Friday, January 29, 2010

The Tykes Get Traditional

In my new effort to keep up to date with lesson plans and what not I have also tried to keep up to date with topic links so that the songs and musical examples have something to do with what the tykes are learning. One of the reception teachers pointed out that Traditional Stories was a couple of weeks ago, but WHATEVER. It was still this half term and that's close enough for me!

I found this wonderful song. Well, I've known this song for ages- but I found wonderful lyrics for the tune. Do you know "What do you do with a drunken sailor?" I love that song, I really do.

These words are for traditional stories. For instance (this is an example I made up and in the style of the lyrics but not from the actual song which is, I think, copy written)

I have a basket and skipped to Grandma's, I have a basket and skipped to Grandma's, I have a basket and skipped to Grandma's, Do you know my story?


I sold our cow and got three magic beans, I sold our cow and got three magic beans, I sold our cow and got three magic beans, Do you know my story?


My hair gets longer day by day, my hair gets longer day by day, my hair gets longer day by day, Do you know my story?


We wear our shoes out every night, we wear our shoes out every night, we wear our shoes out every night, Do you know our story?

Clearly I could keep doing this all day, but I'll stop now.

Some of the stories chosen in the real lyrics (that are on the CD) are less popular, so I started off the class by listening to the song and then finding out if they knew all of the stories. This turned out to be a fascinating exercise since what ended up happening was that in each class there were a couple of tykes who would volunteer to tell stories.

Have you heard a four or five year old tell a story? It's amazing. There are no "um's" or "ah's" and strange things are important- there isn't really any dialogue, but the structure of the story is all there. They understand how these things work. They know the stories. Well, the ones that they know, they know. Would you remember that Jack bought the beans from an old man? I mean, I think if I were telling Jack and the Beanstalk I would have remembered that there *were* magic beans, but not necessarily how they came to be.

The difference in storytelling style was made abundantly clear when I got to the third and final class because no one in that class knew the story of Rumpelstiltskin. It was up to me to tell them the story. Do I really remember how Rumpelstiltskin goes? No. I mean, sort of? My version was full of "So he was like 'blah blah blah' and then she was all 'blah blah blah'" Which is silly. And hard to follow. And not clear and concise and full of the important things like the tykes' versions were. Also, does Rumpelstiltskin burst into flame and then end when he is jumping up and down so mad at the Queen/peasant girl? Because in my version he did and the other teachers disagreed...


Last week was very gamba heavy. On Tuesday I did a gig for an art opening. I was playing background music that I was improvising on my tenor gamba. (Very historically accurate.) I was prepared to do about 20 minutes but then the speaker was late so I ended up playing for an hour.

Do you know how terrifying playing improvised music, by yourself, for an hour, without stopping is? Can you tell from the photograph how much I'm panicking? Although the music got embarrassingly repetitive by the end of the hour, it was still pretty exciting to do. It was like when I did that three mile long crew race in the single shell. Okay, so I came in half an hour after the other person- but I didn't get disqualified. If I had stopped at all I would have been. It was like that- long and tiring and draining- but I DID it, which is pretty darn cool.

Then, on Friday the gamba consort had our world debut. The school was having an open day for prospective early music students so there were a number of concerts. Ours was titled "Six Hundred Years of Contemporary Music" which is the GEEKIEST thing ever. The medieval ensemble played (with a drum! with a gut snare! how cool is that?) then the consort played, there was a recorder sonata, some Handel arias, and a lengthy piece on the new piano forte. It was a fun concert. I realized that I must not have performed much recently because I was nervous and I'm never nervous. Well, rarely.

On Monday consort was back to our sight reading ways. I love reading from facscilmilies. It's like a fun puzzle- is that random dot a smudged bit of important musical information (like, a note?) or is it just a dot?! Only time will tell.


1. Lavender scented tissues. I needed some kleenex (this is me we're talking about, I always need kleenex) and the nearest kleenex was in Marks and Spencer's where the cheapest tissues were lavender scented. Doesn't that seem odd? Think about it- if you need a tissue- can you smell?

