The Halloween Pumpkin Basket
Related Article: String Orchestra Posture Games Students Love
Music Theory: Last year we spent quite a bit of time on music theory. I would write certain musical terms on the board. I would draw a name out of the basket, that student needs to name one of the musical terms. If they cannot, then I draw a different name for help. The student who asnwers correctly gets a candy out of the basket. Both middle and high school students loved it. Best fact about the game-they also learned quite a bit playing the game.
Rhythm: I fill the basket with different rhythms written on a piece of paper, usually taking a measure or two. I try to have as many different rhythms as there are days left till Halloween from the start of the activity. Every day I ask a different student to come up and draw a rhythm from the basket. That student writes the rhythm on the board. Then the class has to play the scale with that new rhythm. I use it to reinforce more difficult rhythms such as dotted quarter notes or different meters. You can also write rhythms that the students will encounter in the musical pieces to come-giving them a chance to preview or practice these rhythms.
Halloween Bell-Ringer Activity: Bell ringers are no longer an option in a lot of districts. You can create a fun music notation activity out of Halloween and add to your ideas about bell-ringer activities. Leave the basket at the door. Same as before, the basket would have various rhythms, one measure phrases, musical phrases with mistakes, etc. As the students enter, each students draws a card with a different rhythm. Then it becomes a bell-ringer activity. Different ways to do it is having a student fix a mistake in the rhythm/time signature selection. They can add skipped musical symbols such as bar lines, clef, etc. They can also take their rhythm and extend it inopt a short musical composition of a bout 4-5 measures as a bell-ringer activity.
Related Article: Orchestra Classroom Bell Ringers
Halloween Special Effects-Study of Extended Techniques
The month leading to Halloween is always an excellent time to introduce students to extended techniques, or Halloween music “special effects”. There are pieces that are standard literature to study that. However, I take this a bit further doing an unit really studying, explaining, and practicing the different extended techniques.
An easy way to introduce these is to ask the students to play the different strokes on a sclae they feel familiar with. They can play the scale with Col Legno, Tremolo, etc. This can be an opportunity to introduce a unit on contact points. Playing with the “best” contact point at first, then moving it to Sul Tasto and Sul Ponticello. My students always get a lot out of contact point discussion. They improve their techniques and sound a lot around this time, as they practice the different contact points as a part of a a fun activity, creating lasting muscle memories.
To take it a bit further and to include the very beginning students who are still learning to play, I do a fun unit where they have to create their own Halloween story.
Halloween Unit Creating a Halloween Orchestra Song (for beginning students)
I love love love doing this every October! I usually do it with my beginning classes. My students are always enthusiastic about having to create their own Halloween songs. The activities provide a nice break from their routine. It is nice to be able to provide an unit that makes them feel very accomplished as they are developing their technique. We all go through Halloween and the month of October feeling energized and excited about the beginning orchestra lessons.
These are the steps of how the unit goes.
1. Introducing the new strokes on a familiar tune or open string
2. Handout with the new terms
3. Apply, compose and use your creativity
4. Perform songs for the class
5. Perform the songs for different classes or at a concert
I start by giving the students a handout of all extended techniques (special effects) they will be learning. We have fun applying these new techniques to either an open string or a familiar piece. I start modeling creating a Halloween story and introducing new pieces with a similar ideas. You can check
The students are then instructed to compose their own story. I check the stories and offer corrections. We decorate a practice room or the main orchestra room (for fun and as a part of the unit). Then selected stories are performed for other classes who come to have in-class performances.
Halloween Orchestra Games That Develop Posture
There are lots of tricks you can use around Halloween to develop posture with your young string orchestras. I just finished another post with two games that I use every year and my kids love. The post has pictures and more detailed explanation. So instead of re-posting it here, please hope over and read Two Halloween Orchestra Games