Singing games in the music room

Today, I'm blogging about singing games in the music room. I know, it's summer, and you probably aren't thinking much about singing games OR your music room, but here are some ideas to consider about using singing games, keeping track of turns, and more, as you plan your next school year!

First of all, why should you use singing games in your music room? I am Kodály-trained, so singing games were a big part of my pedagogy training. Here are my main reasons for planning singing games in my lessons:
  • Singing games are FUN and students enjoy them. 
  • They provide a relaxation aspect to the lesson, especially after students have done something concentrated, like rhythmic dictation or writing on the staff. 
  • Singing games also allow students to connect to their cultural heritage, as well as the cultures of others. 
Over the years, I've learned a bit about how to use singing games best in my classroom. Here are five tips:

#1: Leave them wanting more
This is probably the best piece of advice I've received about games, and it was from my Kodály Level I instructor, Julie Swank. Previous to level I, I would play a game until EVERYONE had a know, to be fair. But what ends up happening is that the game drags on for SO long that most of the kids are bored by the end. You never want them to feel bored! So leave them wanting more. Play the game 3-5 times, and move on. Will you hear complaints that they didn't get a turn? Yes. Will they want to play it next class because of that? Yes.

#2: Reward them 
That being said, sometimes, when I have a few extra minutes at the end of class, and the class has been well-behaved, we play that game again, the one they were disappointed that it was cut short! Mrs. Macaroni is a huge favorite with first grade, one that they beg to play if we have time, and of course there are many others kids just LOVE to play! Another option is a reward day, which I've written about here. This gives them an opportunity to play games JUST to play!

#3: It's okay to run
There are lots of running games, which are SO fun to play, but I've heard music teachers here and there say that they don't let their kids run. Now, you may not have a room conducive to running, so fast walking it is. But if you do have a big room, as long as you make sure there aren't music stands or instruments in the way, I personally think it is totally fine to have them run. Have I ever had a kid get hurt? A few times. (Actually, I've had a kid get a bloody nose from "Our Old Sow" simply from changing the directions of his arms, not from running!) But do kids get hurt at recess? Of course they do! Should we stop them from running at recess? Please, no.
That's my take on it. I've taught for 17 years, and nothing bad has happened from kids running in my room. And they've had FUN!
Now, if you are still hesitant, and/or you don't have a huge room, you could take my friend Andrew Ellingsen's advice and have them run on their heels. It stops them from running full-speed and is still a fun challenge! (And if you've never seen Andrew present, you really should...he is AMAZING!)

#4: Teach them more than one version
You know how there are often seventeen different games for one song? Well, that might be an exaggeration, but there are easily 2-3 for most singing games I know. I have typically just decided which one game I like and taught it to the students, but in the past year or two, I have at times taught students more than one version. It's fun for them to see there is more than one thing we can do with any given song, and then once they know more than one version, they can vote on which they'd like to play! It's an easy way to allow students to choose, and it broadens their horizons a bit!

For example, for the song "Dinah," I know three games:

The lyrics are:
No one's in the house but Dinah, Dinah, no one's in the house but me I know.
No one's in the house but Dinah, Dinah, strummin' on the old banjo.
Dinah, Dinah, no one's in the house but me I know.
Dinah, Dinah, strummin' on the old banjo.

For the first game, students stand in a circle. One student goes in the middle and closes his/her eyes. The teacher makes a gap in the circle between two kids, then turns the kid in the middle around three times. Then "it" has to look for the gap while everyone sings--but his/her eyes have to stay closed, and they can't use their sense of touch. (They have to use their sense of hearing instead!) Kids HAVE to sing for this game, because if they don't, the person who is "it" might think they are the gap!

The second version is very similar to the first, except there isn't a gap. Instead, a second child is chosen to sing a solo on "Dinah, Dinah." The first child, with his/her eyes closed, has to figure out where the soloist is by using his/her sense of hearing. The second student can try running away, but has to stay within the circle. So fun!

The third version is really more of a dance than a game. Students stand in a circle, and do the following motions as they sing:
Step close  x 3, pat x 3.
Step close x 3, clap x 3.
Step close x 3, snap x 3.
Step close x 3, pat/ clap/ snap.

