Music and the Brain Newsletter No. 16 – June 2006
The 2005-2006 academic year was a great one for MATB with the expansion of our schools, a successful professional development workshop, and the beginning of a new project to bring MATB to homeroom teachers. We thank you for a job well done and for continuing to improve upon MATB materials with your creativity. We've got great ideas from MATB teachers to share in this newsletter and we are very proud of the work you do to make the program shine. The wonderful examples you set assist tremendously in garnering more support for the growth of this program.
We are working hard to bring new schools on board with the MATB program as we look ahead towards the 2006-2007 school year. Several of our new schools came from word of mouth as you told other teachers about the benefits of MATB and we are thrilled with that development. Our ultimate goal is to get our program in every public school across NYC and beyond! We are beginning to reach out to schools in urban areas of New Jersey such as Newark and Hoboken. Should you have important contacts in these areas please let us know.
We are proud to announce we have been given a grant from the Ford Foundation to conduct a research project for the development of homeroom integration materials under the Music and the Brain model. We have begun this research with the help of homeroom teachers at PS 161 in Manhattan and will continue to work in different schools to help us adapt our materials. We have already gotten ideas from this project that should be beneficial to music teachers as well. The goal of this project is to help non-music teachers implement some of the important work we do in music classrooms, to the general classrooms for Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade. Ideally all classrooms and teachers should know how to use music as a tool to demonstrate concepts, manage classroom behavior, and develop well-rounded students. We would love to hear any of your suggestion regarding how homeroom teachers may have already used some of MATB methods to enhance their classrooms. Feel free to share your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We have collected video footage of many of our veteran MATB teachers' lessons as a training tool for all teachers. We hope to have this available to you by the start of the 2006-2007 school year. This will allow you all to see other MATB class room setups and most importantly, different takes on the lessons you are currently teaching. Our hope is that you will get ideas and inspiration from seeing other teachers and find things that will help you teach even more effectively. Many thanks to the teachers who allowed us to videotape their lessons!
We were delighted with this year's professional development with Danai Gagne held at the 92nd Street Y Harkness Dance Center. Everyone found the workshop entertaining and informative. We know many of you used some of the activities Danai taught in your lessons with success. We hope to have her back at a future workshop. For your information, should you like more intensive Orff training and certification please contact Danai at email@example.com.
COMMUNICATION WITHOUT WORDS
Sometimes the less you rely on words to communicate with your students the better. You can inspire focus and active listening in your students with movement, gestures, and RHYTHM!
> At PS 36X in the Bronx, Michelle Turner often has her students mimic her movements and follow her gestures to know what to do. During one lesson she met her students at the door of the classroom and she was holding a drum. She pointed to the drum, and her ears, and without saying a word, began playing and walking at a steady tempo. She would stop, and then restart at different tempos. Her first spoken words to the class were, "Go to your seat in time with the drum".
> Aaron Scott at PS 129M often plays fantastic percussive music as the children walk in. They immediately know by the music to come in, take their seats, tap a steady beat on their knees, and wait for him to enter and start having them clap rhythm cards to the music.
> Before sending her students to the keyboards in the beginning of the school year, Jennifer Ghedini of PS 139B does a lot of work on steady beat with her classes. She brings in her "Trusty, Dusty, Metronome" and has the class follow her movements as she blinks her eyes, taps her knees, claps, etc to the beat. She also sets the metronome on the floor and the class stands around it in a circle. She brings in percussion instruments and had the kid play shakers on quarter notes, halves, and whole notes before passing it on to the person next to them. She starts at slow tempos and sets the metronome at faster tempos, as the classes get good at keeping the beat steady. Jennifer also had her students sing "Mary Had a Little Lamb" to the beat of the metronome. As they were singing on the beat she ran to the keyboard to accompany them and played it much faster. She had the children explain what she did wrong when they finished singing to the metronome beat.
> At PS 11M, Sharon Golub has had her students pretend to jump rope while singing songs to demonstrate the steady beat.
At PS 66B, Melanie Madsen found a simple way to get her children to be on the same page when beginning to work at the keyboard. She made a Green Go sign like a traffic sign and a Red Stop Sign. When everyone is standing at the keyboards she tells them they can turn their keyboard on at the Go sign and then she raises it. Next they can put their headphones on at Go, turn to the proper page, etc. She shows the Stop sign to instruct them at the keyboards or tell them practicing time is up.
