Friday, January 12, 2018

Movement Resources, Two Songs, Hula Hoops, and Ocean Animals!

Short post today- if you haven't already been to my facebook page - check it out- I have several videos posted there and some special info not posted here on the blog! Today I am posting the video here.
Search for @ofortunaorff  and you will be able to like the page and follow! :)

Friday, January 5, 2018

Frosty Weather and book, The Bear Snores On

First- if you haven't checked out my O For Tuna Orff Schulwerk Music page on facebook, I just posted a video about a lesson using "The Chubby Little Snowman" and googly eyeball finger puppets you can get right now at Dollar Tree in the Valentines Day section!  I will be posting extra teaching ideas and lessons there, so go check it out and follow! 

While on the American Orff Schulwerk Association (AOSA) facebook page recently I stumbled across a great lesson using the song, "Frosty Weather" and the book, "The Bear Snores On".  I absolutely love this book.  My daughter loved it, too, when she was little. I can still hear her making the funny bear noises! If you would like the pdf with all the pages below, send a request to

Stretchy bands are available here - these are fabulous!!  I have also made MANY in the past out of white pantyhose - here is a video tutorial!

 Bjornen Sover is available here and the sheet music and several videos of children singing the song in the original Norwegian are available here from Mama Lisa.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

On With The Show AKA Winter Break is Over Lesson

Hope everyone had a wonderful Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and a Merry Christmas!  Hard to believe how fast the winter break goes!  I have been out of school for a week already, much of which I was sick, then my daughter got very sick with a stomach something (still not sure what is going on) and we ended up with a very memorable Christmas spending 6 hours in the ER Christmas Eve until 1:30 AM Christmas morning. She was feeling well enough to unwrap her presents yesterday morning but halfway through she was experiencing stomach pain again and was very sick the rest of the day. As I write, she is next to me on the couch with a heating pad around her belly and we are watching Hotel Transylvania.  Such is the way with the holiday season.  It goes far too quickly and then all of a sudden we are on the countdown back to school again. 
Having all this time off, sometimes it is hard to have students jump right back in and be able to follow rules and classroom structure as we all know how quickly they lose their sense of structure being at home for extended times. 
I wanted a new lesson for students to revisit rules, although I did not want to directly revisit the rules,(boring) so this lesson uses proverbs! If you want the pdf, please send a request to
 There are two versions - one with a spoken A Section and another with an A Section in C pentatonic with an easy Orff orchestration. As always, accommodate for your students; if they are not ready for a crossover bordun, use a broken bordun, if they are not ready for a broken bordun, add a closed bordun but perhaps make it the same rhythm; use the words, "Here we go again" (ta, ta, titi ta). 
Hope you enjoy!


Friday, December 15, 2017

Almost There- Holiday Activities for the Finish Line!

I had one concert last Friday and after another 4 rehearsals, had the last two concerts on Wednesday. Whew! 28 pieces of music later, I am tired.  We all know what that feels like, and how nice it is to hear from teachers and parents how much they enjoyed the concerts! 

Today is my last day of school before break. This will be me at 11:45 today!
 It is a half day ... and it is a crazy day we call "Gold and Maroon" which is where everyone is one of our school colors, either Gold or Maroon. Each grade is divided equally and students compete against each other in grade level teams for relay races and tug of war. But the fun and crazy screaming doesn't end there, then it is the parents turn to compete - Gold Dads compete against Maroon Dads and the same for Moms.  It. Is. CRAZY!  Fun, but crazy, and loud, and yes, we are in the gym!

I know many teachers are still going strong, some of you have 3 days left, some have a full week next week.
Here are a few things I have done the past couple of weeks that do not require you to print, cut, or laminate anything.  I am not a fan of worksheets or coloring pages - I don't use them. 
I do not know the animator who puts together these Musication videos, but I am so very grateful for these wonderful, highly entertaining and active play alongs!  Great to leave as sub plans, too!!
All you need are some instruments and a projector to show these. Guaranteed fun and the best part is the children are actively making music and having a fun experience that is not at all boring - no heads on the floor and eyes closing while watching these!

