Music and the Brain Newsletter No. 12 - December 2003
Dear Music and the Brain Teachers,
We are very pleased to announce our new website, http://www.musicandthebrain.org, and hope that you'll visit. Ideally, it will develop into a useful forum for all of us to exchange ideas, ask questions, make comments and, most importantly, feel more connected withother musicians and teachers.
Ø Vivolo Meeting
Music and the Brain is always seeking ways of improving the program and, in turn, the "performance" of our teachers and interns (and students). Toward that end, the focus at the October 30th meeting was a teaching evaluation form.Everyone contributed and the next draft of the form will be sent out in January for further comments. This is being put together in an effort to really scrutinize the work we all do, to help organize observations from interns, and to create a forum for discussion regarding lesson structure and goals. It was announced that teachers will have the opportunity to have classes videotaped sothat they can view and themselves in action, and they were offered the opportunity to visit one another at work. The revised Book One Teacher's Manualwas handed out.
Ø The Cute Kid Comment...
Goes to a student at PS 3 in Brooklyn. A very tiny kindergartner named Starasia identified the treble clef correctly and was then asked how she knew. With a touch of attitude that this was obvious she replied, "Because I was thinking about it in my brain!"
Ø News from Paris
Music and the Brain is now in place in five schools in Paris. Four of them are Bilingual Montessori schools and one is a small music school. There are three teachers in place in these schools. Kirsty is excited to be facing the challenge of how best to teach this program to combined ages of kids (3, 4& 5 year olds) and when teaching very young children (2 year olds!). Any suggestions or ideas would be most welcome. She and Lisha did a workshop for 200 parents in October. Kjrste Thibedeau Hilig visited recently, was most impressed and provided welcome feedback.
Ø Hunter College and Education through Music
In the past, several of our teachers have had the pleasure of student teachers from NYU. This year we are also teaming up with students from the Music Education program at Hunter College. We hope that some of their experiences will be recorded in the next Newsletter.
We are also very pleased to be joining forces more closely with Education through Music and plan to send interns to visit those schools this year.
_________IDEA FORUM ___________
Moving Ahead in the Book(s)
It is very important to keep the curriculum moving along at a regular pace. Some lessons/songs are more complex and require additional class time but, in general, one song per class is good. Remember, everyone gets it in time and the beginning songs will become easy.
Only a handful of teachers have ventured into Book Three - the rest of you don't know what you're missing! Thus far, reports from those few are very positive and inspiring. These pieces are worth singing, listening to and creating lessons for - they do not necessarily need to be played (in full) and they might complement other work.
How Much Time Should the Children Get at the Keyboards?
Althoughthe exact amount of time can vary from class to class, teachers should try toallow their students at least 10-15 minutes on the keyboards. This can bedifficult given the desire to teach the lesson adequately beforehand, and thesometimes overwhelming student to teacher ratio, but it's a vital part of theprogram and not only stimulates ongoing student interest in the material, butallows the student time to develop eye-hand coordination and individual music-reading skills, as well as to improvise.
Several teachers have remarked that their students do not seem to understand what it means to "practice" while at the keyboards. After playing through the song once, with or without mistakes, the students feel that they have completed the assignment. It might be useful and productive to teach a mini-lesson on practicing - its goals and how to do it. It's also helpful to suggest specific activities for the children to complete: for example, ask them to play the song 5 times (singing along) and then they can raise their hand to let you know (and maybe observe) and then they can review old songs. PLEASE SEND US YOUR IDEAS ON PRACTISING!
Children Need to Move!
We continually get feedback from interns and teachers telling us that children retain musical concepts so much more effectively when they can move to them. Whether it be dancing, eurhythmic exercises, or acting out Peter and the Wolf and pretending to be musical instruments - kids remember more and have more fun when they put the concept in their bodies.
Most teachers enjoy having interns visit and work along side them but only a few give feedback or suggest ways of improving intern work. One teacher did let us know they found it distracting and bothersome that interns would (only) take notes during their classes -- notes are now to be taken after or outside of class. Once a problem is identified it should no longer happen. We hope to be able to generate a discussion to determine what is most helpful for each teacher. Would you like to co-teach with your intern, or would you prefer to each teach individual lessons? Do you like to notify your intern in advance what your lesson plan will be so they can prepare, or do you prefer to allow them to improvise more? In what specific ways could the interns help you in your classroom?
___________ STORIES FROM THEFIELD_____________
At PS 149Q Krista Wozniak had a bilingual class try and translate the French in Au Claire de la Lune based on their knowledge of similar sounding Spanish words. The kids felt smart that they could figure out another language, and it was a great way of pointing out similarities between languages and cultures.
At PS 24X Joan Schwartz introduced "Jingle Bells" by singing the song to the kids in Spanish and seeing if they could guess what song it was! She then had them sing it in Spanish accompanied by different instruments.
AT Midtown West Robin Casey had her first grade class act out the story of Peter and the Wolf to the music. The children took turns playing a character/instrument inthe story while the narrator went through the story. This was an excellent way to cement the sounds of different musical instruments in the children's memory.
At PS 130Q Jenny Liu illustrated the meaning of a "pair" of 8th notestied together with a bar by having two children stand up at the front of the class and put their arms around each other's shoulders. Jenny explained thatthe two children were a pair of 8th notes and their arms were the bar over the top of the notes!
