30 June, 2016
Five favorite pins of June

Five favorite pins of June

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

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: So you have a Twitter account, now what?

Twitter can be a bit confusing...I remember when I first signed up for an account, I was a bit puzzled where to start. This blog post has some great suggestions for getting started! (And see this blog post for more tips!)

#2: Student Center
This pin led to a blog post with lots of great classroom setup ideas, but the picture in the pin is the one which got my attention. I LOVE the idea of having one place in the room where students can hand in work, get work, get pencils, etc. Right now, I have an area that is kind of spread out, so I am going to think about how to implement one central location in my music room!

#3: Flexible Seating

I am hoping to do some flexible seating in my classroom this year, in which students can choose a place to sit that works for them and their learning style. I will definitely be blogging more about this later, but I found this pin a great place to start (and I had never seen the chairs shown in the picture...will be looking into buying some!)

#4: What Specialists Wish You Knew
This blog post had some GREAT insights into being a specials teacher (written by someone who used to be a classroom teacher). Although I do make a point to learn all of the students' names (see this blog post about that topic), the rest of the points she makes really resonated with me. 

#5: Instrument Storage

I love this blog post by Patti Anderson, with some really practical ways to store instruments! From hand drums, to recorders, to ukuleles, she has lots of great suggestions for storing the instruments so they are out and ready to use!

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 see favorite pins from other music bloggers! Happy pinning!

19 June, 2016
Singing games in the music room

Singing games in the music room

Today, I'm blogging about singing games in the music room. I know, it's summer, and you probably aren't thinking much about singing games OR your music room, but here are some ideas to consider about using singing games, keeping track of turns, and more, as you plan your next school year!

Looking for tips for use singing games in your music classroom? This blog post has great ideas for implementing games, keeping track of turns during your lessons, and more!
First of all, why should you use singing games in your music room? I am Kodály-trained, so singing games were a big part of my pedagogy training. Here are my main reasons for planning singing games in my lessons:
  • Singing games are FUN and students enjoy them. 
  • They provide a relaxation aspect to the lesson, especially after students have done something concentrated, like rhythmic dictation or writing on the staff. 
  • Singing games also allow students to connect to their cultural heritage, as well as the cultures of others. 
Over the years, I've learned a bit about how to use singing games best in my classroom. Here are five tips:

#1: Leave them wanting more
This is probably the best piece of advice I've received about games, and it was from my Kodály Level I instructor, Julie Swank. Previous to level I, I would play a game until EVERYONE had a turn...you know, to be fair. But what ends up happening is that the game drags on for SO long that most of the kids are bored by the end. You never want them to feel bored! So leave them wanting more. Play the game 3-5 times, and move on. Will you hear complaints that they didn't get a turn? Yes. Will they want to play it next class because of that? Yes.

#2: Reward them 
That being said, sometimes, when I have a few extra minutes at the end of class, and the class has been well-behaved, we play that game again, the one they were disappointed that it was cut short! Mrs. Macaroni is a huge favorite with first grade, one that they beg to play if we have time, and of course there are many others kids just LOVE to play! Another option is a reward day, which I've written about here. This gives them an opportunity to play games JUST to play!

#3: It's okay to run
There are lots of running games, which are SO fun to play, but I've heard music teachers here and there say that they don't let their kids run. Now, you may not have a room conducive to running, so fast walking it is. But if you do have a big room, as long as you make sure there aren't music stands or instruments in the way, I personally think it is totally fine to have them run. Have I ever had a kid get hurt? A few times. (Actually, I've had a kid get a bloody nose from "Our Old Sow" simply from changing the directions of his arms, not from running!) But do kids get hurt at recess? Of course they do! Should we stop them from running at recess? Please, no.
That's my take on it. I've taught for 17 years, and nothing bad has happened from kids running in my room. And they've had FUN!
Now, if you are still hesitant, and/or you don't have a huge room, you could take my friend Andrew Ellingsen's advice and have them run on their heels. It stops them from running full-speed and is still a fun challenge! (And if you've never seen Andrew present, you really should...he is AMAZING!)

