Let’s Play Au Clair De La Lune!

Hi guys! I am playing around with new ways to share lessons with you, and today I’ve got a walk through for how to read the music and play the song Au Clair De La Lune on the recorder! I love experimenting with new technology, so I’m really excited to about this new adventure. This first video will take you through the rhythm and reading the letter names of the notes, and can be used for all of my 2nd-5th graders out there.

Alright, grab a recorder if you’ve got one and let’s get to the playing part! Apologies for the weird microphone issues-this is my first attempt, so hopefully I’ll get better at this as we weather our distance learning journey together. If you are in 3rd grade, you can access the site http://www.bearecorderstar.com with the access code in your notebook, and you can actually hear the recording (and the man saying the song’s title in the way I keep saying it).

Let’s Sing We Shall Overcome!

Today, try combining your social studies and your music time! Music was a really important part of the Civil Rights Movement. Read about the Civil Rights Movement on History for Kids or Ducksters (Ducksters has a read aloud button at the bottom of the page, and a 10 question quiz you can take at the end), and click on the important people to learn more about them.

On to the music! Learn to sing the song We Shall Overcome:

Now listen to a few different versions and compare and contrast them. Try this beautiful one from Morehouse College, this one of Joan Baez at the March on Washington,  and this one from Mahalia Jackson. What things are the same? What’s different? Things to think about: the style of music, the tempo (speed of the beat), dynamics (how loud or soft), instruments, voices. Little ones can discuss, older kids can write down their answers in their notebooks. Try making a Venn Diagram in  your notebook or sign up for a free account at canva.com to design a really beautiful one.

Let’s get Jazzy!

Hey guys! Today, I was inspired by one of my favorite books to read with the students. I hope today you will spend a little quality time learning about jazz and Charlie Parker, before watching the video of the book at the bottom of this post.

Jazz musicians all have fun nicknames, so look up Charlie Parker’s nickname, his instrument and the kind of jazz he played first. If you had a jazz nickname, what would yours be? For the little ones, try dancing and singing along to this fun little song about the saxophone. With your 2nd-5th grade students, check out this fantastic House of Sound video to learn about the science behind the Woodwind Family of instruments. As far as the kind of jazz, talk about how bebop is fast, usually played by a smaller group of instruments with musicians playing lots of improvised solos. Improvising is an important vocabulary word, so look it up and write down what it means in your notebook 3rd-5th graders!

Now search for Charlie Parker on your favorite streaming service or good ole Youtube and listen to some more music-can you sit at the beginning and stand up when you think you hear improvising? Try doing a fast crazy dance to match the improvising you hear! Make your dance up high if you hear high notes, down low if you hear low notes, and watch out for rests where you body might stop moving for a beat.

Now it’s time to try improvising with more than just our bodies. Don’t worry, you don’t need a saxophone and anyone can do it! In 2nd grade, we would be starting to learn about scat singing right about now. Scatting is how singers can use their voice to improvise, but we need words to sing right? Singers can make up silly syllables to try to sound like instruments. Expert scatters like Ella Fitzgerald sometimes even use real words like at the beginning of this incredible scat! For your littlest scatters, Hoots the Owl from Sesame Street can help, all you have to do is repeat what he does! For your older ones, just give it a go with this backing track and see what happens. Parents, give it a try too-have fun with it, and enjoy being creative! There’s no wrong answer here, just do whatever feels good and explore all of the cool things your voice can do.

Close out your lesson with this read aloud of one of my favorite books in our music library:

Let’s play CUPS!

Today’s lesson is a simple and fun one!  I challenge you to learn the cup game! Use this tutorial video to start off slow (be sure to use a plastic cup, not the good glassware).

Once you know it, you can play it with your family passing the cups in a circle, or along with The Cup Song from the movie Pitch Perfect.

I usually teach this song at the end of the year to 4th grade and we do a dance, but why not learn it on your own with a cup! Try some other cup routines like this one  to We Will Rock You, or this one to Sleigh Ride. 

Let’s CODE music!


Hey guys, sorry I didn’t post yesterday-the news we got on Monday about not going back to school this year hit me pretty hard. I’m sure you were all just as sad as I was that we won’t see each other again until next school year. As I was scrolling my phone right after the announcement, I came across this video of musicians from the Toronto Symphony playing Appalachian Spring. On March 12th, just before we found out that we’d be taking time off from school, we went on a field trip to see our Richmond Symphony play this piece. I cried as soon as I heard it again. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to it today, and if you feel sad, that’s ok. If like me, you need a little time to feel your feelings, that’s ok. You are allowed to mourn the loss of this school year together.

Now, just because we aren’t together in person, doesn’t mean you can’t practice your music skills of course! I am ready to get back to sharing with you, and when you are ready, I hope you’ll check out scratch.mit.edu. I use this site every year on STEM day with the big kids, but it’s great for kids of all ages (even grown ups!). There is an app you can download called ScratchJr which is especially geared toward 5-7 year old students.

