Boomwhackers® Flashcards

Boomwhackers Scale Degrees

Do you love using your Boomwhackers®as much as I love mine?  I finally, after 7 years of teaching music, bought 4 sets of Boomwhackers® and they have been the best, “funnest” addition to my classroom in recent years.  My students and I use Boomwhackers® for a plethora of music learning activities…

  • Pitch – Boomwhackers®, just like xylophones and pan pipes, give a physical and visual representation of pitch by showing the relationship of length to pitch.  Boomwhackers® I have discovered to be an even better tool for teaching pitch than a xylophone because of the colors and how each student can be responsible for only one pitch.  
  • Harmony – Teaching chords can be tricky for young students; however, Boomwhackers® allow students to play chordal accompaniments to a variety of songs by having “color groups.”  The color groups once again give a visual representation of chords, allowing students to more easily grasp the aural difference in, for example, a C major chord and a G major chord.  
  • Blues – I love teaching the 12-bar blues and Boomwhackers® are the perfect instrument to allow an entire class to participate in playing the I, IV, and V7 chords of a simple blues progression.  You could even extend it to have some students playing the progression, and have others improvising on recorders or xylophones on a blues scale.  
  • Composition – Have students write out a simple rhythm, color in each notehead with a Boomwhackers® color, and then play the melody (meeting National Standard #4!).  This can be done in small groups or as a class activity.  If you use a dry erase board or an interactive whiteboard, you can revise, edit, and evaluate easily (National Standards #6 and #7…wink, wink!)
  • Solfege and Scales – After playing, you can relate the instrumental to the vocal using the solfege syllables and scale degrees.  For many students, visualization is essential to singing pitch relationships correctly.  Boomwhackers® provide a great link between the absolute pitch of an instrument and the relative pitch of a voice.  
Since Boomwhackers® rely on colors, visual cues are not only beneficial but necessary.  I have created a set of colored note-name flashcards.  The flashcards include images of noteheads, chords/triads, and scale degrees. Each flashcard has a notehead with the pitch name, solfege step, and corresponding color.  The chord/triad pages include C major, F major, and G major chords. The last page shows an image of all Boomwhackers lined up to show the relationship of size, pitch, and color – this page is particularly is a great teaching aid. 

Download these flashcards, print in color, cut out (if desired), mount on construction paper individually or as a big poster, laminate, and instant pitch visual! Enjoy!

Music Word Wall Posters

Word walls are fundamental to good teaching.  They provide students with appropriate vocabulary to discuss a subject in a meaningful manner.  And they are a constant visual to help students organize their thoughts.  
Music word walls are often a challenge because there are many ways to organize musical concepts and music vocabulary.  I approach it from a standpoint of organizing the words by concept or subject.  So all the tempo words are grouped together on a “Tempo” word wall poster and “Dynamics” words like loud and soft are on another poster.  This gives visual separation to the music qualities, especially the expressive qualities, which I have found the young students have trouble with – my little ones confuse loud and soft with high and low all the time.  A word wall will help them distinguish the correct vocabulary to describe what they hear or what they want to hear in a piece of music.  
The National Standards for Music Education call for students to be able to describe music with appropriate vocabulary and a word wall aids your students in being able to do this successfully.  
As the school year winds down, many teachers are already thinking about the next school year and what they will change and do differently.  I hope you consider implementing a word wall in your classroom, if you have not already done so.  I have some word wall posters I have already created that you can download, print, enlarge, mount, laminate, and hang.  Easy peasy instant word wall!  

Welcome Back!

After a 11 week hiatus, I am back to blogging.  On February 15, my family of three grew by 1 more as we welcomed our son, Graham, to the world.  I have enjoyed the past 11 weeks being a mommy and spending time with our newest family member as well as my daughter and husband.  I am grateful for my time at home and I will cherish that time forever.  

