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!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

5 Favorite Pins of November

Hello! Yes, I know I haven't blogged for a while. Life just keeps moving! 
I really wanted to share a few my favorite pins and participate in Mrs. Miracle's Room: Five Favorite Pins of November.

1. Christmas Present Sound Match
This is actually a post aimed at toddlers but I think it would be a very fun matching game in the music room to direct and focus student listening. I'm thinking of using it as a center for 1st graders.

2. English Idioms/Figurative Language
The 4th graders are really involved in using idioms and figurative language. (So much that their classroom teachers have trained them to raise their hand every time they hear an idiom!) It will be fun to show them how many musical idioms we use in our society.)

3. 3 Time Management Rules I Wish I'd Learned 10 Years Ago.
(Here's hoping it's not too late for the rest of us!)

 4. Music Around the World Unit
This looks like such a well thought out and attractive set!

5. Smart Teaching
There are some interesting ideas here on how to present material.

I have the day off, (hurray for Thanksgiving break!) and my children are playing hide and seek. I'm going to join them! Thanks to Aileen for hosting this linky party!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Wishlist Wednesday


Today was my second day of school with students. I love the summer but after the first day of school, I always have that "Oh yeah, that's right, I love to be with these kids and I get to teach them music! How lucky I am!" feeling. Yesterday afternoon I was pretty exhausted after the first day but I'm working on getting back into a good routine. My stamina will kick in soon, I hope!

I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room and her Wishlist Wednesday Linky Party to tell you about three TpT products I'm excited about!

Wednesday, Aug. 20th is a big day at Teachers Pay Teachers. They are having a Back to School Boost Sale. 

Additionally, many stores, including my own, will be discounted at 20%! The big sale is only one day, so don't forget to move those wish list items into your cart to save!

Be on the lookout for these promos:
(Thanks to Jena at Sew Much Music for the cute images!)
Several music teachers are coming together to help out a fellow music teacher in need. I'll be donating a portion of my Beginning Recorder Bundle to benefit this wonderful teacher during a challenging time for her and her family. Tomorrow search for TeachersHelpingTeachers at TpT for several music items for which a percentage of sales will go to our fellow music teacher.

Wishlist Item #1
I admit to being very discriminating regarding clipart. I am attracted to cute clipart, of course, but being married to the art teacher for 11 years has had an affect on my taste in drawings. My husband is primarily a comic book artist and I've grown accustomed to illustrations that are slightly more off-beat than the round, cherub faced clipart that has become very popular on TpT. I really like the look of A Sketchy Guy's clipart. It's kind of scruffy and cute. Here's a set that will be in my cart tomorrow.

Wishlist Item #2

Tracy King (AKA The Bulletin Board Lady) has many fun products in her store. One thing I've had my eye on is her Carnival of the Animals Listening Logs. For many years I've used my old Music & You textbooks for Carnival of the Animals listening and I've been needing an upgrade. These listening logs are just what I need; it guides student listening for dynamics, tempo, and instruments. The Cukoo in the Heart of the Woods and The Aviary are two of my favorite primary beginning-of-the-year listening lessons. I look forward to having a fresh look to accompany these pieces! (Tracy also has a bundle of Carnival of the Animals materials including bulletin board materials.)

Item #3

My last item to share is one of my own that I finally added to my store tonight.

Who Sang It? is an interactive PowerPoint game that includes embedded audio. 
Students press the speaker to hear a mi sol la melody sung. I recorded my 9 year old son singing the patterns on "loo." Children are best able to match pitch from another child's voice, so it seemed like a natural fit. Don't worry, he was paid for his time and performance, I'm just glad he's not part of the studio musicians' union, I can't afford their rates!

Two owls show two patterns notated and the student matches the written pattern to what was heard.

I really like that each correct answer slide includes the pattern so that students can sing it after identifying the pattern.

