Brittany's Adventures in Musicland

PMEA 2012 in Review August 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brittany @ 2:53 AM

So…This post has been sitting my drafts since the conference in April. I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to hit the publish button, but the ideas and reflections are still relevant and wonderful. So, better late than never.


The sate conference for Pennsylvania has come and gone, and I am even more energized and full of ideas about what I’d like to incorporate in my own classroom in the future. I’m looking forward to trying some of these new ideas in the last couple weeks of my student teaching. Here’s an overview of my notes from the conference. Some of these bulleted-type list of ideas and concepts are directly from my notes during the session. Enjoy, and I hope you get as much out of this as I have.

Session 1: Active Listening

This active workshop was a great way to kick off the conference. We started out by getting right up and dancing to Hoe Down by Aaron Copland. This helped to visualize the recurring themes and the form and narrative of the piece.

Keys to Active Listening:




Vienese Music Clock:

Stand to indicate ABCD or have groups create movement in high, medium, or low space

Play powerpoint to indicate form

DO THIS AT A PERFORMANCE! How cool would that be to show off listening and movement?

Use Anna Harwell Celenza/JoAnn K. books as illustrative stories w/ music (Pictures at an Exposition is one example)

Ballet of Unhatched Chicks

Have students create a plotline/images after listening to program music?

Kindergarten free movement exploration?

Have a powerpoint story/pictures to go w/ it

Iconic representation of parts (same pictures for repeated sections)

Have students draw picture of center section

Have older students create a listening map to use w/ younger students

Have letters on the floor as a path or set up like a DDR mat and step on letter for form

Lives of musicians-Good, Bad, and What the Neighbors Thought. Good book to get

Put listening map on board like theirs and give them their own. So you’re not running around, and it focuses them and give them independence.

Take the “A” Train by Duke Ellington

More sophisticated listening map talking about improvisation

Rhythm improvisation interaction

Write an arrangement of a tune as a class first

Listen to piece, speak rhythms over music.

Bobby McFerrin’s vocal arrangement-only voice…arranged differently


Session 2: Assessment in General Music

Lesson planning:

30 minutes of music to spend wisely

Appetizer, entrée, dessert

Comfort food!

Never junk food!

Plan for leftovers and second helpings!

Activity #1:

Bow Wow Wow for Kindergarten, but you have to know when is good to do it, but you can do it at any grade level. Walking around in a circle doing motions, and coordinating a partner change in the song.

Do not give up when something doesn’t happen right away. If they’re still engaged, keep going when they’re having fun, moving, and singing.

What is it you’re assessing?

Important deeds and quality work

Always taste-testing

Are they:

Disciplined or engaged?

Imitating or audiating?

Creative or improvisatory?

Activity #2-Down in That Valley-Phrygian mode

Attend to process & product

Provide individual and group check-ups

Plan assessments w/ key instructional steps

Solo: playing recorder

Group: singing (words/pitch); playing recorders (listening to solos, alternating leader and follower)

You have to sing a song, put it away, and bring it back. Otherwise, our kids have short, small, musical experiences

Vocally improvise as a group, and then have solos

There was no verbalization after each solo. Just a good job at the end. This will help students feel not criticized if one student has a high level performance, and another student is lower level. You don’t want to lie to them, but don’t want them to get discouraged and give up because they don’t feel they are as good as another student.

Congratulations certificate for doing solos-advocacy and PR for music class

If they aren’t getting it, why not? That’s part of assessment!

Quality Ingredients:

Quality = authentic, beloved, creative

Remember to bring your musicianship up, so your kids can get to better quality musicianship. They can only get as good as you are!

Use quality assessments:

Assess objectively and accurately:

Appropriate, reliable tools and procedures


Rating scales (if yes or no is not appropriate)

Emerging, developing, consistent; novice, basic, proficient, expert; beg, fundamental, etc.


