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!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I know,  it's been a long time since my last post.  Things have been a bit crazy here in South Texas.  We are now living with my husband's parents, still trying to sell our home in North Texas.  Now before you start to feel sorry for me, let me clarify:  My in-laws are wonderful.  They have a large 4 bedroom home with space for all of us to have our own rooms and bathrooms, they are happy to help out with the kids while we are at work, they have a housekeeper who comes once a week (score!), and they are incredibly generous.  I know not everyone could stand to live with family, and we are blessed to be a part of this loving, supportive one.

That said, I am ready to have my own space.  It's still weird living in someone else's house, cooking in someone else's kitchen, doing laundry in someone else's laundry room (especially when you hate laundry like I do), and trying to keep kids and school stuff organized and together. (So NOT mastering this mayhem!)  So if you know someone looking for a home in the Keller area, I have a great one for them!!

In honor of the holiday, I would like to share some Thanksgivings of my own:

I am thankful for....
.....My MIL and FIL, who have been so generous and supportive during this transition.
.....My own parents, who are supporting us in this move even though it takes us farther from them.
.....Our new church home, where we have been welcomed with open hearts and arms.
.....Our church youth group, a safe haven for the boys to build new friendships and grow in spirit.
.....The staff family at my new school, who make starting over a little easier.
.....My husband's new job, which has given him a confidence and fulfillment that he truly needed.
.....A God who loves me and is providing for our needs every day.

Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and focus on the things we don't have.  I know I have been guilty of that many times in the last few months.  But really, I am so blessed.  I have a job, a stable family, a home (two if you count the one we own and the one where we stay!), plenty of clothes to wear, food to eat, and cars to get us where we need to go.  God provides for all of our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus (Philipians 4:19).

May God bless you and your family with peace, joy, and love this Thanksgiving.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

New School Jitters

Inservice is over, and the kids are coming Monday!  I haven't finished going through the storage room and library yet, but my office is no longer a hot mess--progress!  The room is set for students, even if the walls are a little bare.  I think the hardest thing for me is that I have to be okay with things not being "perfect" for the first day.  I keep thinking of things that I want to get out of my school boxes (we may need to rent a truck to get it all here next weekend!), and it's killing me to not have it all ready right now.  I don't have all the great technology and instruments that I had in my last school, so I'm having to remember how to teach without them--who knew it would be so hard?

I've gotten some great ideas from the amazing teachers on the Music K-8 list.  If you are not a subscriber, I HIGHLY recommend it.  It is a network of music teachers all across the country who share ideas, ask questions, and support each other in what can be a lonely job.  You can subscribe at musick8.com by clicking on the "Mailing List" tab at the top of the page.  I would suggest creating a separate email account just for this, though.  There can be 100 or more posts every day, so you may not want it clogging another inbox. 

Now that my stuff is organized, I need to write out my lesson plans.  Have a great first week, everyone! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Let the Mayhem Begin!

WOW!  I knew I was tackling a lot of big changes all at once, but the details are starting to sink in.  This last week I went to my new school for the first time.  I found a large room (good!) that shares a wall with the band hall (not so good), with an office, music library, and two storage rooms (good) that were all FULL of stuff (not good!).  It looked like no one had cleaned out or taken joy in their teaching there in several years. It was overwhelmingly depressing.  I'll admit it, I cried more than once this week over the mountain of stuff ahead of me.

BUT....I spent yesterday cleaning out the office and arranging the room with the young man who will be teaching the other sections of 5th grade music while I am teaching choir.  Bless his heart, he is so excited to start his new job (he's a first year teacher), but he's kind of all over the place.  I've been asked to mentor him this year, which any other year I would be thrilled to do, but right now I feel like need to get myself in order before I can help anyone else.  If you are a praying person, please pray for me in this area!  I want to be a good leader and helper to him, as well as to my students.  I need a clear head and a calm spirit to make this work.

MEANWHILE, all of my school stuff from my old classroom is still in North Texas.  I came down with ONE crate to start the year, and I am wishing I had more here.  We will be going back to get more of our belongings Labor Day weekend, so I only have to get through the first week.  So it's my turn to ask you for ideas!  What activities can I do with 5th-7th graders that require little or no props/equipment?  I found rhythm sticks and egg shakers, and I bought 30 cups last night for cup games.  I'm going to try to borrow some beanbags or balls from the PE teacher (fingers crosssed they have some!). 

