2017 Social Media Blog

Articles on this page are written by Michigan music teachers and also featured on MMEA Facebook and Pinterest pages

Michigan’s Model Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Project – Stacey Chen

For me, one of the most valuable pieces of the continuous growth mindset is personal reflection.  I like to take a close look at my curriculum in April.  There is a checklist that I use for my long-term planning…but sometimes my plans are thrown out the window for the sake of flexibility.  Spring is a great time for me to catch the concepts I might have missed teaching in class.

During this year’s curriculum check, I was pretty much on track. There has been an influx of new students in my building, though, and I realized that I hadn’t done a rhythm reading activity to assess their level of musical literacy.  This is something that I formally assess in the fall, and then continue to build on throughout the year.  With so many new students in the past two months, I knew it would be useful to formally re-assess this standard.  But creating a new resource for the assessment wasn’t something I had time for right now.

Enter the MAEIA assessment website.  If you have been looking for a catalog of free, easy to use, and well organized assessments made for Michigan music teachers, this is it.  MAEIA assessments have clear instructions, approximate administration times, and are engaging for students.  The electronic catalog of Task (larger activities that may take several classes) and Event (quick, quiz-like activities) assessments are a fabulous resource!

Have you ever looked at a standard, and wondered if you were really covering it?  Or, if you were using appropriate rigor?  The MAEIA assessments are a great tool to use – for assessing those standards that we might be unsure of, or as a quick “grab and go” activity to assess a specific standard.  There is an assessment for every Michigan curriculum standard K-12.  They are easy to implement, and all necessary components are included (even student response sheets).

Reflection is about celebrating successes and finding solutions for weaknesses.  Data collection can be useful in identifying strengths and weaknesses.  If you are looking for assessment resources to aide your data collection process, please take a look at the Michigan’s Model Arts Education Instruction and Assessment Project website: http://www.michiganassessmentconsortium.org/maeia.

Stacey Chen teaches grades 3-5 general music in Whitehall, Michigan.  She holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Calvin College, a Master’s Degree from Oakland University, and has completed Level I and Level II of Orff Schulwerk.

Movement Lesson Based On A Book – Erika Bridge

Head to Toe: Based on the book by Eric Carle

  1. Exploring self space and then group space utilizing levels and positive/negative space
  2. Have students in self space
  3. Read book Head to Toe, having students attempt actions given   on each page.
  • Everyone Chant “I can do it!” on each page, exploring different vocal qualities.
  • Expand to phrase: “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it too!” and create a walk and freeze pattern. Encourage students to create a ‘personal walk’ or signature movement to go with the pattern. (Walking on 7 beats and freezing on 8th beat). Teacher is keeping the rhythm on a hand drum to emphasize phrase length.
  • In small groups of 3 or 4, leader gives their shape and others imitate. Rotate around the group allowing each person to share their movement and others imitate.
  • Create movement statues that are shifting one person at a time, this time allowing the movement to travel through space and then freeze. The next person moves and then makes their freeze pattern in conjunction with the first person, taking notice of level and positive/negative space. This continues until all the people in the group have traveled and added their portion to the ‘statue’. The activity continues with the 1st person exiting the statue and re-inserting themselves in a new way. Each person has the 8 beat “I can do it, I can do it, I can do it too!” phrase to exit and re-enter.

Erika Bridge teaches K-4 music in Okemos, Michigan and is in her 10th year of teaching. She has her MM in Choral Conducting, and has completed Orff levels I, II, III, ad Master class. She is a regular state and national presenter, and is completing her training to become an approved Orff Level I instructor.

Movement Activities – Cari Cravotta

Growing Flowers

Materials: Scarves and relaxing instrumental music with a recognizable beat that sounds like a garden.  Example (World Resonance Cross-Cultural Interpretations- “Midnight Fever”)

Grade:  K-5

Objective/Musical Purpose:  Students will respond to the music they hear and create a dance. They will internalize the music by showing flow and flow with pulse, and movement in self and shared space.

Students spread out into self-space.  Each student has one scarf. The teacher will tell the students to imagine the room is a garden and they are each a seed planted in the garden.  The students will start in small crouched positions like seeds.  Here are the parts to the movement activity.

  1. When the music begins students will slowly flow and grow up into a flower.
  2. Students’ feet should be planted and the upper body flows in high space like a flower dancing in the wind.
  3. The scarf is now a petal that floated off of the flower and is bouncing to the beat of the music (toss the scarf in the air to the beat).
  4. The petal is now dancing and bouncing around the entire garden (classroom) in self-space without touching any other petals (locomotor).
  5. The petal has now found another petal and together they create a petal dance. (Each student finds a partner and creates movements together that show they are feeling the music).
  6. The petal separates from the partner petal and finally falls to the ground as the music comes to an end (slowly decrescendo the volume of the music).

*Depending on the age or musical readiness of the students, the teacher may decide to only try steps 1-3.  The teacher can pick and choose the parts of the movement activity that fit the readiness of the students.

Bean Bag Fun!

Materials:  Bean Bags and any exciting upbeat music in duple meter (Zumba dance music works great with this!)

Objective/ Musical Purpose:  Students will internalize the beat in Duple meter through performing and creating movement.

Grades:  2nd-5th

Students will be standing in self-space.  Each student will have one bean bag. Students will learn the following 4 dance moves with the bean bags:

  1. Flip Flop– put bean bag in one hand and switch it to the other, going back and forth to the microbeat.
  2. Around the world– Move the bean bag around the waste switching hands in the back and front to the macrobeat.
  3. Toss and Catch– Toss and catch the bean bag to the macrobeat.
  4. Under the leg– Pick up a leg and hand the bean bag off to the other hand to the macrobeat. Go back and forth by lifting each leg.

Once these moves are taught to the students, turn the music on and let the students perform these moves to the beat of the music. Rotate moves 1-4.  If the students are ready, ask them to create their own dance moves with the bean bags to the beat of the music.

Mrs. Cari Cravotta is currently in her 8th year as an Elementary Music Teacher in St. Johns Public Schools where teaches K- 5th grade students at three different elementary schools in the district.  She holds a Bachelor of Music in Flute Performance from Hope College and a Masters of Music and Teaching Certification in Music Education from Michigan State University where she studied under Dr. Cynthia Taggart.  She is certified in Edwin Gordon’s Music Learning Theory Elementary Level 1, 2, and Early Childhood.  Over the past ten years, she has attended and presented at several music education workshops and conferences in the state of Michigan.  Mrs. Cravotta teaches an Early Childhood music class in DeWitt called “Mommy’s Musicians” as well as private flute and voice lessons out of her home.  She is the proud mother of three young children and the wife of Dr. Keith Cravotta, Principal at DeWitt Junior High.

Lesson: The Firebird – Ashleigh N. Miller

Grade Level
1st GradeTime Allotted
Approximately 20 minutes
Resources Needed
Firebird by Rachel Isadora
Moving High/Low

Standard(s) Addressed

Perform a variety of expressions of music.

Introduce aesthetic responses to music.

The Firebird is a ballet by Igor Stravinsky, first performed in 1910. To capture the attention of students, summarize the story by telling them it is a story about a Prince named Ivan who travels into the forest searching for magic. While searching, Ivan discovers a firebird, princesses, an evil being named Katschei, and his evil minions.


  • Read The Firebird by Rachel Isadora with an expressive body (voice, movement, etc). Act out different scenes while you read, both capturing student attention as well as giving them examples of acceptable movement choices.
  • Tell students that they will reenact the story using their bodies. Remind them to use different levels with their bodies, as well as other Laban movements.
  • Prepare students for movement by reviewing classroom procedures for safety. Invite students to spread out and freeze.
  • Return to the story from the beginning, either choosing to reread or retell the story in your own words. As you do, improvise on the piano during the different scenes. For example, when the princesses arrive, play higher/lighter sounds, or when Katschei appears, play lower/heavier sounds.


  • Are the students making movement choices that reflect both the story and the music being played?

Extension Activity
Show students a Youtube clip of the actual ballet (be sure to proof it before you show it). One of my favorites is the version with Michael Fokine choreography, Nina Ananiashvili as the firebird, and directed by Andrey Chistiakov (this version also available for purchase on Amazon).

For more information or other extensions of this lesson, please contact ashleigh.n.miller@gmail.com

Ashleigh N. Miller is K-3 Music and Technology Teacher at Olivet Community Schools. She holds a BME in Music Education and English Education from Central Michigan University (’11) and MM in Music Education from the University of Michigan (’16). Ashleigh is President of the Mid-Michigan Orff-Schulwerk Association and an alumni of both AmeriCorp and Sigma Alpha Iota.

Movement Activity: Spring from The Four Seasons by Vivaldi – Josh Austin


  • Blue, Green and Yellow rhythm sticks or scarves
  • Recording of Spring
  • Chart that shows different sections from the form of Spring

Set Up
First have children listen and follow the form. Direct them to think about how the music might match the little pictures and what that might look like if they acted out what was happening in the pictures. You may want to model some the movements for them (tree, birds, river, thunderstorm, sunshine)

Hand out sticks (or scarves). I hand them out to get an even number of each color. Green is for the tree section. Yellow is for the bird section and the sunshine section. Blue is for the river section and the thunderstorm section.

Before starting the music, I have the trees go find a spot to plant themselves (they will have roots, so they can’t walk around).

I then start the music and hold up the stick that corresponds with each section and the part to be played. The group that has the same color stick gets up and does their part and when I put their stick down, the children sit wherever they are in the room (this way they aren’t all running to get back somewhere at the end of their turn).

After it has been played a few times, I try to pull away from showing the children when their turns are so they can do the activity by ear.

Josh Austin teaches kindergarten music at Grand Ledge Public Schools


Assessing students’ musical ability in an elementary setting can be a rather daunting task. If your district is fortunate enough to be 1:1 with either chrome books, iPads or some other tablet device it can be just a matter of sending students to one corner of the room to record their assignment while you work with others. The limited microphones on these devices allow for half way decent recordings that you can use for assessment even if the final product isn’t ready for sharing with the rest of the world via online or physical media distribution.

Those of us in a situation where you may only have one device capable of recording have a much more difficult task in finding the class time to get decent recordings for assessment. There are, however, some fairly simple solutions we can look to. For large group assessment setting the device or microphone int he middle of the group and hitting record while students perform is the simplest method. If you have an iPad or other small portable the microphone will do a fairly decent job of getting sound from all sides. Even your smartphone can accomplish this with the built in voice memos app. You can improve the quality by adjusting your seating from a circle to one side of the room and pointing the microphone towards the group. If you are recording to a desktop computer or laptop the same principles apply with the added necessity of finding a cable long enough to reach from where the mic is to the computer.

Individual recordings are a bit trickier to accomplish, and you may very well need a couple class periods to accomplish it. Step one is to design an activity that day that either allows students to work independently or allows individuals to break from he group you are working with to record. Setting up the microphone behind something that helps block sound from the rest of the room is helpful, but simply having the sound source you want to record be the closest to the mic should provide enough signal to make it the thing you hear best. You will, of course, have to have practiced the procedures and expectations for such a setup prior to implementation.

Ian Boynton is a musician and teacher in the Detroit area. Currently he teaches general music to grades preK-1 for Redford Union Schools and both music and technology courses at Madonna University. In his spare time he serves as Direct of Music at Grace Lutheran Church in Redford and directs the pit orchestra at South Lyon High School.


Technology is a means to the end: music teaching and learning. Technology serves the teaching process.

Why teach technology?
Relevance and access

  • 93% of students own a computer or have access to one (Pew Research Center, 2013).
  • Allows students to interact with music in a familiar domain
  • Mainstream music is produced in a manner that is accessible to students

What is 1:1 computing?

  • A model of school technology in which each student is issued an electronic device, such as a Chromebook or iPad, in order to access online class materials and the Internet.
  • 54% of students and teachers will have access to a school-issued personal computing device this year (Futuresource Consulting).
  • This paradigm creates the perfect opportunity to develop curriculum that is relevant, creative, and speaks to students’ inherent interests in music.