1.  Trepak Percussion Play Along

This is perfect for first through upper elementary!  I have students watch the first minute or so, then ask them to turn and talk to a neighbor about what they saw and noticed.  Then I go back to the directions page, which shows what the symbols are, what instruments are needed, who the conductors are, etc.  I ask students what they notice, turn and talk, how many symbols, and then ask the older students (2nd grade and up) to problem solve; how many students do we have today, how many instruments. I try to let them help figure out how many groups of students we need and usually let them self-select groups.  My students know where our instruments are and they go by group to choose the instruments to play.  There is a "cymbal" part in this but I don't have enough cymbals so I let them use the gong!  I give enough mallets for all to play the very large gong and they love it. It is not an instrument we use often, and this way everyone gets to play this very special instrument! Then... PLAY!  It is so fun and they really love it.  I usually let mine rotate through the instruments; the last group puts the instruments on the floor and steps back, then I tell them "drums go to triangles, triangles to sticks, sticks to tambourines, tambourines to gong (cymbal)".  We play again and again until everyone has had a turn!  SO fun.. you could also use body percussion; stomp, pat, snap, clap, lip pop!
There are two of these - one with instrument symbols - great for younger students, and one with other symbols - also good for instruments, and also good for body percussion!

2. Trepak Boomwhacker Play Along Easy

You will need a Bb for this one which uses low E and low F / G, A, Bb, B, C, D, E, F
(B + E for one child)

3. Twinkle Twinkle Handbells (or glockenspiels or Orff instrument) Play Along:

4.  We Wish You a Merry Christmas Boomwhacker Play Along

5.  We Wish You a Merry Christmas Boomwhacker DUO Play Along


6.  Jingle Bells Play Along with notes on a partial staff

7.  Frosty, the Snowman Boomwhacker Play Along

Hope you enjoy these and check out musication on youtube here.  They have a nice variety - everything from Sylvia Pizzicato, Frere Jacques, Black House Blues,  Happy Birthday, Nima Naja, In the Hall of the Mountain King, to Rolling in the Deep! There are about 50 videos now and just added several this fall.
Happy holidays, everyone! Good luck with concerts, Happy New Year!


Friday, December 1, 2017

Ukuleles - A Tool for Teaching All Year Long - Part 2

If you missed the first post about ukuleles, check it out here!

When I first started uke I wanted to make ukes another tool, just as we use Orff instruments, drums, triangles, shakers, etc.  I didn't want to have students learn it for a short time then put it away as I don't see the meaning or value in doing that.  In the last post one of the suggestions I made for beginners was to tune up the bottom string from "A" to "C" to make a non-fingered, open string C chord.  This works well while learning proper hold and strumming patterns.
Let's delve a bit more into the "how" to make this a tool:

Dot it Up

When I first started ukuleles I "pish poshed' the idea of using dots but then I started an after school uke club and definitely needed the dots. Why did ever I nix the idea???  These dots made a tremendous difference in my students ability to play chords and move fluidly from one to the next.  I use the Mark -It Dots, available here from Amazon.  The one thing I wished I had done differently was to make my C chord red, F chord green and G chord turquoise or navy blue (more closely aligned with boomwhackers.  This way I can also have students playing the bass note of the chord on boomwhackers for some activities and I like the color consistency.  I am going to change them over the holiday break! 

Beginning of Class

Rhythm Cards - In my class we perform rhythms using rhythm cards and review a short song or two, then do some movement the first 5-7 minutes of class; instead of reviewing rhythms by speaking or through body percussion, half the class performs it with body percussion/spoken rhythms and the other half performs it by strumming (either open strings or fingered "C" chord).  After 4 rhythm cards, switch players. Transitions can often become times for students to talk, but I keep the beat going as I speak a silly tongue twister or rhyme; my youngest students learn that anytime I say, "Eeenie meanie deck a feanie, ooh, ah, alameanie, x, y, coomalatta, x, y, z" or "ock knock, ditty wock, picky picky poo, shimmy gimmy galiminny, you know what to do" or "Intry mintry, tribbledy fig, deema dime-ah, donna dig, howdy pouchy, noma nouchy, olliga bolliga boo", etc. they switch.  Switch Orff instruments with a partner, switch drums with a partner, switch triangles with a partner, and switch ukuleles.  Then I simply say, "one, two, ready, go" and we don't waste time talking or transitioning.  You can use simpler Humpty Dumpty rhymes, too, or sing, "Row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, until you hit the waterfall, then you start to scream". Or recite Betty Botter or How Much Wood Could a Woodchuck, etc. Have fun with it and you will quickly find your transition times move so much smoother.

