Music and the Brain Newsletters Archive
Music and the Brain Newsletter No. 19 – May 2009
NEW MATB Partner Schools in 2008-2009:
Music and the Brain has been very fortunate to add twenty three new schools in New York City during the 2008-2009 academic year. New school recommendations are much appreciated. We’d like to officially welcome the following new schools and teachers to our MATB family:
MANHATTAN MUSIC TEACHER
Amber Charter School Star Sanderson
Mosaic Preparatory Academy Stella Tartsinis
MS 377- Renaissance School of the Arts Eileen Kelly
PS 33- Timothy Dwight School Corey Taylor
PS 153- Helen Keller School Donna Rossi
PS 212- Osvaldo Morel
PS 102- Josepth O. Loretan School Beverly McKnight/Patricia Weingart
PS 107 Natalia Osorio
PS 133- William A. Butler School Judith Hudson
PS 45- Horace E. Greene School Patricia Edwards/Bryce Sebastian
PS 307- Daniel Hale Willaims School Julia Skinner
PS 257- John F. Hylan School (new-2008) Robert Siegal
PS 123- The Suydam School Stefanie Britton
PS 309- George E. Wibecan School Thomas Moran
PS 299- Thomas Warren Field School Rick Robinson
PS 375- Jackie Robinson School Mildred Lowe
PS 361 Bill Brooks/Lucy Joy
PS 115- The Glen Oaks School Mark Ciprut
PS 197- The Ocean School Victoria Hoyos
Voice Charter School Shelly Ley
PS 107- The Thomas A. Dooley School Connie Dooley
MATB Audio Recording Project:
We have recently started collecting recordings of students singing songs from Book One. If you have specific students or classes that sing well, we’d love to come to your school to record them so we may add to the MATB CD collection. The more schools involved, the better! Please contact Lisala if you haven’t already to express your interest by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For this, as well as other projects, we are sometimes required to get parental permission. For this reason, we are now requesting from all new schools that they automatically get releases at the beginning of each school year and would like to ask existing schools to do the same. Obviously, this is not mandatory and is up to each school, it’s just the easiest way for us to involve teachers, students and schools in fun and exciting projects.
Making the Most of Your MATB Grant:
Due to the challenging economic times we are all facing, it is particularly important to us that all of our grants are going to good use. If your school is not in the position to maintain our requirements for the MATB grant in terms of scheduling and space, please contact us so we can best determine how to move forward. We are looking closely at schedules and conditions at each school to make sure that all requirements are maintained each year. We would much rather move the materials and equipment to other schools than to have them languish in closets or be used irregularly.
IDEAS FROM THE FIELD:
Incorporate Vocal Solos:
Kari Crabb at PS 122Q taught her students a short melody in class and then asked for volunteers to sing it solo. This seems to be rarely done and kids love to sing solo as much as they love to clap rhythm cards solo. This idea works well with the following….
Using Toy Microphones:
Judith Hudson of PS 133K sometimes hands out toy microphones to her students when singing. Kids love to be singled out this way and it’s an easy way to build their confidence in singing.
Andrew McGuire of PS 249 K has his students use their voices by throwing imaginary pitches to him as he prepares to swing the bat. They sent the pitches by making an ascending ooh sound while they pretending to throw. They sang a little higher for each pitch.
The Slinkie Warm-Up:
At PS 107X, new MATB teacher Natalia Osorio uses a Slinkie during her regular class warm ups. After the kids stretch out their bodies, she has them warm up their voices by singing in the direction of the slinkie.
Songs YOU Love:
Lancelot Thornton at PS 197 M warmed up his classes’ voices with “The Adam’s Family” and “She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain” and accompanied beautifully on the piano with his right hand only. (He wears a white glove on his left hand and says that he’s slowly regaining some movement in his fingers.) He reminds us of the important lesson that if you love a song, the children will love it too.
The importance of Composers:
Shirley McDonald of PS 38B has the kids sing hello to the posters of composers from Beethoven to Stevie Wonder and Elvis as the final hellos.
Printing out lyrics:
Iris Cheng from PS 1X brought in a recording of a song about friendship to teach her students. She wrote out all the lyrics on a large poster sized paper and let the kids listen to the recording a few times as she pointed to the lyrics. It was a very cute and catchy song that got them in a nice mood.
Weaving Literacy into Lessons:
Elana Stiel of PS 278M researched online and found several different versions of lyrics for “Lullaby” and she printed them on small strips of paper. When a 2nd grade class came in, she split the class into groups of three and gave them different strips with lyrics. They were given a few minutes to practice and then they had to sing their version aloud. After the lesson and work on the keyboards, Elana read the book “Sleeping House” to the class. She told the class to listen for words associated with sleep. She wrote the words that they found on the board. Their assignment for the next class was to use these words on the board to create their own lyrics to “Lullaby.”
Elana also engaged the children with poetry during her lesson on Morning. She began the class by reading a poem (which had been written out on large paper so the students could follow along). She covered the title and asked the kids to guess what it might be – based on the words of the poem. One class guessed the correct title and another didn’t but both results enhanced their appreciation of Grieg’s piece. After revealing the title, “Morning” Elana then asked the kids to describe how they would compose music to describe the morning. All of this led beautifully into hearing the orchestral recording and eventually playing the song.
