29 October, 2015
Technology Tips for Choir

Technology Tips for Choir

As I started my choir this year, I incorporated technology in a way that hadn't before with choir, to save time and be more efficient. Today, I thought I'd share those strategies in case it helps save time with your choir!
Technology Tips for Choir: Using Google Forms to have students sign in to choir, but could also work with band, orchestra, or any other musical ensemble. Such a time saver!

Sign-up with Google Forms
Before I started recruiting for choir this year, I had a conversation with my friend Matt, who also directs a choir at his school. He mentioned that he was using Google forms to sign up students for choir, and I was so excited to try it with my students! In the past, I've always had students fill out half a sheet of paper with their information (like name, teacher's name, grade level, etc.) and then I collect all of the half sheets and enter the information into an Excel spreadsheet. Matt's idea, though, was ingenious, as it saves SO much time! Instead of them handing you a half sheet of paper which you then have to enter, I simply include a link in the parent letter home which they then go to, fill out the information, and then it pushes it to a Google spreadsheet with all of the necessary information. Brilliant!
You might try a URL shortener so you don't have a super long web address to share with parents. I've used Bitly, and just found out about tinyurl, in which you can customize the short web address.

with Google Forms
Once my students are all signed up, it's time for the first rehearsal! In the past, I've had students sign into choir on attendance sheets posted outside my door. This works fine, but I have to admit that one of my least favorite tasks is to take the sheets off the wall, then enter the information into an Excel spreadsheet. I loved using Google Forms to have students sign up for choir, so thought I'd try it for sign-in! I am lucky enough to have eight i-pad minis in my room, so I use them to have students sign in. I split up the kids by their grade and first letter of their last name, so the 3rd graders whose last name starts with A-L go to one iPad and the third graders whose name starts with M-Z go to another iPad, etc. I have signs posted by each iPad, so students know where to go. Here is an example of the form I use. To create this, in Google drive, I went to "new," then "form," then added the question "What is your name," chose multiple choice, and typed in student names. To add more student names, click "click to add option." Then, when you're done editing, click "done."

After I created each form (you might have several, depending on how you chunk up your students), I then had to get it to my iPads. Instead of worrying about going to Google forms on each and every iPad, I instead made a QR code for each form and printed out this list of QR codes for easy access. Then, before each rehearsal, I scan each respective QR code on each iPad and the sign-ups are ready to go! If you don't have as many iPads as I do, you could make longer lists (like one per grade level), and put one on your iPad, one on your smart phone, and one on your computer and have each grade level or group go to the respective device. The Google form pushes it to a spreadsheet, and your information is all there! Instead of taking down the attendance sheets and entering into a spreadsheet, if you do it this way, you already have all the information you need!

I've created this Pinterest board with more ideas for choir:

Which technology tips have worked for you with your choir or musical ensembles? Feel free to comment below!

27 October, 2015
Sub Plans for the Music Classroom

Sub Plans for the Music Classroom

We've all been there...we get sick in the middle of the night, or our kids get sick in the middle of the night, and we are scrambling to put together sub plans. It's not fun to put together sub plans when your loved ones or you are sick, especially when we often have to plan for a substitute to not have any music background! A few years ago, after finding some sub tubs on Pinterest, I decided to make a sub tub for myself, so that I could be prepared in ANY situation with solid sub plans that could work with any sub! Here is what worked for me.

I bought my sub tub from Target (you can purchase a similar one here.) Here is the outside of my sub tub:

Sub plans for the music classroom: Suggestions for putting together a sub tub, links to great sub plan freebies, and more!

...and here is the inside of my sub tub:

Here is a closer look inside the sub tub:

File folder with general information
I put the following information into this folder: Introduction to my classroom (and a thank you to the sub!), information about any duties I have, information about fire, tornado, and safety response drills, routines (such as restroom, star student, etc.), discipline plan, seating, record-keeping, and my schedule. I also have a section about how to use my SMART board and my iPod, as well as where to look for student health concerns (more on that in a minute!)