You can put students in an inner circle and outer circle, and have students do in opposite directions!

#5: Keep track of who has had a turn
In the past, I have simply chosen students each class to be "it." I've asked them to only raise their hands if they haven't had a turn, but inevitably,  a.) a student doesn't remember, b.) a student does remember, but chooses to raise their hand anyway, and/or c.) another student yells out, "He had a turn!"
This past year, I decided to try something different. I bought an interactive attendance set by Pink Cat Studio, and used it for keeping track of turns for singing games. I was going to write out a whole explanation of how I did this, but decided to make a video instead, so you can see how cool this set is! Here is the video:

Since I'm doing a monster theme in my classroom this year, I started off buying just the monster set, but have since bought the bundle. It's so fun, and a great way to keep track of turns!

If you're looking for singing game resources, I'm including some here. My favorites are those that give historical background to each song, and they include:



Click each picture to view the resources at West Music.

What are your tips for using singing games? Feel free to comment below, and have FUN!

Three Summer Goals

I hope everyone has had a good start to your summer (or, if you're still in school, I hope your school year is wrapping up nicely!) Today, I'm blogging about three goals I have this summer. If you are a blogger, see the directions at the end of this post for linking up to write about your three goals. Here goes:

#1: Focus on family
Just as I blogged about last summer, my goal for this summer is to really focus on my family, which includes my husband Scott, my 12-year-old daughter Jenna, and my almost 4 year-old daughter Macy. I'm hoping for campfires in our yard, time going for walks or playing Wii, trips to the park, and maybe a mini-vacation! As I've written about before, Macy has had some delays with her development; she has Sensory Processing Disorder, is speech delayed, and has motor planning issues. (I didn't talk until I was five, and after learning about SPD and motor planning, I think I actually have some of the same issues!) She has shown TONS of improvement in just the first few weeks of summer, so we are hopeful that all this time with her will really help! It will be nice to have time to just sit, relax, and enjoy the company of my family!

#2: Revise my whole store
I've been selling on TpT since 2012, and I've learned a LOT since then, so there are tons of products that I would like to go back and revise! So far, I've made it through four pages of my store. For some of the products, I've only changed the cover, but for most of them, I have changed more than that--perhaps adding printer-friendly worksheets, adding games, aligning lessons to the NCCAS standards, etc. I will blog later this summer once I've done more revisions, to highlight the biggest changes, but if you go to "my purchases," then "recently revised," you might find a few products that have been revised! You can then just re-download and enjoy the updates!

#3: Learn to play the ukulele
My husband bought me a ukulele a couple Christmases ago, and I still haven't figured out how to play it. So this summer, I'm determined I will! Even if I become comfortable with a few common chords so that I can accompany my singing or my students' singing, the time spent would be worth it! I found a book called 21 songs in 6 days, which includes video tutorials, and I've enjoyed it so far. You can purchase it by clicking below:

I also purchased the Rainbow Ukulele Teacher Pack by Shelley at Pitch Publications, and am going to use that to  practice as well!

I'd love to hear about your goals this summer! Feel free to comment below, and if you're a blogger, I'd love for you to link up! To add your link, write about your three goals, use the "Three Summer Goals" picture in your blog post with a link back to my post, and then submit your information by clicking the button below. Thanks, and Happy Summer!

Ten favorite music iPad apps

Three years ago, I bought my first iPad, and two years ago, I was lucky enough to receive a grant for 8 iPad minis in my music classroom. Since using iPads in my classroom, I have come across TONS of different music apps, both free and paid. Today, I'm blogging about my 10 favorite iPad music apps! I've listed a price next to each app, and have linked all of the apps to the app store. I've also tried to list a variety of apps--some that only you would use on your own iPad, some that you could use on one iPad at a center, and some that could be used in groups with several iPads. Here is my list:

#1: GarageBand, $4.99 (Free with some iPads)
My all-time favorite music app is GarageBand. It is SUCH an amazing app, allowing students to create and compose on instruments such as the guitar and piano without knowing how to play those instruments. It also allows students to layer loops, which are like ostinati, and students can also record their own voices and instrumental playing. There is SO much you can do with this app; the possibilities are endless! My favorite project to do with GarageBand is by Music and Technology, and can be purchased here. I've done the project with success for two years in a row with my fifth graders, and it's such a great way to practice form and to use the app successfully!

