Let’s Sing “This Old Man!”

Yesterday, I had the fun chance to be Ms. Wiederkehr’s Monday mystery reader! Reading the book inspired today’s post, you’ll see why when you check out the video here:

Now for the song…can you listen once, then make a list of the numbers and the rhyming words that go with them from memory? Then, try singing it!

Alright, now back to those jazz musicians I was talking about in the book! If you want to learn about the real people we read about, here are the musicians that go with each number, and some links to learn more:

  1. Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong
  2. Bill “Bojangles” Robinson
  3. Luciano “Chano” Pozo y Gonzalez
    • For my big kids, learn about Chano Pozo’s home-Havana, Cuba
  4. Edward Kennedy “Duke” Ellington
  5. Charlie “Bird” Parker
  6. Art “Bu” Blakey
  7. John Birks “Dizzy” Gillespie
  8. Thomas Wright “Fats” Waller His nickname always makes us giggle! You might recognize the waiter in that clip from earlier...here’s another clip from the movie that will help. Can you guess who it is now?
  9. Charles “Baron” Mingus

If you want to learn more about jazz history, I really like this playlist of jazz history videos to help you dig a little deeper.

Let’s Look at Melodic Direction!

Hi guys! It was so exciting to see so many Fisher students at our Chromebook distribution yesterday! It’s going to make it so much easier to complete our RPS@Home lessons, and access lots of other educational resources online! Today, I’d like for you to learn a little bit about how melodies can move in music. Melodies can make lots of different shapes. Use your finger to point along with the different shapes in this video. Make sure your finger moves from left to right, because we read melodies the same way we read words in sentences, left to right.

Now that you’ve got the idea, let’s practice singing some melodies with different kinds of movement. I love this silly video to practice, and the dog in it is so cute!

Now, when you listen to music today, can you listen for the direction the notes are moving? I post a lot of listening maps that can help you see the direction while you hear it, so you might try watching these first. Then, as you listen to your favorite kind of music today, as you hear songs on your video games, Youtube videos, tv shows, or movies, see if you can listen closely and draw the shape of the song in the air with your finger. As you watch these listening maps, practice showing the shapes with a finger.

And a fun one for our composer of the month!

May’s Composer of the Month!

Hi guys! We made it to May! Today, take a look at May’s composer of the month, Ludwig von Beethoven. Be sure to color his picture in your interactive music notebook if you are in K-2nd grade, or you can complete a listening reflection about this piece in your notebook if you’re in 3rd-5th grade.

Here are the 4 facts we would’ve read about him this month:

  1. Beethoven was a composer and pianist born in Bonn, Germany. His dad was very strict, and made Beethoven wake up in the middle of the night to practice music.
  2. Beethoven moved to Vienna, Austria in his 20s, where he became one of the first composers to make a living without working for the church or for royalty.
  3. Beethoven wrote symphonies, concertos, chamber music, and just one opera.
  4. Beethoven began to lose his hearing in his 30s. He wrote some of his most famous pieces when he was almost totally deaf, including his 9th symphony.

Check out this neat listening map that goes with Beethoven’s 9th:

And for my big kids, I can just hear all the questions you have about him bubbling up! This video will give you a little more information about him.

The incredible Kanneh Mason family performed a little bit of Beethoven on a Facebook live concert at home last month, check this out and get inspired to make some music with your family, too!

Let’s Practice Listening!

Hey guys! Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to be super duper quiet and walk around listening to the music of your house. What sounds do you hear? Make sure your feet are really quiet! Listen for the hum of the refrigerator, the creak of the floor, traffic or bird sounds near the window, the sound of the air conditioning,  the click of your family members fingers on their phone/tablet/computer keyboard. You have to be really, really quiet to hear the music of your house, but I know you can do it! Now your ears are ready to hear some living room music. This is a fun piece of music composed by John Cage. John Cage believed that any kind of sound could be used to make beautiful music.

So, now you can create your own living room music! Walk around your home and look for objects you can tap with your hands or a spoon from the kitchen to make different sounds. Remember that something big would be good for a low sound, and something small and metal would be great to tap with a metal spoon to get a nice higher sound. Play around with your objects and your voice, to create your living room music. Take it a step further by writing down your composition-you don’t have to use real notes, you can draw pictures of the objects in the order you want them played. Remember that rests are important, too, so draw a squiggle like a lightening bolt if you want to add some space in between your sounds.

I want my big kids to try out a game to work on your listening skills, too. It’s tough, but I know you are up for the challenge! Click here to visit the Music Memory game.You’ll need to enable Adobe Flash Player and be sure  you have your ad blocking turned off for that page to get started. Be sure you take a few minutes to click on the different note buttons first and get used to how they sound…don’t click the start button until you’ve sung them going up and down and trying out different combinations of notes! Singing them is really important.

Let’s Watch A Musical!