I need help to master this amount of mayhem!  Thank you in advance! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A New Adventure!

This has been a crazy summer at our house. In July, my wonderful husband got a job in Lake Jackson, six hours away.  It is also where his parents live, which is helpful right now.  Hubby started his job last week, and the boys and I stayed home, planning to spend the school year apart since I still have my current (wonderful) job.  But wait!  God has another plan.  The district that hired my husband has found a position for me!

That is wonderful, because: now we can keep our family together.  Since our oldest son is starting high school, I am SO glad to be with Dad this year (even if said 14yo is grumbling about moving). The town we are moving to is a great place, with great cultural opportunities for kids and community members.  We already have a church there that we love, so we can jump right in there, too.

That is scary, because:  I have five days to pack up my classroom, my boys, my dog, and get us to south Texas. I will be teaching 5th grade general music and 6th-8th grade choir, something I have not taught before. New teacher inservice starts next week, I have to set up a new classroom, learn the curriculum, select music, and be ready for kids on August 27th. Yikes!

As much as I love elementary music, I am excited about working with "big" kids.  It's like I'm just moving up with my fourth graders from last year (except a completely new bunch of kids).  I have been a choir director before, so I know what to do. It's just that....in case you didn't know....I'm a planner.  I like to think, plan, make lists, and THEN get started.  This timeline does not leave me much room for that!  But you know what?  It's an adventure, and it's going to be a fun ride!

Guess I better redo my teacher binder.....

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Google Docs for the Classroom

This is the time of year when most teachers are organizing, with a capital "O".  We plan, design, arrange, rearrange, redesign, and do everything we can to make the new year start strong.  One of my favorite tools to use is Google Docs.

If you have not seen or heard about Google Docs, it is high time you learned! It is a great way to store and share documents with others, collaborate on projects, and create forms for your programs.  Best of all, it's FREE!  All you have to do is create a Google ID for yourself. 

My favorite features are:

1. SHARING - I can share documents with anyone, anywhere I want.  If I want to share something I made with music teachers across the state, they can access it here.  No more multiple emails to send large files or pictures. Many of the bloggers I follow share their work as a Google document, so I can download them easily.  Also, if you open a shared document from someone else, it will be automatically added to your own Googledocs library.

2.  FORMS - OMGoodness, this is the BEST!  I use this to have kids sign up for choir auditions every year.  You set up the form and share the link with whomever you wish.  They fill in the form, and you have a spreadsheet with everyone's information already entered. I also use it to collect student information, take orders for t-shirts, and anything else I can think of.  No more worrying about whether I wrote down the correct size, or trying to read messy handwriting!

(You could also use the forms to create a quiz that students can take on the computer.  Their answers will be put into the spreadsheet for easy grading. I haven't done it, but I think it could be useful.)

3.  ACCESSIBILITY - You can access your Google docs from any computer, any time.  Left your laptop at home?  That's okay.  If you have an internet connection, you can access your stuff and work on it.  You can even share it with a colleague and work on it together. 

As you can see, I am a bit of a fan of the GoogleDocs.  I encourage you to check it out.  Get a Google ID for yourself, if only to be able to check out other people's stuff!

For more information about using Google Docs in the classroom, check out THIS LINK.

Here's to a well-planned, well-organized school year!

Goodbye Rhythms and FREE download!

Picture this:  It's the end of class and your students are lining up.  You look up at the clock and....DOH! There are still a few minutes until time to go! What do you do?  I've done several things to fill this time, depending on the class. 

1.  MAKE RAIN - this is a popular sound activity.  The students have to watch the person in front of them and copy what they do.  The teacher stands at the front of the line and starts a movement.  When it gets to the end of the line, start the next one.  The idea is for the sounds to overlap and morph into each other. *Remind them to NEVER STOP A MOVEMENT until the very end.

A. Rub palms together
B. Snap fingers
C. Pat knees
D. Stomp feet
E.  Pat knees
F.  Snap fingers
G.  Rub palms together
H. Softly blow out and return hands to your side.  It sounds like a rainstorm!

