12 December, 2018
Renewal and rejuvenation over winter break

Renewal and rejuvenation over winter break


Looking ideas for rejuvenating over winter break? In this podcast episode, Emily Karst and I talk about renewing and rejuvenating over winter break.

Rejuvenation and renewal over winter break: Ideas for music teachers


Listen to the podcast here:



Links mentioned in the podcast:

28 November, 2018
Christmas and other winter holidays in the music room

Christmas and other winter holidays in the music room




Looking for fun activities during the winter holiday season? In this podcast episode, I discuss my favorite ways to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa in the music room!

Winter Holidays in the Music Room: Picture books, movement ideas, performance pieces, and more for your music lessons!
Listen here:


Links mentioned in the podcast episode:








Games:
Picture books:


Sleigh Ride Cup Routine:



Choir songs:

What I'm consuming: "Meditation Now"
08 November, 2018
Learning Styles in the Music Room

Learning Styles in the Music Room



Looking for strategies to address physical, visual, and aural learning styles? In this podcast episode,  Katie and I discuss learning styles, strategies, and more!

Learning Styles in the Music Room: Strategies for addressing physical, visual, and aural learning styles in the music room, to practice rhythm and melody!


Listen to the podcast here:



Links mentioned in the podcast:

03 November, 2018
Differentiation in the Music Classroom

Differentiation in the Music Classroom


The term "differentiation" has been used more and more often in education lately. What does it mean? How does it apply to the music room?

Differentiation in the music room: Lesson plan strategies for differentiating for your music lessons!


According to Carol Ann Tomlinson--an expert on differentiation-- differentiated instruction is defined as factoring students’ individual learning styles and levels of readiness first before designing a lesson plan (from this blog post from Concordia University- Portland.) So what does this look like in the music classroom?

I've heard many music teachers say that differentiation happens naturally in the music room. I agree...to a degree. There IS a lot of differentiation that happens organically in music, but there are also differentiation strategies that we can employ with thought and intention. Here are my favorite ways to differentiate:

Include lots of variety
By including lots of variety in your lessons, including activities that cover the gamut of Bloom's Taxonomy, you can help address each student's ability. For example, in one lesson, you could ask students what these rhythms are called (i.e. ta and ti-ti, which would be remembering), you could have students apply their knowledge of rhythms by playing rhythm patterns on non-pitched percussion, and you could have students create using ta and ti-ti. This variety would not only lead to an active, engaging lesson, but would allow students opportunities to showcase their knowledge at their ability level.

Plan for extensions and simplifications
Let's say you've given your students the chance to figure out how to play "Bounce High" on barred instruments, with G as sol. If a child is able to figure it out sooner than other students, you could have them figure it out with C' as sol, or A as sol (if you add a F# bar.)

If a student is struggling with figuring it out, you might write in the note letters for them, or give them a simpler song without la, such as "See Saw."

Have students self-differentiate
If you've given students a few tasks at different levels (different ostinati, for example) you could have students choose which one they'd like to do. If one of the ostinati is simpler than the others and one is more difficult, this can be a great way for students to perform at their ability level and feel comfortable.

This could work with Orff arrangements, as well. After teaching a more difficult part, I've sometimes looked for students who could perform the body percussion to assign that part, and I've also simply asked students who wanted to try it. Students who are ready for the challenge will volunteer, and those who are not quite ready likely won't.

Differentiate during centers
This has been new for me this year. I've created at least two centers during centers lessons that are differentiated. At these centers, students complete the task for the color they've been given. I've taken pre-test data, and have sorted students into three groups (level 1/ basic= blue, level 2/ proficient= green, and level 3/ advanced= pink.) Before students start doing centers, I hand them a slip of paper with their color, so they know which task to complete at those centers.

