Friday, August 31, 2012

Instrument Procedures

You may have noticed that I have had a number of posts regarding Kindergarten:

This is because I find them the most challenging to plan for out of any grade I teach.  Every little detail of my lessons have to be thought out; down to how I will explain activities, demonstrate concepts and move from one part of the room to the other.  I love my Kindergartners (for 45 minutes at a time) but man do they wipe me out.  :)

Anyway, this year I have finally refined my instrument procedures to a point I am very comfortable with and that seems to work well with the kids.

Instrument Positions:
1. Waiting = instrument on the floor, hands in our laps.
2.  Resting = instrument on our knees, waiting to play.
3.  Playing = holding the instrument with the proper technique.

Resting Position

The first row of kids sitting like "Nicki"(they named the girl on my Good Listener Poster) get their instruments.

Walking Position 
(Sorry for the blur, my phone doesn't do so well with a moving target!)

When we are all done, we put our instruments away using walking position.  I think it is important for students to learn this responsibility.  Instruments are not toys and we need to make sure that we put them away carefully and that they are stored properly so that they do not get lost or broken.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I left college geared up, ready to go and make a difference in the lives of young people.  When I started I saw advocacy as something that was verbal; spoken or written down.  So, I found myself at times spouting off about the benefits of music on a students education.  Now, I wasn't exactly that friend you have that once they've found a cause they don't stop but I did more talking in my first year than I probably needed to.

After a few years of teaching I found, through wonderful PLC's with my Elementary Music colleagues and the advice of other veteran teachers, that advocacy many times is something maybe better done through your actions.  Here is how I try to advocate music at my school:
  • Be visible.
    • Throughout the year I host two major performances (winter and spring concerts) and a number of other small events.  I also make sure to feature music events and special Spotlight Performances on the morning announcements.
  •  Get to know your families.
    • It takes time to build a community.  I helped open our school 3 years ago and at first, I didn't know anyone.  Now that I've been there for a few years, I have gotten to know the parents and their families.  Parents are wonderful advocates.  When they know you and how much you value their children, they will support your efforts however they can.
  • Support PTO
    • When you are able to, support your PTO by providing entertainment for their events.  This year our winter concert will be at the Barnes and Noble book fair our PTO is hosting.  So, instead of having our evening performance in the cafeteria, we will perform at Barnes and Noble.  This doesn't take much extra planning on my part and it helps PTO get more families to their event.
    • In the past couple of years the art teacher and I have teamed up and done a big celebration of the arts in April.  I know that MIOSM is in March but our standardized testing was in March.  This year the testing will be in April so we are planning on having our celebration in March.  This is a great time of year to host special events, make beautiful displays, and to get teachers and parents involved in the arts.
  • Educate your staff
    • Your teachers may not have a music background.  Sometimes gaining their support is as easy as making a simple connection to their curriculum or giving them a short demonstration of what their kids are actually capable of.  Many adults don't realize what great musicians kids are.  I like to take the last 5 minutes of class (every once in awhile) to perform something we've been working on for the classroom teachers.
    • I also try and give classroom teachers a music experience.  Each month our school has team building meetings.  This is a chance for a team to host a fun activity for the whole staff.  One year our specials team hosted a mosaic mural, another year we did a musical twist on reader's theatre.
I'm always looking for ways to help promote my program, so please share some of the ways you advocate music at your school.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Just thought I would share this because it made me laugh.

As one of my 2nd grade classes was lining up last week, a little boy J raised his hand and asked me how old I was.  Before I could respond a discussion ensued.  It was as if I was no longer in the room.  I think she's 20, well I think she's 25 because....

So this went on for about 30 seconds before J finally said "I think you look like an old teenager!".  

From the look on his face, I take it that this is a compliment but I'm not entirely sure what it means. made me giggle and I hope this story brings a smile to your face.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Storing Seating Charts

I have posted information before on my seating charts (Seating Charts) but I thought I'd post some images of how I store them and use them on a daily basis.
Everyday I pull out the folders for the classes I will be seeing and put them on my clipboard.  It's a great way to make my folders mobile.  I can carry the clipboard around the room with me and quickly jot down assessments or store paperwork from students.

When I'm not using a classes folder, it is stored in a file sorter next to my doc cam at the front of the room (Classroom Tour).

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Magic Microphone

What can possibly elicit a more excited response from a 5 year old than a sparkly microphone?  Well okay, maybe any sort of drum but if they aren't getting to play that instrument the magic microphone is the next best thing.

Now I know that you may have a different process but I start my K year off (after rules of course) with a chance to practice our "Four Voices".  I don't go very in depth with this process at this point just looking at the four voice posters and then some simple echoing.  I also give each child a chance to share one of their four voices using the magic microphone.

I like this portion of my first lesson because it gives each child an opportunity to perform a solo where they have a choice in how they share their voice.  I have very little resistance to this activity because my more reserved little ones can choose to use their whisper voice.  This is a great way to ease into more solo activities and to reinforce being a good listener.

