Thursday, February 24, 2011

5th Grade Ensemble

I would just like to say that 5th grade ensemble on Thursday mornings is awesome.  Your students come with a lot of energy and excitement.  Today we looked at a piece for the spring concert and they site read the music and did it well!!  I am very impressed by their energy and efforts and I just wanted to let people know how great they are and how much I like working with them on Thursday mornings....too bad it is only for 10 minutes.  :(

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Washington and Libertyville Pirates Have Set Sail to Seek Treasures in Books!!!

On Thursday, Feb. 17th and Monday, Feb. 21st, the students of Washington and Libertyville Elementary (respectively) set sail on a Pirate Adventure.  Their goal???  Find exciting gems and treasures in books!  ARRRR!

This was the kick-off days for the reading incentive.  These pirate kings and queens will be bringing home reading logs and are asked to fill them out based on the requirements of their age and school.  Each week that your student returns a completed reading log, they will be awarded prizes for their participation in this treasure hunt.  Prizes vary depending on the school.  These weekly prizes could be anything from pirate garb to root beer floats.  What stays the same between the schools however is that each student needs to read at home an return completed reading logs on time to receive these prizes.

During the kickoff, the students had all learned two pirate songs to be able to set sail on this adventure.  At Washington Elementary, teachers even wrote a short skit to introduce the reading incentive.  The students also were treated to one of the two videos below to help them get into the right state of mind to dig deep into books for buried treasure.

Once their treasure hunt is over (four weeks), those scallywags who have completed enough reading logs successfully to meet the requirements laid out for the grand prize, will enjoy their grand prize after returning from spring break.  Help your little Matey's to fill out and return their reading logs each week so that they can be eligible for the grand prize.

So.....train your trusty parrot to say "Read to me matey!!!", swab the deck and prepare for anchors aweigh as you are invited to become an active pirate yourselves in your young pirate's quest for buried treasure......those gems and priceless treasures buried in BOOKS!!


The following videos were used to help inspire the students to be pirates who don't do anything....but read.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Libertyville and Washington Reading Incentives!!!

This afternoon (2/17/11) and Monday morning (2/21/11) Washington and Libertyville Elementaries (in that order) will be kicking off their Spring Reading Incentive program.  Both schools are basing their programs on a Pirate Theme.  For the last two weeks all of the students in each building have been working on two pirate songs so that they can actively participate in the incentive kick-off!

Besides singing these songs, the students will be introduced to the rules of the incentive as well as the prizes that can be earned through reading in the next four weeks.

To end the assembly each school will watch a prepared video to get them excited to read!!  So, for the next four weeks, your students just might be Pirates Who Don't Do Anything.......But Read!!

Watch for the incentive videos to be added possibly next week.

PS - I hope you enjoyed the Pirate Atmosphere provided by the music as you entered my blog.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

February Activities


The kindergarten students have been busy working on new songs for each letter of the alphabet. The kindergarten teachers try to teach a new letter every week and I try to teach the students the corresponding songs each week too. We have now learned a song for about half of the letters of the alphabet.

We have also started learning a new song that provides the students a chance to sing alone in front of the class in a game situation. This will hopefully instill a little confidence in the students and their voices as well as give me a chance to listen to each child individually. The students also learn to be good listeners. The newest song also helps to teach the penny, nickel, dime and quarter as well as their monetary value.

First Grade

The first grade students have begun a couple new aspects in music recently. The first concept we have started to discuss is how music can help tell a story as well as different sounds we can make ourselves to help tell a story. The first story we used is the story of “The Bremen Town Musicians”. This is a very short story about several animals that go to Bremen Town to join the Bremen Town Musicians. On the way the foil a robbery plan at a country home. This story provides some chances to sing in small groups as well as a large group and to create animal sounds to enhance the story with their own voices. The students are already looking forward to starting a new story.

Another concept that we have begun working on is the idea of Quarter Notes and Quarter Rests. We have started to identify them and know what they are used for and will be putting them in rhythms for them to clap and count. Hopefully this will begin a strong base to build on in years to come.