On the site, jut click the start creating button or the create button at the very top by the word scratch to start coding! There’s a tutorial for you right on the screen that shows you how to get started, so click play and it will show you how to put the blocks together to create all sorts of things. If you click on the tutorials button up top, you can click on music, and then the “make music” or “record sounds” buttons, the tutorial video will change to one about coding musical sounds. Once you get the hang of it, try the starter projects page for things you can edit to make them your own. For example, I took the starter piano project and color coded the notes like the ones on our resonator bells at school and their costumes flash back to white as you press the keys.


Students always beg me to take home the tutorial cards so that they can play with this one on their own, and now they’ve got plenty of time to do it!

Have you been taking lots of walks lately? I know we are all trying our best to get outside when we can, so maybe you can make your next walk a listening walk. There is music all around you, if you just listen…

Let’s sing songs from around the world!

Just because we’re stuck at home, doesn’t mean we can’t still take a digital field trip! Today, try learning some songs from around the world! Just like we did for St. Patrick’s day, learn about where the songs come from. Look them up on a map, look up some fun recipes to make from that country, and listen to some other music from there.

Mr. Beekman and I love to travel. Here’s a picture of me in Reykjavic, Iceland! 

VPI and Kindergarten students can try this Filipino song, which is sort of like head, shoulders, knees, and toes. You can also do this fun one from Panama and learn the names of all the instruments used in the song.

For 1st all the way up through 5th, these next links are really great ways to learn new songs and practice some of our other music reading skills in a fun way. This one is from New Zealand, and it will teach you the song and then some really fun body percussion patterns to go with it. If you have a ukulele at home, it shows you how to play the ukulele chords, too. Or you can try this one from Africa, if one of your family members plays guitar, it has guitar chords they could use, plus rhythms you could put on your body or on whatever instruments you have, and even shoes you how to play along on a piano if you have a keyboard! Here’s another from Puerto Rico.

2nd graders learned this one earlier this school year, so ask them to show you the dance moves and you can be their echo (repeat after them).

5th graders can practice their syncopation with this Jamaican song. Remember, if you don’t have a drum at home to play on, your body can be your instrument! They can also practice their beginning choral behaviors with this Scottish folk song  we already sang earlier this year. Remember, sit or stand up tall with your shoulders down, take a low belly breath, and keep it light and gentle (out of the gutter!).

Today’s story is one that I read every year to our 2nd graders, and we add instruments playing for specific words each time I read them. We haven’t gotten to that lesson at school just yet, but all of my lovely 3rd-5th graders may remember it. You can try this lesson at home with your bodies! Click the little closed captioning button in the bottom right so you can look and listen for the words. After you’ve heard the whole book once, play it again and anytime you hear/see the word Ping, snap your fingers, when you hear/see the word emperor, clap the rhythm of the word with your hands, when you hear/see the word flowers, tap that rhythm on your legs. Can you write out the rhythm for each of those words? Give it a try!

Hey guys! Sorry my post is so late today, but here are some quick and fun ideas you could squeeze in tonight or tomorrow!

Try out this rhythm trainer. You can choose mode A or mode B, and what rhythms are included. For 1st and 2nd grade, just stick with the quarter notes and eighth notes that are already selected. For 3rd and 4th, select the quarter rest also. For 5th graders who need a challenge, add in those 4 sixteenth notes! You can email me your results at lprather@rvaschools.net to show me how you’re doing!

If you haven’t done it yet, you are going to need to go to https://jr.brainpop.com/ for K-3 and brainpop.com for 3-5 and sign up for a free account. There are so many amazing free educational videos for every subject there, so it is the perfect site for all of your distance learning needs! I’d love for you to check out the music videos and then take the quiz after the video. They’ve got videos about making music, reading music, composers and musicians, so have fun choosing your own topic of study!

Let’s talk DYNAMICS!

Happy Vernal Equinox everybody! Did you know that today is the earliest spring in 124 years? The equinox means we have a more equal balance of daylight and darkness today (although, not always exactly 12 hours each, but a nice long day of sunshine anyway).

Now that you know all about it, why not sing about it? This song will also be part of our VPI/Kindergarten program, so you’ll also find it on the song lyrics page!

Today, let’s focus our music time on dynamics. For VPI and Kindergarten, check out this playlist of loud and soft videos. For 1st and 2nd, watch this little song to get started.

Then, of course we’ve gotta get moving to some music! When you hear loud or forte music, march around the room. When you hear piano or soft sounding music, tiptoe around the room. Here’s a favorite to practice those listening skills which the 1st graders have already used in class called Radetzky March.

Next, talk to your little ones about Haydn (pronounced like Hide-in) the composer of this next piece. As they listen, tell them to pretend to fall asleep during the quiet music, but be ready to wake up when they hear loud music. Play them the first minute of the Surprise Symphony. Then start it over and they can tiptoe during the quiet parts and do a big jump on the loud parts!

For 3rd-5th graders, start with this introduction video. They also can take a peek at this one about crescendo and decrescendo. Then grab whatever instruments you have around, whether a recorder or again just a turned over pot and a wooden spoon to play along with the loud and soft songs I linked above. Then, take turns being the musician and the conductor. The conductor will raise their arms up for loud and move them down for soft and the musician will play whatever they want with the correct dynamic volume!