2.  SING - Of course, we can always sing the new song we just learned, or a class favorite. (If the door is open, we practice singing pianissimo)

3.  GOODBYE RHYTHMS - I got this idea from the girls at What the Teacher Wants.  They shared a list of fun rhymes to read/say together in line.  I copied the rhymes and added the rhythm under each.  Have the students clap the rhythm and say the rhyme together.  I'm going to start them as echoes, then have them read them after they become familiar.  This is a great way to reinforce the connection between words and rhythm.  I can't wait to use it next year!

*Note: The images are not mine, all I did was add the notes below each one.  Thank you Rachelle and Natalie for sharing!--Go show them some love at What the Teacher Wants!

For a FREE GoogleDocs download of these rhythms, click HERE. (If you don't have a Google ID, it's worth creating one to use Google Docs.  It's free, and you can access more freebies online, too!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do You Prezi?

For the past few years I have been using more and more powerpoint shows to introduce and review concepts in my class. I'm always amazed at how focused the kids are on a big screen!  My projector is my most used classroom tool, so I'm always looking for new ways to use it.  Enter Prezi.  Have you seen this?  It's like powerpoint on steroids!  It adds movement to still slides.  I can't wait to use it more and create some introductions to composers for my classes.  AND, you can import your existing powerpoint so you don't have to completely start over!  Woohoo!

I'm just a novice right now, but here is a small portion of my first week presentation:

Keys to Musical Success   (BTW, I can't figure out how to embed the actual vid. Any experts out there? Leave me a note if you can help me figure it out!)

By the way, I totally stole borrowed the Keys from Cara at Miscellaneous Me.  I may change them a little to fit my school this year, but you still get the idea. 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

A Musical Rollercoaster

Check out this amazing video on Vimeo!

Visualization of the 1st violin of the 2nd symphony, 4th movement by Ferdinand Ries in the shape of a rollercoaster. The camera starts by showing a close-up of the score, then focuses on the notes of the first violin turning the staves into the winding rail tracks of the rollercoaster. The notes and bars were exactly synchronised with the progression in the animation so that the typical movements of a rollercoaster ride match the dramatic composition of the music.


Saturday, July 14, 2012

Beth's Music Notes: Sixteenth Note Game

Today on Pinterest, I ran across this board game for practicing sixteenth notes.  She explains clearly how she plays the game with the whole class. I love this!  I'm thinking this would be a good review for fourth grade at the beginning of the year, then I can make a smaller version of the game for center games later on.  Thanks Beth!

Beth's Music Notes: Sixteenth Note Game

Friday, July 13, 2012

My Organizing Binder

Hello friends!  I hope you are having a wonderful summer break and are taking some time to relax and rest!  This is the time in the summer when I start organizing my brain for next year.  My room is not ready yet--my hall is always the last one to get cleaned and polished--so I'm not even going to think about it until the end of July.  Meanwhile, though, I can get my School Notebook ready. 

I have been using a notebook to keep my school life together for several years.  It's the only way I keep it together some months, especially when I am on several committees and projects.  *Let me say here, that I love technology, and I keep everything I possibly can on my computer, but sometimes, you just need a pen and paper, or a place to put handouts, etc.*  I've seen blog posts about classroom teachers' binders, but not music teachers, so I thought I'd share my version with you.

First, I got a 1-1/2 inch binder.  One inch is not enough for me, and 2" is too big to carry around, so this works for me.  I have to make it cute so I enjoy looking at it every day. :)  I found this subway art on Pinterest (don't you LOVE Pinterest?) and matted it with some cute scrapbook paper.

I've divided my notebook into eight sections:

1.  IMPORTANT INFORMATION:  This includes the district instructional calendar, class schedule, duty schedules, and probably a monthly calendar as well.  I use my Outlook calendar for everything, but sometimes it's easier and faster to look at a paper calendar. I'll either hole punch the freebie we usually get in August, or  print out my Outook calendar to put here.

2. CURRICULUM:  This includes TEKS, our District Specific Objectives, and instructional calendars as needed. That stuff you need to refer to when lesson planning. :)

3. LESSON PLAN IDEAS:  My formal lesson plan is done online, but this is where I sketch out the six weeks plans.  I made a planning sheet so I can see the whole six weeks on one page, just to know where I'm headed with each grade level.  This is also where I write down those brainstorms for future lessons.  I keep blank paper here for those ideas so I don't lose them forever (because if I don't write them down. that's what would happen!).