If you play "Sol-La-Mi AKA Salami" with solfege - half the class strums a C chord to the beat - if you are working on tempo and need a review- ask one student to lead "andante" until "Sol-La-Mi" when they stop playing. Also consider having a student conduct the tempo.


How many SLM or SM songs do you use?  Probably a LOT, right?  Any time after you have learned a song it is always good to keep that repertoire going; accompany using ukuleles.  Choose a rhythm or have students strum a simple down, up, down, up quarter note beat. 
A few lists to refresh your post- Thanksgiving brain:
SM - Beth's Music Notes
SLM -  Beth's Music Notes
SLMRD - Beths' Music Notes check to make sure Re doesn't happen on a strong beat as that would indicate a chord change is needed.

When playing/singing a song using Orff instruments - particularly pentatonic songs, and especially those pitched in "C", half the class can play the bordun on the instruments and the other half can play the same rhythm on the ukulele. 


There are SO MANY!!  Check out Bernadette Teaches Music, she is such a tremendous resource with great teaching videos.  Look for her "Ukulele Education Series". Find her on facebook, also, and you can ask questions- she is very quick to answer!
Ukes in General Music is another starting site- with free chord diagrams and other info.
Teachers Pay Teachers (TpT) has so many, from Rainbow Ukulele to  "Sing & Strum Intro and One-Chord Songs".  Many, many others.  Spend some time online and you will find others.

Hopefully that gives you some ideas to get started!
Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Ukuleles - A Tool for Teaching All Year Long, Part 1

I didn't play ukulele until just a few years ago, and even then I was not really playing anything beyond a C chord.  This is probably true for many of us catching the "wave" of uke in the general music classroom.  I don't teach uke as a "unit" as I am not a "unit" kind of teacher.  I incorporate uke throughout the year, beginning in first grade - yes, really!
Today we begin a short series about ways to use the ukes as a tool in the music room, and incorporate it in a meaningful way throughout the school year.

1.  Define

Before you begin, define your purpose; how will you use ukes?  Will you teach them to one grade level or several?  I know many music teachers who teach ukulele as a unit and extensive as it may be, I personally don't. I prefer to use it as a tool to teach and reinforce concepts and skills.  Think about it more as a vehicle to get in and ride; similar to how we use Orff instruments or classroom percussion; we aren't necessarily teaching the instrument for the sake of the instrument alone, but to learn/reinforce beat, rhythm, melodic direction, harmony, dynamics, etc.
Elizabeth at Organized Chaos has a great post about this and shares several other resources and ideas.
I prefer a ratio of 1:2; one uke for every two students.  Although I am incredibly fortunate to teach in a school with a plethora of instruments, and have enough Orff instruments for each student, I always have students share until students have learned a piece.  Students playing Orff instruments often disengage their singing voices as they are concentrating on what and how to play.  While this is not "always" true, it is often.  With ukulele there are more mechanics involved; correct hold, coordination of strumming, and fingering chords.  That is a lot of coordination for younger kiddos! 
Having a 1:2 ratio leaves half your class as the singers and the other half as instrumentalists. In an upcoming facebook video I will walk you through how to switch instruments quickly without losing focus or beat - the way I do it almost creates a short "B" section!

2.  Deciding What to Buy

West Music has a great blog post about the decision making process called, "Models and Tunings and Sizes, Oh My!  
Shelley at Pitch Publications has a side by side comparison of brands that is extremely helpful!

