Monday, December 31, 2018

2018 Favorite Things

As 2018 wraps up, I thought I would write about my favorite things so far this school year.  So many things helped me become a better teacher and person.

Connections- Having lunch with 4th graders on Fridays and sending postcards home to students in any grade when they do something great have been great ways to connect with students at a new school this year.  I love spending time with kids outside of class time to really get to know them.

Tech Tool- What a great website for students to be able to complete a project or reflect on their learning by making a video.  My students (and I) LOVE this website.  Check out my full blogpost on Flipgrid HERE.

General Music Prop- I finally got a stretchy band from Bear Paw Creek and I have no idea why I waited so long! These bands are perfect for movement, form, and working together as a team.

Picture Book- Rock What Ya Got by Samantha Berger.  This is an adorable book. From the amazon description:
                  When a drawing of a little girl comes to life, she boldly declares 
                  that she doesn't want to be erased, or put into a picture that doesn't 
                  feel like her true self. Instead, she decides to speak up in a 
                  powerful way. And she has some words of advice: embrace what 
                  you have, love yourself, and "rock what ya got." 

Stay tuned for the first TUESDAY book club post of the year where I show how I use this book as a great lesson to tie in with The New Year, Resolutions, and more. Get the book from Amazon HERE

Middle Grade Book- The Benefits of Being an Octopus by Ann Braden.  This book is a must read for any teacher.  Find out more about this book HERE

Praise for this wonderful book:

"With grace and heart and words masterfully woven, The Benefits of Being an Octopus captures the quiet and loud masks of domestic violence. Braden navigates the complexities of choice and power and the meaning of courage. And how sometimes together, we can find our voice and our strength." -- Elly Swartz, author of Finding Perfect and Smart Cookie 

"This wise book knows we can't always keep the people we love safe. But it also knows that courage and compassion can sometimes turn lives around. You will care so fiercely about Zoey -- the octopus-loving, truth-telling young heroine that you'll want to wrap all eight of your own arms around her." -- Anne Nesbet, author of California Book Award winner, Cloud, and Wallfish

"You are seen. You are heard. You are loved." In a perfect world, every child would know these three absolutes. Ann Braden shares this message with her readers in a funny, poignant story about Zoey, her siblings, their mother, and one very special teacher. An octopus might be the most clever creature, but it can't hold a candle (or eight) to Braden's masterfully constructed prose." –– K. A. Holt, author of House Arrest

Professional Development Book- #KidsDeserveIt and Leader In Me.  Both of these books have helped me grow as an educator so much.  Connecting to students and helping them to form habits that will make them amazing leaders. See this post on a little more about each of these books and how I have been using the tools learned in my classroom this year.

Book Used Most When Lesson PlanningFirst Steps in Music by John Feierabend.  This book has been a staple in my kindergarten planning this year.  Being at a new school (and only having taught KDG for one year at my previous school) the workout in this book and the sample lesson plans are amazing! My students love the vocal exploration, echo singing, solo singing, movement and more!

Teacher Shoes- ROTHY'S.  Wow are these shoes perfect for teaching! They have 4 styles- Flat, Point, Loafer, and Sneaker.  They are made from recycled water bottles, are washable, and of course- best of all- so comfortable wearing them to teach all day. I am so happy I discovered this shoe.

Favorite Music Ed Blogs- This is just a list, but these are 3 blogs that I frequently reference!

Organized Chaos
Mrs. Miracles Music Room
Make Moments Matter

Favorite Music Ed Podcasts- Love these podcasts as well! I listen sometimes on my way to work, and definitely during long nights at school (such as conferences).

Make Moments Matter
Music Teacher Coffee Talk
The Music Room

Looking ahead to 2019 I already have many books on my list like: Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby, The Teaching Text (You're Welcome) by Douglas J. Robertson, and The Whispers by Greg Howard.  I also have many workshops and conferences to look forward to- like the National Kodaly Conference in Columbus, Ohio and participating in the Link Up Concert with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and my 3rd Grades. When it comes to self-care and doing things for me, rather than my students, I look forward to performing again- reprising my high school role of Miss Jones in H2$ and most importantly, spending tons of time with my awesome family- Brad, Henry and Hazel. Stay tuned this week to see more about my teaching resolutions for this upcoming year, my #oneword, and more! 

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

The Best Gift of All

No, it's not what you think.  I just wanted to write a short post saying how thankful I am for this wonderful job! Being a music teacher is seriously the best.  Students are wonderful (most days) and we get to sing, dance, and fill students with JOY all while teaching them how to create, perform, and respond to music.