Let’s READ Music!

Happy Wednesday everyone! Today, why not start off your music time with an episode of The Music Show! We watch these videos in class all the time to introduce and reinforce concepts. For VPI/Kindergarten, watch episode 1 about beat or episode 4 about high, low, and the middle. For 1st grade, watch episode 2 all about rhythm. For 2nd grade, episode 5 is all about tempo, or episode 6 about the lines and spaces. For 3rd-5th grades, definitely watch episode 6, 2 and 3 to reinforce our music reading skills.

VPI/Kindergarten students can listen to these celebrity Sesame Street songs and pat along with the steady beat. The big kids can get in on this one too-turn on the closed captions using the little cc in the bottom right corner of the video player and your readers can sing along! The songs have such great, positive messages, and I think all of us could use them right now. Suggest different body parts to show the steady beat-your legs, clap, tap your head, your tummy, your shoulders, your toes, march around the room etc. The Common and Colbie Caillet “Belly Breathing”song is really great for helping your little ones calm down when they are upset (or honestly, for yourself, I put it on when I need to take some belly breaths too!). You should also check out this playlist for some fun freeze dances and more ways to get moving.

Next, for 1st-5th, you could try out these fun  Rhythm Play alongs. Your body can be your instrument as you clap, pat, and snap along.

Time for a break from reading to get back to some movement. If your child loves to dance as much as I do, then let them break a sweat while listening to their favorite tunes! I love to put on playlists of songs from the Just Dance games and do the dances in my living room!

The 5th graders have been using this body percussion song as a warm-up for a few months, so have them teach it to you or a sibling. When you sing bim, you clap, for bum, you snap, and for biddy, you pat your legs. Try it out: Bim Bum

Another cool resource is the Berlin Phiharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall. You can join for free using the code BERLINPHIL for access to 30 days of free concerts! The concerts marked under the education tab are great and accessible. I’ve been listening to the opera concerts as I’m typing this to you (currently a beautiful rendition of Porgy and Bess), so I thought I’d share a couple of pictures of me in my opera theater costumes back in college that the students might get a kick out of!


Project time! Learn the steps to this simple dance tutorial. Once you learn it, click on the Soundcloud link under the video to play the (free!) music and make your own video of your family doing the choreography! You can post your video on your ClassDojo portfolio so your teachers and I can see what you’re up to at home!

Let’s Get MOVING!

Let’s get our bodies moving today and celebrate St. Patrick’s day!

IMG_5867Start your music time off with this Shamrock’n’roll dance video, and then take a trip to Ireland with John Jacobson’s Musical Planet!

Look up Ireland on Google Maps and help your child locate the capital. Next, find a city to the west of the capital. Search for the River Shannon, which was mentioned in the video. Try baking this Irish Soda Bread together (if you don’t have buttermilk, I know I certainly don’t keep it on hand, you can substitute by putting 1 tablespoon of vinegar in the liquid cup measure and then fill up to 1 cup. The recipe calls for another 3/4 of a cup of vinegar, so tweens/teens/grownups can get involved with some math skills for that one!)

Ok back to the music and movement! John Jacobson talked about one type of dance called shanos (usually written like sean nos), and you can try a simple version right here.  The ceili dance is done with partners, so you may not have enough people in your house to try this one, but you can see what it looks like and hear some Irish music here.

Here’s another video to teach your little ones a bit of step dancing and a lot of background information about it, plus another performance by an Irish dance competition team. For your littlest littles, Sesame Street sent Murray to Irish Dancing School, too!

Irish music uses instruments like flutes, fiddles, and drums. Try making your own instruments to play along with some Irish music today! You can decorate a paper towel roll with markers or paint, and then use a rubber band to attach a little wax paper to the end. Have your child blow into the open end to make the wax paper vibrate. Remind them that all sounds are produced by motions called vibrations.

For a string instrument, grab an empty box and some rubber bands.Cut a round hole on one side of your box, and seal the top of the box shut with glue or tape. Now stretch your rubber bands over the box to create strings! At school, I often just use plastic tupperware containers for this project with different sizes and thicknesses of rubber bands. Observe how the length, thickness of the rubber bands, and the tightness of the stretch over your container impact the pitch you hear. When violins and guitars and other string instruments turn the tuning pegs on their instruments, they are changing how tight or loose the string is stretched over their instruments, which makes the pitch go higher as the string is tightened, or lower as the string is loosened.

Easiest of all, make yourself a homemade drum! You can simply turn over a pot and tap it with a wooden spoon, put a lid on any container and tap it, or get creative by cutting the end off of a balloon and stretching it over an empty can and attaching it with another trusty rubber band.

Not feeling crafty today? I totally hear you, why not hand your kid a couple of spoons and let them learn to play them with this video instead? A few years ago, we had a visit at school from The Green Fields of America, who showed us Irish music, dancing, and yes, even the spoons, in action! This video of one of their performances is so fun, and there’s more to hear on Spotify.