One example of this is rhythm flashcards. At this center, students play patterns on non-pitched percussion. The blue flashcards at that center have simpler patterns, the green flashcards have middle-of-the-road patterns, and the pink flashcards have more challenging patterns. If a student has been given a green slip of paper, they play the green flashcards. I've also combined this idea with having students choose their own centers, like in this blog post, where students can float from center to center and change whenever they want, but at the centers with differentiation, they do that color task.

Looking for more ideas for differentiation with centers? Check out this bundle; individual sets can be bought separately.



Also, check out this post by Debbie from Crescendo Music with more differentiation strategies.

What's your favorite way to differentiate in the music room? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!


24 October, 2018
Giving students input for musical programs

Giving students input for musical programs


Looking for ways to give students input for musical programs? In this podcast episode, I discuss a process I used for giving my fifth graders input for their recent musical program, based on the book "To Be a Drum," by Evelyn Coleman and Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson.

Giving students input for musical programs: Ideas for giving students ownership for their performance!


Listen to the podcast here:




10 October, 2018
STEAM in the Music Classroom

STEAM in the Music Classroom



Looking for ways to integrate STEM or STEAM into your music room? In this podcast episode, I talked with my friend and colleague Emily Anderson Karst about ideas for STEAM, coding, and more!

STEM and STEAM in the music room: Lesson ideas, activities for coding, and more!



Listen to the podcast here:


Free resources:

Links mentioned:



What we're consuming:

Follow Emily:

03 October, 2018
Giving students choice during centers

Giving students choice during centers


I've been using centers for several years now, and have really enjoyed the student-centered learning environment and the chance to work with students one-on-one. In today's post, I'm writing about something new I've been trying: giving students choice during centers!

Giving students choice during centers: Ideas for allowing students to choose their centers in music class


So why give students choice during centers? In my experience, students really love the ability to choose what they do, when. In fact, just this week, after I told the students they get to choose, I had a student look at me incredulously and exclaim, "We get to choose?!?! That's COOL!"

So how does it work?
Typically, when I do centers and am not having students choose, I have 4 centers spread out around the room, and I tell them who's in their group, and when they switch (usually every 5 or so minutes.) Because students get to choose in this scenario, I use 6 centers, so there's more from which to choose. I spread out those 6 centers around the room, explain each center, then tell students they can go to whichever center they want, and can switch whenever they want.

Are there rules?
Yes! I tell students that they have to go to at least 3 of the centers. About halfway through the class, I'll play the wind chimes (so students know to get quiet) and remind students that if they have only visited one center, they need to rotate soon.

This week, I have one center that I'm asking all students to visit--a worksheet center--because I'm using the worksheet as an assessment. Students have to monitor themselves and make sure they visit (and I remind them throughout the lesson.)

If I notice that a student is not on task at a center--especially after a reminder--then I tell that student that he/she is done with that center and has to visit another. I sometimes also tell students who are not making good choices together that they have to separate.

I let kids know ahead of time that if there are lots of kids at one center, they should go to another center until it thins out a bit, especially if there are not enough materials at that center.

Looking for an example?
Here are six centers you could use to practice ta and ti-ti, with students choosing their center.

Center #1: Students finish the ta and ti-ti dabbing worksheet in this freebie, using dabbing markers.

Center #2: Students throw a squishy ball at the SMART board and read the patterns, like in this game.

Center #3: Students compose patterns with this "We are dancing" freebie.

Center #4: Students use popsicle sticks like in this blog post and dictate rhythms for known songs/chants or compose rhythm patterns.

Center #5: Students play Boom Cards for ta and ti-ti on iPads or Chromebooks

Center #6: Students play this Slug Bug game by Amy Abbott, with fly swatters (using only the ta and ti-ti cards from the set)

Looking for more centers ideas? Check out this bundle; you can also purchase the sets separately:


I hope this helps as you try something new in. your music room, and that your students enjoy it as much as mine do! Happy teaching!
27 September, 2018
See the old witch {A Halloween music composition activity}

See the old witch {A Halloween music composition activity}



Looking for a fun Halloween activity that gets students composing and practicing quarter rest? In this blog post, I'm writing with a favorite activity for students during the Halloween season...or any time!