Curriculum questions: Essential Questions for teaching music technology

  • What do you want students to learn?
  • What do you want them to do that they cannot do already?
  • In what modality will students work (e.g., notation, production, etc.)?
  • What type of music instruction have they had before?
  • How are you going to make them better? How will you meet them where they are and take them to new places?

Software for the 1:1 Music Classroom


  • Web-based music notation program
  • Accessible through any computer and mobile device with Internet access
  • Free with email address
  • Schools may buy subscription packages with more features for students through MusicFirst (www.musicfirst.com)

Soundation.com (screencast tutorial available at https://goo.gl/PR09Ku)

  • Digital Audio Workstation – similar to Apple’s GarageBand and Acoustica’s Mixcraft
  • “Loops” (pre-loaded musical sounds) are pre-loaded to drag into the workstation’s audio channels. Pre-existing songs and student-created sounds may also be uploaded.
  • Students may share their work by exporting files
  • Schools may buy subscription packages with more features for students through MusicFirst (www.musicfirst.com)

Classroom Platform and Screencasting tools

Google Classroom (www.classroom.google.com): Web-based dissemination of class instructions and delivery of class content (part of the Google Apps for Education suite)

Screencast-o-Matic (www.screencastomatic.com): Creates screen recordings (video and audio output of your desktop/laptop) for how-to tutorial videos.

Project Ideas
While developing the curriculum, choose projects that utilize the platform that you feel will best serve your students’ needs:

  • Simple rhythmic notation projects
  • Traditional composition assignments
  • Rhythmic dictation activities
  • Basic sequencing
  • Composing using musical forms
  • Podcasting
  • Using virtual instruments in Soundation or DAW
  • Movie and video game scores
  • Creating cover songs
  • Creating remixes

Guidelines for Delivering Instruction

  • Model the process.
  • Provide clear parameters.
  • Hold students accountable to project parameters.
  • Base assessment on parameters.
  • Provide space!
  • Allow students to share their work.
  • Teach students how to use constructive and kind feedback.
  • Be available as much as possible to provide feedback.
  • Assume the roles of learner AND teacher.
  • Motivate students to move beyond their “comfort zones” via the feedback process.
  • Maintain positive

Daniel Albert is a Ph.D. candidate in music education at Michigan State University. Prior to doctoral studies at MSU, he taught elementary and middle school instrumental and general music in Longmeadow, Massachusetts for 11 years.

Exit Slips in Elementary Choir – Brooke Broughton

In my 6th grade choirs, I use a few creative projects throughout the year to break up the routine of day-to-day choir rehearsals. One such creative project is a group project, in which students arrange a current pop song in an a capella style. I use exit slips throughout the week-long project to keep the groups on schedule, as well as provide them with a way to let me know how the group work is going. I find the exit slips beneficial, and tweak them every year to try to improve the flow of the unit. Here is an example of one of the exit slips I used this year.


Choir #___________________

A Capella Project Tuesday, March 22 Exit Slip

Who is performing which part? There may be more than one person on a part.

  1. Lead vocals –
  2. Background vocals/Sung instrumental –
  3. Beat box/rhythm –
  4. Other?
  5. Who is contributing and collaborating well in your group?
  6. Is there anyone who is not? Who is it and what is going on?
  7. How are you contributing and collaborating?

Brooke Broughton teaches 5th grade general music and 6th grade choir in DeWitt. She has been teaching for fifteen years, and has taught a variety of grade levels. Brooke is a graduate with her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Michigan State University. She lives in DeWitt with her husband, Ian, and her two sons, Kellan and Liam.

Thoughts on Inclusion of Exceptional Learners in Music – Karen Salvadore, Ph.D.

Among the many possible goals of music education, one of the most important is for every child to make individual progress with regard to musical skills and conceptual knowledge so that they become a more independent musician. This progress toward independent musicianship looks different in every child, as children start with different abilities and interest levels. However, progress in musicianship is possible for every child, and active music-making alone and together with classmates can [and should!] be an important, joyful, playful, challenging part of every student’s school experience.

Whether you teach in a setting with only a few exceptional students or you are in a building with several self-contained classes of students who have moderate to severe disabilities, it is important to carefully consider how you can meet the individual music learning needs of all students in your classroom.

Sometimes, when considering adapting instruction or modifying curriculum, teachers worry that giving “special treatment” is not “fair” to the other students who do not have those supports. However, to quote Aristotle, it is the worst form of inequality to try to make unequal things equal. It is important to remember that recognition of individual difference is a form of justice—it allows us to create an atmosphere in which individuals are valued and everyone can make progress. Sometimes, a child with disabilities is included in music with the reasonable expectation that they would learn the same material as the rest of the class. For these children, we adapt instruction but do not significantly change instructional goals. Other times, a child is mainstreamed for the opportunity to be with and learn from age peers. These children are not expected to learn the same material and therefore, teachers should make significant modifications to curricular goals. In either case, music learning should be the primary goal of inclusion or mainstreaming in music class, with other goals such as socialization as secondary. Legally and ethically, students with identified disabilities must be afforded the same opportunities as all students to benefit from music instruction and to participate in curricular and extracurricular music activities.

With that in mind, one of the most important things we can do to create an inclusive setting is to explicitly stated and reiterate that we are all musical. Music is something we can all learn. We are here in music class to learn to be better singers and movers and players and improvisors and songwriters… As your teacher, I will meet each of you where you are and work with you. We will support each other and celebrate growth. In music, we try things, sometimes we make mistakes, and that’s OK because that’s how we learn. We know we are all in different places for different skills, and that’s normal, cool, something to enjoy. Research consistently indicates that a teacher’s disposition regarding inclusion of students is the best predictor of successful inclusive instruction.

Some music teachers state that they prefer not to know who in their classes has been labeled as having a special need. It is true that labels can result in a focus on deficits and that there is sometimes as much variety in behavior and ability within a single diagnostic label as between different labels. Further, there is little evidence for differences in musical ability/potential/aptitude based on specific diagnosis. That’s why I advocate a universal design approach rather than a labels-based approach. Next week, I’ll write again about specific strategies for inclusion based on the principles of universal design.

For now, I’d like to leave you with this final thought: because of what music is, music teachers already have a leg up on including students who have special needs.

Here are some ways many music teachers already rock at this…

  • Using a variety of teaching modalities (aural, kinesthetic, visual, tactile)
  • Varying modes for response (movement, singing, chanting, playing instruments—not simply reading/writing.)  
  • Sound before sight before theory… emphasis on non-verbal, multi-sensory immersion in musicking

Part 2: Ideas for Integrating Exceptional Learners in Music
Last week, I left off on my Thoughts on Inclusion of Exceptional Learners in Music with the thought that many music teachers already [perhaps without knowing it] teach in ways that help students with special needs, such as:

  • Using a variety of teaching modalities (aural, kinesthetic, visual, tactile)
  • Varying modes for response (movement, singing, chanting, playing instruments—not simply reading/writing.)  
  • Sound before sight before theory… emphasis on non-verbal, multi-sensory immersion in musicking

This week, I wanted to provide more detail about some specific ways to adapt music instruction for students with special needs, using a Universal Design for Learning (UDL) approach.

Universal Design for Learning

  • Presentation: Material is presented through a variety of modalities: aural, kinesthetic, visual, technological, experiential [note that this builds in repetition, which is important for many students].
  • Response: the ways that students respond are similarly varied—moving, singing, playing an instrument, writing. Note that in UDL it is important for individuals to respond so you know what each student needs.
  • Engagement: Although this is often not as much of an issue in music settings, UDL asks us to figure out how to get students excited and interested in what we would like them to learn.
  • Strengths-Based:  considers domains of development [physical, cognitive, social/emotional/behavioral, communication, sensory, musical] in terms of strengths and areas for improvement.


  • Accommodation:  is when you keep the same goals/objectives, but there are allowances for this individual.  Common accommodations include:
    • Participation: length, type
    • Input: How information is given
    • Output: How student responds
    • Difficulty level
    • Time to work, time to complete
    • Size of Task, “step by step”
    • Accessibility [physical]
  • Modification: is when the curriculum is changed for this student. This student’s goals for music learning are different from those of the other students. This does not mean that we shift away from music learning goals to social, emotional, and/or behavioral goals—although we know that these are likely areas that a child might be working on.  We are still music educators who focus on music learning. Planned modifications to music curriculum should be either based on specific modifications already present in the IEP or specifically written into an IEP and created in collaboration with the rest of the team.

After you have read the IEP, consider:  How can I adapt my instruction to address the needs described here? Am I presenting this material in a variety of ways on different days? Will anything on the list of accommodations above help this student meet the requirements of my music curriculum? [e.g., will it help to reduce the task size?].  Is there a part of my music curriculum that should be modified for this student? What changes could I make that would allow this student to continue on her music learning journey even as others in her class are working on other material?  An example: I was in a setting where 4th graders were learning recorder. A student who had moderate intellectual disability and fine-motor control issues was learning to play the chord roots for the recorder songs on bells he could play with the flat part of his hand.

With this mindset, we can find ways to help individual students [not only those with identified disabilities] make individual progress toward music learning.

Karen Salvador, Ph.D. serves as President-Elect of the Michigan Music Education Association. She is Assistant Professor of Music, Music Teacher Certification Program Coordinator and Coordinator of Secondary Education Programs at the University of Michigan-Flint.

What Do You Do With Just One iPad?! – Denise Gulliver-Lewis

Read this article and more on Denise’s web page, digitalDoReMi

Learning Targets and Assessments in the Elementary Music Classroom – Abby Lewis-Lakin

Formative Assessment
Often, as music teachers, we are asked to provide data showing our students’ performance and growth. This data is sometimes thrown together at the last second, semi-fabricated based on observation, and often only covers a small portion of what our students actually know. Although this is less than ideal, it is often the best that we can do with limited time and hundreds of students. Formative assessment, when done consistently and properly, can be an alternative to this haphazard habit of many teachers, including myself.

There are three essential questions to ask when framing formative assessment:

  1.     Where are you going?
  2.     Where are you now?
  3.     How do you close the gap?

Where are you going? First, a strong curriculum, high expectations, or simply a firmly stated plan for a lesson must be the starting point. As we have learned in many situations, be it backward design for lessons, or beginning with the end in mind from the seven habits, it is important to know where you are going in education. Learning targets are an easy way to make the “where are we going?” part of a lesson apparent to students.

Where are you now? Second, using questioning and simple observation strategies in the classroom are essential to gathering information about where your students are now. This is where all of our standard teaching practices come in to play. Can students match pitch? Can they echo my pattern with their singing voice? Can they read treble clef notes? Gathering this information is key to closing the gap.

How do you close the gap? Changes to teaching are most influential for student learning when they are done in the moment and in the presence of students. Although it seems counter-intuitive when phrased that way, responsive and adaptive teaching is the best way to truly influence student learning. So follow that teachable moment, answer that slightly off topic question, fix the phrasing in that section that wasn’t originally on the lesson plan!

According to Introduction to Formative Assessment, an online course available through Oakland Schools, there are five key strategies to a growth mindset, which is crucial for effective formative assessment.

  1. Intentions: Students must know what is expected of them. Someone cannot play soccer if they do not know the rules and how to score a goal.
  2. Evidence: You, the teacher, must have an idea of what your students know. Your students must be able to see and respond to this in order to grow.
  3. Feedback: Praise effort and good things as well as giving constructive criticism. This must be done in a timely manner while the student still has the opportunity to make improvements on the project or task.
  4. Peer Involvement: Teachers are not the sole influence on students in the classroom. Peers play a huge role in student learning. Utilize that influence for good by encouraging class discussion, teamwork, and peer feedback.
  5. Activate Learners: Students need to feel like they own their learning in order to be self-motivated. Help them to set goals and develop metacognitive strategies in order to create self-motivated learners.

This is all well and good, but how do I do it in my elementary music classroom?

In my classroom, I start every lesson with a learning target and an outline of the plan for the day. Students come in to the room singing a hello song, and then a student volunteer reads the learning target and the plan. It takes about two minutes at the beginning of class and it puts a lot of students at ease. With a clear understanding of what to expect during class, what will be expected of them, and what they will learn that day, my students are more engaged and ready to participate.