#2: Arpie, Free
This app is one of my students' all-time favorites. The idea is simple: it's like dropping tennis balls onto piano keys to create music. Check out this video for a sample:

Students from 1st grade on really seem to love this app! Like GarageBand, it allows them to create music without knowing how to play an instrument. Students can make choices to change their composition (and many of my students love to fill the screen with the balls!)

#3: QR Code Reader, Free
This is not technically a music app, but SO much can be done with a QR reader app! From visiting websites to listening to sound clips, scanning a QR code allows students to visit, listen, and read quickly without having to plug in any address into the browser bar. Read this blog post about how to create and use QR codes in the music room.

#4: MadPad HD, $2.99
If you've ever watched and enjoyed "Stomp," you will totally appreciate MadPad HD. There are several themed sets students can use to create, such as car-themed, coffeehouse-themed, piano-themed, and more! Students can experiment with the different sounds, compose patterns with each set, record their patterns, and then even create their own sets! (Which, I will warn you, is very chaotic but VERY fun!) Here is a video sample of MadPad HD, using sounds at the hardware store (totally makes me want to visit Lowe's with my iPad!):

If you're looking for projects to do with MadPad HD, check out this set:

#5: Staff Wars, $0.99
There are quite a few staff note reading iPad apps, but my all-time favorite is Staff Wars. This app allows you to just choose lines, just spaces, lines and spaces, extended staff, and all for treble clef, bass clef, OR alto clef! Students choose whichever note they think is correct, and the ship "shoots" the note down. With Star Wars being so popular nowadays, kids LOVE this app. I have seen my students' speed at naming notes increase so much by using this app. In fact, I had one student who, after struggling all year with note reading, beamed proudly at me after playing Staff Wars and exclaimed, "I'm doing so much better!" (And he was!)
So yes, this app is awesome! You can also play it on computer by visiting this website.

This is such a fun app for exploring instruments and instrument families! The app includes sections to explore, to take quizzes, build your own variation, and more! I've had students work in small groups, start in the quiz section, and then go to whichever section they'd like next.

#7: Plickers, Free
I found out about this app on Pinterest a few years ago, and was just blown away! This is a free app that can be used to take assessments, with student data specifically assigned to each student! The app works best with an iPhone or Android (instead of an iPad)...simply scan the room for students' choices on their Plickers cards, and the app will track their answers. So awesome! Read this blog post about my experience with the app, and this blog post for Jamie Parker's ideas for the app.

#8: Toca Band, Free
Admittedly, I have only watched my three-year-old play this app, but I think there are tons of really cool things that elementary students can do with this app (and my twelve-year-old seems to love it as much as my youngest!) If you drag one of the characters to the first level of the stage, he/she plays/ sings a simple melody. If you drag them to the second level, the melody becomes a bit more complex, and if you drag them to the third level, they add something, like dancing or juggling, to their melody! If you drag a character to center stage, then you get to make that character play/ sing whenever you want by tapping him/her! It's a great way to reinforce the idea of ostinato, as the character's melody keeps looping.

#9: Instagram, Free
Perhaps you've only used Instagram for personal purposes, but it can be a GREAT app for professional development as well! If you search a hashtag such as #iamamusicteacher, #musicteacherlife, #musicteacherproblems, #generalmusic, #iteachmusic, #kodaly, and/or #orffposse, you can find lots of great pictures and share ideas with lots of other music teachers! Click here to see a great picture book suggestion by @lizskodalyinspiredmusicroom, and here to see a fun bulletin board by David Row @makemomentsmattermusiced.  I just posted this picture on my Instagram recently with ideas my first graders came up with for their reward day; click through to see the comments about where to find the songs!

...And here is a picture I posted of a new way I learned to keep mallets handy on Orff instruments!