Constantia Sidiris of PS 122Q did a wonderful lesson involving musical math to help her Kindergarteners begin to understand the relationships between note values. She told her class she had 4 pizza pies (she drew the circles representing the pies on the board). The first pie didn't want to share with anyone so she asked how many beats it should get. The kids understood the circle looked like a whole note so they said 4 beats. The next pie wanted to be shared by two friends and she drew a line down the middle for the kids to figure out what kind of notes would have to live on either side. This took the classes quite a bit of time to figure out. Once someone got the answers of 2 half notes and they came up and drew it, Constantia moved on to the 3rd pie circle. This one ultimately had a 1/2 note on one side and she asked the kids to split the half note on the other half. This went on and the final circle had 2 quarter notes on each half. She did the music math equation underneath the circle when the kids came up with the right combinations of notes. At the end of the exercise she wrote out the rhythm for each pie in its own measure on the staff on the board so the class could clap the rhythms.
Aaron Scott at PS 129B has a wonderful word wall that not only includes musical terms and symbols, but also professions within the music industry. It's very important to make your students aware that there are many ways one can work in the industry. Words like "Publishers, A&R, Promoters, etc" can be found on Aaron's word wall.
Jura Litchfield at Hunter Elementary has small binders for each of her students that have music worksheets and some of the MATB Theory Papers. When her students alternate at the keyboard, those who are not playing get their own binders and work on the theory papers at their own pace. Some are able to breeze through them while others may take longer. This method may work better than giving everyone the same theory papers at a time. They can really work independently on the worksheets in this fashion. This is also a school where numerous students take private lessons, yet the theory papers are something they don't have much exposure to.
At PS 161M, Jan Rudd used the material we learned from Danai Gagne in our Orff workshop and adapted it for her classes. She taught the "Animals Are Hibernating" song to her students. She had the classes break into groups and make sounds for the snake, bear, and frog to specific rhythm cards. She picked about 3 or 4 students to come up to the front and play the rhythm card for their animal on percussion instruments while the class made the animal sounds. She had another adorable hibernation song to the melody of "Alouette" that the children sang as well in preparation for an assembly about animals that hibernate.
Ideally, there should be enough time in your lessons to teach many songs that are not part of the MATB curriculum. Joy Newton of PS 65X has a ritual of singing an old and a new song of the day. These songs are typically not MATB songs, and she accompanies the children on an autoharp (great instrument). Starting the lessons with singing is joyful for the kids and the variety of songs makes the lesson more well rounded.
At PS 4, Jesse Means uses his theatrical background to liven up his lessons. At the end of class, the students came back to the rug after playing and Jesse went into a news reporter character and asked the class to compare and contrast Mary Had a Little Lamb and Halloween. The kids were enthralled as he called on volunteers to come to the front of the class and speak into the imaginary microphone about what they noticed in the music. It brought many of the shy kids out of their shell to pretend they were being interviewed for TV.
Edel Boland of PS 71Q was working on a lesson for Abiyoyo (Book 3) and she worked on the rhythm and fingering for the song initially. When it came time for listening to the recording of the song, she had the children tap their head with the right hand for the right hand notes and tap their waist with the left hand for the left hand notes.
At PS 68Q Margaret O'Connell was teaching "When the Saints Go Marching In" and she brought in a black shoelace. She took the lace out of her pocket and explained what happens when you tie the lace and it comes together. Next she had two students come up to the front of the class and pretend to be a dotted half note and a half note. Each student held one end of the shoelace so the class could visually see what happens with the tie. She did the same thing with the whole note and the quarter note and had two different students come up and demonstrate that with the shoelace. The visual depiction helped the children understand this concept.
We often think the Kindergarteners are not able to do advanced musical tasks. They may take longer to be able to do what you are asking of them, but they can do it. At PS 65X, Michael David has his Kindergarteners come up to the board and draw notes to match the rhythms he claps. He claps the rhythms using tas and tis for this exercise.
Laurie Griffel of PS 114X was teaching "Whistle" and she began by playing numerous popular songs like Happy Birthday on the keyboard and she substituted a few notes with flats to see if the children could hear a difference. After a few minutes a student recognized that she was playing one of the black keys.
At PS 11M, Sharon Golub often uses games to help her students practice rhythm. She has them play music Tic-tac-to. She divided the class into 2 teams. She drew a Tic Tac Toe grid on the board and but music symbols in all the spaces. Each team had to identify the musical symbols in the grid to get either and X or O in that spot and the object is to get three in a row.
> At PS 139B, a student was asked who composed Largo, and a little girl raised her hand confidently to say "Mrs. Treble Clef".
> When asked whether she recognized a symbol in the music (a repeat sign) one Kindergartener shouted "a Pereat Sign!".
> At PS 11M, when teaching intern Liza Gibbs sang Happy Birthday for class to first demo the fermata, one child described the fermata as causing her voice to "freeze"
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