. Make Feedback matter!   Refine, reflect, question
  2. Transitions - Keep the learning going!
  3. Make Learning Relevant
Part 3 will include:
  1. Encourage the Children to Take Responsibility for their own Learning
  2. Give ALL Students a voice

1. Make Feedback matter!  Refine reflect, question  

Praise the Positive  (be sincere)
  • catch someone doing something right and praise them.
  • I like how you are sitting with great posture!
  • I like how you are listening.
  • I heard a beautiful singer – let me hear all of you sing it again.
Non-verbal directions – saves your voice, kids listen/watch better
  • Copy me – demo terrible posture several ways – then good posture. They’ll copy.
  • Hand gesture for stand up / sit down
  • Point to yourself when students are to listen, point to them when they sing
Guiding Questions - Post and refer to these often
  • What are we learning?
  • How are we learning it?
  • Why are we learning it?

Self and Peer Feedback is important!  Teach Perceptive Listening!

These questions come from Musicplayonline National Standards Correlations - find them in Lesson Planning-Overview-National Standards
  • After watching a video of our rehearsal, what needs improvement?
  • What or how should you practice to improve the performance?
  • Did we sing all the pitches exactly as written?  I think we should listen to this measure again.
  • Was our rhythm correct in this part?  Listen again, and let’s fix it.
  • Could we use this song/selection in a performance for our parents?  What kind of performance?
  • Can we sing this song in a spooky voice for our Halloween program?
  • When we perform this song, can we tell the audience with our eyes what the song is about?
  • What is the songwriter trying to convey in this song?  How can we perform this song to express the meaning?
  • Why did the writer of “When I Believe” choose a slow/moderate tempo?   Should we sing this slow, medium or fast?
  • Is the song “Show We Care” bouncy and happy, or is it more of a ballad?  Why?  Should we perform it up-tempo or slow and thoughtful?
  • Does the tempo and/or dynamics reflect how you feel about the song? Explain why or why not using musical terminology

2. Transitions - Keep the Learning Going

  • Christie Noble and Tracy Stener have a very cute circle song in their resource “Making Music Fun.”  -
    • Hey everybody, let’s make a circle. Hey diddle-dum a day day day.
  • Make Me a Circle Chant: 
    • Make me a circle, Make me a circle, 
      Make me a circle while I count the beat!  1-2-3-….
    • This can become a competition between classes or an effort to beat their own best time.
  • Sing to the tune of Muffin Man:
    • Find yourself a partner now, find yourself a partner now, 
      Find yourself a partner now, While I count the beat:  1-2-3-4-….
  • Double Circle:  Take a Partner  -  Sing to the tune of London Bridge
    • Take a partner, follow me, follow me, follow me.
      Take a partner, follow me, follow me around.
Do something while transitioning – eg. if you’re going from instruments back to sit on the floor
  • Clap the rhythm of the months while you go back to your seats.  Ready – go!
  • Make up a body percussion that would work with the song we just learned while you’re walking back to your seats.
  • Give directions in a musical way – for example.  Teach the instrument rule using body percussion.  Say/play it at different dynamic levels.  Try new tempos.
    • "If you play before I say I’ll take your instrument away."
  • Pacing: spend most of your time (95%) making music, and as little as possible giving directions. Kids want to “do” - not sit.
  • Movement breaks are needed. Have some energizer activities that you can do when you see they are restless. Some suggestions you’ll find in Musicplay: Ham and Eggs, We Love to Sing, Little Tommy Tinker, Scotland’s Burning, Donkeys Love Carrots, A Pizza Hut. the last 4 are also rounds, so you’ll develop part singing as well as giving kids some wiggle time.


