February is just about to begin, which means a variety of themes that can be approached in elementary general music. This month consists of Groundhog’s Day on February 2, the Chinese New Year on February 10 (the year of the snake), Valentine’s Day on February 14, the 100th day of school, and it is also Black History Month. There are many opportunities to reinforce musical concepts with these events. Below are activities that I have performed in the elementary music classroom (PreK-3) during this month that involve singing, performing on instruments, moving to music, and music technology:
Groundhog’s Day: For PreK, I found a very simple tune online that I use in my Music and Movement Classes:
(Sung To:”I’m A Little Teapot”)
I’m a little ground hog, short and stout.
On ground hog day I pop my head out.
If I see my shadow I don’t come out.
I stay down in my hole and pout.
We would sing the song and then use props to act out this song. We would use a blanket to make a cave and choose a few students to be the groundhogs. As the rest of the students and I sing the song, the “groundhogs” would pop out or hide depending on whether they feel the groundhog should see his shadow or not. As a bonus, I play an excerpt from Haydn’s Surprise Symphony and have the “groundhogs” pop out of the cave when the orchestra performs the loud chord.
Chinese New Year: With Grades one and two, we utilize The Lion’s Roar by Han/Campbell. This book involves the Chinese luogo percussion ensemble of gongs and drums. It has simple rhythms and some more complex rhythms to fit your curriculum. The students adore performing in this ensemble. A few years back, I took a workshop with Han and was able to experience this series firsthand. It was a great experience.
Another way we celebrate this holiday in music class is we experience the pipa (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/pipa-hd/id372312574?mt=8) and the erhu (https://itunes.apple.com/my/app/erhu-standard/id415582488?mt=8) through the iPad apps. After watching a video I have from the workshops of musicians playing these two instruments, I then have the students experience these two instruments through the iPads and these apps.
Valentine’s Day: I have several activities and games that I use for this day. One activity is one I made on the SMART Board. It involves the letters HEART and the lyrics that go to the tune of BINGO. When the lyrics come to spelling the word HEART, the students come up to the SMART Board and tap on the letters to reveal the rhythm pattern of ta ta ti-ti ta. We add instruments and perform the song together. I took this one step further today and had the kindergartners write the rhythm patterns on the iPad as I recorded them working together. The app I used, Explain Everything (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/explain-everything/id431493086?mt=8), records the students as they are working so you can hear how they come to the end product. This app also allows you to share their work easily.
100th Day of School: Music K8 (http://www.musick8kids.com/ – this is their alternate sight where you can purchase a recording for .99) has some wonderful songs to celebrate the day. I have my elementary students compile a list of their “100 Favorite Songs.” Once the list is complete, we will sing and move to various songs on the list.
Black History Month: There are several effective ways to celebrate this theme in music class. One way is to sing and perform spirituals on acoustic and virtual instruments on Orff instruments, drums, recorders, and virtual iPad instruments. My third graders earn recorder stars for performing certain phrases of the spirituals. At the end of the unit, they can earn a wild star for playing one of the spirituals in its entirety (Good News is an example of this). You can find recorder stars here: http://www.maciepublishing.com/store/shopdisplayproducts.asp?id=10&cat=RECORDER+REWARDS+AND+CERTIFICATES
Whenever I might approach a theme, I always make sure that I am approaching it with the musical concepts intact as opposed to approaching it with the theme being the main focus.
- Delaware State Music Day (http://delawaremea.org/) – “Integrating Technology into the Elementary Music Classroom” at 1 pm in Rm 147 on Saturday, February 9.
- Delaware State Music Day (http://delawaremea.org/) – “iPads in the Elementary Music Classroom” at 2 pm in Rm 147 on Saturday, February 9.
- TI:ME/TMEA (Texas Music Education Association) (http://www.tmea.org/conventions/2013) – “Enhancing the Elementary Music Classroom with Technology” with Catie Dwinal at 2 pm in CC 201 on Wednesday, February 13.
- TI:ME/TMEA (Texas Music Education Association) (http://www.tmea.org/conventions/2013) – “iPads in the Elementary Music Classroom” at 11 am in CC 202 on Friday, February 15.
- NJMEA (New Jersey Music Education Association) (http://www.njmea.org) – “Internet Resources for the Elementary Music Classroom” at 10:15 am on Saturday, February 23.
- NAfME Eastern Division Biennial In-Service Conference (http://www.nafme-eastern.org/) – “Interactive Music: New Resources for Today’s Classrooms” at 3:45 pm on Saturday, April 6. This session features Silver Burdett’s newest online curriculum which I am so proud to be a contributing author.
- Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) (http://www.ccsu.edu/smi) – Integrating Technology into the Elementary Music Classroom: A Course For Elementary Teachers Taught By An Elementary Teacher from July 8-12, 8 am–12:30 pm & Tues 7-9:30 pm.
Amy M. Burns is an elementary music educator, clinician, author, and musician. She currently works at Far Hills Country Day School in Far Hills, NJ teaching PreK through Grade 3 general music, grade 5 instrumental music, and grades 4-8 instrumental band. She is the author of Technology Integration in the Elementary Music Classroom, Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with a SMART Board, and Help! I am an Elementary Music Teacher with One or more iPads! She is also an author for Online Learning Exchange™ Interactive Music powered by Silver Burdett. She has given numerous presentations on integrating technology into the elementary music classroom as well as being a keynote speaker for music technology conferences in Texas, Indiana, St. Maarten, and Australia. She is the recipient of the 2005 TI:ME Teacher of the Year Award, the 2016 NJ Master Music Teacher Award, the 2016 NJ Governor’s Leader in Arts Education Award, and the 2017 Non-Public School Teacher of the Year Award. You can find out more about Amy at her website: amymburns.com