But life goes on and Monday of this week I returned back to work.  And with going back to work, I have returned to Learn Me Music as well.  To my readers, I apologize for the lack of new material for 11 weeks, but in the next few weeks, be looking for lots of new posts, ideas, and material!  My time at home gave me the opportunity for lots of brainstorming and I have many great future posts and resources coming for you to use in your classrooms!  
I am grateful for many things on this day…..a wonderful family, a secure job, my health (glad to not be pregnant anymore!), the sound of children making music, beautiful spring (almost summer-like) weather, this blog as my creative outlet, my readers…..thank you for allowing me to share!  Stay tuned…. 🙂

Valentine’s Day Project in Real Life!

Valentine’s Day Recorder Composition Project

So last week I posted a composition lesson for Valentine’s Day.  Last Friday was the beginning of my new rotation and I tried the lesson out on my 3rd and 4th grade recorder students.  It was a big hit and a huge success!  We read the poem, clapped the rhythms, composed pitches to go with the rhythm, and played it – and it was super fun, for me and them!

Record Your Class’ Compositions
I usually allow time to record our compositions and performances so I can post to my school’s website but we ran out of class time with both of my classes today.  So I recorded their song for them so you could hear what a simple, sweet melody they came up with (with a little guidance from me!).

The quality of the recording is nothing to write home about and for that I apologize.  But you get the idea of what a fun, beneficial project this can be!

Let Students Take a Copy of Their Composition Home
Students are always asking me to “print that out so I can take it home and share it with my mom.”  With using ActivInspire software, I can export any flipchart page as a JPEG file.  I know you can also do this PowerPoint as well as other SmartBoard and ActivBoard applications.  In whatever platform you are working, export the file you wrote on with all the notes, print the file as a JPEG, but choose to print 4 images per page.  The image gets smaller, but is still legible.  This saves ink and paper, yet each student is able to take home a copy of their work.  With Valentine’s Day, that is especially sweet, as your students can play their parents or their “Valentine” a musical Valentine 🙂

Valentine’s Day Composition – 4 Images Per Page

If you want to download this project for either ActivInspire or PowerPoint, follow the links below…

Valentine’s Day Music Composition Project

Holidays are always fun to incorporate into material for music class lessons.  Valentine’s Day is difficult though, being that there’s not a whole lot of Valentine’s music around – it’s not like we’re listening to a Valentine’s holiday station on the radio 😀

So if the music doesn’t exist, why not write it?!?!

That was the source of inspiration for this “Valentine’s Day Music Composition Project” that I wrote this week.  I found a cute, anonymous poem on the internet that was not too sappy and kinda funny.  I liked it, too, because it had an interesting rhythm (at least, the way I read it, it did) so I thought it would be a fun poem to use to write a melody.
Some things to know….  
  • I designed this lesson with recorder classes in mind; however, I purposely wrote it so you could use any classroom pitched instrument your students are familiar with (bells, xylophones, Boomwhackers, etc.)
  • The pitches are not specified, allowing you to use notes your students are familiar with (for example, with my recorder students, we’re going to be using the notes E, G, A, and B, since these are the ones we’ve learned so far)
  • I created this project in two formats:  PowerPoint (.ppt) and ActivInspire Flipchart (.flipchart) because this project works best as a class activity, using a projector and even better, an Interactive Whiteboard.  Choose the format that works best for you.  
  • If PowerPoint or ActivInspire doesn’t work for you, contact me using the contact form above and I can work with you to create a format that you can use!  I am always willing to do that with any of my materials!
  • The downloads linked below both contain complete visual materials as well as teacher notes for recommended teaching strategies to implement this lesson effectively. 

Music Bulletin Board – Composer and Musicians Birthdays

As my Friday Fave, I wanted to share a super easy, interesting, and non-seasonal bulletin board.  I have this up right now on the small bulletin board in the hallway outside my room.  It’s cute, simple, and took 5 minutes to put up!  (If you can’t tell already, I am not a fan of bulletin boards….the easier and more-lasting they are, the better!)
To download the entire file to make the bulletin board and print all materials, click the link below…this is a freebie to you as my Friday thank you for reading and following my blog!
Happy Friday!

