29 June, 2014
Learning Centers in the Music Classroom

Learning Centers in the Music Classroom

A couple years ago, I wrote this blog post about learning centers in the music room. Since then, I've been asked a few times to write another blog post about learning centers, so here goes!

Learning centers in the music room: Ideas and strategies for centers, or stations, in your music classroom!
It wasn't until a few years ago that I began to really try to implement centers in my room. Although I was initially nervous, I have had so much fun (as have my students!) My lessons had been admittedly pretty teacher-centered until then, so centers allowed me to provide a more student-centered learning environment. Other benefits of using learning centers include:

  • Promoting student independence and responsibility
  • Allowing time for intervention
  • Allowing time for individual assessment
  • Allowing students to take charge of their learning
  • Students' achievement can quickly improve through the focus on one concept/skill
So what do centers look like in the music classroom? It depends a bit on who you talk to, but in my room, I typically split students up into four groups, and have each group at one center for five or so minutes, and then they rotate to the next center, so that by the time music class is done, they have done all of the centers. Each center has a different activity, but is typically focused on the same concept or skill as the other centers. For example, if students are working on notes on the treble clef staff, with one center, they might be playing a jumping game in which students are jumping to the correct line or space on the staff (with a staff being taped to the floor), in another center, students might be playing the "Flashnote Derby" app on my Ipad, in another center, students might be writing words on their own staves (like EGG, BED, FACE, etc.) and in another center, students might be completing treble clef staff worksheets. You as the teacher could be anchored at one center--assessing or helping as needed, you might be providing intervention to struggling students, or you might be floating from one center to the next as you help students out.

I've been asked quite a bit, as I've presented this topic at workshops, how I set them up in my room. I have a fairly large room (compared to other rooms I've had) so I choose four spots in the room, kind of at the north, east, south, and west sides of the room, and put all the materials there. I'm taking an ELL class right now, and the book I'm reading ("50 Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners" by Herrell and Jordan) suggests posting written directions at centers. I also plan on posting signs this year with the center's number. I typically don't do centers for more than one grade level on any particular day, so that I only have to have materials out for one set of centers, but if you were to do more than one grade level of centers on any day, you could make sure to plan ahead and post signs for which materials are for which grade level.

For my lessons, I have found that centers work well done every so often, when students have shown that they are ready for some independent work. For my classroom, I do centers maybe 6 or so times each year. However, I'm sure some music teachers do centers more and find it works well for them and their students; you just have to choose what works for you! I would suggest starting small and then increasing from there as you get used to the set-up.

When deciding on types of centers, I often have types of centers in my mind, like SMART board, worksheets, Ipad, instruments, manipulatives, and game. Then, when I've decided on a concept, I plug the concept into those types of centers.

Here is a picture of my students at a center in which they were matching up stick notation cards to staff notation cards (using this set):

Learning centers in the music room: Ideas and strategies for centers, or stations, in your music classroom!

And here are students at centers creating patterns for recorder (using this freebie):
Learning centers in the music room: Ideas and strategies for centers, or stations, in your music classroom!

To recap answers to questions you may have about centers:
  • Why? To create a more student-centered learning environment in which students are responsible for their own learning, and to provide time for intervention and individual assessment
  • What? Centers are stations at which students work in small groups or independently. They can work in increments of 5 or 10 minutes before rotating OR they can work independently, rotating when they are ready and/or have completed the assigned task. I usually set up centers so they are all focused on the same concept but target that concept in different ways.
  • Where? This depends on your room, but in my room, I set up the centers in four different spots. Keep in mind that noisy centers should be far away from each other!
  • How? You get to decide which centers you do, how students are put into groups, how long they will spend at each center, etc. I usually spend one lesson on centers, but you could spend more if you need to. I also often have one center be an assessment center, in which you can individually assess students, but you could also provide time for intervention, pulling students who you know have been struggling with that particular concept.
  • When? After students have become familiar enough to work independently with the given concept. I typically do centers several times a year with a given grade level, but this is up to you!
Keep in mind:
  • It will get noisy. Most kids are used to this because they often do centers with their classroom teacher, but keep this in mind when figuring out where centers should be located.
  • Experiment until you find what works for you. I've detailed what works for me, but you might find a different set-up that works better for you and your students!
  • You will have to give up control...but it will be worth it! (Students will be teaching other students...it's wonderful to watch!)
Want more ideas about centers? Check out Tracy King's post about centers as well as The Yellow Brick Road's post about centers.

