Celebrating Manitoba’s Culture and Arts – Our Spring Concert

This is my home:

And this:

And this:

And go HERE to watch more, because these videos are amazing, and show this space that I love, that some parts of my family have inhabited for thousands of years… Thanks to Travel Manitoba for the great videos showing everyone what a lovely place this is.

And there is an amazing recent video highlighting Winnipeg itself, here:

And thank you to Tourism Winnipeg for that great video!

Winnipeg has been making the news as a world destination for years, and I’m not sure everyone realizes what a gem we are in, because we are in it!  Check it out here, and here, and here, and here!

Lonely Planet has named Manitoba one of the top ten regions to visit for 2019!!

Manitoba is such an amazingly culturally diverse province, full of life through the arts: theatre, dance music, visual art etc… and because of this, I have wanted for years to have our concert theme show this beauty and energy, through our own community!

About a year ago, I started communicating with students and families (and staff) on a regular basis through the school community messages, my bulletin board, and in classes, asking if they wanted to share pictures or videos to be on the big screen during our concert, showing our own community out enjoying or participating in events… whether it be our festivals that take place in each town, or events from our arts groups, or cultural celebrations – families were invited to share their own love of our province.  I’m so excited by the pictures and videos people have shared, of beautiful dances, fun at concerts, or traditions (and I was honoured to be invited to a Holi Festival Celebration which was amazing)… I cannot wait to have this concert celebrating our own community and the province we live in.

There will be pictures and videos representing so many events, and songs from various languages and cultures representing Folklorama, Folkfest, the Jazz Festival, the Icelandic Festival, Canada Day, the Morden Corn and Apple Festival, Festival du Voyageur, the Lantern Festival and more!

Winnipeg New Music Festival:

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Learning about music from our own community is a HUGE part of the Manitoba Music Curriculum.  It is important to me to always make many connections to learning outcomes from our music curriculum.  This concert, while definitely involving all of the wings of the curriculum, is certainly centred around the contextual wing:

Screen Shot 2019-03-29 at 9.10.09 PM

It’s really quite a brilliant document for how to teach, and how each element of the curriculum need to work together for learning.  I’ve recently been reading “Creative Schools” by Sir Ken Robinson, who describes how learning should be constructed, and I marvelled at how this curriculum is exactly his description.

Excited to start putting all the pictures and videos together for this concert!

Our narrators are acting as travel writers visiting our province, learning about events across the province!

They come on stage between classe performances and talk to each other about each new festival or event as if they are visiting it for the first time, and reading about it in an info brochure about the event!  The music has been learned using the Orff approach to music education, which involved playing, singing, instruments, rhythmic speech, listening, and movement… Children learn best through play and experiencing concepts.  Thank you to @teachingwithorff for sharing this video on the elements of the Orff approach:

Every year for decades, schools have had “Portfolio Night”, where students demonstrate their own learning for their parents.  I often tell people – parents, students, colleagues – that these concerts are the “Music Portfolio Night” where families can see all the elements of music education, along with integration of other subjects, contextual learning, community building, critical thinking skills, concentration, confidence, etc on stage in front of them as a wonderful celebration of all they can learn through music.

More about Winnipeg and Manitoba!

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Music Teaches ALL Subjects!

So far today, and was only 11:30am when I started to write this piece, I have taught outcomes from the following subject areas:

Literacy
Numeracy
French
History
Geography
Social Studies
Science
Sustainable Development
Physical Education

I have taught the following important 21st century learning skills:

Collaboration
Team work
Problem-Solving
Critical Thinking

And where did I teach all of these subjects and important learning skills to prepare students for the 21st century?

IN MUSIC CLASS!

While I do not have to directly and openly teach outcomes from these other subject areas for this learning to occur (studies show that simply being in a regular music program through their school aids in the understanding of other subject areas), I actually do like to make these connections known to students, families, and the general public, because it is well known:

STUDENTS DO BETTER IN ALL SUBJECTS WHEN THEY EXPERIENCE THEM THROUGH MUSIC CLASS!

