24 April, 2016
Surviving the End of the School Year

Surviving the End of the School Year

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

How to survive the end of the school year: Ideas for music teachers to plan for the end of the year and organize for next year!

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

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

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

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

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

Dry erase marker erasers, and other great organizational ideas for your classroom!

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

Great way of keeping track of restroom breaks, and other great organizational ideas for your classroom!

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

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

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

What are your strategies for surviving the end of the year? Feel free to comment below, and good luck!
17 April, 2016
Five Favorite Pins of April

Five Favorite Pins of April

Hi everyone! It is time for my five favorite pins of April!

If you are a teacher blogger, feel free to join the party! Directions are at the end of the post. Here are my five favorite pins this month. To see the pin, click each picture.

#1: Kids' Books That Teach Important Life Lessons

This looks like a great list of picture books. Next year, my school's theme is "Bee Yourself," so I'm thinking I could take some of these books and create programs around them! (For more ideas about programs based off of children's literature, see these blog posts.)

#2: Tissue box rhythms

I've seen this blog post by Amy Abbott before, but this pin was a great reminder to actually try it out! I think this could be an AWESOME way to reinforce rhythmic concepts for students who are kinesthetic learners (and think it might be cool to try putting two tissue boxes together to make a half note!) I hope I remember to try making these this summer!

#3: How to do Boom Snap Clap

I've seen my oldest daughter do this, and thought it was really awesome...but I hadn't thought about teaching it to my students! I will have to have her teach me again (or read this article) so I can use it with my upper elementary students.

#4: All around the brickyard

I've done this song before, but it's been many years. I loved watching this video to refresh my memory and be inspired to use it again!

#5: 37 Classroom Decor Teacher Hacks

This article has TONS of great ideas for classroom decor! One of my favorite ideas is the paint sticks between books to keep them organized! I'm definitely going to have to revisit this post when I'm decorating before the start of next school year.

There are my five pins! If you'd like to see more pins like this, make sure to follow me on Pinterest
Click below to find more pins of other music bloggers!

08 April, 2016
Third Grade Performance {The Gratitude Tree}

Third Grade Performance {The Gratitude Tree}

Today, I am writing about a program I created for my third graders, based off the book "The Gratitude Tree" by my friend Stacey Peters (known as Expressive Monkey on TpT.) You can view this book by clicking the image below.

The book is a really cute and inspiring story about a tree who thinks he's ordinary, until he realizes that every time he feels gratitude, his leaves change color! It's a great way to talk about gratitude, kindness, appreciation, etc. with your students. This blog post will include a summary of songs and dances I used for the program, as well as scenery ideas!

Ideas for an Elementary Music Program: Songs, dances, and more for a program based off the book "The Gratitude Tree"!

I did this program with third grade, but it could easily be adapted for second or fourth. I split the text up between 22 narrators, and I also had one student who was a tree and another who was a bird. (I bought the tree costume and the bird costume on Amazon...if you are crafty, you could make them yourself!) 

For the performance, I had Stacey's book projected onto the screen on our stage, so that parents could see the book as it was being performed. The first three narrators came up, reading the first lines from the book, and the third narrator read, "Sadly, no one paid attention to the ordinary tree." At this point, students sang "Apple Tree" while one of the classes accompanied on Orff instruments.

Next, another narrator came up and read the line that ends with "built a nest in its branches." Since that line is about a bird, I had students sing "Kookaburra," along with this accompaniment track by The Wild Colonial Boys. Students sang the first two verses in unison, the third verse in a 4-part round, and the fourth verse in unison, which fits perfectly with the accompaniment!

After that, a narrator, the bird, and the tree, all come up and read the next part, which ends with "I am very grateful for that." At this point, the students sang "Hasuka ma yafa," which is an Israeli song of thanks. You can learn the song with this video:

I used this book, also by Robert Amchin (the teacher in this video), for the Orff accompaniment.

Then two narrators and the tree came up, and read until, "I'm a pretty lucky tree to be selected as the home of new baby birds." At this point, students sang "Here comes a bluebird"; you can find notation and game directions for here. Then I had another class perform the dance for "Bluebird" with recorded music; the dance with directions can be found in this Sanna Longden resource.

Then I had another student come up and read the next part until "green lines." Since that line is about leaves changing colors, I had students sing "Fly, Fly, Fly." Here is a video of Libana singing the song; you can find the CD here.

Three more narrators came up; after "keeping him company," a class came up in two circles and sang "Boots of Shining Leather" in a round. Here is an example of my students singing this in a round:

Three more narrators came up. I had all of the students say, "Have you figured it out yet?" at one time. The third narrator ended with, "beautiful colors," and then the students sang "De Colores." I used accompaniment from my textbook series, and had them sing in English, then in Spanish, then in English again. I did have cards to help with the lyrics, as especially with the Spanish, it can be tricky!

Then I had a group of five narrators come up and read from "The next day" to "This was the secret to happiness!"

Then I had one class perform the dance, "Soldier's Joy," which can be found in this amazing resource (it's a bit pricey, but TOTALLY worth the money! I use mine ALL the time!)

Then I had two last narrators come up with the bird. We ended with "You might change their whole day too!" Then I had students sing the song "Gift in this Present," by my friend Lessia Bonn at I am Bullyproof Music. The song is about being grateful for friends, and for the present--a message that really resounded with my students! I just collaborated with Lessia to create a set with materials to teach the song; you can view it by clicking below:

As I said in this blog post, in the past, 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 touching message.

During the musical, each time the story speaks about leaves changing color, I had students put gratitude leaves on trees on the wall, to represent the leaves, and the tree feeling gratitude. Stacey includes several templates of leaves as well as directions for the gratitude leaves in her set. Here is a picture of some of the leaves, which I had students put on trees from Carson Dellosa:

Scenery for an elementary music program, based off the book "The Gratitude Tree." Blog post also includes song and dance suggestions!

And here is a close-up of a couple of the leaves...
Student project/ scenery for an elementary music program, based off the book "The Gratitude Tree." Blog post also includes song and dance suggestions!

I had any students who were interested fill out gratitude leaves before the performance, detailing something for which they were grateful. After the performance, the audience was invited to come up and read the gratitude leaves! 

The third graders and the audience 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, a fifth grade performance, based on "Wangari's Trees of Peace," here, and a fourth grade performance, based on the book "Olivia's Birds," here.

Which programs have worked for you? Let me know, and feel free to send me any questions. Good luck, and have fun!

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