4. MEETING NOTES:  I started out with a different tab for each section of meeting notes (team meetings, committee meetings, faculty meetings, district music meetings), but I decided that was just too many tabs.  I put them all in one section, but with a piece of cardstock separating each.  You could do it either way.

5.  BUDGET PLANNING:   I don't have a huge budget, but I do have enough to get to make some purchases for my classroom each year.  I use this section to write down things as I think of them, so when it's time to spend my budget money I can remember what all I wanted to buy.  Because seriously, I cannot keep that stuff in my brain!

6. COMPUTER & SOFTWARE:  First, I have a spreadsheet of all of the (many) programs we use in the district, with username/password listed.  Plus all those teacher sites I've joined so I can get great ideas, my choir site account, etc.  Again, I will not remember how to log in to my stuff after a month, so this is important!  After that, my notes about new software, how to do things I only use twice a year, etc.

7. CLASSROOM STUFF: This is the catchall for things that don't fit in the other categories, like bulletin board ideas, games I want to make, music advocacy stuff, etc.

8. And finally, PROJECTS:  As the music teacher, we get asked to do other things outside of our classroom curriculum.  Like programs, contests, and campus celebrations.  Last year I wanted to start a Veteran's Day celebration on our campus, so this is where I kept those notes.  They don't really fit into any other category, but I needed a place to keep them straight.

And that's it! My beautiful little organized piece of the world!  It looks so pretty now, I almost hate to mess it up....Ha!  No really, I can't wait to start filling it up with the joys and challenges this year will bring.  I take this notebook with me everywhere--and when my computer dies (like it did last April), I am not completely lost! 

This post is linked to this awesome linky party--if you love organization, you must check out Delightful Order!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

I've added a new page!

Every once in a while I get a chance to be crafty, and I like to share my finished projects.  My husband tries to be enthusiastic, but it's just not the same as a fellow crafter's appreciation. :)  I hope you will check them out and let me know what you think!  Everything I do is inspired by someone else, so maybe you will find some inspiration on this page.  Summer's here, so let's get crafting!

Check out my Crafty Moments HERE.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Summer Lovin'

We made it!  Our school year ended last Thursday, with a teacher workday on Friday.  I am now officially on summer break.  Woo hoo!  As much as I love my job, I am ready for some rest and relaxation.  After a couple of weeks of sleeping late and catching up on housework, I hope to start thinking about the next school year........a little bit.  I'm planning on reorganizing my school binder, updating my sub binder, and recreating my choir binder.  And of course, I'll be all over the school supply sales in July and August.  I hope to post more during the summer as I come across ideas and lessons to share. 

What would you like to hear about? I would love it if you would leave a comment!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Magic Jukebox

Hello friends!  Sorry it's been so long since my last post.  Things have been crazy busy, as they are in April and May.  My third graders are preparing to perform our last program on Tuesday.  It's called "The Magic Jukebox", and it's in the Silver Burdett "Power of Performance" book. 

I LOVE this program!  The magic jukebox plays songs from the 40s, 50s, and 60s.  They are singing great music like "It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing", "Hound Dog", and "Dancin' in the Streets".  The kids have really enjoyed singing these songs, and because they are in the textbook series, they are already formatted for young kids to sing.  The down side is that you have to do some of your own creative work.  I had to research period dances to choreograph the songs (the story line is about dancing, so you need some), but we are having a good time learning together. 

UPDATE:  The performance was awesome!  It was SO much fun.  The parents loved it, the kids rocked it, and I am one proud music mama!  The best part was the week after--kids were telling me how much they enjoyed performing, and even thanked me for helping them learn it!  <happy sigh> This is why I love my job!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Recorder Mayhem

Ah, the recorder.  It's that instrument we love to hate sometimes, but I think it is an important part of my students' music education.  Some teachers use recorders regularly, starting in early grades--if you are one of those people, my hat is off to you!  I, however, have chosen to introduce recorders in a focused unit in fourth grade.  By that age, most of their hands are big enough to cover the holes (a few still struggle with this for a few weeks) and they are ready for a new challenge.  It injects some much-needed enthusiasm in my class for the spring semester, just when the kids are getting restless and ready to be done with elementary school.