December is a time when teachers as a whole can start to feel run-down and burnt out.  Especially music teachers, with programs, personal performances, and of course family holiday celebrations. However, seeing the smiles on faces when we are paper-plate ice-skating, or seeing the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker for the first time (all those high jumps!), or playing the jingle bells reminds me why I do what I do.

So when you are frustrated this holiday season, and loosing patience either with students or your own family, just pause and think of the smiles, little notes, and hugs, and remember the reason why you became a music teacher in the first place.

Have a great Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Tuesday Book Club- Where, Oh Where, is Santa Claus??

This is a short post today, highlighting one a favorite winter books that I use for movement exploration in K and 1! -

First I read the book while students listen and identify movement words (clip-clop, hip-hop, shake, etc.)

Next, I read the book again and we act it out!  Each page has a non-locomotor movement, and then the last couplet of the page, we use a locomotor movement to find a new spot in the room.  We gallop, hop, shake, bear crawl, push and pull, kick our feet, and more with this fun book.

The Locomotor movements for each page are:
Clip-Clop ~ Gallop
Hip-Hop ~ Hop
Flip-Flop ~ Seal Walk (using just arms, drag legs behind you).  If your room isn't big enough OR your students can't handle the seal walk, you can also have them pretend their arms are flippers and walk upright to a new spot.
Pit-Pat ~ Tip toe (like you are walking quick and light on snow)
Thump-Bump ~ Bear Crawl (Crawl with out your knees touching the floor)

During the "Look, Where? See? There!" page I have students sit, so that on the next page, where Santa's feet are flailing, they can kick their feet up in the air like described.  We then stand and HEAVE HO (push and pull) and finally gallop one more time back to our seats as Santa and the reindeer go WHOOSH, AWAY!

Get the book HERE

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Themed Winter Lessons for the Littles

I LOVE winter lessons.  The Nutcracker is my favorite (see my Nutcracker post HERE) but really I love all things winter.  This year, being at a new school my winter lessons for K + 1 all have a mini theme that continues our curriculum but is still super fun and relates to the festive season (you will see that the Nutcracker is incorporated into almost all of them though)  Each 30 minutes lesson, similar to first steps, has a vocal warm-up/ exploration time, simple songs, a winter song tale, an instrument or  movement (sometimes movement exploration, sometimes beat keeping movement, sometimes an action song, etc.).

One of my favorite themes from this year was BELLS!

First we say Engine, Engine into the room (my K and 1 do this EVERY class) and I pull out my sleigh bells and tell them we are taking the train to the North Pole.  We say it two times while I play the bells and then have a seat.

Vocal Exploration- Students repeat after me making bell sounds and then some of them get to be the leader.

Jingle Bell Rock- We love to put the folk dance Rural Felicity from Sashay the Donut to this song! It fits wonderfully! 

Carol of the Bells- Next we watch Carol of the Bells by Pentatonix and discuss this other fun Holiday Bell song.  Every time we are preparing for movement, we watch and listen to the song first- sometimes I then change the version and have them notice what is different- sometimes it is the exact same song. 

Next, we get out the ribbon wands and move our bodies to the Transiberian Orchestra version of Carol of the Bells.  I always show the synced Christmas Lights video during this, as well.  I am hoping to get a video of my routine up soon- stay tuned! 

Other great versions to watch and listen to are the Lindsey Stirling version, as well as just the classic carol. 

Finally, I read There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell! - I sing this story to help calm our bodies after the ribbon routine. 

Here are some more themes I have done this year with a list of ideas!

Winter Wonderland Vocal Explorations - you can get them HERE 

Snowflakes song- with glockenspiels to beat.  Some students can be snowflakes with their bodies while others are playing if you do not have enough instruments for all.  You can also have students experiment and figure out which instruments in your room they think sound like gently falling snow the most. The song I use came from the Game Plan Curriculum, but you could use any snow song you like!
Watch the Waltz of the Snowflakes from the Nutcracker
Scarf movement to Waltz of the Snowflakes from The Nutcracker 
Frosty the Snowman Book to calm our bodies

In another snow lesson, I do lots of things with laminated cut out snowflakes.  We sing our snowflake song again, but this time do mirroring with a partner having a snowflake in each hand. We also use the snowflakes as Ice-Skates for skating to the Skaters Waltz and for my Plate Routine to the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker (see a video of this routine HERE).  I am thinking of making a new plate routine to a song like Suzy Snowflake or Let it Snow for this lesson next year.

