Posted in 3rd Grade, Autumn Activities, Halloween, Instrument Activities

Pass the Pumpkin 

Students in third grade played a game called “Pass the Pumpkin” and used xylophones, a rain stick, and the gong to accompany their singing! The song has a minor sound to it. In music, minor means a haunting or sad sound. The opposite of minor is major.

Posted in 4th and 5th Grade, Composing, Instrument Activities, Ukulele

5th Grade Instrument Compositions


Today the fifth graders created songs.  The directions were to use their ukulele in combination with any other instruments in the room to create and write down a song… and to have fun!!  The creativity happening with this activity was incredible.





Posted in 4th and 5th Grade, Instrument Activities, Pop Music, Singing, Spring Activities, Ukulele

5th Graders Rock the Ukulele

This year’s fifth graders have been practicing hard for their big performance at the upcoming 5th Grade Farewell, where they will be playing and singing Count on Me by Bruno Mars.  We have also been playing Kumbaya, The Lion Sleeps Tonight, One Bottle of Pop, and Somewhere Over the Rainbow.  We have some very talented musicians here at West!


Posted in 4th and 5th Grade, Christmas Activities, Instrument Activities, Uncategorized

Carol of the Bells

5th graders are learning about the song “Carol of the Bells.”  This song is a popular Christmas carol that was originally composed by the Ukrainian composer Mykola Leontovych in 1904 and is based on a folk chant known in Ukrainian as “Shchedryk.”  The song is easily recognizable for its four-note ostinato.   We listened to three different versions of the song:

The Trans Siberian Orchestra

Libera (a boys chorus)

The Pentatonix (an a capella group)

We then learned to play the tune on our ukuleles!  Next week we will try it with note reading and xylophones.

Here are the ukulele frets to use to play this song:

A string: 3  2  3  0   (x4)    7  5  7  3    (x4)   12  12  12  10  8    7  7  7  5  3    5  5  5  7  5     3  0  0  0  

E string: 0  2  4  5  7  8  10  12  10  8    (x2)

A string: 3  2  3  0    (x8)




Posted in 4th and 5th Grade, Composing, Fourth Grade, Instrument Activities

4th Grade Composition Unit

Fourth grade students are working on a composing unit. Students begin by drafting a composition using a plain piece of paper folded into 16 small boxes. Each box represents one BEAT. If a note is worth four beats, that note must take up four boxes. Students are using xylophones and glockenspiels to work with partners to draft their compositions. A finished draft looks like this:

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Students label each note with a letter on the xylophone. The downward and upward arrows signify whether a note is a higher (smaller key) note or a lower (larger key) note. The notes A and B do not need arrows because each xylophone has only one A and one B!

When students are finished their drafts, they then transfer their composition onto real staff paper. The finished product looks like this:


The final step in the process is to enter our compositions into a music writing website! We will be using the website to transform our compositions into masterpieces! Students have been encouraged to check out the website at home and create their own free account.  Students use a checklist to make sure they have finished all the steps…

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and the final, FINAL product looks like this:

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Below are some examples of student work!

Mrs. Morrison’s Class

morrison shea will bradelee the laser dance

morrison maggie and lily midnight dream

morrison emily and chiyu ostrich dance


Ms. Keeley’s Classkeeley joyful fields yuna abby matt m

Ms. Grattan’s Class

dreamcatcher caitlin autumn

a rainy day peter and ethan

what if it happened adam and brendan

patches lucas

aqua zone



Posted in 4th and 5th Grade, Classical Music, Composing, Fourth Grade, Group Activities, Instrument Activities

Beethoven’s Motive: The Fifth Symphony

In fourth grade, we learned about the life of famous composer Ludwig van Beethoven.  We then listened to the beginning of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and realized Beethoven used the same short rhythmic and melodic pattern throughout most of his piece.  Think (dum dum dum DUMMMMM!)   The pattern is , with a fermata (or hold) over the last eighth note in many cases.  We learned that this repeating pattern is called a motive.  We also noticed the first three eighth notes were usually the same pitch, and the last one usually went  down.  We listened to the first 25 or so seconds of the piece to see how many motives we could count: 14 in all!  Fourth graders then used xylophones to create their own motives.  When they were finished, they got to make their own composer biography, in which they described the motive they came up with.

photo 1-002

Listen to Ryan’s song using his motive here:


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Listen to Abby’s song using her motive here:

We all played our songs for each other (a motive isn’t song, their songs had to repeat the motive many times), and then watched this AWESOME graphical score of The Fifth Symphony.  I only intended to play the first minute or so, but they wanted to watch and listen to the entire 7 minutes 38 seconds!!!  See the cool graphical score we watched below.