Music improves math understanding. Study: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/3346/aafac05cdc40e281291459b321634ce6deca.pdf

Music improves literacy skills. Study:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/06/180625192827.htm

Music improves understanding in ALL OTHER SUBJECT AREAS. Study:
http://www.pbs.org/parents/education/music-arts/the-benefits-of-music-education/

Music is better for your brain than ANY OTHER ACTIVITY. Studies mentioned:
https://www.inc.com/john-rampton/the-benefits-of-playing-music-help-your-brain-more.html

Music – The Remarkable Effects on Student Success.  Studies mentioned:
https://www.emergingedtech.com/2016/06/positive-impact-music-can-have-on-student-success/

And 20 more reasons that Music Education is important, just for fun:
https://nafme.org/20-important-benefits-of-music-in-our-schools/

This is what I did this morning alone… I still have a whole afternoon ahead of me to teach the beauty of music, the arts, culture and who we are as humans, while also helping students develop a deeper understanding of all other subject areas mentioned above:

Literacy:

Students in regular reading classes are reading one alphabet.  Often, they are using the Roman aka Latin alphabet.

In music, one is thinking about 2, even 3 systems of language at the same time.

Music alone is:

– notes
– rhythms

One has to read them simultaneously. When we are reading a music selection, we have to read it 2 times; once for rhythm, once for the note names… and then with an instrument we have to connect the finger positions to that. I often tell them that returning to their classroom to read regular texts must seem easy by comparison. Students are learning an entirely new language with music, which a complex system, as described above.  Understanding it involves using skills used with reading their standard language: following left to right, from top to bottom, looking ahead to see what the next symbol is.

A study about the immense improvement in reading skills when students have regular music instruction:

https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/8755123308322270

And another one:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/answer-sheet/wp/2013/06/24/music-education-helps-kids-learn-to-read-study/?utm_term=.0b0c970e466d

And another one:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3338120/

And… another one:

https://www.readinghorizons.com/blog/post/2010/03/22/the-connection-between-music-reading-and-language-development

Numeracy:

Reading notes also involves using math skills such as fractions (whole note, half note, 8th note etc… aptly named and easy to see the fraction connection) as well as patterns.  Music has interesting patterns because they can be ones seen regularly in a traditional math class (and language with poetry):
-ABAB, or ABACADA etc
-Increasing patterns

… But also compositional techniques such as a line that is repeated:

– higher or lower
– in retrograde
– lengthening or shortening the note durations (quarter notes become half notes in the repeated section)
– in canon

If you want to read more amazing information about the connections between math and music with composition, please check out this amazing blog, which I must look into further:

http://soundmath.blogspot.com/2010/05/composing.html

… so patterns have many more possibilities in music, and it is amazing that we can HEAR these patterns, or dance them etc…

I do have to say that I wrote above about when something (patterns, for example) is taught in a “traditional” math class.  What I mean, unfortunately, is a class we are used to, where math is removed from contexts of where it is used in real life, and put on a page in a textbook, or a photocopied booklet.  While it is important to do some examples to ensure that one is able to figure out math problems, the issue here is that this invites students to say “Why do we have to do this?” When math is seen in a context, this question doesn’t come up.  We are figuring out these fractions or we can’t create the frame for this art work (this just happened the other day). These fractions in these bars of music can also be seen as a number line, and we can hear them, sing them, move to them, and discover why this music is so enchanting (see HERE for more info on this – when my son and I clapped, sang, and danced number lines from his math homework).