I love lessons on SNOW because they are not related to any holiday and are just fun musical activities to get us moving, singing, and playing instruments. 

Nutcracker Vocal Exploration Lines- there are a few on TPT which you can get HERE
Watch The Story of the Nutcracker in Less than 5 Minutes - I LOVE this version because students get an abridged version of the story, but still see dances!

Stretchy Band Routine to the MARCH (show the form!) - I got this idea from twitter :)
     A section - march in a circle
     B section- 4 slow steps in then 4 slow steps out (2x)
     C section- T calls a color and the students holding that color run and switch places
Watch the Russian Dance- I love the version below! My boys are always so impressed!

"Decorate the Room" To Russian Dance.  We "throw decorations" on all the accents, hang ornaments and lights, and more! I just tell a story to fit the music as we are doing it. Kids love it- especially "throwing lots of glitter" during the bridge :) 

Dreidle Song- If you have time, learn how to play the game! 
"Ice Skating" on Plates to Waltz of the Flowers from the Nutcracker, or the Skaters Waltz
Russian Dance from the Nutcracker- Plate Routine - see a video of this routine HERE
OR Chinese/ Tea Dance from the Nutcracker- Ribbon Routine

This year I also made a Winter Holidays Around The World Choice Board for my students.  It features Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Diwali, and more! Students get to learn about the holidays, hear stories (like a few of those below), and hear/ learn music connected to the holidays.  Students have been loving it this year!  I especially love this Nina's World Episode because it gives the basics of Diwali, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa in a wonderful way! 

It's Hanukkah! It's a time to celebrate family and enjoy festive traditions. As Rachel and her parents prepare the house, grandparents, cousins, and friends travel from near and far to sing and tell stories. Together, they will light candles, play games, and eat scrumptuous holiday foods... and, of course, dance the Hanukkah Hop. The stamping, the hopping, and the bim-bim-bopping is sure to go on all night!

'Twas Nochebuena- A Christmas Story in English and Spanish - 

’Twas Nochebuena and all through our casa

every creature was kneading tamale masa...

It’s Christmas Eve, and you’re invited to a Nochebuena celebration! Follow a family as they prepare to host a night filled with laughter, love, and Latino tradition. Make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Gather to sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). After the midnight feast has been served and the last gifts have been unwrapped, it’s time to cheer, “Feliz Navidad and to all a good night!”

Use this post for more information on Winter Holidays around the World!

What are your favorite Winter Themes?? 

Monday, November 5, 2018

Students as Teachers- Learning through Leadership in the Music Room

So, the other day I had a student say he could teach the class. He was kind of being a smart-aleck but I decided it might be fun to let him try.  This class was already ahead of the others because they come on days that we don't have off very often so I told him he could teach the following day.  We laid down some ground rules, such as the lesson had to be musical, and allowed him to plan.

How did it go?  Well, he kind of repeated my lesson from the previous day (I see my kids 2x a week for 30 min each) BUT students were still singing and practicing rhythms.  They were having fun.  The best part- it was AMAZING for building relationships with my students.  I sat with the class and only stepped in as Teacher when I felt it was necessary and helped with writing things on the board. Other than that- Mr. C led the class. They all loved it and are now asking when they can be the teacher. I think it may be an experience some of them- and especially Mr. C- will remember for a while.

While, I can't have a different student teach every class- you know, with all the content and standards I need to get through in my short time with kids, this experience got me thinking of how I could have students be the teacher more in my room.  How can they help other classmates learn?  It might not be a whole lesson, but there are definitely ways to allow your students to lead each other and learn together (aside from the usual class jobs, etc).  Some of my ideas are below.

Students lead warm-ups or solfege/ rhythm games that I have already introduced.
Once students are solid on a game, it is so easy to have them be the leader.  Students can lead rhythm tic-tac-toe, human piano, solfege or rhythm echos and so much more.  You can also have students conducting, starting off songs, and leading/ explaining instrument parts! Do you see an expert? Have them share!

Students make a game or teach a favorite song.  Not just the words, but the concepts. For this, students can take a song they already know and think of a fun way to teach it that emphasizes a music concept- whether it be solfege, rhythm, dynamics, articulation, or anything else. As music teachers, we are always doing this- why not let the kids try as well!