The learning target is not content-specific so that it is transferrable to other “texts” or prompts in the music classroom. For example, “I can use my tongue to start each note on the recorder.” This is my very direct expectation for my fourth-grade recorder students. In this particular lesson, we were playing “Old McDonald.” That information follows in the plan for the day, in which I outline the activities and success criteria, but it is not the main learning target for the lesson.

The evidence that is used in a daily lesson is not and cannot be written down and documented for every student every day. With the number of students that we have, this is an unrealistic expectation. With careful planning, however, you can gather information/evidence on each child, even if it is not written down and documented. This evidence can be used for in-the-moment responsive teaching and feedback that can immediately improve student performance. Here are a few strategies that I use in this area:

  • Change my position in the room frequently in order to monitor progress aurally.
  • Spread students out so I can hear them individually as I move about the room. This also helps with behavior problems.
  • Sometimes I carry around a checklist/seating chart and mark with +, -, and = to indicate if students are growing, falling back, or staying about the same in a particular skill. This encourages a growth mindset for both my students and me. Even if a student does not “measure up” to other students, are they doing better than they have in the past? If so, this is something to be celebrated and documented.
  • Simply listen to the results that I get. This is what music teachers have been doing for years during rehearsals. Listen to what comes back to you after you teach something. If it is not what you expect, then make a change. Re-teach it, try it again, take it in a different direction, etc. This is great formative assessment that we do naturally.

This is a crucial area in the music classroom that is often skipped-over. Yes, we give feedback to our students as a group, or we fix an individual behavior problem, but how often do we give encouraging and individual feedback to our students? Here are a few suggestions:

  • When walking around the room and gathering evidence, take the time to correct mistakes. Put those left hands on top with recorder, help that student with their posture, stay by that student and sing along so that they can work to match your pitch, etc.
  • Praise effort more than talent. Praising effort encourages a growth mindset. Ex. If students work hard, they will get better. Praising talent encourages a fixed mindset. Ex. Either a student is talented, or they are not.
  • Sometimes I use feedback sheets. These are small sheets of paper that I use when grading for recorder belts. I circle the area in which the student needs to improve, or put a star by an area in which the student is excelling. I do all of this while the student is playing for me. The feedback is quick and instantaneous. There is also time in class for the students to ask me about the feedback that I have given them if needed.

Involving students in the learning individually and as peers
When my students are struggling with something, and I have gathered evidence of this and provided them with the feedback to improve, I often need to hand the learning over to the students themselves and take a step back. This can involve a turn and talk, thirty seconds to practice something specific, or a time for individual questions. I have found it useful to give the students time to digest and process what they have just learned with each other, instead of constantly moving at the fast-pace that we are so accustomed to in the elementary music classroom. Although this strategy is not always appropriate, it is effective when it is used.

MAEIA Assessments
There has been a lot of buzz about the MAEIA assessments that will soon be available for classroom use throughout Michigan. These assessments have been written, revised, and field-tested by practicing Michigan teachers. These assessments are bigger and more time-consuming than the day-to-day formative assessment strategies that I have mentioned so far. Within these large-scale assessments, however, are formative assessment “checkpoints” and helpful supplements that meet all of the criteria of sound assessment.

Each assessment provides the following:

  • …formative assessment in the form of questions for understanding.
  • …feedback in the form of checklists.
  • …clear expectations in the form of carefully constructed rubrics and exemplars of each level of performance within that rubric.
  • …adaptability in the form of alternate prompts to suit the needs of the classroom and the teacher.

There are a lot of things that are expected of us elementary music teachers these days. Each year, it seems like more is being piled on. In this article, I have shown how we can accomplish most of these things within the existing culture of our classrooms. By setting clear expectations in the form of a learning target and following through with evidence gathering in order to give feedback, we can increase our students’ learning, achievement, and mindset significantly. This evidence gathering and feedback is formative assessment. It can be documented on its own when needed, or folded into a larger assessment such as those soon to be published by the MAEIA project. At the end of the day, the information that we gather about our students, and the feedback that we provide for them is valuable and necessary for student growth in the elementary music classroom.

About Abby: I am the elementary music teacher at Keith Elementary in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District. I am one of 14 elementary music teachers in the district that serves 12 elementary schools.  In the summer of 2014, I was a member of the Michigan Arts Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) Project as a 3rd through 5th grade music assessment writer. Since then, I have written, edited, co-written, and tested a number of these assessments in my own classroom. Recently, I took an online course through Oakland Schools on formative assessment, and I use learning targets every day with every class. You can contact me at abbylewis-lakin@wlcsd.org with any questions or comments.

Articles by Denise Wilkinson, Professional Development and Outreach Chair, MMEA

Autism and the Music Classroom

Aides and Special Learners

Exit Tickets

Welcoming Students To Our Elementary Music Classroom – Deb McMartin-Finkel

The first days of school can be exciting to some and downright frightening to others.  Children may come to us full of enthusiasm for music and learning or full of trepidation, depending on their previous experiences in school and specifically in the music classroom.  Our job is to help them feel welcome, safe, cared for, and nurtured musically and emotionally during their time with us.  We want to bring out their voice, their creativity, their desire to know more and experience more musically.  Setting the stage for all of this to happen occurs in the first weeks of school.  

Hello songs and name songs seem obvious choices for our September lesson plans.  In fact, children love these songs at any time of the year, especially the name songs.  Who doesn’t want to hear their name right in the middle of a song, capturing all the attention in that moment?  But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  First things first.  

On day one I plan to establish a routine that we will maintain throughout the school year.  We are blessed with a large two foot wide green circle that covers a good part of our music classroom.  Our students enter and go around the circle to a song played on the piano or a recording.  From the moment they enter the room we are making music, hearing music and moving to music. The circle defines their space and we are ready to roll.  After a few echo rhythm patterns, I will introduce my name.  Because it is a little long, we take a few moments to learn it (or review it) rhythmically.  Then, of course we will clap some of the children’s names rhythmically.  With the younger students we may discuss how many “sounds” are in someone’s first name and find others in the class with the same number of sounds in their names. With the older students we may use first and last names rhythmically and combine them with half the class on the rhythm of one name and half on another name, to create an interesting and cool sound on day one.

Throughout this first class I will introduce my FOUR specific music room rules.  They are

  • Listen and respond to your teacher the first time
  • Leave the green circle when you are invited.
  • Raise your hand to talk and wait to be invited.
  • Play instruments when you are invited.

( I attempt to state rules in a positive tone, indicating what the child may do)  

Of course these are not the only rules in our school, however, they cover the majority of situations specific to the music classroom. I visit and revisit them over the first few classes and then as needed.

A goal that I must specifically address this first week is our behavior goal for assemblies.  “Students will understand assembly behavior and be able to use this behavior during all performances and other assemblies.”  (I found this out the hard way when members of our high school band came over the first week of school to perform and demonstrate their instruments and the students had not been prepared behavior wise, for the assembly. Their behavior was less than stellar.)

It is my belief that if children know what we expect and we following through with those expectations, we increase the opportunity for students to learn in our classroom.  “Mean what you say and say what you mean,” is a great rule for teachers to follow.  For instance, “Instrument go ‘round” is one of my students’ favorite activities.  I will often bring this out in the second week of school, after we have a few classes under our belt.  The primary goal is to become familiar with the percussion instruments that we have in our classroom. The secondary goal is to be able to maintain a beat or specific rhythm within a given tempo.The main rule of this activity is “play when you are invited.”  The consequence is “play out of turn, lose a turn.”  

Instrument go ‘round requires that a variety of percussion instrument be spaced evenly around the inside edge of the green circle, one for each child. The children will enter the room in a line moving around the circle, being careful not to let their feet touch any instruments.  They already know that one of our main rules is “play instruments when you are invited,” so this is an opportunity, coming through the door, to practice that.  After making sure there is an instrument for each child, I will identify and demonstrate any instrument that is unfamiliar to my students or that they ask about.  (I will identify and demonstrate all the instruments to my youngest students.)  I let them know that they may play when the piano is playing. (One could also use recordings of marches or recorded short clips instead of the piano.)   Then I say, “when the piano stops, YOU…” and they say “STOP.”  “Remember, if you play out of turn…”  the children respond, “…you lose a turn.”  Then we give it a try.  I play and they play with me.  When I stop they stop and gently set their instrument down.  Complementing them on their great cut off,  I ask them to move one instrument to the right.  Of course this is confusing at first, but in short order they figure it out.  We repeat with a new short song, new tempo etc.   

Here is where the hard part comes in.  Sweet little “Sally” picks up the next instrument and starts to play before the piano begins.  I have to follow through reminding her of the consequence and matter-of-factly say, “Sally, if you play out of turn, you lose a turn.”  If she doesn’t understand, I tell her to set her instrument down and I let her know that she may play the next instrument, but this turn is a “time out.”  Most children will take the “time out” without a problem.  The bigger deal here is that no one else wants to lose a turn.  They recognize very quickly that you “mean what you say and say what you mean.”  They know the expectations and follow through because they want to do the right thing or, for those challenged and challenging students, they will get to play the beloved instruments.

Equally important are songs that employ the children’s names. These songs will stabilize a group of students, helping them be more engaged and ready for whatever we have in store for them. Students are listening to hear their own name in the song as they hear the names of their friends.  The reality of the power of one’s name was driven home to me during my study with the Richard’s Institute’s Education Through Music. This statement, taken from the ETM home page, (https://richardsinstitute.org/Default.aspx,)  best describes the philosophy underlying this work. “Through song and play, ETM provides a gateway for contemporary understanding of learning, motivation, child theory and cognitive development.”  Name song/games are a small but important part of this work.  “Hello, Samuel, I see you,” to the well known tune, “Skip to My Lou” “Here we are together,” including groups of children and their names in each singing of the song and “Oh, I see John,” to the tune of the “Farmer in the Dell,” are a few songs that use play to engage our students toward learning.  They love hearing their names and their classmates names.  It is a small step in the direction of helping a child realize he or she is cared for.  We benefit greatly from learning their names as well. Classroom management improves when we build positive relationship with our students.  Calling the children by name is a good step in that direction.

In conclusion, a big part of our planning for the first few weeks of school includes:

  • Getting to know our students through musical experiences.
  • Creating classroom norms (rules) that are stated positively.
  • Say what we mean and mean what we say.
  • Follow through

Hello songs and name songs help set the tone for students to begin the year on a positive foot, and go a long way toward establishing a classroom where students are stable and ready to learn and grow.

Deborah McMartin-Finkel has been the music teacher at Willow Ridge Elementary in Grand Ledge, Michigan, since it opened in 1996.  Mrs. McMartin-Finkel graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in K-12 Choral Music Education.  She began her teaching career in 1987 for the Owosso Public Schools in Owosso, MI.  The following two summers she received her Levels I and II Orff Schulwerk certifications from Western Michigan University.  Mrs. McMartin-Finkel was hired to teach middle school choral music and elementary music for the Grand Ledge Public Schools in 1988.  Over the next few years she went on to get an elementary teaching endorsement from Western Michigan and her position in Grand Ledge became full-time elementary music, her preferred place to be. In 2005 Mrs. McMartin-Finkel earned her master’s degree from Marygrove College in the Art of Teaching.  Over a number of the following years she studied Education Through Music with the Richard’s Foundation. Mrs. McMartin-Finkel believes she has the best job in the world and loves working with the children and staff at Willow Ridge Elementary.  She invites you to visit the Willow Ridge Music website at http://willowridgemusic.edublogs.org/ to learn more about what is happening musically at Willow Ridge Elementary.

Parent Communication Done The Right Way – David Row

Read this article and more on David’s blog, Make Moments Matter


After holiday performances, my students seem to need a break from our usual routine and a little time to celebrate their hard work.  This is a game we really enjoy a week or two before winter break.


