Interactive Music Class Olympics

Happy February!

Over the last decade, I have come to really appreciate the Olympics  (and another one here) -maybe it’s a maturing process. 🙂

My students love listening to classical selections and learning about various composers. So I thought I would combine these components – composers, their music, the game of the Olympics, and some technology – together.

When you click here, you will get to a ThingLink page that looks like this:
The Music Winter Olympics ThingLink Page

Because iframe codes don’t work on my blog, I thought I’d just embed what the actual page will look like. When you move the cursor over each block, all the buttons will appear like the picture above. Each composer has 4 different areas of information:

  1. Biography (yellow bullet)
  2. Music selection (red play button)
  3. Flag of the composer’s country (blue bullet)
  4. National anthem (most current anthem; black play button)

Since this is the first of my online composer playlist, I started with mostly the “Greats” in classical music. The second page (forthcoming) has other interesting composers my students have not heard about.

Canva & ThingLink

  • I came across Canva through Twitter teachers who were putting out polished posters/infographics. It’s an amazing site to create newsletters, posters, documents etc. Why I like it: There are many choices for you for choosing layouts, graphics, colors, fonts, and sharing. It might take a bit of time to navigate and for you to create what you want, but it’s worth your time! If what you put on your project are “free” designs, it’s absolutely free for you to download your project as PDFs. All other premium items, you’ll need to pay $1 for each. I haven’t used any premium for any of my 4 projects so far. What I used for this project: Moodboard template. I modified the fonts, colors, and uploaded composers’ pictures. I highly recommend this site!
  • ThingLink is another terrific site for teaching.  ThingLink is a site where you can create touch points for students to touch your  parts of the image on the ThinkLink board to explore and learn. Why I like it: It’s interactive! When I use a ThingLink board for lessons, I can have the page open on the SMARTBoard and have my students interact within the lesson. What I used for this project: Uploaded image of my composers from Canva. I added 4 links on each corner. I used this board as a mystery game so many squares were filled with a question mark with only the country label. Right now, ThingLink does not let you replace the image so I had to re-add all the links every time I revealed new composers. But I highly recommend this site!

Useful Sites for Music Teachers and Students:

  • Biographies I normally use New York Philharmonic Kidzone or Classics for Kids for bios, but while researching, I came across a terrific site called 52 Composers. I love it because it has a comprehensive timeline, quotes, videos of musical performances, composers in art videos, lists of related book and online resources. I highly recommend it!
  • Musical selections – Spotify is still my go-to app for music classes, but I decided to post a YouTube video link instead (all linked to – this site only shows the video you want, not all the “you might like” videos). If my students come across other related videos about particular videos, I can always tag another link onto the ThingLink.
  • Flag from each country – I found to be a helpful site. Images of the flags are big and the site has pertinent information about the country.
  • National anthems – This site is also new for me. It has over 400 anthems past and present. I love it because it has a big database of national anthems in many forms: PDF of the music, audio playback so you can listen to the anthems (recordings or Midi), and download the anthems.

Beyond these sites:

  1. Because my students will be watching the Olympic games with their families, at the end of each music class, I will challenge them to write down or remember what music they heard in skating events (if any – some event broadcasters will mention these pieces). I also encourage my students to explore and learn about composers who are not on our board on their own. Some kids bring their findings (or email me interesting facts) and have a chance to present facts and repertoire in class.
  2. After the facts and repertoire is learned, my students will be participating in our own Music Olympics. Due to snow and no power days, our schedule has been delayed. But my plan is to divide K-4th graders in 3 different teams (somewhat random and mixed grades). Some of the games will simulate the Winter games. I have to be creative with using different parts of our campus or by making some games. Once my planning is done, I will also post the games along with the second page of composers.

I am happy that my students are excited to learn!

Music is, really, all around. Let’s help our young learners to keep learning!

If you’re a music teacher, check out my playlist of useful resources I use for my music classes here.


Happy Birthday, Herr Mozart!

Today is W.A. Mozart’s 258th birthday!

What Mozart said here speaks volumes to what kind of master musician Mozart was:

It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.  – W. A. Mozart. Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words

What’s a birthday celebration without music?

Here’s a great video of Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 D minor, K. 466 with the Camerata Salzburg, directed by Mitsuko Uchida. Ms. Uchida, an acclaimed pianist and a Grammy Award winner, is renowned for her interpretation on the music of Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven. Here, she is directing and performing as the soloist. The entire performance is brilliant!

Happy Monday!