You may be thinking that I end up hearing all shouting voice, and the first few students did until I got smart.  Once we use a sign I turn it around so that the next friend has to choose a different voice.  Sometimes I will have two signs turned around.  I do this throughout the activity keeping the shouting voice turned as often as possible so that my lesson doesn't turn into a screaming match.  At this point, I keep corrections to a minimum and get a feel for where my students are in understanding  how to use their different voices.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Be a Good Listener!

I saw this pin from First Grade Garden earlier in the summer....

I loved this idea but I needed more girls represented in my room, so here's my version.   The only other thing I changed was "eyes on the conductor".  Gotta get vocabulary in as frequently as possible for these little munchkins.

I have taught my welcome lesson three times now and this is so much better than trying to go through my regular rules with the little ones.  As they tell me something that they see the girl doing, I add the words to the poster.  I love how this worked with them and having the image in front of them was such a great reminder throughout the lesson.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

2012-2013 Classroom Tour

I finally had a moment today to take pictures of my classroom set up.  I was hoping to have more done before I took these pics but honestly this year seems to have been more hectic than others.  As you will probably notice, I haven't even had a minute to put my word wall cards back in the pocket charts.

I have finally come to grips with the fact that it will just have to wait for another day.  I have a few more days of my beginning of the year lesson before we start really getting into things, so that is a bit comforting.  Hopefully be the end of week 2 all wall decor/unpacking will be done.  Fingers crossed!  :)

This is the entrance to my classroom.  Not pictured here but to the left of the door is the Performer's Corner, a display where I post information to keep my performing groups organized.  To the right is my Pluck-a-Note display.

I got this idea from my best buddy, the art teacher at my school.  She always posts Art Advocacy materials on or outside her door.  It's so great to have this information posted when administration is giving a new family a tour of the school or for classroom teachers as they wait to pick up their kids.

The view from the door.

Inside the door I have my bookcases and rocking chair.  I love having this space to sit and play line games with my students while we wait for their teachers.  (Looking at it now, I realize how much more is still boxed up!  Those bottom shelves are bare.)  I also keep my recorder karate belts and recorder karate music next to my chair.  Check out this related post:  Recorder Karate .

On my cabinets are my Word Wall and Fingering Charts.  If you notice I have trapezoid tables behind my risers.  Instead of having the barred instruments on the floor in an instrumentarium, I have my students rotate around the tables.  In Kindergarten, we sit in rows and play instruments.  I will take another picture later in the year but normally my BX/BM/CBB are in the corner between the red and blue risers but for now they are still in the cabinets.

Behind the green and blue risers and next to the back door, I have a cabinet with drums, found sounds and my white boards.  I also house my tubanos along this wall.  And down at the end is my thinking spot.  I will post more on this later.

I moved this book case up front this year.  It was back where the tubanos are now and it was such a pain to get to these instruments.  Much easier!!!  On the bathroom door is my Common Board Configuration .

Under my bulletin board I have storage units that I bought at Target.  In the green and blue bins are the instruments I use most frequently with Kindergarten.  These containers are easy for them to move in and out and are close to where they sit.  Below are close ups of the labels and contents of the bins.  I use these instrument labels throughout my room.  

My white board and glockenspiel storage.

 Doc cam and more storage.  In this unit I have all of my movement resources (scarves, ribbons, balls, etc.) extra mallets, and rewards.  Behind the cabinet is my desk and on the wall are my rules.  I got my rules from Sandy Lantz at my Level I.

 Earlier in the summer I posted this: Summer Project  I ended up finding the Laiva desk at Ikea.  It was cheaper, sturdier and the color blended with my cabinets.

And it has a nice little space for pen storage.

 It has taken me 3 years to figure out that I could move the piano!  Not really.  I just didn't figure out that I had the space to move the piano away from my desk in order to have a path for me to walk through.  I spent 3 years walking from the front of my classroom all the way around to where the doc cam was behind my desk!  Sometimes I wonder about myself.  :)

 My space.

Behind the piano is a sink area.  This is where I keep extra copies of newsletters and recorder karate packets.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pom Pom Erasers

I saw this pinned a couple of months ago and thought it was a great idea.  I love using dry erase markers and individual white boards to practice drawing the staff and different notes.

Tonight I made my own.  Here's what you need:

It took me about half way through the markers to realize that it was probably easier to put the glue on the cap instead of the pom pom (sometimes I really wonder about myself!).

And here's how they turned out.

I decided to glue my pom poms to the caps because I could just imagine all the lost caps if they couldn't put them on the end of their markers.

The question long will they stand up to the abuse of 700 children?

Hand Made Decor

I know I've mentioned this before but I work with an amazing art teacher!  She has inspired me to make my own classroom decor and I hope you will try making your own too.  I can hear the hecklers now.  Really, trust me, I'm not an amazing artist but it  is easy and therapeutic to spend time creating something.