Many music teachers also post short videos of their classroom, which can be a great way to learn a new song, new dance, etc.!

#10: Powerteacher, iDoceo, and/or TeacherKit
I'm listing these three apps all as #10, because they are all very similar apps, and you'll want to choose one depending on your situation. I use Powerteacher and LOVE it, as it shows me students' pictures, tracks student grades, allows me to create assignments in a grade book that is then pushed to students' report cards...but it only works if your district is using Powerteacher district-wide. iDoceo is another great grade book app, allowing you to create grades, schedules, seating charts, and more, but it does cost $10.99, which is a bit pricey. (Many people swear by it, though!) TeacherKit is another good grade book app. Although not as powerful as iDoceo, it is free!

Looking for more iPad apps? For a comprehensive list of free iPad music apps, check out this blog post, and download this freebie I compiled that has some of these apps, as well as other apps I love to use!

What are your favorite music apps? Feel free to comment below, and enjoy the apps!

Creating an end-of-the-year slideshow

Recently, I had to create an end-of-the-year slideshow for my school. It's the second year I've had to do this (because I am the Instructional Technology Chair at my school), and both years, I've had to teach and re-teach myself how to do certain things to create the slideshow. Today, I thought I'd share tips for creating your own slideshow, whether it be for the whole school, for your choir, for a grade-level classroom, or whatever you need!

First, a little background about me...I have enjoyed creating slideshows with music for about 12 years---since my oldest was born. I started creating slideshows with my nephew and oldest daughter, then created slideshows for funerals of loved ones, and now create the slideshow for my school. My school's slideshow has at least one picture of every single student in the school, so it can be a bit time-consuming to make sure all the students are covered! I have a section for each grade, each class within the grade, as well as a section I just call "We are Cheshire," which has pictures of school-wide events. We show this at the 5th grade graduation ceremony, which the entire school attends. I try to keep it under 25 minutes so that everyone is focused and enjoying the show!

Back in the day, I just used Powerpoint and inserted music, but realized quickly that only worked if you had the music on your computer, so it wasn't easy to share. I then moved onto Sony Vegas, and then when I bought my Mac, tried using iMovie. I had heard from SO many people how awesome iMovie was, so was surprised that the program was a bit difficult to learn. Today, I'm blogging with some tips that have helped me along the way! Many of the tips are specific to iMovie, but if you are not on a Mac, hopefully you'll still find helpful tips!

Choosing music
For the school-wide slideshow, I like to use music of varying tempi, to keep the audience engaged and the slideshow interesting. Of course, with pop music, you have to be careful to choose songs with appropriate lyrics! I have edited some songs to take out some not-so-appropriate lyrics (more on that in a minute), as long as the overall song has a great message.

Here are the songs that I used for last year's slideshow:
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'Ole
"Best Day of my Life" by American Authors
"Take on the world" by Rowan Blanchard and Sabrina Carpenter
"You've got a friend in me" by Randy Newman
"On top of the world" by Imagine Dragons
"Happy" by Pharrell Williams
"We'll be the Stars" by Sabrina Carpenter

And here are the songs I used for this year's slideshow:
"Walking on Sunshine," remake by Aly & AJ
"We are going to be friends" by Jack Johnson
"Best Day of my Life" by American Authors (the kids love this one so much!)
"The Best Song Ever" by One Direction (I edited out the second verse because it was slightly inappropriate...)
"Try Everything" by Shakira
"Count on me" by Bruno Mars
"Best thing I got" by Sabrina Carpenter
"Hall of Fame" by the Script, featuring (I edited out the second verse with an inappropriate word)
"My Wish" by Rascal Flatts

Marking music
As a musician, I am a stickler for making sure the music lines up with the switching of the pictures! There is an easy way to do this in iMovie, but I had to do some digging to figure it out. Simply make sure that your audio track is selected, hit the space bar to play, and then hit the "M" key every time you want there to be a marker in your music. It will look like this:

Then, it is really easy to drag the pictures to the markers, so they will switch to the next picture in sync with the music! I typically put a marker at the end of each phrase.