Group Projects with a presentation at the end.  Flipgrid?* Lead a lesson? Video for a substitute?  Group projects are a great way to allow students to become the expert on a topic and share with their class.  I love having students research and then teach- especially with families of the orchestra, genres of music, and broad musical concepts like Dynamics or Tempo. Students can present directly OR make videos.  I love having students make videos because they can be used in so many ways. Once the videos are made they can be presented to their class, kids can watch at home, OR videos can be saved as a great sub-plan where the sub plays the video and then the groups dive deeper with their class, thinking of an activity to practice what ever topic was presented on.

Fourth grade is currently working on a project where they choose a big musical concept (dynamics, tempo, mood) and make a "music  minute" video a la Megs Music Room on youtube and then also have to come up with an activity to help reinforce the information learned in the video they made. They may make a video on Tempo (including accelerando) and then make up a routine to In the Hall of the Mountain King.  Or make a video on how to remember lines and spaces on the staff, and then have their class do staff relays to review. They are LOVING it. 

PS. If you haven't watched any Megs Music Room videos- do it! They are great!

Student teachers for younger grades. Your students will LOVE coming into a younger grade and teaching a song or concept that they remember from the past.  See if they can come in at recess- or even (gasp!) miss a part of another subject to come in and teach a favorite song and game that goes with it.

Enjoy these ideas and let me know yours below!
*See more on FLIPGRID here

Friday, October 26, 2018

#FlipgridFever Using Flipgrid in the Music Room

Ya'll! Have you tried Flipgrid?  If not- you need to NOW! It is seriously the best! It is so easy to use, and it's FREE!

What is flipgrid?  Flipgrid is a website where you can make "grids" for each class and then topics within each grid where students can record videos. Once they are done with the video, the are asked to "snap a selfie" and can add stickers to it.  This is what others see when they pull the grid or topic up. I have a grid for each grade, and then topics within each grade to break it down even more.  You can set the privacy settings differently for each topic.  Grids can be public, accessible within a certain email domain, or even accessible only with a code. 

I use it mostly for projects.  Some projects my students have done with flipgrid are Parodies, instruments of the orchestra, and more.  For the parodies, students wrote a parody and then recorded it using flipgrid.  Then others had the opportunity to respond to the parody to guess which original song was used.  This was a 5th grade GM project and they loved it. Some ended up just singing their song, while others got really into the video aspect and made up dance routines to go along with their music! 

For instruments of the orchestra, 3rd grade students worked in groups to research a family of the orchestra then used flipgrid to record a mini-lesson describing their family.  They could also upload attachments like slideshows or google docs to accompany their lesson. Students then watched the videos and learned about all the families of the orchestra from the experts in their class!  This was great before our trip to see the Columbus Symphony! After the field trip, we were able to record reaction videos saying our favorite songs or other favorite parts of the concert.  While everyone can respond and reply to videos- the teacher can always set each grid or topic so that approval is needed before a video is posted AND teachers can leave private feedback/ grades. 

I also use flipgrid to allow students to give each other shout-outs when they do something awesome or kind in class.  Each student recorded a video of just their name and then others can reply to this name video with a shout-out.  Students shout-out to each other for great singing, kind acts, awesome instrument patterns, being a good sport, and more. This has been a great way to build community in each class and grade.

Many music teachers use flipgrid for playing tests as well.  It is awesome for recorder karate and rainbow ukulele (or similar programs).

In addition to all the awesomeness from above, guests can be invited now! Make a highlights topic or grid and invite guests to view while keeping most your grids/topics private to the class.  This is an amazing feature that I am so excited to be using.  It is a great way to show off to parents and community members what is happening during music without making EVERY video or topic public!

If you want more ideas on how to use flipgrid you can check out their blog OR their "Disco" (discovery) Library where teachers from all over have posted grid topics they are using in their class.  You can search by keyword, subject, and level (elementary, middle, high, etc.). There are some awesome music topics in the DL. I found a 2 minute opera scene topic that my students will be doing soon!

Do you have #flipgridfever? Be sure to add me as a #gridpal!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Tuesday Book Club- In the Hall of the Mountain King

It's October! It's Fall! It's My Birthday Month!

One of my favorite stories to do in the fall is "In the Hall of the Mountain King".  The version I read is adapted from Henrik Ibsen by Allison Flannery, Illustrated by Vesper Stamper and, of course, includes the music by Edvard Grieg.

When I introduce this story/ song, first I show the doodle chaos video.  Students LOVE this video.  As we are watching I ask them what they notice about the song. Because the movie is kind of funny, I am sure to remind them I want to know what they notice about what they HEAR not what they see.  We talk about dynamics, tempo, orchestration and more in grade level appropriate terms.

