Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Ideas to Start the Year Off Right

Thank you to Pixel Garden Designs for the Digital Paper!

Alright Ya'll.  I am ITCHING to get back into the classroom.  I have loved being off with my kiddos since Spring Break but I am ready to be back singing, dancing, and playing instruments with students! My kids are ready to be Liberty Union Lions, too! Aren't they cute?
Being at a new school, I have to adjust my normal welcome back activities.  My students won't know me and my teaching style, and I won't know anything about them or what they already know and love about music.  I am hoping to learn as much as possible through some easy activities, in addition to setting expectations, so that we can start the year off on the right (dancing) foot.

I have a few ideas that I am playing around with and I will update with what I chose and how things went.  Some non-negotiables for the first lesson are: Seating Charts.  I LOVE this Organized Chaos post where she talk about leading each student to their seat and using their names to make a personal connection- rather than just reading names from a list. I will also be sure to go over procedures- disguised as fun activities- such as moving to new spaces in the room, expectations on how to take care of ourselves, others and the music room etc.  These will be practiced more and unpacked the whole first month of school so students are really clear on how we can work together to make music awesome.

Other things that I am thinking about for the first few lessons for my older kids (2-4) are:

Scavenger Hunt: Students will move around the room to find where things are, talk to me about themselves, and share what they already know about music.  Students will have 10 minutes to complete as many of the challenges as they can. Get an editable scavenger hunt google doc HERE. (Note: it will prompt you to make a copy so you have your own in your drive with out accidentally changing mine.) 

Folk Dancing: I want to get the kids up and moving with an easy dance.  This will also help us practice how to move about the room and possibly choose partners, depending on the dances chosen.  Pata Pata and Sasha are on the top of my list right now.  When we do Sasha, I plan on doing it 2x and during  the 2nd time pausing after each partner switch to answer silly questions.  I also love the singing game "Billy Billy" which is an easy introduction to a long-ways set, working with partners, and being silly!

Flipgrid Intro: Have you used Flipgrid? LOVE IT (and it is free now for everyone now)! I will be making a grid for each grade and students will be able to make a short intro video about themselves with fun facts, cool things they did over the summer, or anything else they want their peers and me to know about them! I will be making videos myself too- so the kids can learn more about me :)

7 Habits Songs: My new school is a Leader in Me School.  To help myself learn more about the 7 habits, I want to have the kids work in groups to make a short song or rap about one of the habits and how they use it in their school. 

Class Jobs: Again, connecting to Leader In Me, we will be choosing/assigning class jobs within the first month of school.  Students will be paper-passer-outers, sub helpers, materials masters, technology gurus, compliment givers, light switch operators, nurse buddies and more.  Students will have the same job for at least a quarter, if not longer. Everyone will be part of a team!

Name Games: I plan on doing a name game each class for a few weeks to really start to put faces with names.  Some of my favorites are Jump In-Jump Out and Play your Name (students "play and say" their name using body percussion and then the class echos.  We try to see how many we can string together before people mess up or forget!)

Back-to-School Stack: This is one of my favorite review games! There are 2 versions- one is great for centers- students match a musical symbol, to its name, to its definition. The other one is great to get kids up and moving to share what they know- the teacher puts the symbols on the board and splits the students into teams. A music symbol is called or a definition read and students have to race to the board and hit the correct symbol first. So fun! These games can also be done with instrument families, or even rhythms and/or solfege patterns!

I will also have a 5th grade class at the middle school and I am still learning what that will be but many of the above activities will still apply! As for the little ones, I always have students meet me at the door and we enter saying "Engine Engine No. 9"  The first week I tell a long story about a train ride- going up and down hills, into caves, etc. so students really learn the words to the chant and we end up in a circle.  We then do a name game, talk about expectations briefly and get assigned seats.  Sometimes this is all we have time for! If there is still time left, we do a game of freeze dance or follow the leader (first class- I am the leader and students mirror me but as the school year progresses students become leaders, too!).

