Sunday, March 18, 2012

Chuck Vanderchuck's "Something Something" Explosion!

Chuck Vanderchuck's "Something Something" Explosion! is a great way to introduce different styles of popular music to your students.  Chuck, his friend Ramona, and his dog Zeppelin are trying to get to the big gig at the mall, and it's your job to help them get there!

The Practice Room (Garage)
When you go the Chuck Vanderchuck (CVC) site, you will start in Chuck's practice room (his parents' garage.)  This room has been updated since I first discovered the CVC site, and it looks like the CVC creators plan on making more updates in the future!  The Jam Sessions is the central focus of this page, but there are a few other activities to check out as well.


Jam Sessions
The Jam Sessions are where Chuck, Ramona, and Zeppelin teach your students about the different styles of music.  There are currently six different styles available: Country, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Reggae, Rock 'n Roll, and Salsa.  Classical is coming in May 2012 and Blues is coming in June 2012.


Each jam session starts with a short video introduction.  Chuck and Ramona will tell you when the style started, where it started, who started it, what kind of instruments are used, and how to tell if you are listening to that style of music.  In each jam session you will see a globe, posters, and an MP3 player on the right, and a list of mini-games leading to the main gig on the left.


1. Globe (Geography/History)
By clicking on the globe in each jam session, you will be given a world map with dots on different geographical locations important to that style of music.  Simply roll over each dot to learn a little bit about what the location is and why it is important.  I'm a big Beatles fan, so I had to show them off a bit above.  This is a great opportunity to make connections to geography and history!


2. Posters (Art/Music Careers)
By clicking the box of posters, you will be given a number of printable pages.  Let your students try their hand at becoming a graphic designer for a band by using the CVC graphics to design a poster or advertisement for Chuck's band!  A lot of kids don't realize that there are hundreds of careers available in the music industry, many of which don't require musical abilities, but just a strong love of music in general.


3. MP3 Player (Solfege Call and Response)
By clicking the MP3 Player, you will be given a number of finished and unfinished songs.  The finished songs are good examples of what the style of music sounds like, and they are also the songs that will be used at the Main Gig.  Try having your students listen for the different tone colors of each instrument.


A great idea to use in the classroom is to play the finished songs as background music as you perform melodies using solfege.  The Main Gig uses the tones do, re, mi, and fa.  I recommend listening to the song first and writing down the melodies.  After you write them down, you can perform the call and response patterns with your class.


The unfinished songs are fun songs that Chuck and Ramona have started writing.  Encourage your students to try finishing the songs for them.  You can download each of the songs to your computer.  I had the best luck downloading the songs using Internet Explorer.


4. Lyrical Solarium (Music Careers/Mood)
Each jam session has three mini-games to complete before unlocking the main gig.  The first of the mini-games is the Lyrical Solarium.  This game is a lot of fun especially for younger students.  Each style gives you a few songs to choose from, and in each song you have to choose words to finish they lyrics.  This is another great opportunity to discuss a little about poetry, Lyricists, and music careers.


5. What Sounds Like What (Tone Color)
"What Sounds Like What" is a really great game to let your students practice identifying instruments by their tone color or timbre.  It's also a great game to discuss instrument families.  There are three levels to this game.  Easy plays one instrument at a time, medium plays two at a time, and hard plays three at a time.  This is one of my favorite games to use in class!


6. Zen of Composition (Found Sounds/Rhythm)
"Zen of Composition" challenges students to find rhythm in every day sounds.  There are three levels in each jam session.  The easy level has students practice rhythm recognition.  Ramona plays a rhythm on a found sound, and you have to match it.  The medium level is a little more challenging.  Ramona plays a rhythm on an instrument, and you have to match a found sound to the instrument.  This will be very challenging for some students.  The nice thing about CVC is there are no penalties for wrong answers.  The hard level is similar to the medium level, except there will be another instrument playing with Ramona's instrument.  You still have to match her instrument to the found sound.  Adding extra sounds to the rhythm makes this very challenging to some students.  It is great practice for rhythm recognition!


I recommend letting your students try repeating rhythms you make on sounds they find in the classroom.  Let them try body percussion, patting their chair, or zipping their coat to make sounds.  You can play a rhythm on a drum, and let them repeat it on their found sound.  Lots of fun!


7. The Main Gig! (Solfege Call and Response)
Chuck wants that gig.  HE WANTS IT!  After completing the Lyrical Solarium, What Sounds Like What, and the Zen of Composition, it will be time to play the Main Gig.  If you have practiced with the MP3 tracks, your students will find this very easy.  If you haven't practiced, it will still be a lot of fun.  Chuck will play a series of notes creating a short melody, and you will be responsible for repeating that melody.  There is no time limit and no penalty for not playing in rhythm.  You will have to complete four melodies in each of the three levels to complete the gig.


The Practice Room Extra Games
1. Dance Beat Explosion
In the Dance Beat Explosion you compete for the chance to get groovy and dance!  Chuck is your host, and you get to play either as Ramona or Zeppelin.  You are given 10 multiple choice questions about the different styles of music.  For each correct answer, you are given a new dance move to use for your victory dance.  At the end of the quiz, you get to show off your new dance moves!  This is a great opportunity to discuss music careers (choreographers) and to get your students up and moving.  There is also an optional feature to turn on a webcam to let your students see themselves on the "dance cam!"


This is a great game, but there are a few things to keep in mind when using it.  First, there is a timer, and it is fast!  Sometimes Chuck doesn't even get a chance to finish naming the multiple choices before the timer runs out.  If the timer runs out, you lose the point.  Because of the timer, you will want to have ten students (one for each question) lined up and ready to respond. If you take the time to choose each students during the quiz, the timer will run down.


2. Road Trip
The Road Trip is a fun game for home or maybe if your students have free time in a computer lab setting.  There isn't a ton of educational content going on here, but the game is fun!  Your bus has broken down and you have to find the instruments that have scattered everywhere.  You have the option of finding country, salsa, hip-hop, or rock 'n roll instruments.


3. Costume Box
The Costume Box is another activity that really doesn't teach a ton, but provides your students a chance to show off their creativity.  I use this activity to teach my students a bit about differernt careers in the music industry.  A costume designer for a Broadway musical or a wardrobe consultant for a band on tour are two examples of careers in the music industry.  These are just two more examples of the hundreds of careers available in the music industry that don't require a degree in music.


4. Videos and Awards
By using the navigation bar at the top of the screen, you will be able to access all of the video clips from the CVC website.  Usually the introduction to each jam session will only play once, so it's nice to have access to the intro video if you want to watch it again.  You can also pause, rewind, and use closed captions.

By completing gigs and games, you will earn awards!  The only way to save your awards is by having an account with PBS Kids.  I recommend having an account for yourself if you are using an Interactive Whiteboard, or you could have your student create their own accounts if you are using a computer or laptop lab.  Simply press the "log in" button on the navigation bar at the top of the screen, and press "I don't have a user name" to create a new account.


Final Thoughts
This is one of my new favorite websites to use in the classroom.  It is nice that you can go anywhere in the site at any time.  There is no story line that must be followed in order to play.  You can play for the awards if you want, but again, that is completely up to each teacher.  You can use the games as lessons, or you can use the games or video clips as time fillers at the end of class.  Each game has multiple difficulty settings, so they can be used in most elementary grade levels.  I recommend checking out the parent page and teacher page for extra lesson ideas.  Have fun rocking out with Chuck and his friends!