Sunday, December 3, 2017

Introducing: Music Teacher Coffee Talk Podcast

Hi! It's been a loooooong time since I posted.

My Kodály inspired music teacher friend Carrie and I just posted our first episode of our new music teacher podcast Music Teacher Coffee Talk!

I love listening to podcasts and I've been wanting to create my own for a long while.

This is our opportunity to share songs, activities, and our experiences from the music classroom. (And more coffee time time for us! 😉)

For each episode we'll focus on a main topic. First up is a couple of our favorite holiday music activities. We also share highs and lows (successes and challenges,) from our teaching week, plus a coda section where we give professional and/or personal recommendations and random music things we love. 

Carrie and I seem to spend a lot of time "talking shop" and know we're just sharing our conversation with you.

We plan to upload an new episode every two weeks. If you are interested in keeping up with the podcast, please subscribe through iTunes!
Just search Music Teacher Coffee Talk.
You can also find us on Stitcher.

Find us on Facebook here.

We referenced a few books, song collections, and videos.
Here are the show notes for Episode 1:

First We Sing! Songbook One (song: Here Comes Mrs. Macaroni)

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy dance video

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy celeste video:

Christmas Foam Shapes Ideas

Revels Celebrate the Winter Song Collection

Cup Song Sleigh Ride


Sleigh Ride by Pentatonix

Do They Know It’s Christmas?

Let me know if you like what you hear and if you have suggestions for show themes!

Happy listening!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Favorite website: Every Noise at Once

Hello! I wanted to briefly mention a favorite website I found a few weeks ago. It's called Every Noise at Once and I LOVE it! The site is a word map of hundreds of genres of music which include a sound clip of a song or piece typical to that genre. Click on a genre and you are linked to another map of artists and groups within that genre, plus a box of sub-genres. I've introduced my 5th and 6th graders to the site so that they can find more music to love.

As a super music geek/fan, I have loved exploring the worm-holes of this very extensive website. I found exploring the site similar to looking through a photo album of my life. The nostalgia of my childhood washes over me as I hear bits of Simon and Garfunkle, Gordon Lightfoot, and Peter, Paul, and Mary (my parents favorites.) The goth rock and new wave of my 1980s are represented well and I discovered several indie bands and artists I should be listening to.

Don't explore this site if you have to do anything in the nest few hours, (like go to sleep.) 
There, now you've been warned! Find this amazing site at

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

5 Favorite Pins of February

I hope you had a fun Valentine's Day and a peaceful President's Day.
Today I'm linking up with Aileen at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share my favorite pins of February.

#1: What Piano Etiquette Should We Be Teaching Our Students?
If you've read my latest blog post you know that my son Jude is preparing for his Suzuki Piano Book 1 Party. It's next Saturday. Today we had his run-through with his piano teacher and he seems ready and confident. I came across this helpful reminder blog post about the little etiquette rules that make a difference in piano performance. While I don't agree with every rule she lists, (I honestly don't care that much about which end of the bench my kid enters from, as long as he'd not hurdling over it!), these simple rules do make a difference in presentation.

#2: Denise Gagne Kodaly's Viennese Musical Clock. 
Cup movement active listening lesson
This is so simple and engaging! The emphasis on form, pattern, and beat is evident. I'm excited to try it with my second graders. Denise has several other videos worth checking out. Her youtube channel is denisegagne50.

#3: Thank God it's Monday! Creating Peace and Joy in the Classroom and Home
by Sally Ogden
So....I'm not sure if I've shared this but I'm an audiobook/radio show/podcast junkie. Most of the time I prefer listening to podcasts, audio books and lectures over watching television or videos. 
Several years ago I attended a 3 day Love and Logic for Teachers conference and Sally Ogden was one of the guest presenters. Full disclosure; Mrs. Ogden was my french teacher in high school. She was one of the most friendly, helpful, and funny teachers in school and her personality shines through on this recording. This presentation/lecture focuses on creating positive classroom environments and bulletproofing. If you are feeling negative about classroom behaviors or attitudes listening to this will brighten your outlook!