After much trial and error, I have settled into my personal favorite method:  Recorder Karate.  It is by far the most motivating thing for my kids.  It's amazing!  Boys who never seemed to be that "into" music are suddenly racing to see who can reach their Black Belt first.  Kids who (I thought) were not really progressing musically are suddenly reading music like crazy.  I love it.  I begin the unit with class lessons to learn their first three notes (BAG), practicing together to learn the classic first song: Hot Cross Buns.  When they play the song alone successfully, they get their white belt.  After that, I begin each class with a group lesson, group practice, then independent practice time.  (Maybe I'm just a control freak, but that was something I had to learn how to do with this age of students--let them practice independently.  I'm so used to being the leader, director, conductor, etc., I had never set young kids loose on their own.  Guess what?  They CAN do it!) During independent practice time, they can sign up on the board to play for me.  I get to spend one-on-one time with kids, helping when they are struggling, cheering when they get it, and giving immediate rewards for success. Awesomeness!

So this year, I had a new problem.  I had a group of VERY competitive boys who made black belt (9 levels) in THREE WEEKS.  Yikes!  What now?  That's what they were asking me, every day, after school, before school, during class....they wanted more!  So I started digging, went to the yarn department to find new colors for belts, and gave them some more.  They are loving it.  I never dreamed I would be able to differentiate this much in an elementary music classroom.  I am having a ball, and they are keeping me on my toes. 

Now that's not to say that I don't have days when I don't want to hear another recorder sound--ever--but for the most part, I have a lot of fun with this unit.  Seeing kids get excited about making music is worth every ear-piercing, headache-inducing whistle.  Really. 

FOLLOW-UP:  Last week one of my fourth graders came to school in this shirt she made at home.  I heart her.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hop to It! Easter Fun

Well, I meant to get this post up sooner, but I guess it's better late than never, right?  Easter is upon us, and the kids are brimming with excitement over eggs, bunnies, candy, and spring fun!  This week I just decided to run with the Easter Bunny theme with my younger students.  Here are some of my favorites:

1.  Easter Rhythms:  I cut out enough paper egg shapes for the entire class.  On each egg, I wrote a word or phrase about easter/spring, like "easter bunny, egg hunt, jelly beans", etc.  Before the kids come into the room, I hide the eggs around the music room (in easy places to find).  I have three easter baskets, each with a rhythm card taped to the front.  For first grade, I used two quarter notes, two eighths and a quarter note, and two pairs of eighth notes.  The students get to find the easter eggs, read the words, then place the egg in the basket with the matching rhythm pattern.  We go through each basket together, and any misplaced eggs we review and discover the correct rhythm of the words. 

2.  Scrambled Eggs:  For this you need plastic easter eggs.  Print out songs the kids know, and cut apart the phrases.  You can use rhythms, melodies, or both, depending on the grade level.  Include the title, but not the lyrics.  Students have to open the eggs, read the phrases, and put them in order to read the song.  They can work in groups as a race, or if you're really industrious you could have a set for each student. 

3.  The Bunny Hop:  Little kids have to move, so let's learn the Bunny Hop!  I simplified the first steps to a single touch on each side before the hops.  It's a great way to work out the wiggles!

4.  Books:  I love to incorporate books into my classes, and this is no exeption.  This week we read Bunny's Noisy Book by Margaret Wise Brown in Kinder, and There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed a Chick by Lucille Colandro in first grade.  My kinder babies enjoy making all the sounds the bunny hears in his day, and first graders will be singing along with the crazy old lady!

Some other favorite songs this week are from Denise Gagne's "Movement Songs Children Love"--especially "One Green Jelly Bean" and the "Easter Bunny Boogie". 

Do you have an Easter activity that your kiddos love?  Please share! 

Happy Easter!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Testing, Testing, 1,2,3.....

