TMEA has rejuvenated my mind with new ideas and has refreshed my teaching methodology. There are times when I get stuck on teaching a certain concept to come to realize that I was missing an important step in teaching the concept. Sometimes we get so involved in making sure that we are teaching what we feel that needs to be covered, we sometimes forget to take a step back and look at the larger picture or the whole picture. TMEA/TI:ME conferences do that for me. They help me stop, be a learner again, and remember to look at the whole picture. Here are some highlights from the past two days:
Playing Instruments in the Music Classroom: Dalcroze, Gordon, Kodály, and Orff
This was a wonderful session! I wanted to attend this because I feel that we should never be so dogmatic that we should only commit to teaching one approach. Our students are diverse learners and we have to adapt our classrooms so that we can connect to them with the best teaching style. This could mean involving two or more approaches. Or using mainly one approach and then adapting items in from other approaches. I felt like they reiterated this sentiment.
This session involved Julie Scott, Judy Bond, David Frego, Brent Gault, and Diane Lange. Each presenter briefly taught how to incorporate playing instruments into one of the four approaches.
We were reminded that when teaching using the Dalcroze approach, your body is your first instrument. We were moving to various scales by taking steps. These steps translated into more accurate singing. For example, when we were reminded to take smaller steps between “mi” and “fa”, as well as “ti” and “do'”, we sang those pitches with more accuracy than the previous time. After a while of teaching this way, the students will be able to hear and sing a pitch from “do”. For example, they would be able to hear and sing the pitch “sol”, from being given the pitch “do”.
We were reminded that there are many ways to interpret Kodály’s philosophy. We were shown one model of interpretation. Using the song, “No One in the House but Dinah”, which I have used to practice sixteenth notes, we used it to prepare, present, and practice the eighth rest and then preparing for the dotted quarter note. We ended with creating our own four-beat pattern. We were also reminded of the principles of the Kodály-inspired teaching:
- Music is essential for human development
- Singing as a foundation for music education
- Beginning with the musical mother tongue
- Moving from musical participation to theoretical understanding (Prepare-Present-Practice)
Gordon Music Learning Theory
This is an audiation-based approach. So much so, no slides were used when this approach was taught during the session. We were reminded to develop the context of tonality and meter, and not to develop the content. “Bow Belinda” was taught to us through doing activities that had us listening to the song many times before singing it. We had to count the times we heard the word, “bow”. We had to move to the macro-, then micro-, then macro- and micro-beat. Then we sang the resting tone, or tonic, using the word “bum”. We then changed “bum” to “do”. This reminded us that Gordon is about patterns of audiation.
She reminded us that there are nine steps in the process and that before they can verbally associate with labeling, they must feel it. Audiation is a higher order thinking skill. She eventually taught us to sing the bass line on the pitches “do” and “sol”. We then transferred the bass line to instruments so that some could play and sing the bass line, while others sang the melody with the dance (bow, right-star, left-star, bow).
I loved that this portion of the session began with an explanation to how the Orff Instrumentarium began. Carl Orff and Dorothee Günther formed a school for young adults who would be teaching children in 1924. They used drums, body percussion, rattles, shells, and jingles. They also used the voice for speaking and singing sounds, as well as the piano. On the piano, they learned to play melodies from such composers as Bartók. Finally, they also learned to improvise over a drone or bordun accompaniment.
From the list of instruments used, it was noticed that there were no melodic instruments. In 1926, two sisters sent Orff an African xylophone. This xylophone had a different tuning than Western instruments. Therefore, Carl Orff had another instrument made with Western tuning. When recorders were brought in, no one knew how to play them. So, Gunild Keetman, a former student of the school and now a teacher, learned it in a month and began teaching lessons.
In the session, we started with a drone or bordun, which is a chord made up of a root and 5th. When that is developed and steady, then split it up. After that, teach the ostinato that will be played by glocks and metalophones. The xylophones were then taught the next ostinato.
When the session ended, the presenters reminded you to take a level of each. Then, take more or choose your current path and continue with levels for that one approach. They also reminded us that as we teach, we change our style to fit our students’ needs. Therefore, take levels for the other approaches throughout your teaching career. Be a constant learner because it will make you a better teacher.
Easy Tech for the Elementary Teacher
Eric Ruyle led this session. It was a good reminder on how to make playlists in iTunes, to look at Band In A Box again (there is a lot that program can do), and to remember that a program like Microsoft Publisher can go a long way into making great worksheets for your classroom.
Making Music Videos in the General Music Classroom
Ian Boynton gave an interactive session on how to create those “viral” videos you see so often on Youtube. Though your goal would not be to make your video go viral, having your students create videos is a wonderful way for them to showcase what they know. In addition, you can connect with your students more because many of them spend their free time watching online videos.
Ian reminded us on how there are many factors that go into making a decent video. One is the quality of the mic and to make sure that there is a pop filter on the mic. If there is no pop filter, you will get excess wind noise if trying to film outside. We also need to think about lighting, recording the singing track separate from the video track, and mic placement.
After going through those items, he had us make a video. The participants decided that the song would be, “Deep in the Heart of Texas”. Ian recorded them using GarageBand (I believe or something similar). He then asked the participants to make some video clips of them singing the lyrics. Since synching their videos with the recording is challenging, he played the recording several times so that they could video well. In the end, he edited the video together using iMovie (WeVideo is an alternative for non-Mac devices). It was a fun-filled video for all to enjoy!
Vocal Development in the Elementary Grades and Movement Instruction in the Elementary Music Classroom
This was a two-part session. The first session started with Dr. John Feierabend on Friday evening, which involved the vocal development portion. The second part continued on Saturday morning with Dr. Missy Strong, which involved the movement instruction.
Dr. Feierabend covered the first five steps of the eight-step workout found in his series, First Steps in Music for Preschool and Beyond. These include pitch exploration, fragment singing, simple songs, arioso, and songtales. He went through each step by explaining the process and then having us experience it as students. He also showed classroom examples.
I liked that Dr. Feierabend addressed assessment (using a mobile device to video the children singing) and his 1-3 point scale. 3-consistently sings, 2-sometimes sing 1-emerging singer. He reminded us that doing this eight step process increases a student’s brain neuroplasticity. For example, when teaching simple songs, the teacher will sing the song for the first two classes before the children sing it by themselves during the third class. By doing this, the next year when you introduce a simple song, they might be able to sing it by themselves during the second class because this process increases a student’s brain neuroplasticity.
Missy continued the session on Saturday morning, covering the final three steps: Movement Exploration and Warm-up, Movement for Form and Expression, and Beat Exploration. I loved performing these movements. She reminded us in the warmup to develop sensitivity and expression through movement. She had us experience activities such as hands up, elevator (my students’ favorite with the stretch band), paint the room, and more. We also experienced Move Its! (from her own and Dr. Feierabend’s two DVDs) as well as beat motion activities. I am glad that she and Dr. Feierabend reminded us that after ages 3-4, we should be grouping our beat motions. If not, we are literally teaching everything in a 1/4 meter. When they said that, I was shocked to recall how often I do this and though I am grouping better per meter, I am not always grouping. After a certain age, I should be grouping every time we listen.
I look forward to returning next year and hopefully presenting, but definitely learning more!
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