 I've created this bundled set for centers in the music room:

Let me know if you have any more questions about centers, and have fun!

16 June, 2014
Five Favorite Pins of June

Five Favorite Pins of June

Five favorite pins of June, including Kindergarten xylophone introduction, a rhythm game, and more!
Today was my first day teaching for this summer's Kodaly Level I at DePaul University! It was a fun day; I'm looking forward to the next two weeks. I've been a bit busy preparing for it, so I realized I needed to post about my five favorite pins this month!

To see the pin, click each picture. Here goes!

#1: Kindergarten Xylophone Introduction

I absolutely love this You Tube video about introducing students to Orff instruments. How magical!

#2: Steady Beat Swords

This idea by Tracy King to use pool noodles as light sabers with the "Imperial March" from "Star Wars" is absolutely brilliant! 

#3: Kalani Rhythm Game

This is a great game to improve memory and partwork skills! I'm thinking you could start just with one pattern, and then in the next lesson, add another on top of the first pattern. Love it!

#4: Classroom Organization Ideas

TONS of great ideas to organize your classroom in a very cute way!

#5: 27 Apps

Lots of great apps listed here! Some of these I have, but many I don't, so I'm excited to explore on the app store. 

Those are my five favorite pins of this month...what are yours?  Make sure to click the picture below to read the five favorite pins of another music blogger! Happy pinning, and happy teaching!
11 June, 2014
Dazzling Discipline

Dazzling Discipline

Today, I am very excited to blog about discipline strategies! I received so many great comments and ideas from my 1,200 Followers blog post, and many of you asked for discipline ideas. I'm naming this linky party "Dazzling Discipline"!

Discipline Strategies that work: Great ideas for the music classroom, or for any classroom!

A couple disclosures before I offer discipline strategies: I work in a school district with very supportive parents and overall, well-behaved kids. However, there are still behavior problems, and I believe that many of the strategies that I will share (and that others will share) could work with a variety of populations. Although I am speaking from my experience as a music teacher, I think these strategies are universal and could work in any classroom, at any grade level.

Here goes!

Quick-paced, jam-packed lesson plans
In a recent blog post, I discussed my process for writing lesson plans. This is my number one strategy for fostering on-track and engaged behavior--to create quick-paced, jam-packed lesson plans. I endeavor with each lesson plan to create thirty-five minutes of learning that involves fun, engaging, interactive activities, so that students don't even think about misbehaving. Sometimes, as we have all experienced, kids are just bored and act out because they would rather be somewhere else. So I don't give them that choice! We go quickly from one activity to the next, with smooth transitions and exciting activities and games.

One of the best pieces of teaching advice I received in college. One of my professors told us to ALWAYS have all your materials ready. I think this is tied to having that quick pacing. I don't want to have to search for a prop or puppet or flashcards while the students are sitting in my room, because that one minute I spend looking for whatever I need is one minute students can misbehave! (I wrote about organizational tubs to keep all my materials in a central location; read about that here. These have been very helpful in keeping my materials handy so my pacing remains quick!)

If I notice my students starting to misbehave or seem off task, the first question I ask myself is whether there is something in the lesson plan and in my teaching that could be improved.

Rewarding good behavior
I have found a few ways of rewarding good behavior that really seem to work. Of course, students should behave for the sake of behaving, but having a tangible prize or reward can definitely build motivation! My school has a school-wide system called "Wild Ways Certificates," which are handed out when students are Wondering, Imagining, Learning, and Discovering, or simply doing something nice for someone else! When they receive those slips, they get to take a trip to the office and drop them into a big bin. Then, each morning, our principal pulls several slips from the bin, calls those students down to the office, and they get a coin to use to get a prize (much like a toy vending machine at Kroger.) Students are always VERY excited about that possibility! I have at times handed this out class-wide at the end of the lesson if I notice kids have been really outstanding, but I don't tell them beforehand that's what I will do. It's nice to have an unexpected reward that they really deserved because they were behaving for the sake of behaving!

I also choose a star student at the end of every music class. That student is someone who has exhibited wonderful behavior the entire music class. I keep track of the students I choose and try to rotate around the class as much as I can. (And for those students for whom behavior is a struggle, I try to catch them on a good day!) When they are chosen, they come up to my SMART board and roll the die (you can search SMART notebook for interactive dice.) I assign prizes for each number. Here is an example of the file:

I've also had "play the tubano," "play the thunder tube," "play the gong," "reward certificate," and "stamp on hand" as rewards. My prize box is full of little trinkets from Target, Wal-mart, and Oriental Trading. This could also work without a SMART board, by using an actual die or foam die.

