Thursday, September 7, 2023

Basketballs in the Music Room- Nutcracker March

My 4th graders have been BEGGING for another basketball routine, so I promised one before winter break.    The Nutcracker is my favorite so of course I had to come up with one to The Nutcracker March.  

It is a super fun routine with a lot of opportunity to make easier (it's kind of fast!) or have some kids show off.  The basic movements are: 

Nutcracker March Basketball Routine - AABAACAABA

8b- Bounce 2x, Big Toss 

8b- Repeat 

8b- Dribble 4x with Right, 4x with Left

8b- Dribble 2x with right, 2x with left, R, L, R, Catch

8b - Bounce on strong beats. Quarter turn to right each bounce

8b - Toss quickly between hands at eye level 

8b - Bounce on strong beats. Quarter turn to right each bounce

(can do left to change it up if you want) 

8b - Toss quickly between hands at eye level (can also trade with a partner for more fun!) 


8b- dribble quickly and slowly kneel down to the ground

8b-dribble quickly and stand back up 

16b- repeat

*If students can do other tricks like spin the ball on their finger or roll the ball on their arms

behind their back, etc. this is the perfect place to feature those students!

It is also fun to have a partner and switch the basketballs- one doing a chest pass,

while the other does a bounce pass. I like to Switch, Bounce, Bounce, Bounce,

Switch, Bounce Bounce Bounce for the C section. The 3 individual bounces give students

a second to ensure they have control before passing again.

To teach this song I focus mainly on form and the rhythm of the basketballs rather than the rhythm of the song.  Before we get to basketballs, we figure out the form through other movement with this song.  I like to change it up so I use body percussion, parachutes, locomotor movement, etc. so the form is really in the kids brains. When the basketballs finally come out,  we read the rhythm of the basketballs for the A section as in the picture below. 

~ in the picture quarter notes are bounces, and whole notes are a big toss in the air.  The top line quarter notes are two handed bounces and the bottom line alternate hands as indicated by accents. ~

After we learn the A and can successfully do it with the music (I often slow the recording just a bit to help!) we figure out the rhythm of the B section basketballs together (it has eighth notes!).   
While it seems like a lot, this type of routine often comes together in just a few 10 minute portions of classes.  

Some ways to make the whole thing easier include taking out the quarter turns, and using the dominate hand only to dribble during the A section.  

Check out the YouTube Video of me doing the routine: 

Let me know if you use this routine in your classroom or have any questions! 

Friday, February 11, 2022

Science of Sound Instrument Creation Project- Create your own Virtual Instrument Museum!

I just finished up a Science of Sound instrument creation unit with my 3rd and 4th grade and it turned out so cool!  We learned all about the science of sound, invented and made instruments from recycled materials and then made posters/ videos advertising our instruments so the school could check them out! Students were SO creative. 

First, we did some science sound experiments and watched a few awesome science of sound videos (including the Sound Museum Magic School bus)!  These videos showed us that, first, SOMETHING on the instrument needs to vibrate, and second, that the faster the vibrations, the higher the sound.  After watching the short videos, we did our own experiments with salt on Tubano Drums, noticing that if you tapped with a mallet consistently the salt traveled to the edge of the drum but did not fall off.  Other experiments you could do are the cans/ string telephones, building a water xylophone, and more! Through our experiments, realized that the bigger something is, the slower the vibrations are and therefore, the lower the sound. Small things are able to vibrate quickly so they make a higher sound.  I like to say either "Big is low, small is high and that'll be true to the day we all die and even after that cause it's science." Or "Small is high, Big is low, that is science we should all know."  I do remind them that it is the size of the part of the instrument that vibrates that determines the pitch, not the size of the instrument itself.  

We learned all about the different classifications of instruments, too. Not only the orchestra families (Strings, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion, and Keyboards), but also the main categories in the Hornbostel–Sachs classification system.

Idiophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of the actual body of the instrument vibrating.

Aerophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of vibrating air. The instrument itself does not vibrate, and there are no vibrating strings or membranes.

Chordophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of the vibration of a string or strings that are stretched between fixed points.

Membranophone- primarily produce their sounds by means of the vibration of a tightly stretched membrane.

Electrophone- instruments involving electricity. 

Finally, it was time for students to design their instrument.  They had some guiding questions to think about while brainstorming. 

What materials do I need? 

What will vibrate on my instrument? 

How will my instrument be played?

What makes my instrument new and special?

What HB-S category will my instrument be part of? 

After building, students were tasked with making an advertising poster and video using the following guidelines:

Describe your instrument with 3 facts, using complete sentences.

Draw a picture of your instrument (or take a picture and print it!) 

Take a video of you playing your instrument.  It can just be the instrument sound OR it can be a full commercial.

Once the posters and videos (in FLIPGRID) were complete, I was able to easily print out a QR code for each video. We attached the videos to our posters and then hung them in the hallway.

This whole process took about 6 weeks (not doing it all the time, but at least once a week)

To check out each others instruments, we had one day where we just used our school chrome books and this QR reader website to walk around our "Virtual Instrument Museum" and read about/ watch the instruments in action. We had at least one instrument from each HB-S. Most were idiophones, but we did have a lot of chordophones, a few membranophones, some aerophones, and even an electrophone with the help of a Makey Makey kit. It was so fun! Some younger grades got in on the action as well.

In addition to the student created instruments, we also had a few posters and QR codes that featured instruments students see and hear all around them. Orchestral instruments, guitars, ukuleles, classroom percussion, and more.

After travelling the hallways of our own museum, We also took some time to virtually visit some other awesome Instrument Museums, like the Musical Instrument Museum in Arizona and the National Instrument Museum in South Dakota. Check them out for yourself using the links below!

Walk through the Musical Instrument Museum Google Street Style! -

National Instrument Museum Interactive Map- First Floor-

National Instrument Museum Interactive Map - 2nd Floor-

Have you done an instrument creation project? 

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Tuesday Book Club - It's So Quiet


It's So Quiet by Sherry Duskey Rinker and illustrated by Tony Fucile is a MAGICAL book- especially for Kindergarten and 1st Grade.   It follows a young mouse who, at first, thinks it is too quiet in his bedroom when he is trying to go to sleep.  He soon realizes that the night is full of sounds like croaking bullfrogs, snoring grandpas, and hooting owls.  

It's So Quiet - A not quite going to bed book

K and 1 had So. Much. Fun. Using instruments and our voices to add sound effects. My toughest class was totally engaged the entire time we did this activity. 

Guiros we’re croaking frogs, Triangles we’re chirping crickets, Windchimes were the wind (of course) and our drums were the dogs tail hitting the floor. Each student got one instrument and only played when it was their turn.   We also ALL got to snore like grandpa, hoot like owls, and howl like coyotes.  The great thing about this book is each sound-effect is used the same amount of times in the book (3) so everyone gets equal turns!

While reading, we got to practice loud vs quiet, watching a conductor, and using our listening ears. So much jam-packed into using this adorable book!

Kinders with their Instruments! 

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

Tuesday Book Club - Ear Worm! by Jo Knowles

Check out this ADORABLE book that just came out! Ear Worm! by Jo Knowles and illustrated by Galia Bernstein is a book about those little tunes that get stuck in your head. In the book there is a little worm that has a song stuck in his head. As the worm is "walking" around, trying to figure out where the tune came from, each friend it meets has a different ear worm they are singing. Ultimately, they all come together to make beautiful music.

Ear Worm by Jo Knowles - Click to get the book!

The possibilities are endless with this musical book! 

You could easily just read it and have fun with each of the ear worms our worm friend comes across.  

Peak inside the book- Focused on the Owl and Chipmunk Ear Worms 

One way to extend and make the book even more musical is with an orffestration! I made one (click HERE to get it!) that includes pitched percussion, such as xylophones and glockenspiels, as well as unpitched percussion.  In the sheet music, the unpitched percussion is listed as a conga (but it could be any drum), maracas (but a cabasa would also be awesome for this one, too) and jingle bells. It also includes a little song with lyrics from the end of the book.  Feel free to use whatever you think would sound awesome if you decide to try out my orffestration - or make your own! 