Editing music
Like stated above, sometimes a song had one verse I didn't want in there, or perhaps I needed to make a song slightly longer or shorter to fit all of the pictures I had. To edit, you can stop the music where you want it edited (by hitting the space bar.) Then right click (or control click on a laptop), and choose split clip. Do this again with where you want the music to start again, and then delete the section you don't want. Then drag the second section over to where the first ends. You will want to listen and make sure the edits are exactly how you want may have to edit more to get it perfect.

Theme and Transitions
The transitions iMovie has in the program by default are great, but if you want to change any transition, it will stop all default transitions, so then you have to insert them by hand. This is easy, though...simply drag the transition from the lower right hand corner to the place between pictures. I would suggest using a variety of transitions, but not TOO many, because it'll be more distracting than you want. I tended to use the same 10 or so transitions throughout the entire slideshow.

As far as theme goes, when you create a new project, Imovie will ask you to choose a theme, which will be the same theme throughout the entire slideshow. This is a great feature of the program, as it ties everything together rather nicely! Last year, I used the photo album theme, and this year I used the filmstrip theme.

Fading out
To fade out at the end of the slideshow (which is a much nicer way to end than to simply stop the slideshow), just add the "fade to black" transition after the last picture (it is in the second row in the image below.)

Keep in mind that while you are creating the slideshow, space on your computer may be suddenly limited, especially if you have a Mac! I emptied my trash can a ton, restarted my computer, and even changed my Dropbox settings to make room on my computer. Thankfully, now that I'm done with the slideshow, my computer is back to normal!

Sharing the slideshow
Now that you're done with the slideshow and are happy with it, how do you share it? To watch it with your class or community, you'll want to go to "file," then "share," then "file," and save it as a file that you can open later. After you watch it together (projected onto a LCD projector), you can share the video with your audience so they can watch it later. I did this by putting it into my Google Drive (by going to "new," then "file upload,") and then I right-clicked (or command click on a laptop) and chose "get shareable link." Make sure when you do this that you choose "link sharing on," and that you only have people able to view, not edit. You can do the same in Dropbox, by right-clicking the link, and choosing "Copy Dropbox link," which will allow you to paste the link into an email. People shouldn't need Google Drive or Dropbox for either of the above options--they should be able to click the link and view!

I hope this has been helpful to you, if you are putting together a slideshow. I have found slideshows to be such a beautiful thing to build community and reminisce about the year! If you have anything to share about slideshows and/or iMovie, feel free to comment below. Good luck, and have fun!

End-of-the-Year Music Lessons

As I'm writing this, I have one week of school left. This seems a bit crazy to me, as it is only May 13 (and I first taught in Michigan, where we taught until the middle of June!) I recently wrote about surviving the end of the year as a teacher, but today I'm writing specifically about end-of-the-year music lessons.

Ideas for your music classroom lessons at the end of the year!

Here are my thoughts and ideas for your music lessons this time of year!

Review Games
At the end of the year, I like to do review games with my students so I can gauge how well they learned what I taught them during the year. Seventeen years ago, when I first began teaching, I did a "Jeopardy" game with my students. Of course, this was way before SMART boards, so I made a game board with index cards, posterboard, and velcro. Funny to think about now! If you go to the SMART Notebook website, you'll find tons of templates. A few years ago, I put together some summer fun review games for first grade, second grade, third grade, and fourth grade. Each game has summer images hyperlinked to questions for that grade level; it's a great way to review what they've learned during the year! Check out the first grade set below:

Choice Day
I've written before about how I keep points during music class, as suggested in this book. Once students fill up their chart, they can have half of the next music class (since I have 50 minute lessons) to choose whatever they want to do. They vote as a class, then we play the top three. You could also do this just because it's the end of the year! It's a great way to see what they've enjoyed doing most during the year...whether it be a fun singing game like "Ye Toop Doram," iPads, or Freeze Dance!

Playing outside
Better yet, when they choose their singing games, take them outside and play! It is SO fun to play "We are dancing" outside! I have a room with no windows, so I love to take the kids outside at the end of the year to play and enjoy the sunshine!