French and French Culture
History
Geography
Science
Sustainable Development

I teach in a French Immersion school.  In my room, I love teaching about the world through music.  Because it is a French Immersion school, I am also teaching French, through music, through which I teach about the world!  All morning, of course, we are learning songs in French, the language of French, new vocabulary, French culture, because it is almost Festival du Voyageur. We also talk about the history of the lives of the voyageur, the companies, forts, locations (geography) around Canada connected to this topic. This is part of the Social Studies curricula in different grades. The Manitoba Music Curriculum is 1/4 about putting music in context, which is how all of these different subjects come up.  So a song like “J’entends le moulin”, I explain how a mill works (check out this cool video of a working mill: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFcnF1yS4o4&index=54&list=PL00D36BF7482F8AC3&t=0s  ), which of course uses gears etc and is part of the Science curriculum. While watching the video, we hear the sound of the mill working, and then sing the song!  We also talk about Sustainable Development, and how currently, many businesses and communities are returning to these sustainable ways to produce energy, such as harnessing the power of the wind, water.

A large part of the Physical Education curriculum is movement.  In music class, we learned dances connected to the voyageurs, such as the Red River Jig (which again involves learning history to see where this dance style comes from, and learning about the Métis people, Louis Riel).  I was just asked by the Phys Ed teacher to do special sessions for Festival du Voyageur next week during our celebrations, and I looked back at last year when I taught dances for this all day, and I had over 21 000 steps that day! Moving to music is a part of showing one’s understanding of musical concepts, and it gets your heart pumping!

All of this happened before 11:30am… and continues in the afternoon, and each day before and after!

Music truly involves so many other subjects, ideas.  It is the connection to cultures, history, and brings so much wellness to each day!

Wellness:

http://www.wxpr.org/post/music-medicine-healthy-brain#stream/0

Wellness… music and arts are so beneficial, doctors may begin to prescribe them:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/british-doctors-may-soon-prescribe-art-music-dance-singing-lessons-180970750/

Wellness and learning:

https://www.chalkbeat.org/posts/us/2019/02/12/study-arts-education-boosted-compassion-and-writing-scores/

Some of my favourite PD events have been when we bring all the subjects together to see how we can show the interconnectedness of each of these areas, our world, and our lives in it.  It reminds me of the story of the elephant, in which different people are trying to describe an elephant by only describing one part… and it ends up sounding like 6 different things entirely, because they are missing the whole elephant.  Teaching should be the same: interconnected, and seeing the whole picture.

Understanding Fraction Number Lines Through Music!

So! I have used fractions in music class before, for grade 4 and 5, to understand rhythms but also to illustrate fractions in a different way, because music and math are interconnected! Depending on how far you want to look into this fascinating connection, check out some amazing music and math with Vi Hart!

In this post, you can see my fraction cards… but I should really make a new post about all the different ways I have used them in class, for understanding rhythms and for connecting numeracy and musical literacy… Music and literacy and numeracy are all interconnected, and it is so important to have music specialists to show these important connections, because there are studies that show that music aids in the understanding of literacy and numeracy.

Case in point this evening! I was working on fractions, out of my child’s Grade 7 fractions booklet. I have never tried to link musical understanding with the Grade 7 math curriculum, because I teach K-5 students so I have made many math/music connections with those grades… but this is new. I know that he has had difficulty understanding number lines before as a way of looking at fractions… but then this happened this evening as I noticed the first number line was out of 8… as are many songs when one counts each of the 8th notes in 4/4 time. If I have lost you, then this is why music specialists are so important, because if they are reading this blog they are completely with me on this!! 😄 And – this is important because children are inherently musical, playful, and dance and move to music… so this understanding of connection is natural to them!

Because my child dances and sings and has a strong connection to rhythms, I immediately made this music connection with him to help him understand:

You can see I drew a pie with 8 pieces, as 8th notes… then we found each fraction we were to find on the number line, but also on the pie… and realized 10/8 is in the 2nd bar. I added clapping images and we clapped the fractions over and over… Then we looked at the second example out of 10… I said this can still happen and be musical and amazing so you can see my examples of Dave Brubeck, Take 5 on the paper:

And Turn the World Around – Harry Belafonte and The Muppets:

So we clapped these and then added these fractions to the number line and tried it! So fun!