After we watch the video, I then read the book.  We have a short conversation about how the story might fit with the music and then, the fun part, we get to act it out.  I read the story again, as students are up and walking through the forest, entering the castle, looking around, and then running from the Mountain King (all to the rhythm of the song).  If it gets to crazy, I tell the students that we need to hide frozen like a statue in an open doorway of the castle and we freeze silently and look side to side to make sure the King doesn't see us.

Students, and I, LOVE this activity and ask for it again and again and again. Have fun!

Get the book HERE

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

No One in the House but Dinah - Why I don't teach it anymore

Dinah used to be one of my favorite Re/ 16th note songs (and this post used to be how I used it).  However, since learning of Dinah's racist history I have cut the song from my teaching.  There are so many other great re or 16th note songs and I will be making super fun Orff Arrangements to a lot of them soon! 

Here are some great resources on the racist history of Dinah and other songs, and how we as music educators can ensure that we are always working towards greater equity and against systems of oppression in our own teaching practices:

Pancocojams- Pancocojams showcases the music, dances, language practices, and customs of African Americans and of the other people of Black descent throughout the world.

Decolonizing the Music Room-  Providing research for music educators on unsung narratives in U.S. music resources and tools for decolonizing practices.

Now What? Steps to Anti-Oppressive Music Teaching- Great strategies from Elizabeth Caldwell over at Organized Chaos. Be sure to click around on her blog- it is amazing and so many other resources are tucked inside as well. 

You Might Be Left With Silence When You're Done - This is an article by Martin Urbach, one of the members of Decolonizing the Music Room mentioned above. Read. Learn. 

I am always trying to read, learn, and act on new knowledge to ensure that all students in my room know that I care for them and their culture and their unique selves.  We all make mistakes, but actively working against racism and other forms of oppression should be a goal of every teacher. As I find more great resources and articles, I will be updating this post.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Tuesday Book Club: Bom! Went the Bear

Welcome to another Tuesday Book Club! This weeks post is all about Bom! Went the Bear by Nicki Greenberg.

Get the book HERE

From the back of the book:
              Bear loves to play his big bass drum, and march around like he's 
              king of all the land.  It's so much fun that soon he's joined by 
              all manner of animals. But with so many musicians determined
              to perform, is there room for Bear to march to the beat of his 
              own drum?  A joyous celebration of music and play. 

This book is so adorable.  It is great to introduce kids to many animals and instruments. There is a lot of onomatopoeia in the book as well many of our kindergarten comparative words like quick-quick, s-l-o-w, high and low.  At the end it also shows a great example of a decrescendo by repeating the same words over and over but printing them smaller and smaller to give the impression that the animals are playing quieter as they are moving away.  

I have read this book to my K and 1st graders and they loved it.  We are going to be doing vocal explorations with it next class where they echo some instrument sounds or reveal what they think some of the instruments should sound like.  

This book would also be great for a sound story for older students.  There are lots of opportunities to add in different sounds- even if the instrument students choose isn't the exact instrument in the book. It would be a great way for students to be creative to show different musical concepts.  

What are your favorite vocal exploration or sound story books? 

Check out the new Tuesday Book Club tab at the top to see more great ideas for books to read and resources to use in your music room! 

Friday, August 31, 2018

My Favorite "Getting to Know You" Games

Being at a new school this year, I have had to pull out ALL of my favorite "getting to know you" musical games.   Below is a brief description of each!

Billy Billy- This is a longways set game that students LOVE! Students stand across from a partner in a longways set formation.  For the first verse of the song, they connect hands with their partner and shake back and forth.  On the second verse, partner 1 at the top of the set travels down the alley in an interesting way (disco, model walk, etc.) and then staying at the opposite end of the set.  On the third verse, partner 2 travels down the alley copying the movement of partner 1.  Play until all sets of partners have gone.  I love seeing the interesting ways students choose to travel down the alley!

Here's the way we billy billy                           
billy billy, billy billy
Here's the way we billy billy 
all night long 

Step back Sally, 
goin' down the alley
Step back Sally
all night long

Here comes another one, 
Just like the other one, 
Here comes another one, 
all night long. 