As the saying goes, "Silence Is Golden…"

Shh SmileyJust a short reflection today….I am 9 months pregnant and have a head cold.  I have ended up losing my voice and have only a whisper.  What an awesome combination, right?
With no voice to use, I have written directions on the board today and have said very little.  Especially in the older grades, I can write almost all the directions for the class period and they can and will read them and understand them.  I have used my Flipchart software for the interactive whiteboard – at the end of every few sentences, I put some silly direction like “Touch your head when you are done reading this” or “Put your finger on your nose when you are ready to move on.”  It has worked!
Fascinatingly, the kids have been practically silent too during these classes.  If I have to whisper, they whisper back to me.  Its hilarious!
It got me thinking… we teachers talk too much?  Are there things that can go unsaid and be communicated other ways?  Are we saying too little with too much?

Interesting thoughts…..what do you think?

"Peter and the Wolf" Matching and Coloring Page

“Peter and the Wolf” Instrument Coloring Page

Last week I posted two entries about using centers to reinforce the instruments of the orchestra and using “Peter and the Wolf” as a vehicle for introducing the instruments and their sounds.  If you haven’t read them, please check them out!!

Today, I started my Kindergarteners on a similar unit to my 1st and 2nd grade unit, except I changed their coloring page.  This worksheet would work for many different uses – you could have your students complete it individually after watching the video or listening to the recording, complete it together as a class while listening or watching, or even complete it on the whiteboard as you watch.

Another benefit to these kinds of activities is the visibility of concepts and information students have been learning in music class.  By allowing your students to take physical “evidence” of their music learning home with them, parents are getting to see what goes on in music.  Our art is such an aural art that we sometimes miss opportunities to share our lessons with parents; worksheets and coloring pages are a great way to reinforce learning within your lesson as well as share the lesson with those at home!!

I will share more of these “evidence” activities in the future!  Stay tuned!

Instruments of the Orchestra Lesson | Peter and the Wolf

Last week I posted about my love of using centers in the music classroom.  My post included a complete centers unit, focused around the Orchestra Instrument Families, an important concept for all music learners.  If you didn’t see my post, check it out HERE!  You can also download the unit HERE!

When I introduce the instruments of the orchestra to my youngest students, my little Kindergarten friends, I like to start with something fun, to grab their attention.  I cannot think of a better example of this than “Peter and the Wolf” by Sergei Prokofiev.  He composed this piece as a way to teach young listeners about the instruments of the orchestra, and in my humble opinion, it accomplishes that very well!  Prokofiev wrote the original story and narration, reflecting on his childhood experiences, as well as the music (obviously!).  Over the years I have taught this piece in many different ways….here are some ideas and resources I have found that you should check out….

  • Kiddie Records Weekly Archive – If you have not seen this website, YOU MUST CHECK IT OUT!  It is ridiculously huge archive of preserved Children’s LPs of classic children’s stories.  Week 1 of January 2006 published “Peter and the Wolf” – what makes this site A-MAZ-ING is the fact that you can download any and all of these recordings for FREE, in mp3 format (most often in a zip file, because they’re so long)!  Too cool!  Here is the link to the recording of “Peter and the Wolf,” recorded in 1939 with Richard Hale and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.  
  • Disney’s 1946 Animated Classic “Peter and the Wolf”– My school owns a copy of this on VHS that is now out-of-print and apparently extremely desirable, according to  New and used copies are going for like $15 to $100…really?!?!  Crazy!  This is what I use when I show it; however, after just a tiny bit of Googling, I realize the whole thing is on YouTube!  Yay!  Here is the link to the YouTube version, which is even better, since most of us don’t have VHS in our classrooms anymore anyway!   
  • Peter and the Wolf:  Fully Orchestrated CD with Book and Narration – This is a great book, if you want a most face-time approach to teaching the piece.  The illustrations are beautiful and the recording is super-quality
These are some of my ideas for introducing and using “Peter and the Wolf” in my classroom.  How do you teach instruments of the orchestra?  Do you use “Peter and the Wolf” or another method?  Please share ideas…..leave a comment!  I would love to hear from you!