2.I went to Oxford today to go visit my friend Ken and to see the Steampunk exhibition at the History of Science Museum. On my way there I found a small Doctor Who umbrella that had been lost on the tube. I carried it around all day and used it as an excellent gesticulator. It was not a good cane, however, at it was approximately one and a half feet high. I feared that the child who had lost it would want it back so at the end of the day I left it on the same tube line. Probably a better way of getting it to lost and found would have been to give it to a TFL worker, but oh well. Next time.

3. On Thursday I went to my co-worker's house for supper but was *so* hungry on the way there that I bought a small sandwich from a kiosk stand at Moorgate station. That sandwich turned out to be filled with the best chicken tikka I've ever tasted. From a random little kiosk that mostly sells chocolate bars. What? How strange is that. But sooooo tasty.

4. I took the bus to Oxford. It was, confusingly, called the Oxford Tube (it's not a tube. It's a bus. Don't be silly.) I got a little car sick on the way up (unusual for me) and fell asleep on the way back. The way back was delicious, actually. It was warm and cozy and I had two seats to myself so I curled up and fell asleep in the gently rocking darkness.

5. The steam punk exhibition was so cool. It was very small, but some of it was so amazingly intricate and delicately crafted. Tom Banwell was one of the artists. These photos don't do it justice, but the link there should go to a fire helmet that was luscious with the leather work. Gorgeous. I also really liked Sydney Padua's comics.I bought this mug because I thought it was so funny

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

KIDS. They're squirrely.

There isn't a spell check for the title so hopefully I've spelled "squirrely" correctly. I mean, I don't suppose it is a real word anyway- but what do you think- one L or two?

We're learning about "fast" and "slow" today. (As exemplified by horses and tortoises!) The theme for this term is Saint Saens's Carnival of the Animals which is handy since pretty much everything I'm teaching has to do with animals anyway.

Classroom management wise Tuesday is my more challenging class. There are some clever boys and really probably what they should be doing is wrestling instead of coming to music class- but their parents have signed them up for music class and so here we are. And they're *clever* they can do what I ask them to and catch on to concepts *so* quickly, but only when they're paying enough attention to listen and not talk while I'm explaining.

The lesson plan on the board was helpful once again- and I was able to approach crashing into each other and being snarky in French with a quiet voice and lots of eye contact about 75% of the time. So...good?

It's the beginning of the class that is the hard part for me. They scramble up the stairs to the room and then take off their shoes in a jumble before sliding across the floor in their stocking feet and, you know, crashing into each other.

By the end of the lesson they're paying attention and doing excellent work. Case in point- I was going to bring up quarter and eighth notes again- but this time on the board to get them to associate the written with the spoken (which we've done a lot with using our rhythmic solfege)but then- they just started reading it straight away. So there we were- I was at the board and they were all clustered beneath my elbow (they're short) and I was scribbling and erasing as quickly as I could and calling on different kids to see if the could all read them and then having the whole class repeat each rhythm back to me three or four times while I kept a pulse so that they were saying the words in the correct time instead of just in the correct order. I had to rush off as soon as class was over so we didn't get *much* in to writing their own rhythms on the board- but MAN. That's totally what we're starting with next week.

Tuesday with some Tykes

The thing about the tykes is that they get older. And the other thing about the tykes is that there is a lot of them. So the third thing about the tykes is that while I am honored that when they are in Year 1 and see me in the hallways and they say "I love you Miss Casey!" I am also guilty of having no clue what their names are. Sorry kiddo, but I remember that I love you too! Whoever you are!

