Posts Tagged ‘school’

Fun Activities in Class: PM/PT

Monday, September 5th, 2011

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.
The following activity is called ‘PM’, which stands for Physical Music.  You don’t need any accessories, but if you want to make things nicer you can use 3-6 small poster-board squares with the name of the notes on them.  The activity looks like this:
  • 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 is a difficult, high-level activity but its worth the effort.  For homework assignments I recommend assigning the group specific songs from the game and asking them to practice together until they are ready to perform in the next lesson. To spice things and encourage the kids to practice together, you can announce a mini-competition between the groups…
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).

Happy Teaching,



JoyTunes in the classroom

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011
With the creation of JoyTunes I encountered a real dilemma: should the game be used for at-home practice only, or can it also be used as a real-time teaching tool in class?  I decided not to decide.  However, questions started to pop out from the field, as teachers pondered the same issue: could JoyTunes be used in class?

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.
Accessories: A computer, internet connection and projector, access to the game.
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.


  1. 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…
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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…


Going back to school tips – no.3

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

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…

Have fun!!

Going back to school tips – no. 2

Monday, September 6th, 2010

I think we could all agree that keeping our students interested and motivated is not an easy task. And though I was not present at the time, I bet 40 years ago, when nobody had any play-stations, Nintendo or computer games, this task was much easier to accomplish.

Meaning, there’s no choice but to try and keep things interactive and super fun. So here’s an idea for a fun exercise for very beginners. I call it “the bird exercise”:

After teaching them B and basic tonguing, I teach them to play a basic pattern, like 3 quarters B, B, B or like B, B-B, B (quarter, 2 eight notes, quarter). Then I place everybody in a row and start having a question-answer sequence with each of them in his turn – I play a short melody and the student answers – B, B, B. I play a different melody and the next answers – B, B, B and on and on. The teacher’s  melody is always a short funny one. With me it usually sounds like birds (or at least that’s what the kids say), and that’s how it got its name.

I prefer to do the question answer sequence one by one with the kids, but many prefer to do it so that everybody answers together in the same time. Of course both are possible. I personally prefer the individual one by one option for 2 reasons – 1. because this way I can hear each student individually and see how he’s doing and his basic skill level. 2. because with this option, one exercises also listening to one another, which I think is one of the most important things music could and should teach us.

Have fun!

Going back to school tips – no. 1

Saturday, August 28th, 2010

As always, the summer is just about to be over and my time for searching new techniques and ideas to use with my students is ending with it. Soon the “madness” of my daily schedule is gonna start again.

I’ve spent a lot of time this summer talking to colleagues and friends about different ways to start a new year, and I thought I’d share it with you guys. If you have more ideas, please share them also with me!

I do wish to emphasize that some of the ideas I will bring are not originally my own, but came to me from friends and colleagues, namely Mrs. Ori Golan, and Ms. Nurit Blum, which happen to be both…

How to start a first lesson with first year beginners –

What I like to do, and of course it requires some preparation, is to start the lesson with a story. Of course, the story has to be interesting and funny, and should vary depending on the age and number of the student in your class. However, the more important thing I like to add is a soundtrack to the story. Meaning, in several strategic places in the story I start playing short little tunes which have some connection to the story. For instance, if I speak about battles, I play a typical trumpet fanfare, if I come to talk about dancing, I would start playing a baroque dance and very soon turn to play some typical children’s dance everybody would know. Even less obvious thing could have little tunes attached to them. For instance, when talking about the wind blowing against the reeds and making noise, I just play a short, soft and calm tune (a possibility could be the famous morning song from the “Peer Gynt” suite by Grieg).

The idea, in any case, is first of all to play something and let them hear and see how the instrument sounds and works. In addition, and also important, is already to attach different musical themes to different emotions and ideas, and let them hear how it could all be done with the recorder.

Though very important also, for me the historical knowledge gained from this exercise is only a bonus and not the main issue.

Have fun and let me know what you think!