Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Today I arrived at the school to find photographers setting up for picture day in the MPR. After we a bit of scrambling we relocated to Room 5 where we were accompanied most of the day by the construction going on in Ms. Lamoureaux's room next door. I have to hand it to the kids -- they really did a good job keeping their concentration.
Second graders continued working on the Ecuadorian singing game "El Juego Chirimbolo." After learning the steps to the point where they could do them to the melody without words, we went back to the text to find interesting rhythms that could be turned into accompanying pieces, or ostinati. By the end of the class we had begun to transfer these repeating patterns to xylophones and unpitched percussion -- something we will be doing a lot more with next week.
Third graders also used last week's song-- "Ding Dong Diggydiggy Dong" to spend some time talking about musical notation and how it helps keep our music organized. I am posting a link on this page for any students who wish to know a bit more about notes and how long they last. To see more click on the word duration.
We rapped things up with a hip hop version of "How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck Chuck." Overall, an excellent day.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Both 4th and 5th grade began what I think will be at least a few weeks focusing on canon singing. Sometimes called "singing in rounds," canons are great tools for teaching children to sing in parts and recognize pitch. Canons can also be used to make movement pieces more interesting. As pictured here, the fifth grade classes did a very nice job developing a canon around the Keith Terry body percussion piece we learned last week.
On Wednesday second grade classes tried out strategies for combining rhythms with different numbers of beats. Using the names of different dinosaurs, we explored the notion of accented beats and and long and short beats as a prelude to discussing rhythmic notation.
Meanwhile the third grade classes began working with notation as well. Songs like "Ding Dong Diggy Diggy Dong" are great for teaching how quarter note beats can be subdivided into eighth and sixteenth songs. The students began to "compose" different combinations of four and eight beats, an exercise I hope to spend more time on next week.
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
In Monday's classes kindergarteners explored the ideas of using movement to illustrate a musical point with couple of animal-themed pieces.
In the "Wolf Game" the student playing the wolf was asked to mime some of the activities associated with getting up the morning, while in "Grizzly Bear" the students worked collectively to develop a moment piece that illustrated a song about a bear who was very annoyed to be woken up.
First graders focused on movement as well. Using scarves they developed movements to suggest falling leaves which were lifted again by gusts of wind. In the process, hopefully, they also began to develop their awareness of descending and ascending pitch patterns.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Thursdays are the days when I teach 4th and 5th grade classes as well as Ms. Duron's first grade class, who did an exceptional job with "Sing With A Ying." There didn't seem to be much about rhyming words that they didn't already know. And I was especially impressed by their suggestion of "opera" and "pop" for contrasting vocal styles. I am usually delighted to get "fast" and "slow".
The fourth grade classes working on pitch matching in an wonderful exercise developed by James Harding of the San Francisco School. Here bits of yarn are used to represent the contours of contrasting melody lines. Many of the kids created representational pictures using the string and than "sang" the melodies the lines suggested. As I discovered they are wonderful singers.
Fifth graders learned about polyrhythms. To that end I used a body percussion system developed by Keith Terry, another Bay Area artist and teacher. We began learning two pieces -- "Hey, You, What?" and "The Break."
Ms. Duron, Ms. Abu-Bakir, Mr. and Ms. Oasay, Mr. Anderson and Ms. Lopez -- so happy to meet you. Mr. Albert I look forward to meeting you next week.
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
The big excitement today was the blackout, which occurred just as Ms. Hoffman's class was finishing up an encore presentation of "Bate Chocolate.' The rest of the day had a bit of a dramatic edge, although the kids kept their composure and concentration very well.
I met a many wonderful 2nd and 3rd graders today from the classes of Ms. McCloud, Ms. Weiss, Ms. Hoffman, Mr. Rosner, Ms. Wasson, Mr. Hall and Mr. Earl. 2nd grade classes continued with "Bate Chocolate" and syllabacation, while the 3rd grade classes learned about beat transfer and accompaniment using a fun clapping game from Yugoslavia called "Son Macaron."
Overall it was a very enjoyable and productive day, if a little warmer and darker than yesterday,
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
My first day at the new school is in the books and twenty four hours it is still a bit of a blur.
All I can say is I hope the kids had as good a time as I did. I met many wonderful children in kinder, first and second grade and some terrific teachers including Ms. Raphael, Ms. Brier, Mr. Song, Ms. Toppino, Ms. Baker and Ms. Lamoureaux.
In kindergarten we focused how we use our senses in music class, particularly our sense of hearing. The students used soundcatchers (pictured) as a kind of magnifying glass for their ears. They also made some shakers to accompany themselves on the Zimbabwean train song, "M'bombera."
First graders began with a body percussion piece based on the Dr. Suess poem, "Sing with a Ying." We used this as a platform to discuss contrasting ways to sing -- high vs. low, soft vs. loud. I was astonished at how accomplished some of the students were at chanting and doing body percussion in different patterns -- not easy.
Ms. Lamoureaux's class learned and performed "Bate Chocolate,' a fun chant based on a recipe for mole. The fun comes from the switching back and forth between two groups on individual words and eventually syllables. They did a nice job, and I can't wait to try it with the rest of second grade tomorrow.
Friday, September 11, 2009
Greetings Students, Teachers, Administrators, and Parents!
Welcome to the new Wonderland Avenue School music blog. My name is Richard Lawton and I will be teaching general music at Wonderland this year. I can't tell you how excited I am to be at your school. It is a rare opportunity to teach music to the same students for an entire year.
This picture was taken at my other school, Third Street Elementary School in Hancock Park. There I use a blog like this one to post examples of student work, reminders about assignments and upcoming events, and to give the parents a glimpse of what we are working on in general music. It is like my bulletin board. I will try to update it frequently and I hope you will become a regular visitor. You can also post comments or questions, if you are willing to become a follower of this blog. Students, you will need your parents permission to do this.
One other thing I want to mention -- the video feed I use is from You Tube, which means you will not be able to view the videos on a school computer, but you'll be able to view everything else and the videos should work fine on home computers.
I look forward to meeting you all next week!