  • Bean bags – one for each student.  Two beanbags that each has a snowflake on the bottom.  Attach a snowflake image with tape or use a snowflake craft sticker.  I have found some foam/sparkly ones at Michaels.
  • Unpitched percussion instruments

Students are seated in a circle.  Chant poem in triple meter as beanbags are distributed.  (Do not add snowflake beanbags yet).  Practice chanted ostinato to pass beanbags to left, “1,2,3 and pass”…  “1,2,3 and pass” repeated.  Students pick up beanbag on 1, move beanbag to right knee on count 2, left knee on count 3, and pass to the person to their left on “pass”.  Students continue to chant ostinato and practice passing beanbags while teacher chants poem at the same time.  All passing stops when teacher finishes poem on the word, “sound”.  Once beanbag passing goes smoothly, replace two beanbags with the beanbags that have snowflakes underneath them.   

Students chant ostinato again while teacher chants poem.  When the chant stops, all students turn their beanbags over to reveal the two snowflakes.  The two students that have the snowflakes under their beanbags are OUT.  They must each echo a triple pattern given by the teacher and leave the circle.  The elimination game continues until one person is left.  (One snowflake beanbag will need to be replaced with a regular beanbag when it is down to the final two students).  The person who is left is the winner!

Students who are out:
Move to “rhythm section” of the music room and perform ostinato on unpitched percussion instruments.  They may rotate to a new instrument each time the chant is performed or stay on the same instrument.  

Students may improvise triple patterns by answering a different pattern than the one given by the teacher.  

Students playing unpitched percussion may give a pattern to a student that has just gotten “out”. This student must echo the percussive pattern using correct triple meter rhythm solfege.

Susan Burm is in her 16th year of music education. She currently teaches 1st through 6th at Beagle  Elementary in the Grand Ledge Public School District in Grand Ledge, MI.  Susan lives with her husband and 3 children in Grand Ledge where she enjoys running, baking, decorating the house and family movie night.

Soundtrap – Game Changing Technology for Music Education, Collaboration and Creation – John Churchville

Read this article and more on John’s blog, Notes on Music Creation, Education and Performance

No Partner? No Problem! (MMC Session Resources) – Holly Bringman-Olszewski

Standard: Common Anchor Core Standard #10 Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art (NCCAS)

Big Idea/Essential question: Folk Dancing is a part of our culture, a skill set is required to participate as part of our community.

Learning Goal: I can consistently demonstrate proper steps and sequence, while keeping a steady beat.


  • 4.0:  I can expressively demonstrate proper steps and sequence, while keeping a steady beat and helping others.
  • 3.0:  I can consistently demonstrate proper steps and sequence, while keeping a steady beat.
  • 2.0:  I can demonstrate proper steps and sequence with some help.
  • 1.0:  I can identify but not demonstrate proper steps and sequence.
  • 0.0:  I do not understand proper steps and sequence at this time.

Circle Dances

  • Penguin Dance (modified)-CCW 16- CW 16-spin 4R-spin4L-spin4R-spin4L repeat-Dances of the Seven Continents Volume 2
  • Irish Stew- Rhythmically Moving 1, Phyllis Weikart’s Teaching Movement and Dance
  • Les Saluts-Rhythmically Moving 1, Phyllis Weikart’s Teaching Movement and Dance
  • Seven Jumps- Shenanigans, Children’s Dances of Terra del Zur, Vol. 1 among others
  • Bongo- Folkstyle Folk Dance Music for Kids and Teachers, Sanna Longden
  • Bele Kawe-Rhythmically Moving 3 or Dances of the Seven Continents Vol.1
  • Los Machetes-More Folk Dancing Music for Kids and Teachers, Sanna Longden

Line Dances

  • Rainy Night- More Folk Dancing Music for Kids and Teachers, Sanna Longden
  • Boot Scootin’ Boogie-More Folk Dancing Music for Kids and Teachers, Sanna Longden
  • Pata Pata- Dances of the Seven Continents vol.2, Sanna Longden
  • Cupid Shuffle- available on itunes, caution!  get the radio version
  • Electric Slide- available on itunes

Holly Bringman-Olszewski teaches at Traverse City Area Public Schools

THE MAEIA PROJECT – Dr. Christina Hornbach

The Michigan Art Education Instruction and Assessment (MAEIA) Project was developed by the Michigan Assessment Consortium (MAC) and the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) for the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) in partnership with Michigan music educators. The purpose of the project is to design and provide examples of high quality assessments in dance, music, theatre, and the visual arts. As music teachers we need to keep thinking about how to accurately assess and gather data in our content areas. Our challenge lies in collecting data that is most authentically presented through active music making. The MAEIA Project has provided Michigan music teachers with a catalogue of performance assessments K-12 for voluntary use. The prototype assessments, written by Michigan music educators, are available at http://maeia-artsednetwork.org/.

Dr. Christina Hornbach (Hope College), Past President of the Michigan Music Education Association, served as co-leader of the Music Team with Dr. Cynthia Taggart (Michigan State University). Hornbach is associate professor of music and head of music education at Hope College. She received a Bachelor of Music and a Master of Music from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and a Doctor of Philosophy from Michigan State University (East Lansing). Hornbach specializes in early childhood and elementary general music methods and materials, research, and the psychology of music. She has taught general music in the public schools in Michigan and Minnesota as well as early childhood music at Michigan State University’s Community Music School and Eastern Michigan University’s Community Music Academy. Hornbach has presented workshops at the state, regional, and national NAfME In-Service Conferences, as well as local and international venues.


I have thoroughly enjoyed re-entering the public school teaching field as I begin my second year of teaching a 6th grade beginning band class (38 students on 10 different instruments) at an elementary school in the Grand Ledge school district after a 20 year “sabbatical”. Prior to staying home with my children during those years off, I taught instrumental music (band) in the East Lansing Public Schools. In addition, I have maintained an active private flute studio throughout.

What a privilege it is to be the initial influence on what will hopefully be a life-long band experience for beginning musicians. As a student’s first band instructor, there is great opportunity to shape attitudes, standards and habits in beginners. When thinking about how I approach the first-year band class, I come back to something Eileen Houston, former Grand Ledge Hayes Middle School Band Director taught me years ago—the value of starting students slowly. Eileen required her 6th grade students to complete an entire theory book before they were allowed to begin on their given instruments. The students were at times none too happy about this as they were so excited to get their hands on the instruments and play, but I saw when teaching many, many of her beginning flutists over the years, that this slow beginning paid off significantly over the course of not only that first year, but all of the years to follow.

While I don’t require students to complete a theory book, I do move quite slowly and intentionally (I know more slowly than some other beginning band teachers) the first half of the initial band year. I believe in doing so, I can expect to be able to proceed much faster the second half of the year. The concept of an acceptable performance and proper preparation is set early on and the students “buy into” the mind-set that anything less than precise rhythm counting, playing posture, tone quality, articulation and all of the other musical elements is simply not correct. This helps avoid the “good enough” attitude when attention to detail is stressed right from the start as the norm.

In addition, moving at a faster pace early on, while certainly acceptable for some exceptional students, leaves others frustrated, confused and discouraged, and often opting out of band the following year. These students may feel band is “too hard” or they simply did not achieve enough to gain satisfaction from their experience. We all know of students for whom band has been their saving grace throughout school—students who may not have experienced success or teamwork were it not for band. Many of the slow starters on an instrument do, in fact turn out to be fine players and excellent band members by the time they reach high school. Leaving them in the dust because of moving too quickly may have ended their band career before it even began.

It is an honor to be the one to introduce beginning band students to their instruments and the band experience. I believe the optimum chance for success and the development of excellent musicianship is best attained by maintaining a deliberately slow pace in the first months of beginning band. In doing so, I am convinced that both student and teacher will find the whole year immensely rewarding.

Laurel Thompson teaches 6th grade band in Grand Ledge Public Schools

UKULELE Resources – Cathy Fox

Happy New Year!
You just got a ukulele as a gift and you’re wondering what to do with it? You started teaching ukulele in the fall and now you’re feeling stuck? Here are some resources for you!

Ukulele for Music Teachers by Robin Giebelhausen
This unique book is all you’ll need to get started or to jazz up your ukulele curriculum. It is filled with audio and video examples as well as pictures. There is a tuner, chord charts for soprano and baritone ukes, and songs galore. Dr. Giebelhausen lays out an easy-to-follow plan for how to add chords, strumming, and tab. What you’ll find here that won’t be in any other ukulele book are sequential lesson plans for creative projects as well as  worksheets, quizzes and rubrics for use in your classroom.  And…..the book is FREE. Hurry and download your copy from iTunes.

Fredonia Ukulele by Jill Reese
This website has a plethora of information for you as a performer and teacher. The most unique thing you’ll find here is a link to Dr. Reese’s YouTube channel. She has a variety of play-along videos, all organized by the chords used.  Students love these videos for two main reasons: the chords and strumming are pictured in real time, and they sound like rock stars! As a teacher, they are a great resource to keep students engaged while I help or assess individual students.  

If you click on the link called “UKES 4 TEACHERS” you will find another page of resources. Under “Workshops” you’ll find Dr. Reese’s presentations about teaching ukulele for some professional development you can get from home. Under “Teaching Materials” you’ll find downloadable goodies such as large chord pictures and a slideshow called “Ukulele 101” that you can use to get your students started. There are also song sheets and several backing tracks.  Again, all of this for FREE.  Check it out!

Cathy Fox teaches at Grand Ledge Public Schools

Using a Single iPad or Tablet as a Whole-Class Instructional Tool – Deanna (Karsten) Milligan

When I was first supplied with one iPad for use in my elementary music classes, I knew that it would be a useful tool for storing music, making recordings and accessing the internet, but wasn’t sure how I would use it as an instructional device. I began to seek out strategies and explore apps for using one iPad as a tool to enhance instruction in a way that would strengthen student musicianship. Two of the apps I found to be useful with one iPad in a whole-class setting are Singing Fingers HD version1.0 (Eric Rosenbaum, 2011) and Blob Chorus: Ear Training version 1.0.2 (eChalk Ltd, 2014).

What I like most about the creative app, Singing Fingers, is that it provides a visual cue for pitch matching. By singing as you move your finger across the screen a line is created that changes colors as you change pitch. Sounds can be played back by moving your finger across the line you have created.

I use this app by walking through the class singing an echo song or series of melodic syllables for individual students to echo while drawing one line across the screen as I sing and a second line across the screen as a student sings the echo. If that student echoes the pitches accurately, the colors of their line will match my line. When a student sings a pitch that differs from mine, their line will be a different color. Then I can point out the difference and they can try again to make their colors match mine. Students who are having difficulty singing in head voice could also be encouraged to sing an upward ooo sound until their line reaches a specific color.

I generally use Singing Fingers without projecting it, so the visual representation of the student’s level of accuracy is not visible to the whole class. Sometimes however, I hold up the iPad so others can view the lines and help celebrate an individual’s success.

The second app, Blob Chorus: Ear Training, is set up in a gaming format with the player receiving points for accurately selecting the “Blob” that sings the same pitch as the “King Blob”. Since the “King Blob” is the last to sing, students need to remember the pitches sung by each “Blob” in order to make an accurate selection. The difficulty level of the game can be adjusted by changing the number of “Blobs” in the chorus.

To maintain a high level of engagement, I provide each student with an individual white board or pencil and paper so they can record their own answers. When using this app I project the iPad screen and connect it to speakers. After each set of “Blobs” sing and the students each record their individual answers, I randomly select two students to share their answers with the group. If those two students have chosen the same answer, that becomes the group’s answer. If they have selected different answers a third student is called upon to be the tie-breaker. The class works together as a team toward the final score. The level of play can be increased as students gain proficiency.

I found that by using one device, either by carrying it through the group or projecting it, I could use the technology as an efficient tool for building musical skills. These two apps are both currently available.  I’m sure these strategies would be effective with other apps as well.

Deanna (Karsten) Milligan holds a BME from Central Michigan University and a MME from Michigan State University. She has also completed Level I Orff training and coursework in Education Through Music. Her teaching career began in Beaverton, Michigan, but she has spent most of the past thirty years as an elementary music teacher for the Charlotte Public Schools where she currently teaches K-3 students at Parkview and Washington elementary schools.

