Sunday, September 9, 2018

Music and SpEd Accommodations

School has started, and all your kiddos are settled in their classes. You've found your teaching groove. Life is good!  Then comes the email from the Diag/SpEd Teacher:  You have ARD paperwork to sign!

I don't know about you, but this stresses me out a little.  Teaching every kid in the school means getting paperwork for every single student in SpEd, 504, Speech, Behavior Intervention, etc. That's a lot to keep up with!  I want the best for all of my students, but it's hard  for my ADD brain to remember who needs what in which class. So, I created my own Accommodations Tracking System.

I made a spreadsheet for each grade level with columns for accommodations. Each student has one line, with a check in the column that matches their ARD paperwork. After several years with this system, I have created a checklist with the most commonly applied accommodations for music (and other specialist classes).

This has turned out to be so much more helpful than I even imagined! Lesson plans, seating charts, and grading are easy to cross check  with a one page list. No more giant folders of paper on my desk, or in my inbox. [insert happy dance here]

I have made my Accommodations Tracking Sheets available in my TpT Store. They include my pre-filled charts that I use, plus a blank sheet to fill in if you prefer a different list. There are two empty columns on the list too, for those less common mods that pop up. You can find it HERE. If you like it, please take the time to leave a review on TpT as well. It will earn you points for future discounts!

I hope this can help you master the mayhem of SpEd paperwork!  Let me know what you think! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Back to School SALE on TpT!

Hey guys!  Just a short post today to make sure you know that TpT is having a Back to School Sale! Save up to 25% on your favorite teaching resources on August 1st and 2nd. My entire store will be marked 20% off. Use the Code BTSFRESH at checkout to get a total of 25% off.

Time to check your wishlist and get some new material for the new school year! I hope you will check out my small store while you're there:  From Mayhem to Mastery

I have a feeling this will be your best year yet. I'm planning for it to be mine! After starting last year with a hurricane (Harvey took two weeks out) and all the mayhem that followed, I am positive this year will be more organized, more energized, and more joyful than the last. Less mayhem, more mastery, right?

May your coffee be strong, your shoes comfortable, and your voice clear and bright. Let's do this!

Sunday, July 8, 2018

A Little Shameless Self Promotion...

Hi friends! 

So I've been a fan of Teachers Pay Teachers for a long time. It's brilliant. Teachers can share the things they have spent hours creating --and that work for them-- and maybe even make a little money on the side. I'm also a fan of not re-inventing the wheel for every lesson. It's amazing what you can find if you just search Google, YouTube, and TpT!

That said, I also LOVE making things look cute and creating digital products to use in my classroom or everyday life. So I finally decided to take the plunge......and set up my own TpT Store!

I only have a  few items so far. It's a lot of work to make sure every font, graphic, and product comply with legal Terms of Use so I don't accidentally steal someone else's stuff. (If I did, it would totally be an accident! I promise!)  I'm still working on "branding" and all that, but it's early days.

Will you do me a favor? Check out my store and download one of the FREE items, then post some feedback for me.  If you hate it, I'd rather you contact me personally before giving me a bad review so I can make it right.  I'm just learning this stuff, and I am not a business person by nature-- right-brained musician and all that, you know?  If you could help me out I would REALLY appreciate it!

Here are some FREEBIES to check out:

Imperial March Playalong
Based on Texas Standards (TEKS)
Elementary Music Scope & Sequence by TEKS
Desktop Organizer in Teal
Thank you so much for helping me get started! Let me know if there is something you would like to see me add, adapt, or edit for you. I truly enjoy it. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Desktop Organizer Love with a FREEBIE

This is my computer desktop. Isn't it pretty? I am obsessed with the desktop organizer. It's one of those ideas that made me say, "why didn't I think of that?" when I first saw it. I don't know about you, but I hate a cluttered desktop. It makes me feel scattered, and I'm always afraid of forgetting something I need to do. I like to keep current projects in front of me so I don't get distracted and forget to finish them (shiny squirrels everywhere!), but they were just all over the place.

Enter the Desktop Organizer. A background picture that you save as your wallpaper, then you can place your icons in groups and keep them organized however you like. Plus, you can make it as pretty as you want!  I like pretty. It makes me happy!

I got so excited about them that I decided to make some myself. It's a great creative outlet, and maybe it can help make someone else smile, too! I would love for you to try out this FREEBIE and tell me what you like or don't like about it. You can also purchase a set of 19 different desktop styles and colors from my TpT store if you like them and want to try them out.  They are in a powerpoint file so you can add text boxes to label your boxes as you like. Or you can skip the labels and just use them as is. There are instructions with the download to help you set it up. You can find it HERE.

