28 February, 2016
Five Favorite Pins of February

Five Favorite Pins of February

Hope you have had a wonderful February! Since it is February, I am posting my five favorite pins of this month.

Here are my five favorite pins this month! You can click on each picture to be taken to the original pin.

#1: Bucket Drumming 101

This helpful blog post has some great suggestions for starting bucket drumming! I'm about to do a bit of it with my 4th graders, so I appreciated reading this!

#2: Orff Orffestrations

This pin leads to 15 FREE Orff arrangements! Woo hoo! I'd love to try "Tideo" soon; the arrangement looks accessible and fun!

#3: Tips and Tricks from Level II

I have not taken my Orff levels yet (although I would love to!) so I loved reading about someone else's experience. This blog post has some great ideas gathered from the author's level II, including how to teach the difference between low and high on Orff instruments!

#4: Stomp Unit

This pin leads to a blog post about a Stomp Unit...and it includes a free worksheet to help your small groups create!! I've always wanted to do a Stomp unit so would love to try this!

#5: Free music notation images

Have you ever wanted to create a worksheet or poster but couldn't find music images? Download all of these for free! 

There are my five pins! If you'd like to see more pins like this, make sure to follow me on Pinterest.

Make sure to check out the blog posts below, of other music bloggers writing about their favorite pins! Happy pinning!
20 February, 2016
When to lesson plan

When to lesson plan

My first few years of teaching, I sat down for hours at a time, on Saturday or Sunday, and planned all my lessons for the next week…by hand. Now, having kids at home, I really prefer for my weekends to be family time, and make sure to have time during the school day or right after the school day, before I go home, to write lessons (and I do them all by computer!)

I realize that some music teachers have little to no planning during the day (as I’ve been there) so today, I’m writing a blog post with different options for when to lesson plan.

When to lesson plan: Thoughts on when to fit lesson planning into your busy schedule!

During the weekend
Like I wrote above, you could simply take a chunk of your weekend, sit down with a few cups of coffee, and knock them all out for the next week! It can be great to not have to worry about lesson planning during the week—especially if you have little to no planning. Another benefit is that once you’re in lesson planning mode, it sometimes goes faster. The disadvantage is that you lose a decent amount of your weekend. And if you have kids at home, you may not want to go this route!

During a big planning period
A few years ago, on my Fridays, I had a big planning period. This is when I tried to do my lesson planning, or at least a big chunk of it. I liked that I only had to worry about it on one day, but the disadvantage was that if I were sick on a Friday, I had to write the lesson plans on another day, likely on the weekend.

As you need new lessons
For much of my career, my schedule was all over the place. I’d have one first grade class on Mondays and Fridays, another first grade class on Mondays and Wednesdays, and another on Tuesdays and Thursdays. So, because of snow days, assemblies, and missed days,  one class might be four lessons ahead of another class. Back then, I’d write lessons as I needed to. So if I had a new lesson on a Wednesday, I’d write it on Monday or Tuesday so it was ready for that class. I had to be careful to track which class was on which lesson and make sure to look at the list every day so I didn’t miss any new lessons, so it felt a little hectic.

A little every day
At this point in my career, I am on a rotating ABCDE schedule (which you can read about more here.) I see everyone once each rotation for 50 minutes (and Kindergarten for 35 minutes.) Although I miss seeing them more, it evens out a little bit in that when we have a snow day and that was an A day, the next day becomes an A day! Now, except for in cases of sick days or assemblies, all of my classes are on the same lessons, which really makes my week feel much more seamless! And now, it’s much easier to figure out when to lesson plan.
On my A day, I just feel out the new lessons and don’t write any lesson plans. On B day, I write lessons for Kindergarten and first. On C day, I write lessons for second and fifth. On D day, I write lessons for third and fourth grade. And on my E day, I print out all my lessons and put them into my binder, make sure all my materials are ready, and type up all my agendas (you can read more about my agendas here.)

This is by far my favorite lesson planning schedule, as I know exactly what I’m doing each day. I also love that on my A day, I don’t have to worry about lesson planning, and on my E day, all I have to worry about is getting the lessons ready.

Something to consider when choosing your system is how long it will take you to write each lesson plan. This depends on each person, on your training, on how many details you include in your lessons, etc. I find that it takes me around 25 minutes to write each lesson plan if I'm writing it from scratch, so that can really add up when you have several lessons to write each week! (If you’re wanting more information about lesson planning, see this blog post, which includes a YouTube tutorial.) I do sometimes re-use lesson plans from previous years, but always tweak them for this year's students. In that case, it may only take me 10 minutes to write a lesson.

You'll also want to consider how far out you want to lesson plan. For example, some people may not be comfortable writing a lesson plan for the next day's lessons--and in some buildings, your administrator may require you to turn in your lessons a week ahead of time. I prefer to have taught the previous lesson before beginning to write the next lesson, as sometimes you think you're going to get something and it just doesn't happen, or there are gaps in the students' learning that you didn't anticipate! Again, this is a personal decision, which is sometimes affected by outside factors, such as if you're required to turn in lessons.