Sub plans by grade level
I have file folders that each say a grade level (one for K, one for 1st, one for 2nd, etc.) In each of these folders, I have a few sub plans that could work for that respective grade level. In each folder, I included sub plans that I created from these two sets below:


There are also some freebies on TeachersPayTeachers that could work for the grade-level folders; some you will need to add directions to (as well as additional activities), some you could put into a folder on the desktop of your computer so they could open and use, and some you could print and file! Click on each picture to download each file.

Walk and running cards to practice ta and ti-ti:

Walk, Running, and Jump cards to practice half note, ta, and ti-ti:

Recorder composition cards to practice B, A, and G:

Cinderella at the Ball, to practice ta and ti-ti:

From Lindsay Jervis' store, a sub plan with a book (which you would have to purchase):

From Amy Abbott's store, a fun ta and ti-ti game:

And here is a great freebie from Pitch Publications, which you can use to type up your sub plan information and lesson plans!

Themed sub plans
This is a new project for me this year, to create sub plans which have the same theme from K-5, to make the substitute teacher's day a little bit more cohesive! I have a separate folder in my sub tub for each set, so that whether I am using a visual from the set or the sub is, they are easy to access. Here are two themed sets I have created:


Sub plans for later
In this folder, I've filed any sub plans that my students just aren't ready for yet. For example, I have some lessons to practice ta and ti-ti, but since it's October as I write this,  my first graders don't know ta and ti-ti yet. I've put those plans in my "sub plans for later" folder so I can rearrange the tub throughout the year!

Health concerns
In this file, I include any information I have with student health concerns, but I organized it by day to help out the sub. In my notes, I ask the sub to check the concerns for that day. Most of the concerns aren't an issue, as they are food allergies, but if there is an issue such as epilepsy or a severe allergy, I definitely need the sub to know!

If there is no sub...
We have had a sub shortage in my district--not just for music teachers, but for all the teachers! Our policy is simply to cancel a special on that day if there is no sub, but sometimes classroom teachers just need to sit down and get things done during what would have been their planning time. So I have a video that could work for K-2 and another video for grades 3-5, in case the classroom teacher just needs a break. That way, they don't have to create more for their kids to do on the spot, and they can get some things done...AND at least the kids will learn something about music that day!

In the picture above, you see some books in my sub tub. If any of my lessons require materials, like picture books or a purse for the song "Lucy Locket," I put them in my sub tub for easy access.

And now for a few items not in the sub tub itself...

Substitute Need-to-Know Packet
I stumbled upon this packet this year and LOVE it! It looks like this:

Sub plans for the music classroom: Suggestions for putting together a sub tub, links to great sub plan freebies as well as this great flip book, and more!

It has all of the general information at a glance the sub will need! I leave it on my desk at all times just in case something happens, so they know who to ask, a general idea of what the day looks like, etc. You can purchase it from Chalk and Apples by clicking on the picture above.

Folder on computer
If you have any digital files, mp3's, etc., it's helpful to keep a folder entitled "Sub plans" on the desktop of your computer. Just make sure your desktop is not super cluttered so the folder is easy for your sub to find and open!

Here is a Pinterest board I just created for sub plans in the music classroom; I will be adding more to it soon:

I hope this has been helpful for you as you create your own sub tub. Feel free to comment below with any more ideas or questions!
22 October, 2015
Assessment Strategies

Assessment Strategies

Assessment in the music classroom can be tricky. Many music teachers only see their students once a week--and sometimes even less--so fitting in quality curriculum, engaging songs and dances, games, books, and more needs to be balanced with assessing students' musical growth. Today I'm writing about seven things to consider when assessing in the music classroom.

Assessment Strategies for the music classroom: Includes suggestions for deciding which assessments to use, keeping track of data, and more!