If you decide to try it, please let me know if the instructions are clear and usable, and if the designs are useful. I really want some feedback so I can make it better. Seriously, be honest! I can also make custom desktops if you let me know what you need (how many sections, colors/patterns/ etc.).  I am having a blast making them!

I hope you are finding a creative outlet for yourself this summer, too. Take the time to relax and do something just for you. You deserve it!

Flippin' Awesome Resources for Google!

Hello friends!

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to go to the Elementary Technology Conference in Galveston. It's the first non-music PD I've done in a while, but I love technology so I thought it would be worth it. AND.....I was right!  I learned so many cool things! I hope to be able to write a few posts about these applications and ways to use them in music class. Our district is super big on tech right now, and as of last year we are 1:1 on every campus. We are a Google district, and students have Chromebooks, so that is what I am here to share with you.

Have you heard of Y'all. This is a fantastic FREE resource if you can make a spreadsheet. Seriously.

Flippity will take your Google Spreadsheet and turn it into SO. MANY. THINGS. Flashcards? Check. Random name picker? Got it. Jeopardy style game board? Yep. Memory game, Mad Libs, Bingo, Crossword, Word Search, Tournament Bracket, Yes, yes, and yes! 

So here's how it works. Each application has a demo,  instructions, and a template. To create your own, click on "Instructions". 

The instructions vary a little for each one, but it is based in a spreadsheet. 

Open the template, save a copy so you can edit, and create away. As you can see, the directions are pretty straightforward, step by step.  Some of them even give you a QR code to share the activity with your students! 

I'm thinking this could be great for review, sub plans, at home practice, and class use. So many possibilities! And did I mention that it's FREE? The teacher's favorite word! How will you use this amazing tool to make your life better or easier? Share it in the comments below!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why, Hello Summer PD!

We made it!  Another school year is in the books, room cleaned and packed for summer break. Whew! For the first time in twenty years, my school year finished before Memorial Day.  So, now that I have had a week to rest, it is time to look ahead!

I've been through countless workshops about Classroom Management over the years.  Many have been very good, and I have learned many useful techniques. However, they have always been tailored to the classroom teacher. I find myself thinking, "That's a great idea, but how can I do that with 500+ students?"  "How can I build connections quickly when I only see them for 30 minutes twice a week?"

Well, I have stumbled across a book that answers those questions. Classroom Management for Art, Music and PE Teachers.  It is written by Michael Linsin, author of Dream Class.  I love his approach to classroom management. In the introduction, he talks about his switch from classroom teacher to PE teacher, and how different it really is.  Finally!  Someone who GETS US!

My fellow music teachers and I will be doing a book study with this book over the summer.  I have not been able to find a study guide, so I am making one as I go. I will post a review of the book when I have finished it, but I can tell you now that I will recommend it! Check it out for yourself here.

Let me know what you think about it in the comments! Happy summer!

Monday, July 25, 2016

Pokemon Rhythms

So, are you playing Pokemon Go?  My teenage son is all over it.  He goes on bike rides and for walks just to catch some more. (Better than sleeping all day, no?)  I have downloaded the game and caught all of three pokemons, but I admit, I just don't care enough to walk around in the heat. Sorry, I'm old and boring!  However, I  was surfing about on the "interwebs" when I ran across this cute page of Pokemon rhythms on Pinterest. I wish I could remember who made them! I loved the idea, but there were only eight cards (Free download--go get it now!).  So today, I got on Google and found some more and made a new folder game!

Students can pick out their favorite Pokemons and make a rhythm pattern to speak, clap, or play. Older kids can use them to compose in 2/4 or 4/4 with the meter cards. I'm going to add popsicle sticks to use as bar lines, too. 

An extension of this activity could be a worksheet to write down their new composition.  I'll probably make one of those soon, but for now, I just had to tell someone about my new game!  My 15yo is just not excited enough....but I know my students will LOVE it!

If you want to make one too, you can download my additional cards HERE, and the direction page RIGHT HERE. I didn't have the same fonts as the original set, so they aren't an exact match, but they're free!

Have fun, and Pokemon......GO!

Update: First, I have reached level 5 in Pokemon Go! (I know, you're jealous 😂) Second, I had this awesome idea for the game folder. I am ridiculously excited about this!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Food for Thought

As I prepare for the school year, I am thinking about the culture of my classroom.  I love this quote by Todd Whitaker. It makes me think of the end of the year last spring. That's usually when behavior is at its worst, and when some teachers choose to ignore small problems.  Hey, I get it.  By May, we are in survival mode: exhausted, out of ideas, and ready for vacation. At least I am. If you're not, well, we just can't be friends. (Just kidding!)