Composing with "See the old witch": Blog post includes a freebie for having students compose during Halloween, or any time of the year!


"See the old witch" is a fun singing game that my first graders really enjoy. Here's the notation:



For the game, students sit in a circle, sitting down. One child is chosen to be “it” and has a penny in his/her hand. All other students close their eyes and put their hands behind their back. As they sing, the person who is “it” walks around the circle. At the end of the song, he/she drops the penny into the hands of whoever they are closest to. That child opens his/her eyes and chases “it” back to that child’s spot! The game continues with the chaser being “it.”

After students are comfortable with the song, I print out cards like the ones shown below onto cardstock, and have students as a whole group choose which cards go where (you can use magnetic tape like this to stick to your white board). We chant this as a B section--repeating it after saying it once, with the song being the A section. So if we were to perform ABA form, we'd sing the song, chant the B section, then sing the song again, like this:

Sung:
See the old witch/ Fell in a ditch/ Found a penny and/ Thought she was rich.
Spoken:
Found a penny/ Witch/ Found a penny/ Fell down!
Found a penny/ Witch/ Found a penny/ Fell down!
Sung:
See the old witch/ Fell in a ditch/ Found a penny and/ Thought she was rich.

In the next lesson, you could show the students the cards again and work with them as a full group, but then we split up into small groups and students get a chance to compose in small groups, getting 2 copies of each pattern. I give students 5-10 minutes to work with their groups, to choose 4 cards and place them on top of the beats, then read the cards with the group, adding a repeat sign at the end, so that they chant twice. I ask them to use at least one "witch" card, and tell them they can repeat a pattern. Here's a picture of one of my students working with the cards.

Composing with "See the old witch": Blog post includes a freebie for having students compose during Halloween, or any time of the year!

Students could perform their compositions in a rondo, with the song being the A section, and each group's composition being the alternate sections (A= we all sing, B= group 1 performs, A= we sing, C= group 2 performs, etc.) As students are performing, I find it helpful to play the steady beat on a hand drum or tubano. (Beware: many students will want to skip over the rest, so it's a great way to practice!)

Interested in using these cards? Download them for free HERE.

Looking for more Halloween activities? Check out this set, which could be used as sub plans, or as lesson plans during October.



Happy teaching!


18 September, 2018
Classroom Management Strategies for the Music Room

Classroom Management Strategies for the Music Room


Lately, I've been blogging about classroom management strategies in the music room. Today's blog post includes a podcast episode with more ideas!

Classroom Management Strategies for the Music Room: Ideas for engaging students during your music lessons!



Listen to the podcast, called The Music Room, in the iTunes Store, or here:




Here are the links mentioned in the podcast episode:
What are your favorite classroom management strategies? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!
13 September, 2018
Transitions in the Music Room

Transitions in the Music Room



Lately, I've been writing with classroom management strategies in the music room. In this post, I wrote about star students, and in this post, I wrote about a point system for your music classroom. Today, I'm writing about one of my favorite ways to keep students' attention throughout the lesson: transitions!

Transitions in the music room: Ideas for using transitions in your music lessons to keep kids engaged and excited!


I first learned about transitions when I began my Kodaly training at Capital University. In a music lesson, transitions are how we move from one activity from the next, so that kids stay engaged, and the lesson flows smoothly. Although I've thought of this as more of a lesson strategy than a classroom management strategy, I think it can do wonders to help students stay focused and excited!

Last year, I made this video about transitions in the Kindergarten music room:


Earlier this year, I made this video about transitions for first and second grade:


Here are some of the links mentioned in both videos:
Here is the animated transitions set I mentioned in the 1st and 2nd grade video:



If you'd like to see more videos like this, subscribe to my YouTube channel here

What are some of your favorite transitions? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!


