Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Music Stands: Not Just for Sheet Music

I like materials to be multi-purpose because, as I'm sure you know, space, no matter how large your room is, is limited.  I'm lucky to have a large storage closet and a row of cabinets but why waste space storing items that only work for one lesson or performance?

I'm always thinking of ways I can use materials I have for another purpose and that includes music stands.  I have 20 stands and I never use them all for an ensemble set up.  So, here's how I used them another way....

This was a for a performance of "Bugz!".  Our amazing art teacher and her art club made the oversized food items and we attached them to the stands using duct and shipping tape.  If I had to do it over I would use a different method of attaching them to the stands because the tape residue is really hard to get rid of, even with Goo Gone.

These were great props and easy for the kids to move onto the stage at the appropriate time.  Even if your little ones had a hard time moving them, you could have older kids as stage managers move the items in at the appropriate time.

Friday, July 27, 2012

I Spy: Note Recognition

My kids struggle with the names of notes.  They can recognize a quarter note, play them in patterns, in many cases tell you how many beats they receive but they always seem to stumble on the names.  I have tried incorporating different games and activities to work on vocabulary but I want a new one for this school year.

I think I'm going to try a version of "I Spy".  Here's what I'm going to do.

Before the kids come:
1.  Cut out quarter/eighth/half notes and rests in various colors.
2.  Place the notes throughout the room (should be visible).

Playing the Game:
1. This will be a game we play in line.
2. Teacher says I spy a blue quarter note.
3. The first team (I line my kids up in two separate lines boys and girls) to raise their hand and
identify the blue quarter note get a point.
4. Keep tally on a small whiteboard.
Going to try it out when school starts.  I'll post any tweaks I make after playing it with the kids.

New Teacher Advice

I'm going into my 6th year and I am now starting to realize more and more of my silly 1st year teacher mistakes.  I'm a bit of a perfectionist and I was really hard on myself during the first few years.  Here are my tips for those of you who are just starting out.

1.  Relax
Because I am such a perfectionist, planner, organizer going into my first year was really stressful.  Most of this stemmed from the fact that I didn't know what to expect.  What I've learned after 6 years and 2 schools, is that everything will be explained during pre-planning.  Most schools do a great job of buddying you up with someone who has been at the school and can answer all those burning questions like "Where do I make copies?"  :)

2. Don't buy too much.
I made the mistake of buying too much going into my first year.  (I don't think I've completely gotten over this, still room for improvement!)  Wait and see what is already a part of your classroom.  My first school had a great assortment of costumes, props, resources, etc.  Try and wait until you have set up your classroom and lived in it a bit before buying items.  There were many things I wish I had a few months into school that I'd never thought of.

3. It takes time.
I made myself sick throughout my first year worrying about being a great music educator.  There was a lot I was unsure of and I kept comparing myself to the 20+ year vets of my county.  Not fair!  Looking back I know that I still don't know it all and that I make mistakes from time to time and that's okay.  What's important is how you reflect on those mistakes.  Realize the misstep and make a plan to fix it.  You won't be Artie Almeida or Randy and Jeff after just a few days of teaching!  :)

4.  Kids are amazing.
Don't under estimate your kids. This is not to say that I didn't think my kids were capable of learning or doing things, I just did not realize how much I could rely on them.  After a few weeks into school you'll start to see who your most responsible kids are.  Use them as helpers during class.  Don't run around like a chicken with your head cut off!

I took on way to much in my first year when I could have assigned kids to the task.  After school programs are a great place to find helpers to fold programs and do any number of other small jobs.  Kids love to help and this extra time they get to spend with you.

5.  Take Care of Yourself.
Kids are germy and hand sanitizer is your friend.  Make sure to take care of yourself during this first year especially because you will be exposed to so many germs.  Take your vitamins, try and exercise and wash your hands/use hand sanitizer frequently.

I know that the day is long and busy but if you can find time, wipe down some of the things you touch frequently (remotes, keyboards, handles, etc.).

Take care of your voice.  Talking/singing the whole day is taxing on the voice, especially in the first few months.  Be careful.  Make sure to hydrate and rest your voice as frequently as possible.

6.  Have Fun.
Enjoy the learning process.  Live in the moment.  Kids are hysterical but you will only get to enjoy these moments if you slow down.  There is no race.  The kids will learn, it will all get done, don't sweat it.

7.  Lean on Others.
I was often afraid to ask for help because I didn't want to sound stupid.  What was I thinking?  Every teacher went through their first year, they will understand the questions you have.  Reach out to teachers at your school and the music community.  Someone will have the answer and they won't think you're stupid for not knowing.

