17 October, 2019

Peek at My Week

Looking for fun songs and activities for your music lessons this week? In this blog post, I will detail one song, game, book, or activity from each of my lessons this week. Keep scrolling to the bottom of the post to listen to the accompanying podcast episode, in which I go into even more detail about my lessons! Also make sure to sign up to receive my freebies at the bottom of this blog post, which includes a template to keep track of what you’ll be doing in your lessons each week, as well as a game for assessing students understanding of la.

In first grade this week, we’ll be practicing long and short-short, which they just learned last week (in preparation for ta and ti-ti, or quarter and eighth notes.) At the end of the lesson, students will learn the dance, “Highway No. 1,” which is one of my favorites! The recording is by the Shenanigans, and tells students within the recording what to do, when.

When I visited Australia, I actually got to ride on Highway No. 1! It is a highway that goes around the perimeter of Australia. Here’s a picture of it:

When I teach it, I’ll be sharing this picture with my students and telling them about my trip!

With second grade, we’ll be practicing la and 2-beat meter. Students will be assessed on how well they identify patterns with la. After hearing a melodic pattern, they’ll choose from three different patterns written in stick notation. We’ll be doing differentiated centers in the next lesson for la, so the data I’ll collect from this game will help me figure out how to personalize instruction. To receive the “Trick or Treat” assessment game I’ll be using, scroll to the bottom of this set and sign up for my email list.

With third grade, I’ll be presenting 4/4, or 4-beat meter. Using many of the materials in this set. The students will be practicing meter by bouncing tennis balls. When they hear patterns of two (the C major chord in one hand and then the C major chord two octaves higher in the other), they will bounce and catch. When they hear patterns of three (C major in one hand, C major in the other two octaves higher, on beats 2 and 3), they will bounce, catch, then tap their shoulder or head. When they hear patterns of 4, they will bounce, catch, tap, tap.

This is a great way to get them to really listen for strong beats and weak beats, and get them to internalize meter. Here’s a picture of my student teacher Laurel doing this activity with second graders, to practice 2-beat meter.

With fourth grade, I’ll be doing differentiated centers for tika-ti, using some of the materials in this set:

I did a pre-test with fourth graders in the last lesson, to figure out how well they could hear patterns with that rhythm, and in this lesson, we’ll have six centers from which students can choose. Three of the centers will be differentiated, which means there will be three levels for those tasks, and students do the task for the color card they’ve been given (blue for level 1, green for level 2, and pink for level 3.) For more information about differentiated centers, check out this blog post. One of the new centers I’ll be trying uses the website www.therhythmtrainer.com, which you can read more about here. Students will work at Chromebooks. The Level 1 students will dictate rhythm patterns after listening to a pattern, in “slow mode.” Students at level 2 will choose all the rhythms they know, then work in B mode. They’ll listen to four patterns played slowly, and choose which one matches, which is a bit more difficult than the task given to level 1 students. Level 3 students will do the same as level 2, but in fast mode. I’m excited to see how students do with this task, and improve their rhythmic understanding!

Fifth graders are preparing for their upcoming program, which is based off the book “Down in the Subway.” They will be performing songs such as “Water Come a Me Eye,” “Day-O,” and “Four White Horses”; I’ll write more about the program in a future blog post. They will be learning the hand jive for “Four White Horses,” seen here:

To sign up for my email list, and receive my “Peek at my Week” template, as well as my “Trick or Treat” game for la, enter your information below. Please note that if you are already signed up for my list, you can still sign up to get the freebies, and you won’t receive more email than you are already receiving.

Join the List

Subscribe to receive music education blog posts and tips...AND receive my "Trick or Treat" game for la, and a planning template!

We won't send you spam. Unsubscribe at any time.

Here is the podcast episode, with even more detail about what I'll be doing this week:

Other links from the podcast episode:

What are you doing with your students this week? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!
10 September, 2019

Five Free Tech Tools for the Music Room {and other techie stuff}

Looking for ways to incorporate technology into your music room? In this blog post, I'm detailing five of my favorite tech tools...and they are all free! If you listen to podcasts, scroll to the bottom of this blog post to listen to the podcast episode.

