31 July, 2016
Music Classroom Finds at Five Below

Music Classroom Finds at Five Below

Today, I took a trip with my three-year-old to Five Below, and I've decided it's one of my favorite stores. There are SO many fun items to buy! Since it's almost August, I had Back to School on my mind, and saw tons of items that could work well in the music classroom, or any classroom!

A little disclaimer: I'm not getting any kickback from Five Below (although wouldn't that be nice?) You also might be able to find some of these items for cheaper elsewhere; I just wanted to give you some fun ideas! According to the Five Below website, there are 430 stores nationwide, across 27 states. If you don't have a Five Below near you (you can check if you do on the website), then you can likely find something similar at a dollar store, Target, or Amazon! Here goes!

Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

Plush locker Rugs
Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

I'm going to do flexible seating in my music classroom this year, which I'll blog more about soon. I bought 5 of the black rugs so students would have something soft to sit on during centers, group work, etc., instead of my hard linoleum!

Plastic milk crates
Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

These were a good deal, at only $5 (I spent $6 each on Amazon.) I bought mine to make crate seats for my classroom; here's one of them:

Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

Like I said, I'll blog more on that later. The great thing about these seats is they are cute, comfy, AND great for storing scarves, manipulatives, tennis balls for movement, and more!

Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

These are pretty cute, especially if you love everything black and gold!

 Pillows and rugs
Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

Like the locker rugs above, any of these would be great for flexible seating! They could also work if you want your bass xylophone players to have something soft to kneel upon.

Dry erase markers with erasers
Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

These are GREAT to either have on the board, or to have for student dictation. I have a set of class white boards and markers, but have tried different things for erasers, such as felt and even Kleenex. I love that these markers have the erasers on them...one less thing to pass out!

Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

Any of these containers would be great for storing recorders, manipulatives, holiday materials, mallets, and more.

 Hanging clipboard

This would be a really cute way to hang student work in your classroom! It could also work for hanging drawings and/or nice notes students bring you.

Colored Dice
Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

I love these dice! I used them last year, when students worked in small groups with Cori Bloom's listening freebie. It was such a fun way to have them discuss different pieces of music in a small group and whole group setting!

Giant pufferball
Music teacher finds at Five Below: Great buys to help you organize and teach in your music room!

This may be my favorite find at Five Below! This is a much bigger squishy ball than the one I use in my classroom. Here is another picture, with the ball next to my recorder, so you can see how big it is:

The kids (and I) are going to LOVE using this for SMART board games like this one, in which they throw the squishy ball and sing the pattern!

If you're looking for more organization ideas for your music room, I just created a set that helped me organize my recorders, manipulatives, and more! Click the picture below to see the set:

Here are some of the labels I created with this set:

Whether it be on TpT or at Five Below, happy shopping!
29 July, 2016
Six Musical Ways to Begin a Class

Six Musical Ways to Begin a Class

As we near August, you may be starting to think about your music lessons for the upcoming school year. Today, I'm blogging with six musical ways to begin your music class.

Please note that there is no right or wrong answer with how to welcome your class. It's totally up to you and what you think is best for your students! You might try changing it up a bit to see which way you like the best!

Six musical ways to welcome students: Great ideas for starting music class!

#1: Singing game
This is my preferred way to begin music. I want my students to be immediately singing and experiencing joy, so playing a singing game is a great way to do that! One of my favorites for Kindergarten is "Grizzly Bear":

Grizzly Bear: A great singing game for Kindergarten! The blog post also includes other great ways to start music class!

The kids love the song, as it starts very quietly and gets louder and louder, until they shout, "Roar" at the end! For the game, I have students walk in a circle, counter-clockwise, until they repeat the first phrase. Then on "Please be very quiet," students stay still and put a finger to their lips. For "If you wake him, if you shake him..." students step louder and louder to the beat until they roar at the end! (I have them put their hands up like they are claws when they roar!) One child pretends to be a sleeping bear in the middle as all of the movement is going on, and then on "Roar," that kid stands up and tries to tag one student. I have one spot that is the safe zone (my white board).

