Friday, May 31, 2019

Summer 5's

School is out for the Summer! I had a great first year at Liberty Union and I am excited to get time for rest, family, and fun this summer.  I know I will come back to LU feeling refreshed and ready to go next school year.  I thought I would share my summer to-do list in a fun way.  My Summer 5s! 5 lists of 5 things each that I hope to do/read/complete this summer.

Classroom Organization 5
1. Make new fabric shelves for my classroom- DONE!

2. Complete Year-Plans for next year
3. Add more of a Jungle Theme to my Classroom for next year (we are the Lions!)
4. Catalog my Classroom Library- I am using the BookOrganizer App and it is awesome!
5. Organize the REST Area Better (bean bag, pillows, etc)  I made one pillow cover to match the above shelves and bought this awesome pillow. I am still looking for more fun things!

Professional Development Books 
1. Teach Like Finland - Timothy D. Walker
2. Troublemakers - Carla Shalaby
3. The Teaching Text - Douglas J. Robertson
4. Compassionate Music Teaching - Karin S. Hendricks
5. Go See the Principal - Gerry Brooks

1. Update Back-2-School Stack Products- DONE!

2. Over in the Meadow Program Starter Pack
3. More Vocal Exploration Files- Sloths, Summer, Fireflies, and more!
4. More Hello My Name Is games (treble and bass clef matching!)
5. Carnival of the Animals Movement Bundle!

Family 5
1. Columbus Zoo
2. Cosi Science Center
3. Music Classes for my kids (mommy and me!)
4. Watch an Outdoor Movie
5. Take a mini-vacation with my husband to NYC

Ice Cream 5
1. Jeni's
2. Graeters
3. Shaffner's
4. Make our own
5. Ice-Cream Truck

What are your goals for the summer? (Don't feel bad if they are just to rest and rejuvenate- I will be doing PLENTY of that!)

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Tuesday Book Club - Vocal Exploration Books

I just wanted to quickly share 3 great books that I use for Vocal Explorations in K and 1.

1. SAY ZOOP! by HervĂ© Tullet
This book is amazing.  Each page has another fun thing to say.  The pictures correspond with the words, and sometimes even encourage you to get louder/ quieter or higher/ lower depending on how the picture is drawn.  For this one, I pick a section at a time because it is quite long. Students love the silly words! 

              Make some noise! Shout "OH!" Whisper "oh!" 
              Say "Zoop"? Yes! "Zoop!" "Zoop!" "Zoop!" 
              The newest book from HervĂ© Tullet magically 
              responds with bursts of color and moving shapes, 
              empowering children by letting their imaginations 
              liberate and direct each page's reaction.

2. The Book with No Pictures by B.J. Novak
This book is another great one with silly words.  I have the students repeat some of the silly things after me while reading the book. They LOVE all the silly noises and sounds- especially hearing me say them!

             You might think a book with no pictures seems boring 
             and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. 
             Everything written on the page has to be said by the 
             person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . .

             BLORK. Or BLUURF.

             Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating 
             ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy 
             sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY.

             Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, 
             The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear 
             again and again. (And parents will be happy to oblige.)

3. Hoppity Skip Little Chick by Jo Brown
A great little story, with super fun pictures. I read each page and then have students follow the path of the animals (represented by dotted lines in the book) with their voices.  We make the animal sounds, too! This one is perfect for Spring!

                While Little Chick's Mom keeps her eggs warm, 
                Little Chick is sent out to play with all of his
                barnyard friends, and when he returns home at 
                the end of the day, he gets the best surprise ever
                --new brothers and sisters!

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Upper Elementary Music Concept Project

My fourth graders have just completed an awesome project on BIG musical concepts. It was a two part group project explaining a chosen concept like Dynamics, Tempo, Harmony, Lyrics, Mood, etc.

Part one was a Flipgrid video explaining their concept. Students had to research facts and information about their concept and put it together in a short "music minute" video a la Meg's Music Room on youtube. Students gave information like definitions, abbreviations, and examples in the songs in their videos. Most videos had at least 5 facts or informational tid-bits.  If you have never used flipgrid, see THIS POST for more info. See below for Meg's Music Room Music Minute on Dynamics.

