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Choosing a Theme for Your Music Classroom

For many years in my classroom, I did not use a theme in my classroom...I simply decorated with whatever fun, colorful decor I had in my closet. But a few years ago--probably through Pinterest--I discovered that teachers were choosing themes for their classroom, and decided I wanted to try that too. Over the last few years, I've tried several different themes, and now I look forward to choosing a theme and implementing it in my room.

Here are some ideas and strategies for choosing a theme for your music room!

Choosing a theme for your music classroom: Why and how to choose a theme, as well as lots of theme ideas!

Why use a theme?
First, why use a theme in your classroom?

To me, it's a great way to start the school year on a new foot, with a different theme and different decor. Of course, some of your decor will be the same, but I love being able to give my room a makeover. I spend SO much time in that room during the year, it's nice to shake it up and make things look a bit different!

It can also be a great way to tie everything in your room together. Whether you are "soaring high in music" with a bird theme or traveling to different places in music with a travel theme, I love how it unifies everything!

Flexible Seating in the Music Classroom {Part Three}

This past year, I implemented flexible seating in my music classroom. Earlier this year, I wrote about which seats I bought, and a few months after that, I wrote this post about how I introduced flexible seating. In today's post, I'm writing about what worked and what I'm changing for next year.

Reflecting on flexible seating in the music room: What worked, what didn't, and why my students and I love it!

What worked?
Overall, the kids LOVED the seats in my room! They were always super excited to get the seats, whether they were working on worksheets, working in small groups, or at centers. I also had some students get special seats if they'd been star student the previous lesson...that reward was a BIG hit!

When working at centers, I sometimes had only one center with seats, and that center had all the same seats. For example, the worksheet station would have only wobble seats. That was a great way to make an otherwise not-as-exciting center WAY more exciting!

Which seats did students like the most?
By far, the two most popular seats were the exercise balls and the wobble stools.

After that, I'd say the wobble cushions/ balance seats were pretty popular.

Note: these links above are affiliate links.

Special Effects for Performances

If you've ever directed a musical program, you know how those "little" things can really add to a performance. In today's post, I'll discuss some special effects that I've tried for various performances, to add another layer to each musical!

Special Effects for Performances: Great ideas to add something extra to your musical programs, from flashlights, to scarves, to umbrellas!

#1: Flashlights
If you are planning any kind of firefly song at your program, flashlights are a really awesome addition! Here is one of my favorite firefly songs, a Japanese folk song called "Hotarukoi."

A rough translation of the text is:
Ho, ho, ho, firefly come,
Here is some water that's bitter,
Here is some water that's sweet to your taste,
Ho, ho, ho, firefly come.

You could hand out flashlights to all students or just some of the students, and for that song, have the lights turned off. Then, as they sing the song, they randomly turn the flashlights off and on! It's a really cool effect that looks very much like fireflies!

You can purchase flashlights like the ones I used here.

Third Grade Program: You Belong Here

Need ideas for a third grade program? In today's blog post, I'm writing about my program, "You Belong Here."

I created the program based on the beautifully illustrated book  by M.H. Clark and Isabelle Arsenault. about how we are all unique, and how we are all loved! 

Here is a summary of songs and dances I used for the program (and make sure to keep reading to find out about a fun 5-day musical program challenge I'm hosting in a few weeks!)

I did this program with third grade, but it could also work for second grade. I split the text up between 28 narrators. For the first part of the program, I had two narrators come up and read the text in the book from "The stars belong" to "here with you."

After those two narrators, I had students sing "Who has seen the wind," which is based off of the text by Christina Rossetti. The notation can be found in this blog post.

I taught the song to all of the third graders, but had one class arrange the song, figuring out what should go where. In this case, the third graders decided to play the gong, then the wind chimes, then sing the song, then add an alternating bourdon on instruments, then have soloists play in la pentatonic, then sing again with instruments, and then end with wind chimes and the gong. Of course, your students' arrangement might look quite different!

