On May 3rd, 2014, music teachers gathered in Sherwood Park at Westboro school for a joyful day of shared music making, dancing and singing through various workshops presented by some of the most talented music teachers in the greater Edmonton area. There were singing games, technology based assessments, First Nations dances, jazz, and song based picture books. In short, there was a little of something for everyone.
At the start of the day we gathered in the gym for fine conversation, some business and - most importantly - some music making.
Nicole Schutz kicked off the day with her excellent composition "Happy Day." Through a carefully planned order of process, Nicole got us dancing, singing, and playing. She supported us musically with her guitar, one of the finest instruments around or at least very portable!
After the welcome session, participants made their way between a choice of two concurrent sessions before lunch and then another choice of two sessions after lunch. Everyone met for a final session with headliner Jody Stark's "singing games."
At lunch, area music teachers gathered to chat and browse through the Orff boutique, library and St. John's displays. Bruce Grant, the Orff Doctor, was on hand to take orders and repair instruments.
After lunch, our own super talented Joanne Linden gracefully lead all workshop participants through a performance of "Sing From Your Heart," a composition by Edmonton's own Bob de Frece for Carl Orff Canada's 40th anniversary.
Using Technology for Assessment in the Music Room
It was another fantastic day with the Alberta Orff Chapter members and guests. One of the sessions was presented by Connie Ohlmann and Tim Paetkau. We learned about using technology for assessment in the music room. It was full of practical ideas when using web-based programs, electronic devices, and Google.
There was a focus on web-based tools, such as VoiceThread and Noteflight. VoiceThread is a cloud-based video sharing website that allows students to record themselves and share it with the teacher or other students. The teacher is able to leave comments for the students so they receive feedback. Noteflight is a lot like finale; also cloud-based. This on-line music notation software gives teachers and students the opportunity to create melodies or recorder songs. Students can email their notation to the teacher and teachers can provide immediate feedback. This software is great for reinforcing the rules of the staff and it is fun for the students when they feel as though they have published something.
Smartphones and tablets were a topic of discussion during the session. Students being recorded want to do their best work. This technology allows teachers to record individuals, groups, or whole classes. It offers an opportunity for self-assessment, peer assessment, and teacher assessment. What is great about using this technology is that it reduces piles of paper, provides immediate feedback, and frees the teacher up to actively engage in activities with the students. The right and the wrong way to record students was discussed. One idea discussed was to use the voice recorder on the device to assess singing ability. As the teacher sings “hello, (insert child’s name), the student then responds. Later, as you go over the recordings, the child’s name is there so it is easy to figure out who you are assessing. Also, this method frees the teacher up to be actively engaged in the activity and students do not feel the pressure of being assessed as much as they would if a teacher hovers over them with clip-board in hand. Teachers can also take a snapshot of a student’s work to be placed in a Student Folder which is discussed below.
Google Drive was introduced to all of the attendees of this session. A gmail account is needed to use Google Drive as it gives the ability to share any file that is stored in the cloud with anyone. It is a good alternative to VoiceThread for sharing videos. Google Forms are a good assessment tool in which a teacher can create a questionnaire, or multiple choice, short answer and long answer questions. The results are compiled in a spreadsheet.
A good way to manage all of your videos, snapshots, and photos of students work is to create Student Folders using Google Drive. It keeps everything in one place and allows teachers to store anecdotal notes for each individual. One disadvantage is how time consuming it can be to maintain the huge numbers of folders. Another suggestion discussed during this session was to give students control putting all of their documents into the folder and teachers would have editing privileges. The disadvantage to this is the fact that students have access to the folders.
Google Drive gives the ability to do Student Projects and this sharing aspect of Google allows students to work on one document together. A template can be set up for the students and they are all able to work collaboratively together on the same file.
Jazzin' It Up For June
Tracy Stener presented work shop participants with a wonderful assortment of ideas and activities based around one of my favourite subjects: jazz. June can be hard time for students and teachers alike to stay focused and active with the summer holiday's fast approach. Tracy presented some excellent jazzy methods to help keep everyone happy, active, and learning.The I IV V chord progression is often considered the backbone of jazz and blues. Tracy introduced the topic through an interactive way children can play along to I IV V recordings using Orff instruments. Using coloured chord cards, Tracy lead participants through a great classroom activity for active listening and thinking about chord changes. The sounds of Dizzy Gillespie's“Gettin’ Down” (See track 19), provided a fantastic support for practicing I IV V chord changes on barred instruments.
In addition to playing Orff instruments, Tracy also showed us how jazz can be the perfect way to develop vocal exploration and an awareness of question and answer phrasing. Using carefully chosen resources such as “Jazz and Blues for Kids” and “Jazz it Up,” by Susan Davies, participants engaged in vocal call and response with the use of NNP and barred instruments.
Beyond Orff instruments and recorder, the often forgotten piano can be a valuable tool in teaching improvisation in jazz inspired music lessons. Drawing on inspiration from the classics such as Liszt and more jazzy 20th century classics such as Gershwin, Tracy demonstrated how she creates enthusiasm for high quality music in her students. Based on resources such as “Focus On Composers,” by Patty Carratello, Tracy showed how students learn through high quality reproducible puzzles and colouring pages. Piano improvisation was Tracy’s culminating activity inviting up to play in an F minor pentatonic scale while she accompanied with a blues progression tying in the piano and jazz in one satisfying conclusion.