Prepare or present?
At the end of every year, I have to decide if I am going to continue preparing new concepts, or if I am going to go ahead and present to my students. For example, my second graders were ready enough for half note and re this year, so I went ahead and presented both concepts to them, but my first graders weren't quite ready enough for la, so we just prepared that concept, and I'll present it at the beginning of next year. In my mind, you are going to spend some of the time reviewing at the beginning of next year anyway, so if they are pretty much there, I'll present, then practice at the start of the next year. If they are not quite ready, I will prepare lots then prepare a bit at the start of next year, then present. It depends on the grade level and the year!

Try out new things!
I just read this great blog post about wrapping up the year, and Jodi suggested trying out new things at the end of the year, so you know whether or not you want to try them next year. I've been doing that a bit and will blog with some ideas that I love soon! In my last blog post, I suggested adding a "to try next year" board on Pinterest; you could do this but try out some of those ideas now!

What are your ideas for end-of-the-year music lessons? Feel free to comment below, and enjoy your last few weeks (or your last month!) of school!

Using Pop Songs in your Music Classroom

Today, I'm writing about something somewhat controversial--a topic that five or so years ago, I would have shied away from completely: using pop music in your music classroom.

There are a few reasons I have shied away from using pop music in the past. Even before I began my Kodály training, my thought was that kids hear pop music ALL THE TIME. Why do they have to hear it in my class too? When I began my Kodály training, I heard the same sentiment: we should be teaching them music of the masters, and folk music that is accessible and part of their heritage.

I still believe that it's very important to use folk music and music of the masters. If you stepped in my classroom on any given day, 95% of the time, that's what you'll hear. However, my thinking shifted a bit after some lively discussions with colleagues and some soul searching. Here's why I've used pop music recently in my classroom (and keep reading until the end of the post for some quick ideas to get started!)

Reasons to use pop music
The most important reason, in my mind, for using pop music at times in the music classroom is to connect music of the past to music of the present. I once had a discussion with my husband about this. He is by no means a fan of typical pop music--he likes all kinds of somewhat obscure bands like Deer Tick and Wilco and My Morning Jacket--but his argument was this: how are they going to connect the music they learn from you to the music they listen to?
I didn't have an answer then, except that they'd have to do it on their own. But why shouldn't I help that connection? Wouldn't it help them see the big idea that the music concepts they learn from me happen in ALL music? And isn't that a powerful big idea?
Many of us were taught that we should only use the best music (a sentiment I completely agree with!)...but why does that mean we shouldn't ever use pop music? I think the elephant in the room is that many people think that all pop music is bad. In my opinion, that's not true. A decent amount of pop music is not the best quality, but there are plenty of good pop songs. You just have to find them!

Yes, we can argue that pop music is like junk food and they get enough on the radio or on their iPods, but to be relevant, shouldn't we have them listen to a little pop music? And I don't mean the Beatles (although they are probably my favorite band of all time!) I recently had my students figure out how to play the first measure of "Best Day of My Life" by the American Authors (which I'll write about later in this post) and although my kids were SUPER excited about it, I had a student mention that the song was two years old, and couldn't we do something more recent? So if the American Authors, after two years, have lost a teeny bit of relevance, the Beatles don't have very much relevance at all!
Of course, I'm not advocating for no Beatles lessons, because like I said, I LOVE the Beatles. I'm just saying that to be relevant to the students' environment and experiences, we should be searching for music that they know and love. I've heard a few people say that pop music is like the folk music of today (but that's a whole other blog post, and probably one that's even more controversial!)

When I have used pop music, the excitement in the room is palpable. Students are jumping up and down with glee. Not that they never jump up and down with glee for other music we do, but seriously, they get pretty excited. My number one goal for my classroom is that it is joyful, so this is a pretty good reason to try it!

