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!


On Being a Marigold....

Hello friends!  I just read a great article addressed to new teachers about finding their "marigold" to help them through the tough first year.  It is so well-written, I encourage you all to read it.  It is a good reminder to all of us to think about our mindset as we go into a new school year.

Find Your Marigold

I am committing myself to being the marigold this year.  You've got this, friends!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Patriot Day

Our counselor asked me to make a short video/presentation for Patriot Day.  We had a brief assembly before the students went to their classrooms for the morning.  The high school ROTC came and presented the colors, we showed the video, then went to class. Short and simple!

Unfortunately, when I converted the presentation into a video, the music did not convert with it.  I have to do some research to find out how to make that work.  I haven't had much experience with making videos, but I am committed to learning.

I hope your day went well, and that September 11 can bring out the best in our schools.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


UPDATE:  I have joined up with other music bloggers at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share our classroom setups.  Click the image below to check out some other awesome rooms!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It is a special calling to work with middle school/junior high kids.  And I don't have it.  After two (long, stressful, anxiety-inducing) years teaching grades 5-8 music and choir, I am finally back in my element--Elementary, baby!  These are my people.  We love the babies.  Hugs, notes, pictures, cute bulletin boards, and even shoe-tying and nose-wiping.  Okay, maybe not that last one.  But I am SO HAPPY to be back with the littles!  I am giddy with excitement, and I've spent the last two weeks organizing and decorating my new classroom.  It is an old building--my husband had elementary music in the SAME ROOM many moons ago--but I've taken the blue doors and electric yellow trim and turned it into my happy home away from home.  Here it is!

All my storage is in wooden cabinets.  The doors are not very attractive, but I'm gradually adding to them. 

Pocket chart ready for rhythm/melody cards, a spot for objectives (a.k.a. "What are we doing today?"), white board/projector screen, Who's Next Board.  

I think I'm going to like the cabinets and shelf here.  I keep all of my manipulatives, books, and toys/props readily available here.  And the clouds.  They are my new favorite thing.  I found them on Pinterest and downloaded them from this music teacher blog,  Rhythm and Glues

My teacher's corner.  Love. Complete with my very own teacher toolbox. 

It's hard to see, but I used colored velcro to mark sit spots on the floor.  I found colored velcro in 36'' pieces at Hobby Lobby this year for just $1.49! 

This is a shortcut version of my guided listening word wall, first introduced HERE. Hopefully one day I can upgrade to the original version, but this works for now. 

Just a closeup of the cuteness inspired by Rhythm and Glues. 

All ready to post objectives for the first week! 

That's it!  My new happy music home.  I am looking forward to a great year of singing, playing, dancing, and loving on my kiddos.  I hope your year is off to a great start as well.  Remember to take care of yourself, eat well, drink lots of water, and take your vitamins.  When I feel good, I am a better teacher/wife/mom/friend/person.  So go to bed early, and get ready to change the world, one song at a time. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fun with Dice!

I just discovered a great app for classroom games! Make Dice Lite is a free app that allows you to create your own dice and roll them on your iPad or iPhone. You can put it under the document camera for the class to see.

I can think of so many ways to use this! Composing, adding note/rest values, music baseball.....the possibilities are endless!

How would you use it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Technology Withdrawal

Technology is a wonderful thing.  I am what my husband calls a "button-pusher"--someone who enjoys playing around with technology, figuring out how to do new things with it all the time.  At my last school, I was fortunate to have a laptop, projector, document camera, ActiveSlate,  iPod, and sound dock in my room.  I was getting pretty good a powerpoints and online lessons, and even smartboard activities with the slate.  I was in technology teacher heaven!

Then I moved.  My new school has a desktop computer, a stereo with CD changer, and.....um......that's it.  Oh wait, there's an overhead projector--as in, transparencies.   Okay, so I taught forever with less than that, right?  I can do this, right? ........ <crickets>.........  I never knew how dependent I had become on all my "toys" until I didn't have them any more!  Wow.  I have had to dig deep into my toolbox of teaching tricks to remember how to engage and excite students.  Some things have been great, others not so much.  I've had my share of failed lesson plans this year, but I think I'm starting to get in my groove (finally!).  I also found a projector no one was using and hooked it up in my room.   I spent Saturday rearranging my classroom to start fresh after the break, and I'm kind of excited! The district is issuing laptops to teachers this year, and I am scheduled to get mine on December 10--yippee!  I think I will be able to update this blog more often then, too.

So I'm looking for ideas now.  I have four sections of 5th grade general music, one 6th grade choir of 22, and one 7th/8th grade choir of 41 (mixed).  What are your favorite lessons, songs, sightreading materials, and games for this age group?  This is new territory for me, so I need all the help I can get!

Please, leave a comment and share your collective wisdom!