Orffestration Preview

As we all know, teacher-made orffestrations can be fun, but it is even more awesome to have the kids make it up! Split your class into 5 groups and then give each an animal. They can then give their animal's ear worm a melody using a Xylo set up in pentatonic, unpitched percussion, or use chrome music lab in the pentatonic mode. You choose or they choose! Once each group has created their melody and mastered playing/ saying you can combine them all together as one great big ostinato song!  

Either the teacher-made orffestration, or student-made song would be an adorable performance piece.  Ideas are already spinning about an Ear Worm themed concert. Not only could you perform this book, but also perform songs/ routines to other "Ear Worm" songs.  Bruno, anyone??? 

Friday, December 3, 2021

My Top 5 ways to keep planning stress low and engagement high

Ya'll. This year is hard. SO HARD. However, now that we are in December I have found a few things that are really helping me with planning this year to keep stress low and student engagement high. Check out my list below of my Top 5 planning tips (in no particular order). 

1. Utilizing awesome websites to help teach concepts in a kid friendly way. 

Want to compose? Use Chrome Music Lab to focus on form, or specific solfege.  Use Groove Pizza to focus on Time Signature and rhythm. 

Classics For Kids has a lot of great games to help explain musical concepts as well.

Need a kid friendly way to define terms so students understand?  Have them research to make flashcards or other games to practice- giving them a bank of websites that may help such as:   - This website even has listening examples to accompany many musical words!  Thank you to Celeste (the student of one of our EKM readers) for showing me this website. I love the way the definitions are so clear and concise. - This one has listening activities, instruments of the orchestra activities, a page for teachers, and a page for families! 

2. Themes

Almost all of my lessons, especially in K-1, have some sort of theme that guides me while planning. I can connect our concept songs, any listening we may be doing, and any story books together to make a seamless lesson. 

Recent K-1 Themes have been Thanksgiving (lots of turkey and pie songs!), Birds (Bluebird, Old Mr. Woodpecker, Cuckoo in the Clock, Old Mr. Owl, Turkey songs, Aviary from Carnival etc.), Ocean (Larry the lobster, charlie over the ocean, etc.) and more.  Check out a previous post on Winter themes HERE

2-4 themes are often looser like Travel in 3rd grade (From Hungary to Japan, to different US states, all while practicing DO and prepping Tika-Tika) or Autumn (So many great listening examples and autumn songs for all ages to practice so many musical concepts!) 

3. Planning the same activities for each grade level (just changing the difficulty)

Often my plan outlines for each grade look exactly the same. If I'm doing melody flashcards with 2nd grade, I'm also doing them for 3rd and 4th.  If I want to practice writing melodies on a staff using manipulatives, any grade that has been presented some solfege is doing it so my materials for each group are the same.   Games students of all ages love in my classroom include: Poison Pattern (both rhythmic and melodic), Rhythm Football, computer melody and rhythm games (like PDF or Smartboard games or Boom Cards), the Vote Game, and rhythm/ melody tag (students can only move on the given rhythm/ melody pattern) 

Listening examples are an awesome activity that can be adapted across grade levels. We recently did an Autumn Leaves compare/ contrast activity where we listened to Nat King Cole's Autumn Leaves and then Ed Sheeran's Autumn Leaves (different songs) and each grade was able to use age appropriate vocab to describe the similarities and differences. Younger students were able to float like leaves during the song and then freeze in tree pose to give their bodies something to do while listening.  This would work great with snow songs as well! 

Example lesson skeleton:


Song 1

Melody Flashcards (with last card leading to song 2)

Song 2

Add instruments using Ostinato (ostinato is isolated rhythm from song 3) 

Song 3

4. Mini Group Projects

These projects are with-in one class period but really help me assess who still needs help with our concepts.  I may have groups create movement/body percussion showing the rhythm of a song or create new body signs to represent solfege. Or maybe students are getting into groups to come up with a new way to define and practice one of our vocab words (this works GREAT for tempo and dynamics words!) Students love teaming up and it really helps them become facilitators of their own learning (and I can just supervise and help as needed). 

