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Five easy (and free!) sub plans for the music classroom

We've all heard the adage, "It's easier to come to school sick than to write sub plans." Many of you, like me, have spent hours upon hours working just on one day of sub plans, so it IS often easier to come to school sick than worry about it.

A few years ago, though, I finally got my sub tub in order (read more about my sub tub here), and figuring out sub plans began taking 10 minutes instead of 2 hours! Since then, I've become passionate about figuring out ideas that would have students making music, have subs feel comfortable teaching, and allow me to not spend tons of time preparing!

Here are some ideas for quick and easy sub plans to leave for your sub. Make sure to scroll to the end of the post, to sign up for my email list and receive editable Word documents to edit and adapt the sub plans for your own music lessons (as well as a bonus file)!

5 easy (and free!) sub plans for the music room: Includes great ideas for sub plans, as well as a way to download the sub plans as an editable Word document!


#1: The rhythm trainer
This website is a wonderful way to practice dictation and audiation skills! On the first page, you'll see this:


You could have your sub choose A if students will dictate rhythm patterns (onto the SMART board, or on a computer projected onto a LCD projector) or B if students will choose from multiple choice patterns. Then, students or the sub can choose a tempo. Lastly, you can leave notes for your sub with which rhythms to choose from, which can be adapted depending on the grade level! So if your first graders only know ta and ti-ti, or quarter and eighth notes, then you can have the sub only choose the first two rhythms, like shown above.

Tips for assessing with Plickers

A few years ago, I discovered an amazing free app called Plickers, which allows you to quickly and easily assess your students with ONLY ONE device! I wrote a blog post about Plickers here, but today, I thought I'd discuss tips for using the app. I just got done with an assessment for third grade recently, and realized there were some steps that make using the app much easier!

Tips for using Plickers to quickly assess students, including video tutorials on using the website and using the app!

Before using Plickers, you'll need to do the following:
  • Decide what assessment you want to use  (anything with multiple choices works; see some suggestions at the end of this post)
  • Get your students' class numbers from their classroom teachers (I would start with one grade level, and email that entire grade level for their class numbers)
  • Enter the students' names by number into the site (www.plickers.com)
  • Print out the cards on the Plickers site (you can laminate them for durability. I've heard some complain about the shiny quality for the cards making them harder to scan but I haven't noticed any problems)
  • Create your assessment (whether that be a slideshow, questions you'll write on the board or read to students, etc.) 
  • Create questions (this will allow you to name the question, then choose the correct answer for each)
  • Assign questions to each class

Props in the music classroom

As a music teacher, we have the opportunity to buy some really fun things for our classroom! Perhaps you've seen tennis balls or ribbons in another music teacher's room, and you've wondered how they incorporate those props into their music classroom. Here are my five favorite props for the music classroom:

Favorite props for the music room: Ideas for ribbons, tennis balls, and more, for your music lessons!


#1: Stretchy band

I first saw a stretchy band as a way to incorporate movement into an early childhood music class. There are truly SO many possibilities for using the stretchy band (which you can purchase here.) My favorite way of using it so far is to help students learn how to stay in a circle during a circle dance. My second graders will be performing "Seven Jumps" for their performance this week, and the stretchy band is a GREAT tool for this (as otherwise, with that dance, kids might lose their balance!) Here is a video of "Seven Jumps" without the stretchy band; you can purchase the music on iTunes (my favorite recording is by the Shenanigans).


Introducing Flexible Seating in your Music Classroom

A couple months ago, I wrote about all of the flexible seating I purchased for my music classroom. Today, I'm blogging about how I've introduced the flexible seating in my classroom.

Introducing flexible seating in the music room: Blog post with many different ways to have students try out the seats in your room!

