Thursday, April 22, 2010

Please Visit my New Site

Thank you for visiting me here...
However, I have a new home for my blog and many other things. Please visit me there at

I look forward to hearing from you!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Drum Circle

The ostinato starts

ta, ta, ti-ti, ta
ta, ta, ti-ti, ta

I nod to the group
and slowly they come in
Some mimic my rhythm
others add their own

ta, ta, ti-ti, ta
ta, ta, ti-ti, ta

someone shakes maracas
another scrapes the sand
one clicks on the claves
another taps the bells in her hand

ta, ta, ti-ti, ta
ta, ta, ti-ti, ta

comes out of nowhere
but it seems to fit right in
eggs shshshshshshake
alllllllll along

ta, ta, ti-ti, ta
ta, ta, ti-ti, ta


ta, ta, ti-ti, ta
ta, ta, ti-ti, ta

Then slowly 4
But steady 3
Preparing 2

The silence now is deafening
And we are satisfied
Want more?

Ostinato - a short rhythm that is perpetually repeated throughout a piece of music. Here, it serves as the structure in which others have the freedom to play.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Erosion Blues

This past week, my students and I had a great experience as we created a makeshift recording studio in our school and recorded an original piece of music: The Erosion Blues.

It is a great example of integration, collaboration and freedom in structure.

The blues was meant to be a culminating project for our unit on Land and Water which focuses on erosion. Students were to explain a type of erosion (water, wind or ice) and use some content vocabulary to show they know the meaning of the words.

Collaboration: The music teacher taught the students the form of the 12 bar blues in music class. In fact, nearly all the students are able to play the structure on xylophones (Orff Instruments) and some were even taught it on recorder. In our recording, you only hear piano and vocals, but there may be an opportunity for the kids to lay down another track or two at their next music class!

Freedom in Structure:
The 12 bar blues creates one structure in which we sung our lyrics, but there is another structure that helped focus the small groups of 3-4 students to compose the lyrics. They follow a simple AAB form which means there is a line of lyrics (A) that is repeated (A) and then a different set of lyrics (B) completes a verse. The ends of lines A and B rhyme. For example:
A - Rivers can erode rocks, mountains and canyons wear away.
A - Rivers can erode rocks, mountains and canyons wear away.
B - It still erodes, no matter what you say!

The After Effects:
I asked my students to reflect on their experiences as we drafted, practiced and recorded our blues song. Here are some of their words:
"I thought it was fun because everyone had a lot of enery and was able to share it."
"It made me feel special...made me feel musical and unique."
"It was fun because when we sang the chorus, everybody was singing."
"I want to do something like this again. The blues is fun."

My students, in general, are excited about the blues. In fact I have two girls who are actively writing their own blues lyrics. One is completed and posted here and the other girl is presently writing her own "Moving Blues" about her family's move to another house.

This lesson transitioned me from our TIC focus last month in "Creating Community" to this month's "Freedom in Structure". It was one of those experiences that fed off of my talents and those of my students: from the students volunteering to sing out loud to the boys in charge of the recording device (my netbook powered by Audacity). The smiles were big and the excitement was contagious. There was a lot of inspiring going on!

Here are all the links you may be interested in. Please check them out and leave your comments. I will share them all with my class.

Other posts in reference to this project:
Musical Experiences - Composing in the Classroom

Balancing Testing with Creativity

Thursday, April 1, 2010

What is Freedom in Structure

Freedom in structure is something we can give our students, our children, ourselves and others. It is laying the foundation and allowing for creativity.

As a parent, I know that I’m supposed to set the ground rules for my kids, that children NEED structure, WANT structure. (That’s what all the books and online articles say.) But I know that the structure I give them does not stifle them, instead it gives them the boundaries they need in order to explore.

So is true for our students at school and I’m not just talking about the school or classroom rules, I’m talking about how we teach: the lessons and activities we do with our students as well as our philosophy in teaching.

This month, I will explore they ways in which I do this, where I fall short and how it benefits me as a teacher and my students as learners.

  • What activities do I do to practice this skill?

  • Is it beneficial or practical in today’s society?

  • What foundations do I lay down for my students?

  • What foundations are there for me?

  • Is there too much structure for my students? For me? Too little?

I’m excited to begin this series and ask you to participate by adding comments, ideas, activities or submitting your own blog or article.