I hope these ideas help you as you prepare to go back to school. Share one of your favorite back-to-school activities below!

Monday, July 9, 2018

New School, New Beginnings

Wow! It has been over a year since I have posted and a lot has happened! I hope to post a lot more this upcoming school year!

First- I got my Level 1 ORFF certification last summer and it was amazing (even though recorder terrified me!)- Get ready for more Orff-y things to be incorporated into my ideas here.

Second- we welcomed our 2nd child- Hazel- in March.  We love being a family of four!
Photo Credit: Chasing Love Photography

Third-  I have accepted a new job to be closer to family.  I will miss my school so much, having been there for the first 9 years of my career, but it is time to move on and I am so excited to be a Liberty Union Lion this fall!

So what am I doing this summer?  Catching up on summer reading and getting ready to feel like a first year teacher all over again with my new students.  I have been focusing a lot on relationship building in my summer PD so that I can start off on the right foot with these new, awesome, kiddos. My first few lessons will not only be about setting expectations, but getting to know my students and helping them get to know me. I plan on sharing my favorite things and having students tell me all about themselves through the use of FLIPGRID- it is now FREE for all educators (More on that in another post)! Below I will share a few books I have read (or am planning to read soon) and some easy tips to start to build relationships right off the bat!

1. Kids Deserve It-  Before I went on maternity leave this past school year, my former principal bought the entire staff this book. It is a quick read and so fun.  It really got me thinking about my relationships with students and how I can make each child feel special.  After reading, I started sending out Postcards to kids to share good news.  Parents and students loved this snail mail and I loved writing them, too.  I already bought a few lion cards to start off my new year.  With teaching music, there is no way I will be able to send a card to every single child I teach, but my goal will be to send one to a kid in each class once a month.   I also started asking students for book recommendations and it was so neat to get to know more about my students through the books they read.  One student even lent me his favorite (1 week before the baby came!) and I loved it! I will have a "What I'm Reading" sign in my new room.  Download the freebie in here.  There are 4 versions in the editable Power Point file!

2. Leader In Me-  My new school is a Leader In Me school which focuses on the Seven Habits of Successful People. See more on the Seven Habits here. I still have a lot to learn about Leader in Me and the Seven Habits, but I am excited to implement a lot of the ideas I already have into my music room- focusing first on "What am I doing, that a student could be doing?"  I plan on having jobs in each room that a student will have all year.  From paper passer-outers, to technology gurus, to sub helpers I want the music room to be a place where all students can find an opportunity to be a leader.

3. The Pepper Effect and Unleash Talent - These are both books that I have purchased and plan on reading soon.  Both focus on being creative and innovative in your teaching and helping students to be empowered to embrace their own passions and talents. I am so excited to read them both. More to come on these books later. 

What are YOU doing this summer? It doesn't have to be school related either- rest and relaxation are SO important!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

End of the Year Fun-Dash Robot with Xylophone Attachement

I got a new toy this year.  I love him and so do my students.

For the end of the year, many of my classes have been creating melodies with DASH the Robot and his Xylophone attachment.

This robot is SUPER easy to use and great for the little kids.  Once you download the app, all you have to do is touch the screen on your device to tell him what color to play when.  You can also tell him how many times to play each "measure" which has 4 beats (or 8 eighth notes) AND if he should move while playing that measure.

For my mini-lesson to practice solfege using DASH, first the whole class figures out what colors are the solfege we know.  For 2nd grade- we were practicing so-la- and mi which are light blue, dark blue, and yellow respectively.  The first time students programmed DASH in small groups, they could only use these colors.

After a small group made their short song, they got to play it for the class.  The class then figured out the solfege pattern of the song and wrote it on the staff.  I did this as a whole group activity, but you could use manipulatives such as lap staffs too!  Another extension would be to have the groups write their own song down on a worksheet and have the class sight-read the songs another day.

