Wednesday, November 26, 2014

La Semana de Colores/Colors Week

Over the past 7 school days, Heyer was celebrating colors in connection with an initiative by the classic PBS show Reading Rainbow. As a school we celebrated a different color each day. I was able to draft some of our 5th grade students, on short notice, to record a song highlighting the song of the day. I've included "Purple" and "Green" here.

We practiced the song for about 15 min. one day, and then recorded all seven versions of the song the next day. It was a great reminder how much ability our students have by 5th grade, and how much I need to keep exploring ways to push them forward.

Monday, November 3, 2014

"Las Hojitas"

This is one of my favorite songs during the fall. I found it last year on a wonderful site for children's music, Mama Lisa's World. The chorus talks about the leaves falling from the trees, and the verse section talks about how the wind lifts them up so they can dance. With older groups I have used it to make language connections, as the verse section is a metaphor.

This year I used it with our younger students and we looked at the main Spanish and English nouns in the song; Hojas/Leaves, Viento/Wind, Arbol/Tree. We found that all of these Spanish words have 2-sounds, and the English words, 1-sound. We then created and played rhythms using these words.


Friday, October 3, 2014

"Sansa Kroma", Part 2

This is a recording of "Sansa Kroma" by the 5th Grade-Group B. In addition to learning the song, students have been writing rhythms and creating percussion groups to accompany the song. The percussion group in this recording includes; djembé, shaker, and tambourine.

Below is a copy of a chart that I have developed for composing rhythm. I decided to gamify it by awarding "badges" based on the color of the blocks they use. Everyone has started by trying to earn their Blue Rhythm Badge (a rhythm made up of only blue blocks). Once they earn their Blue Badge, the yellow blocks will be "unlocked". The next badge they will earn will come from playing rhythms that are a combination of blue and yellow blocks; the Green Rhythm Badge.

I am hoping this creates motivation in students to accurately perform rhythms. I think it will also help me know how to better support and challenge each student as we move forward with different composition projects, since I will know exactly what level they are at, based on their current "badge".

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hard Work

I never get tired of hearing passionate people deliver the truth.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Sansa Kroma"

This is another West African song. It celebrates the unity, connection and compassion of each village. The lyrics translate to "Sansa, the hawk. You are an orphan, and so you snatch up baby chicks." According to Let Your Voice Be Heard! Songs from Ghana and Zimbabwe by Kobena Adzenyah, Dumisani Maraire and Judith Cook Tucker (World Music Press, 1967), "Akan children singing this song are reminded that if anything happend to their parents and they became orphans, they would not have to wander alone, frantically trying to provide for their own needs. They would be taken in by a relative or a family in their village."

The following activity isolated a rhythm in the song, that 2nd and 3rd graders called "short-short-long". We are now transitioning to standard music notation, recognizing the rhythm as eighth-notes and quarter-notes. Students in this activity found the one occurrence of the rhythm, played it with a partner, and then had to switch partners before the next time it played.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

"Funga Alafia"

Here are some of the first sounds of the year; a 2nd/3rd grade class singing "Funga Alafia". Enjoy!

Friday, September 5, 2014


The 2014-2015 school year has begun here at Heyer!!! All of our Harmonious Hawks, from Kindergarten all the way up to 5th grade, are digging in to the song "Funga Alafia"; an awesome song of welcome and celebration. Ask them to sing it for you!

"Funga Alafia" is a very simple, West African folk song, and what makes it great is that within it's simplicity, there are so many skills and concepts that can be taught; pitch, rhythm, movement, and improvisation, just to name a few. In addition, all of these concepts are expressed through the voices and bodies of a different culture; therefore allowing ourselves to understand how celebrations look and sound in different parts of the world.

Friday, May 30, 2014

"Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac"

4th and 5th grade students worked with Dizzy Gillespie's version of the song "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", called "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac". We then talked about the importance of a "groove" in popular music. Students wrote simple ostinato rhythms, and then chose one to use in a group of three. The combination of the three simple, rhythmic ostinati creates a groove, over which we added the melody and vocal bassline of "Swing Low, Sweet Cadillac".