 You could also use a spinner on the SMART board, like this:
The great thing about this is you can choose whatever you want, or your students can help choose rewards, AND you can change up the rewards whenever you want! Students really look forward to receiving star student and monitor their behavior in order to get it!

I also saw this idea on Pinterest about choosing a "Secret Superhero," and I thought this might be another way of choosing a star student; if they behave well, that student could become the star student. Click the picture below to read more!

This seems like common sense, but we have all had weak moments as teachers (and if you have children, as parents) in which we do not follow through and the consequences don't happen. If you follow through and offer consequences for negative and positive behavior, students will know you are trustworthy. A few strategies that I've used to help students monitor their behavior:

*Move seats: My students in K-1 sit in a circle without assigned seats (we move around so much, it doesn't usually seem worth it to assign seats) and my students in 2-5 are in assigned seats in rows. In any grade, if there is a behavior problem, I move their seat, or I sit next to them. This often helps those students who are a bit off-task.

*Take away the game: We've all been there...we're playing a fun game like "We are dancing," and the class gets CRAZY excited and really noisy. I give the class a warning, telling them that if the behavior doesn't get better, we won't play the game. Then, if it doesn't get better, we sit down and stop the game. Are kids disappointed? Yes, especially if they were about to be the wolf. But I have to make sure I follow through with the consequences. I often have a conversation with them at this point...why did I stop the game? What could we have done better? The next time we play the game, I remind them what happened last time, and 9 times out of 10 their behavior is way better!

*Following through with individual students: If I tell a student, "One more warning and then a time out," then I make sure I do that! Otherwise, he/she may believe I don't mean business. I have a "thinking chair" that students go to, and when they are ready and have thought about their behavior, they can go to the "ready chair."

Leave them wanting more!
I first heard these four words as it relates to games from Julie Swank in Kodaly Level I. The words really resonated with me. Before I had Level I, if we were playing a singing game, I had everyone in the class get a turn...just to be fair. Well, by turn 15 or so you can see the kids getting tired of it, and the kids who have to wait until the very end are impatient. She said to only give a few students turns, to leave them wanting more, because then next time you play the game, you won't hear groans of exasperation because they know they're in for 20 minutes of a game just so everyone can get a turn. Better yet, you can fit more into a lesson AND kids will behave better! If you're worried about fairness, you could keep track of which students got a turn in each lesson and each class and refer to that next time they play the game.

My last piece of advice is to listen...to individual students, and to the entire class.

By listening to individual students, I mean to really hear what they are saying when you asked them why they did something. It can be easy to pigeonhole kids as disruptive or behavior problems. We as educators need to dig deeper than that and listen to them--about why they did what they did, about what exactly happened, about what is going on in their lives. If we make a snap judgment out of exasperation for their past behavior, we are not honoring them as individuals. Let them talk and really listen. Instead of reacting in anger, take a deep breath, ask them what they could have done better, and really listen to them. They will appreciate that you listened and let them talk, and hopefully, they will think of this the next time they were in your class.

By listening to the entire class, I mean to honor the dynamics of each class. We have all had classes that are wonderful, and some classes that are a bit challenging. In the past, I realize I have treated every class the same, trying to fit those square-pegged classes into the round class hole. This past year, I had a fifth grade class with interesting dynamics. Kids wanted to talk A LOT, ask questions A LOT, and argue with each other. I never got through my entire lesson with this class and was always so frustrated. Why wouldn't they behave like everyone else?

Because they were different. And I needed to honor that.

So with this class, I slowed my pace. I listened to what they needed. I answered their questions (within reason...when they asked me a zillion questions about how I met Mr. Miracle I had to stop the conversation after a while so we could get back to music!) I let them talk more when working in groups. I accepted that we wouldn't get through everything. And you know what happened?

I began to look forward to their class, because at last, I had listened to them, honored their class dynamics, and accepted that they were different and that was okay. They learned just as much as every other class; their path was just a bit different!

Those are my tried-and-true discipline strategies! Here is a board I created on Pinterest for behavior management strategies:

Looking for more discipline strategies? Check out the blog posts below! And thanks to Glitter Meets Glue Designs, the 3 a.m. Teacher, and Dancing Crayon Designs for the cute clip art!

06 June, 2014
Planning in the Music Room

Planning in the Music Room

Today I'm very excited to participate in Lindsay Jervis' blog hop, about Perfect Poolside Planning!