Describes what you’re expecting-so they know what you’re expecting

                   Expect then inspect

Anecdotal records


Likert Scale: get feedback from kids (working in groups 1-5; I liked my solo ( 😦 – :-I – 🙂 )

Activity #3

If the partner switch is too hard, go back to bow wow wow to make a comparison

Activity #4

Variety of meters and tonalities

Variety in activities

Representational of musical heritage

Resource of enjoyment

Memorable experience

Select varied and representative assessment

Think photo album v. snapshot

Provide opportunities for assessing the development of all musical skills

Keep in mind national standards

Performing, creating, responding

After saying poem, ask then to self assess…did you use inflection?

Letting it simmer

Develop activity through series of lessons

Consider steps to learn it confidently

Not individual activities

You can’t focus on everything all the time, choose 1-2 musical elements to work with

Academic validity:

National/state standards

Cognitive, and academic achievement

You need to look at your kids to know which direction to go!

Session 3: Choral Gesture and Stance

The conductor should look like a singer

It’s a subconscious thing that singers will mirror you

Run the piece and let them solve the problem before conductor says something.

Don’t talk more than 9 words when you stop

You get to sing more the less you talk

What about jr. high? They haven’t learned to not follow you yet

On the first day, let them know you hear…what are you going to do about it? If you let intonation problems go, you tell them you don’t hear, you don’t care, you don’t know how to solve it.

Walk in circle, all singing same note…point beat, lift the feet…the inexperienced singer will raise his pitch to match. Walk the rhythm-Dalcroze Eurythmics…hitting every note w/ foot…putting rhythm in the body

Do what I do w/ hands-circle cheeks to draw attention to space,  iron out vibrato. Hands circle or bring height to soft palette.

We give pitches far too often. Train the ears right off the bat. This will create better musicianship later on and more independence.

Gestural things are key to making painless changes

Up is our friend, down is not…let’s call it the first beat instead of the downbeat. It’s a psychological thing.

Say up and down and listen to the difference in the inflection

4 functions: down, away, out, in

If you’re only a fixer, you are losing being a creator

Give them ownership

Kinetically, visually, and orally are 3 ways we learn

If we can keep our choir out of autopilot, we’ve won.

Session 4: World Drumming PreK-2

The use of sound stories allow students to illustrate books with sounds, develop turn-taking skills, and work cross-curricularly. Repetition is a huge part of a child’s development. Use instruments like a bell tree, ocean drum, stir xylophone, wood blocks, log drum, didgeharp shaker, slide whistle, shakers, ratchet, glock,  and floor drums to have a variety of sounds available. A good cue for silence could be to have the teacher or a responsible student strike the triangle.

The use of modified ensemble music is a great idea. For example:

          Have students wave their arms on their rests to keep beat, and have another student or teacher keep steady beat with cowbell or rhythm sticks.

Lesson benefits: Tone color, names of non-traditional instruments and how to properly play them, following leader/conductor, improvisation, forward and reverse, different cultures, repetitive theme/form, pattern recognition, steady beat, paying attention for long periods of time, listening, and sequencing. Sometimes we get caught up defending our programs with non-musical outcomes to others that we forget the musical outcomes. We as the music teachers can’t forget that.

It can be a great idea to have a “box of sounds” for regular classroom teachers to borrow and use during their story times in class. Also allowing students to determine what instruments or rhythms to use for each action or sound word is a great way for them to use critical thinking and creativity toward composition. Found sounds are great as percussion; it supports recycling and critical thinking about timbre. You can guide them, and sometimes less is more as far as direction goes. It’s amazing what the kids come up with.

Suggested readings/resources:

Fortunately by Remy Charlip

World Music Drumming by Will Schmid

We’re Going on a Lion Hunt (African version of Going on a Bear Hunt)

A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson

4 John Feierabend sessions:

This review will be in another post. There’s so much I learned or was reminded of here, I don’t want to get too lengthy here at one time. Moral of the story here: I’m looking forward to getting these books and curriculum to teach with my “30 year plan” so my students are able to dance and sing when they grow up.


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