He then was very interested and asked if there is 6 beats per bar, or even 1… So I told him about the piece Nimrod the Mighty Hunter by Benjamin Britten.  Go to 1.23 to see the masterful conducting and performance of this piece:

I had to conduct in a university conducting class where there was a bar (or two… can’t remember) with 1 beat in the piece! It kept changing! There is a whole math lesson in that piece I’m sure!

I found him 7 beats per bar, in an absolute favourite by José Gonzalez, called Afterglow:

It has 7 beats per bar! But also can be divided into 2, 2 and 3, which is how it would be conducted… but it is just so delightful in its asymmetry! So we danced to it because the longer 3 makes delightful options for extended movement.

Obviously this all may have taken longer than just generally describing number lines… but… At the end of all of this I asked if what we were doing with music helped and he said:

“Yes, it really did. I have never understood number lines before until just now.”

Think about that for a minute…

Gardner’s Intelligences: Musical, kinesthetic… Reggio Emilia, the 100 Languages, or ways children learn:

And more. Children learn in so many ways, and after more than a year of having number lines explained in a “traditional” way, here is someone who understands this concept through music and movement. It was a moment of awe for me.

There are studies that show that students score better in fractions when explained through music:

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120322100209.htm

And

https://wordpress.oise.utoronto.ca/robertson/files/2018/04/Music-and-Math.pdf

And

https://escholarship.org/content/qt0js732gf/qt0js732gf.pdf

Making these interconnections between subjects instead of teaching them in separate and isolated ways, learning through the arts… the arts on their own are so important for expressing that which is inexpressible through words alone, so music on its own as its own subject is indespensible. But, it is also important learning deeply about cultures, history, emotions, critical thinking, self-discipline, collaboration, science, and math and so many other areas…. its power should be highly valued.

 

Global School Play Day!

“Play is the work of childhood.” Jean Piaget

“Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children, play is serious learning.” Mr Rogers

I just happened to catch on Twitter last night that today was Global School Play Day! The idea is that children learn so much through play.

There was an amazing article in the Orff Canada “Orff Mosaic” magazine a few years ago which was all about unstructured play in the music room. It was very inspiring.

In music class, “playing” can be the beginning of composing. A few months ago when my wonderful grade 5 class had the incredible opportunity to work with the Composer-in-Residence, Harry Stafylakis ( https://prairiemusik.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/inspired-by-poetry/ ), one student asked when he had created his first composition. He answered pensively, saying it depends on if it was the first time he actually had a completed piece performed by a symphony… or is it way back when he would be experimenting on the piano as a child… that is so important that he included this experimentation as the beginning of his becoming a composer… and so experiment we did!

Today, I told children about Global School Play Day, reminded them to share, be respectful to others and the instruments, but then I just let them go! It made my role be more that of a facilitator; showing students how this or that instrument works, watching the different ways they interact with their choices… it was amazing!

Students would try new instruments, or play with a friend, or show how a new instrument works…

I loved how they were just glowing! Students would skip everywhere to the next thing to try! It reminded me of my own child, running and skipping to school for his portfolio night: https://prairiemusik.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/a-series-of-enchantments/ .

I loved the little duos and trios they formed to work together on something. I loved how they danced as they played… Children do not separate music and dance; they are interconnected as they should be. It reminds me of the whole point of the Orff approach to music education: that children learn music through play and movement… so giving them a chance to freely do so and get out of their way with no expectations or criteria they must follow is liberating for them and a lesson in how children can do amazing things without teachers telling them how to all the tine… I loved seeing educational assistants trying instruments too! And students who have assistants with them felt free to play in whatever way they enjoyed… I had several students tell me they had something that they created that they wanted to share with the class next time! Can’t wait!

what a glorious day! This should happen more often!

