Fun Activities for December in the Music Room

I'm having a hard time believing that it's December!!!  First, we went to Disneyworld for Thanksgiving so it doesn't feel to me like we've had that holiday yet.  Second, it's SO WARM here in Colorado. In fact, many of the days that we were in Florida it was hotter here at home! 

But, the show must go on and I must accept this is actually December, right?!!    So, I'm teaming up with my friend Aileen Miracle of Mrs. Miracle's Music room to share some things we're doing in our classroom this month.  I do have some traditions that I do in my class every year that I love to keep from year to year and I thought I would share some of them with you, as well as some of the new things we're doing this year.

The first is the holiday version of Bow, Wow, Wow, called Ho Ho Ho.

If you don't know the song or dance, it's really sweet and the kiddos eat it up! 

Formation: single circle, with all students facing a partner.

  1. Phrase 1: pat partner's hands three times (on the text, "Ho, ho, ho!"
  2. Phrase 2: pretend to be looking at Santa Claus
  3. Phrase 3: trade place with partner (I have them place their hands on each other's hands or hold hand.
  4. Phrase 4: pat partner's hands three times and jump a half-turn on the rest so that they are facing a new partner.

I love doing this with my first graders and I've also done it with my kinders, as well as my 2nd graders (for 2nd grade it's a great prep for re in that nice descending line of mi-re-do at the end.  For the firsties, it's great for rhythm and for my kinders it gets them up and moving in a single circle with partners.  With the kinders I start with one partner and model the dance as the rest of the class sits down.  Then we add the jump turn at the end.  With that the student that was my partner and I both have a new partner. This cumulatively goes until the whole class is up and moving. If there's an even number of students I set out so that they all have a partner.

The next activity that I LOVE teaching my students each year are the dances to Jingle Bells. Here are my 5th graders from last year performing a concentric circle dance:
I also do a dance with my littler students that is very similar, using a parachute.  They all hold onto the outside of the parachute. On the verses they go with their right foot "heel, toe, heel, toe- slide, slide, slide slide (to the right)."  Then they do the same thing to the left and then repeat the whole sequence. 
On the chorus, they touch their toes three times, touch their knees three times, touch their waist three times (all while holding onto the parachute), then lift the parachute over their head. I call a color and students holding that color turn in place.  As they get better at it I do let them run under the parachute and switch places with the person across from them.

Speaking of parachute, here's another activity that I do with the Trepak from The Nutcracker:
We've been known to throw plush snowballs and other fun things on the parachute and bounce them off... it's great fun!

To keep students reading, writing and practicing I'm diving into a few of my sets. Here's my 2nd graders reading "Reindeer Flying Lesson" PDF from this set, while adding body percussion and movement:

And here's my 3rd graders practicing ti-tika via part work with my Nutcracker Rhythms Game that is in my Christmas Around the World set:

Speaking of the Christmas Songs Around the World, we were using some of the games and songs from that set today when my 5th graders recalled learning "Caga Tio" last year and they got the biggest kick out of it.  If you don't know, it's a Catalonian song in which the children feed the Yule long nugget and cover it with a blanket during the holidays and on Christmas Eve they sing a song while they strike the log with a stick. If they did a good job taking care of the log, feeding it and keeping it warm with the blanket, the log will have "pooed" gifts, which are left under the blanket.

There's actually a recording of Nora Jones singing this song. The boys think this video is a riot!

And then you really have to watch this little, they're singing a different version of the song:

And with Star Wars coming out with a new movie we're also doing RHYTHM WARS!!!  My kids LOVE these and I know they are as excited as me about the new movie:

My son and I actually have tickets to go see it on December 14th, the night before it opens. We think we're pretty cool, lol!

I hope that December brings you a lot of joy and good times in your classroom!  If you're looking for some easy, fun go to games, check out my Reindeer games:

And you want to make planning easy, grab this set that has games for the whole year round!

Have a GREAT week everyone!

Tried and True: Thanksgiving Activities

Hi there everyone!  I hope that your November is going well! I know my family and I are getting SO EXCITED as we're going to Disney World in three days!!!  But I thought I'd share with you some of the activities we're doing this week in music.

Grinding Corn:  I LOVE this song. I learned it from my cooperating teacher, Cindy McCaskill and use it every year.