Song is swung.  Each line below = one 4 beat phrase.  Solfa pattern is: 
d l s l (change notes each beat)
d l s l
d l s l
m r d

Pass the Beat Around the Room- When I learned this, we just stood in a circle and said "Pass The Beat A-Round The Room z" (each syllable = 1 beat and z=rest).  However, to help me learn names of students, I have been asking them to say their name during the rest instead.  Each student says one syllable of the sentence and it continues around to the left. If a student hesitates or says the wrong word (or name- it happens!) they sit out.  Continue until there is one student left.  If your students are rock stars, you can also replace a word with an action instead.  For example, have students STOMP instead of saying the word "beat". 

Sasha Folk Dance- This dance is in Sashay the Donut and is a favorite. If students love this dance, you could also do Heel and Toe Polka from Chimes of Dunkirk, as they are very similar partner changing dances!

Bump Up Tomato- While this one never says names, like Billy Billy you get to know students personalities. Students sing the song and do the actions while standing in a circle with one person in the middle.  At the end, the student in the middle chooses someone to try and make laugh.  They can do whatever they want WITHOUT TOUCHING each other.  If their target laughs, the target is in the middle for the next round.  If the target keeps a straight face, the original student is in the center for another round.

I Can Keep the Beat- This is a favorite chant which allows children to say their names in a fun way.

I can keep the beat
and I can say your name
sitting next to (Mrs. Church) is
Name *Name* 

The whole class says the chant and then at the end, one person says their name and the rest of the class repeats the name.  You then move around the circle in the same fashion, changing the names as you go.

It's Great to Sing with You- Sung to the tune of "Good Morning" from Singin' in the rain.  If it's morning I still sing good morning, but in the afternoon I just sing Hello.

Good Morning to ____ (name), it's great to sing with you! Good morning, good morning, today! 

Sometimes I sing the 1st phrase multiple times before moving on to the rest of the song to get as many students in as possible. While singing, we tap the beat in various ways on our bodies.  The first few times we sing this song, I have the students sing their name to me and then the whole class sings it again.  Once you know names you could sing their grade, or teachers name (Mrs. Church's Class), etc. This is a great welcome song to use all year!

*** note: these videos are just examples I found on youtube to help illustrate the games for you. ***

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Tuesday Book Club: Summer Reading

Ok... so I know it is Thursday.  The first full week of school is getting away from me! I mentioned in a recent post: New Year, New Beginnings, that I had read a few books that were inspiring me for the new school year and I have since read a few more! Below I will give a brief overview of each book and what I loved most about it.   I will also mention what tips/ideas/chapters hit home, made me reflect, and challenged me as an educator.

The Pepper Effect- Tap into the Magic of Creativity, Collaboration, and Innovation By Sean Gaillard

I liked this book as a music teacher because, if you couldn't tell by the title (my Husband didn't get it...) it ties everything back to Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. The book goes through how the Beatles flipped the script, stopped touring, and focused on innovation for that album- and how we can apply the same principles to our classrooms. I learned some Beatles history and got some great classroom tips along the way.

After reading this book, I have ideas to be more positive, collaborate, and help students be their best.  First of all, I plan on making Mondays a positive catalyst for the week and starting each school day with a festive atmosphere- never holing myself up in my room, but greeting kids with more than just a "good morning".  Maybe I will play a song, maybe have a puppet, maybe I will give out high-fives or make secret handshakes with students- it will always be changing- but the goal is ensure that everyone feels valued and invited when they come to school.

When it comes to working with colleagues, I loved the keys to collaborate which were summed up in an acronym: LISTEN.  This will be super important this year, as I am brand new to my school and will need to get to know everyone there! "Education is a collaborative and joyful journey. Love your collaborators and demonstrate your belief in them... Belief is the ignition for inspiration and the foundation for dreams."

L= Look for the gifts of other colleagues in the schoolhouse.
I= Invite colleagues to share those gifts with you.
S= Strategize a plan to build and do something wonderful.
T= Take a risk and commit to do something bold and creative.
E= Enjoy the process of collaborating and camaraderie.
N= Now Make It Happen!

One other thing that really hit home,especially as I start at LU-T, is being intentional about taking moments away from the grind.  Sean Gaillard calls it "Here Comes the Sun" Space. As he says "An intentional move to gather time for renewal can stir inspiration in the most unexpected ways." I will be making a Here Comes the Sun poster (or buying one...) and making at least one plan a week time to just renew and connect with students and colleagues.