Below is a progression of recordings that leads up to a full performance. First is the melody of the song. The second recording is the vocal bassline, using solfege. The third recording is the combination of melody, and vocal bassline. The last recording includes both vocal parts and a percussion groove.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

"Children of the World"

Hello K/1 Parents,

Below is a link to a recording of "Children of the World", a song students will be singing at next week's concert. There are some difficult words in the song, and this will provide an opportunity for additional practice.

Thank you,
Mr. Ziegler

Monday, April 28, 2014

"Take Me Out to the Ball Game"

Music has taken a baseball theme in 2nd grade. Students listened to "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" and found that there is much more to the song than what we hear at Miller Park. Students are learning the words "verse" and "chorus" to describe the different sections of the song. We are also organizing class in to a baseball diamond, with different activities taking place at each "base." Some of the activities relate to the song, and others help the students become more comfortable reading the treble clef staff.

Below is a recording of the entire song. Did you know about Katie Casey?

Wednesday, April 9, 2014


The 4th and 5th graders have been learning about "groove." A groove is a combination of simple rhythms to form a repeating pattern. A great example of a groove instrument is the drum set. It's easy to think of the drum set as one instrument, but it is really 6 or 7 instruments being played by one person. Each part of the drum set sounds a rhythmic idea that allows space for others sounds. When combined together you get the traditional rock, swing, or hip-hop grooves that we hear in music.

The 4th and 5th graders transcribed the groove of "Happy" by Parrell Williams; then composed their own. They also completed a Groove Assessment, in which they had to identify rhythms being played. An example is below. Can you find which rhythm is being played in the video; and, which instrument is playing it?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick's Day/Feliz Dia de San Patricio

Above are a couple of songs that students learned last week. The first is sung by the 1st Grade "Jungle" group. Originally, it was a rebel song used during the time leading up to the Irish War of Independence in the early 20th century. However, our use focused on the literal meaning of the words, "Oh, welcome home, now that summer is back." Students discussed what they look forward to doing during the summer, and we sang new verses based on those ideas.

The second recording was done by a group of 4th and 5th graders. "Wild Mountain Thyme" is one of my favorite folk songs, and we took time to identify some characteristics about folk music, in general. Students identified that everyone can participate in folk songs; the songs use instruments that are commonly played; they deal with topics that everyone can relate to (ie: love, nature, family); and the songs are learned by ear. These characteristics are true of all folk music no matter where they come from, or how unique the sound.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Congratulations, 5th Grade!

5th Graders performed a great show last night that began with a performance of the "Olympic Fanfare", played on xylophones. With the Winter Olympics having just been held in Sochi, the performance included Russian folk music and dances, as well as the song "My Day" by Danielle Bradbery, which was used in some of NBC's coverage. Each 5th Grade homeroom also had it's own medal ceremony for the 4-person bobsled event that was held in gym class. Thank you Mrs. Lahmann for helping with that! The medal ceremonies included the American and Mexican National Anthems. A video montage was created for each homeroom showing the events from Olympic week in gym class. Below you will find the video for Mr. Sykes' class. The music in the video comes from a movie series that is well-known for using this type of video sequence. Can you name the movie?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

"Himno Nacional Mexicano" (5th Grade)

Dear 5th Graders,

As we know, this anthem presents many challenges, both in the melody and the lyrics. Below is an accompaniment that we will be using in class. I hope you will also take the opportunity to practice at home as well.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Kindergarten, 1st Grade, and 2nd Grade students worked with this song this week. Our youngest students continued their work on keeping steady beat, by using the song for a circle game where they pass a bean bag. Our 2nd graders used the song to continue learning about form (how songs are put together). All students discovered the shape of the melody by moving a "Valentine" along the steps shown below.

Play the recording above, sung by some of our 1st and 2nd graders, and see if you can hear when each step is used?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Verse Compositions for "Snow is Falling"

This is a student-composed verse for "Snow is Falling". Students were to write lyrics that related to the subject of the original song. Then students composed a melody for their new verse using only the notes F, G, and A. Limiting the number of pitches helps students compose a more "tuneful" melody. It also leads to more success in notating their melody as they continue to work on reading the staff.