At PS 24X Joan Schwartz illustrates optimal rounded finger position at the keyboard by telling her children "reach up and catch that ball!" and then "float their fingers down to their keyboards."
At PS 36X Michelle Turner used a "Staff" that she had created on the floor of her classroom with tape to illustrate steps, skips, lines, spaces, etc. She had children come up and be "notes" on the staff by standing on a line or space and by arranging them in an order which composed a"song" that the class then sang together.
Playing with all your pieces
At PS 149Q Krista Wozniak used three pieces of paper on the floor to illustrate different combinations of time. She suggested to the class that the pieces ofpaper were beats and as she sang different rhythmic combinations she walked across the pieces of paper to the rhythm of each card. The kids were able to do it after her, and loved the exercise!
At PS 71Q Clare McIntire uses her "word wall" very actively each lesson as she introduces new musical terms. She has one child go to the back of theroom where the word wall is and find the term discussed, while the class says it together. It's a great way to reinforce some otherwise rather abstract concepts.
At MTW Robin Casey introduced 16th note patterns for "I'll Rise When theRooster Crows" while reviewing relative note values. Written in a stack on the board were 4 quarter notes, 4 eighth notes, 16 sixteenth notes and finally the 2 combinations of 8th and 16th notes found in the song. Beside each of the different measure breakdowns she drew a pie showing how the notes comprised thebeat. She went through each had the children vocalize with ta, tee-tee or tee-re-tee-re.
Edel Boland, at PS 71Q, taught "When The Saints Go Marching In" and a lesson on jazz and American history using a globe. The globe gave the children a much needed perspective on the world and allowed Edel to easily spin everyone into a sense of history. This lesson also included important math concepts -adding the beats in the ties and measuring the huge distance of a century in time.
At PS 46 Vermelle Rhodes encouraged her children's improvisatory skills by playingand singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" it in many different musical styles - jazz, soul, rap, classical...
At PS 207 Kevin Hill and Peter Kaufmann did a guitar/jazz version of Duerme Pronto that was loud and crazy. The kids roared with laughter, but said that it wasn'tpretty enough and a baby couldn't sleep through that version. They played the song again, like a lullaby this time, and a hush fell over the class and all the children became silent. A lullaby works like a magic spell sometimes...
At PS 37X Robert Rodriguez and Rebekah Weissburg were trying to lead a special ed class in eurhythmic movement accompanied by Robert on the piano. The children were having difficulty connecting the music to their movement. Every time the music would stop, one adorable Latin boy kept calling out - "Salsa!"After this had happened a couple of times, Robert decided to take the cue and launched into a salsa tune. The little Hispanic boy who had suggested it all,who had barely been able to walk in a circle a moment before, confidently put his arm around Rebekah's waist and led her in a perfect salsa step, accompaniedby the rest of the class!
The "Musical Alphabet"
At PS 149 Krista Wozniak introduced the ABC/CDE Steps by talking about the"Musical Alphabet." She drew ABCDEFGABCDEFGABCDEFG... on the board and asked the children if they saw a pattern? When the kids saw that the pattern A to A kept repeating had them observe thesame pattern on the staff and say the letter names there. The pattern was next discovered on the keyboard. She played an octave from A to A and had them sing a scale up and down while she played the notes. When they went to their keyboards she had them pick out all the repetitions of A that they could find.
"The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything"
At PS 36X Michelle Turner did a fun Halloween lesson from the story "The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything." She used the natural rhythms created by the movements of the shoes, pants, shirt, gloves, hat and pumpkin head in the story to illustrate 6 different rhythmic combinations! One pair of shoes going KLOMP, KLOMP, KLOMP was the rhythm quarter, quarter,quarter, rest; one pair of pants going WIG-GLE, WIG-GLE, WIG-GLE, WIG-GLE waseight eighth notes; one shirt going SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE, SHAKE was four quarternotes; one pair of white gloves going CLAP, CLAP/CLAP, CLAP, CLAP/CLAP, was an alternating quarter, two eighth note pattern; one tall black hat going NOOOD,NOOOD was two half notes; and one big scary pumpkin head going BOOOOOO (held for four beats) was a whole note. One boy was so impressed that when he was at his keyboard and asked how long he should hold the whole note, he proudly put back his head howled "BOOOOOO!"
Joan Schwartz created a unique lesson with animal puppets for one of her special education classes. She got out the animal puppets one at a time and acted out the sounds/movements of each particular animal. The child who guessed the animal she was demonstrating correctly would come to the front of the class and take that puppet. When each child had a puppet Joan went to the piano and described the characteristics of a particular animal while playing accompanying music (such as, "I want the person to stand up who has the animal who walks the SLOWEST and is GREY" - elephant) and that child would stand upand walk/hop/run around the room accompanied by his/her animal's special music. The kids had a BLAST with this activity - not only did it capture their imagination, but it was an incredible teaching tool to connect music to body movement and to their knowledge of their environment.
- Newsletter No. 19 – May 2009
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- Newsletter No. 18 – Fall 2008
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- Newsletter No. 16 – June 2006
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- Newsletter No. 12 - December 2003
- Newsletter No. 11 – April 2003
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