The Educated Performer: Advocating for strong relationships between performers, students, and educators – Katie Pike

Last year, I was approached by Cynthia Taggart (MSU Professor of Music Education) and Christine Beamer (Director of Career Services and Entrepreneurship at the MSU College of Music) about creating an “Artist in Residency” partnership with the school I taught at and the MSU College of Music.  The idea would be that a small ensemble from MSU would produce a series of engagement lessons within the elementary music classroom.  After meeting together and looking for monetary assistance through a local arts organization and local credit union, the “Educational Engagement Residency” internship came to fruition and we started accepting applications.  

The chamber ensembles that were accepted were comprised of undergraduate and graduate level performance and music education majors.  Through frequent meetings with advisors and myself, classroom observations, and lots of feedback; a series of lessons were designed by each group.  These lessons were specifically designed for the performers to engage with the students.  The MSU students had to build relationships with the elementary students to figure out what skills they already had and what could be built upon.  In the end, the performers prepared lessons that involved live performance and student involvement in the music making process.  It was vastly different from recital type performance setting.

Collegiate performers situated themselves in the middle of this group of students and taught them a folk dance that was done around the live performance.  On this day, the students left the music room humming and singing the piece of music.  It had gotten stuck in their heads because they were involved in the music making process.

After experiencing this residency as the cooperating teacher, it is obvious that we need more interactions between educators and performers that truly engage our students.  Our students need to interact with live musicians and need to experience music that is performed at a high level.  On the flipside, professional musicians need to engage with young music learners in a meaningful way.  Instead of just performing FOR them, let’s try making music WITH them.  

One student artist commented, “It has affected my view of what I do as a performer. I used to have the perception of myself as a separate entity from my audience and thought I would only take part in education through private instruction. Now I believe that the most important work I can do as a performer is educational.  I think there can be a symbiotic relationship between the performer and educator. At best, the lines between the two are blurred.  I like to think that our performances have inspired further involvement from her students as well.”

The “Educational Engagement Residency” is now on its second cycle.  I am working with a new group of young performers and am very excited to see what is in store for my students.  Within your own community, I would encourage you to reach out to local performers and suggest a partnership similar to the one I have described.  Could you bring in live musicians to host an interactive folk dancing night for families?  Could you prepare your students and local musicians for a “side by side” concert?  Could you collaborate with a local songwriter?  Could you contact a local band to perform with your students at their next concert?  The possibilities are quite endless and the outcomes are truly priceless.

Katie Pike is in her 11th year of teaching music.  She has taught in a variety of positions that have included elementary general music, choir, guitar, and band.  She recently took a new position with East Lansing Public Schools as an Elementary Music Teacher at Whitehills Elementary.  She received her Bachelors and Masters degrees from MSU.  She also holds certifications from the Gordon Institute of Music Learning for Early Childhood Music and Elementary General Music.   She resides in East Lansing with her husband, Chris, and three children; Jack (4), Lizzie (2), and Luke (2).  In her free time, she enjoys the pure peace and quiet of going for a run.  You can contact her at kathryn.pike@elps.us 

Harmonizing With Recorders: Success for ALL – Yael Rothfeld

When I teach the recorder, I want my students to be excited. I want to challenge them all to reach their highest potential. Because of this, I try to differentiate instruction as much as possible. Some students come to me knowing how to play many pieces., while others are picking up the recorder for the first time. I do not want any of my students to be bored OR frustrated. Many of the pieces we work on have multiple parts for the students to self-select.

For example, when we begin learning repertoire, one of our first pieces is “Hot Cross Buns.” The students learn the melody, rhythm, and how to play the notes. After we play it through a few times, I ask if anyone knows how to play high C and D. If so, I let them play a harmony part (below). I also show them a chord root part to go with it. This way, the students can learn multiple parts for the same song, challenging those who are ready, while allowing those who need to continue to focus on the 3-note B-A-G to do so. This also creates a richer harmony for the piece.

Besides learning to sing chord tones to go with a song, playing them on the recorder can also create rich harmonies. Depending on the piece of music, these can often be simple recorder parts that can be easy to put together. Those beginning students who may struggle with faster, more challenging pieces can feel successful when they can play a simple chord root/chord tone part. Those who are ready to move on can do so.

When my students are all able to find a part in the song that they can play, they feel successful, and their self-confidence grows. This causes them to work harder and continue to progress without becoming frustrated that others can play a song that they can’t. My students understand that everyone will be progressing at different rates. I find that when they are ready to move on to more challenging parts, they do so.

Using a familiar song, such as “Skip to My Lou,” enables students can play three-part chords, a recorder melody, and even add a vocal part for those who want to sing the melody. (This really impresses parents at performances, too!)

After learning a song with three-part chords, changing the tonality or meter can change the feel of a piece. It doesn’t take long to learn, as many of the notes are the same. Below is “Skip to My Lou” in minor tonality, with the same (minor) chord tones as above.

Yael Rothfeld is in her 14th year of teaching Pre-K through 5th grade music. She holds both her undergraduate and master’s degrees from Michigan State University. Yael is one of the Southeast Representatives of MMEA and is also the president of MI-GIML. She currently teaches in Ann Arbor Public Schools.

Some Suggested Music Education and Education Books for Summer Reading – Colleen Conway

Presented in no particular order:

  • The Artistry of Teaching and Making Music – Richard Floyd
  • Move Over Mr. Holland:  Insights, Humor, and Philosophy on Music and Life by Trey Reely
  • Teaching Music with Passion by Peter Loel Boonshaft
  • The Musician’s Soul by James Jordan
  • The Ways Children Learn Music by Eric Bluestein
  • Element- How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson.
  • Move Over Mr. Holland:  Insights, Humor, and Philosophy on Music and Life by Trey Reely
  • The Art of Possibility by Ben Zander.
  • Element- How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything by Sir Ken Robinson.  
  • The Courage to Create by Rollo May
  • Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn (or any other book by Alfie Kohn!)
  • Democratic Education in a Conservative Age by Michael Apple (or others by Michael Apple)
  • Among Schoolchildren by Tracy Kidder
  • How Children Learn or How Children Fail by John Holt
  • What’s Worth Fighting for in Your School or
  • Change Forces: Probing the Depths of Educational Reform by Michael Fullan (or others by Michael Fullan)
  • The Dreamkeepers by Gloria Ladson-Billings
  • Other People’s Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom by Lisa Delpit
  • Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom by bell hooks
  • Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Why Teach?  and What Keeps Them Going? by Sonia Neito
  • The Courage to Teach and Stories from the Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer
  • Free Play: The Power of Improvisation in Life and the Arts by Stephen Nachmanovitch

Colleen Conway is Professor of Music Education in the School of Music, Theatre & Dance at the University of Michigan. She is also Editor in Chief of Arts Education Policy Review


FORM: A  = 32 / B= 20 / C= 16 / A = 32 / B = 20 / C = 16 / A = 32 / D= 16 / A = 32 / CODA = 8



“GO – GO – GO”



“GO – GO – GO”





Katy McDonough teaches elementary general music K – 5 for the Greenville Public Schools, where she has worked since the fall of 1984. Katy grew up in Grand Ledge, where she was active in the band, choir and drama programs. She studied music and theater at Lansing Community College, then received a Bachelor of Vocal Education and a Master of Choral Conducting at Michigan State University. She has additional endorsements from WMU ( Orff Level I ) and MSU ( MLT Early Childhood, also Levels I and II ). Katy’s hobbies are centered around performing; she has been a member of the Flat River Community Players for 30 years, serving as musical director and / or performing in roughly 20 productions. For the last 20 years, she has also served as music director / singer for her own Lansing-based vocal jazz group, “Singers On the Grand”, which was founded by she and her mother. Katy has lived in Greenville for over 30 years, with her husband and two children.

Back To School: Sharing The Joy Of Music – Ali Bendert

Back to school is an incredible mixture of emotions. It combines excitement for meeting new students and trying new things, stress for wondering if we can possibly get everything we need to done before the school year starts (and once it does!) and anxiety about every detail to which we have to pay attention (scheduling, evaluations, school requirements, district requirements, professional development, classroom management, lesson planning . . . phew!). I have a new daughter, Ginnie, who will be 10 weeks on the first day of teacher meetings in my district, so I am the queen of anxiety about the start of the school year. How will I possibly coordinate my family’s schedule, keep my 3-year- old, Millie, happy, adjust to Ginnie being at daycare, cope with my husband’s work demands, and make sure everyone is fed and has what they need? Sometimes September can be a time where if everyone makes it to the end of the day alive, it has been a success.

Back to school is exciting – we get to “get back” to doing what we love on a regular routine (which my compulsive and extremely organized personality thrives on). We plan these amazing lessons throughout the month of August, think of our bright-eyed and eager-to- learn students who will surely eat out of our hands and develop incredible music skills while having fun, and anticipate this being the year where we finally teach everything we intend.

But . . . if we can step back from our excitement, we all know that inevitably, something will get in the way of our beautiful visions of a perfect year. Unfortunately, that thing that makes us remove our rose-colored glasses can occur within the first minutes (or before!) the first staff meeting of the year. New evaluation processes. New regulations. New discipline procedures. New requirements. New challenging students. How can we possibly execute our spectacular plans with all of these “wrenches” getting thrown in?

Luckily we have Labor Day weekend to push those anxieties aside and anticipate what this job is really all about: teaching music to kids. We have our beach days, our cookouts, and our last hurrah of the summer and walk into our buildings Tuesday morning ready to meet amazing students, be an amazing teacher, and have an amazing year.

And maybe the first day is just that. The kids are excited to be back, they are ready to sing with you again or for the first time, and life is grand. Maybe the first week is like that. But we all know about honeymoons and that they are not forever. There will be a student that will eventually challenge you in ways you never imagined (hopefully later rather than sooner). There will be classes that are lethargic and refuse to put their best efforts into your artfully crafted activities. There will be requirements that prevent us from getting to everything we want to. Our own failings or incorrect predictions about what our students will be able to do will make our lessons crash and burn. And that can be very demoralizing.

My yoga teacher once said to me, sensing my high-strung personality, “Those who are flexible can never be bent out of shape.” Of course it applies to yoga, but it applies to teaching as well. I have to remind myself every August (and September, and October, and November, and . . .) that things are not going to go according to plan. I can plan until I am blue in the face and something will happen that throws the whole thing off.

But sometimes that is okay. Kids can take you in new directions if you are willing to throw away your map and let them lead. When I plan my lessons, I have menus from which I choose, and it gives me the flexibility to alter my instruction to fit the needs of the kids in each class I see. Sometimes it is making something more difficult (or easier) or getting rid of an activity all together if they aren’t communicating that they can handle what I was thinking.

So I hope that as this school year starts, you will remind yourself (as I know I will be constantly be reminding myself) that those who are flexible can never be bent out of shape. Go with the flow, let go, relax, and focus on what got you into this profession in the first place: sharing your joy of music with children. The rest will work itself out.

Ali Bendert is entering her 10th year teaching elementary music in Michigan and is currently teaching Kindergarten through 5th grade in Kentwood Public Schools. She lives in Hudsonville with her husband, David, and her two daughters, Millie and Ginnie, and is also the music director at her church, Hudsonville United Church of Christ.

Oh Where, Oh Where Have The Aural Skills Gone? – Greg Wells

In my career thus far, I’ve had the pleasure of working in two districts that have had amazing K-12 music educators. My teaching experience ranges from kindergarten music and movement to college students. More recently I’ve had the privilege of being a guest clinician and adjudicator for ensembles around the state. I have seen the benefits of having excellent music experiences for students, and how important it is to expose children to a strong music education as young as possible.  The two districts I’ve worked in have unique approaches and scopes, and both produce great results, communicate well with each other and have a great understanding of what a holistic musician should be. Because of these amazing colleagues, I’ve been spoiled with the many well-trained students that they send my way the majority of the time. I really am fortunate to be able to say that most of my incoming students already have a great foundation of skills, abilities and attitudes.  