#1: Rhythm Trainer

This website, which can be found at www.therhythmtrainer.com, is a fun way to practice dictation and audiation. You can choose the rhythms students know, then students listen to an audio sample and dictate it with those rhythms. Want a more difficult challenge? Try "B" mode, which has students looking at a rhythm pattern, then listening to four different patterns and choosing the correct pattern. You can also choose "fast" mode, which plays the samples faster.

This website does use Flash, so it won't work on iPads. If you have Chromebooks, you could use this in small groups or at centers, or you could project with a LCD projector or interactive board and play as a class.

Click here for a blog post which includes a free sub plan using this website!

#2: Plickers

If you're looking for a fun, interactive, and free way to assess your students, you'll love Plickers. This a free website and phone app that allows students to vote on the correct answer with cards. You as the teacher scan the room as the students hold up their answer cards, and the app tells you who's voting and how they are voting! There is a little bit of work up front, as you have to enter in the student names, their class numbers, and the questions you'll be asking, but it's totally worth it! Click here for a more detailed blog post about Plickers.

Only a smart phone is needed to use Plickers; you as the teacher use it to scan.

#3: Chrome Music Lab

This is one of my favorite websites for creating and exploring music! Students can choose from a number of games to make music or explore music, from creating their own rhythmic ostinato, to creating art that produces music, to looking at music on a piano roll.

You could have students exploring in small groups or centers on iPads or Chromebooks, or you could project the website with a LCD projector or interactive board.

#4: Staff Wars

I LOVE this website and app for improving note reading on the treble clef, bass clef, or alto clef staff! (Note: the website is free, but the app is paid.) You can choose what you're working on (lines, spaces, lines and spaces, notes above and below the staff), choose the clef, and then play! Students see a note scrolling on the staff, click the correct letter, and then watch it disappear.

#5: QR codes

Using QR codes is like a shortcut; it's a great way to get students to a website, a file in Google Drive, etc. You can also give students a definition, and then they scan a QR code to see the musical term that matches. I've also used QR codes for advocacy, by posting them in musical programs and on bulletin boards, to share advocacy facts, student work, etc.

Scan this QR code to check out Chrome Music Lab:

Listen to the podcast episode here:

What are your favorite tech tools? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!
25 August, 2019

Classroom Reveal 2019-2020

I'm really excited to reveal my music room for this year!

Here is a view of my room as you walk into it.

I decided on a camping theme this year, partly because I knew I could keep up some decor from last year's forest theme, and partly because I knew I could use calm colors. Like last year, I really tried to be intentional to not cover every single wall with something, so that kids could learn in an engaging setting but not be overwhelmed. Here's the view of the tree by my door...it's a wall decal from Amazon, and can be purchased here.

Here is my word wall. The last few years, instead of posting words by individual letters, I decided to group letters. This is much less overwhelming!

A bit further up the wall, I have hand drums hung with 3-M hooks, which is great for easy access! The levels of understanding visuals are in my camping-themed music classroom decor set

My first bulletin board is "S'more lines and spaces," to help practice lines and spaces on the treble clef staff (and can be found in my camping-themed set.) The bulletin board paper is fadeless paper from Lakeshore Learning...I used it last year and loved it so much, I kept it up!

Here is my other bulletin board, showcasing different dance formations.

Here is my musical symbol wall, as well as my schedule cards. I love having this wall, because I've seen kids make so many connections as I'm teaching and as they are figuring out which symbol we're discussing!

I am LOVING these labels from Learning in Wonderland to help keep my concept materials organized (for each rhythmic and melodic concept). They are editable, and if you print them at 75%, they fit really well on the IKEA magazine boxes! You can also see some of my flexible seating in this corner.

Here is a picture of some of my instruments--my world music drums, my Orff instruments, and my ukuleles, which I keep in cardboard magazine racks from IKEA, and my new instrument rack:

The fire on top of my cabinet can be found here on Amazon.

