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 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 challege for them! isleoftune.com, incredibox.com, and even the use of robots (more on this soon!) to 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.
 My students are super into technology and coding so I have been adding games like

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.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Quick Tips- Working with a Student Teacher


I currently have my first student teacher and it has been an awesome learning experience for us both so far. I only student taught Middle and High-School Choir so elementary student teaching was brand new for me AND Emily!  She is only here for 1 more weeks and Wilson will really miss her.

1. Before your student teacher arrives make a binder or shareable folder with songs, year-plans, lesson templates, resource lists, lesson ideas and more.  I copied many of my retrievals for Emily- especially songs I was currently using, and shared with her many of my google drive folders with Present Lessons, year plans, PPPs (prepare-present-practice sheets), powerpoints I use often and more.  Be sure you do NOT share any copyrighted materials though a file-sharing service like google drive or dropbox.  She has access to my computer to use some of my TPT files that I have purchased, but she will not be able to take them with her.  I did share with her some of the files that I have made for my own store.  I also gave her free access to use or borrow any of my favorite resources like American Methodology, Game Plan, and First We Sing.

2.  Week 1- have your student teacher observe and give him/ her SPECIFIC questions to answer or lists to make.  As my student teacher watched my lessons her first week I had her watch for something different each day and make a list of all the ways she noticed I did things.  She made lists for: How to teach a song, transitions, ways to practice rhythms, ways to practice solfege, ways to sight-read a song, feedback I gave and more.  Then, as she is making her lesson plans she can refer to these lists to keep things fun and interesting for students.

3.  Have a feedback worksheet so that you can give feedback quickly and effectively.  I made a worksheet with boxes for: feedback she gave to students (was it positive, negative, helpful, etc), pacing, classroom management, and overall lesson notes.   This way, I can jot stuff down while she is teaching each class and we can talk at lunch or after school and I won't forget what I saw.  If I don't write it down, I will forget to say some things with no time between classes to talk!  Get the worksheet I use for free HERE.  Especially as your student teacher gets more comfortable, try not to step in while they are teaching- just write everything down.  Give them the chance to succeed - but also to crash and burn and figure out how to fix it.

4. Get your student teacher involved and teaching as soon as possible!  By the end of her first week, My student teacher was reading the story books during class so students could get used to her.  The next week she took over teaching one activity in each class.  The next week she taught half of most of the lessons which we planned together.  The following week she took over 1st Grade, 4th grade and 6th grade and kept teaching half of each of the other grades (2, 3, an 5) and finally she started teaching ALL of each class.  For a while we planned together but now, in her 7th week, she plans everything and I just check it over to look for possible problem spots.

5. Give your student teacher freedom to decide "what's next."  I planned my year so that as soon as Emily arrived many grades would have just finished either a rhythm or solfege concept so that Emily could do a full Prepare-Present-Practice cycle with them.  I then let HER pick what would make sense to teach next based on literature she knows and what a logical sequence might be.  For 4th grade, she picked something different than I normally would have done next (she did ti-ta-ti [eight-quarter-eighth] while I would have done ti-tika [eighth-2 sixteenths]) but she found great song literature and the kids are doing great!  I will just do ti-tika next after she leaves and we will  be ahead of where we would have been this year.  I know it is hard to let go, especially when you have carefully crafted your year, but if you are always telling your student teacher what to teach and how,

6. Finally, let the classroom become theirs.  As Emily and my students got more comfortable with each other, I stopped paying such close attention to each lesson (especially the 3rd and 4th time it was taught).  I either sat at my desk to work OR even moved into the other side of my modular so I was still there, but not "hovering." This way, your student teacher can see what sit is really like when they have their own classroom without another teacher to rely on for help with classroom management, explaining directions, etc. I remember this being one of the most helpful things with my own student teaching experience because students act so different when their regular teacher is not in charge!  I know laws are a little different now, and a certified teacher must be present, but try to find a way to make it clear to students that the student teacher is in charge.

What are your favorite tips for working with a student teacher? Share in the comments!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Classroom Management Quick Tips - Giving Directions

I just thought I would share 5 quick tips on how I give directions in my room to make things run smoothly.


When giving directions, Language needs to be very specific so students always know exactly what is expected.  If directions aren't clear, the follow through will be messy.  The directions should include: what to do and HOW to do it-  move to a sitting circle, while singing [song of choice].  When the song is over sit silently.

1. I always say the words IN A MOMENT.  This way students are cued into the idea that they are to sit and listen to the directions, THEN move.

2. Another favorite phrase to start directions with (which works really well for the littles) is "When I say the magic word that starts with G and ends with O and has no other letters in between you will _____"  Kids always say "go?" and then I say "Yes, but when I say it you will _____"  Any time you can add a magic word into a lesson students eat it up!  After you give the directions, have a student repeat them back to you.  Ask "What will you do when I say the magic word?"

3. Transitions in my room are BIG. Students are always doing a specific task when moving from one area to another in the room.  Examples of active transitions from place to place include:  singing,  students singing while I am singing a partner song against them, students listening while I am clapping a pattern that they need to figure out, or pointing out a song written on the board that they need to SILENTLY figure out.  If students do not do what is asked, we go back and try again.  If they STILL do not move in the way that was asked, we might skip the next game.

4. If students are not following directions, they get the "choice" to either follow directions, or sit out of the game.  If they choose to sit out, they know that an email or phone call home will be happening.

5. Each class has their own quiet signal that they listen for.  For some reason they tend to listen better when they were allowed to come up with their quiet signal themselves.  It is sometimes tricky to remember the quiet signal for each class, but I have a special helper that reminds me of their class signal when they walk in. Examples include:

Teacher: Turtles on 3
Students: 1 2 3 Turtles

Teacher: Go Go
Students: Power Rangers

What are your best easy-to-implement tips for giving directions in the music room?