Today I played with the laminator. Oh boy did I ever play with the laminator. Some things to keep in mind about the laminator:

1. Don't touch the plastic right as it comes out of the machine. It just got melted together. It is *hot!* Please, also, don't do this three or four times in a row- completely failing to learn the "it's HOT" lesson.
2. It is helpful if the laminator isn't pushed up against other things- this leads to the freshly laminated pictures coming out wrinkled and folded and makes for a difficult time when cutting the pictures apart.
3. Laminators are awesome. They make things all shiny and durable.
4. If you make your love of laminating known, you may be specially chosen to do a big chunk of the P.E. department's laminating next week.

I made a set of cards in order to do composition with the three year olds. Well. "Composition." I spent lunchtime forcing a harried group of exhausted teachers to look at my drawings and tell me if they could tell what they were. (Why do they put up with me? I don't actually teach on Tuesdays, I just do computer stuff and planning, and I must be *so* annoying to be around 'cause I'm all bouncy and doing art projects and they are *tired.* Miss Anita calls it my "play day." Which it is, so fair enough.)

I'm going to use the cards for a piece of music that has clearly defined sets of 8 beats. The cards are a set of actions with pictures of things like patting your knees, jumping, clapping, etc. (also a blank one! A laminated blank one so that we can use a dry erase marker on it! GENIUS!) So tomorrow I'm going to introduce each action with its card and then the tykes will get to A: choose what goes on the blank action card and B: choose what order the cards go in. See? COMPOSITION! Sort of.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Things I've been doing.

I've had a social week so I thought I would share some of that with you.

First of all- my new flatmates are settling in nicely. The only issue so far is that Jenny used to work for Cutco and so has a large collection of very sharp knives. This is hardly a problem since having nice knives is a very good thing indeed. However- her collection of nice knives combined with my (much smaller collection) of nice knives means that our cutlery drawer is now a: overstuffed and b: dangerous to put your hand in to... It 's also been interesting figuring out what I've told them about how the flat works and what I haven't. For instance- the power went off for a while on Sunday because I hadn't remembered to point out that someone ought to put more money on the little key thing that is how we pay for electricity. Oops. Also- those weak pathetic showers that they've been taking in the morning? Yeah, there is a water pump that makes those all nice and cozy, but the switch for it is in the living room. (where all power switches relating to the bathroom should go, don't you think? So handy and sensical.) Jenny and I have been having some good bonding moments (talking till 3am one night, oops.) but John Henry is still quiet, we'll see how that continues on. He is a philosopher after all.

I saw a show last week- one of the technical theatre students at GSMD had noticed that the theatre was free for two days at the beginning of term so he finagled his way in to getting to use it. (Impressive.) The show he ended up producing is called "The Last 5 Years" and is one of my favorite musicals. The instrumental parts are all soloistic and there are themes that come back in just altered enough forms for it to be tremendously exciting musically as well as having excellent lyrics. The show is about a couple (only 2 actors in the whole thing) singing about the last 5 years of their relationship- but the man is singing forwards in time and the woman is singing backwards- so they never actually sing together. The whole show is one solo after another- it's a tough show to pull off. Anyhow the whole thing was student led and performed (though they did get the main director for the acting department to direct the show- again, impressive.) and it was FABULOUS. I've never seen a show where the band and the actors were more integrated. And authentically, organically integrated too. It was a joy to watch and I feel privileged that I got to see it. (Seriously, it was impressive.)

The dinner club folks have apparently given up on cooking and so this time we got together at an Indian restaurant on Brick Lane along with another American couple that Dave met on his plane ride to London: Anna and Trevor. They are wonderful and the six of us spent most of the evening chattering away and having three threads of conversation run at once. It was fun and had the added benefit of being relatively easy to get home from for everyone. (That has been a standing problem with the dinner club group- whose house to have supper at! No one really wants to be the person who is always traveling.)

On Saturday I went with Rob and Gwen to go see a friend of theirs play a gig in South London. Tom Norris- who is a violinist with the LSO but has taken a year off to try getting his rock band off the ground (check him out on iTunes, guys!) it was an interesting gig because he was just one of four bands and man was his stuff different from everyone else. The band has only been playing together for a short while but they were tight and it was fun to watch them. Also, it isn't often that you see an instrumentalist warming up on Paganini before a rock show....

