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Monday, May 11, 2015

Los Machetes - Folk Dance Fun!

One of my strategies for surviving the last month of school is to get kids moving!  The popularity of Cinco de Mayo in recent years gives me a great excuse (as if I needed one!) to teach Los Machetes, a folk dance from the Jalisco region of Mexico.

The music that I use is Los Machetes from the album Mariachi Mexico by Los Toritos.  It can be found in the iTunes Store here, and on Amazon here.

According to one source, this dance tells the story of cutting down sugar cane during the harvest, and was created by Mexican farm workers who spent a great amount of time perfecting the use of the machete for harvesting.  Traditionally, real machetes are used in the dance, and can be seen in this YouTube video with professional dancers:

Here is the Safeshare link, if you would like to show this video to your class:

Another video of children performing the same dance steps:

Safeshare link:

Background Information on Los Machetes from
Jalisco is traditionally known for its Mariachi orchestra. A modern Mariachi band will include violins, trumpets, guitars, a vihuela, and a guitarron.  Lyrics, for the most part, are humorous and not to be taken seriously. The Mariachi orchestra plays the music for the of work dance, Los Machetes. 
Men usually wear a Mexican cowboy or charro outfit, which are black or brown suits with tight fitting trousers trimmed down the sides with a double row of gold or silver buttons called plata. A white shirt and rebozo, a hanging, folded tie, is also worn. A large hat or sombrero completes the outfit. Mariachi musicians have made this outfit famous. Women wear light and colorful outfits, typically with many ribbons and beautiful lace sewn onto the arms, bodice and hem of the skirt. It is an ornate adaptation of dresses typically worn during the 18th century. It is made so that the skirt will lift up to show a colorful petticoat underneath when dancing.

How I Teach Los Machetes
The dance must be a true folk dance because the directions vary from source to source!  Most of the dance directions credited below call for partners in a double circle formation.  They didn't sound that complicated, but I knew my students weren't ready for a partner dance, and their end of year exuberance would be a little hard to contain.  I decided to teach a different movement for each of the 3 sections of the music.  My simplified version of the dance directions are a combination of what read and what I saw in the videos above.

General Teaching Plan:  I teach the movements while they are SITTING in their spots.  Yeah, my students are pretty wild at this time of year.  Then we stand, and do the movements in our places while chanting the steady beat counts.  Add the music at this point, kids are smiling & counting, and delighted that their claps match up with the patterns in the music.  Some classes will not go farther than this, and that's OK! They are up, moving, keeping a steady beat, listening to world music, matching movements to that music, identifying form through movement, and identifying instruments that they recognize aurally.  There are many musical elements that a good teacher can assess right there.  And they want to do it again!

The next step is to move into a single circle formation and practice each move without bumping in to one another.  Add the music and enjoy!

Specific Movement Directions:  For safety and simplicity, we turn our forearms & hands into our machetes.  Here is a graphic to display during the lesson.  Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words!

A Section
Clap hands (machetes) overhead and walk 15 steps in one direction around the circle, turn.  continue clapping and walk 15 steps back to place, turn to center of circle.

B Section
Place one hand (machete) across waist as if you were going to take a bow.  Point the other hand (machete) at the GROUND.  Turn in a stationary, slow motion circle for 6 counts, return to original position and clap 3 times, cha-cha-cha.  Switch hands and directions and repeat.  The teaching chant sounds like this: Circle-2-3-4-5-6, cha-cha-cha, Switch-2-3-4-5-6, cha-cha-cha.  These circles are done 4 times for a total of 32 counts.  Always keep the one hand (machete) pointing at the ground.  This is an important direction if kids have seen either of the videos. The girls in the videos spin in circles, holding their skirts out wide and it looks beautiful.  My music room isn't big enough for everyone to hold their hands out wide like the girls.  We have to dance like the men with the machetes and point them at the ground!

C Section
Now comes the fun part!  The teaching chant sounds like this: over, under, over, under, front, back, cha-cha-cha.  Clap hands together, kick one leg and clap under, clap together, kick other leg and clap under, clap together in front, clap in back, clap cha-cha-cha.  Do this pattern 4 times, then repeat from the beginning.

The overall form of the music that is linked at the beginning of this post is ABCABCA.

Teaching folk dance is a great way to get students moving, listening to the music, and working together.  It can also be a great stress relief following all of this testing that is going on in the spring.  I hope you and your students will enjoy trying out Los Machetes.  Let me know how it goes in the comments!


Image Credits:

Dance Directions from other Sources:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Music Teacher Freebie Finds!

Today I am linking up with Noteworthy by Jen for Five Favorite Music Freebies!

Who doesn't love a freebie?  These fabulous teacher-authors have offered some of their work as freebies.  Let's see what we can find!

 Cooking Up Some Melodies (With a Side of Fun) by SingtoKids is a great way to get kids thinking musically.  I realize that I spend too much time asking kids to echo and "be the same as me."  I need to get kids using the patterns and melodies that we have learned to create their own music, and "be different from me."  Jennifer's songs are so creative, and the activities are wonderfully age appropriate.  This freebie is just a sampler of a larger product, which is also great!

Tchaikovsky Staggered Book Freebie by Rhythm & Bloom will be a great addition to my 3rd grade Nutcracker unit.  It has just the right number of pages and facts about Tchaikovsky presented in an engaging format.  The other benefit will be that this could go into my sub tub because we all know that I will get sick sometime during the fall, and my students will have the benefit of working on relevant and interesting project!

