Category Archives: Music

Two Bit Circus

Two Bit Circus is a foundation that describes its mission as follows: “We serve children in all economic situations by creating learning experiences to: inspire entrepreneurship, encourage young inventors, and instill environmental stewardship.”  The organization has aimed to achieve these goals through activities such as summer camps, STEAM Carnivals, and workshops.  Although many of these programs have had to come to a screaming stop during the last few months due to the pandemic, Two Bit Circus has not faltered in its delivery of quality content.  Instead, it has shifted to offering streaming classes during the week on topics that range from creating music to building balloon racers.  You can find the archive, already full of informational project videos they have streamed since March, here.  Note that Caine Monroy (yes – the charming young man from Caine’s Arcade) makes a special appearance in some of them.  He is a member of the foundation’s Junior Advisory Board.  In fact, according to the streaming schedule on the home page, Caine will be hosting another live session this Thursday, May 21st.

It’s clear that Two Bit Circus is making a strong effort to offer distance learning projects that are fun, educational, and mostly reliant on household supplies.  Some other resources you will currently find on their website home page are their STEAM Carnival Playbooks (currently free downloads thanks to Vans), a Bricks Playbook for Parents, and “Power Lab,” a “Print-At-Home Escape/Story Room Experience.”  In addition, parents who are suddenly finding themselves to be educators may learn some helpful advice from the “Teachers for Teachers” series that you can find here.

While the official school year may be winding down for some, the unpredictability of the next few months will probably still leave some gaps in children’s schedules.  With these resources from Two Bit Circus you can make that time fly!

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Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

Working Together While We’re Apart

I have been uplifted by the many videos that have been shared on social media lately showing how people are making their own joy with others despite our physical distances.  I wanted to share a few today.

This first one was brought to my attention in a blog post by @LarryFerlazzo:

Here are two young people who chose to give their elderly neighbor a concert:

The Rotterdam Philharmonic did this gorgeous recording, “From Us, For You” of “Ode to Joy.”

This particular video from the Roedean School in South Africa is beautiful to watch and hear.

I keep watching this one over and over again because I adore the pure joy in these boys as they play Coldplay’s “Viva La Vida.”

Here is an amazing mariachi concert by students on Twitter:

For a dose of absolutely adorable cuteness, you should listen to “Virus in a Tree.”

And finally, for those of us looking for some humor, watch this clever and talented family perform the pandemic version of “One Day More” from Les Miserables. (Thanks to @jtrayers for sharing this on FB.)

If you are looking for other videos to make your heart sing, I have two Pinterest Boards that may help you: Inspirational Videos for Students and Inspirational Videos for Teachers.

Here’s to the Lives That You’re Gonna Change

It’s the season of graduations, and Jason Mraz just released the perfect song to accompany every single one of them.  I played it yesterday as my 4th graders were working on mandalas, and they left the classroom singing the chorus in unison on the way to lunch.

The song, “Have it All,” is one of those catchy tunes that you don’t have to be a music producer to predict will be an instant hit.  It will lift your heart even more when you watch the video.  Students from Binford Middle School in Richmond, VA, (where Mraz has mentored since last year) appear in segments of this uplifting short film. The custodian gets a starring role, too!

Jason Mraz is a master of lyrics, and your students may enjoy analyzing such lines as, “May you be as fascinating as the slap bracelet.”  My favorite is the one I used to title this blog post.

For more inspiration for the students who are embarking on new chapters in their lives, you may want to check out this collection of videos I posted last year.  I also have a list of books that make great graduation gifts.

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Measure This. #2

Day 2 of this year’s standardized testing, so I’m posting a few more amazing feats that defy measurement on any state-mandated tests.  You can see Day 1 here.

Miniature Origami Art

Walmart Yodeling Kid

And I absolutely adore the snow shovel art done by Cindy Chinn.  You can see more images in this article, and you can visit her Etsy store here.  Thanks to Cindy for giving me permission to include this picture/ (If you like her snow shovel art, you should also check out her pencil carvings!)

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The Tree Swing by Cindy Chinn

 

A.I. Duet

Today’s Frivolous Friday post is in honor of my colleague, Angela Leonhardt, who is a music educator extraordinaire.  She just made it to the finals for our district’s Teacher of the Year.  That honor and many more are well-deserved by this wonderful teacher, who enriches our community with her dedication.  If I had any music composition skills, I would play her a magnificent fanfare with this A.I. Duet experiment from Google.  Unfortunately, even A.I. can’t mask my ineptitude, but I’m sure that someone with Angela’s talent can find a way to make beautiful music with this fun tool.

H/T to Mental Floss for sharing A.I. Duet with its readers.

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image from Raphael Love on Flickr

 

Formative Assessment with Music Lyrics

Even though I really enjoy hearing the conversations that go on when my students do a Hexagonal Learning activity, my students will tell you that the playlist assessment is actually their favorite when it comes to demonstrating their understanding of a novel.  According to them, they enjoy being able to work independently on this assignment, and to really “dig deep” (their words) into the meaning of lyrics as well as the novels we are analyzing.  

Here’s how our playlist assignments work:  I give the students 5 songs to listen to, in addition to the lyrics from each of the songs.  The students are told to choose one song that they think represents the book the best – in other words, if the book were turned into a movie, this song would be a great theme song.  Then they must justify their answers using at least three different lyrics with at least three different examples from the book.  

A couple of notes: 1.) I like to give students choice, so the first couple of years I did this activity, I asked them to bring in their own ideas for songs.  They never did.  I still offer the option to request a song be added, but the students rarely suggest one.  They seem happier with the ones I recommend.  2.) If you choose to do this activity, you will need to “vet” the best way for the students to access the songs.  Podsnack is a nice site for creating playlists, but won’t play when my students log in.  YouTube lyrics videos work for us, using SafeShare, as long as I have approved the videos beforehand.  Another option is to create a station where students can listen to the songs downloaded on an iPad or iPod.

I’ve done this activity with groups of different sizes, and the silence is eerie when everyone puts  on their headphones and get started.  The students are intensely focused on the assignment.  Some take notes on scratch paper before choosing a song.  Others page through their novels as they listen.  I almost feel useless as the students work because they are so incredibly engaged that there is no need for redirection.  Instead, I periodically give them feedback in Google Classroom to encourage them or remark on their interesting ideas.

My 4th graders do this activity with Tuck Everlasting.  My 5th graders do it with The Giver.  I asked my 5th graders this time if I could share a couple of their responses with you, and they agreed.

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If you are interested in using The Giver Playlist Assignment, here is a link to make a copy.  Within that document is a link to the Exemplars that I used with my students to show them the different levels of responses.

I should probably warn you that, once the students do this assignment, they may request to listen to the music while doing other assignments as well.  Some of them get very attached to the songs!