After students were done researching their concept/ making their video they had to come up with an activity to PRACTICE that concept as part two. Most groups were able to come up with something on their own, but if students were stuck I had them search "Music Class Activities to Teach..." We had so many great activities - question wheels, kahoots, rhythm reading with instruments, dynamics flashcards, mood worksheets, lyrics mad-libs (more on this one in another post- I loved it so much!), lyrics tag and more!

To present the projects, students showed their flipgrid videos to the class to give info on their topic, and then taught their activity as further practice to solidify the knowledge learned in the video.  Groups had to practice explaining the directions, plan for questions classmates might have, and really break down their activities so all understood. They had so much fun being the teacher!

I loved seeing the students personalities and creativity come out through this project. Students were building, using computers to create, drawing, writing, and more.  The best part was watching them work together teach/ learn from their classmates.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Tuesday Book Club- Amy's Brass Band

For this Tuesday Book Club I am so excited to be featuring my Phi Beta Sister as a Guest Blogger. Amy wrote an awesome music book about Brass Bands. The book will be released April 8th, 2019 and is currently available worldwide for presale on Amazon. If you prefer to shop directly from the publisher, you can purchase it through Bookbaby at Until April 30th, 2019, enter the code “Tuesday” at checkout to get 20% off when you purchase the book. Check out the story about why she wrote the book below.

Hi everyone! I’m Amy Schumaker Bliss and I’m honored to be contributing to the Tuesday Book Club blog. I was asked write a guest blog post about a new book I wrote called, “Amy’s Brass Band.” I wrote the book because I found a big gaping hole in children’s literature. You see, when my son Simon was born, tons of people gave him books about music since I’m a musician. When I looked at them, I noticed one thing they all had in common: they were all introducing the orchestra. While the orchestra is certainly a very important part of our culture, I as a euphonium player don’t frequently play in the ensemble. My instrument wasn’t in a single book and neither was the tenor horn I gave him to play with while I practiced. While I don’t usually play in orchestras, I occasionally play in a professional wind ensemble in the area and I play regularly in a championship brass band called Atlantic Brass Band. I also help conduct a youth brass band (middle school through high school) and a university-level brass band at Rowan University. I’ve written scholarly articles on the subject and even travel around the US sometimes to work with other brass bands. Most of my professional work is connected to the brass band ensemble in some way, so I started searching for a brass band children’s book. I wanted my son to grow up knowing what I do professionally. I looked everywhere. I even posted to Facebook groups asking if anyone remembers a children’s book introducing the brass band. Not a single person could ever remember a children’s book ever existing on the subject. So…I decided to write one.

I had no clue what I was doing at first, but I figured it out quickly! I started by contacting a friend that I had met in an online mom’s group I had started before my son was born. Allie Geddert is an excellent graphic designer, illustrator, and children’s boutique clothing store owner. She gave me some drawing samples and when we settled on a style we liked, we got to work. I took a ton of photos of my own brass band to send to her and she did a great job of bringing them to life as characters. We worked in our spare time because at the time, we both had little babies. We worked almost exclusively in google docs, passing work between the two of us during late night work sessions once our babies had gone to bed.

Rowan University's Director of Bands Modeling a Conductor Stance

Illustration of Conductor
We decided early on that we wanted to feature a good amount of diversity among the brass band members. Classical music certainly lacks in this area and we wanted wanted every child to be able to see him or herself playing in a musical ensemble, whether it is a brass band, wind band, or orchestra. I also contacted Boobs and Brass (, an all female brass band that raises money for breast cancer research and Brass For Africa (, a charity that operates primarily in Uganda, to get permission to use their likenesses for the project. This helped us to increase the visibility of such worthy endeavors while depicting members of an all-African brass band and an all woman brass band.

