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Week 13 Holiday Season

lights d

Traveling in countries close to the equator, I’ve had to get used to not having sunshine past 6:30pm, even in the summer.    The year I lived in Yellowknife,  late June-July, I kept forgetting to go to bed because the sun was mostly up all the time.   But most of my life I’ve spent mid-way.   In the summer, evenings are long and bright.   In the winter, the sun disappears in the afternoon.     Living mid-way,  changes in sun light punctuate the seasons.

As I’ve gotten older, I find myself really looking forward to the sparkle of holiday lights in December.   They break into the growing darkness with a reminder that the year is turning as it ought to.    Its no wonder that everywhere around the world people celebrate the solstice.    In winter we sing and make noise to drive the darkness away.  In summer we sing and dance to celebrate the light.    So my holidays now are a mix of various places and people   —all of us looking for light.

May you find what you need to drive the darkness away this year.

lights b      lights alights c


Week 12 Feeling?

One of the delightful things about working with children is that they wear their feelings,  well, usually.  Now, like us, their feelings are hidden under  masks.     How many feeling words can you name in a minute?    How many feeling words do your students know and use?

embar pic    happy pic   mask   sad pic    scared pic

“Mood” is the music word for feelings.    Many songs for children are upbeat  —funny or emphasizing the positive or about seeking good ideals.   It’s helpful to also include at least a few songs that express some of the unsettling feelings that come into our lives.   Singing about the angst of life, is a way of acknowledging it exists.   Naming feelings is a step along the way to making good choices about what to do with anger, or frustration or sadness.

This mixed up year of 2020, provide fine arts opportunities in class to sing, dance, paint and read/tell stories about  the wide gambit of feelings that we are all having.       Wallowing in the angst may not be helpful, but neither is pretending it isn’t here.



Week 11 Teddy Bear Time

Clicking on the name of a featured song takes you to that song’s page.   From each song page you can view/listen/download mp4s (usually 1 with voices, 1 just instruments);  mp3s  and   pdfs with ideas for how to teach the song, and how to exploit the song for teaching music.

“Teddy Bear” has 22 pages of ideas and resources.   I may have gotten a bit carried away on this song but its simple rhythms and melody make it perfect for practicing “so-mi-la”; introducing “do”;

teddybear sola

reading rhythms  and rhythm and beat counting.

teddy rhythms

“Teddy Bear” also has a student work page.

teddy work page

Teaching music all day is exhausting  —its a group activity that requires high energy and constant voice use.   Work pages are included in CanDo Music for those occasional days when your voice needs rest;  or the class needs a quiet time.  Work pages can help consolidate individual learning, and are essential for teacher self-evaluation.   The whole class’ s ability to read rhythms doesn’t always mean everyone in the class can do it on their own.

Even though every week has work pages as options, the preferred option in primary is movement, singing(humming this year), composing, active listening, percussion playing(a ruler tapping a desk or a metal water bottle is percussion), dancing or drama.

Oh yes, the other option for “Teddy Bear” is to add orff instruments   …  check out the ideas on page 22!

Week 10 Active Listening

Is it an oxymoron?     active  —  listening  —  active

I think it depends on where I am.   Sitting  at a classical music, string quartet concert for which I have paid a good price  … then active is not what I want the patrons behind me to be.  Sitting  with a class of primary students, opening up a world of new listening music  … actively engaged is what I aim for.

Sometimes active means movement and dance.   Sometimes it means drawing a visual map of the music.  Sometimes it means making a face to show the mood of the music.   Sometimes it means  …  ????     Eventually I hope that active listening means active minds and imaginations journeying with the music that is heard.

Ask students what their imaginations can hear in the music with leading questions …    Where are you?   What colour do you hear?    Who is going to arrive in this music?

Most important  —if this is a new genre of music for most students, keep the “active listening” simple and short in duration.    Leave them wanting more.



Week 8 Remembering

My grandfather fought at Vimy Ridge in World War I.   My father was in the Canadian Air Force during World War II.    When I was little, Remembrance Day was the day everything stopped at 11am for two minutes  —everything;  traffic, talking, old and young in grocery stores.   When I was little, two minutes was a very long time.    It made an impact, even if I didn’t understand what was going on.

The featured songs today are my attempt to provide a few pieces of simple music for primary students to remember that peace is still something we need to work towards.     AND, that especially on November 11 in Canada  (I’ve since discovered that the remembering day varies in different countries) we think about people who in the past or in the present serve in our Armed Forces. 

Today is very different from my growing years during the flower-power of the 1960s.   With the world community seeming to shrink, and internet making far away seem very close;  with refugees from war-torn countries coming to live in our neighbourhoods, and people from our neighbourhoods going to fight for peace far away  … finding a balance in the remembering, especially when working or living with young children can be difficult.    Peace be with you as you prepare to remember this November.

In 2015, with my Grandfather’s diary in hand, I visited places in France and Belgium where he fought during World War I.    Remembrance Day I spent in Mons, staying with friends who were living/working at the Nato base there.    The art work in “Poppies Are for November” were done by students at the Canadian school on the base.