Recently, students created a 4 beat pattern using quarters, beamed eighths, and beamed 16ths and added body percussion- choosing one action for each type of note (quarter = clap, etc.)  They then presented to the class and the class had to ID the rhythm just from watching the performance.  Students LOVED it and I got to see who was able to create a pattern, keep a steady beat, and apply the body percussion as they were presenting. 

5.  Using my and my students FAVORITE activities

Sometimes when I am feeling overwhelmed this year I pull out a tried and true activity that I know students LOVE (and I love teaching).  Students really pick up on the mood of their teachers, so when you are in a rut- think back to why you chose to teach music in the first place and pick a favorite activity that brings you joy.

I have favorite lessons connected to books and different listening examples that really can be inserted into my plans at any point in the year. Rock What Ya Got by Samantha Berger and I Promise by Lebron James are two examples of awesome books with lessons that can be adapted to any age (Click the book titles to be taken to lesson ideas).  La La La and Journey are both books shown while classical music is playing to help enhance the story.  Love the Nutcracker like I do? Pull out an activity at any time during the year - it doesn't have to be December to learn about Tchaikovsky or do movement activities with props to Nutcracker Music.   Check out a ton of Nutcracker ideas HERE

Speaking of movement activities- I LOVE props like Ribbons, Scarves, and Basketballs so any time I am feeling stuck, I am sure to plan a favorite movement routine to work on Form, Rhythms, Melodic contour, mood, and more. Check out my youtube channel to see some of my favorites! 

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Tuesday Book Club - I Feel Teal

 Ya'll! I just finished an AWESOME project with my 4th graders. I was BLOWN AWAY by their creations for our I Feel Teal Project.  (Click the picture to get the book!) 

I Feel Teal is an adorable book about how different colors can represent different moods. There aren't many words, but the illustrations really help tell the story of a little girl going through her day and all of the feelings and emotions that a person can feel from minute to minute.  

After reading both this book and "The Many Colors of Harpreet Singh" (which would also work well for the same project!) each student group was assigned a page/ color.  Students had 4 main tasks: 

1. Decide what mood their color/ page represented and how that would translate musically (tempo, dynamics, etc.) 

2. Write a little more about their mood- Students could choose between writing a paragraph, a poem, or creating lyrics for step 3. 

3. Create a song to go with their page- as if we are creating a soundtrack for the book. Students used either Chrome Music Lab song maker, beepbox, groove pizza, mario paint composer, classroom instruments or even a combo!  

4. Find an existing favorite song to match their mood.  We wanted a playlist of awesome songs that really embody different emotions and I loved all their answers! 

While many of the pictures were fairly clear cut in the mood they portrayed, I thought it was really interesting that when groups chose the same color the moods they came up with were sometimes different- yet still both well thought out answers.  

For example: 

One teal group said that a teal song would be "Bored, Slow, and Quiet" and created this song: Teal- Bored

The other teal group said a teal song song would be "calm, medium slow, and mezzo piano" and created this song: Teal - Calm

I think both songs are great in their own way, and both match the picture. I LOVED that they had different interpretations of the picture! 

Overall, there were so many creative groups! Some of my other favorite creations are below. I did not share any of the awesome video submissions I got- but there were some groups who went above and beyond and made movement routines to go with their work or divided up the lyrics of their songs so there were solos and instrument parts included. 

After everything was turned in, I created a slide show with student paragraphs/ poems and QR codes to each groups song/ video performance and hung them in the hallway. Teachers were then able to hear the awesome creations.  I played creations for younger classes as well. I loved this project so much, I decided I will be saving the slide show as a book to use as an example in future years. 

Grey - Two girls who created 2 separate songs, and then combined them into 1. 

Grey - Chill

Our mood is chill and apprehensive. The song we created is slow piano. The volume is soft. We tried to create a very relaxing piece.