Photo of a Brass Band
Illustrator Sketch

Final Illustration in book
The book discusses a basic overview of the history of the brass band, the instruments of the brass band, and the purposes of the ensemble. It is primarily written for early to mid-elementary school age and would be perfect for an elementary school general music classroom. The book could be developed into a whole class with some youtube performances of some top brass bands and videos of soloists on different instruments. Eventually, I’d like to create a supplemental website with educational videos and make a classroom brass band instrument poster. All in good time, though, I suppose.

The book will be released April 8th, 2019 and is currently available worldwide for presale on Amazon. If you prefer to shop directly from the publisher, you can purchase it through Bookbaby at Until April 30th, 2019, enter the code “Tuesday” at checkout to get 20% off when you purchase the book. I sincerely hope that you enjoy my book. It has brought me great joy writing it. Nothing beat the feeling of bring the books home for the first time and giving the first one to my now toddler son. He sat down, opened the book, leafed through the pages until he saw the drawing of a euphonium, pointed to it, and said, “Mommy!”

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Folk Dance Collaboration with PE

Ya'll- My March has been SO FUN!

Grades 2-4 have been doing an awesome folk dance unit where we combine Music and PE and dance together in the gym.  Students (well, most of them) are LOVING it! We have danced a little in general music, but it was neat to be able to focus entirely on dancing- especially right before testing season starts. We are in our 3rd week now and our plan for the unit was as follows:

Week 1- Dances in Longways Sets
Week 2- Circle Dances
Week 3- Square Dances for 2-3 and Tinikling for 4th

For warm-ups each day we did a popular line dance or scatter mixer and those seemed to be favorites.  We did: Cha Cha Slide, Cupid Shuffle, Electric Slide, Sasha, Macarena, and more!

All of the folk dances we did come from the New England Dancing Masters Books. Each week- Monday was terms/ figures that students needed to know for the type of dances for the week, and then Tuesday-Friday was learning new dances each day (though sometimes a dance took 2 days to master)!

Next year, I want to be able to add Sicilian Circle Dances, as well as Contra Dances- Especially for the older grades.

Through our unit, students were able to master many of the common folk dance steps and figures like:
Casting Off
Two- Hand Turn
Elbow Swing
Right and Left Grand
Allemande Left and Right
Right Hand Star
Left Hand Star
and many more!

Dances in Longways Sets: 
Chimes of Dunkirk
Alabama Gal
Sweets of May
Kings and Queens

Circle Dances: 
Heel and Toe Polka
Lucky Seven

Square Dance: 
Simple Square

A few phrases I found that really helped when teaching/ learning were:

Connect Hands (instead of HOLD hands)- for some reason, lots of kids are ok with connecting, but not holding.

Face Your Way - When teaching circle dances, students were given identifiers *a bracelet or not* and then all partners with a bracelet faced one way, while those without faced the other.  Instead of having to say bracelet face right, while non face left, we just say "face your way" after explaining which way each group should start or stay.

Out of the Longways sets, Circle, and Square Dances- it seemed students like the Longways set dances the most.  They were the most requested when time was left after we completed the goals for the day.  We found that learning Longways Sets and Circle Dances first really helped with square dancing because we already knew many of the different steps and just had to figure them out in a new formation.

We plan on doing the same unit next year, but with slightly different dances for each grade (this year was both mine and the PE teachers first year at this school- so this was a new experience for ALL).  We also hope to coordinate a Family Folk Dance Night in conjunction with our schools Arts Night that happens in April to bring families in on the fun. What are your favorite folk dances?

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Tuesday Book Club- My Many Colored Days

My Many Colored Days- By Dr. Seuss     Paintings By Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher

I LOVE this book.  It seems more and more that kids need to know that emotions are ok, but also find good ways to deal with those emotions.

Many schools are starting to talk about the Zones of Regulation and I think that the Dr. Seuss book- My Many Colored Days ties into Zones perfectly.

For my MCD lesson, first we read the book and talk about each of the feelings mentioned- mad, sad, happy, silly, etc.  We then listen to a song I picked for each color and act out the moods to the music.  All the music is instrumental to show students that you don't need lyrics to convey a mood.

