BEST field trip ever!

BEST field trip ever!

These days I am VERY busy working full time while working to earn my Masters in Music Education through the online program at Kent State.  I am loving every minute of my time studying, but spending time on class work has kept me from blogging.   However, this weekend I got to spend my Saturday with my amazing crew of 5th grade choir members as we enjoyed our spring field trip to Moody Gardens.  It was really fun and was truly one of the most enjoyable field trips I’ve ever had.     I just had to share this video! My principal creates a vlog each week for our students.  This week’s episode is ALL about the 5th grade choir and our annual field trip to Moody Gardens.  I literally got teary eyed the first time I saw it because my students are just so sweet and I’m gonna miss them when they go to Jr. High.  If you enjoy this episode please be sure to subscribe to the vlog as it is really well done and a great idea for any school.   Please follow and like us:0 Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...
Choir Music I Love – 2

Choir Music I Love – 2

Kusimama by Jim Papoulis is one of those choral pieces that is both challenging and really fun to sing.  I’ve had 5th graders at two different schools with various degrees of choral singing experience sing this piece very successfully and with great joy.  It is a great teaching piece and one that I love. It’s also a real crowd pleaser!  The piano part is basic enough that even I can play it when needed and the song is a perfect opportunity to incorporate percussion instruments. Kusimama Please follow and like us:0 Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window)Like this:Like...
Choir Music I love – 1

Choir Music I love – 1

Winter Canon by Andy Beck is simply beautiful.  Not only is it beautiful, but it has my 5th graders talking.  Yesterday during dismissal, a couple of 5th grade choir members who also serve as Safety Patrol were telling me, “Mrs. McSpadden!  Everyone, and I mean everyone is talking about how beautifully we sang on Tuesday during rehearsal!”  This was stated with a ton of smiles.  They told me that Winter Canon was their favorite song this year…. and we are doing some really cool music. This is the song that has “hooked” my students into moving beyond singing some songs and into singing beautiful music together. Back in May we decided to use this song for several reasons.  The Tallis Canon which is the “canon” part of the Winter Canon is really great to use with a choir when you want to have them singing solfa.  I knew that I could introduce this song as our warm up in the beginning of the year. The melody for Bleak Midwinter was written by Gustov Holst.  We plan on studying “The Planets” later in the year and we want our students to be familiar with more than just that huge work. We needed a great piece that sounded winter-esque but we needed something that was not particular to a specific holiday.  Although Bleak Midwinter is a Christmas Carol, the only portion included in the Winter Canon are talking about snow. Being a 5th grade volunteer choir means that my students can sing a round in 2 parts with confidence and our 2-part singing is coming along nicely.  Although my students can do the 3...
5 Teacher Attitudes that Foster a Great Elementary Choir Rehearsal

5 Teacher Attitudes that Foster a Great Elementary Choir Rehearsal

So rehearsal, whether it be choral or instrumental can make or break a group.  This is a post that I’ve had partially written since August and it seemed like a good time to finish it.  The funny thing is that as I’ve edited the post today, I’ve been reminded of what I want my choir rehearsal to look like EARLY tomorrow morning.  🙂 Rehearsing an elementary ensemble, or any ensemble is it’s own special brand of theater.  I think that a good rehearsal is a perfect balance between a collaborative student centered approach and a teacher centered “maestro” approach.  On one hand, you want everyone, even the most reluctant learner engaged, because that old adage IS true that “we” are only as strong as our weakest ensemble “link”……. And at the same time,  as the conductor and big boss musician, you want every member of your group right in the palm of your hand, at the edge of their seat, on the balls of their feet and right on the downbeat of your baton. Essentially rehearsal is as good as our ability to balance the needs of our students with the demands of the conductor 1.  ENERGY!  – I feel like I’m teaching (rehearsing) like a house a fire! I’m not acting crazy or anything, but I do my best to avoid down time, give quick instructions and to keep students moving toward the goal of mastery so that we can establish a beautiful sound….. Because we’ve got a lot to learn and are running short on time, the pacing is quite fast…… but not too fast….. 2. AWARENESS! – Sometimes you miss...
Choir Attendance Tracking- Keeping it Simple, Keeping it REAL!

Choir Attendance Tracking- Keeping it Simple, Keeping it REAL!

  My after school choir is made up of volunteers.  The folks who have a good attendance record and who attend 80% of rehearsals get to go on our field trips. With that in mind, over the years I’ve spent a TON of time keeping track of choir attendance.  I’ve created spreadsheets, created weekly rosters, had students using rehearsal time hunting for their name and learning how to mark a check or highlight their name….and conferenced with students who are at risk of loosing their spot……  Tedious business that did not really help me keep track of much and made sure that I was working too hard! Good ideas happen in the strangest places! This year I had an epiphany at the dollar store. when I came across some cookie sheets.  I asked some student choir elves to help me out.   They labeled one cookie sheet with HERE and one cookie sheet with ABSENT.  Since I had a large group of students, both 4th and 5th grade had their own set.  5th grade blue, 4th grade green I typed everyone’s name like this: John Doe 5-7 (my example is missing the number). Then I laminated the green and blue sheets of paper that I printed onto.  I then had my choir elves cut out the tags and put magnets on the back. When “John” is absent, I put a hash mark on the tag.  “John” decided a few weeks ago that he didn’t want to come to choir anymore…. I can tell just by looking because the hash marks make it super easy to count the absences.  It’s past time for me and...
Reflections on a 4th grade “informance”

Reflections on a 4th grade “informance”

A few years ago I had the chance to work with a really great teaching artist by the name of Becky Valls.   You can find out more about how amazing she is at  Becky Valls  For pictures of some of her work with and for students, go to teaching.  I met her through our campus fine arts integration grant.  We actually had the funds to provide “artists in residence” from Young Audiences of Houston for each grade level teacher to work with.  Becky is one of the best teaching artists I’ve ever known so we kept her quite busy. One of her favorite ways to demonstrate what the children were learning through dance and movement was to invite students and parents to attend an “informance”.  I believe that this term is original with her and I have loved the idea ever since. After seeing such beautiful informances created and directed by Becky Valls, the word “informance” quite naturally became part of my vocabulary.  Here are a few ideas about “informances” that I think about when planning one. 1.  An “informance” is slightly less formal than a performance and intended to “inform” the audience about what learning is taking place. 2.  An “informance” is process based rather than product based, so rather than rehearse to the point of total student independence, you will see a little more obvious teacher facilitation through narration or through overt stage direction.   Remember – process, not a final product! 3. An “informance”  is almost like a snapshot of something cool you are doing in your classroom that might otherwise stay locked within the walls of...
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