Learning Through Real World Experiences

As I see it, the aims of education are to enable students to understand the world around them and the talents within them so that they can become fulfilled individuals and active, compassionate citizens.” – Sir Ken Robinson, Creative Schools

I have been extremely inspired by the book, Creative Schools, from which the above quote comes.

Recently, my child had the opportunity to participate in a musical as a professional actor and dancer.  He is highly motivated by the arts, and is intensely interested in anything that involves putting them all together.  This was an amazing opportunity to experience learning in the real world with professionals, an opportunity that many children do not have.  The results were astounding.  As you can tell, learning about the world through the arts is of the utmost importance to me.  Sir Ken Robinson writes:

“The arts are about the qualities of human experiences.  Through music, dance, visual arts, drama, and the rest, we give form to our feelings and thoughts about ourselves, and how we experience the world around us.  Learning in and about the arts is essential to intellectual development.  The arts illustrate the diversity of intelligence and provide practical ways of promoting it.  The arts are among the most vivid expressions of human culture.  To understand the experience of other cultures, we need to engage with their music, visual art, dance and verbal and performing arts.  Music and images, poems and plays are manifestations  of some of our deepest talents and passions.  Engaging with the arts of others is the most vibrant way of seeing and feeling the world as they do.” Ken Robinson, Creative Schools.

Through this play, based on a book, and the experience of being in the play, my child experienced all 5 sections of the ELA curriculum in detail:
– He read the book first to prepare.
– He had to prepare a monologue, which he practiced many different times and with different people, thinking about the character’s feelings and motivations to be able to represent the character (and this ended up being his part in the show).
– In the ELA curriculum it says to use drama and role play to understand texts and feelings in them… Of course this was exactly what they were doing.
– He is aware of how the music, special effects and dance enhances the ideas in the play.
– He learned new vocabulary from various characters and songs.
– We discussed the clever poetry of the songs, the key concepts of the play, the motivations of different characters.
– He had to work with 2 different texts of several hundred pages: the script and the music score (which, as a music specialist, I will inform you is its own elaborate language) to prepare for the rehearsals. They became memorized (and during the play he had to memorize music and lines for a second show that takes place right after the first one).
– He had to think about and discuss his character with the director and think about how to portray the character in many different situations.
The synthesis of all of this would be clear to anyone watching the play on the stage each day.  A clear character with complicated feelings was displayed throughout.  He also kept a journal of his experiences, and wrote more than 20 or personal messages to other cast members.

Also addressed through this real-world context of this play were many elements of a Science unit on structures, machines, and forces through the “magic” and mechanics of the elaborate props and sets with which they needed to work during practices and in each show.  They would demonstrate their learning through talk backs after the shows when audience members would ask how this or that scene worked. He also made many connections to his class’ Social Studies unit that involved thinking about poverty, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, heros and dictators from the past… In our discussions we made many connections within the play itself, and also to our surroundings and events witnessed, or occurring while commuting to and from the theatre. Working closely with his school team was very helpful to know what his class was doing, and adding contextual connections to the play and daily life brought the learning alive.  The power of drama and role-playing heightens the understanding of these other subjects.  As you can see in my previous posts, I love to use the arts to learn about important ideas and subject areas like the environment, citizenship, math, etc.

As well, because of his excellent understanding of music, rhythm and movement (dance), I related his math learning to musical and movement ideas, for example with his current learning with fractions and number lines. Check out how music and movement were used to deepen math learning in an extraordinary way:

https://prairiemusik.wordpress.com/2019/02/10/understanding-fraction-number-lines-through-music/

What was interesting, was that during the whole time, people would say either “What are you doing about school?” Or “Wow! All the amazing learning that must be taking place through this!” The former tended to be those not directly involved in the field of education, and the latter tended to be those who are educators. There seems to be a feeling from those not directly involved in the theory and practice of education that learning must take place within the walls of a school building, and possibly at a desk, with textbooks. This is the type of schooling we have grown up with, that has been around since the industrial era, and was created for the type of labour and workers of that time, and requires conformity.  But, as Sir Ken Robinson says in Creative Schools:

“The problem with conformity in education is that people are not standardized to begin with…. Students’ individual talents take many forms and they should be fostered in similarly diverse ways.”