Next, students will learn how to use their new verses to create a performance of "Snow is Falling" in Rondo form.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Awesome Xylophone

Students have been using an app called Awesome Xylophone for a composition project. The project has been set-up with multiple stations. At one station, students learn to play a song called "Snow is Falling" that we sang in class. At a second station, students write lyrics that will become a new verse to the song. The third station, is for students to compose the melody for their new words. As students progress, a notation station is organized so that students can put their new verse down on paper.

Since the xylophones are necessary for multiple stations, the iPad's allow us to set-up another instrument station that is more personal; a setting that is very conducive to composition.

Friday, January 31, 2014

5th Grade Concert Rescheduled

Dear 5th Grade Parents,

Due to the "Cold Days" that have interrupted the school schedule, as well as last weeks professional development day, and today's field trip, we have lost significant instructional time. One such disruption alone can be managed, but the combination has prevented us from gaining the momentum necessary to present a performance that really demonstrates their capabilities. For this reason we are rescheduling the performance for Thursday, March 6th at 6:30pm.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me in person, or via email at,

Take care,
Jared Ziegler

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Tempo and Dynamics

Kindergarten and 1st Grade students have been learning about tempo and dynamics. Students have shown their understanding through various movement and writing activities. The recordings above are an example of creating the sound of a vocabulary word, rather than responding to it. The first recording is a class singing the song as they normally would. The second recording is a group of students who had to demonstrate the dynamic, "piano". After each group performed, the class would guess all together what word the group was supposed to demonstrate. This served as immediate feedback for the performing group. Sometimes the class responded unanimously, which let the group know that they were very convincing. Other times the class response included multiple words. In these cases, we talked about how the class came up with those words, and how the performing group might get a more unanimous response in the future.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

5th Grade's version of "Olympic Fanfare" taking shape

With just over three to go before the 5th Grade Concert, I thought that I would share some of the progress being made on our version of "Olympic Fanfare." This group of students has been giving up some recess time during the week to put it all together. However, with the weather being so cold, I'm sure it's not too much of a sacrifice. Next time we meet, we'll "watch the film" as the football coaches would say. While most of the individual parts are working, we need more time to get everything working as an ensemble. More to come...

Monday, January 20, 2014

"Sing About Martin

In commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, a group of 4th graders recorded the song "Sing About Martin" for today's morning announcements. Since the song is organized as a call and response, we decided to represent both of the dominant languages at our school. The call is heard in English, and the response in Spanish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Ostinato Creations

Kindergarten and First Grade students have been learning the word ostinato. Part of their work has been performing rhythmic and body percussion ostinatos to musical recordings. The first example below is an example of an ostinato composed with rhythm patterns. The second example is an ostinato composed using body percussion. The most important trait of an ostinato is the constant repetition of the pattern. For the video example below, however, students only played the pattern two times.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Music Descriptors

Students have been analyzing music in terms of dynamic (volume), tempo (speed), timbre (instrument or group), and texture (complexity). Below is a recording of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumblebee", an interlude found in his opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan.

Below is a student's analysis of the piece, the title of which was ironically misspelled. The first sentence is a great example of the first steps in using this vocabulary. This means that students are using a word like forte instead of loud and teaming it with the "parent" word, in this case dynamic. The second sentence is a good example of the next steps, because in addition to using the vocabulary correctly, this student is looking for a way to provide evidence to support the idea.

Friday, January 10, 2014

"Snow is Falling"

This is a very simple, short song about the weather. We haven't stopped here though. Just like flour, students are not treating the song as a finished product, but as an ingredient in something more. Using this song as a main ingredient, students are working on creating an accompaniment to the song using "word rhythms." The word rhythms reflect ideas connected to the content of the song, such as "drinking hot cocoa." By repeating these words to the tempo of the song, a rhythmic ostinato is created. Students have performed the word rhythms in three different ways; chanting, singing, and playing.