NOTES AND RHYTHM
Serious lessons done a la VELCRO fun:
Jeff Mizen from PS 139K introduced his Kindergarteners to the rhythmic note values using his Velcro board. Grandfather whole note, mother half note, daddy quarter note, baby eighth note and the eighth note twins all had starring roles in a puppet show created by Jeff bouncing Velcroable notes about, with one hand in front of the grand staff board while he hid his head behind it and threw a caricatured voice. The class learned to identify and perform the notes between their fits of laughter.
Natalia Osorio of PS 107X, when explaining that notes have the same value whether their stems are up or down, asked her students, “If I decide to stand on my head with my feet in the air, would I have to change my name or would I still be Mrs. Osorio??”
Corey Taylor of PS 33X had a great idea for introducing finger 4 in the Four Notes in 3/4. As each class arrived at his door he was ready with pieces of masking tape and he put a piece around each child’s fourth finger. Corey sent the kids to the keyboards immediately when they entered and he called out finger numbers for them to play starting with the taped fourth. He called out all the fingering of the song and they got comfortable before sending them back to the rug for the lesson. Everyone was really able to play when they went back at the end of the rug lesson.
Counting and math take on new meaning (and fun):
Fatima Rodriguez of PS 384K asked her 1st grade class to count the quarter notes on the “Jingle Bells” poster and she went around to each class for their tally. She got answers ranging from three to forty-two. When they all counted together they found there were 38 quarters.
Brown Bagging It:
Connie Dooley, a new MATB teacher from PS 107 Q plays a game requiring two students to come up and hold a brown paper bag labeled Notes and Music Symbols. Different kids got up and picked out a miniature note or symbol out of the bag of their choice and had to say the name and significance of that they picked. For example, picking a treble clef meant you had to say the name of it and which hand you use to play for it.
Andrew Boeckman of PS 150Q sometimes plays “Popcorn” with his kids and has them curl up on the floor and pretend to be popcorn kernels. He pretends to pour butter and salt on them then uses a shaker at different tempos for them to start popping and jumping up.
MOTIVATION , MEDITATION & INSPIRATION
Ten Seconds is all it takes:
Fatima Rodriguez has her students engage in a “meditation” activity to a ten second countdown with eyes closed. It’s a simple and effective tool and can be useful with the rowdiest of classes. Kids seem to be often very receptive to an eyes closed, motionless and listening state. And, surprisingly, it’s the class clowns who sometimes excel most at it.
Musical High Fives/Honorary Medals:
Bryce Sebastien at PS 45K is super at motivating his kids. He makes a point of calling on each student regardless of them raising hands and praising the thought process of answers even when the answer is not what he is seeking. His teaching is full of humor and as a child headed out of one of his classes, Bryce congratulated him on a job well done by raising his hand high saying “Gimme some treble” and then lowered it palm up saying “Gimme some bass”. Bryce also lets students wear medal/necklaces in class when they are behaving well or answering questions correctly. They are beaming with pride while wearing their medals.
Musical Learning Tree:
At PS 114X, Laurie Griffel often ends lessons by having her kids recount at least five things they learned during the day’s lesson. She plants her elbow in one hand and outstretches each finger for each concept learned to grow a tree.
The Power of a Music Teacher:
Osvaldo Morel from PS 212X recounted a story we thought you should hear about a student he’s taught several years ago named Ephraim. Osvaldo taught him while he was in middle school and as he put it, Ephraim was on a very fast track to prison or a graveyard for the things he was getting involved in. Whenever Osvaldo put an instrument in front of him, Ephraim was totally absorbed and wanting to master it. It turned out that Ephraim was so talented he was bordering on savant. When Ephraim finally graduated he told Osvaldo years later that it was because of him that he traded in his knives for drumsticks.
The Power of Mr. Wright
When a child is reprimanded but continues to disrupt the class, Stella Tartsinis PS 375 warns she will have to call Lieutenant Wright. If the child persists, she goes to her classroom phone, dials and has a very audible discussion about the child to the officer to come to the class to take care of the matter. One morning a child narrowly dodged a Lieutenant Wright visit. Luckily, Wright was on lunch break. The dramatic expression of relief on the boy’s face was comical. Apparently Lieut. Wright has quite a reputation with the kids as many of the school’s teachers call on the officer frequently. Of course no one has ever actually seen Wright and this cleverly leaves the enforcer’s image and persona to the defendant’s imagination.