Second Grade

The second grade students have continued to explore the idea of Tall Tales. We learned a song about “Old Dan Tucker” and have started to learn the old TV theme for “Davy Crockett, the King of the Wild Frontier”. We will also be learning songs about John Henry, Casey Jones and possibly other tall tales from our American History.

We also learned another song in Japanese. Early in this year we learned a song about Spring coming. This was a song that Japanese students learn to sing in their elementary schools. We then learned that song in Japanese. The students really seemed to enjoy that. This song is a song that they also sing in Japanese elementary schools. It is a song about a rabbit, and just as we look for the man in the moon, Japanese students look for a rabbit in the moon. They have a festival every year celebrating the rabbits in the moon grinding rice into flour for rice cakes. This was something we discussed in class and you should feel comfortable asking your student about the song “The Rabbit” or also known in Japanese as “Usagi”.

We have also been working to learn the notes of the treble clef staff and working a little bit on reading and clapping rhythms. This has been a focus this year for several of the grades and for my own professional development. As part of this, the second grade students took a rhythm pre-test and will be taking that same test this next week to check for growth. This test will also be administered at the end of the year to see just how much growth they had during the entire year.

Third Grade

The third grade students have two major projects going on in the classroom currently. This first is a continuation of the rhythm counting and identification that we began earlier. Just as the second grade students took a rhythm pre-test, the third grade students have taken the same test and will continue with the same plan as the second grade. This allows me to see how effective some of our classroom activities have been. Due to the fact that the second and third grade students will be using the exact same assessment, this will allow me to see how much the students retain from previous years. Part of this rhythm training includes a four-part percussion piece called “I Don’t Like Homework”. This phrase, as just said in normal conversation, expresses the rhythm of one quarter note, two eighth notes followed by two more quarter notes. The entire piece is built on this one particular rhythm and with four parts interwoven together; the piece provides great depth and really encourages independence in their particular parts. Each part is very similar to each other part as far as using the same rhythms but in different sequences.

The second big project the third grade students have is preparation for the spring program. There is more information later in this post about the particulars of the spring concert this year including dates and location. The students will be singing several songs throughout the program. Some songs will be with the fourth grade students and others will be just the third grade students. For more information, please see the section below about the Spring Program.

Fourth Grade

Due to changes in the concert cycle for this year as well as some weather issues and just miscalculation of time on projects, the fourth grade students also find themselves beginning multiple major projects at the same time.

In the month of November, the students started working in iMovie to create Patriot Movies or Slideshows based on some of the songs we have sung in class. The students worked individually and chose one of five songs to work on. The song choices they had were “The Star Spangled Banner”, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, “America”, “America, The Beautiful” and “Proud to be an American”. The students were asked to choose a song and find pictures that helped them explain the songs or to help tell the story of the history of the song. Seeing as the students worked individually, this allowed them to work basically at their own pace. Also, there was a lot of wiggle room for the students that allowed students to work based on their own individual talents, experience and limitations. The students were able to create something completely tailored to themselves. Examples of their work will hopefully be posted here in the near future. Please check back or watch for those announcements on Washington and Libertyville facebook pages.

The fourth grade students will also be taking the same rhythm test as the second and third grade students for the same reasons. After their pre-test, I was please to see quite a bit of retention from last year.

Besides the rhythm test, the students are also beginning their work with their recorders. As I am sure, and hopeful, that many of you have noticed that your students have brought home the recorders and have been working on them at home. We are using the same program that was in place before I started teaching in Fairfield “Recorder Karate”. For those of you who are not familiar with “Recorder Karate”, your students have each been given a packet that we will be working through. The class will be given some instruction in class for each song as we progress and they will be provided individual practice time in class. The students will also want to practice at home. When your student feels confident enough, they can then test individually for me. This consists of playing individually and performing all of the right notes with the right rhythms as well as correct fingerings with good tone. Once a student passes the first song, they will receive a White Belt to tie to their recorder. The second song will give them an Orange Belt and so forth until the last song gets them their Black Belt. To achieve the Black Belt, it will take practice and diligence and classroom work only will not be enough to complete the entire series. Please encourage your student to bring home their recorders and to practice at home. For those who agreed to purchase a recorder, please send your $2.00. A letter will be coming home soon to remind you of this also.

