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  • Writer's pictureMs. McKinnon

Music in our Schools Month

March was national Music in Our Schools month. In our main hallway has been a display with fun facts about various staff members and the role music has played in their lives. That's the incredible thing about music; it affects everyone's lives in some fashion. Whether you are a performing musician, a music teacher, a student of music, or simply someone who enjoys affects all of our lives. Music gives us the tools to create, to express ourselves, to deepen our emotions, to connect across cultures through a common language. I, personally, am very thankful that Springfield Public Schools makes it a priority to give our students access to music at every level of education. We are certainly lucky!

Earlier this year, we received full funding for a Donors Choose project that requested ukuleles. We were grateful to receive 16 beautiful, new, soprano ukuleles are have been working as partners to learn some pop songs and even spent a little time composing our own songs with the four chords we've learned so far. Finger dexterity is not an overnight skill and creating our own songs gives us time to tune our ears, build familiarity with chord positions, and increase dexterity. Ukuleles will be featured in part of their upcoming performance in May as part of our Polynesian style performance.

Fourth grade jumped into recorder and is making a lot of progress! Waiting a month for the order to be delivered wasn't the easiest thing to do but we made the most if it with relay style races, and even a little bit of fun with cotton balls and straws. Breath control is key to getting a solid, clear tone on recorder so we armed ourselves with straws and headed off to the cafeteria tables to try and pass a cotton ball around the table without blowing so hard it slid off the edge. Learning is best when it's fun and there was no shortage in this lesson! We've been doing skill drills to learn treble clef pitches, "Roll-and-Play" to familiarize ourselves with common melodic phrases and focus on tone, and even used M&M's for a pre-break assessment. This week they moved into Recorder Karate and it's now their turn to show me they understand the individual skills required to figure out a new melody.

Third grade has been exploring bucket drumming! Talk about FUN! We all started with chopsticks to focus on technique and control our dynamics and as they show the correct technique and playing fundamentals, they graduate to drum sticks. Sammy Foster has a brilliant website full of play-along videos to songs such as "Can't Stop the Feeling", "Thunder", "Good Feeling" and great rhythm drills. We even got a shoutout from him on Instagram for how "on fire" we sound. How cool is that?!

Second grade focused on our big listening unit for the year, Sergei Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf". We've already talked about instrument families and what characteristics are in common between families but there's so much more to it. Instruments have a fascinating way of sounding like different personalities from happy to sneaky to grumpy to busy! We started the unit by reading the storybook version and then did some character study creating adjective lists for each. These adjective lists helped guide our ears for what to listen to. For example, Sasha the Bird's melody is a quick tempo and played in a high register by the flute. We know it has to be Sasha's tune because the wings flutter quickly and birds fly up high! To wrap up the 3 week unit, we finished it off with Disney's animated version and compared the story version to the animated one.

First grade had their performance of "Prime Time Nursery Rhymes" on March 21. It takes so many weeks of rehearsing to get a performance ready and they were troopers for the whole process. A special thank you to those who stepped up as narrators and other featured roles. Mother Goose wrote so many beloved classics and it was a treat to add a musical twist like the blues or reggae to these stores. Now we're moving on to some xylophone and glockenspiel exploration with story books like "Up, Up, Down". We're talking about climbing vs falling, glissandos, and mallet technique all while giggling at humorous stories.

Kindergarten has been enjoying their musical safari adventure in preparation for their concert on Thursday, April 25 titled "Jungle Beat"! We've sung about lions, frogs, gorillas, the Sun, and even a boa constrictor. We've also continued to make our way through our Alphabet Action songs we start each day with. We're on "V" this week and have had tons of fun reinforcing literacy concepts, short stories, silly choreography, and of course developing our singing voice through these songs. Riser safety has been a big focus this month and having correct stage presence. I'm telling ya, if I try to be goofy in my example they call my bluff in an instant! They're all stars when it comes to our stage presence and performing on risers. I can't wait to see you at our show in a few weeks.

This month we started lunch bunch groups for 3rd and 5th grade where they can sign up for lunch in the music room and time to play games from our centers. There's not enough time to play in our day as it is and I'm never going to argue with students who want to practice and reinforce music skills. Over the snow break, creativity took hold and I made some new center activities to focus on skills such as Jenga rhythm tower,Yeti in my Spaghetti (instrument families), Don't Spill the Beans (treble clef edition), Don't Break the Ice (rhythm vocabulary), Simon (ear training), and the undoubtedly most popular Bop It for steady beat. Sign up sheets are posted outside my door first thing Monday morning and up to 12 students can sign up. 3rd grade is on Monday and 5th grade is Wednesday. Students are welcome to stay through their recess or just for the lunch period.

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