05 September, 2018
Point System for the Music Classroom

Point System for the Music Classroom


Today, I'm continuing my classroom management series to write about a great way to reward the whole class: a point system for the music room!

Point system for the music classroom: Great way to reward whole class behavior!



Since I started teaching, I've rewarded individual students for exemplary behavior by choosing star students, but it wasn't until a few years ago that I began rewarding whole class behavior. I read this book, which is great read for any special areas team:



In the book, the author outlined a four point system for rewarding whole class behavior. I adapted it a bit from the author's ideas, and have used it since with success. In each music class, students can earn up to four points:

1 point for walking in quietly
1 point for listening well
1 point for good effort
1 point for lining up quietly

This year, I broadened "good effort" to also include good effort in being kind to one another, since our school-wide theme is kindness.

My former student teacher and colleague Emily uses the same system, but instead of "good effort," she changed it to "smooth transitions," which I love! I may actually switch to that in the future.

At the end of class, I tell students how many points they've earned, and tally them on a chart like this:


When they reach the end of their row (which is 25 points), they get a reward day in their next music class. I teach 50 minute classes, so I give them half of the next music class--25 minutes--to vote on what they'd like to do. I make a list on the board, they vote, and then we do the top two-three, depending on how long each activity takes. Here is a picture of one first grade class's choices, last year, from my Instagram account:



They absolutely love the reward days, and it's a great way to see what really resonates with students. Through reward days, I've discovered that my Kindergarteners love the bunny game (which you can read about here), my first graders love creating on ipads with Chrome Music Lab, and my fourth and fifth graders really enjoy "Skin and Bones," which you can read about here.

After they've received all their points, I erase the points on the chart (which is laminated and easy to erase) and then we start over!

Another way to tally points is to use a file like this, by Teaching in the Tongass:


I actually bought this to use with my six year old as a positive behavior system, and she's loved it! It can be used with a whole class by duplicating some of the images (so that you have 25 pieces to choose from for each class.) You could have each class decide which theme they want to use and duplicate and label each slide as needed.

One more way to tally points is to give a coin per point, and have students "fill their jar" in order to get their reward. I bought these coins that say "Caught being good today" years ago on Oriental Trading. I don't use them anymore, but think they could work really well for this purpose! You could also use them for individual rewards.

The point system has been a wonderful way to give specific feedback to students about their behavior and keep them motivated! Do you use a point system? Feel free to comment below, and stay tuned for more classroom management posts soon on my blog! Happy teaching!
30 August, 2018
Star students in the music room

Star students in the music room



Looking for a great way to keep students engaged and focused during music class? Today, I'm writing my first blog post in a series about classroom management in the music room. This post will be about one of my favorite strategies: star students in the music room!

Star students in the music room: A positive classroom management system for your music lessons


So why choose a star student?
I've used this strategy my entire career, and every year, I've seen students get so excited about the possibility of being chosen. Students also like to cheer each other on! It can be a great way to point out specific behavior too, like "I'm choosing Tyler because he participated so much today," or "I'm choosing Kendra because she was so helpful."

What is a star student?
A star student, in my classroom, is a student who has showcased exemplary behavior during music class. Perhaps this child was participating quite a bit, or was singing his/her best, or was helping another child. This child is chosen at the end of the class, and is given some kind of reward...more on that in a minute!

How does it work?
At the end of every music class, I choose two star students. When I had my students more often, I did one star student at the end of class, but now that I see them once every five days, I switched to two.
Those two children come up to my SMART board and spin a spinner, which looks like this:

Star students in the music room: A positive classroom management system for your music lessons


You can make a spinner like this in SMART Notebook, by searching "spinner." I've also created a file by searching "dice" and inserting an interactive die. Or if you don't have a SMART board, you could use a foam die and assign rewards to numbers.