Starting on the Right Foot:
New MATB teacher Andrew McGuire at PS 249K had a wonderful introductory lesson with a new class at the beginning of the school year. He just moved to NYC from Detroit, and as part of his introduction of himself to his students, Andrew talked about the musical history of Detroit and the “Queen”of Detroit, Aretha Franklin. He played “Respect” for his class to their delight and told them to listen out for the important word she spells in the song. They had to confer with a neighbor about what the letters spelled. When they all figured out it was “respect” he had them whisper it, speak it, and shout it. This led beautifully into his list of rules that started with Respect. Andrew continued the Detroit theme with other classes and incorporated discussion and listening to other Motown artists in his early lessons. Later during this lesson he wrote the word “harmony” vertically on his dry erase board and explained the meaning musically speaking and otherwise. He also explained that if behavior rules were broken in the class, he would erase a letter from the word and described the consequences for each letter disappearing.
Creative Largo Lessons:
Bob Stern who teaches at the Theodore Roosevelt School in Oyster Bay did some wonderful things during his half hour lesson on Largo with a class of 1st graders recently. He was on the second lesson on the piece with the class and had them listen to the recording and draw pictures of Dvorak on the ship to the New World. For the second lesson, he played the recording again as the students walked in and as they got seated on the rug, he showed each drawing. It was very dramatic with the music in the background and the kids were all proud of the showcasing of their artwork. After the rug lesson, Bob showed the class a poster he had drawn a picture of the back of the keyboards on. He labeled the headphone jack on this poster and told the class that today they would take out the headphones of the keyboard behind them so the class could play as an ensemble. Everyone was clear on what to do and at the keyboards. Bob had them change the sound on the keyboard to the
English Horn. He called out the finger numbers of the song and at the end had them play a chord. They were absolutely thrilled.
>Mr. Leon from PS 44 K inspired his students by telling them about the influence Negro Spirituals had on Dvorak and in Largo.
Posterizing Theory Papers/Plastic Poster Covers:
Michael David at PS 65X has begun printing out theory papers in a poster size for his students to work on them as a class before starting the song of the day. His trick is to use a large piece of clear Plastic on top of the poster theory papers so he can use dry erase markers to circle and write on the poster without damaging it. He has different students come up to to the theory worksheet on the poster by circling or drawing arrows on the plastic.
This plastic method also works beautifully on the MATB music posters. Michael uses it throughout the rug lesson and he’s able to highlight things in the music that the kids need to focus on like the first finger used in the song or the treble or bass clef, etc. Michael found this kind of teaching, really helped his Kindergartners in particular.
AT THE KEYBOARDS
The Importance of Finger Warm Ups at the Keyboard:
Julia Skinner of PS 307K consistently does at least five minutes of finger exercises at the keyboard with all grades without headphones before they tackle the song of the day. She is extremely clear in her instructions for the warm ups and repeats them several times. She calls out finger patterns for each hand. Her students are playing at a high level during their first year of MATB.
Solving Tricky Measures Like Pieces of a Puzzle:
When teaching a lesson on Akiwowo and going over measures that were tricky for her Ks, Clare McIntire gave an analogy that really worked. She likened the measures to pieces of the puzzle. She talked about how her young son got hold of a piece of her older daughter’s puzzle and he broke it. She didn’t throw the puzzle away, she put it back together and her daughter was able to continue the puzzle. She told her students that when they find a measure or piece that is tricky in a song, they should work on fixing it repeatedly and then put it back into the song and continue from there.
FUNNY KID QUOTES
> At PS 161 M While listening to each version of Akiwowo, Lindsay Brown stopped for comments from the class. When asked to describe whether the 3rd version sounded happy or sad, one boy replied, “it sounds like they were delighted!”
>At PS 309K, Thomas Moran asked his Kindergartners what they’d enjoyed most about a lesson on Kuma San, and one boy said sincerely, “I liked listening to you!”
> On the other side of the spectrum, during the same lesson at Ps 309K one little girl answered when Thomas asked if the class remembered the previous class working on Kuma San; “yeah Kuma San.... it gave me a headache”
> In preparation for his second graders going to sing songs at a nearby senior citizen home, Rick Robinson of PS 299K asked a class of second graders if they knew who “senior citizens’ were. One child said “people in a building” and another said “seniors in college.”
> Movetta Manning of PS 67K was leading her class in ensemble playing of a Book Two song when someone kept hitting keys when she wanted silence. She demanded to know “Who was that?” and someone yelled out “Barack Obama”
> While visiting Michael David’s class at PS 65X, Lisala was sitting next to a 1st grade girl and during a Kuma San lesson and when they all sang the “Sayonara”, she looked suspiciously up at Lisala and asked “Are you from Japanese? Cuz you sure do talk good!”
>At PS 129M, one student explained why they needed to play with the right hand; “You know you have to use the right hand because the bass clef is on vacation.”
>At PS 120Q, Jerry Kusniewski decorated his classroom door with a picture of Santa. One of his Kindergarten students pointed excitedly when the class arrived at his door shrieking “Look, it’s Christmas Man!”
Please send over any questions, comments, lesson ideas that you’ve tried successfully in your classrooms, or funny student stories to Lisha anytime at email@example.com.
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- Newsletter No. 19 – May 2009
- Newsletter No. 20 - May 2010
- Newsletter No. 18 – Fall 2008
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- Newsletter No. 14 - November 2004
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- Newsletter No. 2 – April 2001
- Newsletter No. 1 - March 2001