“Children will be drawn to their recorder in a way that will give the word ‘practicing’ a new meaning.”
Archive for the ‘lesson’ Category
In previous posts I’ve offered a few JoyTunes’ activities in class (see “JoyTunes in the Classroom”). Introducing staff lines in class is also possible with JoyTunes – see my previous post. In this post I want to share some fun activities that can enrich the teaching process and make it more enjoyable and dynamic. I want to thank the teachers that have shared their ideas with me.
- Choose 5 volunteers and have them stand in front of the class, each representing a note (B, A, G, etc. They can hold the poster-board squares, if available).
- Each time a volunteer raises his/her hand, the chosen student (or the whole class) should play that note with their recorders. For example, when the ‘G’ kid raises his hand, the class plays the note ‘G’, and so forth.
- Practice a little with the class, randomly. The kids will figure out the game in no time.
- After several tries, ask the group of volunteers if they can play a song with their hands. It should be an easy song, such as “Jingle Bells”, “Mary had a little lamb” or any other song from the song book. “Playing with hands” means that the volunteers need to figure out when to raise their hands (timing) and for how long (rhythm). The class should ‘listen’ to their hand-music, and the teacher can comment and correct if necessary.
- The next step would be to have the player/s follow the hand movement of the volunteers and play with the recorders accordingly.
To finish this activity, you can ask the volunteers to improvise (depending on the skill-level of the class) and ask them to practice a specific song from the song book, or a specific world from the map of worlds. In some cases, it would be appropriate to ask the students to learn a song by heart by the next lesson or be ready to play from the sheet-music (available for free download at the teachers’ version).
This game is fun, fast and physical. Thus, it can cause commotion in class, but also release tension, serve as a great activity between serious projects, and also be very handy with tough classes. What’s nice about this activity is that the students get to practice their timing, rhythm, hearing, patience and their ability to follow instructions.
Enough said about PM. The next fun activity is all about ‘PT’ – Playing Together. The purpose of this activity is to improve the students’ ability to play as a group, listen to each other and work as a team. Of course they need also to improve their timing, rhythm, hearing etc.
The PT activity is very similar to activity no. 1. You will need a projector, screen and access to the JoyTunes game. You put the game on screen in front of the class, and then:
- Choose a song from the song book or a practice level of your choice.
- Divide the class into groups of 2-4 (depends on how many notes you want to practice).
- Each group is summoned to the ‘stage’ to play the game in front of the whole class. However, each player suppose to play only one note. For example, in a group of 3, there is one who plays only Bs, one only As and one only Gs.
- The group needs to perform the game (or practice level) together; each player needs to look and listen very carefully and play his/her note in the right sequence and timing.
- For example, to play ‘Mary had a little lamb’ you will need a group of 3 students, each plays one note from the song, and together they create the whole melody.
This activity is a great way to teach the basics of chamber music. The students must listen, pay attention to the visuals of the game (that later transform to visuals of sheet-music or visuals of their colleagues), cue their playing and be sensitive and tolerant of mistakes.
I’m very curious to hear about your experience with this activity – so please share your thoughts and feedback – thanks!
More activities? how about sending your ideas?!
A splendid idea I received from a colleague not long ago: making the game available on school computers and using it for fun during recess and on special occasions. Seeing kids play recorders during recess is exciting. If you want to divide the class in small groups and pay attention to one specific group, you can use the game as an activity for the other groups (the game is self explanatory and will get the attention of the kids for a whole lesson and more). Please – post your feedback, comments, ideas and experience either here or at the facebook page (so more teachers can read and learn).
In the post “JoyTunes in the Classroom” I shared my dilemma regarding the use of the game in the actual process of teaching in the classroom. If you haven’t read that post yet, I encourage you to do so before continuing with this one.
In the next few paragraphs I want to suggest a way to use JoyTunes in class to help the process of learning to read music. Please note that I’m not getting into the never ending debate of when to introduce staff lines to the kids; there are different opinions and this is not the place to dig into that. But, once you decided to teach the students to read the notes (beginning of year or later), the JoyTunes recorder game can be a great teaching tool. Enjoy, and I would really love to hear your comments and more ideas regarding this topic.
Basic music reading using JoyTunes resources
(see more activities in the “JoyTunes in the Classroom“)
Purpose: To introduce staff lines to the students.