Parents are a great resource and are often willing to donate their time to help you out with projects.  Don't be afraid to ask.  Since I've learned to ask, I have created a wonderful network of parents who within minutes of an email have taken the task off my shoulders.

Family.  Although my family doesn't always understand completely what my day is like dealing with 6-11 year olds, they are always there to listen.  Use family time to relax and release your mind of the burden of school.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My Go To's

Do you ever have that moment where you think "what the heck am I going to do with 1st grade"?  Well I have them from time to time...whether it's I can't remember what I used for a certain concept last year or I'm looking for something different these are my "Go To" Resources:

Game Plan by Randy Delelles and Jeff Kriske
I have all 6 grade levels of Game Plan and they are an amazing resource.  There are tons of songs, games, visuals, etc..  What I really love is this series helped me better spiral my curriculum.  I am much more aware of the direction I'm heading in with lesson planning and I believe this has greatly impacted my students musicianship.

Mallet Madness by Artie Almeida
Artie is awesome!  I love many of her publications but Mallet Madness is one of my Go To's.  This is such a great resource for incorporating children's literature, mallet technique, and more.

The Orff Source by Denise Gagne
I love this resource because it is sequenced by tone set (sm-lsm-etc.) it is great to quickly find a song to support your objective.

While there are many other resources, including my Level binders, that I own and use these 3 are the ones I find myself going to first.

Seat Numbers

I assign seats on the FlipForm risers for my 1st through 5th graders but I'm sick of hearing "She's in my space".  :)  This year I thought I would try adding seat numbers to my risers so that each child has a more defined space.  In the past I've tried using a sharpie to write the number on the riser but it fades very quickly.  So this year I'm going to try using contact paper to attach numbers to the front of each step.

I have made 3 sets to match the colors of my FlipForms. I made 12 numbers in each color because I have 2 of each FlipForm (2 blue, 2 red, 2 green) and I seat, max, 6 kids per riser (3 on top, 3 on bottom).

My rules for the risers:
1.  Sit in your spot.
2. Hands and Feet are still.
3.  Feet flat on the floor in front of you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I have created a Freebies section of my blog.  At the top click "freebies" and it will take you to links for any templates I have discussed so far.  My schedule templates are already there.  Just download them from google docs and customize them to your schedule.

Seating Charts

I have written before about how I seat my kids but below are the actual seating charts I use in my classroom.  I love to keep my room organized and these seating charts really help me do that.

K Chart

1st - 5th Chart

Each class has it's own seating chart and each seating chart is stapled to the front of a color coded file folder.  EX:  All kindergarten charts are mounted on purple file folders.  (I'll take pictures of these during pre-planning.)  

Last year I made color copies of my seating charts on card stock and had them laminated at Office Max.  You could laminate them at school but I wanted the heavy lamination so that these would hold up for a few years.  I use vis-a-vis markers to write on the lamination so that I can easily change things as the year progresses.

Section Leaders

Section Leaders are something I started last year to help me keep my sanity and as another way to recognize student achievement.

In my classroom 1-5 sit on my FlipForms (love FlipForms you can check them out here http://www.wengercorp.com/Teach/TeachTool.html) and my K students sit on the floor. Since I have three flip form colors, I can easily divide each class into three sections and give each child a specific seat on the risers.

At the beginning of the year I explain to my students that orchestras are divided into sections and in each section there is a leader. In our music room the section leaders jobs are to set a good example and help keep everyone prepared for the lesson. I then choose 3 section leaders (one per color) to be in charge of their section.

This helps me out in a number of ways:
1. I always have messengers to pick up/drop off a student or materials from another room.
2. There is always a designated student to pass out materials.
3. They can get the lights or control the stereo.
4. Great role models to refer other students to.
5. Demonstrate idea/concept.
6. In the upper grades: explain procedures. I.E. - recorder karate

I pick new section leaders at the beginning of each 9 weeks, so throughout the year 12 students in the class will get a turn to be a section leader. Although I do use these students to help me out, they aren't the only students I call on throughout the class. This is just a great way for me to help keep things organized while giving some great kids recognition.

Last year I had some trouble keeping track of who my section leaders were in each class. I put a star on my seating chart next to each section leaders name but I hated having to constantly refer to the chart. This year I found these great clothespins at Michaels. They will be great for the kids to clip somewhere visible on their outfit so that I can quickly find my leaders.

I found these just a few weeks ago and they had several patterns available in the dollar section, so if you want some head to Michaels!!!