Other elements of the presentation included a great demonstration of powerpoint play-along jazz based recorder resources as well as a cup game that lines up with the Scott Joplin’s ragtime classic, the Maple Leaf Rag. Tracy provided many great suggestions for resources including recordings, videos and books. I left the session, as did we all, more than sufficiently jazzed.
Storytelling through First Nations Music and Celebration
Melissa’s presentation was a very welcome addition to this year’s Sharing Day. Her wealth of knowledge as a teacher, consultant and dancer was greatly appreciated by all who participated in her session. Melissa began the session by noting how culture cannot be put in a box. To understand and work with another culture, one cannot merely do it without first looking into the deeper roots of the culture presented. Melissa graciously shared many details of her own culture and experience with us.Melissa first introduced us to some of the different features of dance when presented at powwows. There is an Arbour in the middle of a large circle of campers where the dancing takes place. Dances can be competitive or non-competitive and many different styles exist for both genders. The most important thing noted about the dancing is the individuality each dancer brings to their craft. The regalia, for example, is a strong representation of who a dancer is so the art and emotion of the dancer define the attire. The reasons for each dancer to dance is also highly personal and often have there own story or message to tell through dance. Melissa’s choice of video pictures, and personal anecdotes highlighted how important the individuality of each dancer’s motivation is when considering the cultural element to the dance.
Melissa also taught participants some of the basic dance steps that could easily be shared with students in a classroom. Using a high quality recording, we participated in a circle dance that is designed to be inclusive of all dancers and non-dancers alike. In addition, Melissa lead the group through a dance exercise based on cultural practice that built on a story of an animal. Movement phrases where practised and performed. All participants walked away with a practical and meaningful idea of how to approach teaching about First Nation culture in the classroom using dance.
Lastly, the different resources available to teachers were highlighted. Very useful Edu-kits available to Edmonton teachers were described by Melissa available through Edmonton Public Schools aboriginal education site. They are helpful in helping to develop an appreciation for First Nations cultures. They are informatively broader than just the different cultural artifacts themselves. In addition, Melissa noted the advantage of looking at the Edmonton Public Schools share site for more information. Lastly, the advantage of visiting powwows to learn about First Nation culture was emphasized. All participants walked away with a great deal of knowledge and understanding to take back to their classrooms.
Song Based Picture Books: Rationale, Research, and Resources
Janice Comrie graciously spent some time sharing her expertise in early childhood literacy the their connections to music in the library for our first session in the afternoon. With song based pictures books as the focus, music teachers learned about the ins and outs of using, choosing, and singing song based pictures books.
The definition of song based picture books was defined as any book where the lyrics are based on known children's songs. An example of how the well-knonw "Bingo," could be the basis for a song about vowels was presented. The melody stays the same but new words are presented. The idea that song based picture books can be used to enhance and support learning of language was introduced.
Janice presented some evidence as to how singing song based picture books can help children. Some of her research backed up the idea that song books can help children develop phonemic awareness and fluency among other skills. The parallel between many musical skills and reading skills also developed the idea that song based picture books help children learn to read.
During the session, Janice was particularly helpful by showing us what is available in the market. The other major idea presented included the idea that song books should be well matched to children - not too hard and developmentally appropriate - and that books that are too wordy or too long should be put in "Song Based Picture Book Jail."
Janice's wealth of experience and great research will certainly have a great influence on us all as we go on to research and use song based picture books ourselves. Who knew how much joy could all be "by the book."
Traditional Singing Games for Elementary Kids
Jody Stark is a gem among teachers of teachers. She graciously shares her wealth of knowledge, enthusiasm and passion for music education. Her presentation on Traditional Singing Games for Elementary Kids at the Orff Sharing day was no exception! Jody started by sharing the reasons why singing games are so useful for music teachers. Singing games can become an important part of your classroom because they are an authentic musical practice, created by and for children. Due to their repetitive nature and the natural sense of engagement that come with games, they are ideal for sharing musical literacy and connecting music with movement. We experienced many of these engaging games and ideas in her session.
Some of my favorite classroom games, and soon to be new favorites, such as Ronald MacDonald, Wishy Washy, Follow Follow Me, Pizza Pizza Dadeo and Dusty Bluebells were presented. Jody is an expert at helping teachers learn to teach games and pointing out ideas for managing the learning environment along the way! During the session we directly experienced the fun and engagement that kids experience in a singing games lesson. Part of the reason I love to teach singing games in my classroom is that you can witness the joy that children experience as they play with each other. I see multiple possibilities for happy times spent with my music students using the materials from this session.
Jody pointed us towards some great resources if one wishes to learn more about using singing games in the classroom. During the session we watched an authentic recording of “Ronald MacDonald” obtained from a video listed on “Folkstreams.net”. Jody directed us towards some of her favorite print and electronic resources such as the Holy Names American Folksongs Collection website, http://kodaly.hnu.edu/, as well as resources by Jill Trinka such as “Bought Me A Cat”. Of note was the Folkways Record Label website (http://folkways.si.edu) which gives teachers access to rare musical collections and liner notes. She gave us an extensive list of games that could be taught by grade level, as well as connections to multicultural music. We are all very thankful that Jody was able to share her wealth of expertise and knowledge on this fascinating topic.
Alberta Orff Blog
We invite members to submit articles for our blog. Please contact Karen Abrahamson for more information.