Planning in the music room: Thoughts about long-range planning and daily lesson planning. Blog post includes freebies!

Planning is a passion of mine. Through my Kodaly levels, I learned so much about long and short-range planning, and how to best develop plans that could meet all of my daily, monthly, and yearly goals.

It is hard for me to talk about lesson planning specifically without looking at long-range planning. However, I know that others in the blog hop will be blogging about long-range planning, so I will just give a short summary of what my long-range plans look like.

When I begin my planning for the next school year, I first start with song lists, which for me is a grade-level list of songs, listening pieces, and books cross-referenced by concepts, skills, and extensions.

Next, I move onto concept plans, which are unit plans in which I can map out physical, visual, and aural activities for my students to do over a few months of time, to prepare and practice a specific musical concept.

Then, I write year plans, which are an overview of the entire year. I figure out when I'm presenting certain rhythmic and melodic concepts, what my goals are for improvisation, reading, writing, inner hearing, and more, and when exactly I'll teach the songs I've used on my song lists and concept plans. I can plug in the specific activities from my concept plans right into the year plan.

NOW I'm ready to write a lesson plan! My long-range plans can aid greatly in figuring out what I need to teach. I can look at the year plan for a certain month and see songs, activities, goals, assessments, children's books, etc. that I'd like to include in the lesson. Those year plans are so helpful! Aside from using the long-range plans, though, I want to give a list of tried-and-true strategies that have helped me write cohesive, engaging lesson plans.
  • Where have we been? I look at previous lessons to see if there are any activities we haven't finished, any songs I meant to teach, any games I want to make sure to do with them, any folk dances yet to teach, etc. Looking at the year plan is also helpful when figuring out where we have been. 
  • Where are we going? Is there a goal we're moving toward that I need to plan for? Is there an extension of an activity I need to plan? Is there a new song they need to learn? Again, looking at the year plan can be very beneficial. I have a place on my lesson plan template that says "previous lesson" and "next lesson" to help me keep track.
  • Which songs, chants, activities, and dances would I like students to learn in this lesson? I often write a list only with song titles, and then figure out a good order from there. When I figure out the order, I keep in mind that I like to have one chunk of the lesson that is rhythmic and one that is melodic (so I'm not switching back and forth a bunch!) I also think about transitions, so...
  • Keep transitions in mind. Transitions are very common in the Kodaly world. Transitions allow the lesson to flow from one activity to the next, seamlessly. You might use a story transition (weaving two songs together into a story), a rhythmic transition (changing the rhythm of one song to the rhythm of another), a melodic transition (i.e. echoing melodic patterns, then showing the hand signs to the next song in the lesson and students identify which song it is), a geographical transition (i.e. finding Japan on the map after singing "Sakura," then having students find Aghanistan, identify a song we know from that country, then sing "Ye Toop Doram")...the possibilities are endless. Story transitions work very well in a K-1 classroom, but after that I like to move onto more musical transitions. I actually created the card below about story transitions. :)
  • Sing as much as possible; talk as little as possible! We all know that the more a student reads, the better he/she is going to read. The same, of course, is true for singing. The more your students sing (and the less you talk!) the better they will sing. I often do non-verbal cues to get my students doing what I want (like winding my finger in a circle to get them into a circle, or motioning for them to stand up without saying the words "Please stand") so they can sing more!
  • Keep assessment in mind. Are there opportunities for your students to be formatively and/or summatively assessed? This can happen with paper/pencil, with manipulatives, by performance....again, lots of possibilities!
  • Keep concentration and relaxation in mind. If students have been focusing on something and have been working really hard, give them a break! Play a game! Move! Another good way to relax is to have students listen to you play the guitar or dulcimer, or sing a book.
Those are my favorite go-to lesson planning strategies. As a way to showcase these strategies, I have uploaded a lesson plan template, as well as two lesson plans I used this year with my first graders. Click the button below to download the lesson plan template and sample first grade lesson plans (thanks to Paula Kim Studio for the cute frame!):

If you're looking for more long and short-range planning ideas, templates, and lessons, check out my "Polished Planning" set by clicking below:

Another great resource for lesson planning is a book that just came out, published by the Organization of American Kodaly Educators. The book is called "Lesson Planning in a Kodaly Setting," by Rita Klinger, and can be purchased here.

Thanks so much for Lindsay Jervis for hosting this blog hop! Click on her button below to read her planning post, and then keep clicking the buttons on each post until you get back to this one. Happy reading and happy planning!

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