Reasons using pop music can be difficult
So after thinking about how to include pop music in my lessons (since my training didn't include it at all), I realized the reason it can be so hard to do is that pop music keeps changing. The #1 hit that everyone loves in 2016 will surely not be #1 in 2017, and in five years it may be somewhat obsolete. So this means we have to change our pop music lessons, at least every few years, so that they remain relevant.
Then, of course, there is the issue of appropriateness. SO many pop songs are just not appropriate. Maybe kids don't realize the true meaning of the song--as was so often the case with music I listened to growing up--but still, there are songs we just can't do, no matter how much the kids love them.

Ideas for using pop music
After considering the reasons why I wanted to include pop music more, and why creating lessons using pop music is tricky, I have come up with a few ideas over the last couple of years that have worked for me and my students. I am truly at the beginning of this journey, so will blog more as more ideas come to me! Here are a few ideas to get started on your journey:

Keeping the beat
If you can find a pop song that has a steady beat, you could play a game called "Follow me." Simply do the same motion for 8 beats and have students mirror you. Then when you change to a different motion, they do too! Halfway through the song, you could have student volunteers lead the beat! This works even better if the students have done this same activity with Beethoven or Brahms or Miles Davis...they they try it with pop music! "On top of the world" by Imagine Dragons is great for this activity!

Playing a song on instruments
I have recently found a couple songs with Orff accompaniment on Pinterest. Here are arrangements to check out:

"Best Day of my Life" by American Authors
"Happy" by Pharrell Williams
"Ho Hey" by the Lumineers

My fifth graders recently learned tika-ti (2 sixteenths/eighth) and they already knew syncopa (eighth/quarter/eighth) so "Best Day of my Life" was PERFECT! I had each kid pair up on a barred instrument with a friend, wrote the first measure on the board with rhythm and note letters, and had them figure out how to play it! So fun!

Pulling rhythm or melody from a song
Just like we might use "Sammy Sackett" for half note or "I got a letter" for low la, so we can figure out which pop songs lend themselves well to which rhythmic or melodic concepts! I haven't done a ton of work with this, but Christopher Roberts has found a couple Taylor Swift songs to use for concepts; read about it in this blog post on our collaborative blog, the Kodály Corner!

Using songs by Lessia at I am Bullyproof Music
After lamenting to myself about how many songs I just couldn't use because of appropriateness, I started listening to music by my friend Lessia at I am Bullyproof Music...and I had a big a-ha moment, that I should be using her music to help make connections! In Lessia's words, she wrote her songs "with kids beside me telling me what they wanted me to express for them - so they could sing that mature wisdom over and over again." The songs have a great message, they are accessible, they are appropriate...and best of all, the kids love them!
So far, I have tried the songs "Miracle" (I kind of HAD to try that one!), "Monkey," "Einstein," and "Gift in this Present," and each has been a big hit with my kids (3rd grade and up.) I even used "Gift in this Present" for my 3rd grade program (read about that here) and "Einstein" for my 4th grade program (read about that here.) I've also used the songs to practice concepts (like 3/4 for "Gift in this Present") and to discuss lyrics and parts of a song, such as verse, chorus, and bridge.
Whether she's writing and singing about fighting self-doubt, or stopping to enjoy the present, Lessia's lyrics are very meaningful...and her music is super catchy! My fourth graders even begged to play Musical Chairs with Einstein on their reward day! If you want to hear more of Lessia's music, I suggest checking out her store and/or her blog. I've also been collaborating with her; we've created sets to help teach "Einstein" and "Gift in this Present," and I also included "Monkey" in my Poetry set. You can see more of each set below:


The resources above, as well as my entire store, will be 20% off tomorrow, May 3, and Wednesday, May 4, as part of Teacher Appreciation Week! You can get an extra 8% off by using the promo code "Celebrate."

I have to give a big thank you to my friends Donna Gallo, Frank Gallo, and Lessia Bonn, who were huge influences in opening up my eyes on why and how to use pop music in my classroom.

I'd love to hear your thoughts! What are your favorite songs to use, and why? Are you still struggling with using pop music? Feel free to comment below, and have a great day!

Surviving the End of the School Year

I know it seems a bit crazy that I'm writing about the end of the school year on April 24, but my last day with students is May 20! (Disclaimer: I started school the second week of August, so don't be too mad at me!) Because of this, I am having to think about the end of the school year now. Here are my suggestions for surviving the end of the school year so you can have a relaxing summer, and so that you can come back at the start of school year refreshed and organized!