Good morning guys! I took last week off because it was our “Spring Break” and the new RPS@Home lesson plans went live last week, which include a weekly music lesson. Last Friday’s lesson was from me! I read a book about the woodwind family. If you missed it, you can watch it here. Then you can visit my playlist to learn about and hear all of the woodwinds in action, and this playlist to learn to make your own woodwind instruments at home.

Today, though, the weather outside is frightful, so I plan to stay inside and watch a musical. I’m going to share some of my favorite musicals with you here, and which streaming services have them so you can watch one (or two, or ten!), today too.


  • Newsies
  • The Sound of Music
  • Mary Poppins
  • Annie
  • The Muppets
  • Aladdin (the live-action version, so we can see real people singing)
  • A Celebration of the Music from Coco
  • High School Musical (ages 8 and up)
  • Camp Rock
  • Lemonade Mouth


  • Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
  • Mary Poppins Returns
  • Shrek The Musical (word of warning, it’s not recommended for kids under 9, this is not the same as the movie)

Broadwayhd.com (you can do a 7 day free trial and cancel after that if you don’t want to pay for it) They have tons of musicals, but here are my picks to watch with kids

  • The Sound of Music
  • Peter Pan
  • Disney’s Broadway Hits at Royal Albert Hall
  • Oklahoma (for bigger kids)

For rent on Amazon or Youtube

  • The Wizard of Oz
  • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Oliver!
  • The Music Man
  • The Wiz (another recommended for kids 8 and up)
  • Guys and Dolls (for ages 10 and up)


Let me know if you and your family watch a musical together today!

Let’s Sing The Blues!

Alright friends! Yesterday, I told you that we were going to learn about the Blues…first though, I think in light of the news that Bill Withers passed away this week, we should learn to sing Lean On Me. Take a few minutes to read about his incredible life, and listen to some of his other songs, too.

Ok, now back to the blues…if you signed up for BrainPop, you should definitely start with their great video on the subject.

If you’ve got little ones in VPI, Kindergarten, or 1st grade, keep it simple and sing the ABC Blues!

If you’ve got 2nd-5th graders, read on to get them working on their own blues song. Blues music came from black musicians out of Texas, Louisiana and the Mississippi Delta here in America. It had its roots in music slaves had sung, like spirituals and field hollers. When we learned about spirituals at school, we talked about how music can make us feel better when we are stuck in really terrible circumstances. The Blues talks about the hard times or bad feelings we have and gets them off our chests. Blues songs can also be about big feelings of love, but for today, let’s hear a song about a struggle you might be able to relate to:

So, to write our own blues song lyrics, we first need to brainstorm what gives us the blues. What are some things that grown ups just don’t understand about being a kid? What’s something your brother or sister does that annoys you? What’s something that generally makes your life feel hard?

Once you decide on a subject, start writing your lyrics down. The formula is to write one phrase, then repeat it again, and then finish off your thought.

So let’s say I’m writing “The Covid-19 Blues.” I might start out like this:

I’m feeling mighty lonesome, having to stay home all day
I’m feeling mighty lonesome, just having to stay at home all day
I know I gotta stay in, but I wanna see my friends and play.

Then keep writing more verses, so think about how you can say more things about your subject that make you feel sad, or grumpy, or frustrated.

Oh I’ve been washing my hands all morning, yes I been washing them all night
I have been washing my hands all morning, and I am washing my hands at night
My hands feel dry and itchy, but I know I’m doing what’s right.

Have you been washing your hands a whole lot, too? I hope so! It’s really important that we rub those germies off with soap and water. Let’s do one more verse…

I watched everything on Netflix, I have played all of my video games
Yes I’ve seen everything on Netflix, and I beat all of my video games
Lord I miss going off to school! This quarantine is kinda lame.

Once you’ve got some lyrics, it’s time to sing the blues. I sang mine along with this 12 bar blues backing track that gives you 4 clicks at the beginning and then you can start singing. There are lots of other blues backing tracks on Youtube that you could try, too.


Let’s Sing Some Jazz!

Hey guys! Today, let’s learn a little more about jazz music by watching this BrainPop video about jazz. (If you don’t have a free BrainPop account, you should totally sign up. This site has EVERYTHING. There are videos for every subject, and other resources to go along with them). Big kids can take the quiz afterward to see what you learned! If you’re in 5th grade, definitely do the challenge afterward! The related reading button is also great to find out more fun information, or try out the games (if you play the meaning of beep, you might want to look at the vocabulary button first!).

We already know that composers are people who write songs, but now let’s see what being a jazz musician or arranger sounds like! Jazz musicians and arrangers get to take a song that someone else writes and use it to create something new. Do you remember what improvising means? Look it up if you forgot!