These are the newest additions...I still have to have them laminated and they need to go up in my room but here they are.  (Check back to see where they end up.)

Most of these were hand drawn with a bit of help from my husband (hands always get me).  The only one that I didn't draw by hand was the chair.  For those of you who aren't particularly artistic, here is a great tip.  Use your classroom projector.  I have a ceiling mounted projector that is connected to my computer.  All I had to do was find a picture of a chair I liked and project it on my board.  I traced the outline of the chair and then colored it in later.

Black outline is your friend.  Any little blunders around the edges of the picture can be fixed with a little sharpie, plus it makes all of the colors pop!

Keeping Classroom Teachers Informed

I believe that it is very important to keep your classroom teachers informed of procedures/field trips/recorder sales and the list goes on and on.  Here are some of the emails I send out at the beginning of the year to help keep my staff informed.

I'm also the special area team leader this year, so I also created a document with all the information regarding special areas.

Remember, your classroom teachers are better able to support you if they know what is going on in your room.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Seat Numbers Part 2

Earlier in the summer I posted the images of the seat numbers I had created for my risers (see the post here:  Seat Numbers)  Here's how they turned out!

I printed them on white cardstock, then cut them apart and mounted them with contact paper.

Thursday, August 16, 2012


So, this isn't the cutest display I've ever done but it worked.  In past years I have printed out copies of a supply wish list and asked parents to donate items to the music room but it has never been all that successful.  I can imagine that with all of the papers parents are handed at the beginning of the year things get lost or forgotten.

To try and increase the donations, I made this poster and hung it outside of my door tonight for "Meet the Teacher".  I figure the music notes will be a better reminder than another piece of 8.5 x 11 paper.

I wish this was more colorful and had a treble clef but I ran out of time.  Although it's not perfect I did notice a lot of notes missing at the end of the night, so fingers crossed.  Hopefully those supplies will start rolling in!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sound Panels

My walls are covered in light green sound panels which are beautiful and practical in a music room.  The only drawback to these lovely walls is that hanging things is tricky and dust collects on every inch of them.  Here are my two solutions to this problem.

 In an ideal world I would use the hose attachment on a vacuum but there isn't one available to me, so the next best thing is a lint roller.  You would not believe the amount of dust I picked up off my walls.  Eew!  It's amazing, I don't feel congested nearly as often.  :)
This isn't the exact brand of pins that I have but this is the type that I use to hang anything on the sound panels.  They work so much better than push pins because of their length.  I found mine at Michael's last summer in their sewing section.  

Monday, August 13, 2012

Bare Walls No More

I hate nothing more than going into a classroom and seeing bare walls or posters that are too small or illegible.  It's a missed opportunity!  Your walls are another chance to provide information to your students, make good use of them.

Here are some of the things I try to remember as I decorate my room.

1.  Choose text that children can read.
There are so many times that I see visuals that have beautiful text but it takes me a minute to decode.  I don't want children to have to guess at what I'm trying to tell them, so I make sure to use large easy to read fonts.

2. Background
White and Black are my go to's for bulletin board paper.  I love the light blues and purples my school provides but they aren't the most practical or versatile.  A nice white or black background lets the images you put on top stand out.

3. Simple
Putting too much together or in random patterns is visually distracting.  Keep it simple and clean so that everything is easy on the eye.  Less is more!

4. Useful
I'm just as guilty as the next teacher of buying pre-made bulletin board decor because it's cute.  I have this wonderful Toucan music visual that is cute and informational but you can't see it across the room.  If you aren't going to reference it ever in your teaching, then is it really necessary?  Does another picture of a composer really need to be up if you aren't teaching about that composer?  I have nothing against these resources, they're things that I have but before I put them up I want to think how they are going to impact my students.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Look Who's a Shining Star!

This was my student recognition bulletin board last year.  Each month the Maestro of the Month (see post Maestro of the Month ) and the Spotlight Performer's (a select class that was doing an outstanding job) were recognized with a star on the bulletin board.  Wish I had a better picture, I thought I did.  Still, thought this was an idea worth sharing.

I also added stars for students who were selected for our All County Honors Music Festival and students who had completed every belt in the 4th and 5th grade recorder karate books.  Students got to decide where their star went on the board.

Beginning of the Year before the owl.  I was waiting for it to be laminated.

End of the Year:  Unfortunately, little fingers got to the "a and h" but I'm sure you get the overall idea.  :)

Stop back soon to see how my 2012-2013 student recognition board will look!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Back to School Find

I have been looking for file storage crates for the kids music journals and I happened across these today at Walmart.  They have other colors but these work for organizing my 3 teams.  They cost $3.47 each.

I will place these on the table behind each section of risers.  Section Leaders will be responsible for distributing folders upon arriving for music.
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