For more thoughts on singing games, see this blog post.
#2: Listening to music
I've heard of many music teachers beginning music class by playing a piece of music, such as Sousa's "Stars and Stripes Forever" or Mozart's "Rondo Alla Turka." As students come in listening to music, they could mimic your beat motions, they could echo your rhythm patterns, they could copy your choreography...whatever you'd like!

#3: Vocal exploration
Having your students echo you as they begin class can be a great way to warm up their voices. You can have your voice go from low to high, or high to low, or low to high to low, and students echo you. They could also echo you on different sounds such as "ch ch ch ch ch" (to the rhythm "ta ta ti-ti ta"), then change the sounds and/or rhythm and have them echo the new pattern. For more vocal exploration ideas, see these blog posts.

#4: Name game
I blogged about some of my favorite name games in this blog post. Name games can be a great way to welcome students AND learn their names better! I just found this name game on Pinterest; it looks super fun!

#5: Gathering song
I sing a gathering song with my Kindergarteners and first graders after we play a singing game, but I've heard of some music teachers starting immediately with a gathering song. The song I use is "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."

This is a great way to welcome students to class, AND to learn their names better!

#6: Solos
You could begin your lesson by listening to students solo sing. You might want to have the entire class first sing back to you (i.e. "Hello class"/ "Hello Mrs. Miracle", "How are you today?" "I am great.") Then, you could 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 is a great way to welcome them to class.

You could also combine some of these ways, such as starting with a singing game, then going to solos, or starting with a piece of music, then doing vocal exploration. 

What are your favorite ways to begin your class? Feel free to comment below!
17 July, 2016
Ten tips for new music teachers

Ten tips for new music teachers

Today I'm writing with advice for those teachers who are new to music education. I remember how nervous I was to start my first teaching job, so here's some advice for those of you just starting out teaching, and/or starting at a new school. Although some of the tips are specific to music education, many of them could apply to any teacher!

Tips for new music teachers: Perfect read with great advice for teachers new to music education or education in general!

#1: Have flexible expectations
As you're thinking about what your teaching situation will be like, it's easy to idealize that vision, to think that you know exactly what it will be like. But the thing is, you don't. No matter how much you've learned about the district, the former music teacher, the principal, etc., there will be something with this job that will be a surprise. There will be something that you will be asked to do that you didn't realize was part of the job. Try to have your expectations be flexible, because as a music teacher, it is so important to adapt to challenges and situations as they arise!

#2: Remember to smile
When I'm stressed out, I forget to smile. I'm so focused on whatever I'm stressed out about, I have to remind myself to smile. Teaching is sometimes a bit of an act, so even when you're stressed out or depressed, you may have to have a little voice in your head, reminding yourself to smile at the kids and act much happier or relaxed than you actually are! This tip also refers to smiling at adults. My second year of teaching, a colleague told me that the office staff thought I was unhappy. I wasn't unhappy, I was just stressed out, and so I was forgetting to smile...and then giving off the vibe to everyone around me that I was miserable. You may need to remind yourself to smile at adults too, even when you have 17,000 thoughts in your head all at the same time, or it's the day of your first concert and your stomach is in knots.

#3: Listen
I've noticed that sometimes new teachers feel a need to prove themselves...so they talk a lot. I do understand the need to prove yourself, to show everyone that just because you're a first year teacher doesn't mean you know nothing. However, I do feel it's important that you listen more than you talk. The staff around you have been here for longer than you. Listen to how they interact with each other. Listen to what your principal says. Listen to the way the kids interact with each other. If someone asks you a question, of course, answer it, but try to listen more than you talk. You will learn SO much!

#4: Ask questions
I'm always shocked when a student teacher or first year teacher has absolutely no questions. I think it's related to what I said above, that they feel a need to prove themselves, and are worried that if they ask questions they will look like they don't know what they're doing. But you won't. You will look like a teacher trying to learn. There is so much to learn that first year--content, what the kids have learned before you were there,  school routine, behavior management, district protocol, how to fill out forms when you're sick, what you're expected to leave for a sub...the list could go on and on! Ask lots of questions. As long as you're not asking really obvious questions or questions you've asked repeatedly before, everyone will think it's completely natural and understandable for you to ask lots of questions!