Here is my instrument wall, which is a great way to remind students about instrument families:

And here is a view of my View Sonic board, which is like a SMART board, but even better!

If you'd like to put together a camping theme for your music room, here is the set I used when decorating:

Good luck setting up your classroom, and I hope your year starts off well!
21 August, 2019

Five Must-Dos for Back-to-School in the Music Room

Are you getting ready for the school year, but you're not sure where to start? In this blog post, I'm detailing five must-dos for back-to-school, and 5 nice-to-dos, so you can prioritize and prepare with purpose! If you listen to podcasts, scroll down to the bottom for a podcast episode where I'll elaborate on this blog post!

While preparing for the school year, it can be overwhelming to decide what to do, when. I have found it helpful to think about what HAS to be done, and then what would be nice to get done, so that I can finish my must-do tasks first. Here are five must-do tasks that I feel are vital to your school year in the music room.

#1: Print class lists and schedule

Class lists are great to have for attendance, creating seating charts, figuring out small groups, and more! I love to have class lists both in paper form (for my class list and fire drill binders) and in Excel, so I can easily copy and paste into programs and apps.

A schedule is obviously great to have to keep yourself on track of what you're doing when each day, but it can also be helpful for keeping track of which lesson classes are on, sharing with other teachers, and more.

#2: Figure out your classroom management system and routines

Sitting down to think about how you'll run your classroom, how you'll handle behavior issues, if and how you'll reward students, etc., is so important. In the past, I've used star student for individual rewards and class points for whole class rewards, but this year, I'm going to try to give rewards more randomly so students aren't expecting them. Additionally, my school is doing a school-wide PBIS system, so I'm going to align a lot of my classroom management with that.

Part of our PBIS system includes really thinking through and teaching your routines, so I am going to try to be more intentional with teaching my routines. I found this set on TpT, and even recorded my voice speaking each slide right in PowerPoint so I could save my voice. Of course, I have elaborated along the way, but this has saved me from repeating the same routines 25 times!

I was also inspired by this blog post by David Row, about splitting your class up into four instrument families, for grouping and management. I'm going to try it this year, giving one family the opportunity to sit in flexible seats, another family the chance to have class jobs, and then switching each month.

Thinking through if you'll have seating charts, and for which grade levels, is important before the first day of class. I create my seating charts in Powerteacher Pro, but if your school district doesn't use that, you could use the Smart Seat App.

#3: Writing engaging lessons

Making sure you have lessons and materials ready to go for the first day is definitely a must-do! I like to split my first day lessons into three sections:

• "Getting to know you": This section can include you introducing yourself and some name games, like the ones mentioned in this blog post, so that you can get to know your students and their names
• Routines: In this part of the lesson, you can discuss your routines, rules, and expectations, so that students know what to expect in your class. During this part of the lesson, I go down my class lists to make sure I have the names of everyone in the class, and ask any students new to the school which school they want to last.
• Music-making and review: This can include known songs and concepts. For example, if my second graders know ta, ti-ti, and rest from first grade, I might just review ta and ti-ti in the first lesson, with a game like "Bee Bee," and then in the second lesson, I'll review rest.
If you're looking for ready-made lessons for the first day of school, check out this set:

Whether you have a small or big room, thinking through where you will put your instruments, your materials, your chairs, etc. is beneficial for the start of the year. In the past, I've drawn up a diagram of what I wanted my room to look like so that I can use it when setting up the room. You might even think of your room in sections (technology section, instrument section, materials section, etc.)

As you are setting up your room, hook up your technology--your SMART board or interactive board, any iPads, etc. Try not to wait until the day before school starts, in case anything isn't working the way you think it's supposed to.

#5: Posting anything important

Think about what you refer to often, and would be helpful for students to see posted. This might be your rules, anchor charts, word walls, etc. You don't need to necessarily have a lot of decor, nor do you necessarily need a theme, but having important documents up and easy to access is a must-do.