Lastly, the fourth grade students will also be preparing for the Spring Program. They will be performing songs with the third grade, songs with the fourth grade only, and for those students who have elected to, they will be performing with the Fourth Grade Ensemble also.

Third and Fourth Grade Spring Program

As of right now, the Libertyville and Washington 3rd and 4th Grade Spring Concert is set for Monday, April 18th, 2011. The location will be at the Fairfield Arts and Convention Center (Sondheim Center). The concert will begin at 7:00 PM and students should report to the center at 6:30 pm to get lined up and ready to perform.

The program will feature all 3rd and 4th grade students from Libertyville and Washington Elementary. The combined 4th Grade Ensemble will also be performing in the program. This year’s program will highlight the purely American musical genre of Jazz. The offshoot genres such as Swing and the Blues will also be a part of this program.

This should be a very upbeat and entertaining program for all audiences. Admission is expected to be free, however, there might be a free will donation jar to help offset the cost of the rental for the facility.

Fifth Grade Music

We are continuing our Composer Unit this month with a look into the life of Ludwig Van Beethoven. He was born in Bonn, Germany in 1770 and died at the age of 57 in Vienna, Austria in 1826. He spent his last 7 years of life almost completely deaf. He even composed his 9th Symphony when he could not even hear his own composition. Hopefully through our discussion the students were able to realize just how frustrating his life was during this time.

We are also continuing work in rhythmic counting as well as working with the boomwhackers. The students have done a great job learning two songs so far. Maybe at some point we will record them and post them here for you to hear.

Fifth Grade Ensemble

The Fifth Grade Ensemble has just begun work on the spring music we will be performing at a concert in May. The first song we started is titled “Bless Our Troops”. This expresses the sentiments that many of us share at this time, especially knowing so many friends and relatives that are involved in the ongoing war efforts our country is involved in. Our greatest wish is for them to be safe until they can return home. We will also be starting the song “Hard-knock Life” from the musical “Annie”. This will all occur after a short break from ensemble on Thursday mornings to accommodate an ITBS schedule.

Middle School Choir and High School Lessons

Middle School Choir and High School Lessons are progressing as they should be.
Students and are now working towards such performances as Dinner Show, Contest, Pops Concert and Spring Concerts. In the next couple months progress, I will make sure to post updated dates and locations for these events.

The 10-12 Pops concert will be held on Tuesday, February 22nd t 7:30 in the High School Auditorium. The different class ensembles will perform both instrumentally and vocally and the extra curricular groups will also be performing from both side of the music department.


The GYZ group is currently working on three songs to be ready for the Dinner Show as well as the Pops Concert.

Dinner Show will be this Saturday, February12th in the High School Commons. The Dinner Show begins at 6:00 PM. I do believe that students should arrive around 4:30.

Traditionally, at this point GYZ will then be done rehearsing after these two engagements. However, there might be other Men’s Group opportunities for your students that may wish to work on pieces for contest.

Please watch for video updates.....see you next month.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Happy February Holidays!!!

Happy Groundhog Day.....No Shadow!

Happy Valentine's Day!!!  Hug your favorite Valentine!

Happy President's Day!!!  Happy Birthday to a couple of our early leaders!

Please check back soon for a February update that will include information on the Spring Concerts, updates on classroom work, possibly some student examples of projects in class and Recorder updates.

In the meantime........the information below may be of vital importance in ye quests.  Yer younguns be settin a course for adventure soon and may just need to know what I'se about to reveal to ye...

My pirate name is:

Dirty John Kidd

I am the pirate everyone else wants to throw in the ocean -- not to get rid of me, you understand; just to get rid of the smell. Even though I'm not always the traditional swaggering gallant, my steadiness and planning make me a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!
Get your own pirate name from
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