Visiting Artist Week: Learning from Other Teachers

by J Bennett

Our school devotes

One week

out of year

to Art and Music. I don’t mean by offering classes, but by inviting other professionals to work with our students in addition to regular arts classes. The idea is to immerse the community in arts and the week finishes with a collaborative assembly where one might see performances and sharing of what had happened during the week. I believe it is one of the most special part of my school. And I’ll admit, this was one of the things that drew me in to teach here.

We invited two very different musicians.

Joe Tayoun, Middle Eastern Percussionist

Joe is an approachable and friendly guy. With big smiles, he talks with you – about everything. Put a  Doumbek in his hands and he can transform a huge group of middle school students into a percussion ensemble – an ensemble who work together because it’s fun. Joe had a tight schedule on a 2 hour-delay day. He brought his cousin, Michele, who taught our students Middle Eastern Dance (Belly Dancing) to a song (they learned the words and melody to this song as well). Each group had a chance to  drum and dance; at the end of each 45-min, we had both groups put their work together. It was so much fun.

Things I learned:

Joe is an effective communicator. He was clear in his direction, goals, and conveyed respect for the kids. I was happy to see my students responding respectfully and engaging themselves in some serious fun learning. Joe covered culture (he is Lebanese-American) and the origins of the rhythms, background of different drums that were being used, and connected to the kids with what they know with the material he was introducing. I particularly loved that he read his audiences well and adjusted naturally to their listening and playing abilities.  My 8th grade students enjoyed learning this 7/8 rhythm, Kalamatinio:

Because of snow and delay to our school day, we invited him back in February to rehearse with our students and put a performance together. I can’t wait!

Curtis Blues, a Delta Blues Musician

Curtis, a passionate and energetic musician, introduced lower elementary students to the sounds of Pre-War Delta Blues. He was fantastic at talking to our younger students. He made the instruments come a live to children through storytelling and songs. Students giggled, danced and looked at each instrument with awe. They were amazed at his harmonica playing. And his drum playing. And his guitar playing. All of these instruments were played simultaneously! When he didn’t play the harmonica, he sang!

Things I learned:

The rich history of the Blues was sung and explained to the young children in a language they understood. I liked how he used posters of the Delta Blues Greats – Robert Johnson, Bukah White, Memphis Minnie, and Muddy Waters as a part of the history. He never got too talkative, but balanced flow of music and talking. Students were definitely engaged and learned in a fun way. My 8th graders also had a chance to sit in a session and Curtis was great to bring them into a conversation by referencing the use of language of Blues lyrics. I loved the differentiated learning and the students appreciated being in the conversation!

* * *

Sharing from my experience~

If you would like to start something like this in your school, consider the following:

  • Begin a conversation with other arts teachers. Even if your school offers dance, music, art, and theater, consider partnering up with 1 other arts field to start.
  • Partner with the administration of your school and get an approval for a week-long (or a few days) of arts celebration. Find time in the year where things aren’t too crazy. We chose a week in January for this reason*.
  • Begin to budget for this event. Consider extra fees for travel, lodging, and food. And do look for grants locally and statewide for educational events like this. Money, always, will be an issue.
  • Begin researching for artists! Talk to arts teachers around your area or ask your PLN for visiting artists. Also check local art and music alliances for programs for schools. Many artists who have in-school residencies have a promotional CD/DVD. Ask for one. Also ask specific questions and the conversation going.
  • Keep a log of people you contacted and keep their contact info. You never know how people’s schedule will turn out.
  • Plan early and get agreed details  in writing.
  • Be flexible with the artist as much as possible for changes, but know when to go back to the “contract” or change the details of the contract.
  • Be a learner: get involved during the week, engage in conversation with the artists, get your hands-on experience with the students and reflect with them.
  • If possible, build an assembly time at the end of your arts week to bring the community together. Live performances, presenting pictures or movies of learning that took place that week is a nice way to close out the week together.
  • Evaluate the week as a team! What things were good? What can you improve for next year?

I am still learning and working on many of these suggestions :-). I need to address the (*) on the second bullet on scheduling the event went smoothly for 6 years – there were no changes once we had musicians were lined up. This year, however, we were thrown off because of inclement weather. My teaching partner and I worked early mornings and late nights those 2 days to reschedule everything. Thankfully, things worked out, but there was a chance we could have just given up on the week. Perseverance won that week!

In the end, it’s about creating a learning space for students. You are creative – share this week with your students and your community! I’d also love to learn from what you do during visiting artist week!

~ Yoon