#5: Use ideas and resources of others
There is absolutely no shame in using something that someone has handed to you, or that you've downloaded from TpT, or that you learned about from a workshop, because those are tried and true resources that have been proven to work! While you may have created some really awesome games and activities during your student teaching, you may be lacking in your teacher toolbox. So use other people's ideas! I have gone to SO many workshops and conferences in my career, but even after 17 years of teaching, I always walk away with so many ideas. If you're looking for Kodaly or Orff chapters in your area who hold workshops, check out the OAKE website and/or the AOSA website.

As far as  resources go, I still buy plenty from West Music, and even though I have my own store of music education resources, I still buy products and download freebies on TpT, because I love seeing other people's perspectives and trying something new. (If you've already started downloading and are getting overwhelmed with how to organize all of your digital resources, see this blog post.)

#6: Get a lesson planning system
Whether you decide to write one lesson every day, or all lessons on the weekend, deciding on a system is really helpful to keep you in a routine. My first few years, I always wrote lessons on the weekends, but the last couple of years, I write two lessons a day, during my planning and/or after school. Then on the last day of my rotation (I am on an ABCDE rotation), I have all of my lessonss written, so I get all of my materials ready for A day. Deciding on and sticking to a routine has really helped me! For more thoughts about when to lesson plan, see this blog post. For more thoughts about how to lesson plan, see this video tutorial.

#7: Plan ahead
I didn't really understand how to long-range plan until I took my Kodaly training, and then I was hooked. When long-range planning, you are looking at your entire year, your standards, your curriculum, etc., and figuring out what you want to teach when (like a scope and sequence.) To better understand how to write a year plan, see this video tutorial. To better understand how to write song lists, see this video tutorial. It is SO helpful to know what you want to teach, when, and which songs and activities you are going to use!

#8: Firm + positive
As a first year teacher, I struggled with being firm with students when managing behavior. I worried they wouldn't like me or wouldn't like my class. Over the years, though, I have refined my balance of firm yet positive demeanor. When dealing with a difficult situation, you do need to be firm, but you can do so in a loving, calm way. I think many new teachers either tend to not deal with a situation out of fear or anxiety, or they let their frustration take over and yell. There is a delicate balance between the two. Even when I've been pretty firm and I worry that a child will be upset, I often get hugs either from that student or other students, because I've disciplined in a caring way. They need that structure, and they need to know that even if they make mistakes, you will still love them. For more advice and suggestions for how to do this, I highly recommend this book:

#9: Don't be afraid to try something new
It can be easy as a first year teacher to only stick to what you know, for fear of a lesson failing. Don't be afraid to fail. Even as a veteran teacher, I've had things fail, but I'd rather try it out, have it fail, and learn from the experience so I know how to teach it well, than not try at all!
Think through each step of your lesson. Teach the lesson to your spouse or to the mirror. If it still fails, think about why it failed and what could be done better (and don't be afraid to ask the students what they didn't understand! They can teach you!)

#10: Know that things will get easier
The first year is tough. On the first day of teaching, after teaching the same very rambunctious Kindergarten class twice in one day for forty minutes each time (I'm not kidding), I thought to myself, "Maybe I didn't pick the right profession." However, the second day was easier. Each day after that, then each year after that, got progressively easier.  I won't say it's ever totally easy, but it gets easier.
There will come a day when you will be teaching, and you'll think to yourself, "I get paid to do this?" There will come a day when you will smile--not because you're reminding yourself to smile, but because you mean it.
And those days make it all worth it.

Good luck on your first year! For more thoughts on my first year, see this blog post. For more advice for new music teachers, see this blog post by Tracy King. If you are a veteran teacher and have any advice, please leave it below!

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