#4: Teach them more than one version
You know how there are often seventeen different games for one song? Well, that might be an exaggeration, but there are easily 2-3 for most singing games I know. I have typically just decided which one game I like and taught it to the students, but in the past year or two, I have at times taught students more than one version. It's fun for them to see there is more than one thing we can do with any given song, and then once they know more than one version, they can vote on which they'd like to play! It's an easy way to allow students to choose, and it broadens their horizons a bit!

For example, for the song "Dinah," I know three games:

Dinah: Three different ways to play the singing game in your music classroom!

The lyrics are:
No one's in the house but Dinah, Dinah, no one's in the house but me I know.
No one's in the house but Dinah, Dinah, strummin' on the old banjo.
Dinah, Dinah, no one's in the house but me I know.
Dinah, Dinah, strummin' on the old banjo.

For the first game, students stand in a circle. One student goes in the middle and closes his/her eyes. The teacher makes a gap in the circle between two kids, then turns the kid in the middle around three times. Then "it" has to look for the gap while everyone sings--but his/her eyes have to stay closed, and they can't use their sense of touch. (They have to use their sense of hearing instead!) Kids HAVE to sing for this game, because if they don't, the person who is "it" might think they are the gap!

The second version is very similar to the first, except there isn't a gap. Instead, a second child is chosen to sing a solo on "Dinah, Dinah." The first child, with his/her eyes closed, has to figure out where the soloist is by using his/her sense of hearing. The second student can try running away, but has to stay within the circle. So fun!

The third version is really more of a dance than a game. Students stand in a circle, and do the following motions as they sing:
Step close  x 3, pat x 3.
Step close x 3, clap x 3.
Step close x 3, snap x 3.
Step close x 3, pat/ clap/ snap.

You can put students in an inner circle and outer circle, and have students do in opposite directions!

#5: Keep track of who has had a turn
In the past, I have simply chosen students each class to be "it." I've asked them to only raise their hands if they haven't had a turn, but inevitably,  a.) a student doesn't remember, b.) a student does remember, but chooses to raise their hand anyway, and/or c.) another student yells out, "He had a turn!"
This past year, I decided to try something different. I bought an interactive attendance set by Pink Cat Studio, and used it for keeping track of turns for singing games. I was going to write out a whole explanation of how I did this, but decided to make a video instead, so you can see how cool this set is! Here is the video:

Since I'm doing a monster theme in my classroom this year, I started off buying just the monster set, but have since bought the bundle. It's so fun, and a great way to keep track of turns!

If you're looking for singing game resources, I'm including some here. My favorites are those that give historical background to each song, and they include:



Click each picture to view the resources at West Music.

What are your tips for using singing games? Feel free to comment below, and have FUN!
01 June, 2016
Ten favorite music iPad apps

Ten favorite music iPad apps

Three years ago, I bought my first iPad, and two years ago, I was lucky enough to receive a grant for 8 iPad minis in my music classroom. Since using iPads in my classroom, I have come across TONS of different music apps, both free and paid. Today, I'm blogging about my 10 favorite iPad music apps! I've listed a price next to each app, and have linked all of the apps to the app store. I've also tried to list a variety of apps--some that only you would use on your own iPad, some that you could use on one iPad at a center, and some that could be used in groups with several iPads. Here is my list:

10 favorite music apps: Great apps for your music classroom, whether you have 1 iPad or 25!

#1: GarageBand, $4.99 (Free with some iPads)
My all-time favorite music app is GarageBand. It is SUCH an amazing app, allowing students to create and compose on instruments such as the guitar and piano without knowing how to play those instruments. It also allows students to layer loops, which are like ostinati, and students can also record their own voices and instrumental playing. There is SO much you can do with this app; the possibilities are endless! My favorite project to do with GarageBand is by Music and Technology, and can be purchased here. I've done the project with success for two years in a row with my fifth graders, and it's such a great way to practice form and to use the app successfully!

#2: Arpie, Free
This app is one of my students' all-time favorites. The idea is simple: it's like dropping tennis balls onto piano keys to create music. Check out this video for a sample:

Students from 1st grade on really seem to love this app! Like GarageBand, it allows them to create music without knowing how to play an instrument. Students can make choices to change their composition (and many of my students love to fill the screen with the balls!)