- Lesson 1: JoyTunes’ playback audio CD (available for free download).
- Lesson 2: A printout of one of the songs from the game – a copy for each student.
Lesson 1: Choose one song from the game you wish to work on with your class, and using its audio playback go over it until everybody knows it. Usually this shouldn’t pose any problem since the kids are playing with these songs at home. Now, draw a staff on the board, and place the notes B, A and G on it. Ask your students to imagine that the spots are actually like the birds in the game – each in a different height and representing a note. Show them where B, A and G are. You can play with it a little, make little funny quizzes etc.
Teach them the difference between a quarter and a half note and send them home with their assignment.
Homework Assignments: Ask your student to play the song from the lesson (and perhaps some other ones) at home with the game, using the “Song Book”. The song book is designed in a “staff mode”, which means that there are staff lines and actual notes instead of birds. This will be a great music-reading workout – using songs they know and playing familiar games to minimize the psychological block of learning to read notes… Please note: in order for a song to appear in the song book, the kids must practice and finish all previous levels that lead to the song. This way, they get extra practicing time before ‘earning the privilege’ of playing from the song book.
Homework Assignments: Repeat the homework assignment of lesson 1, but this time ask the students to play a different song from the song book (remember that they need to practice and finish all previous levels before the song will appear in the song book) . When the class advances, you can ask the kids to repeat the songs but this time play from the sheet-music.
- Make sure that the song you pick matches the class level and progress.
- Try to avoid having the kids write the name of the note next to it on the staff. Many of them will read what they wrote and not look at the staff.
- Remember: you have all the songs and playbacks available in your teachers’ version !
Good luck, and share your experience with all of us!
As teachers, we are constantly hunting for new tools and tricks to make our classroom more interesting and dynamic. We want to get the students’ full attention, to make them practice, to create a positive buzz about the recorder and encourage our students to love music. I believe that JoyTunes can help further these goals, specifically when it is used in the classroom.
In the next few posts I will share my thoughts regarding how to use JoyTunes in class, starting from detailing my favorite JoyTunes class activity (see next two paragraphs). However, before delving into ideas, I want to remind you about the resources available for JoyTunes’ teachers: our special JoyTunes’ sheet music and playbacks. JoyTunes is offering free downloads of sheet music of songs from the game – many of which are original (just click the link, download the teachers version and register). These sheets are designed specifically for kids and include a second voice and chords for full accompaniment options. The special high-quality playbacks of these songs are also available for free and they include various practice speeds for each song. I will discuss this topic further in my next post.
You can download the music and playbacks and use them in class, as well as encourage your students to use them at home. Don’t forget to write me about your experience and students’ feedback, as I’m always interested in hearing how things are going.
And now as promised, my favorite JoyTunes class activity. Forgive the formality of the writing, but I thought it would be best to present the lesson planning as orderly as possible…
Activity 1: Game in Class
- Overcome psychological barriers regarding music and recorders- get the students excited about studying music in school.
- Get the students used to practicing- make practicing part of their daily routine.
- Improve the quality of the students’ practice sessions.
- Introduce a new song/melody.
- Improve teacher-student relations- create commitment to class activities.
Process: The students sit in front of the screen. The teacher asks each student in his/her turn to complete one level while the rest of the class watches. The kids can repeat the levels, or they can advance to new levels – according to teacher’s instruction. While playing, the teacher can comment on tonguing, hand and finger positioning, posture, sound-production, breathing, and of course musicality and expression (the higher level of our essence…). This way, the rest of the students can also see and learn from mistakes, and implement the teachers comments even before they actually play. Shy or reserved students can be signed up as couples or groups and take turns together.
Home Assignments: The teacher gives home assignments from the game (e.g., “by next week finish the first 2 worlds, and collect at least XXX points”). For easy use, the teachers version of the game details the various levels, including the notes and songs you learn in each ‘world’ making it simple to assign homework, The teachers’ version is also completely free.
- This method is best used at the beginning of the school year, to get the kids excited about playing and set their practicing routines. It is also a great way to change stereotypes about music teachers…
- I recommend using JoyTunes in class several times but not in all the lessons. It is a great way to break the routine, conclude a project, or just have fun playing with the class.
- Using the game in class, teachers can concentrate on improving the quality of the playing and teach the students how to practice at home. Modeling in class is highly recommended.
