Issue 147: Welcome to the Jungle


How have you survived the first week of term?

I’ve had a few surprises along the way, but it has been a good week. Not least because some of the ‘Christmas Kilos’ have started to melt away already, probably due to increased activity levels after a couple of weeks of sitting around eating and eating!

So, this week, I am posting on ‘So-Mi’ songs, Drinking, and the Recorder-less recorder lesson.

I’m also starting to put together a Samba page, pulling together all the samba posts, rather as I have done for Ukuleles. It’s not up yet, but will be coming soon.

Fingers crossed for week 2 of the term…


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Issue 147: ‘So-Mi’ songs

Songs that use these two notes are the bedrock of early lessons in almost any instrument; clarinets – use G and E. Piano, use F and D. Ukuleles, open G and E strings. Descant recorders, C’ and A. Or G and E when exploring the lower notes. Not forgetting playing singing games to develop pulse skills.

Anyway, the next problem is finding songs and games using just these two notes. So, Look what I have unearthed!

This website is worth a good look. I found this page when I googled “so mi songs” or something similar.

Bethsmusicnotes has got a lot of fun-sounding songs and games, and some interesting Early Years Lesson Plans – check out Macaroni and Hippety Hop to the Candy Shop. Capuchin plays the recorder

I’m about to start teaching Year 2 recorders, so, as well as my tried and trusted Recorder Boppers Starters resource, I’ve a whole load of new ideas to tinker with. Job Done. Very Pleased.


holly divider

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Issue 147: A Recorder lesson, but with NO recorders

I was half expecting this to happen; first lesson with a new year 2 class, and the recorders weren’t ready. They were going to re-use the recorders from last term’s lessons, but what with one thing (Christmas Nativity Shows) and another (Christmas Carol Concert) and the total exhaustion that accompanies the end of term, the recorders had been shoved in a box and abandoned.

I am really pernickety about sharing recorders and disinfecting them if they are to be reallocated. I like to do them in baby-bottle sterilizing solution –  plastic recorders, obviously – if it is good enough for a new-born baby, it must be ok for a child. Think vomiting. Diarrhoea, Cold Sores. Mouth Ulcers. Ugh.

Anyway, back to this class – what to do?


Chat about what a recorder looks like, play it to them, let them all have a look (‘but DON’T put it in your mouth – you don’t want to catch my nasty cough, do you?’ a sea of horrified faces and solemn shaking of heads.)

We did a nice listen and copy chant called ‘Boom Chicka Boom’

and then I taught them the little so mi song ‘Star light, star bright’.Star Light


I drew a horizontal line on the board and wrote it out like this:

star              star               first               see to            .     

.          light             bright              star  I               night


and showed how the position – high/low – of the words matched the pitch in the song. We sang it through a few times, following the pitch movement with our hands, and then I started switching positions for some of the words;


star              star    bright     first               see to  night          .     

.          light                                     star  I

making a new tune. We sang this, and other versions, and then changed the words, using suggestions from the children, and asking them which words should be high and which low.

I              pizza              lots and             cheese.    

.     like               with                   lots of

Finally I handed out pencils and paper, and the children set to work. All they had to do was draw a line across the page, and write their words above or below. A couple of children squished the words all together to begin with;

Snow very fast I make a

is falling think I’ll man

but as I went round the room I could untangle this. On my recorder, I played their compositions using A and C’ which are the first notes I play to teach them, once they can get their hands on recorders, that is. Fingers crossed for the next lesson. Meanwhile, the children composed lines and lines of so-mi song, which they are keeping safe until they learn the notes.

You can run this lesson using any instrument, or chime bars. So long as you know which notes make a ‘so mi’ pair. Here are a few pairs for starters, higher note (so) first; F D, G E, C A, D B. To make it ‘topic-based’, just specify the subject matter for the composition. Easy.





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Issue 147: Enough to make one drink

Just a reminder.

I ended up teaching for three hours the other afternoon, instead of just the half an hour I was expecting.