Every year, I make the decision to be better at classroom management than ever before.  My students will be excited to come to my class!  They will listen with rapt attention to my clever and entertaining lessons and participate wholeheartedly in every activity. Misbehavior will not even cross their minds, because music is the best class ever! We will make music like never before, and their skills will transfer to other academics, raising test scores to boot.  We're talking Teacher of the Year material here! Hey, a girl can dream, right? 

But how do I get there? I can start by making sure I have planned, clear procedures for everything.  Spend the first two weeks (or more) teaching and practicing those procedures religiously, and hold the kids (and myself) to those high expectations. Because what I tolerate now on the fringes of behavior is what will become the norm in my classroom by Christmas. Thank you, Mr. Whitaker. 

I challenge you to take the time now, before school starts, to envision how your class will function and write down clear procedures for every type of activity. You will be glad you did!

Happy Planning!

P.S.- I'm thinking about a future post about specific procedures in music, and how I run my classroom.  Let me know in the comments if that is something you would be interested in reading!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Music Centers

Do you use centers in music class?  "Student-directed learning" is a popular buzz phrase, so how do we use this in music?  As musicians, we are very comfortable in the director/ensemble format.  It's easy to be the director/conductor all the time.  But it's not the only way.  Teachers have been using centers in PK-K-1st for EVER, so why shouldn't we?

Centers, or workstations, give students the opportunity to practice without pressure.  They also learn to create and manipulate what they know in new ways. This is exactly what we want, right?  I love it when a student asks, "Can I make my own ___?"  Centers give them a chance to try it. They can also provide a way for you to assess students in small groups, or re-teach those who are struggling. A bonus feature of centers is that, once you have taught your classes how to use them, they are a NO BRAINER SUB PLAN! What? Did you say easy sub plan?  For music? YES! (cheers and whistles in background)

So what makes a good center activity? Here is what works for me:

1. Whole class games/activities - I play SWAT! with my classes, dividing them into teams and letting two students at a time come to the board to challenge each other.  Once we have done this in class, the kids know how to play without my help.  I can set up a SWAT! station and they will love it even more because they get more turns! How many large group activities could become a center? You probably have several already.

2. That cute worksheet you found on Pinterest - I don't often do worksheets as a class, but it would be pretty easy to set them up as a center. Tracy King has a great DIY to make dry-erase pockets that would make worksheets even cooler here.

3. Books - I love books.  I have collected quite a few music-related books over the years, but I don't have time to read them all to my classes.  Readers are leaders, so set up a classroom library for the kids to use.  They will love to re-read the books you have read to them, too!

4. Listening - When I first started teaching in the early 90s, only classroom teachers had listening stations, and they were expensive.  Today, you can set up a listening center with an ipod/ipad and a $15 splitter.  Kids can even bring their own earbuds (showing up on school supply lists more and more) to use.  If you do set up a listening station, be sure to have an activity to guide their listening.  It can be a map, a listening log, a drawing activity....the possibilities are endless!

5.  Games - Go to Music in Motion and get some games.  They will be so worth it when you lose your voice and can't miss school.  Set up one game center and play with the kids so you can show them how to play. After a few times like that, they can play on their own without fighting. I like Bingo, Dominotes, Classical Snap!, and Note Nabber, to name a few.

So now you have five different stations you could try out in your room.  I have found that they are great the week of a program, when I am focused on the performance group, and at the end of the grading period, when I need another grade.  Try them out early in the year, when the kids are learning procedures and still listening well. Not that your students would ever have trouble listening or anything.....

Enjoy the rest of your summer break!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

New Curriculum: New Outlook

In Texas, the music curriculum comes up for adoption every ten years.  That means that we are using materials that were developed a decade ago, which in this age makes a huge difference!  I am excited to say that our district has chosen the digital curriculum from Quaver Music for our new adoption.  I tested the materials last spring, and they are COOL!  Of course, I love technology, so I am thrilled to have interactive materials that are entirely online.  I can access them from anywhere, and they are constantly updated and expanded without the need to buy new materials.  (They also send a CD set in case your internet is not working up to par. Problem averted!)

As an experienced teacher, there are two ways I can look at this new adoption.

A: "Oh great.  I'll just put it on the shelf with the last adoption."  
B: "Oh, great! How can I use this to make my class even better?"

I'm choosing B.  In fact, I'm going to try to use it as much as possible this year.  This will ensure that all of the TEKS are met, without my having to keep track, and give me a foundation to add my favorite lessons and activities to.  This is a good thing.  I hope to be back here sharing new and fun finds with you soon.  In the meantime, rest, relax, rejuvenate, and get mentally ready for the Back to School frenzy. You can do it!