Grab My Button Code Generator

Okay....I'm not really all that tech savvy.  I know the basics to most programs but I still have a lot to learn.  I saw on Music with Mrs. Dennis (another music ed blog) that she had created a Grab Button for  people to use as links from their blog to hers.  So I tried it out.  I used several different how to blogs to try and write the code and get everything to work with no luck.  In my search to get everything to work I happened across this really cool Code Generator.  Basically all you have to do is provide a bit of information and it creates the code for you!  Below is the link:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Performing Groups

I'm starting to think about my after school performing groups and what we will do this year and I imagine some of you are starting to do the same.  This is how I run my groups.

I have 3 groups:  Chorus, Orff, and Recorders.  For performances we work on one production that combines all 3 groups.  Usually we do two major performances; a Winter holiday performance and a spring musical.

My chorus is made up of 3rd, 4th and 5th grade students.  I take any student who wants to be a part of the group.  Yes, this does mean that some of them are not necessarily my best singers.  Here's my feeling....if a kid is interested and willing, who am I to crush their interest by in any way letting them know that they aren't as capable.  These kids rehearse once a week for an hour after school.  My numbers range any where from 40 - 75 from year to year.

Orff is open to only 4th and 5th graders since some of the things we work on are more complicated than the 3rd grade concepts.  We rehearse on a separate day than chorus but still only once a week.  I do not audition for this ensemble.

Recorders is open to 5th graders so that I can ensure that they have learned the pitches that they will need to be able to perform.

To be in any of my ensembles the students have to have a signed contract for the group and pay an activity fee.  The fees go towards a t-shirt and any materials that we will need for the performances.

This is my contract:

The only thing I think I will add this year is a photo/video release blurb.


I have a hard time keeping track of which classes are coming to me each day.  The following images are of the posters I create for myself to keep on track.  The first is the schedule template that I got from my supervising teacher during my internship.  This is a great way for me to see which classes I have each day and it is also helpful in planning out special events that involve specific classes.  The following two images are to help me manage my time.  I post these next to the schedule so that I can always double check the start/end time of a group.  I have two separate schedules because Wednesdays are an hour shorter in our county.

If you would like any of these templates to use for your classroom, you can email me and I will send you the file.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Word Wall Freebies

These are the signs that I use for my word wall toppers.  Please feel free to use them for your own classroom!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Meet Your Teacher

It never fails....every year Meet the Teacher starts out slowly. I see parents rushing down the hall to drop off their supplies and meet their child's new teacher but my room remains empty and I'm not quit sure what to do with myself.

It seems as soon as I settle myself into a comfortable spot at my desk parents and students and their younger/older siblings come in massive overwhelming waves and it can be a mad house. Kids (and yes sometimes parents) banging on instruments while I'm trying to introduce myself to a new family. Here are some of the things I do to try and answer everyone's questions while keeping hand drums from being completely destroyed! :)

Place Signs EVERYWHERE! 

Before our concerts last year I had students make me signs that said "Please do not touch the instruments.". I use these the night of the performance for instruments that are on the floor in front of the stage to deter little fingers but they are also great for Meet the Teacher. Place them all around the room.  Anywhere you have instruments, you should have a sign. 

Although the families at my school are very sweet and respectful, it is hard for just about anyone to resist striking a key on the piano or playing a glissando on the xylophone.  If you've ever been in a band room during warm-up you know what things can start sounding like.  For everyone's sanity, this is a must do! :)

Welcome Back Video 

Many of the questions parents and students have are about recorders and my after school groups. Since my room is sometimes a bit hectic, I thought a video with this information would be a great way for parents to get the information they need if I'm talking with another family. The video plays on a loop and I included some music advocacy and curriculum information in the video.  There is no sound because I have a playlist set up on my ipod that runs throughout the event but you could very easily add sound if you are making your own video.

This is the video I used last year. I have only made a few updates but you can see where I was going with it. I made this using Keynote. Once everything was the way I wanted I exported the file as a movie. I could either run it through my doc cam from my lap top or burn it to a dvd and play it that way. I'm sure there is an option similar to this in Powerpoint.

If you would like my blank template to use, please email me and I will send you a version you can just plug your own information into.  Keep in mind my template will only work on Macs.


There are many events in the first few weeks of school so I make sure to have copies of any forms/newsletters I will be sending home to help parents get a head start. Some of the forms I make sure to have copies of are: recorder order forms, information about materials, flyers announcing interest meetings for after school groups, wishlist, etc. 

I found that this helped a lot last year with recorder orders. I think I had at least 10 in the first week, which is not the norm.


This year I think I'm going to try adding an activity for families to do while they are waiting to say hi. I'm thinking something along the lines of "How was music a part of your summer?". I think I will get a big piece of butcher paper write the question in the middle and then set out crayons/colored pencils for parents and students to fill in their answer. This will be great to hang in the hallway for the first week of school.

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