Why am I assessing?
Your first response might be, "Because I have to!" Many of us do have to report grades, but what if you didn't have to? Why would you do it? Your answer might be because it provides you with data about students, it helps improve your own teaching, it helps improve their learning, it helps you differentiate, etc. There are a lot of valid answers, but it's still valuable to think about it.

Which assessments will I use?
This will vary from year to year and marking period to marking period. Will you listen to students sing individually? Will you have them dictate rhythmic patterns with dry erase boards and markers? Will you have them compose their own piece with known solfa and rhythms? Whatever the answer is, it's helpful to plan ahead for those assessments so you can make sure your students are prepared. I write my assessments into my year plan (for more info on a year plan, see this video). Although I might change the assessments I've planned, it at least gives me a starting point.

Which standards will I assess?
If your standards are like my state standards, there are a lot of them! You may have heard of the term "power standards," which refers to the standards that you consider the most important. When deciding on assessments, it's helpful to start with power standards and branch out from there. Assessing power standards first doesn't mean that you won't teach or assess the other standards, it simply puts importance on the standards which are the most necessary for students to understand.

How will I keep track of the data?
In the past, I've used everything from printed out class lists (like the ones found in this set), to iDoceo, to Numbers. This year, my district is now using Powerteacher. Although it's taken a while to learn the program (as I have to learn it well enough to train the staff at my school), it's been a really awesome way to input grades, as it pushes all the grades to the report card. Such a time saver!
I do sometimes use the Powerteacher app on my iPad to enter grades on the spot, but I've also loved using this small little notebook to write down observations, grades, notes, etc. So helpful for when I sit down to input grades!

I put the teacher's name and the assessment on the top of each page, then write down whatever I need to. Once I record the data into Powerteacher, I put a diagonal line on the page so I know the information has been recorded.

Will the assessment be formative or summative?
Some assessments will help guide your instruction and the students' understanding, while others will be used as a "final grade," or a grade to report to parents. Decide which assessments will be formative and which will be summative before assessing, and this will greatly help your thought process. You might adapt as you go--I've decided to change some summative assessments to formative once I realized that students weren't grasping the concept as well as I thought they were, so that I could provide more practice.

How will I grade the assessment?
Whether you use a plus, check, or minus system, or a detailed rubric, you'll want to consider how the assessment will be graded. I often use a 1-4 rubric, and either have the rubric attached to the lesson, or included in the lesson procedures. If you're looking for sample rubrics for the music room, check out this set.

How will I help those students who are struggling?
In past years, I simply helped kids by mostly targeting weaknesses in a whole group setting. However, over the past few years, I've really tried to focus on providing individual intervention whenever I can, typically during centers. I wrote this blog post about providing intervention to students struggling with rhythm. I will soon be doing this with third graders struggling with reading re patterns on the staff, and am looking forward to the one-on-one time with students to help improve their understanding.

What other issues do you consider when assessing students? Feel free to comment below, and thanks for reading!
14 October, 2015
Listening lessons for Halloween

Listening lessons for Halloween

With Halloween coming up very soon, today I'm writing about some of my favorite listening lessons to use for this fun time of year! There are lots of "spooky" pieces of music that are perfect for Halloween! Here are a few of my favorites.

Halloween listening lessons: Blog post with links to YouTube videos and suggestions for the music classroom!

"In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Grieg:
This is one of my all-time favorite pieces! The story itself, of Peer running away from the trolls and the Mountain King, is very engaging, but then the music really draws students in. So many musical concepts can be taught through the piece: tempo and dynamics, as it starts slow and quiet and gets faster and louder throughout, crescendo, steady beat, and quarter rest.
You can listen to the piece here:

Katie and Lindsay from Cowgirl Compositions created this awesome set that includes a Powerpoint as a listening map to this piece:

I also included a dance to "In the Hall of the Mountain King" in this set:

"Danse Macabre" by Saint-Saens:
This piece is definitely fit for Halloween, as it is about a fiddle player (otherwise known as "Death") who calls skeletons from the grave to dance. The harp at the beginning of the piece plays 12 times--striking midnight. You can hear it here:

You could use this piece to study different instruments, to discuss the imagery of a piece, and to practice 3/4. It would be a great piece for them to practice their 3/4 conducting pattern!