Check out my youtube playlist for the songs I use, already in the order of the book.

Red- Theme song to Bonanza - students gallop around the room
Blue- Aviary from Carnival of the Animals- students fly around the room
Brown- Tortoise from Carnival of the Animals- students slow motion walk around the room as if it is full of jello
Yellow- Flight of the Bumblebee- students buzz around the room like busy bees
Grey- Moonlight Sonata- students sit criss-cross and rest
Orange- The Entertainer- silly dance time! I have had students pretend to be mimes, clowns, do their favorite silly dances, and more.
Green- Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals- students swim around the room like they are exploring the bottom of the ocean.
Purple- Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2- students walk around acting sad and alone
Pink- Carnival of the Animals- Finale- students hop and jump around similar to the Fantasia Flamingo Short.
Black- Beethoven's 5th Symphony - Students stomp around and glare at each other
Mixed Up - Mozart 12 Variations on Twinkle Twinkle (I usually only listen to about 2 or 3)

Obviously, any other songs you choose could also work.

After we are tired from acting out all the colors, we tie the lesson into Zones of Regulation and the 4 Zones that a student can be at school.

Zones of Regulation are:
Green- Ready to learn, calm, focused, happy
Blue- Sick, tired, sad, moving slow
Yellow- Worried, annoyed, silly, wiggly, frustrated
Red- Angry, out of control, yelling, terrified

No Zone is inherently bad. Let students know they will have days, hours, or minutes in every zone and that is OK!  Green is Ready to Learn and where we want to be mostly in school. Talk to your counselor about different strategies for when students are in Red, Yellow, or Blue to help get them back to Green without invalidating the feelings they are having. You can also get a great ZONES cheat sheet HERE

After we talk about the zones a bit, we go back to MCD and decide if the colors match. In first grade, because we are working on quarter notes and beamed eighth notes, students then compose a rhythmic pattern using the Zones colors (Red, Yellow, Green Blue or Green Green Yellow Green).  If students finish quickly, they are allowed to add their own B section explaining a zone or feeling.

Don't forget to check out other Tuesday Book Club posts using the tab at the top of the page!

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Writing in the Music Room | An Easy Sub-Plan!

Do your principals ever ask you how you incorporate writing in the music room? Are you ever in a rush for easy sub-plans that ANYONE can implement? One of my new favorite activities is great for both!

For this activity, I read/ sing/ teach a folk song and then have students write the back-story based on the mood of the song. I typically do it 1x with my students, and then they are ready when a sub is asked to do it later in the year.  After having about 15 min to write or think of their stories, I always love to have a few share.  Some students have even taken their thoughts home and continued their story and made it into a book! So fun!

2 great examples:
I Got A Letter this Mornin', Oh Yes!  - After we learn the song (it's great for syncopation and whole note) I have the students discuss the mood of the piece and then write letters based on the mood. This song while there are not a lot of words, is often called "creepy", "scary", "uneasy" or "sad" by a lot of the students due to the minor mode.  Their letters can be to a real person OR a fake person.  I have had students write to the moon, made-up friends, or friends who were home sick. We are sure to have correct punctuation and all the components of a letter in our writing.

She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain - For this one I show a video (see below) of the song and then have the students answer the questions: Who is SHE?  Where is she coming from? and WHY? Is it is good reason she is 'comin' round', or bad?  Students need to listen and hear text clues from all the verses to determine their stories and what motivated the character to "come round the mountain". I like using the plain lyric video so students don't feel like they are stuck within a certain setting or look.

Little ones can also do a version of this activity- where they write only 1 or 2 sentences and then illustrate their thoughts.  For example, with doggie doggie, have students think about "Who really did steal the bone and why?" Was it another dog? Was it a different animal? Was it a human?

Other song ideas:
Dinah- Why is Dinah the only one in the house?
Great Big House- Why is the house full of pie?
Who's That Tapping at My Window? - Who is tapping at the window? Why?

What other song ideas and guiding questions could be used? Write your ideas below!