From the same book:

“Personalization means teachers taking account of these differences in how they teach different students.  It also means allowing for flexibility within the curriculum so that in addition to what all students need to learn in common, there are opportunities for them to pursue their individual interests and strengths as well.”

As we move more into the 21st century, education needs to change to match the skills needed for this new age: skills of creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, collaboration, adaptability, mental flexibility, and more. These 21st century skills were used on a constant basis throughout the run of the play, and used in any play. There are many programs, educators, and entire schools who are moving towards having students experience real-world learning, where skills from subjects are not compartmentalized into 40 minute periods with no context, and taught to students who are divided by age. I encourage you to read Sir Ken Robinson’s book, Creative Schools, to hear of many shining examples.

Here, in our own province, we have schools who are part of networks that favour contextual learning in the real world. Here are a few examples:

https://www.ibo.org/programmes/middle-years-programme/what-is-the-myp/

And

https://www.bigpicture.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=389353&type=d&pREC_ID=882356

There is also the concepts of unschools and homeschools that are becoming of interest. There are also alternative programs and flex programs from which my children have benefitted.

If you look back through my posts, you will see a brilliant example of master teaching … from my son’s alternative classroom… Bela Ferreira is an amazing teacher, weaving curricula together into amazing projects that engage her students, with an emphasis on the inquiry approach:

https://prairiemusik.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/a-series-of-enchantments/

My son has always been connected to these alternative ways of learning, where curricula are integrated into rich learning … his nursery/kindergarten teacher would have the most beautiful calendars made that had her students dashing to school for “plane trips” to Cuba, or a day in a kingdom… and the incredible art, or experiencing the life of a butterfly through improvisational dance… I was constantly mesmerized and inspired. His grade 4-6 teacher worked with them on a play about the body and all its systems that the students created and presented to us at a family feast… My other son did big learning projects with a play like this in his classes, too, creating boreal forests and longhouses in their room… He was just telling me about how they could do “passion projects”, and that he had done one on wolves and loved it. I’m quite sure “Passion Projects” and “Genius Hour” is mentioned in the Creative Schools book. This type of project is what Boyan Slat was working on when he was 16 in his class, when he developed the idea of an ocean array to clean all the plastic of the world’s oceans. Currently he is in his 20s, and has an organization called The Ocean Clean Up, and his ocean array just launched off of the San Francisco Bay in September 2018 for testing.

Not only are we (in our family) quite familiar with learning through connection with real life, and integration of subjects, but also working with different age groups instead of having students separated by age. We can all learn from various ages and levels of development. This is what my son is learning from his acting peers who are adults and mentors right now. It is amazing to hear about.

My school division had the opportunity to learn from James Nottingham, who shared the idea that we want to encourage students to take the interesting path, even if it means that it comes with a lot of challenge:

When I talked to my child about this he said he would choose the interesting path… and when I reflected on what he does each day, I realized that is what he does… but it is in a much longer day than the traditional school day. He leaves school each day and often goes to dance or acting class. This is not easy; it is physically and mentally challenging, and is his passion. The same can be said of my other child who chooses extra-curricular after school activities that are challenging and take up a lot of his time and even summer. They are both very motivated and curious individuals and their after school extra-curricular lives demonstrate this, even if this learning takes place outside of the school day. I believe that is the goal of the Big Picture schools and the IB MYP programs in our province, and alternative programs etc: find what motivates students and connect to and celebrate that through contextual learning experiences. What if we looked at all of our students and realized that their learning doesn’t just occur in the school walls? What are their passions? What motivates them? How can we connect to that?