"Night on Bald Mountain" by Mussorgsky
This is another great piece for imagery! The theme of the piece is derived from a play called "The Witch," written by a friend of Mussorgsky's. Here is a performance:

The theme of the finale could be used to practice tam-ti, or dotted quarter/ eighth, as well as eighth rest. You can purchase a slideshow for that listening lesson here.

"This is Halloween" by Danny Elfman
I had to include this song...because I am a HUGE Danny Elfman fan, and of course, I love "Nightmare before Christmas." Here is a video of the song:

On top of it just being an awesome song, you could use it to practice tika-ti (2 sixteenths/eighth), as there are plenty of tika-ti's, and the theme goes like this:
This is Halloween, (ti-ti tika-ti)
This is Halloween, (ti-ti tika-ti)
Halloween, Halloween, Halloween, Halloween! (tika-ti, tika-ti, tika-ti, tika-ti)

"Monster Mash"
This is just a fun, old-fashioned song! Here is a video of the lyrics:

Here is a great book you could use with the song (click the picture to view it on Amazon):

Monster Mash: A great book for your music lessons during Halloween! Blog post includes lots of other great suggestions for Halloween!

Whether or not kids have heard this song, it's a great addition to any Halloween lesson!

Looking for more Halloween ideas for your music classroom? Check out this Pinterest board I recently created:

What are your favorite Halloween listening lessons? Feel free to comment below!

12 October, 2015
Five Favorite Pins of October

Five Favorite Pins of October

Hi everyone!
Today I'm blogging with my five favorite pins for the month of October!

#1: Making phrase lengths physical

This video is SO awesome! It shows a beautiful movement activity to "Fur Elise," in which students are paired up and use a tennis ball to show phrasing. I love how focused the students are, and how beautifully they show the phrases!

#2: Domino Music Notes

This is a really cute idea for having students think about the number of beats in each pattern. They play dominos with rhythm patterns, matching up dominos with other dominos that have the same number of beats. Love it! Could work in centers or as a whole group.

#3: Ukulele tips for beginners

My husband bought me a ukulele last Christmas and I've been meaning to teach myself how to play. This awesome blog post has tons of tips for the beginning ukulele player!

#4: "Let it go" rendition by the Piano Guys

My three-year-old is a bit Frozen-obsessed, so I really appreciated this beautiful rendition of "Let it go" by the Piano Guys, which interweaves Vivaldi's "Winter." What a great listening lesson--you could have students compare and contrast this performance to both "Let it go" and "Winter"!

#5: Hand, hand, fingers, thumb

This is a great blog post about using the book "Hand, hand, fingers, thumb," with hand drums. GREAT way to practice ta, ti-ti, and rest, as well as 2/4 or 2-beat meter! I'm hoping to try this soon with my second graders!

I've added quite a few new boards to Pinterest recently; check out some of my other pins here.

What are your five favorite pins of the month? Feel free to comment below, and make sure to check out the favorite pins of other bloggers below! Have a wonderful October!

11 October, 2015
Three Things {A website, a book, and a powerpoint}

Three Things {A website, a book, and a powerpoint}

Today, I’m continuing my "Three Things" linky party, in which I blog about three things that worked for my and my students this week. Thanks to Whimsy Workshop TeachingKimberly Geswein fonts, and Jax and Jake for the cute clip art and fonts!

Three things that worked in my music class this week: Picture books, a website, and more!

#1: Instruments of the Orchestra website
My third and fourth graders are learning about instruments of the orchestra right now. I'm having my third graders focus on the strings family, since they are doing a dulcimer unit, and my fourth graders focus on the woodwind family, since they are playing recorders. After showing this strings slideshow to my third graders and this woodwind slideshow to my fourth graders, I wanted to delve a bit more into each instrument family. I was really excited to find this page on the Dallas Symphony Orchestra website; click the screenshot below to see it!