It's that time again in Texas: state testing season.  Music teachers everywhere are alternating between "whew!  I'm glad I don't have to teach a tested subject!" and "hey, just because we aren't testing doesn't mean we aren't important!".  To my fellow music teachers I say, take heart friends!  We are even more important now.  Our students are working, nose to the grindstone all day every day.  Their classroom teachers are keeping them focused on a very real, sometimes daunting, goal.  For students who are struggling, music may be the one place they feel confident and safe taking a risk.  For academically strong students, music is a chance to stretch their wings and express themselves.  Music teacher, you are important!  Even if you have to change your schedule, combine classes, monitor restrooms, and take kids to recess, you are doing good work.  My role this week is to be a cheerleader for my kiddos and help them to feel successful.  If we get to make music in the process, that's even better!  It's a good week to focus on flexibility and creativity, and to remind myself that with or without the music, I am a teacher. My students need me to be calm, confident, and positive.  My inner diva is going to take a back seat to academics, and she will survive......as long as I let her out again soon. ;)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Carnival of the Animals

I don't know about you, but sometimes I struggle with Kindergarten.  I have them for 55 minutes once a week, which is too long for them to focus on any one thing, so I need lots of activities for each class.  I have been working on a unit for Carnival of the Animals for them, and it is going really well.  Each week, we have an "Animal of the Week".  We listen to the music for that animal and learn about the instrument(s) represented in the piece.  I have several activities that I am using in each week's lesson.

1.  Movement:  move like the animal represented while listening to the music, or copy the teacher's movements during the music.
2.  Read a book from the library featuring the animal of the week. (can be fiction or non)
3.  Sing a song related to the animal (ex:  "Here Comes a Bluebird" for the Aviary)
4.  Play a game with the song.
5.  Watch a video of the selection (I've found great ones on YouTube!)
6.  Color a picture from this awesome coloring book:

I am keeping their pictures each week, and we will compile them into a book at the end of the unit. Periodically, I will interject a different lesson to break up the pattern, but most kids love the predictability of it all.  They come in asking for the new animal each week! 

If you would like a sample lesson for The Aviary, just shoot me an email at ckmusicmom@ymail.com, and I'll send you a PDF file.  Thanks for reading!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Classroom Management 101

This is the time of year when things begin to slip.  Cabin fever, early spring, full moon--blame it on whatever you want, but the kids seem more.....energetic, perhaps?   That's a sure sign that it's time to revisit your rules and procedures.  We've had a lot of new students move in at my school, and that always changes the dynamic of the classroom.  So pretend it's for the benefit of our new friends, and take the time to review what you expect from your students.  Consider it a condensed version of the first week of school.  I promise, it will be worth your time!

As music teachers, we want our classrooms to be free, creative, and expressive, like we are.  But too much freedom and creativity can lead to chaos, so how do we keep the balance?  It's a question I ask myself every day.  Really.  EVERY DAY.  So there's nothing wrong with you if you feel the same way!  Even as a 20-year veteran of the classroom, I find reminders and tips very helpful.  I highly recommend getting on the email list for Smart Classroom Management.  You'll get a weekly tip in your inbox to help you keep on top of student behavior. They have the best tips and ideas to keep your classroom flowing smoothly, which makes for a happy teacher and, as a result, happy classes! 

FREE online music activites!

This week at our district music meeting, we shared ideas for using technology in the music classroom.  It was so much fun!  I love finding new ways to present materials to my students, and they get excited about technology.  I am blessed to have a projector, document camera, and ActivSlate in my room, and I try to use them whenever I can.  I would LOVE to have an interactive white board. I'm even thinking about applying for a grant to get one.  That's new territory for me, so we'll see....

With those resources in mind, here are some of my current favorite websites to use in my class:

The Blob Chorus - awesome ear training practice.  Each blob sings a pitch, then King Blob sings.  You click on the blob that sang the same note as King Blob.  If you're wrong, the blob you chose explodes! You can choose from 3 to 8 pitches in the set, so the challenge increases with your skills.  My kids LOVE this game!

The Music Interactive - these games are designed for interactive white boards, but you can use them with a mouse, too.  You have to download the games to your computer to play.  There are many free downloads to choose from.  My faves are Rhythm Blocks, Staff Wars, Speed Note, Rhythm Adding and Rhythm Dictation.