I had planned to have something to drink (hey, I mean tea, or coffee, or water. What were you thinking?) before I started the half-hour lesson, but interruptions along the way meant that it was either get the music copied or have a drink. Photocopying won – after all, in thirty minutes I would be back in the staff room.

Not so.

As I trekked back down the corridor, a teacher caught up with me to let me know that the first year 3 class were ready for me. WHAT? I had been told that they were starting next week.

Not so.

I retraced my steps to face three back-to-back classes of ukuleles, my mind racing as I created the plans for the 40 minute lesson. Halfway through the second lesson, I asked the TA (thank heavens for a TA!) if she would mind fetching me a glass of water. I had thought I was going to manage to get through the afternoon without a drink, but I realised that I wasn’t going to be able to sing, chant, teach, cough and occasionally shout my way through all three lessons.

To my surprise she reappeared with a huge glass jug of water and a glass. To my further surprise I was so thirsty that I had finished it before the end of the afternoon – 5 large glassfuls in all.

So, a gentle reminder. Take a large bottle of water in with you. You might not need it. But you probably should drink it anyway. I had a physiotherapy session to improve my lung function, and the therapist said that I should aim for 2 litres per day in total, and tea and coffee don’t really count. I find it easier to drink water ‘in quantity’ if it is warm or hot, rather than cold, and also from a mug or glass than from a bottle.



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Issue 146: Welcome to The Jungle

Hello again – I hope you’ve all had a good time over the Christmas break, and are looking forward to the New Year.

New Year – that means resolutions…

Most of mine are staying the same from previous years;

  • At least one bag (of any size, with any amount of contents) to the charity shop every month
  • Eat Chocolate at least once a week
  • Keep a diary. This was a new resolution for 2014, and I have kept a hand-written diary for the whole year. It’s been good to look back over the day, note down highs, lows, moments to remember. I’ve stuck in pictures or drawn little scribbly sketches from time to time as well.
  • New for this year – practise the piano as well as teach it!. I do so much music teaching every day that I almost stopped practising or playing for pleasure. Time to rectify that.

I could add “Update the Music Jungle” every week, but I never make any resolutions that I don’t think I might be able to keep. So, sorry, that will remain an objective, target, even, but not a Resolution!

‘m working on gathering together all my samba resources onto a page, rather as I have been doing for Ukulele this term. So keep an eye out for it, if you are samba-ing soon.

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Issue 146: My Music Teaching Life

One of the great joys about my life is that I am in and out of maybe up to a dozen schools each term. I get to see all different kinds of primary school environments – ranging from a sort of creative free-fall, to precision organisation. I meet children from a wide range of homes – country children, town children, village children, living in anything from moated manor houses to tiny temporary flats. And I teach classes of up to forty, an infant school music club of a dozen, a junior theory class, ensembles, small groups of two or three, and individuals. I teach instrumental classes and lessons, and standard “class” music lessons. Every two or three hours I enter another musical world. I love it! What a life! I even like (most of) the driving around from one place to another – it give me a chance to watch the changing seasons in the lovely countryside.

However the organisation I have to do to make sure that I have loaded the car with what I will need for the day is mind blowing.  I’m beginning to start getting my head around the forthcoming term, which will look like something along these lines;

Monday: Year 2 samba (take my repinique, don’t forget my samba whistle), a piano lesson in a village school (take planning and register), Year 3 samba (take my own kit as the school won’t have one), Year 3 djembe (take my djembe). I’m not quite sure how to fit all that lot in my car at the moment… and then home to teach a private theory lesson.

Tuesday: Year 2 recorders, Junior School Theory Club, and possibly ukuleles all afternoon. (pack ukulele, recorder and bag of theory stuff) Three piano lessons in the evening

Wednesday: Keyboard and piano lessons in a village school (take my extension cable for plugging in keyboards, registers and planning), Year 5 samba (take my repinique and whistle), Intermediate Junior Descant recorder ensemble, and possibly ukuleles all afternoon. (take my ukulele and recorder) Two piano lessons in the evening

Thursday: Before school Infant music club (take paperwork, hand puppet, sound system and instruments), then a whole day teaching class music including ukuleles at a village school (take sound system, ukulele). Two theory lessons in the evening

Friday: Advanced Junior school recorder ensemble in the afternoon, and possibly samba all afternoon.(take recorders and repinique) In the second half of term I will be teaching aural tests and rehearsing accompaniments with exam candidates in the morning. Three pupils in the evening.