Among the many skills and abilities that students should develop in preparation for a high school band program, aural awareness seems to be the weakest component.  The most frustrating thing for me as a director is when students blatantly play wrong notes and have no reaction to their mistake/s. I’m not talking rare E#’s or other unfamiliar musical anomalies. I am talking about familiar, comfortable notes, keys, and tonalities that they should not miss.  They are simply not listening to what’s coming out of their instrument. What they need is to increase their aural awareness so that they can improve their accuracy and be able to discriminate between what’s right and wrong. Oh, the amount of time that would save in a rehearsal!

From my experience, students seem to have a good grasp of rhythmic skills but tend to struggle with aural skills.  I think this is partly due to the “method” of teaching most band directors/programs use. Most beginning band books have almost no aural development components.  I can only think of one that truly focuses and fosters aural skills, which is Jump Right In! from GIA publications. However, I used that for many years, and I can tell you it’s not perfect either. It’s lacking in volume of content and needs to be supplemented, and the teacher must be well versed in the sequencing and methodology for it to be most successful. Besides this one method, I feel the rest of the beginning band books have essentially tried to ‘teacher proof’ their method; if a student simply goes through the book number by number, the students are going to turn out okay whether the teacher is good or not.  In these beginning method books, the singing and aural awareness component is virtually non-existent. In order for these methods to produce aurally competent students, teachers must supplement the aural awareness components themselves.  This requires teachers to step out of their comfort zones and sing in front of their students. That’s where many band directors draw the proverbial line.  I’ve had many conversations with other directors telling me they cannot sing, or hate singing, etc. Sadly, I’ve heard many of those same people causally sing, and they can sing just fine! Either they’re believing a lie about themselves, or they feel uncomfortable doing it, so they just place the label upon themselves. Either way, I hope they find a way to break through and start to sing!

Another reason aural skills don’t come as easily as rhythmic skills may be because their high school marching band gives them more opportunities to grow rhythmically.  I’ve seen students with lower rhythmic abilities make significant gains just from all the gross motor moving in marching band. As many know, rhythm is physical and needs to start with gross motor coordination before it can be fully utilized in fine motor skills on an instrument. I have students every year that show large improvement due to marching band which translates back to their time and rhythmic competency in ‘sit-down-band.’

So here’s my advice for upper level music teachers:  First and foremost, talk to your music department colleagues to find out what the students already know! Often, in the upper grades, you can simply continue some of the amazing work that they’ve started! Don’t just ignore what skills they already have. Elementary music teachers should communicate with upper level colleagues to find out if they have noticed particular strengths and weaknesses.  Don’t fall into the habit of only teaching for the next performance.  

For the middle and high school instrumental teachers, here are practical things you can do with your band students to start this process. Start with simple and short things, gradually increasing complexity and duration as you get more comfortable with this component of teaching. For example, start with the entire band singing the tuning note before they play it. The next step would be to have one student play the tuning note and another student tell you if that note is sharp or flat.  Or have the student critique his/her own tuning note. Another idea is to have them sing the melody to the song you are working on. See if you can get them to sing it with articulations and dynamics. I found if I sing it first or at least sing along with them it helps tremendously. I always make a point to tell students that I’m not looking for the next best singer, just try what I’m asking;  just listen to me sing and you’ll get the idea! Have them sing the scales they play as they finger/slide along. Make sure to point out or stop on the 3rd, 4th, and 7th notes. These are the ones they most often miss. (3 and 7 of ‘sharp’ keys, and 4th on ‘flat’ keys). Lastly, make sure you do your part to support the musical roots of your program! Get to know your elementary music teachers. Get to know what and how they teach, and do everything you can to expand the lower elementary music programs at your school! They make the rest of our jobs that much easier!

As for the elementary music teachers, many are doing it right.  Keep fighting the good fight for your programs!  I’m probably preaching to the choir, but make sure that you’re teaching the aural and rhythmic skills.  Make sure you’re sequentially assessing your students in tonal and rhythmic comprehension through students demonstrating mastery of each skill. If you have not used any Music Learning Theory sequencing you should check it out. There are countless ways of making these sequence assessments super fun!  I’ve found that the elementary music teachers are some of the most creative and musically skilled educators out there! Do what you do best and make these fundamental skills come to life! I’m fully aware that the teacher is what makes a great program, not the method. However, check out the research on the Music Learning Theory. It will pay huge musical dividends for your students for the rest of their lives!  I’m a proud supporter of the early childhood and elementary music programs! This is where all of this starts. Getting young students to match pitch, sing in tune, and be beat competent is crucial. Singing with others and alone is such an important part of their musical development.

Don’t let aural skills be the weakest link in your music program.  Even as I write this I am reminded again of how much more I can be investing in my students in this area.  It’s easy to forget about this component in the midst of so many other pressing demands.  Obviously there are many factors that go into shaping a music student, but I hope I have reminded you of the importance of aural skills for a well-rounded musician.

Greg Wells is a creative music teacher and band director who plays trumpet in the Truth in Jazz Orchestra.  In addition to TIJO, Greg often freelances with other area bands including River City Big Band, Beltline Big Band, Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, Grand River Jazz Band, Horns of Power, and Hark-Up Horns, among others. After graduating from Northview High School in Grand Rapids, Greg earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in music education from Western Michigan University and his Master’s Degree in music education from Michigan State University.

For eight years Greg was the middle school and high school band director at DeWitt Public Schools (north of Lansing). He enjoyed pioneering the new music learning theory (developed by Ed Gordon) and became a sought after conference speaker sharing his experiences with this method.  

Teaching Beginners to Transpose – Chris Pike, DeWitt Public Schools

If you’re anything like me, your school music education was missing a few useful and pragmatic skills.  Like transposing.  Boy, I wish I had understood that concept better before I sat down in the orchestra for Sibelius’ second symphony with my trumpet part in F.  Trumpet in F?  I asked if I could have the B-flat part instead, that I had mistakenly received some sort of F trumpet part.  The orchestra librarian shrugged her shoulders.  To my chagrin, I proceeded to my seat and to this day, I swear I saw the maestro smirking at me as if he knew what I was in for…

Since then I’ve gotten a heck of a lot more comfortable with transposing and reading my parts in orchestra isn’t an issue anymore, but transposing is certainly on my “teach the kids this better than I was taught” list.

Using solfege syllables in beginning band is a tremendous way to get kids understanding harmony and transposition even as early as first year band class.  A simple way to get started, even if you don’t frequently use solfege with your students, is to use a super simple tune like Hot Cross BunsMary Had a Little Lamb, etc.  The kids will need fingering charts that have solfege syllables marked on them in a couple couple of different keys (or however many as you want to take on).  The Jump Right In! instrumental method series includes fingering charts like this, but you could make your own really easily or have the kids mark it in the chart they already have.  

So if you’re starting in the key of Bb major, have the kids pencil in Mi, Re, and Do for concert D, C, and Bb respectively and tell them you’re giving those notes nicknames for now.  Never fear, skeptics!  We are not planning on permanently identifying these pitches as Mi, Re, and Do.  Of course you can expand this however would be appropriate for you and/or the tunes you’re working with (A is Ti, Eb is Fa, etc.).

First, the kids need to be able to sing and hear the song WITHOUT trying to finger along, read the music, or what have you.  Model and teach the song (with solfege) to them aurally using whatever rote song procedure you prefer.  Once they’ve really got it under control and can sing it with great confidence, add fingerings.  Kids can look at and point to the fingerings as necessary as you sing, but odds are they’ll already feel pretty good about D, C, and B-flat (heck, even Eb and F, too), so that part should be pretty easy to add.  Ideally, now you’ve got kids singing the tune with solfege and fingering along.  The next step is to have them play that tune using the fingering chart as necessary.  

Now consider how many notes the kids already have under their fingers beyond this activity.  Based on that, how many keys could your kids play that simple tune in?  I bet they could play it in at least two more keys without learning more than a new fingering or two.  Have them pencil in the new key’s solfege syllables in their fingering charts or turn to the new key if you are using pre-made solfege fingering charts.  So if you’re moving to Eb major, now have them write in the new solfege (G is Mi, F is Re, Eb is Do, etc). Use the same rote song procedure you used before and voila!  Your kids are transposing.  With my kids it really helps when they point to the fingerings/solfege as they sing and transpose the tunes, especially early on.  It’s also really helpful to tonicize whatever key you’re using and/or comp an accompaniment on the piano if possible.

Take it another step further if you want by introducing the notation to that tune in the new key(s).  Or maybe you could have the kids number the scale degrees of the solfege syllables in major tonality and show them a minor tonality chart with the same scale degree numbers:

Eb    F     G   

Do   Re   Mi  

1      2     3   

La    Ti    Do

C     D     Eb   

Now you can do the same tunes in minor!  Just have the kids point along to the new notes that share the scale degrees of the tunes you’ve done and follow the same procedure.  

By working through these types of activities with your beginning band kids, you can start to illustrate relationships among melodic patterns, intervals, and harmony, reinforcing a more comprehensive/big picture type of music learning in band class rather than just focusing on the one line of music in front of us.

Chris Pike teaches music at DeWitt Junior High School and Herbison Woods School in DeWitt, MI.  He holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Michigan State University as well as a Master of Music in music performance from the College-Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.  His wife Katie is also a music teacher and they live with their three children and dog in East Lansing.

Tuning your Beginners (Yes, Really!) – Tavia Zerman

Band Director for Grand Ledge Hayes Middle School and Wacousta Elementary

I know a lot of people who wait a long time to start tuning their beginners.  I am not one of those people.  We usually start doing daily tuning about a month or so into instruction.  I have three different exercises I use to help teach tuning to beginning and intermediate students, and will detail how I use each and why.

The first part of the process is simply tuning them with a tuner (this is the stage we are in right now, in December).  I do this exercise with one section per day, almost every day of class.  I have them play a tuning note and tell them how many cents sharp or flat they are.  I then ask them what they need to do to fix it.  I keep coming back until they are in tune.  At the end of this, I have them all play together and listen for waves or pure tone (I do a demonstration of what interference beats sound like vs. in-tune sounds before doing any of this, so they have an idea what to listen for).

The benefits of doing this are many.  One might think that the students would tire of sitting through this.  On the contrary, I find my students are excited about tuning and can’t wait until it is their tuning day…they will even call me out on it if I forget!  What they don’t realize is that this “tuning time” is actually also time for me to help individuals fix their tone.  In this small part of class, I am able to make regular embouchure, air and posture adjustments for students and help develop their sound immensely.  Some of them have difficulty keeping the tone steady enough to tune when we first start, but that improves rapidly with individual instruction!  They also start to gain an idea of how much of adjustment they need to make to the instrument based on how far out of tune they are to begin with.  At first “30 cents sharp” means nothing to them…after a few weeks, most kids can move the slide, barrel, head joint, etc. to the correct place after one or two instructions.

I incorporate the other two exercises soon after the winter break.  The next one, visual tuning, is exactly what it appears.  I hold up the device with the tuning app (I use Tonal Energy…it does cost a small amount of money, but the kids LOVE that it shows a smiley face when they are in tune) so the student can see it while playing.  I give them instructions on how to interpret what they see, and then I encourage them to bend the pitch until they get the smiley face.  I then ask them what they need to do to the instrument to make that same change.  This helps them learn what muscles are used in making intonation adjustments.

The third stage I call the Tuning Game, and this engages the whole class.  There are three steps for the Tuning Game.  During the first step, I have my device generate the tuning note we use for the section playing the game that day.  I have the student try to match that pitch and I will help them bend the pitch the correct direction by pointing which way they need to move it.  The student then makes a corresponding adjustment to the instrument (except for double reeds, who need to make adjustments with embouchure and air only) while I go down the line to the rest of the students.  On their next turn, students are on their own to bend the pitch and figure out how to fine-tune it.  The third time around we call “Ask the Audience.”  The student being tuned matches the given pitch, then ALL students in the class indicate what they heard…thumb pointing up for sharp, sideways for in tune or down for flat.  I then ask the student being tuned what they think it was and then tell the class the answer.  Students keep track of how many they get correct and are amazed at how much they see their accuracy grow throughout the year!