Whichever system you choose, it’s of course one that has to work for you, your teaching schedule, and your life! Which system do you use? Feel free to comment below, and happy planning!
16 February, 2016
Fourth Grade Performance {Olivia's Birds}

Fourth Grade Performance {Olivia's Birds}

This past week, my fourth graders performed a program based on the book, "Olivia's Birds" by Olivia Bouler. 

The book is a really inspiring true story about an 11-year-old named Olivia who helped Audubon by donating her art to people who contributed to the Gulf Clean-Up Campaign. All of the art and text throughout the book is created by Olivia!

Today, I'm blogging with a summary of songs and dances I used for the program, as well as scenery ideas and an idea for donating to Audubon!

I did this program with fourth grade, but it could easily be adapted for third or fifth. Here are the details; keep in mind that I jumped around a bit in the book, since the book isn't exactly chronological.

I split the text up between 28 narrators, but I didn't use all of the text, and I added a little text to suit my needs (I'll include the text I changed.) Most of the book is about different types of birds, so you could exchange some of the songs I suggest for different bird songs.I had three narrators come up and read the text in the book from "Birds are fascinating..." to "even on your roof."

After those three narrators, I had students sing "Shoheen Sho"; I believe it has the same melody as  "Suo Gan" and "Gently Sleep." Here is the notation:

I had students sing the song, then a select group play the song on recorder, then all students sing the song again. For the select group, I had students audition and chose students who played with good sound, correct rhythm, and correct notes. I had a few students from every class, but you might choose an even smaller group, or have everyone play!

I had one narrator read "You may not notice..." but then I created this line to fit my needs: 
"For example, the pigeon, one of the most intelligent birds, often perches on the ledges of apartment buildings."
Then students sang "Magic Feathers," a Chippewa folk song, shown below (for more materials for this song, check out this set.) I had one class perform on instruments, with some students playing ti-ti repeatedly on drums and other students playing the rhythm on rattle-type instruments.

Then I had a group of five narrators come up and read from "Did you know that birds learn" to "Birds are flying elegance."

Then I had two classes perform this dance, called "Wandering Bird":

I simplified the dance a little bit: for the B section, I had students do: step, step, left right toe, left right toe, left right toe, left right toe, step step. Then repeat. I searched everywhere for a recording of this and couldn't find one, so I made a mp3 from the YouTube video with this site. There is a little background noise, but it was the best I could do! Another option would be to use another bird dance, such as "Bluebird" from this Sanna Longden resource.

I had one student read "Some birds can be elegant when they walk too!"

Then I created this text for two narrators to read: "The tinikling birds of the Philippines are known to be very graceful as they walk in between grass stems." Then, "The tinikling dance you will see imitates the graceful motions of the tinikling birds."

My colleague Jenna prepared a class for the tinikling dance, and I loved watching it! For more about how to teach tinikling, see this comprehensive blog post by my friend Tanya. The kids really loved it (and as an aside, one of my only memories from my one year of general music in sixth grade is performing tinikling at a music program!)

Then, I had two narrators read from "Most birds live in trees" to "far away from civilization." Then I had students sing "My Owlet," which can be viewed here, and had one class perform an Orff accompaniment. I used the Orff accompaniment found in this set.

Then, I had one narrator read "Some birds do the most unusual, interesting things," and another narrator read a line I created: "Some birds make very curious calls." (pause) "One of these is a kookaburra, whose call sounds like a laugh." During the pause, I had a short track of a kookaburra laugh play. Then, after "sounds like a laugh," we sang "Kookaburra" with this accompaniment track. We sang four verses, and on the third verse, the students did a 4-part round.

Then I had one narrator come up and read from "Whether the unique calls" to "don't seem like birds at all." Then, we performed this Chinese chant:

Peacock feathers on an old plum tree, (ti-ti tika-tika ti-ti ta)
You can try, but you can't catch me! (ti-ti ti-tika ti-ti ta)

After chanting it twice, I had one group say the ostinato: "Can't catch me" (ti-ti ta) four times. Then we added another group saying the ostinato: "Peacock feathers on a tree" (ti-ti tika-tika ta rest) twice. Then the rest of the students said the chant twice, layering on top of the ostinati.

Then I had two narrators come up and read from "What do you think of..." to "proudly with our flag." Then the students sang four verses of "Old Bald Eagle," which can be found here. I accompanied the song on dulcimer.

Then, I had seven students come up and narrate from "The bad news is..." to "even a child can make a difference."

Then, I had students perform "Einstein," a song about making a difference, by my friend Lessia Bonn (a song my students LOVED!) I just collaborated with Lessia to create a set with materials to teach the song; you can view it by clicking below:

This is a great song to bridge the gap between folk music and more contemporary music. I've shied away from using pop music, partly because I believe folk music is so important to a child's music education, and partly because so many pop songs have inappropriate lyrics, but this song sounds contemporary yet has a great message (and WILL get stuck in your head)!