 #4: Dalcroze Eurhythmics, Bunny Story - Fritz Anders
Here's my friend Fritz leading his students through a story exploring high, middle, low, dynamics, and tempo changes. (I love his Peter and the Wolf musical quote when the wolf appears!)

#5: The Beatles collage
I love the Beatles and this collage is simply very cool!

Thanks for reading, and a big thanks to Aileen for the linky party!
Be sure to read all the other wonderful music ed blog link ups over at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Practice, Practice, Practice!

Today I'm blogging about individual practice habits. As we start getting into recorders at my school I'm reminded that all students need guidance when it comes to practicing at home. As their teacher I provide them with many tips an how to practice on their own.
This post is focused on how to guide practice at home from a parent's point of view.

Over the winter break my son and I started organizing his piano practice. He has been taking Suzuki piano lessons for a little over two years and we are approaching his Book 1 recital. In the Suzuki method students learn all of the pieces from the first book by rote and have a book party when they have perfected all of the pieces. There are nineteen pieces in Book I, seventeen of which he'll perform at the book party. He has played them all over the past couple of years but some pieces have been out of rotation and they all need to be performance ready. 

Also, while my son does enjoy playing, he does not always enjoy the hard work of practicing. He has reached the point where playing is not coming as easy for him as it did during his first year of playing. There have been some frustrations at the piano. Interestingly, I've noticed that he seems to be in a good mood after particularly challenging practice sessions.

Here are 5 tips for parent involvement in music practice.

1. Schedule practice time for around the same time every day
In our house, if it's not scheduled, it's probably not happening. While we are out of school, and on the weekends Jude practices in the morning. That way he doesn't have it hanging over his head all day, (and I don't have to remind him all day.) During a typical weekday we have to practice later in the day because we all have to be at school at 7:15am and I'm on duty supervising kids at 7:20am. Being at the same school definitely has advantages! On some days he practices in the music room after school if I know we're going to get home later. (If practice has to happen after dinner it probably won't be as productive!)

2. Develop a practice routine with your child
As a child I had a couple of years of piano lessons with a handful of mediocre piano teachers. One thing that was missing from my lessons was instruction on how to practice at home. I would half-heartedly play through my pieces, gloss over the more challenging measures and avoid working on them at all. (Or I would only try to tackle the hard parts after I had already been at the piano for a while and my concentration was spent!)

When Jude practices he plays a couple of warm-up scales, one or two easy pieces that he has mastered and feels good about, and then he focuses on his most challenging measures in a harder piece. I try to build his practice time the same way I build my class lessons: beginning with warm-ups and then alternating periods of high concentration, (pieces he has mastered,) with relaxation, (already mastered pieces that don't require as much concentration.) 

In December I created cards for him listing a separate piece on each card.  Each time he includes a piece in his practice we write the date in the top right corner. We draw a star if he can play it perfectly. If the piece is not yet 100%, I write in a different percentage of how far along it is along with the date. The percentage is not from a hard and fast number of mistakes, (I'm not a tiger mom who keeps those kinds of records!), it's just an idea of how far along the piece is. Jude responds well to the percentage idea. We have seventeen pieces he'll play at his book party and this way he can easily rotate through them. At this point his book party is in two weeks (!!) and he's playing most of the pieces in the order he'll play them for the recital. 

My son's book and practice cards.
(Can you tell that the book's been dropped in a puddle on a snowy day?) 
3. Stay nearby during practice
Part of the Suzuki requires parent to be actively involved in their child's practice. I definitely don't hover over Jude as he practices but I'm usually a few feet away making dinner or working on my laptop, (our art/music/play room is connected to the kitchen in our house.)  Like most kids, he can get side-tracked; those lego bricks are so close! I'm there to help and and get him back on track if needed.  

