Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Cicada Music Ideas

Here in Maryland, the Brood X Cicadas have started emerging! They have just started to shed their skin and in my neighborhood we are finding them crawling around and clinging to plants. Whether you think they are cute little critters or a terrifying plague (hey, I won't judge you) their once-every-seventeen-year appearance presents the perfect opportunity to connect our music lessons to the natural world. 

The cicada life cycle is perfect to inspire creative movement in the music classroom! You can talk with your students about how cicadas spend most of their life underground and only emerge for a short time. How can we use levels to show their emergence from the ground? What would you do if you had lived your entire life in one place and suddenly discovered a brand new world? How would you move to respond to this new environment? What kind of music could accompany this movement?

Speech Piece
I composed a speech piece called Cydnee Cicada. It's in triple meter and the rhythm set is dotted quarter, three eighth notes, and quarter - eighth. This makes it a great prep activity for K/1 and rhythm practice for 2/3. Students can act out the different actions that Cydnee does in the piece as they read the text. I composed this piece during my lunch break today and read it to my three year old this afternoon. She LOVED pretending to be asleep, waking up, and doing all of the subsequent actions. Her favorite part was climbing up on a step stool and pretending to chirp in a tree.

Instrument Exploration
You can extend this lesson by incorporating unpitched percussion instruments. What do cicadas sound like when they sing? What instruments sound most like a cicada?

If you have a cricket guiro, this would be a great opportunity to pull it out and maybe point out the similarities and differences between crickets and cicadas.

For more instrument exploration, you could have students perform the piece on barred instruments by improvising a melody. Another option would be to play a bordun or ostinato while reciting the piece. You could split the class into three groups: one to play instruments, one to say the speech piece, and one to do movements/act it out.

I hope you and your students enjoy acting like cicadas this spring! Hopefully learning a little about these insects will help to ease your kids' anxiety about them. Let's make this season fun and enjoy as much time as possible out in nature!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Feelings Check!

A terrorist attack on our nation's capitol... in the middle of a deadly pandemic... This past week has been a crazy one in the United States and I know that my personal feelings have been ALL OVER THE PLACE. Anxiety, worry, moments of joy and surprise... I have no doubt that my students are also struggling with lots of big feelings right now. As teachers we can't expect to solve all of our students' problems, but we can certainly check in with them to help recognize their emotions. As the saying goes, "If you can name it, you can tame it." 

Online learning makes it so much harder to get an accurate gauge of how our students are doing emotionally. We are physically distant and often can't even see their faces. Unless we make a point of asking our students how they're doing, we could miss significant things going on with their emotions.

I made these feelings check-ins as lighthearted way to inquire about my students emotional wellbeing and readiness to learn. After all, a child with dysregulated emotions is not going to able to sit and focus in a music lesson! It is our job to find out where the students are and what they need. 

I sometimes add one of these images to the beginning of my lesson slideshow. I ask students to respond by typing their number in the chat. I give them the option to share more details about why they chose their number but make sure they know that divulging more information is not required. It has started some meaningful conversations and helped me understand more of what my students are going through during these crazy times.

I hope these are helpful for you and spark meaningful conversations between you and your students!

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

5 Ways to Use Google Slides for Remote Teaching

Are you teaching music remotely and interested in incorporating Google Slides in your lessons? I have been using Google Slides for about three years BC (that's "before Covid") so it was already a comfortable choice for me. When my school system shifted to full remote learning, I started using it for every single lesson. Here are just a few of the ways that you can use Google Slides remotely as a music teacher.

1. Welcome Screen

I always start my synchronous video conferences a few minutes early to give students a chance to log in and get themselves ready for class. While we're waiting for class to start, I share a slide like this:

On my welcome screen, I usually play a timer video that counts down to the start of class. I also include a picture of whatever materials we will be using that day. If I want to do something like a cup game, box drumming, or movement with scarves, I want to make sure I give my students a few minutes at the beginning of class to get those things ready. This helps with transitions during my lesson because I don't have to stop in the middle to send them on a hunt for materials.

2. Flashcards and other visuals

Google Slides is the perfect way to keep all of my flashcards and visuals together in one place. I love it because I can access my slideshows from any device, so if I'm browsing facebook at 10pm on my home computer and suddenly have a flash of inspiration for tomorrow's lesson, I can easily open my slides and make those edits instantly. I import .mp3s and videos that I plan on using and can seamlessly transition through every step of the lesson this way.

Here's a video I made at the beginning of the school year, walking through the components I put into my daily lesson slideshows:

3. Curate groups of YouTube videos

YouTube recently removed the ability to put children's videos into playlists. While this change makes total sense for children's safety, it's kind of inconvenient for a music teacher trying to compile teaching materials. Google Slides is a great workaround to this problem since you can embed YouTube videos directly into your slideshow. (And as an added bonus, there's no ads before the video and nothing autoplays afterwards!)

I recently made a slideshow with tons of YouTube videos related to The Nutcracker and it has been wildly popular with my students and other teachers! Click here to make a free copy.

4. Self-Correcting Games in Present Mode

With Google Slides, it's easy to turn objects into links that will direct students to another page within in the presentation. This means that if a student plays through the activity in present mode, they can click on an answer and it will automatically take them to a different page if it was the correct answer or the incorrect answer. Here's an example of a self-correcting game I made that uses embedded audio files and beautiful, high-resolution images:

5. Interactive Activities in Edit Mode

For more tech-savvy students, you can also create interactive activities that students can manipulate by moving elements around the screen in edit mode. This is a great way to have students compose music! For this activity, you can move the rhythm tiles onto the squares to arrange them any way they want. It takes a little bit of work at the beginning, teaching students how to drag items without accidentally resizing them or deleting them. However, I've found that kids tend to pick up these tech skills pretty quick- even faster than many adults! 

I hope these five ways will inspire you to use Google Slides in your music room this spring. Happy teaching!