How to survive the end of the school year

#1: Plan out the rest of the year
Since I only have four weeks left, I recently sat down and figured out exactly what I needed to do with each grade level by the end of the year. You can simply make a table in Word or use Excel, and list each lesson by week, which assessments you're doing, which concepts you're presenting or practicing, etc. This was super helpful! I have year plans for every grade level (you can learn more about year plans with this video), but these 4-week plans have exactly what I know I can get to and aren't necessarily as detailed as year plans. In my district, we've moved to standards-based grading, so I have to give grades by categories of standards instead of just one music grade. Figuring out which assessments I was doing for the remainder of the school year was very helpful to make sure I had all my categories/ standards covered!

#2: Find out about field trips, parties, assemblies, etc.
The end of the year can be many field trips, Field Days, assemblies, etc. I just sent out an email last week to find out about when students might not be coming to music, because then I truly know how many more lessons I have with each class...and in some cases, there are only two lessons left! Ack! I know I should be excited about summer, and I am, but I feel like I still have so much to teach them and so little time! Along those lines...

#3: Decide what you HAVE to teach...and what you can teach next year
Don't feel guilty. You didn't get to everything. None of us do. So decide what you really still HAVE to teach, and what you can wait until the start of next year to teach. We are really lucky that in a K-5 or K-6 setting, we typically have the students from year to year, so we know exactly where we left off and where we can begin! I thought I'd get to "la" with 1st grade, because I thought I had four more lessons with them. But then when I looked at all the field trips, assemblies, etc., I realized that a few of the classes I only had two more lessons with, and they won't be ready for la at that point. So I'll have to present it in second grade. It's okay. No guilt! (Well, maybe a little...but that's okay!)

#4: Organize your stuff now!
I have a confession. I may seem super organized, but as my husband can attest to, I'm not. I am pretty organized when it comes to lessons and digital files, but when it comes to stuff I can pick up with my hands, um....not so much. In second grade, I got a "N" in desk cleanliness, because, well, my desk needed improvement! My first instinct to seeing a mess of things is to just shove things in and close the lid/ drawer. It's not a good instinct! At the start of this year, I thought I'd organize everything, but truly, I just had too much to do. And my things remained pretty disorganized. I had these tubs to organize my daily lesson materials, which helped, and I put labels on all of my drawers (because otherwise, I really wouldn't know where anything was!), and I kept things looking like they were organized on the outside, but still, my room, my manipulatives, my books...they were all secretly a bit of a mess. The entire year.
So a few weeks ago, I decided that every day, I would organize a little bit. It's too overwhelming to think about cleaning everything at once, so I've taken a drawer a day and have worked at it. And I'm super excited about leaving the room in an organized state, because at the start of next school year, I'll open a drawer and know where everything is. Hooray! (Now if only I could be that organized at home...)

#5: Think about next year
I know it seems way too early to think about next school year, but by thinking about it now, you can save yourself so much time and stress later! I recently found a few things on Pinterest that I decided I HAD to do next year, like gluing pom-poms to the end of dry erase markers like this (click the picture to see the full article):

And I'd like to try having students write their names on plates when they go to the use the restroom:

So I started a secret board on Pinterest called "To try next year," so I'd remember everything I want to try.  Jodi at Clutter-Free Classroom suggests to try out some of the ideas you find NOW so you can figure out if they are ideas you want to keep for all of next year (check out this blog post with her advice; I found the post as I was writing this one!)

If you do a classroom theme, think about how you might want to decorate next year. I did a jungle theme this year, and am thinking of a monster theme for next year. Here is a Pinterest board I created with a bunch of monster ideas...I plan on making a set specific to the music classroom!

Because I am doing the research now, it'll be so much easier for me to try making some of these crafts over the summer! If you're looking for themes, Jodi at the Clutter-Free Classroom has a great guide for inspiration here.

What are your strategies for surviving the end of the year? Feel free to comment below, and good luck!