Consort is tonight- we have a concert on Friday for the Early Music Open Day at school. There are only two legitimate students in the group, but that won't stop us! I've also got my art-opening-gamba-solo-background-music gig on Tuesday so wish me luck on that one!

Oh, and my mother will be pleased to know that I have been applying for more work. Only two jobs so far, but progress! That still counts as progress

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snow Day

I was so on top of things this morning- I actually got out of bed when the alarm told me to (okay, the 3rd one, but baby steps, okay?) and took a shower. I had my clothes all laid out, my bag all packed, and a lesson plan all rarin' to go. I even made breakfast! And washed dishes. And all of this was on time! I was going to be able to do the last leg of my journey to school by walking through the park (which is my favorite way to get to school) and just to check and make sure I was still on time for everything I checked my phone...where I found a text message saying that school is canceled.

So here I am, awake and aware FAR earlier than I would be by my own volition, and I'm not entirely sure what to do with myself. Clearly I am going to have to keep writing lesson plans. But maybe I'll dry my hair first and eventually try to figure out whether or not I have the kids this afternoon.

It's a piddly amount of snow too. The tubes and buses are running. But school? School is closed. Lame.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I wrote a little list

Things I have been meaning to tell you about:
1. I eat like a five year old. Lunch? Tuna sandwich and carrot sticks (and cucumber!). Dinner? Bowl of cereal, a hand full of olives, and some chocolate pudding.

2. I have new flatmates! Ella is settling in to Dublin for her study abroad 5 months and so Jenny and John Henry have moved in to her room. Jenny is a technical theatre student at school and is, surprisingly, from Tacoma. John Henry is a philosophy student and from Sweden. They are very nice and we managed to get the keys all worked out in spite of the fact that my initial attempt to make them keys resulted in four inner door keys and no outer door keys. Oops. They are still moving in so I do not yet have any concrete things to tell you about them. More will come, I am sure.

3. Something is wrong with my keyboard that is preventing me from using my apostrophe hence the lack of any contractions in this particular post. I do not actually talk like this when I am speaking.

4. One Wednesday of last week I DID in fact work. In spite of arriving in London around midnight on Tuesday-Wednesday. (I apparently also cannot do slashes either. What is up with my keyboard?) I managed to get through that full day of teaching very well indeed. Yay! Mostly what I remember is that during garden time we had to keep telling the tykes "Do not kick over anyone elses snowmen!" and then at the French school I *almost* did not have any students. And then one showed up... but I manfully came up with a lesson plan for my one, mute, four year old. Fortunately a couple of the other teachers came and hung out with me and the four year old (excuse me. FIVE year old. He had a birthday.) so that was nice and I got to use my new music books including one that matches up works of art from the Metropolitan museum with movements from various pieces. I got A. (the FIVE year old) to listen to "The Elephant" and draw an Elephant on the board. Success!

5. Consort has six members! We're going to be playing for the Early Music open day next week so we have to pretend like we actually practice instead of just sight reading music together. Good thing we're so good. (And suddenly my apostrophe/slash works! Fantastic! (Do you like how this is a real time analysis of what is going on with my computer? I just want to keep ya'll precisely up to date.))

6. I love my yoga class. There were only three of us today which meant we all got bunches of personal attention which is just SO good and MAN do I miss yoga when I don't have it. That being said I'm still in my yoga togs and now I'm a little bit chilly. What solution should I go with? Put on another sweater? Go get a blanket? Turn up the heat? Stop eating cereal for dinner?

7. I'm listening to Sons of the Never Wrong and if you don't know who they are- you should check them out. Fun fun band from Chicago. They make me happy.

8. In one week I'm playing solo gamba for an art reception. Wish me luck, I'm nervous about it. I'll just be background music (this is a good thing) and I'll be improvising "light and gentle music" so that should be good.