Then, I had one more narrator read from "Olivia's message" to "protect them."

The students and audience really seemed to enjoy the musical, and I was also able to get them thinking about a cause greater than themselves! My art teacher had all the 4th graders create birds out of cardboard, and then he affixed magnets to the back of the birds. We then put tape on the back of the magnets and affixed them to trees from Carson Dellosa, like shown below:

Then, after the performance, I told all the parents that they were welcome to take their child's magnet, but that we had a suggested donation of $1 that we would send to Audubon (and that they were welcome to leave less or more). I am happy to say that we collected around $150 to send to Audubon! Since our school's theme this year is giving, this tied in nicely and was a wonderful way to end the program!

The fourth graders really enjoyed this performance, and I was very pleased with what they did musically, from singing, to dancing, to playing instruments! Hopefully I've explained everything so that you could recreate it or adapt it for your own students.

If you're looking for more programs that are accessible and easy to use with your students, check these out:



You can also read about another fifth grade performance, based on "On the Day You Were Born," here, and a fifth grade performance, based on "Wangari's Trees of Peace," here.

Which programs have worked for you? Let me know, and feel free to send me any questions. Good luck, and have fun!
04 February, 2016
6 strategies for remembering 600+ names

6 strategies for remembering 600+ names

Recently, I wrote a blog post with 10 things they don't tell you about teaching elementary music, and realized I should have added one more thing to the list: that you'll have to remember hundreds of names. Certainly, no one told me that I'd have to remember so many names! One of the great things about being a music teacher is teaching so many students...but that means there are a lot of names to memorize! I often have a hard time remembering a person's name after meeting them at a party, but yet, I CAN remember 650 or so student names. So how do I do it? Here's my list of strategies!

6 tips for remembering 600+ Names: Great tips for any specialist! Includes name games, activities, and more!

#1: Gathering song
At the beginning of my Kindergarten and first grade classes, I sing "Here we are together," to the tune of "The more we get together." Instead of, "'cause your friends are my friends and my friends are your friends," I sing all the students' names around the room, so the lyrics are like:
"Oh here we are together, together, together,
Oh here we are together in music today.
With Jenna, and Macy, and Scott, and Aileen....
Oh here we are together, in music today."
Is it hard at the beginning of the year? Yes! Especially with Kindergarten, whose names I'm just learning. But it forces me to really learn their names so it doesn't take so long to get around the circle!

#2: Solos
After the gathering song, I listen to 4-5 students sing solos. I'll sing to them "Hello ________," using solfa we're preparing/ practicing, such as s-m-s-m or s-l-s-m, and they sing back "Hello Mrs. Miracle." Then I'll ask them a question, such as "What's your favorite color?" or "What did you do this weekend?" or "What's your favorite food?" It helps me get to know them better, helps me hear who well they are matching pitch, AND it helps me learn their names better!

#3: Name games
One of my favorite name games is called "Rickety Rackety," and goes like this:

Students put the beat on their laps as they say it, then each child says their name, and we all echo. (So we say the chant, a kid says his/her name, we echo, we say the chant again, etc.) I love this name game because it's great for steady beat and it's a GREAT way to get their names in my head! I also have had them clap their names, which is a great way to prepare/ practice rhythm!

For the older grades, my all-time favorite name game is called "Jump in." Here is a similar rendition to the one I do with my kids:

#4: Studying pictures of each class
My first year at my new school, ALL the students were new to me, so I took a picture of each class and labeled their names to help me remember. I kept this list in with my seating charts for a quick reference, and would often just sit and study the pictures to help me remember.

#5: Seating charts
Speaking of seating charts, these are a great way to remember names! I have used the Smart Seat app, which allows you to take pictures of each student, but you could also just have a written out seating chart and look at it as you are teaching to help call on kids.

#6: Mind games
Sometimes I just have to play "mind games" with myself to help remember kids' names. Remind yourself that Molly has a mole and her twin sister Ava doesn't. Or if the are truly identical and impossible to tell apart, memorize which twin is in which class. Or if you have a hard time mixing up siblings, tell yourself that A comes before S in the alphabet, so therefore Adam is the oldest and Sean is the youngest. Or just tell yourself, "She LOOKS like a Sydney." These little tricks seem to work for me!

With seeing my students less than before--just once a week--I have been making more mistakes with names (or maybe I should blame that on getting older?!?!) When I make a mistake (most often calling siblings by their other sibling's name) I gently remind students that I know exactly who they are, but with 600+ names to remember I sometimes make a mistake, and that I'm sorry. They are pretty understanding!

Besides the benefit of being able to give directions to a student without saying "Hey, you," by memorizing all of these names, you are telling your students that each one of them is important to you. And that's a pretty cool thing!

What are your strategies? Feel free to comment below!

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