CGS Professional Development Blog

Handbell Bootcamp! by Wanda Le

Posted on October 29, 2015 at 10:31 am

The music department at the Calgary Girls’ School was fortunate to be able to purchase three octaves of Handbells, thanks to the generosity of Parent Council.  I recently attended a one day workshop in Edmonton to learn about playing handbells.

The morning session was led by Susan Galloway and Camille Ream, who are both long time handbell directors and ringers.  We explored a wide variety of repertoire for handbell choirs, as well as some good repertoire for beginning choirs.  Through this music they covered a wide range of ringing techniques and we had fun exploring the different sounds that handbells can make.  We also spent time learning how to integrate hand chimes with bells to add variety to a performance.

After developing a basic understanding of the technique of handbell ringing, we also looked at the story of Stone Soup as a narrated play for use with handbells.   In addition to this, we had an opportunity to experiment with improvising melodies on handbells to a blues scale.

The afternoon session was led by special guest, Glenda Pickering, who is a music teacher from Sherwood Park.  She explored the possibilities for using handbells and handchimes in the general music classroom for students in Kindergarten through Grade Six and shared ways to integrate handbells into literacy based lessons and with other classroom instruments in daily lessons.

This was a wonderful day full of music making and proved to be a great introduction into the world of handbells.  Our handbell club will start up at Bel Aire in January and I am looking forward to sharing the fun things I learned with the students.


Posted on October 29, 2015 at 10:14 am

Every year in October, music educators from around the province of Alberta gather in Red Deer for the annual music conference. This conference is jointly put on by the following music organizations: Alberta Choral Federation, Alberta Band Association, Alberta Kodaly Association, and the Registered Music Teachers Association.  The Calgary Girls’ School is an active member in both the band and choral associations.


As with most professional development conferences, there was a multitude of sessions that participants could take in from well known music pedagogues from across Canada and the U.S.


Quan and Wanda Le, were proud to be representing CGS at this conference and were able to take part in many sessions.


  • The Changing Adolescent Voice

Dr. Carol Beynon (UWO – Faculty of Music)

In this session, Dr. Beynon addressed issues and methods when dealing with the changing voice in the single gender choir.  She presented her research over the past decade along with practical tips on what to listen for in the changing voice. Members of the Calgary Boy’s Choir were on hand to help delegates hear some of the changes that occur in the male voice.


  • Oboe Technique

Beth Levia (Freelance Musician – Edmonton)

In this session, Beth Levia walked participants through practical tips and advice for the beginning oboe player. Her session was very informative and hands on as she spoke about reeds, embouchure, breathing and hand technique for the oboe.


  • First Steps in Music Development and Movement Development and

Conversational Solfege

Dr. John Feierabend – (University of Hartford – Hartt School of Music)

The presenter, Dr. Feirerabend is a leader in music literacy for young children. His work as a Kodaly teacher and researcher has allowed him to create a comprehensive method for young children up to high school aged students.  At the heart of his work is the belief that music is about training the ear first before training the eyes.  Like all Kodaly teachers, he chooses tried and true folksongs as a means to develop music literacy and musicianship. During these sessions, he walked us through his resources and methods and gave anecdotal references to his experiences working in the classroom.


  • From the Treasure Chest

Catherine Glaser-Climie (Cantare Children’s Choir – Calgary)

Catherine is well known in the Calgary choral community for her work with the Cantare Children’s Choir. In this session, Catherine pulled a wide variety of choral works, hidden gems, for treble voices that are available on loan from the Alberta Choral Federation.

Quan and Wanda thoroughly enjoyed coming back to MCA.  Not only were the sessions helpful and insightful, but it was wonderful to connect with colleagues with whom they studied with or have worked with in the past.


They both look forward to attending next year’s conference.




AIM Program Training by Marjorie LaFrance

Posted on October 23, 2015 at 10:49 am

AIM Program Training Reflection – Marjorie LaFrance

Upon becoming the new French teacher for the Lakeview campus of CGS, I realized I had big shoes to fill, as our previous, and much loved, French teacher had moved to Bhutan. I had a lot to think about when planning the courses.

Since studying in French in middle and high school, then studying French literature in university, as well as having the opportunity to spend a month in Quebec City, I realized that in order to learn a new language, one must speak it at every opportunity! It is through the challenge of speaking a new language and being in a situation where only this language is spoken, that true fluency is achieved. That’s why I decided to look into the Accelerated Integrative Methodology, or AIM Program.

There was a lot of buzz about the AIM program in the French community, and I had heard a lot of gossip about this program. Some people said we just read the same play over and over all year, some people said their students were completely bilingual at the end of the year, even though they only took French for 90 minutes per week. Some people were in the middle.

I eventually learned (and am still learning) my version of the truth about AIM, and am pleased with what I have found. Yes, we study a play all year, but it’s really just a jumping off point for us to give us an opportunity and a situation in which we can speak using a common language, but the language patterns, the verbs, the structure, it’s all the same whatever you’re talking about, it’s the subject specific words that change! When you think about it, whenever you get placed in a new situation, whatever the language, you have to learn new vocabulary. When we use this vocabulary, we don’t forget the rest, we incorporate the new words into what we already know and how we already use the language.

By putting students in a situation where they speak French in different, but related situations, they become accustomed to the sentence structure and grammar of speaking, and we can build off of this by incorporating reading and writing in a timely manner.

I’m looking forward to developing this program further in my own classroom, and making it work for me. My goal is to have the students having basic conversations in French and to be able to use their conversational French in different situations.

If you would like to learn more about the AIM program, here is a link to their website which has lots of great information:

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