There are ten slides with patterns to match and two levels.
Level One shows patterns written in the melodic contour with solfa. Level Two shows the same patterns on the staff; sol is in the third space:

Thank you for reading! Have a great Wednesday!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

My Music Room Set-Up

Welcome back to school! I had an active summer with my family. We were happy to stay in Colorado this summer; I often forget how lucky we are to have so many beautiful places nearby. We took a fun road trip to Mesa Verde, Aspen, and Glenwood Springs and even tried white water rafting for the first time! (My 4 year old daughter loved rafting and enjoyed pretending that she controlled the rapids by conducting the water!)

School starts tomorrow for my family, (eek!), and I have been busy getting everything ready. I'm happy to link up with Mrs. Miracle's Room's My Music Room Set-Up Linky Party, (even if it is bit later then many other "beginning of the year set-up posts"!) Here are a couple of things I'm excited about!

My cabinets that hold all of my small percussions have been in need of a makeover. I also keep the boomwhackers near the orange cabinets in paint buckets, which take up too much valuable floor space. The small percussion signs were just a bit dark for my windowless music room.
"Before" Small Percussion Area

Then there's those boomwhackers and their cumbersome buckets!
I adore the colorful "boomwhackers velcroed to the wall" idea, beautifully displayed here from Jena at Sew Much Music.

Love it! Unfortunately, I know my students will peel off the bits of velcro from each boomwhacker. I know this because I have several "naked" boomwhackers where the clear labels have been stripped off completely by students. The naked boomwhackers don't bother me too much because I use moveable do. I'm not crazy about students seeing boomwhackers labeled in solfege that is usually wrong for the song we're playing and singing. (C major is not a great key for kids to sing in!) I simply write the letter name of the boomwhacker directly on the tube with a sharpie.

I was very excited to try a new boomwhacker storage solution that my friend, Carrie Nicholas, shared with me last May. I purchased thirteen plastic bag dispensers from IKEA and attached them to the cabinets, and voilà!
"After" Small Percussion Area
I placed the IKEA containers to the bottom left of each cabinet so that the boomwhackers would not get in the way of the cabinet door handle. The containers come with sticky tape to attach to a surface and that's what I used. You could screw them into a wall or cabinet if needed. 


Like many music teachers, I display maps in my room. It's wonderful to be able to point out the countries and states of where our classroom songs originate. I've had these maps on the wall for several years.
"Before" maps. OK, but a little small and drab.
A JoAnn's store recently opened near my school and I was excited to find world map fabric and US map fabric! It's sold by the panel and it's very large and colorful.
"After" US Map
"After" World Map: colorful fabric!

Here are both maps on the back wall of my room. The students will be adding descriptions to the music elements board during the school year. 
Music Elements and Maps
I hope to share other pictures of my music room set-up later this week, so please check back. Have a great week whether you're already teaching or getting things ready for your school year!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Dazzling Discipline Linky Party

Hello from colorful Colorado! I just love this time of year when I can slow down and enjoy time with my family and friends. It's also great to have time to review the past school year from a bit of a distance and think through the past school year. I have some many ideas for next year and I'm excited to plan them out over the next two months. 

Today I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room  and her Dazzling Discipline Linky Party. Discipline is an ongoing interest of mine and I've read a lot about classroom management and discipline.   

Before I describe my top 5 discipline ideas, here's a few resources I've found very helpful:

Love and Logic books, DVDs, and Presentations
Jim Fay, Dr. Charles Fay, and Dr. Foster Cline have authored several books and DVDs for parents and teachers. They also give several presentations and conferences. If you get a chance to attend a Love and Logic lecture I highly recommend it!

Michael Linsen's articles and books are full of specific techniques for leading a positive, respectful class. He has a new book that I have on order, (check this out!):

Connect With Your Students and Respect Your Students 

The longer I teach the more I understand that it's all about relationships. What do students need to be successful in the music room? They need to feel connected and respected. Children will be more likely to behave on class when they feel liked by their teacher. Make sure you know the names of your students and use their names often. It makes a person feel special and accountable when they are addressed by their name. Make an effort to talk to students about non-music topics and be able to relate to them outside of the music room. 

