Sunday, August 28, 2016

My Adventures in Learning

I just noticed that it's been almost a year since I blogged. I am still working on my PhD, although I'm finally at the dissertation phase, and hopefully, this is a phase that will soon be over. There will be a celebration of the likes the world hasn't seen when this happens!
Last year, I decided I wasn't getting any younger and knew there was quite a bit of learning I still wanted to do. So my summer was spent with not one, not two, but THREE learning opportunities. Each one provided a new, unique look into teaching possibilities and as different as each one was, my journey in teaching this year will be to merge and fuse them together into what I hope are beautiful learning experiences for my students.

World Music Drumming
I was so excited to be able to take World Music Drumming Level One this summer in Kansas City WITH the master himself, Will Schmid, along with the terrific Patty Bourne! I loved it. The intensity of listening, the syncopated and polyrhythms, and the various uses of the Ensemble arrangements used in the WMD curriculum made this a adventure very worthwhile!

Kodaly Level One

I finally began working on Kodaly and found sequencing that I needed to utilize a long time ago. More to the point, I was able to develop my musicianship and singing. As an instrumentalist, I never considered singing my strong suit, and my vocal ear training has not always been up to par. With the great instruction of Sandy Knudson and Bev Anyan at the University of Oklahoma, I learned to step out of my comfort level to the point where I am getting more and more confidence with my solfege and singing. I also love the arsenal of singing tools that can be utilized to teach concepts and be merged with Orff activities.

Orff Master Class: Working with the Volumes

Finally, I attended an Orff master class, led by Chris Judah-Lauder, who showed us how far off the beaten path we can do with the Music for Children volumes with improvisation, variety of instrumentation, vocalization, movement, and other great ideas. I KNEW the volumes were a springboard, but I would feel guilty if I strayed too far away from what was in the books. After this master class, I have the confidence to tweak just about anything to make it work for my kids. Thank you, Chris AND Gunild Keetman, for these treasure troves!

I am finishing this blog after the second week of school. I FINALLY feel I am to the point where I can start processing the gems I learned this summer and utilize them to my fullest ability for my students. Never be afraid to learn new things, even at 55 :-)

Getting Kids to Sing in Head Voice, Part One: The Adventures of Mozart the Mouth Magician

In Missouri, one of our music objectives is teaching first graders about singing in head voice. As we know, this is important for vocal health, to save the throat and to encourage children to sing in their natural ranges. We use sirens, scarves, and other tricks.

I am always looking for new ways to utilize my ever-growing collection of puppets in new ways. This year, I had a brainstorm. Two years ago, I used a Merlin cap as part of the sixth grade program. I will admit, I'm lazy. My costumes are housed in our school basement in a corner of the STEM closet. Somehow, the Merlin hat didn't make it to the box, and I really didn't want to go downstairs to put it away. So, the hat ended up on my boy Folkmanis puppet we had named Wolfie (for Mozart, from the movie Amadeus).  This year, I looked at the hat, and Wolfie, in a whole new light. The hat remained, and I renamed Wolfie to the much more dignified name of Mozart the Marvelous Mouth Magician, complete with I.D. card (well, the picture has to be taken care of first. He has a temporary one). I decided that Mozart would make a great tool to teach first graders about head voice and proper singing. The video below shows Mozart's first introduction to the first grade:

My heart almost broke when one little voice in first grade (when I talked about how Mozart was afraid someone would make fun of him) said "We would NEVER do that." Lesson in head voice AND lesson in character education! These kids were too precious. And the Merlin hat? Terrific visual in head voice! Since the superstrain of lice hasn't disappeared, the kids can't share the real Merlin hat, but we will be making our own for their next music classes so they have their own magic hat for head voice. Hopefully I will be sharing those activities as well.

So, we're going to keep on the continuing adventures of Mozart the Marvelous Mouth Magician. Stay tuned!

***Disclaimer: I will be developing activities with Mozart for future workshops and possibly other ventures. If you should choose to share this idea, I would greatly appreciate receiving credit. Thanks!