Once you click on a specific instrument, it takes you to that instrument's page. For most instruments, you can hear a sample of just that instrument playing, a sample of that instrument playing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star," and a sample of that instrument playing with the orchestra. Here's what the violin page looks like:

What a great opportunity to focus just on one instrument, and to discuss timbre! I had students describe what each instrument sounded like, which I hope will help them distinguish between instruments later.

#2: Ghosts in the house
Since it's almost Halloween, and since I want to do as much vocal exploration with my Kindergarteners as I can, I read this book to them this past week:

Three things that worked in my music class this week: Picture books, a website, and more!

Click on the picture above to see it on Amazon. The book is just adorable, and is a great way to have students explore their voices. I had students explore in the shape of each ghost's pathway throughout the book. When the ghosts are hung like sheets on a clothesline, I have them just echo a straight tone. Simple and cute!

#3: We are dancing powerpoint
I've blogged about this awesome file by Amy Abbott again, but I have to mention it again because the kids just love it! (Click on the picture to see it in her store.)

My second graders are practicing 2/4, or 2-beat meter, so I use it as a way to practice identifying measures. Each time the wolf swoops and steals a beat from one of the measures, the students squeal with delight! Then, I have them identify from which measure he stole. Love it!

Those are my fun activities for this week! Make sure to check out the activities that have worked for other bloggers below. Happy teaching!
04 October, 2015
Three things {Arpie, Students vs. Zombies, and a book}

Three things {Arpie, Students vs. Zombies, and a book}

Today, I’m continuing my "Three Things" linky party, in which I blog about three things that worked for my and my students this week. Thanks to Whimsy Workshop TeachingKimberly Geswein fonts, and Jax and Jake for the cute clip art and fonts!

Three things that worked in my music class this week: An app, a game, and a picture book!

#1: Arpie
This week, some of my classes received their "reward day," in which for half of the music class, they get to vote on what they'd like to do. They received this reward for earning a certain number of points for behavior. Before they vote, though, I give them a separate reward: time on iPads! I put them into their groups, assigned their iPads, then let them experiment with the Arpie app! It's free, AND it's so much fun! It's like dropping tennis balls on piano keys, and kids get to experiment with the height of the tennis ball (longer duration the higher they go), layering sounds, pitches from left to right, and more! Here is a picture of some of my kids playing:

Arpie: A fun and free app for your music classroom! Blog post also includes other activities for your music lessons!

#2: Students vs. Zombies
I had my second graders play the "la" version of Amy Abbott's Students vs. Zombies game this week, and my 3rd and 4th graders play the "re" version. As soon as they saw the title on my agenda, they were intrigued, and then when we started playing they LOVED it...which is great, because it helps them with staff reading! Here is a picture of one of my students choosing a zombie to then read the pattern.

Students vs. Zombies: A fun game for your music class. Blog post also includes other activities for your music lessons!

The patterns are 8 beats long, which is a nice challenge, and I love that Amy included some easier patterns and some harder patterns. Even when the kids sing incorrectly, they are learning, as then they can listen to me sing correctly and/or figure out why what they sang wasn't correct! I really felt like my students' understanding of the staff and of solfa improved with this game, so we'll definitely be playing again. (I also loved that one of my boys in 3rd grade who typically doesn't ever seem excited about music class yelled out, "This is a fun game!" Woo-hoo!)

#3: "I got two dogs" book
I learned about this book at a TRIKE workshop a few years ago and decided I HAD to buy it! Click the picture below to view the book on Amazon.

"I got two dogs" by John Lithgow: Super fun picture book for your music classroom! Blog post also includes other activities for your music lessons!

The song included with the book is sung by John Lithgow, and the kids just love it. He has so much expression when he sings and the song is so fun! I have the kids echo the part at the end of each chorus, which is a great way to review the term "echo." I also use it as a transition into the song "Doggie Doggie."

Which activities worked for you this week? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!

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