I would love to thank the theatre and all of the cast and crew who helped my child learn so many new things, and learn about the world through the arts. I’d love to thank the backstage crew who make props, sets and costumes for showing him around the set and seeing how different props work and the critical thinking and problem solving involved to create stage “magic”. Thank you to his teachers for following him on this journey, and finding ways to support him while he learned about the world in a different way during this play… I enjoyed sharing the connections we were making to those class units, and the dialogue we shared about it!

What an amazing learning experience for all – and that is what we want: learning from amazing experiences that will last a lifetime!

Inspired by poetry

My students were offered a wonderful opportunity to have the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra Composer-in-Residence, Harry Stafylakis, visit our school to work with us on a composition!  He will then take the ideas from the composition as inspiration to create something new which will be performed by the WSO during their Adventures in Music concert series!

Literacy and Music:
The task was to compose a piece, using a poem as inspiration:
I looked at several poems in French as this is a French Immersion school, and found one that I could sense may inspire sound ideas, and seemed to suit springtime, called Le Ruisseau (the stream) from a book filled with poems, songs and children’s verses, called Receuil de Poèmes, Chants, Jeux et Comptines edited by Christophe Jaffke for the Waldorf School.

We started with selecting words that interested us, in the same way as was presented at the WSO workshop in September!  Such a great lesson!

I suggested that maybe some of the words could be shared as an idea of a soundscape.  We all created the soundscape of a jungle to see what a soundscape is like, and see how we could be inspired to use this concept in our piece. We talked about the symphonic poem form, and watched a few examples of symphonic poems to see how this form works in preparation for our creation.

We took the idea of the crooked path of the stream, and used instruments available to use to create this feeling of winding here and there, through the rise and fall of various instruments. They demonstrated ideas of how to represent the winding path of the stream. We used the pentatonic scale as I often find students think that the sound of pentatonic notes sound like water.  We had parts start at different intervals (the compositional technique of canon), like water that trips and slides along at its own path here and there.  There is a recorder part, where students are using the compositional techniques of echoing (repetition), and augmentation by extending the length of each note.

Some other words that jumped out at us from the next verse, the silver stream and the sound of the birds …. instruments were chosen for a ‘silver sound’.  We listened to bird songs to think about what they sound like, and how we could represent that with music.  The students created a little conversation between glockenspiels for this.

Science Connection, Environment Connection:
In another verse, the stream is referred to as azur, and talked about how pure it is, and how the bushes around it help it be so pure.  We actually took a moment to think about how this not only sounds lovely as an idea, but that actually, marshlands can be responsible for filtering waterways (such as streams) that can end up in places like Lake Winnipeg.  The filtering process of these wetlands and streams is needed to keep our freshwater pure and clean.

Literacy Connection:
To think about how to represent blue, we read ‘My Many Colored Days’ by Dr. Seuss, to see how colors can represent feelings and moods.  We decided to represent blue as a calm feeling, and use the bushes as represented by the wind passing through them…

ELA, literacy connection:
I spoke to them of giving the piece a form, such as rondo form, to keep bringing back the central theme of the stream itself.  After we performed all of these sections as ABACA (rondo form), I asked what they thought about taking all the parts and playing them together at the end.  They enthusiastically responded yes.  I suggested that this seemed natural, because the blue reflections, the wind, the silver reflections, the bird songs, the winding path – all of these are happening at the same time.  Throughout the piece we take a moment and look at each one in an isolated way to study it, but then in the end we can recognize they are all occurring together, just like in its natural setting.  This was when one of the students pointed out something incredibly insightful:  the form of this piece can be paralleled to the form of a novel they are reading in their class:  several different ideas occur in the book, and then they are all brought together at the end of the book.  This was astounding to me, because this was making the connection that music and literature can have similar forms.

Through our practices of the finished piece, we have talked about its calming affect, and how it actually feels like being in a forested area watching a stream pass through, with the birds etc, except that it goes beyond being a soundscape in that it uses melodies, canon, motifs throughout.