After you do all of those must-do tasks, here are five tasks that are nice-to-do, if you have the time.

#1: Decorating

If you'd like to and have the time to, you could post more than just your essentials. I love to have a word wall, a musical symbol wall, levels of understanding, ukulele chord charts, bulletin boards, and a few more items. I also use a theme each year to help tie everything together. This of course is not a necessity, but if you are interested in more ideas for themes, check out this blog post.

#2: Using an app or website for choosing students and groups

If you'd like to have an interactive way to choose students or groups, you could check out this set by Pink Cat Studio, which allows you to keep track of turns in games, form student groups, interactively call on students, and more! I've also heard of people using Class Dojo for this reason. There are likely other tools out there as well. Some of the tools will allow you to use csv files to import names, and some won't....so it can be time-consuming, depending on which tool you use, but also super engaging for students!

#3: Creating a music brochure

I wrote about creating a music brochure in this blog post. I love to have this to hand out at open house, so that when parents want to know more about the music program, you can hand them the brochure! In my brochure, I include a little about me, a little about my traveling music teacher, a little about Kodály, a bit about the music program, and program and other important dates.

#4: Sub Tub

If you have time, it's really helpful to put together your sub tub before school starts, so that if something were to happen at the start of the year, you're ready to go with emergency sub plans. Check out this post about compiling your sub tub, and this post for free sub plans.

#5: Organizing

If you have time to organize your desk, your drawers, your bookshelves, and more, now's a great time to do it, so you can start the year organized and ready to go! Some years I've had time and some years I haven't, but I do always feel calmer when I have the time to organize and know where everything is. Check out this set for organization labels and ideas.

What are your must-dos for the school year? Feel free to comment below, and Happy Start of the Year!

24 July, 2019

Escape Rooms for the Music Classroom

Have you ever heard about escape rooms in the music classroom, and wondered what that would look like? In this blog post, I'm detailing the why, what, and how of escape rooms!

I had heard of escape rooms for the general classroom, but I first heard about escape rooms specifically for the music classroom from Carrie, from Music Teacher Coffee Talk. In this video, she describes how she set up one for her music room.

What are escape rooms?

If you've ever been to an actual escape room, you may have had to solve a series of puzzles in order to unlock the lock and escape the room. A music escape room is similar. Students would work in small groups to solve a series of puzzles or complete a series of tasks. At each task, they'd receive a letter, then unscramble those letters to form a word and then escape the room. Students would work in small groups, and could go to whichever task they want in whatever order they want.

Why use escape rooms?

If you're wanting to make your music room feel more student-centered, and you want something super engaging and fun, then you should try an escape room! They are also great for instant feedback (as you could have a way for students to check their answers) and for collaborative work. Lastly, students' understanding of musical concepts could improve  through using an escape room.

How can you set up an escape room?

There are many ways to set one up...so I'll just explain how I've done it. I create five tasks and spread them out around the room (similar to centers.) Students get into a small group, then each group receives a worksheet and pencil, so they can write down the letters as they get them. Then, they watch a video explaining the escape room (or you could just tell them the premise of the escape room.) A 30-minute timer starts, and they begin! After they're done with the task, they either get a letter through the technology (for example, if the task was a Google form quiz), or they come to me, show me their work, and I hand them the letter.

The tasks can range from anything like a Kahoot, a puzzle or code they have to solve, an interactive music game they have to play, or this set by Kelly from Rhythmically Yours, in which students use keys to unlock the correct locks (click the picture to see the set on Etsy):

Here is a visual of some of my tasks from my End of Year Music Escape Room:

After they are done with all five tasks, they unscramble the letters to form a musical letter, then unlock a word lock on my lock box, like the one below:

Once they open the box, they get a certificate that tells them what to do. I've had students "escape" the room by going onto the stage and playing a game or playing on iPads, going to the office to get a prize, and going into the hallway to play on iPads. There are a lot of possibilities...it just depends on your school and what you have around you for students to "escape" to (but still be supervised!)

