Working on technique can be the bane of students' existence. For elementary students who are taking a compulsory violin class, it's hard to focus and it can often get boring quickly. However, as teachers we know that it is so important to build a solid violin technique and continue growing this technique over time. That's where some creativity in the classroom can be very valuable. I'm lucky to work with some amazing student teachers who have a valued finding creative ways to utilize our curriculum in the classroom.
    This week, we tried out using a background recording in a hip hop style to help keep the beat so we could work on some basic Twinkle rhythms. This is the very first time students (and teachers) had tried this option, but it was an enormous success!! The students were not intimidated after playing for 4 minutes straight. They were interested in showing their classroom teachers what they had done (one student, who generally frowns all class, volunteered to play violin for her classroom teacher). They were also sad to leave the classroom after our final activity of bow arm technique work. It was wonderful to have an opportunity to congratulate students on their ability to play for a long amount of time without stopping.
    It's important to make the classroom culturally relevant.  In our population, that means finding non-classical backing tracks. However, while making the activities fun helps, fun is not the goal, a good bow arm is the goal of our activity. I hope this inspires you to try out a culturally relevant and creative idea in your studio or classroom!

 
 
Many times it is important to find a creative way to teach the same concepts week after week after week. This past year, I've tried to document many of my attempts to teach the same material in new ways. I found these two games through a friend and online and have incorporated them into my regular teaching routine.

Cups
Who knew this simple purchase of some cups would serve me so well? The students and I have practiced passing the cup around the circle while maintaining our perfect bow hold.

A variation of this game is to have students tap a bow finger in a rhythm (Tiri Tiri Ti Ti or other twinkle rhythms) to allow for finger adjustments while balancing.

Another variation is to have the students bow the rhythm in the air before passing the cup.


The students love to race against the clock and have a friendly competition going between different Book 1 classes.


Balloons
Trying to get students to cue at the beginning of their violin career can be a daunting task. I remember in a high school summer program I had a chamber coach who would try to push me off the chair to get me to move while playing. I understood his point that I needed to move with the music, but I literally did not know how!

You'll see in this clip the students are giving a cue by bopping a balloon. We have already covered the three aspects of a basic (standing) cue: knees, breath, and scroll. We have practiced those three endlessly with the beginning of a song, but now it is time to cue our friends.


Variations include altering the dynamics and speed. The students are now just getting into these variations after a few months of practicing the basics.

How do you add or vary your teaching to get the same ideas across week after week after week?
 

Moanin'

11/17/2014

 
I've been scouring the internet for new teaching ideas. While I love all of the literature that already exists, sometimes you need to jazz things up! I found a wonderful resource via Anna Radspinner. I haven't met her in person, but I totally stalk her video pages for orchestra ideas. She has such a refreshing way to bring in music the kids recognize as a way to teach basic technique. 

From one particular video, I got the idea to do Moanin' at the Fairview Project. To say the kids love it is quite an understatement! They are enjoying dancing, singing, and most of all, playing the violin! Have a look below to see the teaching sequence. I put the tune through GarageBand to get it into D major. Then my trusty co-teacher at the school cut it down from 9 minutes to 1:30 - which is a more reasonable 2nd grade size. 

Enjoy! 
 

Video Updates

11/12/2014

 
I have had some requests for videos and teaching ideas, so I am exploring video posts. Here is Pop Goes the Weasel on Halloween. 
 
 
Often on social media, I see articles lamenting the loss of music education programs. Today when I opened up my feed reader, there were a handful of articles of good news in music education.

The programs that are being reinstated as budgets are filled back up.


The new girls rock after school program that incorporates a social-justice element.


The youth symphony that received a large grant to bring classical music to more children.


What great things are going on in your community?
 

New Year, New Blog

01/07/2014

 
Welcome to the newly updated website! I'm excited to finally have a site I can update on my own, without having to email pictures and text to a more tech savvy individual. Additionally, it's great to have a blog and my teaching videos all in one place.


As I am studying for yet another large test in this doctoral program, I've been reading some interesting articles. The exact citations are not the point as much as my curiosity around the consistency of music education. What I mean is, why do the articles from 100 years ago have the same themes as articles from today? Has there been no forward progress? It appears that there are more varied music opportunities for students in public schools. It also appears that there are a similar number if not more opportunities for students in community music programs. Yet, the articles continually harp on the poor quality of music education available to students and the lack of opportunities.


How is music education in your locale? Do your students have opportunities? Are there a variety of levels at which a student can join a musical group?