Posts Tagged ‘tips’

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,

Best,

Yigal

Introducing Staff lines in class (using JoyTunes)

Thursday, August 25th, 2011
Hi colleagues,

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.
Accessories:

  • 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.
The students should know the game or at least have heard of it.

Process:
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.

Lesson 2: Hand out the sheet music you copied for your students and slowly start reading it together with the class. It is better to start with a familiar song the kids have practiced at home (using the game). Then, if they are doing well, give them something else they don’t know. Use the playback CD at the end of the lesson to finish in a positive way.

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.

Tips:

  • 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 !
So… what do you think?  Stay tuned for more activities in the following posts.
Good luck, and share your experience with all of us!
.

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
Purposes:

  • 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.

Tips:

  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…

Yigal.

Hot (summer) Story: Ms. H.’s Experience in Class

Sunday, August 7th, 2011

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.

Yours sincerely,

Yigal

Summer vacation is upon us – what do we do?

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

I have to admit that the summer vacation makes me nervous. Although I do long for some rest after the stressful year, the thought of all my young students disappearing into the big void of computer games, television and ‘doing nothing’ makes me uneasy. Apparently, this is not just my problem. Many teachers report that their students do not touch their musical instruments during the summer vacation, say alone practice. One colleague of mine told to me that “students who like to practice will keep doing so over summer vacation, but students who don’t like to practice – nothing will make them even look at their recorders (not even scolding parents)”. When I asked her how many of her students like to practice, she started to laugh…

On one side I completely understand the students’ point of view. They need rest, they want to have a break from responsibilities, they want to have fun, and practicing isn’t fun. Practicing is boring. But on the other hand, refusing to practice over such a long period of time is hazardous to the learning process of the instrument, and sometimes it can take the student 3-4 months backward.

So what can we do?

Fighting this void and against computer games and TV is really one of the more difficult things there is. I’ve always tried talking to the parents about the importance of maintaining some structure in the summer vacation and it does help in some cases when the parents are more committed. However, in many cases it helped very little or not at all.

A more effective thing I started doing is organizing some sort of mid summer activity with my students. Anything that would be a reminder of what we did during the year. I try to organize a special kind of lesson with fun and social games that have something to do with the recorder – playing a song together one note for each person, “musical chairs” when one of the students is playing-stoping ect. This could be done also with several groups together (if you have a few groups or good colleagues). The point is making it feel like a party, having fun with the recorder and socializing with other recorder students. After such a long time without, I always feel that the kids are more than excited to play again their favorite songs and with their favorite playbacks. An event like that could really help, but there are 2 problem: A. The summer time is very often full of activities (especially for us, musicians) and we can’t always organize something like that. B. It helps, but it still doesn’t solve the problem – in most cases they will not practice their instrument before and after this event.

I don’t know how many of you already tried using JoyTunes-Recorder with your students during the year, but from my and many of my colleagues’ expeirence, this method turned out to be the most effective aid yet during the summer vacation. Having a look&feel of a computer game, my students play it like they would so many other computer games – for hours. They don’t even notice that there are practicing and keeping everything we did during the year fresh.

A colleague of mine, Tchia Rudovski, wrote me about it – “my student came back to a lesson, and it was as if the last time we met was yesterday. He was even in a better condition…”.

I truly recommend it as an elegant summer vacation solution. If we know our students are going to waste so much time playing computer games, why not encourage them to play one that is actually beneficial for recorder.

As a personal note, I truly believe in taking breaks and vacations, but I think it has to be balanced properly. Freedom and rest are effective if they are in the right proportions. Structure is also a comfort zone for most of us, even if we like to complain about it. Children can be lost without a goal, and without motivation, but only a few will admit that. I feel that we, as their parents, teachers and role models – can and should help them find alternatives for their general boredom and “doing nothing” concept…