Check out a song my kiddos made:

I have also been using DASH to play mystery songs for my students.  He knows a lot of s-m-l songs like Lucy Locket, Rain Rain Go Away, and more!  My kiddos have been loving listening to him instead of me to figure out what song is next!

I plan on using DASH a whole lot next year as well!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Sound Track Project

Are you in need of a great end of the year project that reviews everything you have done this year? Something that incorporates composing, pop music and more?

My students LOVE my soundtrack project.

Students are tasked to make a soundtrack of either their LIFE or a FAVORITE BOOK. They have to find music, draw an album cover (or create one on the computer) and write a little blurb about why they chose each song they chose.  For the soundtrack AT LEAST one song must be created by the student.  Some students choose to totally write their own song using the piano/ orff instruments/ etc and I love that!

Some are not quite at that level, however, so I have many tools available to them to help them be successful:

Incredibox- www.incredibox.com  Students arrange beatboxing guys to make an awesome song.

Compose Yourself Cards- http://composeyourself.thinkfun.com/home  (I bought the cards on Amazon)   These cards are AWESOME.  Each card is 1 measure (well 4 because they are reversible and see through so they can be flipped both ways).  Students arrange how they want and then type their codes into the website and can hear an ORCHESTRA play the song.  You can then save as an mp3 or easily share on social media.

Isle of Tune- www.isleoftune.com   Students build a city and as a car drives by houses, trees, bushes, etc. the music plays.  Each house/ tree/ bush, etc. is a different note or song.  Littles LOVE this game!

Dash Robot Xlophone attachment- https://www.makewonder.com/dash  This robot is so fun! Students are loving "coding" him to play music.  Check out this video of a song a student made for their project.  Sorry for the background noise- learning is fun!

SoundTrap- www.soundtrap.com  This site is similar to Garage Band and students are loving creating their songs in this site.  Check it out!

For the lesson we first listen to songs from a few soundtracks and discuss what we like about them, how they enhance the movie, etc.  We also watch movies about how music affects a scene such as this one:

Or this one:

Both take one scene from a popular movie and change the music.  Sometimes we watch Animated Movie Horror Trailers as well, but that depends on the class.  These movies use creepy music and careful editing to make it appear as if a fun, happy animated movies like Toy Story or Tangled and make them appear like a horror film trailer.  Nothing is added besides music but it can really change what one would perceive the movie would be about.

After we discuss soundtracks, the students then have 3 or 4 classes (45 minutes each) to work.  They must have a total of 6 songs (more if they choose to work in a group) and be ready to present when they are done. Again, 1 must be created by the student BUT the others can come from youtube, the radio- anywhere (as long as they are school appropriate)! This is such a fun and easy lesson for the end of the year- especially this year when we have testing AND my classroom is disappearing due to construction and I will be on a cart for the last 4 weeks of school.  What are your favorite end-of-the-year lessons?

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Relay Races in the General Music Classroom

Relay Races are a great way to get kids up and moving to review ANY musical subject.

I do relay races to review rhythms, solfege, vocabulary, lines and spaces on the staff and more.

Not only do gets get up and moving in a relay race, but it is a great way to secretly individually assess students while they are having fun.  

For ANY type of relay race it is always fun to have the students race in different ways- Mine love to bear crawl, crab walk, tip toe, skip and more.

Here are some of the relay races I have done recently:

Staff Relay Races: Students use cups (or plates) to spell words on our large floor staff.  If you do not have a large floor staff, just make on with tape!  I say a word and the first person on the relay team places the cup on the first letter of the word, then races back to their team and second person moves the cup to the second letter and so on.  My 6th graders had so much fun with this!

