Monday, August 29, 2011

♩♩♫♩ Every Good Boy Does Fine - Mnemonics!

I was visiting Krisin Lukow's awesome blog, and found LOTS of great ideas, videos, links, and more.  She is obviously very tech-savvy, and is using it in her classroom.  Check out this awesome video to review/teach the names of the lines of the treble clef!
♩♩♫♩Musical Musings with Mrs. Lukow ♫♩♫♩: Every Good Boy Does Fine - Mnemonics!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Pick Me! Pick Me!

Don't you just hate it when you have to choose a child to do something, and they're ALL sitting quietly, doing exactly what you asked? (Don't happens!)  It's SO hard to choose, and I for one do not have the memory capacity to know who got to have a turn last week, or even last hour!   When I first started teaching elementary music, a veteran teacher told me how she does it, and I have been making her system mine for 15 years now.  It totally works!

I call it the "Who's Next?" board.  I have an envelope for every class that comes to music each week. This year, I labeled them with grade/day of the week, hoping it will be helpful for subs and reusable next year.  I have also put teacher's names on the envelopes in the past.

The first or second week of school, I have each class make their cards.  I give them an index card and ask them to write their name VERY neatly, and their class code (helps in case a card gets separated from the stack).  The older kids also have to write a sentence.  This year I used, "I am good at..."  It's a great way for them to tell me what they love and are good at, plus forces them to focus on a positive trait.  AND, we are putting a huge emphasis on writing on our campus, so this is a way I can help toward that goal.

The cards go in the class envelope.  When I need to choose a child to do something, I always take the front card, then put it in the back.  The kids know that their card will not be chosen again until ALL of the other cards have been pulled.  Sometimes I will go through the whole stack in one class, other times I only need one or two.  Either way, we all know no one will be forgotten.  It is awesome!  They don't beg or argue, and when someone starts to, the other kids will say, "she's going to pick a card!" and everyone is cool.

The next obstacle was to remember to put cards in for new students that move in throughout the year.  Ahem, yeah, I'm not exactly known for my excellent my defense, I've had two babies and I'm over 40, so brain cells are leaking out everywhere.  Anyway, I think I've found a solution:

I mounted a box to hold extra cards and a couple of pencils on the board.  Next to it are directions for making your card.  I told my kids that they can help new students when they come to music for the first time.  There are always little helpers that will remember that way better than I will!

I love that all my students know that everyone is important, and I am doing my best to make sure no one is left out in music class.  After all, everyone is expected to participate!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

About Mrs. H

Today was the third day of the new school year.  So far, I've done my "Welcome to Music" lesson 15 times...ten more to go!  Our schools have "common planning time" for all grade levels, so that means I have one section of each grade level each day.  The up side:  only 5 classes a day!  The down side:  the entire grade level has to be in co-curricular classes at the same time, so there are more kids in each section.  So far, my biggest group is 29, which is not too bad.  Here's hoping they stay under 30!

One of the things I added this year is an "About Mrs. H" slide show.  I thought it might be fun to share other things about my life besides music, especially for those kids who aren't as "into" music as other things.  I showed pictures of my family, the kids, the dog (a big hit!), and the show my boys were in this summer.  But the best part of all was the "Things I Like" page.  I found clip art for stuff I like to do, eat, make, or watch.  The kids got so excited!  They all wanted to share the "likes" I had in common with them or their parents.  It was so sweet!

The best moment of the day was when my 3rd graders were lining up to leave.  One little boy told me that he really likes making things out of paper too (I told them about my paper crafts obsession), and he asked if he could bring one of his projects to show me next time. :)  Of course I said yes!   

These little connections mean so much to kids.  It's hard to build relationships with 625 kids in one hour a week, so anything that can strengthen that bond is worth the time and effort.  Maybe you already do something like this in your room.  If not, then I highly recommend it.  It's easy, and takes only a few minutes of class time.  I know this will be a part of my first week from now on! 

Have a great day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

FREE Marimba Music!

This summer I taught a one-week music camp for elementary kiddos.  I wanted some music we could play on Orff instruments with younger kids, with minimal practice time.  As I was searching, I found this FREE piece on  It was really easy to teach, and the kids loved it!  It was great for familiarizing the kids with the instruments, teaching how to play a tremolo, and building confidence.  And did I mention that it's FUN?