4. Don't watch the clock!
Practice time should be about working on the music, not a number of minutes sitting on the piano bench. Make a plan of what pieces to work on and stop when it makes sense or when your child shows that they are no longer productive and are just spinning their wheels. Sometimes it makes more sense to break up practice into two or even three shorter sessions during the day.
5. Encourage Your Child 
Give authentic and specific praise and encouragement. It is more meaningful to say, "I noticed you really brought out the dynamics in the second half of that piece!", then "great work!" 

6. Have fun!
Kids should have opportunities to have unstructured time with their instrument and just play whatever they what. I know free play in learning is not in-vogue in most public schools. There are so many tests and assessments to prepare for and the higher-ups don't acknowledge the value of learning through discovery, (at least in my district.) I want Jude to enjoy the piano and have fun figuring out songs by ear or making things up; even when it's cacophony, (especially when it's cacophony- that's a great release!)

There are a few ideas from me from my experiences as a mom.
At my Teachers Pay Teachers store I have some fun piano practice cards/records that I originally made for Jude. 

Do you have any helpful practicing tips you've stumbled on with your kids? Please share!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions

Hello and Happy New Year!

Today I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share a few New Year's Resolutions for 2015! (Thank you, AIileen, for the opportunity!)

Personal: Enjoy more time with my family: 
My husband and I have two school aged kids and they seem to be growing up super-fast. We are very lucky because we are all at the same school; my husband is the art teacher, our son is in 4th grade, and our daughter is on Kindergarten this year. We usually travel together to school and we're together outside of school. We have the same school breaks and summer vacation. However, I think we sometimes forget to plan regular fun family times, (beyond everyone together doing homework, dishes, and other necessary chores!) 

This year we made a point of purchasing ski passes and lessons for the kids during a big sale in September. I grew up skiing and my husband has been skiing since he was a teenager but neither of us have been for five years. We went up to Loveland earlier this week, and we all had a blast! (Even though it was -3°!) I was nervous about the kids in their ski lessons but they both did very well. After a few more lessons I'm sure they will both be able to join us on some beginner slopes! We plan to go again this Friday. Here's a picture from this week of me and husband just off the lift. (No, I'm not turning gray; the condensation on my hair from breathing into my neck gator turned to frost quickly!)

Professional: Re-organize my music ed session resources
I've been teaching for twenty years and I have participated in a lot of professional development. I'm a gen-Xer and I have had the interesting experience of starting my teaching career when the only computers in the school were in the main office and a few in the library, to the current technology explosion we have in education (and everywhere else!) 
When I was in college, students did not own computers; we all went to a computer lab to write papers. I was firmly out of college when I got an email account and during my first few years of teaching I wrote all of my plans in a spiral plan-book. I have a lot of paper. I have 3 large, alphabetized by presenters, notebooks of music ed session/workshop notes and those are the ones I thought were worth keeping. It's time I make digital copies of everything from my paper days. It's a big job that I've been avoiding but it needs to be done.

Classroom: Schedule kindergarten music time
Kindergarten classes do not get art, music, or PE at my school. I know that in the past, when I've scheduled a few kindergarten lessons, it makes a difference when they start music in first grade. When the new first graders have had some prior positive musical experiences with me, they progress much faster! Even though it will mean some days without a planning period, I plan to visit kindergarten and teach a few music lessons.

Blog/TpT: Blog weekly
I have been blogging off and on now for a couple of years, sometimes much more "off" than "on!" I want my blog to be a solid resource and positive contribution to the music ed blogging world, and that requires consistency. 

Just for me: Make more music/listen to more music
Music is my passion. I am always energized after playing music myself, (even if it's just a simple piano piece while helping my son with his practice,) and listening to music. I've played bass guitar and sung in bands off and on and I have plans to start that up again in January. I also enjoy listening to music whenever I can. My tastes lean mostly towards classical, jazz, folk, and alternative/indie rock. My mood is almost always lifted by listening to music and I hope to include more listening, (and concert going,) in 2015!

Be sure to stop by Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to check out other bloggers' resolutions!

I wish you a very happy 2015!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Christmas Centers

Hello and happy almost-to-winter-break!