- Improvisation is welcomed: you can accompany the students, conduct ‘mini-competitions’ in class (or as home assignments), etc.
Expected added Value:
- Determines good practicing habits.
- The teacher can help teach the student how to practice, and concentrate on the quality of playing.
- Music and practicing are perceived as a fun activity, overcoming psychological barriers.
- Teachers are on the same page as the kids (computer games and music? wow…), thus improving teacher-student relations and perceptions. This alone may influence the students’ commitment to study.
That’s it for now. It’s important to remember that the game has it’s limits. It can not and is not supposed to replace a teacher or teach ALL the necessary musical elements. However, it does strengthen technical skills allowing us to focus on the important things like musicality and expression – things that only a teacher can teach…
I encourage you to try it out and post your thoughts on our facebook page so all of us can benefit. More activities will follow, so stay tuned…
We are way into summer. It is hot-hot-hot, but I have to admit – there is something nice about resting a little after a hectic year of teaching and breaking the routine by giving a few concerts. I just came back from playing in a music festival in Menorca, which is a beautiful little island between Spain and Italy, but that’s a different story…
I wanted to share a nice story I heard from a teacher. But first, let’s start with this:
I received some warm feedback on JoyTunes’ concept and I thank everyone that found the time to share their thoughts . I am always very happy to hear what you all think. We always strive to improve and it warms my heart to see that our motivational tool is starting to catch on. Especially nowadays, when worthless interactive attractions (that usually translate to war-games, TV and general ‘do-nothing, learn-nothing’ routines) dominate, this is my way to fight back.
The following story was shared with me by a teacher that used the game in class. The teacher told me that she gave the game to her students (20 third-graders, a tough class) as a bonus. Most of the kids were really excited about the game. According to her, several started to play on the first day, and others took several days to try it out. One girl, who was one of the “don’t-bother-don’t-notice-me” quiet types in class, played the game but had a really hard time finishing the very first world. Now, having 20 (rambunctious) kids in this class, there was absolutely no way the teacher could have really noticed her specific needs. She told me that the girl had seemed like an average student who didn’t really need special attention. But then, when the girl couldn’t pass the first world in the game, even though she was trying – that got the teacher’s attention. “It’s funny” she mused, “In class it seemed like she didn’t have any problems, but the game got me to notice her playing more closely and realize she needed help. The game was a trigger that led me to understand her needs better. And of course, my reaching out eventually made a change in the girl’s skills and motivation…”
That was the story that was shared with me (thank you Ms. H.!). Now, we all know that every child has special needs, and this teacher should have noticed this girl with or without the game (though the quiet ones most often fall between the cracks). However, I was happy to realize that the game helped in that specific situation. A unique feedback tool that was used by the teacher allowed her to view where her students were in the game, how many hours they played and what level they finished. Thus, the teacher could better understand who was struggling and who was not.
Keep sharing your thoughts with me! I am truly amazed at how much creativity is out there, and how much we can learn from one another.
After learning 2-3 notes (I personally start with B,A and G), here’s a fun exercise that continues to work on basic fingering coordination through ear training.
First, I make them stand in front of me in a half circle. Then, I play for them a short easy sequence with these 2-3 notes, and make them repeat it as a group. If the repetition is terrible, like it often is in the first time, I play it again and make them repeat it again.
Then, I try the same thing, with the same sequence, but standing with my back to them, or behind a screen, if there’s one in the class. Most of them were looking on my fingers when I was playing in front of them instead of repeating what they heard. So this way I help them make the connection to their ears with the help of their memory. I do this exercise a few times – first in front of them, then with my back to them – until I feel it gets better. Alternatively, it’s quite possible to just cover your fingers with the other hand, in case your class is on the hyperactive side…
When they start doing it better, then comes the hard part – I play another sequence, but only with my back to them (or with my fingers covered). Meaning, this time they have to purely rely on their ears, which is very hard for most at first. I try to do this a few times and see how they manage. If they do terrible, I can try giving them a hint, like – “I’m starting with a B”.
As a bonus, and to make it more fun for them, every lesson I can choose one child which would take my place in the exercise. He\She will be playing the simple pattern that everybody has to repeat. Of course to make it work, you would have to be very clear on how many notes are allowed in a pattern, and that you don’t have patience for goofing around…