You'll never regret building relationships with others, especially children.

Have a Plan and Work the Plan
As a beginning teacher I remember just hoping that students wouldn't misbehave. Of course that was wishful thinking! If you teach for any amount of time it's going to happen; someone will test you along the way. Now I make sure I set them up for success! At the beginning of each year I spend quite a lot of time teaching music room rules, positive and negative consequences and many procedures. Coming into the music room, lining up at the end of class, circle making, and transitioning from one spot in the room back to an assigned seat are procedures that we practice just like we would rehearse music. (And yes, I have assigned seats. If I let them choose where to sit, many students will sit next to people they will constantly talk with. Why wouldn't I set them up to be successful by eliminating distractions?) Before the school year starts, write down your expectations around behavior and plan to rehearse them with classes.

Reward Hard Work  
Recognize when individuals or groups have worked hard to improve their skills and understanding. When students obviously make a strong effort I give them a "star" by drawing a star on the white board. At the end of class one student is chosen to record the number of stars next to their class name. Fifty stars equals a "free day" in music. During their free day, students choose four or five favorite songs or games for that day. The songs and games have to be ones we've done in music class but can be from any previous grade level; (this is why 6th grade classes can sometimes be seen outside playing Snail, Snail!)

Be Specific with "Praise"
For the last few years I've really been working on not saying, "good job!" or "great work!" The most meaningful praise to anyone is specific and may not even sound like praise, "You slowed your tempo that last time and you were able to sing that challenging phrase!" When I make observations rather then throw out a generic, "Good job!", the students know I am honestly paying attention and I'm not just throwing around compliments. Students get a more complete picture of what makes a "good job."  I learned this from my husband, the art teacher. His goal is to make sure students understand the techniques and skills they are working on without placing a generic value judgment on the art. Think about yourself and which has had more impact on you as a student musician; the "good jobs" or the specific observations?

Have a "Think it Through Spot," a Buddy Room, and an Emergency Plan
Like many teachers, I have a time out area in my room for students who need to re-focus. If a student is off-task and distracting others I quietly hand them a Stop/Go pass. 
My Stop/Go passes have "Stop" on one side and "Go" on the other. 

They look similar to this one:
This is a freebie from a TpT Seller! Click on the image.

The student goes to the "think it through" spot which is an area along some cabinets with a light bulb thought cloud sign posted above. When they feel ready to return, they hold the "Go" side up for me to see and I usually give a nod for them to return. Some students need more time them others. Some even need to work on tiresome music theory pages before they return. Then there are a few students who are working hard to distract and sabotage the class. 

When I have a student who is already sitting in the "think it through" spot but is determined to constantly blurt out comments, or bang his head against the wall repeatedly, or throw bits of gravel at other students, I then give the student a music behavior form, tell them to go next door to the art room, and fill out the form there. (Here is the form me and my teammates use, it's editable.) The art teacher and I have a "buddy room" plan where I can send students to his room and vice versa. When a student is mis-behaving to that extent, my main concern is the other students in music. I can't let one take away the right to learn from the majority of the class. Also, most of the time the student will correct their behavior once they are away from their audience. Does having them go to a different room in front of students in art class give him or her a new audience? No, it usually sobers them right up.

Extreme cases can occur and it's important to have a Behavior Emergency Plan just like you have a fire plan or school lock down plan. What will you do if a student swears at you, or goes into a rage and starts hurling recorders at other students, or runs out of the room?  And what if the principal is out of the building and the school psychologist is only there on Wednesdays and it's Friday? Think through a few scenarios and plan what you will do before it happens. 

Those are just a few ideas I've used for classroom management. Thanks so much to Aileen for hosting this Linky Party on such an important topic!

Have a fun, relaxing week!