I use these games with the whole class, using the projector.  There are lots of ways for the students to participate:

1.  Show of hands:  everyone holds up fingers to show their answer choice; majority chooses answer. Works well with Blob Chorus.
2.  Give students answer cards to hold up.  Could be laminated/dry erase writing, numbered, or color coded.
3.  Divide the class into teams and let them take turns answering.  Award points for correct answers.
4.  In speed based games, teams could have an individual answer until they miss one, then the next team member steps in or play goes to the other team. (Staff Wars)

This is a great way to inject some new energy into your class this time of year.  I hope you have fun with these ideas!  And when you're just playing around, check out Quaver's Marvelous World of Music.  I haven't figured out how to make this work for a group setting yet, but it is on my list of links for kids to try!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Why Music Teachers Should Stay in Shape

I know, that title makes me cringe too.  But this week, my body betrayed me.  I have been teaching elementary music for 15 years, and I have always been right in there with the kids, singing, dancing, jumping, hopping, skipping, whatever!  Lately my classes have been really wiggly, so I've been starting class with 5 to 10 minutes of movement (especially on rainy days).  Sometimes it's structured, "follow the leader" type stuff, and sometimes we just cut loose and DANCE!  My newest dance song is the Kidz Bop version of "Party Rock Anthem".  It's really fun!  It's great watching 7-year-olds shuffle! 

So there we were, dancing our hearts out in first grade.  We finished the song and sat down to begin the lesson.  Moments later, I stood up and...............ouch!  My ankle hurt with every step.  "No biggie," I thought.  "I've had minor twists a million times.  I'll just walk it off."  Yeah, right.  For the first time in my life, I sprained my ankle!  No joke!  I'm offically too old for hip-hop.  Dang.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Aunt Pearlie Sue leads the way...

February is Black History Month, so I like to use this time to explore the music that has evolved in America thanks to the African-American culture.  My favorite way to start this unit with my 3rd graders is with an interactive website lesson (points for using technology!).   We are fortunate to have a computer lab at my school, so this week my 3rd grade classes are meeting in the lab.  You could also do this with one computer and a projector, with the teacher leading the class through the material.

So, first go to www.knowitall.org/gullahmusic.  You should see a page like this:

See the lady on the left?  That's Aunt Pearlie-Sue.  She narrates this whole adventure, so make sure you have the sound turned on.  She has a pretty thick gullah accent, so the words are also printed on each page. When you move your cursor over the four circles, you can hear her laugh....the kids said it sounds like a chicken! LOL!  Anyway, start with the "Secret Code" section.  Aunt Pearlie Sue tells all about how the slaves used music to communicate and help guide others to the underground railroad.  There are even examples of some of the music to listen to. 

At the end of this section, we recap and I ask questions to make sure they were paying attention. Then we go on to explore the other three sections, which are about making music.  Click on different sounds to create your own arrangement, listen to children sing with Pearlie Sue, and compose your own blues verse (I use that one for a separate lesson the following week). 

As if that weren't enough, you can click on "The Journey" to follow the evolution of music from African drums all the way to Hip Hop, with examples of each along the way.  How cool is that? The kids are loving it!

Do you have a favorite lesson for Black History Month?  Please share! 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Bass Hall Field Trip

Today I took my second graders to Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth to see the FWSO.  They do a great children's performance every year.  They presented "Peter and the Wolf" by Prokofiev, complete with ballet dancers acting out the story.  The kids LOVED it! This year we sat in the Upper Gallery...read "nosebleed section"...but even from there, the view is great. 

It's one of my favorite events of the year.  We make a big deal out of getting to go to a symphony concert.  We discuss proper etiquette for attending a concert, and what to wear--the kids show up on field trip day dressed to the nines.  A 7-year-old in a suit and tie is ADORABLE!  They learn about the Hall beforehand, so as soon as they get inside they are looking around, identifying the art on the ceilings and marble staircases that they saw in pictures.  The staff and volunteers at Bass Hall are fabulous--they love what they do and they are good at it.  They escort you from the bus to your seats and back again. It's almost impossible to lose anyone on this trip! ;)

If you ever have the opportunity to take students to Bass Performance Hall, DO IT.  It will be the best music field trip you've ever done!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year!  I hope your holiday was restful, relaxing, and rejuvenating, and that you are ready to jump into 2012 with both feet!  Let's sing, dance, and play our hearts out!