Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mystery Mansion Activity for Elementary Music Instrument and Terminology Instruction

“Mystery Mansion” is a live, 3-dimensional “I Spy” game used for elementary music instrument and terminology instruction.  Last year I incorporated it into the ongoing story of the Dragon Games, but it could easily stand alone.

The Concept…

I told my students that they, in their explorations, had stumbled into a mysterious mansion on a hill.  Having been greeted by the butler (whose theme music was playing as they entered the classroom – I used one of the modern renditions of “Por Una Cabeza”), they have now been given the challenge of finding a list-full of musical items, terms, and so forth, all within this Mystery Mansion.

One full wall of classroom shelves became a life-sized game of “I Spy,” into which I packed a quantity of classroom instruments, orchestral instruments, pictures or drawings of music symbols and terminology, and other musical objects.  By mixing in a number of antique books and other knick-knacks, a wall of shelves became a visual game appealing to the eye.  I found that students were instantly and consistently engaged by the activity, learning and retaining knowledge of musical instruments, symbols and terminology through active, visual means.

The List…

Students received a list of about 30 items…

·        musical instruments...
·        music-related objects (conductor’s baton, iPod, etc.)...
·        music symbols...
·        musical terms...

…and had a time limit to find everything on the list in the game area.  In younger classes, we found many objects as a whole class; older classes went to work independently or in small groups.  The activity sparked many questions stemming from holes in the students’ knowledge, holes that were quickly filled as students connected the instrument names and musical terms to the visuals in the game.

The Transition…

The only non-musical item on the list was a scroll; after the “I Spy” game, I displayed a line of music notation on our screen and explained that these notes were the contents of the scroll.  For each grade level, the music was slightly different…

·        Kindergarten – a two line staff with icons representing notes…
·        1st Grade – a three-line staff…
·        2nd – 5th Grade – five-line staves with increasingly involved components…
Students then had a variety of tasks and challenges to explore, all relating to the music on the "scroll."  As I plan future versions of this lesson, I have found that the “I Spy” game transitions well into any number of notation- or music-reading-centered activities.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Dragon Games for Elementary Music Notation Assessment

Every spring, our music classroom transforms into another world as students embark on an epic adventure that strengthens and tests their musical knowledge and skills – so far this has been an excellent tool for elementary music notation assessment! The theme of the adventure changes each year and serves as an exciting package for the content itself. Last year’s adventure was entitled, “The Dragon Games.” On Day 1, I informed students that every time they stepped into the music room, they would be stepping back in time, to medieval days, into a town that they would create themselves. Students in each class named their town and placed it on a giant map hanging on the wall, so that by the end of the first week, every class had a town “dot” on our fictitious wall map.

The Story:

  • The kingdom of Musicadia has been taken over by an army of dragons – a dragon rules over every town.
  • The dragons plan to put their townspeople through a series of musical games and challenges.
  • Only by defeating the games and challenges set by the dragons can the people of Musicadia restore peace to the kingdom!
  • At the beginning of this series of lessons, every class represents a town-full of people who have been imprisoned by their dragon.

The First Challenge:

The students’ (townspeople’s) first challenge was to escape the dungeon in which they had been “imprisoned.” In order to open the dungeon door, they were required to pass the Ogre guarding their cell. The Ogre presented them with a challenge (pictured) for which students had to decode the message using a standard 5-line treble clef staff:

“To escape the dungeon, you’ll need a key. The key is a bad egg!”
I helped the students discover on their own that the solution was to notate “A B-A-D E-G-G“ on the treble clef staff.

“The guard is hungry. He’ll let you pass for some aged beef.”
By now, the students knew that the solution was to notate “A-G-E-D B-E-E-F” on the staff.

This activity got students notating, inspired their creativity, gave me an assessment opportunity and provided a great display for our Standards-Based Bulletin Board. Great Day 1 of the Dragon Games!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recorder Song Demo on YouTube

I used this song with my new recorder students this week and it worked very well. On day one, you're doing good to keep your students from blowing too hard (I like the "cool-off-your-soup-without-splattering" metaphor) and helping them understand the concept of covering the holes all the way ("Are you making bubbles on your fingertips?"). Learning notes and playing songs is a bonus.

I had heard about songs that were written with very few notes - say, A and B for example - and simple rhythms for new players, but (and here's the key) with fun background tracks to play along with. I loved the idea immediately and, being a composer, wanted to write some of my own. Thus came "Spanish Blade" (and some others that incorporate other cultures for cross-curriculum purposes), which I want to share with other music teachers. It worked GREAT in my music room this week. 4th graders were playing A and B in a full song within 30 minutes of picking up their instruments for the first time.

I made a demonstration video (thank you, screencast-o-matic.com!) that I hope helps other teachers see what I mean. Fun stuff!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Academy for Pirates

The Shiver-Me-Timbers-Me-Hearty-Swashbuckler-Academy-for-Pirates (Yo Ho)! This is the second year I have walked my music students through the "Academy for Pirates," a school for musical "pirates" to swashbuckle and sing their chanties as they learn about rhythm, meter, ostinato and instrumental techniques. The students LOVE what has become known as Pirate Week: for the week, I'll dress up as "Captain Finnegan," a musical pirate captain, and remain in character throughout each school day. Activities include learning the song, "Gonna Be a Pirate" (one of mine), and dissecting the notation of the song on-screen, then playing drums (cannons), triangles (crow's nest bells) and Orff xylophones (rowing their oars) with the song. I plan on making all of the songs, materials and lesson ideas available on TeachersPayTeachers soon. In the meantime, another great year of the Academy for Pirates is now complete!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Find my music on TeachersPayTeachers.com/store/adronmingmusic:
Kindergarten, First, Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth - TeachersPayTeachers.com

Friday, January 11, 2013

New Recorder Songs with Background Tracks

I am creating a supply of simple recorder music that comes alive when played with their accompanying background tracks. So far there are six available online. The tracks are active and fun, and the songs vary in cultural style and genre as implied by their titles:

• Spanish Blade
• Blue Africa
• Sounds of the East
• Texas Train
• Classic Urban
• Rock City

I am finishing up a seventh title, "Native Land," set in a Native American style. I hope these resources are used and useful!


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