For K-1, my rewards are:
  • Star student pencil
  • Sticker
  • Play an instrument (I allow them 5 seconds to play whatever instrument they want--just not my recorder!)
  • Prize box (see the picture below)
  • Your choice (students choose from any of the above choices)
For grades 2-5, my rewards are:
  • Play an instrument
  • Prize box
  • Sit by a friend
  • Special seat (students can choose any of my flexible seating to sit on for the entire class, in the next class)
  • Karaoke (see info below)
  • Your choice
Here is a picture of my prize box. I fill it with goodies from the Target party section:


Karaoke Reward? What's that?
This is a new reward I'm trying this year, and so far, I (and the kids) love it! I have a list of four school-appropriate pop songs with links to YouTube videos. The child who spins and gets karaoke tells me in the next music class that they got karaoke. Then, I leave about three minutes at the end of that class. The star student from the previous class chooses the song title, and then everyone gets to sing along with the karaoke track! It's like a whole class reward, with the star student choosing the title. The kids often cheer with excitement when someone spins and gets karaoke!

Thinking you want to try it out? Download the file for free here. You can view it like a slideshow by going to "view," then "full screen."

Does it take a lot of time?
Besides the karaoke reward, I can get star student done in a minute or less. I leave one minute at the end of class to choose star students and give the rewards. I write a star next to that child's name, and try to choose everyone in the class before circling around a second time...although if the last child on the list is not showcasing great behavior, I won't choose him/her until he/she does.

Star student is a great way to reward students and get them excited. I think it's important to have a positive system in place, so students are honored for what they do well!

Make sure to check out my blog each week, as I write about more classroom management strategies for your music room!

Do you use star student? Feel free to comment below, and happy teaching!

16 August, 2018
Classroom Reveal 2018-2019

Classroom Reveal 2018-2019


After days of working in my room, I'm really excited to reveal my music room for this year!

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!


Here is a view of my room as you walk into it. 


Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

Here's a panoramic view of my room:


I decided on a forest theme this year, and I'm really loving the calm color scheme. Like last year, I really tried to be intentional to not cover every single wall with something, so that kids could learn in an engaging setting but not be overwhelmed. Here's the view of the tree by my door...it's a wall decal from Amazon, and can be purchased here.


Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

Here is the sign at my entrance, which I ordered from Etsy here.

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

Here is my word wall. Like last year, instead of posting words by individual letters, I decided to group letters. This is much less overwhelming!

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

A bit further up the wall, I have hand drums hung with 3-M hooks, which is great for easy access! The levels of understanding visuals and partner poster sign are in my forest-themed music classroom decor set. I have some of my ukuleles here; I'm using magazine storage boxes from IKEA to store them.

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

My first bulletin board is "Forest friends," identifying different types of musical ensembles. I just added this bulletin board to my forest-themed music classroom decor set; if you've already purchased, you can re-download under "my purchases." The bulletin board paper is fadeless paper from Lakeshore Learning...I'm really loving the wood look!

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

Here is my other bulletin board, showcasing what students learn and can do in music, as it relates to the NCCAS standards.

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

Here is my musical symbol wall, as well as my hand signs. I love having this wall, because I've seen kids make so many connections as I'm teaching and as they are figuring out which symbol we're discussing!

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

I am LOVING these labels from Learning in Wonderland to help keep my concept materials organized (for each rhythmic and melodic concept). They are editable, and if you print them at 75%, they fit really well on the IKEA magazine boxes! You can also see some of my flexible seating in this corner.

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

Here is a picture of my barred instruments, as well as another tree wall decal:

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!


Here is my points poster and my editable schedule cards. The cards help me keep on track every day, and can be purchased here.

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!

These hang above my bookshelves to help students remember the instrument families. I also created labels for my bookshelves to remember what goes where!

Music Classroom Reveal: Lots of great ideas for a forest-themed music room! Includes tips for organization, bulletin board ideas, and more!


If you'd like to put together a forest theme for your music room, here is the set I used when decorating:



Good luck setting up your classroom, and I hope your year starts off well!

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