And of course, my packed lunch, my planning for each class lesson (yes, I really do write out lesson plans for all my class teaching and jot down reviews afterwards!), my phone, a bottle of water to drink, my identity badges, my USB stick, my mp3 player and anything else that finds its way into the bags.

With all this going on, perhaps it’s not too surprising that I begin to run out of steam by the end of term! So, apologies for neglecting The Jungle in December. And I guess I will making apologies again towards the Easter Term.

The thing is, if I didn’t do all this teaching, what would I have to share with you???  And what would I do with myself all day? Housework? I don’t think so!

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Issue 146: My New Cajon

cajonWhat did you get for Christmas? Amongst other things, I got a cajon kit from Sela. Well, from my husband, actually, but he bought one made by Sela. It was a kind of a joint present, as he appeared to have a fine time making up the kit. It is so beautifully prepared, so perfectly finished, that the whole thing was assembled in about an hour and ready to play – no varnishing, no waiting for glue to dry, everything needful provided.

Learning point number 1; go easy, or you will bruise your hands. I’ve only bruised one hand so far. I’m trying to teach myself to be even handed, learning each groove with either left or right hand leading.

I watch a couple of YouTube tutorials and then go and have a little play until I reckon I’ve got it. Then on to the next video.

Quite where or when I’ll ever play it, outside the house, is another question. Someday, sometime, whenever. Meanwhile I’m just playing. In every sense of the word.

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Issue 146: What does the fox say?

Ding-ding-ding-ding da-ding-da-ding. Three times. That’s what the fox said.

I was given an all-singing-and-dancing fox by some friends just before Christmas – and – BING lesson plans for  the last day of class music teaching before the end of term were there.

Here’s a youtube clip of a similar fox in action, and here’s a youtube clip of the original mad, mad video.




what does the fox say

So, for Year 1 and 2, I sat them round in a circle and set the fox going. Once they had recovered, I wondered if they wanted to see it again. Silly question, of course they did.

“Well, as this is supposed to be a music lesson, we’d better concentrate a little bit. I’m going to ask you how many times does he go “What does the fox say?”. It took a couple of plays, and a suggestion that they count on their fingers before we got the right answer; 5. By this time they were getting to know the whole song, and after a few more listens (good job the batteries were fresh) we were there;

What does the fox say?

Ding-ding-ding-ding-ding-da-ding-da-ding. (Three times)

What does the fox say?

Pow-pow-pow-pow-pow-ker-pow. (Three times)

What does the fox say?

Happy-happy-happy-oh. (Three times)

What does the fox say?

Yip-yip-yip-yip-yip-yipee. (Three times)

What does the fox say?

So then we chose appropriate percussion instruments for each of the “verses” and for the “what does the fox say” line, and played along. Then we played without the fox. Then we all put the instruments down, stood and walked round ten places (that took a bit of sorting out) and did it again. And again. Once we had exhausted the possibilities, I used the fox song to get everything tidied away;

“Instead of playing when it is your turn, come and put your instruments gently and neatly into the basket”

Still some time left; so, now the call was clear, I told everyone to stand in a space, on their “magic spot” as I didn’t want them charging off everywhere. I said they could choose any part of the fox song. When they heard “their” bit, they could move and dance, but the rest of the time they should stand still. We would be able to see who chose what by watching who moved when. I warned them to move quietly, or they wouldn’t be able to hear. Off went the fox again, and so did the children. Then I asked them to choose a different part of the song. By now I was allowing Very Good Children to start the fox.

Finally, it was time to go, so this time, when they heard “their” bit of the song, they had to line up.

So, structure, form, listening with attention to detail and recall, timbre, rhythm, playing instruments with control, moving expressively to music, following music signals… oh, and they were all singing along by the end too.

Well done, Fox!



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