I have lots of fun seats in my room now, so of course, the students want to try them out! I decided when I first started that I would only use them for small groups and centers--otherwise, it would be a bit of a mess for whole group instruction, with students sitting at different levels. Here are a few ways I've let students try out the seats:

Star Students:
I choose two star students at the end of every music class, and they roll a die on my SMART board to find out what their reward is (i.e. prize box, Wild Ways certificate--which is a school-wide incentive, sticker, etc.) One of the rewards for 2nd-5th grade is "Special Seat." In the past, I only had one comfy saucer chair, but now I have lots to choose from. The students are always super excited to roll this! The student who receives this is allowed to try out more than one seat during the class, as long as he/she is not distracting when switching between seats. (I've had to have a few conversations with students about appropriate bouncing on the exercise balls vs. distracting bouncing!)

Favorite Kindergarten Music Activities

As I wrote about in this blog post, teaching Kindergarten is so different than any other grade! They are at times so sweet, at other times so needy...and their attention span is about as short as they are! That being said, I truly enjoy teaching Kindergarten music. Today, I thought I'd blog about my favorite activities to do with Kindergarteners...the activities that I look forward to teaching, and the ones that they ask for lesson after lesson!

Favorite Kindergarten activities for the music classroom, including a singing game, movement activities, and more!


#1: Grizzly Bear
I first started teaching this song several years ago, to practice the musical opposites loud and quiet, and oh my goodness, I'm so glad I did! It's one of their all-time favorites, and there is something so magical about waking the bear!

Grizzly Bear: A FUN singing game for loud and quiet! Blog post includes other activities for your music lessons!

The kids love the song, as it starts very quietly and gets louder and louder, until they shout, "Roar" at the end! For the game, I have students walk in a circle, counter-clockwise, until they repeat the first phrase. Then on "Please be very quiet," students stay still and put a finger to their lips. For "If you wake him, if you shake him..." students step louder and louder to the beat until they roar at the end! (I have them put their hands up like they are claws when they roar!) One child pretends to be a sleeping bear in the middle as all of the movement is going on, and then on "Roar," that kid stands up and tries to tag one student. I have one spot that is the safe zone (my white board).


Data-Tracking in the Music Room

"Data" seems to such a buzz word lately in the education world. How well are students achieving? How much they have grown from year to year? And how does this apply to the music room?

Data-tracking in the music room: Strategies for making data-tracking easy and helpful! Includes a freebie for tracking data!

I first really delved into data when I first wrote my SLO, or student learning objective, a few years ago. I had never tracked data in such a specific way, and I admit, it was a bit scary! Since then, I've grown to really appreciate the information data can give me, and how it can improve my teaching!

So where to start with tracking data in your music room? Here are a few thoughts:

#1: Start with games!
Data-tracking doesn't mean you have to make your students take a pencil and paper test. Have them play a game to collect the information you need! Whether you play a solo singing game like "Come back home my little chicks" (notated in this blog post) or play a rhythm identification game like this freebie, you can collect data in a fun, engaging way...and kids will have no idea that's what you're doing!

#2: Try manipulatives
Manipulatives, like games, can be so much fun, AND a great way to collect data! Whether you are using popsicle stick rhythm manipulatives to see how well students can dictate patterns or songs, or solfa manipulatives to see how well students can hear melodic patterns, students can show you what they know in a very hands-on way! These can be done in a whole group or during centers.


Ten Tricks and Treats for Halloween in the Music Room

Today, I'm blogging about ten tricks or treats for the music room...ten ways to integrate Halloween into your music lessons while engaging your students and improving their musicianship!

Ten tricks and treats for Halloween in the music room: ten fun activities to try in your elementary music lessons!

#1: Skin and Bones
This is truly one of my favorite folk songs for Halloween! Here is the notation:


This is a call/response song, with the first part being the call, and the "ooo" part being the response. Here are the additional verses:
  • She lived down by the old graveyard, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • One night she thought she'd take a walk, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She walked down by the old graveyard, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She saw some bones a layin' around, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She went to the closet to get a broom, ooo-ooo-ooo-ooo!
  • She opened the door and BOO!
I learned a great game from my former colleague Jenna that my students love:  students lay on the ground with their eyes closed. As you sing, tap two students, who then go and hide! The rest of the students have to figure out who is missing.