Once all three of these have been introduced, I cycle through them (regular tuning each day until all sections have had a turn, then visual tuning each day, then tuning game, then back around to the beginning).  Now that we have learned what goes into matching a tuning pitch, we play a group pitch prior to working with an individual section on the tuning goal for the day.  This way all students are getting to practice matching the pitch each day, but know that it will only be a few days in between turns getting some individual help as well.

When all of these things are in place…the mechanics of getting the instrument physically tuned, the knowledge of how to adjust the pitch WHILE playing, and the engagement of the ears for individual pitch placement and eliminating interference beats, I find that students are better able to play in tune and in tone.  Regular reminders make it so the students know that tuning is an ongoing process and something they must always attend to in order to sound their best.  With this sort of guidance, even young players are capable of understanding that an in-tune sound is a better sound and can recognize ways to improve that aspect of their playing!

Tavia Zerman is the band director at Hayes Middle School in Grand Ledge Public Schools.  She also teaches beginning sixth grade band at Wacousta Elementary School.

Music for Everyone: Reaching ALL Students Where They Are – Zachery VanderGraaff

If you ask someone what they imagine when they envision a Kodaly classroom, they might picture a group of children singing with solfege or rhythm syllables, students reading from notation while playing on instruments, or a class folk dancing together in a joyful way. All of these things are true, and they point to the heart of the Kodaly Method emphasized by this simple phrase and slogan of the Organization of American Kodaly Educators: “Music for Everyone”.

“Music for Everyone” is a slogan with many different layers. It means starting by choosing high quality folk and classical music of your students’ cultural history. Then breaking down the musical concepts into their simplest elements and arranging them in a sequence designed to help all students achieve music literacy and independence. Finally, the teacher uses a variety of instructional tools to ensure every student learns in the manner best for them.

        A Kodaly teacher will use every tool at his or her disposal to reach every student and engage in learning in the most comprehensive ways. For me, this goal spoke right to the heart of what it means to be an effective teacher: to reach every learning style, to engage the entire classroom, and inspire all to love and appreciate music whether or not they go on to study it professionally. The Kodaly approach is a great and practical toolbox for accomplishing these goals.

        In the Kodaly classroom, a teacher will constantly cater to students’ different learning styles by cycling through kinesthetic, aural, visual, and creative teaching strategies. For example, let’s take the great folk song, Paw Paw Patch (visit the Holy Names Folk Song Collection at https://kodaly.hnu.edu for notation and games). After teaching and playing the game, the Kodaly teacher will comprehensively reinforce the rhythm concept of four sixteenth notes over several classes using a variety of techniques. Here are a couple of examples of the different learning activities the teacher may use to help students develop their understanding of this concept:

  1. Kiesthetic:
  • Students will clap the quarter and eight notes of the song while patting the sixteenth notes on their lap.
  • Students echo patterns containing sixteenth notes while clapping as a B section to the song.
  • Students step the rhythm from the song (large steps for quarter notes, small steps for eighth notes, and quick or tiptoe steps for sixteenth notes).
  • Students create their own way of showing the rhythm on their body.
  • Students play the rhythms on instruments.

2. Aural:

  • Teacher plays rhythms containing sixteenth notes and students decode (turn into syllables).
  • Students replace certain phrases of the song with rhythm syllables.
  • Students are split into groups and given a specific rhythm note. The class echoes teacher patterns only saying their group’s rhythm note.
  • Rhythm Telephone: Students pass a rhythm around by tapping it on their shoulders to see if it stays the same. At the end, the class decodes the rhythm.

3. Visual:

  • Students read from pictures of paw paw fruit grouped in different sizes to represent the different rhythms of the song.
  • Students group themselves in the rhythms and become the rhythm to read. (i.e. If the rhythm is titi tikatika titi ta, there will a group of two, four, two, and one to visually show the rhythm in a different way).
  • Students read the notation of the song using syllables. Then for a challenge they read it backwards, in canon, etc.
  • Notation for the song is shown with some of the rhythms missing and students must fill in the missing rhythms.
  • Students are asked to read, in a game-like fashion, several different rhythm flashcards. Several of the rhythms become layered ostinati to perform with the song on various instruments.

4. Creative:

  • Students create new rhythms using bodies or pictures.
  • Students create a B section for the piece using notation.
  • Using individual rhythm writing tools, students create and perform their own rhythms.
  • Rhythm Train: Students improvise one at a time a four or eight beat pattern that must contain one group sixteenth notes. The goal being to the train connecting by staying with a beat the teacher or another student plays on a drum.
  • As a B section for the song, students are asked to improvise on a non-pitched percussion instrument.

By using some of the techniques to extend the high quality folk songs, games, and dances, the Kodaly teacher reaches every student and develops their learning and independent musicianship. Cycling between these different learning styles engages the different types of learners and activates more of the brain. Teachers can reinforce this concept further by using more great folk songs and dances with other similar learning activities. (Visit https://kodaly.hnu.edu for more songs analyzed and catalogued for your viewing pleasure).

When you make it a goal to accomplish “Music for Everyone”, your program will grow to engage and inspire each and every student. 100% of the kids. 100% of the time. To me, this is one of the most important and practical parts of what it means to be a Kodaly teacher.

Zachery VanderGraaff is in his sixth year of teaching elementary music. He is currently at Vowles Elementary teaching DK-4th grade music in Mount Pleasant, MI. Zachery is enrolled in the Masters of Music Education program at Central Michigan University where he also received his Bachelor’s in Music Education; General Music Education Minor and the Yda Lou Schultz Scholarship. He completed his Kodaly Level I and II certifications at CMU under Dr. Joy Nelson and Dr. Ashley Allen. Zachery is the current President of the Michigan Kodaly Educators.

Holiday Program Ideas – Erika Novoselich

Every year my school does a large Holiday Program that involves grades K-5. The kids sing in groups based on their grade level: K/1st, 2nd/3rd, and 4th/5th. Though our repertoire changes each year, there are certain aspects that stay the same. First, we always make sure to have the 5th graders play at least one song with their ukuleles, and the 4th graders do one song on their recorders. It’s nice to show parents those components of our curriculum. Another thing I try to do (it can be challenging with common holiday songs) is choose repertoire in varied tonalities and meters. We also make it our priority to always sing with our best singing voices and make the music our focus. We don’t do a lot of costumes or acting during our show. One thing I’ve made a tradition of doing is to invite one of our 5th graders to play the piano to accompany the Kindergarteners/1st graders on a simple carol, which always features the whole group doing sign language while singing and 1st grade soloists on the second verse. If you would like to check out videos of just a couple of my previous programs, you can go to my website here: http://www.novoselichmusic.com/blog/2013christmasprogram

and here: http://www.novoselichmusic.com/blog/2014christmasprogram

 Bio: My name is Erika Novoselich. This is my seventh year of teaching. I teach PK-5 music at South Elementary of Hudsonville Public Schools. I hold a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Michigan State University. I have earned graduate credits in Music Education from the University of Michigan. I am also certified in Music Learning Theory for Level 1 Elementary General Music.

Practicing Sol/Mi – Melissa Stouffer

If you are familiar to the Kodaly method, you know there are three main parts to a child’s understanding of a concept:

Prepare – The stage where they experience the concept, understand it, and use it, and can even use hand signs and notate it with icons. Present – The stage where the learn the correct name and what it looks like.

Practice – Similar to Prepare, but the students know the correct terminology and visuals. They experience it, understand it and identify it in a variety of ways including writing, performing, and reading it.

For me, before I started taking my levels courses, practicing was the most difficult of the three. I understood the concept of icon notation, I understood using physical movement (hand signs) to help the students sing the correct pitches, and I understood not to tell my students WHAT something was until they seemed ready to move on.

For Sol/Mi, readiness to be presented the concepts should look like this:

  • Can discriminate high/low in context of minor 3rd.
  • Can show spatially (solfege ladder/hand signs).
  • Understand concepts “line”, “space”. (It’s pretty hard to show the notes on a 3 or 5 line staff if they don’t understand this, and it’s something that took me a while to figure out. Take the time to explain this beforehand.)

Practicing the concept is more than reading one or two songs on sol/mi and calling it good. Here’s some strategies for practicing sol/mi (or any other melodic concept!)

Play the recorder, piano, Orff instrument, or sing a 4 beat pattern using sol/mi. Have students sing/sign the pattern back to you. When you feel they are confident, make it a written element. Students will notate the pattern using a paper staff using a manipulative. One of the easiest manipulatives are figurine erasers. They can be bought at Target in the dollar spot. They offer 25 or 50 erasers in a bag for $1. They often change out with the items seasonally, so you have to keep an eye out for them. Other options are Bingo chips, pennies, or even paper circles (but who wants to cut those out?) (Grab the printable staffs at the end of this file for this!)

Students split into two groups. One group plays an ostinato on Orff instruments and the other sings a song on solfege.

Memory Work
Students can train their inner hearing and work from memory by signing back 4 beat patterns that the teacher sings/plays.

Students improvise 4 beat patterns. This can have many extensions. Students can sing patterns back, sign them back, play them back, or even write them.

Students will read an unknown song by looking at note heads on the staff.  It would look something like this:

In addition to these ideas, there is a lot on TpT you can get quite inexpensively to help out with all stages of the Kodaly process. Things like rhythm games, flashcards, and files to help with the three stages the Kodaly process for folk songs. These kind of files have a lot to offer for the multiple aspects of teaching a song. In mine, I present the song in icons for both rhythmic elements and melodic elements. They have pages for presenting concepts as well as pages for practicing that include note heads on lines and spaces, rhythmic practice, and tools for teaching such as manipulatives, and worksheets.

You can check out my store here: https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Store/Mrs-Stouffers-Music-Room

With the holidays coming up, I thought I’d give you a game to play in class as well to help your students practice reading Sol/Mi on a 5 line staff. It is called  The Ugly Christmas Sweater Game.

Students select a sweater, and click on it. They read the solfege pattern on the screen. If they are correct, they get a “present” – a point. If they are not, they lose a point (and get to “keep” the ugly sweater)! This game works on an Interactive Whiteboard, but if you are like me and have a TV with a computer hooked up, (or something similar like a projector), just view the PDF in full screen and the clickable links work the same way. I let the kids click on my computer for the same results.

A good indicator that you are practicing a concept is that the students are showing skills that you would expect from any musician. It helps to think of ideas you would do in your skill set. The students’ skill just happens to include only Sol/Mi at the this time. In addition to The Ugly Christmas Sweater Game, the next several pages include some printables to help you out with practicing Sol/Mi.

Pages 3-6 are slides from my Kodaly file for the song Starlight Star Bright.

Pages 7-11 are printable staffs to use to practice writing or taking dictation with bingo chips or little erasers.

I hope this helps you when you are practicing a concept using the Kodaly method! I’m always willing to help answer questions. MrsStouffersMusicRoom@gmail.com

I’d also like to invite all of you to participate in the Michigan Kodaly Educators.  Find our website here: http://www.mikodaly.org

Melissa Stouffer is a 7th year teacher for Brighton Area Schools. She is a graduate of Central Michigan University. She is Kodaly level one certified, and can’t wait to continue her training. She currently teachers 3 year olds to 8th grade general music, choir and band. She has started 3 ensembles from the ground up and considers herself lucky to do what she loves every day. She is current President-Elect of Michigan Kodaly Educators (MIKE). Melissa is an active blogger and designs educational materials found on Teachers Pay Teachers. She lives in New Hudson with her husband Sam, and their dog Cindy Lou Who.

Having a Big Hairy Audacious Year in the Middle School Choir Room – Deidra Ross

Deidra Ross is entering her 15th year of music education. She currently teaches Middle School Choir and Theatre Arts in the Reeths-Puffer School District in Muskegon, MI

The superintendent in my district is known for his visionary leadership and infectious drive to overcome the obstacles facing public education. Borrowing a term from the business world, he recently challenged us to make big picture goals for ourselves and our students in the coming year. “Big Hairy Audacious Goals” if you will. The “BHAGS” he reasoned, would drive our instruction and keep the embers of passion alive as we sought to educate our students.