I've noticed that the closer we get to the two-week break, the more distracted the students get. I've been trying something different this year to channel their energy- Christmas centers! The class is divided into four groups and they have about 7 minutes at each center.

Each grade level has 2 centers focused on a rhythm or melodic concept they've been working on and 2 centers focused on Christmas music.

Here is an example with 4th grade:

Center 1: SMART Board
Christmas Around the World

Aileen Miracle's excellent Christmas Around the World file has pictures, information, and video links showing how Christmas is celebrated in different parts of the world. The students love it!

Center 2: Ti Tika Flashcard playing

At this station students practice playing rhythms.

Thanks to Glitter Meets Glue for the snowflake clipart

Center 3: Santa Hats Post Office

The Santa Hat post office games have been a big hit in my classroom!

The students spread their cards out in front of them and then take turns calling out a card for the others to find. I let them choose between speaking the rhythm with rhythm syllables or clapping. It's interesting to see which students choose to clap and challenge their classmates! In third grade I'm calling all the cards and using this activity as an assessment for identifying patterns with tikka tikka.

Center 4: Nutcracker Selections Listening

This center includes headphones, an old iPod touch, and rhythm play a longs for Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy and Russian Dance (Trepak) We have practiced the play a longs in class together as a large group. I give students the option to play a long or just listen to the selections. Many choose to play along.

For most of the classes I am able to "float" and help with any technical difficulties or group disputes, (which occasionally seem to surface!) For 3rd and 2nd grade I've been able to assess students at the post office center.

It's been a more relaxed time then I usually have this time of year and the kids have enjoyed the variety! This week I'll be doing sing a longs to finish December.

I hope you are having a great time in your classroom. Do you have activities you love to use this time of year? Please share!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Rockin' Resources and HUGE TpT Cyber Sale!

Hello all, 
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! I have loved spending time with my family, cooking, (even though my children refuse to eat my fantastic green bean casserole,) playing games, and sleeping in. Unfortunately, the sleeping in stops tomorrow. (Insert Charlie Brown sigh.) However, I am super excited about the GINORMOUS Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Sale starting tomorrow and Tuesday, Dec. 1st and 2nd! 

My friend Amy over at Music a la Abbott is hosting a Linky Party for us music sellers to highlight a few TpT items we are excited about:

Resource from my store:
Melody Singing Snowmen- do Edition!
Oh my, this one has taken quite a while to create! It's a powerpoint game to practice aural identification of do melodies. 

What took so long in creating this set? Several audio clips of my son singing do melodic patterns! He is in 4th grade and was just selected as one of the six students to sing at the Colorado Elementary All State Choir in January! Yes, I am his music teacher but as in years past, I have another music teacher audition, score, and select the singers. (A HUGE thank you to my friend and fabulous music teacher Steve Soich!) We start rehearsing the music after school tomorrow. 

This was super-fun to make and the backgrounds from Educasong are beautiful! I'll be presenting do to my 2nd graders at the end of the week and they'll be playing this in centers the following week.

Resource from another music seller:
Malinda Phillips has some wonderful resources in her store! Here is her Treble Clef Review Game Stockings Hung With Care:

I'm really looking forward to using this one to review letter names with the 5th graders as we gear up to start alto recorders.

Jamie Parker is another music seller makes wonderful resources. I picked up her Shattered Solfa a couple of weeks ago; I just love stick to staff activities and this one is very well done! I'll be using it this week.

Non-music resource:
Well, it is kind of music related, just not from a music seller. This clip art from Whimsy Clips has been on my Wish List for a while now. I'll be picking this Music Night clip art up during the sale. These adorable kids will look great on newsletters and programs!

Now for the important info:

My entire store will be discounted 20% off on December 1st and 2nd. You can get an additional 8% off by entering the code "TPTCYBER." (Thanks to the 3am teacher for the banner!) Thank you, Amy for hosting this Linky Party! Head over to Amy's wonderful blog to connect to other bloggers who joined the party!
Happy shopping!