All of this might sound kind of confusing, so let’s break down how it works. Let’s start with an easy song we can sing, and then hear what a jazz arranger and jazz musicians do with that same song! Try singing along to this song-A Tisket, A Tasket:

So now, an arranger can take a song like this one and rearrange it for a different group of instruments, and add things to or subtract things from the original song. Then, the jazz musicians who play it have the foundation of the original song there while they try new and different things on top! Think of it like a cupcake! The song is the original vanilla cupcake with vanilla frosting. The arranger rearranges our cupcake ingredients a bit to make a delicious chocolate cupcake instead, and the musicians frost it up with peanut butter frosting, or cream cheese frosting, or even just the good ole vanilla frosting with lots of extra sprinkles! Oh my goodness, I’m getting hungry! Let’s hear the jazzy version while we bake some cupcakes…

Listen to how the rhythm and the melody can change in this version sung by Ella Fitzgerald. What instruments do you hear now? Try singing along! Are the words all the same? 5th graders, can you hear the syncopation? Look in your notebooks to review what that means!

Now remember, cupcakes can have SO MANY different flavors, and our jazz arrangements and what jazz musicians do with them can, too! So here’s Natalie Cole singing the same song, inspired by Ella Fitzgerald’s version. What’s different this time? This one has even more improvising to listen for, can you hear it? Try singing along if you can!

So to sum up for today, I’ve got one more fun bluesy arrangement I think you’re going to enjoy! Remember from the video, jazz and blues music have a lot of things in common, including that blues scale you heard the jazzbot play. We’ll talk more about the blues tomorrow, but first…

Happy April!!!

Happy April and happy Jazz Appreciation Month! I’m pretty disappointed that I don’t get to see my students’ faces as you walk into my classroom listening to our new composer of the month. I kept this composer a complete surprise, she isn’t even in your Interactive Music Notebooks! Yes SHE! Today, take a few minutes to learn about and listen to Esperanza Spalding.

Here are the 4 facts we would be reading about her for each week of the month:

  1. Esperanza Spalding is a bassist, singer, arranger, and composer from Portland, Oregon. She was born on October 18th, 1984.
  2. She started playing music professionally when she was 5 years old. She played violin in the Chamber Music Society of Oregon. Later, she taught herself to play guitar and bass.
  3. She has won 4 Grammys, a Boston Music Award, and a Soul Train Music Award.
  4. She says that watching the famous cellist Yo Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as a kid inspired her to be a musician, too.

You can watch Yo Yo Ma on Mr. Rogers right here! I had big plans for our month of learning about her and making connections in every lesson to African History inspired by this song and music video:

So each grade level has someone different to learn about from the Black Gold history book!

For VPI, Kindergarten, and 1st graders, learn about Miriam Makeba. Learn some facts about her herelisten to her song Pata Pata while showing the steady beat on different body parts, and then learn this Pata Pata dance! Last but not least, bring back our  jazz vocabulary word IMPROVISE. When we improvise, we make music up on the spot. Can you improvise your own dance moves to Miriam Makeba’s music on the spot? Ask Alexa, turn on Miriam Makeba on Spotify, or try out this Youtube playlist that I’m jamming to today! Can you click along with Mama Africa to The Click Song? Don’t forget to find South Africa on a map! Did you know it has 3 capital cities? Learn to sing a song from South Africa:

2nd graders, learn about Nelson Mandela. Here is another Ducksters biography to read  or listen to about him, and a nice simple video bio. You can make connections between South African Apartheid and the unfair Jim Crow Laws in America. Nelson Mandela has a lot of different names, can you find out why they call him Madiba? Of course, you gotta find that handy dandy South Africa map and talk about those 3 capitals again! Don’t forget to look up South Africa’s flag before you print this free coloring sheet. There were a lot of songs written about Nelson Mandela, but this one is probably the most famous/fun to dance to song. Here’s another freedom dance with moves you can learn to do together as a family (this is always a favorite thing to do with our last 5 minutes of class, everyone leaves with this song stuck in their heads!) You can check out the 2 songs above from South Africa, too!

For 3rd graders and 5th graders, research Sundiata Keita. Again, I like Ducksters to find information, because there is a play button at the bottom of the page to read the text out loud to you! 3rd graders, I know you learn about Ancient Mali in social studies this year, so read all about it

5th graders, look at the song Balafon that we glued into our notebooks–remember playing this song on our xylophones at school? We watched this video of a real Balafon from West Africa first:

The Balafon plays a part in Sundiata Keita’s story! Read more about that here.

4th graders! Don’t worry I didn’t forget about you! Your job is to research Fela Kuti. I think you’re going to love listening to his music 4th grade friends, but don’t forget to read his biography first. I don’t even have to tell you what to do with this music, because it undoubtedly will kick off an Afrobeat dance party at your house! Try learning a song from Nigeria, too:

I wish we could play some Nigerian singing games together, check out all of these fun ones and pick one to learn more about and play with your family!

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 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!