Personages with Long Ears Listening Map by Cowgirl Compositions is so cute!  The animated donkey, hopping up into the air will keep kids engaged!  The music is not included for copyright reasons, but I had no trouble inserting my own sound file on that page.  (I did have to click on the animation tab, and move (reorder) the sound file to the top of the list so it plays first, before all of the donkey jumps.)  My students will love this one!

"Toad"ally Awesome Music Awards by Music with Sara Bibee are great little classroom awards.  My students seem to need extra incentives in the spring time!  This cute little set has several frog-themed sayings, such as "You had a 'TOAD'ally awesome day in music class!"  To make this extra special, there are also blank cards and an editable PowerPoint version so I can personalize the awards just for my kids.

This Year Rocked! End of the Year Memory Book Freebie from The Bulletin Board Lady Tracy King is an easy to use activity.  Just print only the pages you wish to include, and you are ready for class.  While this is not music class specific, and could be used in a regular classroom, the cute rock music theme works well for me.  My district supports the arts with one fine arts field trip per year for grades 1-4.  I'm definitely using the "Rockin' the Field Trip" page!

Here is a freebie from my store!  Spring Flowers Animated Vocal Explorations PowerPoint and Worksheet will help you young students explore their voices in a guided manner.  I am convinced that doing regular vocal explorations, insisting that students use their singing voices, and find their high, light range has made my students better singers!  The animations include a butterfly, bee, and a grasshopper, and will only work when in presentation mode.  One printable worksheet is included to encourage students to create their own pathway and follow it with their voice.  

I hope you have enjoyed reading about these freebies!  Let me know about your favorites in the comments, and be sure to check in with Noteworthy by Jen's linky party to find out about more great freebies!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Making May Musical

Today I am joining up with the Totally "Tuned-In" Teacher for a Making May Musical link party in celebration of the TPT Teachers Appreciation Sale on May 5-6.  My store, along with most others, will be offering a 20% discount and TPT will add an additional discount when you enter a code (which we will find out soon) during checkout.

For the link-up, we each are sharing one item in our own store that we are excited about, one product from another music store and one set of clipart that we are excited to purchase.

I'll get started with a product that I am excited to purchase.  I recently added Tracy King's Recorder Workstations my wish list.

Tracy always has wonderful products, but I have not been a big fan of teaching recorder and especially letting students loose for individual work.  This year has been different in that we have been using the Quaver recorder materials and my students are actually playing beautifully!  Using Quaver has significantly cut back on all of those nasty intentional squeaks and my students have been engaged for far longer into the year than previously.  I am ready to do some final individual assessing and would love to have something productive for other students to be working on while I work with a small group. Recorder Workstations will be a perfect way to finish up our recorder year.  I love the idea of using graphics showing the recorder fingering as a way to compose music.  I can't wait to try it out!

I am excited about purchasing this clip art bundle for a couple of reasons.  First, the bundle contains a full 13 different sets of clip art and the bundle price makes it a great deal.  The variety of sets include frames and borders, detectives, best friends, kids with signs, animals, insects, stars & doodles.  Whether you are creating newsletters, programs, or worksheets for your own classroom or products for sale on TPT, these images will be useful to you.  The second reason that I am excited to purchase this particular bundle is that the proceeds all go toward the expenses of a teacher in need.  Diana Salmon, recently named "Teacher of the Year" for her school, was in an accident which resulted in the loss of her leg.  Read more of Diana's Story here.  While this clip art bundle may seem expensive at first, when I realized the purpose, I am happy to contribute this small amount to help Diana reach her goals!

As the year winds down, teachers and students alike will be looking towards summer.  I am excited to  have a way to bring summer into my classroom musically with this set of easy tonic and dominant tonal patterns in D Major.  At first glance, Summer Fun Tonal Pattern Hunt is a set of flash cards.  

It is indeed THREE sets of flash cards, one large set for displaying on an interactive white board, one half-sheet set for easier printing, and one composite page containing all eight patterns.  Why tonic and dominant patterns?  These are the two major chord functions in major tonality.  Many folk songs that we commonly use in our elementary classes contain only these two chords.  It is great for students to recognize these aurally and visually!

What to do with all of these pattern flash cards?  Herein lies the flexibility in this set.  Here are some suggestions for use.

  1. Begin by practicing the patterns with your students.  Play them on a melody instrument and allow students to echo.  Sing them with neutral syllables or solfeggi and allow students to echo.
  2. Sing the patterns on solfeggi and students answer with the function of the pattern: "Tonic" or "Dominant".  In this set, tonic patterns are various arrangements of do, mi, and sol and dominant patterns contain 3-pitch combinations of sol, ti, re, and fa.
  3. Display the composite page on an IWB.  Sing or play a patterns and students identify the notation.
  4. Print the half-sheet patterns and scatter them around the beach (classroom floor or walls).  Play or sing a pattern and students must find the matching card.  This game can be played with individual searcher, or multiple students searching at the same time.
  5. Teacher or leader call out "Tonic" or "Dominant" and students must find a tonic or dominant pattern and bring it to the designated area.  This can be individual or team play.  Bonus points if the student can sing the pattern back to the teacher!
  6. Print out the composite page (use grayscale printing for low ink version) and copy for students.    One assessment option would be to ask students to label each pattern as tonic or dominant.  Another option would be to sing or play the patterns and students would number the patterns in the order that they hear them.  For example, the teacher would say, "Pattern 1 sounds like this..."  Students would listen to the pattern, find it on their paper and label it "1".  
I am really hoping for some beach time this summer, but in the mean time I will be Making May Musical!