#3: QR Code Reader, Free
This is not technically a music app, but SO much can be done with a QR reader app! From visiting websites to listening to sound clips, scanning a QR code allows students to visit, listen, and read quickly without having to plug in any address into the browser bar. Read this blog post about how to create and use QR codes in the music room.

#4: MadPad HD, $2.99
If you've ever watched and enjoyed "Stomp," you will totally appreciate MadPad HD. There are several themed sets students can use to create, such as car-themed, coffeehouse-themed, piano-themed, and more! Students can experiment with the different sounds, compose patterns with each set, record their patterns, and then even create their own sets! (Which, I will warn you, is very chaotic but VERY fun!) Here is a video sample of MadPad HD, using sounds at the hardware store (totally makes me want to visit Lowe's with my iPad!):

If you're looking for projects to do with MadPad HD, check out this set:

#5: Staff Wars, $0.99
There are quite a few staff note reading iPad apps, but my all-time favorite is Staff Wars. This app allows you to just choose lines, just spaces, lines and spaces, extended staff, and all for treble clef, bass clef, OR alto clef! Students choose whichever note they think is correct, and the ship "shoots" the note down. With Star Wars being so popular nowadays, kids LOVE this app. I have seen my students' speed at naming notes increase so much by using this app. In fact, I had one student who, after struggling all year with note reading, beamed proudly at me after playing Staff Wars and exclaimed, "I'm doing so much better!" (And he was!)
So yes, this app is awesome! You can also play it on computer by visiting this website.

This is such a fun app for exploring instruments and instrument families! The app includes sections to explore, to take quizzes, build your own variation, and more! I've had students work in small groups, start in the quiz section, and then go to whichever section they'd like next.

#7: Plickers, Free
I found out about this app on Pinterest a few years ago, and was just blown away! This is a free app that can be used to take assessments, with student data specifically assigned to each student! The app works best with an iPhone or Android (instead of an iPad)...simply scan the room for students' choices on their Plickers cards, and the app will track their answers. So awesome! Read this blog post about my experience with the app, and this blog post for Jamie Parker's ideas for the app.

#8: Toca Band, Free
Admittedly, I have only watched my three-year-old play this app, but I think there are tons of really cool things that elementary students can do with this app (and my twelve-year-old seems to love it as much as my youngest!) If you drag one of the characters to the first level of the stage, he/she plays/ sings a simple melody. If you drag them to the second level, the melody becomes a bit more complex, and if you drag them to the third level, they add something, like dancing or juggling, to their melody! If you drag a character to center stage, then you get to make that character play/ sing whenever you want by tapping him/her! It's a great way to reinforce the idea of ostinato, as the character's melody keeps looping.

#9: Instagram, Free
Perhaps you've only used Instagram for personal purposes, but it can be a GREAT app for professional development as well! If you search a hashtag such as #iamamusicteacher, #musicteacherlife, #musicteacherproblems, #generalmusic, #iteachmusic, #kodaly, and/or #orffposse, you can find lots of great pictures and share ideas with lots of other music teachers! Click here to see a great picture book suggestion by @lizskodalyinspiredmusicroom, and here to see a fun bulletin board by David Row @makemomentsmattermusiced.  I just posted this picture on my Instagram recently with ideas my first graders came up with for their reward day; click through to see the comments about where to find the songs!

...And here is a picture I posted of a new way I learned to keep mallets handy on Orff instruments!

Many music teachers also post short videos of their classroom, which can be a great way to learn a new song, new dance, etc.!

#10: Powerteacher, iDoceo, and/or TeacherKit
I'm listing these three apps all as #10, because they are all very similar apps, and you'll want to choose one depending on your situation. I use Powerteacher and LOVE it, as it shows me students' pictures, tracks student grades, allows me to create assignments in a grade book that is then pushed to students' report cards...but it only works if your district is using Powerteacher district-wide. iDoceo is another great grade book app, allowing you to create grades, schedules, seating charts, and more, but it does cost $10.99, which is a bit pricey. (Many people swear by it, though!) TeacherKit is another good grade book app. Although not as powerful as iDoceo, it is free!

Looking for more iPad apps? For a comprehensive list of free iPad music apps, check out this blog post, and download this freebie I compiled that has some of these apps, as well as other apps I love to use!

What are your favorite music apps? Feel free to comment below, and enjoy the apps!

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