As for concrete classroom ideas aside from tips on collaborating, innovating, and hearing student voices- one thing really jumped out at me: "Flip your classroom into an Escape Room DESIGNED BY STUDENTS" (Emphasis added by me).  I have seen many teachers do escape rooms in their classroom, but I haven't seen students creating these escapes.  I plan on having my older students next year show mastery of certain units or vocabulary by creating an escape room for another class in the same grade to solve.  Students will work in teams to create parts of the escape and they will be combined into one big challenge for other classes to solve. I am SO EXCITED for this project!

Remember: "One teacher's words can set a life-changing course for a student to take bold, giant, steps towards building a dynamic future." 

The next PD book I read was Unleash Talent by Kara Knollmeyer.

This book was all about finding your T-3 (passions, skills and personality traits) and helping other staff members and students find theirs as well so the whole school can work together to be a positive, awesome environment where everyone can learn and grow!

I LOVED that each chapter was summarized with a "bottom line", journal prompts, and discussion questions that made it really easy to go deeper and really think about what was presented. I basically ended up highlighting quotes many of the chapters so I will just put a few here so you can get an idea of what the book is like and how it will work for you. Some of these I want to print and hang by my desk as daily reminders!

"Talent is not realized overnight but tended and nurtured day after day"
"We must understand that commitment, desire, and drive are not mutually exclusive. All three must work together to create true success."
"Contentment without desire and drive would keep us in a static state of 'good enough'"
"When passion is present, it spreads like wildfire to everyone who sees it"
"Courage is the willingness to step forward even as you are struggling with fear into what lies ahead. Your authentic self is more powerful than any monster living inside your head trying to hold you back."
"We need people who are trying to change the world for the better. And when you are trying to change the world, you do not do ordinary things."
"A compliment is verbal sunshine"
"Any day could be the day you and I were made for. Each day is our opportunity to live our destiny"
"Cookie Cutters are for cookies! Or in other words BE YOU!"
"Feedback does not need a meeting place. It needs a vulnerable space and someone to truly listen"
"Allow others to talk and look for that little spark of light that shows up in their eyes when something they are truly passionate about shines through. That right there is their life's purpose..."
"As educators, the more we share our talents, the more we empower others to share theirs"
"No. The sky is not the limit. It is only the beginning. Lift off."
5 Characteristics of People Who Inspire Others: 1. heart of a servant  2. Brave  3. Accepting of Others  4. Tenacious  5. Vulnerable

In addition to these great quotes, there were a few specific practices I plan on implementing asap.

Gratitude notes- The author states that when she is down she writes gratitude notes to those who inspire her with their love, actions, and talents and I can not wait to start this in my new school and daily life.  I love that she turns negative feelings into positive with this simple thing.

Observations- Another thing mentioned a lot in the book is observing fellow teachers and allowing them to observe you.  I made this "Observe Me" poster that links to a google form (I got the idea from twitter...) so any time colleagues or parents want to observe me they can give me direct feedback that I can constantly refer to.  I am so excited to see how this works.

Questions to ask- What is the history of the school? How can I help honor that history? What is unique about each staff member? How can I get to know who they are? how can I better understand the varied perspectives of members of the school and see where each person is coming from?

I also plan on reading the following 3 books VERY soon:

The Teaching Text (Your Welcome)


Play it from the Heart

Did you read any awesome books this summer? Need more ideas to easily insert positivity, creativity, and just plain old fun into your room? Check out my FREE 30 day Happy Teacher Challenge! I love to do this challenge year round.  There are ideas for: Classroom Fun (classroom fun can be extended all week), Classroom Organization, Reflection/ Self Care, Professional Development, and Random Acts of Kindness

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Room Tour 2018

I have had this painting in my room for years. It was a gift from a student who was redoing their bedroom to be "less babyish"- but I LOVE this painting and don't think it is babyish at all! My students love that it matches the last page of the book Giraffes Can't Dance.

This was my inspiration for my "Swingin' Through the Jungle- Music Room Decor" set for the year.  I am so excited to hang it some of it up in my BRAND NEW CLASSROOM. It goes perfectly with our mascot- the Lions- and I am mixing this Jungle Decor with some awesome watercolor prints and labels for decor that will last.

This set features everything you need to decorate your music room- from rules, to posters, to a fun bulletin board. You can also get a lot of things separately if you want to do what I did and mix and match themes.

I am in love with this room! It is so big and beautiful! The most utilized space for me will (I think) be the cabinet storage.  The first set of cabinets is less-often used instruments, the second set is all my manipulatives, the third is classroom supplies and then I also have space for cleaning supplies, magazine subscriptions and more.  On the cabinet doors I decided to put these little dry erase boards to write my daily objectives, as well as some great reference pictures for some musical symbols, dynamics, and notes.  Get the reference pictures HERE.

