Please check back often! Or visit any of the links on the left hand side of the web page. Thanks! On this page you will find activities that were done during the 2015-2016 school year.



Music March Madness
The above was created as a way to hear a variety of styles of music in General Music classes and for the students to analyze music based on content specific words and personal tastes.

TOP 10

One of the first activities that we do in the 6th Grade General Music classroom is a "Top 10" document. However, to make it more thought provoking, I ask the students to list their top 10 songs of all time - since the day they were born. I then don't return the paper to them until I see them in 8th Grade General Music classes.


The students in the Music 8 classroom fill out a Google document which asks them for 6 different songs describing: 1) What was the first song you ever bought? 2) What song takes you back to your elementary school days? 3) What song always gets you moving? 4) What is your perfect slow song? 5) What song would you want at your funeral? and 6) What songs makes you, YOU? I then ask them to complete the assignment by sharing a YouTube video of their song that "makes you, YOU" and they have to describe it in musical terms, (e.g., melody, rhythm, harmony, instruments, etc.), before I play a portion of the video for the class.


In musical terms any pattern that repeats over and over again is an ostinato. These can be rhythmic, melodic, or harmonic. We get our English work obstinate from the Italian word ostinato. Of course there are many everyday actions that we do over and over again, for example, check out this Simpsons video. And of course, many songs that we listen to have ostinatos in them. The students do many dances/movements that have ostinato patterns in them like the Macarena, the Cotton-Eyed Joe, the Chicken Dance, the Cupid Shuffle, etc. Recently the "Cup Song" featured in the movie Pitch Perfect is a great example of an ostinato.

After singing and do motions to a song entitled "Hey Ho", the students created their own ostinatos using the web site The students can easily share their creations with each other, themselves and the teacher. I also showed them the following Sound Generator websites that they can access through their iPads: Plink, Girltalk in a Box, WebAudio Drum Machine, (do a web search for this site), Typedrummer, and many more.


The Music 8 students continue their study of different musical styles by completing a "tree" of American Music. Through discussion and teacher directed activities the students learn that each style is dependent on what came before and how the styles of American music influence future styles. After study the students can 1) correctly identify a style of American music; 2) begin to determine what the characteristics of a particular style are and what are the difference between styles; 3) accurately list the chronological order of American musical styles; and 4) list 3 facts about a particular style of American music. I also show the students representative videos of each style.


All through the Music 8 experience, I am always comparing the past with the present and having the students think about what music will be like in the future and their particular interests/styles. They are always telling me about how they like or dislike a particular performer and/or the weirdness of contemporary performers, e.g., Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus. I like to tell them that there were always performers that the public either liked or hated. Not everyone likes a particular style or thinks that what someone did or dresses is strange. To prepare them to talk about their likes/dislikes in musical terms I have them view 3 different videos and describe them in musical terms, e.g., timbre, texture, rhythm, melody, etc. This is done using a chart/table: Musical Fusions.docx
It is easy to say I like or don't like a performer, but I want them to tell me why the do or don't like the music. The 3 videos we view are "We Will Rock You" by Queen, "Jammin" by Bob Marley and the Wailers, and "Rock and Roll All Night" by Kiss. I then let them come up with their own style of music and a name of a band in that style. It is great to make a Google Docs sheet and compare the names.


After discussing with the students the number of ways that music affects us, I play for them the opening scenes to the movie "Star Wars" with the sound turned off. A course, there is an immediate reaction to how weird this is - one does not get the same emotional impact watching a moving picture without any sound or for that matter sound effects. I then show the same scenes but this time I had some random generated cartoon music from Looney Tunes series, e.g, "Bugs Bunny", "Tom and Jerry". Again, the emotional impact is totally different. It is amazing how the music affects one's self. As a concluding activity, I let the students finish this worksheet: Picture This Scenario.docx, and I have them come up with their own background music.


I have shown the Blue Man Group video, “Exhibit 13” Through guided questions, and Padlet, I lead a discussion with students on the emotional impact of music. Possible questions include:

Is there a song that has a special meaning to you?
Can you name a song that makes you happy?
Can you name a song that makes you feel silly?
Can songs also make you feel sad and angry?
With “Happy” by Harrell Williams
How does music influence human emotions? How does your “happy” sound?
How does understanding the context and structure of music inform a response?
How is the mood of happiness depicted in this music
How does music change your mood? Why do we often express feeling like angst in song?
How do we judge the quality of musical works and performances?

I then have the students view/listen to one of the songs in the 9/11 Videos Playlist and expand on questions asked earlier:

Describe your emotional response to the music.
What is the tone or mood of the music?
What type of audience do you think this music was written/recorded for?
What instruments were used to create these sounds?
Are there any other sounds present to add to the emotional impact?
Is there a reason NOT to have lyrics in a song/piece of music?
Tell me two things this sound recording tells you about life in the United States at the time it was made.
What evidence (for example, its lyrics, tone, instruments, or melody) in the recording helps you to know why it was made? Be as specific as possible.
Read or listen to the lyrics and write a paragraph describing what the performer/author is trying to say to his/her audience.
Choose two phrases from the song that you find interesting and explain why they interest you.
How would you write/perform a piece about sadness/happiness?
What instruments/sounds would you use?
Write a final verse for the song that expands on its themes since its release.

I continue with 9/11 historical/factual questions/information. Finally, I show “On the Transmigration of Souls” by John Adams: and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel along with a Flocabulary Video about 9/11 to compare/contrast the songs/videos and to have the students understand why lyrics/pictures make a difference in a song/video. Also, I have used John Williams: “9/11 Hymn for the Fallen” first without the video/pictures-just music and then with the music; and have students write descriptions of feelings with just the music and then with the music and video/pictures.


With the introduction of all students having access to school-owned iPads, I have incorporated a variety of GarageBand assignments into my teaching in the musical classroom of grades 6th, 7th, and 8th. What's In A Name and Rap My Name are two projects that the students complete during the quarter course. The music concepts that GarageBand teaches or reinforces are: arranging/remixing skills/layering, solo and tutti, rhythm, texture and timbre, a cappella part-singing and beat boxing, conducting skills, and timing. With the record function, students can create an interesting musical composition that they can share with teacher/students by e-mail. This allows the students to play their remix for the class and offer one another constructive feedback: they can comment on the choice of sounds, the use of layering, the use of solo and tutti functions and the structure of the piece.