Golden - A group of girls who went all out with their slide. I love the rhythm of this one. 

Golden Warmy Shade

Yellow is so mellow, it makes me feel like jello. 
Yellow is so bright it lights up the night. 
Yellow is my fellow, gold is bold.

Red/ Orange - This group was 4 boys who really love the Beastie Boys :)  

Red/ Orange Groove Pizza

I am mad like a storm, raining hail that destroys cars.

I am mad and bad and this song is very rad.

Blue- This was a group of 4 awesome musical girls. 

I’m Feelin’ Blue, I Don’t Know what to do

I feel depressed, Oh my gosh I’m so stressed

Because you left me, Because you left me

I never thought friendship would end, But Listen. 

But Listen.

I’m Feelin’ Blue, I Don’t Know what to do

I feel depressed, Oh my gosh I’m so stressed

(This video is me singing because they wanted me to share their work, but didn't want me to share the video they made.)  

I hope you LOVE this book as much as I do! Let me know if you come up with another awesome lesson for it, or use mine. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

ANOTHER Basketball Routine! Dynamite by BTS

 Check out my new basketball routine to Dynamite by BTS! 

This one is so fun and great for Moving On/ Graduation Ceremonies~ In fact, that's why I created it! My 4th graders are loving learning it to perform for their families. 

To teach this routine, I usually spread it out over 2 class periods. The first class we learn the verse and Chorus, giving ourselves breaks during the Pre-Chorus and 2nd Chorus.  Then in our second class we fill in the blanks and try the whole thing all together! All of the sections are pretty intuitive for my students,  especially after they see it a few times- they really feel like the movements match the song. To help cue us in a different way, we talk about how different parts of the choreography match different rhythms to help cue ourselves. Basketball routines are always great for to rhythm practice, identifying form, gross motor skills, connecting to PE, and so much more! And of course, they are SUPER FUN! 

This song uses a few basic skills throughout: 

~Bounce/ Catch (Ta Z) This happens in the verse AND Chorus! 

~Dribble with R, L, and Alternating hands (Quarter note pulse)- This one happens in the pre-chorus! 

~Pass between hands above head/ at waist (Quarter OR eighth note pulse- up to you!)- This one is in the 2nd Chorus 

We also punch the air with the ball and swirl it around our heads during the Chorus. 

I have never been super athletic so I am always sure that ALL kids can feel successful with the routines I create.  The hardest part is the dribbling, but I let kids know they can always use their dominant hand the whole time if that is easier.  After they do basketball in PE, my students are pros! 

The Form of the song is as follows: 




Chorus 1



Chorus 1 

Chorus 2 

Chorus 2 (adapted) 

Chorus 2 (adapted) 

Chorus 1 

Chorus 2 

Intro- walk out slowly bouncing (ta Z ta Z) 

Verse Choreo

Bounce Catch (4x)  (we think of this as Ta Z T Z | Ta Z Ta Z)

Bounce Catch with quarter turn R each bounce

Bounce Catch 4x

Bounce Catch with quarter turn L each bounce

Pre-Chorus Choreo

6 Dribble with Right Hand  (The dribbles are all quarter notes!)

On Oh-Oh Punch out before switch to L

8 Dribble with L hand

4 with R 

4 with L

7 dribble alternating hands and then catch on 9 to be ready for what is next

Chorus 1 Choreo 

Hold in both hands and punch up r, l, r, l (on ah-ah-I’m) 

Stars tonight- swirl around head


On Shining….   Bounce 4x slow (Ta Z Ta Z)

Hold in both hands and punch up r,l,r,l 

Swirl around head 

Chorus 2 Choreo

(dy nanananana) Pass back and forth (8 up and 8 down) (If you wanted you could do 16 for each as eighth notes here!)

On Shining….   Bounce 4x slow

Hold in both hands and punch up r,l,r,l 

Swirl around head 

Chorus 2 Adapted Choreo
(Dy nananana) Pass back and forth above head for 4
Pass back and forth at waist level for 4
pass back and forth above head for 4
Bounce 1x