Above the sink I put my "gallery wall" of great music quotes and lion pictures. Get the beautiful quotes HERE. I think this just gives that huge area a fun look without being super busy or distracting. 

Moving around the room I have my piano (with a new light-board on top- I am so excited to use it!) as well as my staff dry erase board, my TV- which I can cast my computer to, and my movement prop storage in that small bookshelf. I have my bean bags, ribbon wands, and scarves all easy access right there!

Along the back of the room I have my desk as well as commonly used instruments on the small shelves with the orff instruments set up and ready to go on top.  We have a small collection right now, but I am hoping to expand our orffestra in the next few year.  Hanging on the windows are instrument flags from David Row at Make Moments Matter.

The last wall is my bulletin board space as well as my blank dry erase board.  My bulletin board right now is split into 2 sections- "What I'm Reading" where I will share my favorite books with students, and then "What to Listen For in Music" which you can get HERE from Rhythm and Bloom. I also have note magnets as well as a solfege ladder ready to go on the dry erase board for any time I need to reference it throughout the year.  The solfege signs are held together with rings and I can flip unknown syllables around when I need to.

My school is a Seven Habits school so I have the habits posted in various places around the room.  My favorite habits set is this clean black. Love it!

Also in the corner, I have a small rest area with more to be added soon.  Right now, hanging on the cabinets are some calming strategies and I have a worksheet printed out on top of the filing cabinets for students to fill out when they are in the rest area needing a break from class.

I hope you loved this room tour and got some great ideas for your own room! I tried to make it fun and colorful without being TOO overwhelming. I may add a labeled grand staff somewhere as well as a joke of the week to the black and red bulletin board, but I want to get to know my students first. I hope you have a great school year!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Tuesday Book Club- Night Time Stories Part II

I have written about favorite lullaby books before (find that post HERE) but I have since found more that I absolutely LOVE! Below are 3 night-time stories that have become staples in my room.

La La La: A Story of Hope
Written by Kate DiCamillo and Illustrated by Jaime Kim

I got my copy of La La La last year at the book fair and immediately had to incorporate it into a lesson. This is a "wordless" picture book (eventually it says "la la la") that is so beautiful!

“La la la . . . la.” A little girl stands alone and sings, but hears no response. Gathering her courage and her curiosity, she skips farther out into the world, singing away to the trees and the pond and the reeds — but no song comes back to her. Day passes into night, and the girl dares to venture into the darkness toward the light of the moon, becoming more insistent in her singing, climbing as high as she can, but still there is silence in return. Dejected, she falls asleep on the ground, only to be awakened by an amazing sound. . . . She has been heard. At last.  ~ From the book description on Amazon

I love to pair this book with Clair de Lune by Debussy.  The swells in the music fit almost perfectly with page turns and the song really enhances the story, allowing kids to better understand the emotion behind the (almost) wordless book.  I have had aides crying when doing this activity and kids are always so quiet, just taking in the story and connecting with the little girl.  This is a great activity to end a class, especially on a "crazy" day (parties, field day, etc.) because it really helps to calm and center the kids before they go to another class or head home. 

Goodnight Moon
Written by Margaret Wise Brown and Illustrated by Clement Hurd

This book is a children's classic and it has now been set to music by Eric Whitacre! You can purchase on itunes or other music services, or even listen for free on Spotify! My plan for this gorgeous setting is to first listen while looking at the book and then do an exploratory movement mirroring activity with finger lights (while the classroom lights are off).  You could also use scarves in cool colors to get the floaty feel of the piece.

Hush Little Alien 
Written and Illustrated by Daniel Kirk

This one is one of my 2 year old son's favorite night time books.  Sung to the tune of Hush Little Baby, this is a funny take on if an alien dad was singing the song to his child.

As a bonus- this is my favorite version of Hush Little Baby: It is a super cute version illustrated by Marla Frazee and my children and students both love it!

What fun Night-Time stories to you love to read in your room?? Leave a comment or a link below!

Other Tuesday Book Club posts:
Senor Don Gato
Can You Hear It?
More Night Time Stories
Holiday Books
Farm Folk Songs
Folk Song Stories
John Lithgow Books
There Was an Old Woman Books
Music Teacher from the Black Lagoon and Other 1st Grade Tales
Do You Do A Didgeridoo?

*click the pictures of the book covers to go straight to Amazon to buy these awesome books. They are NOT affiliate links.*

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!