You can see and print the whole song here

First, I taught the kids to sing the song, with me singing first and the kids clapping the instrument part.  We quickly moved to the instruments to play.  They were able to perform the piece (with me singing) almost immediately.  The next rehearsals we polished singing and playing at the same time, and traded instruments for variety.  The kids performed for their parents at the end of the week, and they all wanted to play this song.  Love it!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Prayer for Children Going Back to School

A new adventure awaits them as they prepare for school.

Excitement for new possibilities
and fear of the unknown
mingle in their hearts.

Thoughts of achievement
and thoughts of failure
slow their footsteps.

Bless all children
this day, O God.

Give them inquiring minds
and discerning hearts.
Give them courage
to persevere
in all they undertake.

Give them the gift
of joy and wonder
in all things.

Give them laughter
and love to share
with all.

Give them protection
and safety as they move
out of our embrace. And give them sure
and certain knowledge
of your unfailing love.


(borrowed from

May God bless every teacher and student as we begin a new year together. Ready for takeoff!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Let's Talk...SUB PLANS

I know, school hasn't even started yet, so why am I talking about sub plans?? Hey, you never know who's gonna end up sick the first day of school...and yes, it's happened to me before!  SO, here we go...

Sometimes it's just easier to go to school than write out sub plans, right?  That is especially hard in the music room.  First, it's hard to find a sub who will take a music job sometimes--they think if they are not musicians, they can't do it, or they are not comfortable singing, etc.  When you do find a sub, you never know what their musical skills will be.  After many years of teaching, I came up with a Sub Notebook that actually works great for me. 

First, there are the usual schedules, who to ask for help, copy codes, etc.  Then comes the special section.  I have a master list called an "Emergency Sub Plan".  For this page, I list games/activities that each grade level already knows how to play.  They are favorites that the kids ask for again and again, so positive participation is almost a guarantee!  I try to update the list at least once every six weeks, to keep current faves on the lists.

The next section contains detailed instructions for each game and activity.  I use a lot of the same favorites every year, so once I write out the directions once, it is done forever!  The songs/games are filed in alphabetical order for easy reference.  It's like an encyclopedia of music favorites, all there for the sub to find and read before class starts. 

I have gotten lots of positive feedback from subs about this plan.  It works great for me, and if I'm too sick to think about a sub plan, it's all good!  I hope this helps you prepare for those unexpected absences during the year, too.  If you would like a copy of my template, just shoot me an email at ckmusicmom(at)ymail(dot)com, and I'll be happy to share. 

UPDATE: I have made this sub folder template available on Google Docs.  Click this link to open and download for yourself:

What's your favorite sub plan?

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

a little shameless self-promotion...

Here in Texas, funding for education has been a hot topic.  Schools are struggling to keep up, often cutting programs to save money.  Thankfully, our district values fine arts education, and so far we have managed to keep our programs (woohoo!).  BUT....extra-curricular programs are not included in the budget.  If I am going to have a choir this year, we're going to have to step into the wild world of fundraising.  <ugh.> 

No one needs any more cookie dough, wrapping paper, or candles, so what to do?  I'm so glad you asked!  I found a program that offers 60% profit (you heard right!) to participating groups.  It's called SAVING DINNER.  It's an online fundraiser offering healthy menus, recipes, shopping lists, and more...delivered electronically after purchase.  That's right!  NO deliveries, NO collecting money, NO door to door sales necessary!  AWESOMENESS!  And it encourages families to eat healthy dinners at home, which in the long run saves them money

So here's where I need a little help. :)  Please click on the link below and check out the program.  If you want to order something and support my 3rd/4th grade choir, I will be forever in your debt.  If you just want to see it to consider using it yourself, that's fine too.  Just let me know if the site makes sense and is easy for you to understand and use.  Please come back and comment!  LMK if there is anything I should include in our flyer to send out to parents to make it easy for them, too.  Thanks so much!

School starts in T-minus 12 days.....!!!!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Corner Monsters!

So, this isn't exactly a music post, but I found this project on another site and had to make some for myself!  They are the cutest bookmarks I've ever seen.  The ones I saw were the monsters, then I decided to create some variations on the theme...I'm thinking about some musical ones too, and maybe some with numbers on them to mark books that I am using for lessons during the year (1 for first grade, etc.).  If you want to make some for yourself, there is a great template and directions here.  And with all of the reading we are doing to get the school year started, I'm sure I'll find homes for all of my little friends!

Have a beautiful day!