Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Time Signatures

It is so interesting how little my sixth graders know about time signatures.  If you ask a random selected group of sixth grade general music students, what does the top number mean in 4/4 time, you will usually get the right answer:  It means there are four beats in every measure.  If you ask a random selected group of these students what the bottom number means in 4/4 time, you will get several answers, almost none of them will be correct!  They will say it means there are four measures on every line, they will say there are four beat measures, they will say each measure has four notes in it..none of these are even close to being correct. 

Therefore, I have taken it upon myself to make sure that before the year is over, these sixth graders will be able to explain what the bottom number means in 4/4 or 2/2 or 6/8 time.  My first plan of action has worked quite well.  One of the reasons they don't know what the bottom number means is that the 4 is always on the bottom, they never have noticed any other number there.  I will show them now what it means to have a 2 or a 6 on the bottom. 

When they first witness the 2 on the bottom, it is really playing with their heads.  The way you count it is different than they have ever learned before, but they begin to see the light.  They begin to understand what happens to the counting if you change the 4 to a 2.  They then begin to realize that if you change it, you have the half note as the unit of beat, or that a half note equals one beat.  If they understand that, then they can by proxy begin to understand what it means to have a quarter note equal one beat.  The minute something changes and can be changed, that is the minute they say, "Oh, now I get it!!"  It is very exciting to watch, but I am thinking and kicking myself that I never started this process before now.  I will give them a quiz at the end of the quarter, and I believe they will ALL be able to explain the idea of the time signature, both top and bottom numbers.

Great lesson on how to count music

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Enrichment activity - Where do you Stand?

I don't know if I have talked about this activity on this blog before.  I have a class that is a creative drama class, and it has from 20 to 25 students in it per quarter, some come two days a week, some come three days a week, and some only come one day a week.  I am always finding new ideas and creative activities to share with them for class.  Where do you stand? is a way to figure out how people think about different statements, and I am always happy to play this game.  You have two rows of chairs.  You say the statement, "I prefer cats to dogs" for example, or "If you find money on the street you should be able to keep it" or "You can't change your personality" or "Precious jewels are more valuable than trees", just to name a few.  If you agree with the statement you sit in the front row, if you disagree with the statement, you sit in the back row.  Then, you discuss it with the group.

We have had some amazing conversations about these statements, and I have gotten to know my students better with this.  At this point, I am giving them the statements, and they are now writing speeches about the statements, that they will share with the class. I look forward to hearing what they say about these different statements, and about what they believe.  They definitely are opinionated, and this gives them a chance to write about something that they truly believe in. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Ledger lines in music

I have never taught ledger lines in music.  I just let them be a natural progression when students need to use the notes from above the staff or below the staff or in between the treble and the bass staff.  I realized this fall, after over 25 years of teaching music and a lifetime of using ledger lines, that it would be smart to teach students what ledger lines really are.

  I am now, intentionally teaching them to sixth graders, when I should have taught it to them last year.  When I get fifth graders this winter, I will teach them more specifically what ledger lines are so they understand, for example, why middle C has a line through it!  It makes sense to teach it intentionally because, after all, the first note I teach is middle C, since I am teaching treble and bass clef every day, along with rhythms and dynamics. 

Why did I not do it all these years?  That is the thousand dollar question.  Was it just one more thing that I didn't want to push?  One more thing that was too technical and not about the "love" of music?  But if I just told them why C has a line through it, maybe the rest of it would be easier to understand. The students seem to be taking to it, and seem to understand it immediately when explained to them.

 Well, better late than never, is what I always say!!

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Yesterday was my birthday..

There is nothing better than being a teacher on your birthday.  You just mention it to all the students in your classes, and they immediately break out into song.  They celebrate you like no one else ever could or ever does.  Life has been wonderful for me because I get to celebrate my birthday with my students most years. 

In fact, when it is on a Saturday, it is just not the same. 

And it is in the beginning of every year, so it is a joy, because the students are still trying to impress you and are still caring about the consequences of their actions.. gotta love being a teacher, and there are so many reasons..