Rhythm (or solfege) Relay Races:  These can be done in a few ways-
Have rhythm cards at the end of the room across from each team.  Teacher reads a card, and then the students race to find the correct card then back to their team.  Then the teacher reads another.  2nd level of this version would be teacher reads a succession of cards and the 1st student in line finds the first card, 2nd in line finds the 2nd card, etc.  Don't want to make all the rhythm cards? Check out this set from Lindsay's Kodaly Inspired Classroom on TPT: Wild Rhythm Races Bundled Set  She has other sets for various seasons too- so fun! She has her students use scooters to race to the rhythms and back! In the picture below you can see my kids ready to ride, and in the corner is one groups rhythm cards all mixed up.  I said a rhythm and they had to race down and find it.

You could also have students race to a sight-reading page and have to read examples from the page. The first group to complete the page wins.

In addition to the racing, sometimes it is fun to have the students complete another task before they can race back to their team for the next person to go.  I saw on facebook last week that a teacher had her class do bottle flipping relays.  Once they got the bottle to stand up they raced to a sight-reading page and read an example then raced back to their team.  This idea is so great because so many students get in trouble for bottle flipping anyways-  we might as well turn it into something productive. :)

Also- while it is not really a relay race persay, My students love Rhythm Football.  A student from each team races to get the rhythm (or solfa) card called to their endzone first.  Check out more about this game HERE and you can get the rhythm card sets HERE.

Side note: If you aren't in the Elementary Music Teachers group on facebook- you should be.  Other great groups are Kodaly Educators, and I'm a General Music Teacher.  Check them out!

Vocab Relay Races: For Vocab relay races in my room students have to build a 3-tier vocab tower.  Word, Symbol, and Definition.   I give a word or show a symbol and then they have to find the correct tower pieces in a pile at the other end of the room.  The towers to not have to be built in any specific order, so the first student can pull ANY of the 3 pieces from their pile, the 2nd only has two left and the 3rd student has the hardest job of figuring out what piece of the tower is missing.  For these I use my Vocab Stacking Sets on TPT. There is a Spring Set which I will be using soon as well as a snowman set, a jack-o-lantern set, a heart set and a back-2-school set.  Check them all out HERE

Fly Swatter Game: Each of these games also has the symbols printed on LARGE pieces so you can play the fly swatter game with your classes.

For the fly-swatter game, you post one set of pictures on the board and then students in different teams race to swat the correct word or symbol first.  Sometimes I say the word, sometimes I say the definition, and they have to swat the symbol.  SO FUN!

There are also instruments of the orchestra versions of all of these games in my TPT store-  the same races would work really well!  Check those out HERE

Have you done relay races in your room?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Musical Toys- Great for the Elementary General Music Classroom

Now that my kiddo is 15 months, I have a lot of toys around.  My family thinks, because I am a music teacher, I want ALL the musical baby toys.  Some are awesome for Henry and some of them, I have found, are AWESOME for all ages and I want to bring them into my classroom for centers, whole class learning and more.

Here are 2 of my favorites- that don't even look TOO toddler-y so I think they would be an easy sell to the kids.

Munchkin Music Cube
Wow- I LOVE this cube (and so does Henry).  It is a 6 sided instrument cube.  The sides are Orchestra, French Horn, Flute, Violin, Harp, and Piano.  When you touch a side, that instrument plays a Mozart Song.  If you touch two sides- both instruments play.  You can start and stop a side at any moment to hear different arrangements of the Mozart Songs.   If you want to hear the whole orchestra, you can touch all the instruments OR just touch the orchestra side.  It is so fun to hear the instruments isolated and then in different groupings.  Very cool for teaching instruments of the orchestra, texture and more.

Giant Step and Play Piano
This one I saw at a friends house and really wish I had my own.  I love that you can play around and then record and playback your composition. This would be awesome for centers on orchestral instruments, texture, and even solfege and rhythm.

Description from the Target Website: 
This GIANT vinyl keyboard provides hours and hours of big musical fun! It features 8 instrument sounds and 4 different play modes, including a demo mode. Choose from piano, saxophone, violin, accordion, trumpet, harp, xylophone, and guitar sounds to create your own musical masterpiece. Test the sounds in Play mode, then record your tune and use the playback feature to share it with family and friends!