As I pondered this inspiring speech, I wondered how this might look in my own work as a middle school choral director. As the classic “middle child” of the music department, it’s not always easy to have a vision. Students spend a lot of time in the elementary years, only to pass through the middle school briefly before moving into the “big leagues” of high school. I set to work thinking about how this might play out in my current position and what I hoped and dreamed for my students. It turns out, it was a great exercise in self-reflection that made a big impact on how I approached planning for the year, working with my colleagues and navigating the travails of middle school.

Developing my own professional goals has been an on-going process, full of begging, borrowing and stealing, but we all know that the best teachers steal the best ideas…right?! Here are a few of my personal BHAGs and how I’ve tried to implement them over the past few years. It’s my hope that you will be encouraged to see how setting big picture goals for your teaching and program can bring structure, sanity and purpose to your work in the middle school choir room and beyond.

BHAG #1: Connecting with Colleagues & Creating Vision
Do you and your K-12 colleagues have a clear and inspiring mission for your program? Is there a culture of singing in your district that starts in kindergarten and spans to graduation? What programs and opportunities are offered along the way to realize this mission? This might sound a little too Steven Covey for your personality, but I think we can agree that just like writing a good lesson objective, a shared vision gives us a target to aim for.

In my district, there is one teacher below me and one above in the K-12 spectrum. There aren’t many of us, which could be a recipe for disaster if we weren’t all friends. I am blessed to share a common vision with my colleagues and we work hard at making the program cohesive. Our struggle wasn’t that we didn’t get along or have common goals, our problem was that we weren’t articulating the mission of the program in an articulate way. What do we value? What programs do we offer and why? It was time to do some work!

Here is an example of a Middle-School focused Mission Statement from my district:

The mission of the RPMS Choir program is to serve as an important link between the elementary and high school years by providing a unique educational experience in which students gain group and individual skills in the areas of music literacy and vocal performance.

We believe that all students have the potential to be tuneful, beatful and artful
and that middle school is a time for young singers to “find their voice”. The RP Fine Arts Department strives to foster a life-long appreciation and engagement with the arts.

As we worked through the process of developing mission, the concept of implementing a “one-room schoolhouse” approach in the K-12 fine arts became part of our BHAG language. This means, that we value connecting students and events between buildings and also want our more experienced students to facilitate learning for their peers.

Two events that have been successful at bringing this sense of continuity in our district are our Fall Music Theatre Workshop and a one-week Music Theatre Summer Camp we hold each June called “Camp Break a Leg”.  These events are planned by our Fine Arts staff and facilitated by talented Juniors and Seniors. The benefits of this approach are countless and have created a true sense of family as students navigate each building and level.

I encourage you to instigate professional conversations and friendships in your district. Seek to understand their approaches and dream together where you want it to grow.

BHAG #2: Teaching Them To READ!
One of the most valuable things that I took away from teaching in the elementary music classroom is my experience designing and implementing a music literacy plan. There are many schools of thought regarding how children learn music. Regardless of what camp you find yourself in, we can all agree that giving students the tools to read and interpret music is a crucial part of their experience in the music classroom.

I have always considered myself an eclectic educator dabbling in any and all methodology workshops and classes that came my way. My literacy BHAG began to take more shape two summers ago when I attended a Level I Kodaly training session. Of the many methodologies I have studied, none has impacted my teaching craft as much as my study of this wonderful approach. Not only do I commiserate with Kodaly’s heart for children and music, but as someone who has used many of Kodaly’s approaches, I have seen them WORK for my singers. The idea of complex content delivered joyfully along with the emphasis on personal musicianship has revolutionized how I teach, how I plan, and even, who I am as a person.

What kind of learner are you? What approaches work for you? What type of reading program do the students receive in elementary? What systems are used in the high school program above you? Know yourself, know your colleagues, know your students and make a BHAG literacy plan.

There are several sequenced curriculums published online for you to steal away. Here are a few examples of ones that I have found helpful:

BHAG #3: Pick Amazing Music They Will Remember….and Get It Organized
One of my favorite comedians, Jim Gaffagin likes to joke about the fact that he and his wife have a large brood of children. So many children that people often ask him what it’s like juggling so many kids at home. His hilarious retort is “Imagine you’re drowning…..then someone hands you a baby”….

I can relate to Jim not only as the parent of three children, but also, as the director of over 120 eager middle school singers. There is nary a minute where I feel like I’m prepared, no matter how many summer days, evenings and weekend hours I spend planning.  Nonetheless, I keep coming back for more because…well…I kind of love it.

If I made a pie chart of what I spend most of my time doing as a middle school choir director, hunting for quality and SINGABLE repertoire would take up a big portion of that pie. Let’s face it, not only do we have to convince young students that there is worthwhile music on AND off the Top 40 charts, but we have to find pieces that they can actually sing, and sing well. The changing male voice anyone?

Over the last few years, I have attended as many workshops, conferences and reading sessions that I could possibly fit into my schedule. If you’re like me, I gather and gather and gather until my desk is a mess of scores, notes and reusable bags from publishing companies. Both my brain (and desk) were on information overload!

One of my BHAGS was to find a way to organize these great ideas into one place. My quest to get myself together started by keeping an excel spreadsheet of pieces I liked. A “personal” repertoire list if you will, of pieces that I loved along with notes on the composer, voicing and style/genre it might work for.

I recently noticed that JW Pepper started providing a new feature on their website called My Library. My Library, “Helps you to plan your next performance by creating custom folders, tags and notes so it’s easy to capture the vision for your program. Save time looking for that perfect piece with powerful research tools like custom playlists and score view. Integration with our site means the largest selection of sheet music in the world is at your fingertips.”

It’s pretty much amazing! Now, instead of keeping my notes in a notebook, or a separate excel spreadsheet, I can go directly to the JW Pepper website and access my list, along with the links to listen, view and order sheet music directly. My personal repertoire list is now accessible anytime and anywhere. You can also share your playlists with colleagues which makes collaboration even easier.

Finding tools to stay organized is an on-going process as technology changes rapidly, but I feel more confident now that I have my lists all in one place that is practical and easy to access. Now my brain can make space for other things…such as….how to get students to sign up for choir!

BHAG # 4: No Students? No Program: Recruitment for Middle School Choir
As September rolls on, we are already in the thick of launching our plans for the here and now…but what about next year? An on-going BHAG of mine is one that is always on every choir director’s mind: Finding Effective Recruitment Strategies.

Our school counselors begin this process in February and I’m often in panic mode as this falls right in the middle of festival season. Here in Michigan, it is also still right in the middle of winter. How can I possibly think about next fall NOW?!

The biggest impact I have found when planning for choir recruitment is to get the middle school kids in front of the upper elementary students early and often. It could be an assembly, a social event or classroom visit.  For the last few years, I’ve chosen 1-2 concerts where we actually invite the upper elementary students to join us for a few songs.

Last year, we held a coffeehouse concert event and over (50) 5/6th grade students joined the middle school choirs in a flashmob to kick off the show. I then showcased the 5/6 students again in a ukulele feature that they were working on in class. I have found that by highlighting and promoting what we are already doing in the classroom, the program sells itself. Excitement is contagious!

Another event I have found that connects well between the ages is our Spring Musical. In the past, we have created a 5/6 chorus or look for cast roles that can bring some of those younger students into the middle school fold sooner. The more they feel at home when they walk into your classroom in 7th grade, the better.

For younger students that don’t participate in the musical, we always promote the show by either visiting or making promotional videos that the 5/6 teacher can show in class. Then we hand out free or discounted tickets to students and encourage them to come out and see it.

Besides performance opportunities, we began to think about creating personal more one-on-one connections for students between the buildings. Last year, I brought a small group of choir leadership to visit our 5/6th grade building.  The students talked about their experiences in choir and then facilitated some fun ice breaker/singing games with the younger students. When students see that singing is fun and worthwhile, they won’t have to just to your word for it.

Can’t physically get to your elementary buildings? Make a promotional video for the elementary music teacher or classroom teachers to show. Here is an example of one my students made a couple of year ago:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=718Hxr-rZSk . Not only will the elementary students love it, but your middle school choir students will enjoy the process as well.

BHAGS: If You Fail to Plan, You Plan To Fail
Being a music educator is one of the most challenging things I have ever done in my life. There are days I am just sure I should quit and become a greeter at Walmart. But then I remember how much music means to me and how sharing lives with students is worth the journey.

My superintendent was right….dreaming big fuels our motivation and informs our teaching practices. What are your BHAGS? Let’s continue to beg, borrow, steal and inspire one another as we seek to educate the music-makers of our world.

About the Author: Deidra Ross is entering her 15th year of music education. She currently teaches Middle School Choir and Theatre Arts in the Reeths-Puffer School District in Muskegon, MI. She is an active member of MSVMA and serves as Treasurer of the MMEA Board.  

She is married to her college sweetheart and has 3 children who she loves to experiment her teaching ideas on. Deidra enjoys running, going to the beach, riding bikes with her family, attending cultural events, watching the Food Network/DIY Shows, eating popcorn and having family movie night.

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/RPMiddleSchoolChoirs/?fref=ts

Welcome Back to School – Katie Burk

My students’ favorite back to school activity is the song Welcome Back to School – from GamePlan: Grade 1 Curriculum  .  First they learn the stamp and clap rhythms and put them into the song, and then they add in waving across the circle to someone they know during the third sentence of the song. Next, during the parts when they’re not stamping, clapping, or waving, they like to add in movements based on something they did during the summer. It’s a fun way to build relationships within a musical activity!  On the second and third days doing the song, the students sing with chord root harmony, audiate the whole song performing the movements but not the singing, and sing the song with ukulele accompaniment.

Bio: Katie Burk is an elementary music teacher in the East Lansing Public Schools and is going into her fifth year teaching.  Before coming to East Lansing she taught elementary vocal music in the Troy School District and as Interim Director of the MSU Children’s Choir program.  A graduate of MSU in music education and psychology, Katie is a pianist and vocalist. She also loves playing ukulele and guitar.

Song: Welcome Back To School http://www.westmusic.com/p/gameplan-grade-1-curriculum-550060

Also found in various Music Series Books. Other Hello Songs may also be used for this activity.

Back To School Advice-Learning Student Names – Shirley Anne Ries

The best advice I have ever received:  “Your students won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”  I think one of the best ways to show you care is to make the effort to learn the names of each and every student that enters your classroom.  I know that can be overwhelming:  I teach over 800 children in 3 buildings every week.  Find a system, a game, some sort of trick and learn your students’ names.  I’m a visual learner, so I beg my early elementary teachers to send their students with name tags for the first two lessons.  If your teachers won’t help with that, print them yourselves:  plug your class list into a Word document and print labels.  Stick the labels onto the students as they walk in the door, or hand the labels to the teacher to stick on the children–that will be even faster.  Find a strategic place to stand in the hallways at the beginning and end of the school day and practice the children’s names.  They’ll be delighted to see you making the effort.  

One easy and quick activity I’ve used to learn names, especially with my 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders: I ask the students to tell me something very important about themselves.  Take the time and look them in the eye as you greet them and repeat what they shared.  “Hi, Amy.  I will remember that you don’t like grapes.”  You can make it a step trickier and ask them to share a fact that incorporates the first letter of the child’s name.  Kevin likes kittens,  Ty plays tennis.  That trick works especially well for me.  When I’m meeting a class for the first time, I learn names in small groups:  learn four or five names, then review them.  Tag on another five names, review the whole group.  Yes, it takes time.  If you sell it as an important activity, where the students get to teach you something new, they will buy into the “game” and help you.

Shirley Anne Ries: Shirley holds a Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Wartburg College in Waverly, IA.  She earned her Master’s degree from Marygrove College.  In her 20 years of teaching, Shirley has taught PreK-8th grade General Music, 5-12 Band, and 6-8 Choir.  Shirley currently teaches elementary music in St Johns, MI and directs a youth choir at St. Luke Lutheran Church in Haslett, MI.  The mother of 3 active girls, Shirley’s main hobby is watching her children sing, dance, swim and perform in band.

YOUTUBE Videos of Name Games

Up The Ladder

Jump In Jump Out

Name Warm Up Game

Rhythm Name Game