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Continued complications with Enrichment class

I had a visit this morning from a fellow enrichment teacher.  She has the same students in her enrichment at the end of the week that I have at the beginning of the week.  They are all thrown in together, a holding pen, for students who are not in other RTI or band or chorus or language classes.  The problem is, there is no rhyme or reason for where students are placed, and there are so many students who should not be put together.  I heard stories of students jumping on tables, of students not being quiet while the teacher was reading out loud from the book, students spitting on the floor in the library.  What is this about? 

Why can't students care about someone other than themselves?  How are we supposed to teach them anything if they don't behave, and if there are so many students who are not good combinations together?  Why is it ok for the allied arts teachers to have groups of students who have not chosen to take the class together all in one place who are not a good combination when it would never be a group together in math, science, social studies or language arts?  I have to say, it isn't fair.  However, I have found my way to order in this group.

I have also found a way to keep them accountable.  I send home a comment sheet through the mail to their parents at the end of each quarter.  This makes a huge difference, and now I can keep them from turning over tables or spitting on the floor, because if they do these things, their parents will hear about them doing it.  It is quite the deterrent, I have to say, as it makes a difference to them what their parents might think.  It works, and I have a better behaved class, who write poems, monologues, podcasts, dialogues and plays for me throughout the year.  Have a great week!

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Some things just DON'T Change...

Here we are at the beginning of another new year, happy September, one more time.  Here we are with the schedule absolutely no different from last year too.  Here we are with Enrichment classes, and they promised us we would have correct lists of all of our students, the very first day.  Well, now we are on the second week of school, and I still have students who don't know where they are supposed to be, where they are supposed to go, and have missed my first classes, and missed the first lesson of how you are supposed to be writing this poem in the spirit of Billy Collin's poem "On Turning Ten".  I even had students appear to be in my class twenty minutes late the second week of school and students who came one week and never came again.  I also have students who came one day and and other students who are in all three of my Creative Drama classes weekly.

We were also told that our students would be the same, all three days.  This is SO not true.  Some things just don't change, that is all I have to say this week, and it is on us to let go of our expectations of how we think they SHOULD be, and just go with the flow.  So- some things don't change and I will

                                       GO WITH THE FLOW FOREVER, AMEN

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Changes..Turn and face the Strange..

This is the second day of my twenty-fifth year at York Middle School.  Some things are the same, and some have changed drastically, even over the last few years.  Some of the changes have come gradually, and some are just thrown at you, whether you like it or not. 

1. ) Six years ago I had the most glorious room on the top floor, with windows from floor to ceiling and a large space for dancing, and singing, which I loved to do.  I now have two rooms, in which I still dance and sing in, but not half as much as I used to.

2.) I used to have two trimesters of music with sixth graders, I  now have one quarter, spread out over two quarters, every other week, four days a week.  I have adjusted.

3.) I used to sing and write in journals and introduce my students to all the greats of the Western World, now I teach them to count four beats to a measure, or three, and I teach them to play a few songs on the piano, and teach them all the notes on the staff.  Just a different way of moving through the musical world.

4.) I used to be an advisor who just talked about their days, and just talked about how to connect with each other during advisory. I have adjusted to a MUCH larger role.

5.) Now I teach them how to organize their binders, I keep their chromebooks in my classroom, and during conferences I am responsible for facilitating a conference between the students in my advisory and their parents one at a time.  A MUCH different and BIGGER ROLE for them and me.

6.) Finally, I now teach an ENRICHMENT class which teaches reading, writing and listening, and drama more than anything else.  I give them HOWLS grades for this class, but they don't show up on the report card.  I have adjusted to that. 

If you bend, you will move forward and continue to face the strange, as DB said all those years ago.  If you remain stiff, you will break, and you will never be able to continue and grow.  I will continue and grow, and that is my first day back piece of advice to all.  "Turn to face the strange" and you will be able to manage whatever is thrown at you year after year, day after day, project after project.