If you're looking for more details about what to do for each task, check out this overview, which is from my 5-Day Music Escape Room Challenge this summer. I have five detailed videos as well as directions for creating tasks with Google Forms, Quizizz, and more (as well as non-technology options!)

Want to try one out? Check out my Back to School Music Escape Room:

Have you tried a music escape room? I'd love to hear about it...feel free to comment below!

30 June, 2019

Types of long range plans for the music room

Since it's summer, it's a great time to sit down and really look at our overview for the next school year. What do we want our students to learn? Which songs and pieces will we use? Long-range planning is a passion of mine, something I learned about in my Kodály training at Capital University, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I began to understand how all of the pieces fit together. Here is a list of all the different types of long range plans for the music room, and how I feel they fit together.

First, when planning out my year, I like to figure out my grade-level scope and sequence. This is an  overview of which concepts each grade level will learn. For example, you could plan for first grade to learn sol-mi and la for melody, and ta, ti-ti, and rest for rhythm (or whatever you have time for in your year!) This could simply be a bulleted list for each grade list.

Next, I like to write concept plans, also known as PPP's. These plans are an overview of all of the songs and chants students will learn for a particular concept, with physical, visual, and aural activities for preparation, practice, and new practice, as well as the presentation process. These can be a great "idea bank" for inserting activities into lessons to prepare or practice certain concepts. Here is a screenshot of a partially filled out concept plan, from my First Grade Concept Plan Starter Kit:

After I write concept plans, I like to write song lists. A song list is an index of all of the songs and chants that you will teach in a given year, categorized by concept. So for example, for second grade, if you're teaching do, re, tika-tika, and half note, then your song list would have all of the songs you're teaching that year, indexed by which concepts you'll use them for. Here is a tutorial of how to put together a song list:

After I compile my song lists, I create my year plan for each grade level. A year plan is an overview  of the entire year by grade level, including concepts taught, songs and activities taught, skills learned, program preparation, assessments, and more. If it's too difficult to figure out the full year--especially if you are new to the school and aren't sure what the students know--you could do a monthly plan instead, with the same parameters. If you're looking for information on how to create a year plan, check out this video:

We're almost there! I just discovered the Unit scope and sequence for classroom teachers, and adapted it to the music room. A unit scope and sequence is a plan for how you will teach a particular concept, including specific activities in the order you will teach them, assessments, standards, and more. This is similar to the concept plan, but you can figure out which lessons will include which activities from your concept plan, so you make sure that you are teaching the concept as thoroughly as you can. Here is a screenshot of the second page of my unit scope and sequence for ta and ti-ti, for first grade:

Finally, we can lesson plan! Daily lesson plans include all of the specific details for a grade level, with objectives, materials, procedures, etc. This is what you would teach from on a daily basis, using all of the above material to guide you. Here is a free first grade lesson plan so you can see how it all fits together.

If you want to dive more into long-range planning, check out this set, which includes templates and completed examples of year plans, song lists, and more!

I hope this helps you as you plan this summer! Happy planning!

16 May, 2019

Student Teachers in the Music Room

Looking for strategies for student teachers in the music room? In this podcast episode, I include my top ten tips for working with student teachers, so they have a successful teaching journey with you!

You can listen to the podcast episode in iTunes, or you can listen here:

As discussed in the podcast episode, my top ten tips for student teachers in the music room include:
• Plan out everything in advance
• Decide which grade level or how much of a lesson they’ll be teaching first
• Reach out and try to meet your student teacher beforehand
• Share a Dropbox/Google Drive folder with various goodies
• Ask higher level thinking questions to make sure they’re teaching thoughtfully
• Be okay giving up some control
• Give homework (beyond lesson plans)
• Don’t be afraid to be too honest or critical
• Maintain the relationship with your student teacher afterwards

Have any tips for student teachers? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!

09 May, 2019

A Peek at my Week: Presenting rest, Improvising Melodic Patterns, and More!

