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 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 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!)