3. Make Learning Relevant 

Kids want to see themselves in the music that they learn. If you have a large hispanic population, teaching songs in Spanish or Latin pop songs will help kids relate. If your kids come from a community that you aren't familiar with, go to community culture bearers and ask for help in finding music that's relevant.
Older kids want to learn songs that they've heard on TV or radio.  I would suggest that about 1/3 or more of your repertoire be from pop music. Of course you have to find songs that are age appropriate and school appropriate which can be a challenge. But if you’ve seen PS 22 choir on YouTube you’ll see the kids respond really really well to contemporary music.
The JJ section “Just Sing” on Musicplayonline.com has pop songs arranged for young choirs.  The ranges will be in a healthy range for kids (often higher than the original recording). The acc track is found on Musicplayonline, so your students could sing them in performance. Find the original performances of these songs on YouTube, listen to them and discuss the meaning, style, instruments used, and the form. Have students develop a rating scale and later use their ratings to decide which songs to learn. Some of the Just Sing songs have bucket drumming arrangements which are another fun way to incorporate pop songs into your program. The JJ song - Dynamite (By BTS) is great. My daughter’s choir performed it in December and they were great and obviously loved it. She had about 75-80 kids in her choir and they were awesome.  
Once you have buy-in from your students, you can expand the repertoire to folk songs and other composed choir pieces. There is choral repertoire that’s engaging - in Musicplay Scoo be Doo Song is fun, has fun movements and gets kids into 4 parts. My students loved folk songs that told a story - Cockles and Mussels.  And they love action and movement songs.

  • Games – Singing games are loved by all kids, and are a wonderful source of rich children’s repertoire to teach concepts.
    • Games like 4 Corners, Staff games, rhythm race, and online interactive games are fun for all!
  • Challenge activies are fun for kids:  Examples include Sevens, Dum Dum Song, 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9    Pull out and review, add on new movements
    • Demos of Sevens and the Dum Dum Song can be found on Musicplayonline.
    • 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9 is a body percussion activity using rhythm blocks (Keith Terry).  Teach each pattern alone.  Then, divide into groups and do multiple parts.
    • 1-2-3 - clap-chest-chest
      1-2-3-4-5 is clap-chest-chest-pat-pat
      1-2-3-4-5-6-7 is clap-chest-chest-pat-pat-hip-hip
      1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9  is clap-chest-chest-pat-pat-hip-hip-stomp-stomp
  • Model - then Have Kids Create. (Project Based Learning)
    • Teach an example as a model and then encourage the kids to create their own.
    • Teach a pop arrangement to a bucket drum piece, then do a project where groups of kids create their own arrangements to  pop songs.
    • Watch a Stomp video.  Analyze the patterns that were used and how they were used.   Then have the kids create their own.
    • Do you have a favorite project?  Share with us by replying to this newsletter.

A recent post in our Facebook group asked: What are some activities from music play that have been hit with even your toughest fifth graders? One major winner is the body percussion series for sure.
Here are our FB Teachers Answers - what their 5th Grade students like:

  • Ham and eggs, black snake, cheki morena, shake the papaya, four white horses
  • Scoo bee doo!
  • Always poison rhythm and melody
  • Choosing their own songs to learn in the ukulele section has been effective. I have some tough customers this year!
  • Concentration
  • My kids like Toss and Catch. They also (surprisingly) really like Concentration. Of course with that one some of the kids are not comfortable singing by themselves in front of others, so I just let them use their speaking voice and did not make it an issue. But they would ask me to play concentration over and over. They also like Boom chicka boom. I just used it as a warm up/focus activity. They also really like chicken on the fence post (might be a slightly different title in musicplay, same song, different version).
  • My fifth grade group is a tough group as well. They like Four Corners, Chicken in the Barnyard, Black Snake, Ukulele songs, and they really like the song about the fifty states and their capitals – Capitals of America
  • My group also begs for whoopee cushion from third grade.
  • Mine are currently obsessed with Hi Ho the Rattlin’ Bog, and the video on Musicplay Online with the Irish Band performing it. They asked for it over and over today.
  • Four white horses and the clapping game...5ths are enjoying that. Bump up Tomato...- Musicplay version is called “I Like Spaghetti”
  • Bucket Drumming.
  • They love meter tag, four corners, and pass the beat around the room (Musicplay Pass the Beat is called “Can You Keep a Steady Beat?”
  • Rhythm Racer interactive game. They could play that one all day!
  • Alabama Gal, cup games, body percussion
  • C O F F E E round and Sarasponds stick routine.
  • Four Corners, Jolly Jolly Rhythm, Stella Ella Olla, and Four White Horses have been good for my 5's this year. They're a VERY tough group!
  • Stella Ella Olla
  • Work songs!

Grade 5-6-7 students are tough, so find what they love, and do more of it!

If you join the Musicplay Teachers Group on Facebook, share your wins!  We love to hear what's worked well for you - and we try to create the materials and resources on Musicplayonline that is most useful and relevant for you and your students!

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