Interested to see a peek at my week in the music room? In this podcast, I discuss my lessons for the week. You can listen here; links and a description are below:

With first grade, I discuss in the podcast presenting rest, and using these "See the Old Witch"
composition cards. The SMART Notebook I discussed for presenting rest can be found in this set.

With second grade, I talk about using the songs "Sammy Sackett" and "Who's That Tapping at the Window" to prepare half note, assessing tika-tika with this "Which amimal" game, and using a process similar to the one described in this blog post for the song "Apple Tree."

With third grade, I discuss using "Ida Red" to practice ti-tika (you can find the song in this blog post), using this "Unlock the door" game to assess identification of ti-tika patterns, practicing low la with "Skin and Bones," playing the cup game with "I've been to Haarlem," and coding. You can learn more about STEM/STEAM here, and you can find out more about coding with this set:

With fourth grade, we're practicing syncopa with the song "Oboshinotentoten," which you can see here:

We also used this sunglasses game (which you can download for free) to have students read patterns with syncopa. Students also practiced low sol with "Black Snake," and used this haiku composition set to begin writing a haiku, which they will eventually set a melody to:

For fifth grade, I did centers for students to practice ti/ major scale:
• Boomwhackers (students play up and down the major scale, then compose whatever they want)
• Worksheets: Students use a worksheet like one in this set to practice writing melodic patterns on the staff
• Specdrums: Listen to more about Specdrums here and read more here
• Otamotone: Students figure out how to play a song they know on the otamatone. Read more here.
• Legos: Students build a major scale with half and whole steps here. Read more about using Legos here.
• Ti/ Major Scale Quizizz: Check out my Quizizz here
Pin this for later:

I hope these lesson ideas are helpful to you! Feel free to comment below with what you're doing this week!

14 April, 2019

Testing, testing, testing...there is SO much testing going on right now! How can we as music teachers make sure that students are engaged and excited when they've already been sitting for hours, taking a test? Here are some ideas that have worked with my kids.

#1: Play more games!

During testing days, I like to make sure kids get even more relaxation, so I'll shift the balance of concentration/ relaxation and throw in another game or two, or let a game go longer than I would otherwise. They've already been concentrating SO much, so I'm okay giving up a little bit of focused work so they can get out their wiggles.

#2: Get them moving!

Along those lines, I will also throw in a movement activity, especially if I see they really need one. One of my favorites for lower elementary is the statues game, which is like freeze dance, but students make a statue when they freeze. You can download the free visuals on Artie Almeida's website by clicking here.

Another great way to get students moving is to put on a recording with a steady beat, and have them follow your beat motions. For example, students could listen to "Root Beer Rag" by Billy Joel, and you could tap your head for 8 beats, tap your shoulder for 8 beats, twist for 8 beats, dab for 8 beats...whatever! And then, students follow you. Halfway through the song, I invite student volunteers to lead the beat. It's great for movement improvisation AND for getting students moving!

Here is a video of "Root Beer Rag":

#3: Take them outside

If the weather permits, you could take students aside...even if only for 15 minutes, to have them play singing games. Whether you play "Skin and Bones" (find the song and game here) and have the students hide behind trees, or play "Big Fat Biscuit," the games are so much more fun outside. And let's face it, kids need the outside time after sitting inside, testing!

#4: Allow for more student choice

During testing days, if a kid makes a request for a certain game or activity, I try to fit it in. Whether it be poison (which you can find out more about in this video) or just one of their favorite singing games, if it's something that I could adapt my lesson and fit in, I will. You could also save reward days, like the one I wrote about in this blog post, for testing week(s).

#5: Be understanding

On days that students have tested, they might not be as focused. They might be wiggly and giggly because they've been sitting still for so long and need to expend some energy. We as teachers could be frustrated...or we could be understanding. Wouldn't you be unfocused, wiggly, and maybe even giggly if you'd be sitting still for potentially more than two hours taking a difficult test?

If you're looking for more brain breaks during testing week, check out these musical brain breaks:

I hope this is helpful to you during your testing week! Do you have any other suggestions? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!