Do you have any favorite toys that you use in your music room? 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Building Rapport in the Music Room

Everybody knows that if students feel loved and safe and like their teacher truly cares about them, they will usually behave better- listening more, being more respectful to the teacher and other classmates, and generally have a much happier time in your classroom.  Trying to teach a kid who feels unwelcome or that you "hate them" will do nothing for that child OR you.  They will just be grumpy and disruptive and there will be no real learning that takes place which in turn can make other students or you grumpy. Winter and Spring are the perfect times to reinforce to students that you care about THEM and not just drilling your subject- whatever it may be.

I have gone back to the basics recently to help continue to build that rapport with my students, and maybe help build their character in the process.

1. Greet students at the door. Be sure you are present as they enter and say hello to EACH student! This can go a long way for students knowing they are loved.  Maybe even make a secret handshake with each class - or even those students you know need something extra.  Also be sure to say bye when they leave! Give high-fives, smiles, etc.

2.  Board-work.  This is not your typical board-work though.  My students have to travel from the main building to my "modular" classroom so they end up arriving at slightly different times from each other.  As upper grades walk in, I have a grid on the board with numbers in each box.  Sometimes students are to write their name in a box, then randomly pick another number and think of a compliment to give that person.  Other times they have to answer a question in a box.  Questions include- "What do you want to be when you grow up?" "What is your favorite music to listen to" "What is your favorite subject in school?" "How can you change the world for the better?" and more.  I always answer the questions as well.  While often this is not inherently musical, I have noticed that students love to tell me about themselves- their hopes and dreams- and then they are more focused during class after having time to just talk and share. Even if it's only 3 minutes at the beginning of class, we are learning more about each other and having fun. Check out more ideas in my "30 Day Happy Teaching Challenge" In the Classroom FUN section.

3. Musical Warm-ups.  With younger grades, I often sing the questions that I would ask the older kids as part of our musical warm-up.  I only ask a few each week, but keep the same question until all have been asked.

4. Paying attention to students interests and adding them to class.  This could mean sight-reading a pop-song you know students like with known pitches, reading rhythms with video game or movie character names (Batman for ti-ti, Thor for ta, etc.), writing parodies of pop songs, or adding technology into lessons.  Today, we even changed the words of "Canoe Song" To be about John Cena and Lebron James.  I just made sure they kept the rhythm EXACTLY the same- which was a challenge for them! isleoftune.com, incredibox.com, and even the use of robots, like dash or ozobots, can hook those kids who are super techy.  Using these websites- I set parameters so students are still working on concepts we are working on in class.

5. Read stories and listen to music that can spark some awesome discussion about kids interests, taking care of each other, and even big topics like bullying, self-esteem, and following your dreams.  If a big discussion starts, let it happen! Sometimes we get so caught up in teaching our content, we miss out on these awesome teaching and discussion moments! Some great choices are: Don't Laugh at Me, or songs from I am BullyProof Music.


6. Send home notes/ emails/ post cards.  Kids LOVE getting snail mail! I love sending positive notes home to students when they have done something awesome in class. I get post cards with our mascot and keep them on my desk so that I am ready to write one at all times.  I also love to hand out "brag tags" directly to students when they are super singers, helpers, or are just being awesome in another way.

7. Post what you are reading and ask kids what their favorites are! Reading is how I recharge after a long day and it is so fun to read favorite books of students.  It helps me get to know them better and they love seeing me post their favorites on my "What I am Reading" board.  Get one here (It is an editable powerpoint file with a few different colors to choose from!) I even had a kid last year recommend a book a week before Spring Break started (and I knew I would be on maternity leave after Spring Break) and he was so excited about it, he brought his own copy for me to read.  OF COURSE I read it and brought it back by the time the week was up!