9. I'm still working on my lesson plans for this term which *technically* were due on Monday but considering that last term I finished them half an hour before we left for our end of term Christmas Lunch I'm really doing quite well: I have the next two weeks planned. (Two weeks if you include tomorrow...) But I'm all excited about it right now!

We're working on keeping a pulse (being able to hear where the beat is); the difference between staccato and legato (so far we've only done staccato- frog jumps! Legato is going to be snakes); and we're going to start beginning composition tomorrow by linking the topic that they're learning about (nursery: hibernating animals; reception: traditional stories) and using those words to create rhythms (i.e., hedgehog hedgehog bear door mouse OR Cinderella Jack Goldilocks Jack) I have pictures of all these things so they can arrange the pictures themselves and write the songs/rhythms that way. Clever, right? Like I said *I'm* excited about it.

10. I finally had a solid feeling session with my Tuesday kids. The Tuesday kids are...a challenge. Over break I read a bunch of early education books and met with a very experienced elementary music teacher which was really helpful in terms of coming up with strategies for dealing with that group of kids. Things that really helped today:
*writing up the lesson plan on the board before they entered the room- I don't know if it helped them so much, but I felt much more secure being able to look up and SEE what we were going to do next. To know that I had a really clear plan for what the class was going to look like.
*writing their names on the board and putting up smiley faces when they were being good/paying attention/listen ting and X's when they were interrupting/calling me names in French (thanks, Kid.)/screaming/rolling around on the floor. Oh. that makes them sound much worse than they are, though truthfully they do do all of those things. But not by the end of class! By the end of class I honestly and sincerely thanked them for being so good and paying such good attention. So lets keep that up, yes?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Back In London

What a journey that was!

I started on the 4th in Seattle. Laine took me out to breakfast before driving me to the airport (thanks Lainey!) and I flew to Chicago where I had a 12.5 hour layover. Now, normally that would be just a huge pain- but in this case my dear friend Angela (whom I haven't seen in over a year and a half) lives there and not only did she put me up for the night- she also picked me up and dropped me off at the airport. That's love that is. 6am through the snowy streets of Chicago? We had a wonderful time chatting the night away and even managed to get some sleep so that I was reasonably rested for today's journey to London.

I was worried about security and how it would work with this being a connecting flight rather than starting off from Chicago initially but it was no problem at all and I had plenty of time to hunker down with my book at the gate. I was so hunkered down that I almost didn't notice Sarah Titterington sitting on the other side of the counter for the gate.

How cool is that? She was flying from Kansas and so we spent part of the plane ride looking at photos of a recent wedding that she and Dave went to right after New Years and catching up about the holidays.

The flight was supposed to get in at 10:45 which would have been just fine with the tube schedule. However, due to weather in both Chicago and London (it was snowing both places) we were an hour late. Which meant that the tube and the Heathrow Express were both shut down for the evening. Ridiculous.

I had spent part of the flight working on drawing from a photograph I found in the flight magazine and at one point was approached by a man sitting behind me,

"don't draw from someone else's work- you'll create bad habits. Draw from life."

"Well. Excuse me." I thought while his wife murmured "He used to be an art teacher"

By the time he came back from the bathroom I had got over whatever imagined slight there was and turned around to ask him more about what sort of bad habits that would create. I don't know that I totally remember the answer but we got to chatting. They're a lovely couple- Jeff and Amy and they're stopping off in London for two days before heading off to work on their foundation in Africa and see mountain gorillas and Jane Goodall. How totally neat is that?

It was good that I got talking to Jeff and Amy because that meant that when we arrived and discovered that there wasn't any useful public transportation it meant that I was able to share a taxi with them. There were four of us in the taxi so it was only 20 pounds for me to get from Heathrow to Kings Cross (near their hotel) where I caught a night bus that slushed it's way through the snow and got me home about a quarter to two.

I'm not sure if the snow is going to prevent school or not but we'll see soon. For now I am off to sleep for a bit of a nap before a (potential) full day's work.