Geography, indigenous education connection:
I shared with them that I kept imagining a beautiful space I had visited recently, called Kings Canyon National Park in California, which has a cooling stream meandering throughout the sequoia trees next to the trail.  I uploaded the video so they could see this as an example of what the poet may have had for inspiration.  When I looked up Kings Canyon to share this video with the students, I made note of the indigenous peoples for whom Kings Canyon is their traditional territory:  the Palute and Yokuts peoples.

I wanted to share how I create lessons using the K-8 Manitoba Music Curriculum!  It has been around since 2007 in draft form, but became the official curriculum for our province in 2011.  You can find it here:  http://www.edu.gov.mb.ca/k12/cur/arts/framework/16

Below you can see giant butterflies, because the music curriculum (and all other arts curricula for our province) are based on the idea of a butterfly, and how all the wings need to function together to have a holistic approach to learning. As the one can read on the centre of the butterfly on the link above:

The Wings Working Together
As one looks from the centre of the music butterfly to the wings, a new set of relationships emerge. Each wing represents one of the essential learning areas into which the general and specific music learning outcomes are organized. While the body of the butterfly evokes a holistic view of the student as a young music maker, the wings articulate a range of learning outcomes that collectively support a path to comprehensive, balanced, and developmentally appropriate learning in music.”

To create lessons with the whole butterfly in mind, I like to be able to look at the entire butterfly, and all the SLOs (Specific Learning Outcomes) together.  To be able to do this, years ago I created a document for which each SLO is on the butterfly, on the corresponding “wing” or “essential learning area”:

“The essential learning areas are

  • Music Language and Performance Skills
  • Creative Expression in Music
  • Understanding Music in Context
  • Valuing Musical Experience”

However, this document was tiny, with each of the four wings on one 8.5/11 page.  Fortunately, I work with many brilliant colleagues with whom I have been sharing a PLN for the past several years – the French Immersion Elementary Music PLN of Louis Riel School Division.  My colleague, Linda Mandziuk, took my small sized document and expanded each wing to be a full page for each grade.  From there, I created these giant butterflies that are much easier to look at and plan with!  What you see, in different colours, are my way of keeping track of different SLOs that I have looked at with students throughout the year.  I use rainbow colours to keep track:  if I have done an SLO with a  lesson once, it is red.  If I use it again (which often happens because of course they keep singing, or following cues of a conductor etc etc throughout the year) then it is changed to orange, then yellow etc.  This way I can tell which SLO I have focused on a lot and others that I should find ways to weave them in, in the future.  It was explained to me in university courses in Manitoba, and through Mb education consultants, that the curriculum is a guideline, and not something to be “covered”, so while I do like to keep track, I certainly am not wanting to force a concept into a lesson where it may not fit.

Looking at this giant butterfly helps me give more richness and life to each lesson, breathing in creativity, student voice and reflection in ways that I may not have thought of if I were not looking at the whole picture.

The page below is a document created by Manitoba Education that I use to write down my ideas of what to put in each lesson… it is where I put in extra ideas to make sure I include each wing, and opportunities for expansion and imagination for each idea. A simple short song like “Doggy Doggy Where’s Your Bone” that I teach for so/mi/la and other concepts that would normally stay in the traditional learning of Language and Performance Skills now expands to Creative Expression including a B section created by students so they can add different animals, and decide how to change the elements of musical expression to “match” the other animals’ characteristics.  It expands to Understanding Music in Context where we listen to other composers of different times and places to hear their musical expression they used for animals, such as Carnival of the Animals by Camille St. Saëns.  Students feel quite accomplished when they can reach across the centuries to famous composers who were also creating music to sound like animals.  It expands to Valuing Musical Experience where we create criteria and self evaluate for if we met the criteria, etc.  It can expand anywhere your mind allows as you look at the SLOs while considering how to make this lesson BIGGER and more meaningful to students’ music learning.