End of the Year Music Teacher Checklist

It is May...which means it's already time to start thinking about the end of the year! In my district, our last day is May 25, so we have just a few weeks left. There is SO much to do at the end of the year, so in today's post, I'll lay out all of the different things I think about and check off my list for the end of the year. Make sure to keep reading until the end, since I will have a free Google Sheets checklist that you can make a copy of and edit as needed!

At my school, we receive an EOY checklist from our principal around this time of year, but as a music teacher, there are several other "must do" items that aren't on the typical classroom checklist. Here are all of the things I think about and do as I wrap up the year in my music classroom:

End of the Year Music Teacher Checklist: Includes tips about organizing, ordering instruments, and more! Includes link to free Google Doc!

Organization and cleaning

I have lots of storage in my room, from bookshelves, to drawers, to an entire storage closet! So I ask myself these questions:
  • Have I organized and cleaned my bookshelves, dusting, putting things back where they are supposed to go, etc.? Here is a great blog post by Tracy King about organizing your music room.
  • Have I organized drawers? My desk drawer is a total mess by this time of the year! I try to clean that as well as my mallet drawer, my props drawer, my CD drawer, etc.
  • Have I cleaned countertops? I love Lysol Disinfectant Wipes for this task!
  • Have I organized my file cabinets? I have tons of choir music that is just sitting in my file cabinet, waiting for me to file!
  • Have I cleaned my storage closet? My closet is in BAD need of some cleaning and reorganization, and I would much rather do it now than come back to a messy closet in August!
  • Have I pulled any books or resources that I'd like to take home with me for planning over the summer? (Read this blog post about my planning process during the summer.)

Reflecting on your year

I know it seems crazy to think of the school year in past tense, but with only seven weeks remaining in the school year, I'm already thinking about what worked well this year, and what I'd like to improve for next year. Reflection is, to me, such a huge part of my development as a teacher, so I like to reflect at the end of each school year (before summer, when everything seems so distant!) Here are some thoughts about my year.

Reflecting on your year in the music room: Thoughts about classroom decor, music technology, and more!

What I loved:
I was able to streamline my data tracking and intervention processes even more this year, and was very happy with the results! I was able to use my data tracking binder to track how well students understand rhythmic and melodic concepts, and was able to provide intervention to more students. My first graders had a statistically significant increase in meeting their growth target for rhythmic dictation, and I think it's partly because of this process! For more information about data tracking and downloading the binder for free, see this blog post.

What I could do better:
I talked in this podcast about how I realized recently that a.) I don't do listening lessons as often as I should, and b.) it's partly because I'm not always using music that I LOVE. I have started tweaking and creating lessons for this year, but this is on my list of things to really delve into next year!

Social Media for Music Teachers

The way that social media is used has changed tremendously over the last few years. In the past, I used social media as a way to simply catch up on the lives of friends, follow celebrities, or look at pretty pictures. Although I still do those things, I'm now using social media as a form of professional development. In this blog post, I'll detail how to use social media to learn from other music teachers, gather ideas, and even learn new songs!

Social Media for Music Teachers: A comprehensive overview of how to use Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, and more, to gather ideas for your music classroom

When I first happened upon Pinterest, I found tons of pins about home decor and women's fashion, and I wasn't all that interested. But then I discovered pins about education, and specifically music education, and I was hooked!

To search for music education pins, simply start a Pinterest account, then in the search bar, type "music education," "Kodaly," "Orff," etc. for lots of great pins with great ideas! When I typed "music education" into Pinterest today, I saw these pins:

See those words along the top? These are interests, which allow you to get even more specific! When I clicked "lessons," these pins came up:

When you click a pin, it takes you to that blog post, article, etc.

To see a sample of other great pins I've discovered over the years, check out these "Favorite Pins of the Month" posts. To follow me on Pinterest, click here.

For more information about how to use Pinterest, see this post. Lindsay Jervis also has a great post about music education pinners to follow here.