3.  Things to Consider

Where will your ukuleles be stored? Hanging them is the BEST way to ensure tuning is quick and easy! Mine hang on the wall while I tune and I can get my 13 tuned in about 5 minutes! These wall hangers are what I have. 
I have Diamond Head soprano ukuleles and like any uke, they need at least a week (usually 2) to stretch out after you unbox and hang.  There are lots of "cute" ukes out there- watermelons, sharks, pineapples, colors, etc. I decided to go basic and everyone got the same color - no arguments about who got to play the purple one last class and who hasn't played the blue one yet.
The first couple of weeks you will be tuning daily - trying to get them to the point where they need slight adjustments and not big ones. I really like the Diamond Head - good entry level uke and very affordable - around $30.00 and they stay pretty well in tune after the initial stretch.  I also personally have a Kala concert that I am a little in love with - it is turquoise!! The sound is richer and fuller and the slightly bigger size is a little more comfortable for me. 

4.  Getting Started

A fabulous "go-to" for me is Bernadette Teaches Music.  She is a music teacher with an extensive youtube channel and she is VERY responsive to questions!  Her youtube channel is invaluable - watch the video about Common Beginner Mistakes!  Love the dots on the fingers! This made a huge difference with my students and they love getting sharpie dots on their fingertips.
Definitely put the colored dots on the uke, too- I resisted this until I tried it with my after school ukulele group and it is amazing how much faster their progress was.
This video from Cynthia Lin Music is very detailed with great info about playing using your pointer finger. Her pace is great, and she is very clear!  The two main points in the video are:
1. Using the thumb to get more power and grip.
2. How to position the index finger to get more clarity and control.

5. Basic Strum Patterns 

THIS video from  It teaches 5 basic strum patterns, and I appreciate his use of the words "steady beat" and counting in four. Again, great pacing on this video, very clear, and easy for everyone to grasp.

To use this concept with beginners, first tune bottom strings to "C" instead of "A".  When strumming open strings this creates a C chord without needing to worry about coordinating two hands.  Use this combined with strum pattern one below with a song in pentatonic you might normally play a bordun on!   I created these slides to go with these strum patterns - and look, already you are reinforcing the concept of steady beat. I would not teach all these the first day; strum pattern one is perfect to play along with a previously learned song in "C" pentatonic. All those SLM songs? Yes! Perfect to revisit them and play along! The next blog post will go into more detail about teaching uke as a tool all year!

6. Get Them Excited! 

Your students will love Grace Vanderwaal. She won America's Got Talent and is just 13 years young!!!  She has a very distinctive voice and has a timely message about not trying to be a pop star, but instead to simply be yourself.  Check her out here.
She has several videos on youtube- this is her initial audition for AGT and she surprised everyone!

See you next time for part 2 - we will start getting into the "how" with lessons, activities, and ideas for using uke as a tool to teach and reinforce concepts and skills!
Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Pass the Turkey

Usually I don't post 2 days in a row but this was too good to pass up sharing and it is time sensitive in light of Thanksgiving next week. 
I was on the AOSA Facebook page earlier this week and, as always, found wonderful teaching material, tips, and discussions going on.  If you haven't been on the site lately, GO!! You will find so many wonderful ideas and if you are looking for a piece of music or need help with recorder, children singing in parts, or anything related to teaching music, you can ask and get various responses within a few hours.  Truly invaluable and I have learned so much from the thousands of years of teaching experience there! There are other music teacher facebook pages, Elementary Music Teachers, I'm a General Music Teacher, Orff and Kodaly Teachers, and many others.. spend some time there - you'll be glad you did.
While I was on a page recently, a lovely teacher named Sarah shared a piece she had written earlier this week.  I reached out to her and she so very kindly allowed me to share it with you!

 The quack sticks are available from West Music here.  They are about $5.00 each and kids LOOOOVE them! So much fun! Starting the second week in November, I greet kids at the door and play them as they come in; sure to get giggles and a nice way to start off class; students that behave nicely get to play it on their way out.  Yes, dangle the carrot!!
They look like this:
Here are Sarah's kids performing the song:
Happy Thanksgiving!