Here's a video of my kiddos playing a stick passing game (This was taken a couple years ago)

The Mill Wheel Song: this is another fun song to use around this time and it's not specific to Thanksgiving so if you're in a situation where you can't do "holiday" songs this is a good go to:

Again, this video is from a while ago:

This next one I learned from Liza Meyers and you can find all the details on her blog, here.  Again, this video is a couple years old and you can see that it's pretty challenging for the students, but it's a lot of fun!!!

Finally, I bought some turkey beach balls from Oriental Trading a few years ago and they make for a FUN rhythm relay!  In this case we also used if for a memory game:

If you're looking for some quick rhythm games these "How to Dress a Turkey Games" are a blast!

Have a GREAT Thanksgiving everyone!!!

Comanche Hand Game

Hi everyone!!!  Happy November!  It's hard to believe that we're already this far into the school year!

I LOVE the songs and games that November brings and they fit so well into my curriculum!  My third graders are prepping low la so I thought I'd blog about a song that I love to use to teach low la:  The Comanche Hand Game!


Divide the group in half. 

Form two parallel lines seated on the floor, about six feet apart.

Give one team a small object, a stone, a feather etc.

As the song is sung, one team passes the object behind their backs. When the song stops, the other team tries to guess who is holding the object. If they guess correctly, they earn a point.  If not, the hiding team earns a point.

If you're looking for more songs and games for November then check out these two sets:


Happy singing!


Hi there everyone!!! I hope you're having a GREAT September! It's been busy here for sure! I've had the honor of meeting new music teachers in Bakersfield and Oklahoma City with my recent presentations. This weekend I'm headed to Atlanta to sing and play with the teachers of KEGA, the Kodály Educators of Georgia!!!

All the while I'm working on my 4th grade bundle.  When I made my song list for the set I asked my good friend, Karla Cherwinski, for her favorite tam-ti songs and she introduced me to Chumbara.

It's a French Canadian folk song.  We used it in 5th grade today and they ATE IT UP!!!

Here's the song notation:

And here's the game:
In a sitting circle,
 1-2:  tap own legs
 3-4:  right hand on left leg, left hand on neighbor's right leg
 5-6:  tap own legs
 7-8:  left hand on right leg, right hand on neighbor's left leg
 9-10: tap own legs
 11-12: right hand on left leg, left hand on neighbor's right leg
 13: tap own legs
 14: left hand on right leg, right hand on neighbor's left leg
 15: tap own legs
 16: right hand on left leg, left hand on neighbor's right leg
 17-36: repeat above, extending last part and clap own hands above head on beat 36.

My 5th graders and I added to this original motion that I got from Karla.  Before we did the above actions we did this:

1-2: tap own legs
3-4:  right hand on left leg, left hand on neighbor's right leg
Repeat above to the end.

Then. .. . .
1-2: tap own legs
3-4:  right hand on left leg, left hand on neighbor's right leg
5-6:  tap own legs
7-8:  left hand on right leg, right hand on neighbor's left leg
Repeat above to the end.

Then AFTER the original action we changed it to this:
 1-2:  tap own legs
 3-4:  right hand on left leg, left hand on neighbor's right leg
 5-6:  tap own legs
 7-8:  pat the floor.
 9-10: tap own legs
 11-12: left hand on right leg, right hand on neighbor's left leg
 13-14: tap own legs
 15-16: pat the floor.
Repeat above to the end

I hope your kiddos have as much fun with it as mine did!


Hi there! I'm just A LITTLE excited to be blogging today about Specdrums!!!  I first saw Specdrums on Katie Wonderly's Facebook page. I asked her about them and discovered that the inventor, Steven Dourmashkin, is a Phd. student at the University of Colorado at Boulder, a 20 minute drive from my home!!!
I quickly reached out to him and told him I'd LOVE to be a lab school and he responded, giving me two Specdrum rings to use in my classroom.    Right now we've just started using them as Specdrum is finishing up their Kickstarter. We're really hoping that Steven and his crew make it out to see us sometime!

I told my dear friend, Aileen Miracle about them, and she also reached out to Steven. So it is with GREAT EXCITEMENT that we're blogging about this new, cool piece of technology that you can get for your classrooms.

What is a Specdrum?!  Well, it's a ring that works in conjunction with a free app that you download from the app store.  The ring then can be programed to play pitches, based on the colors that it touches.  Don't be fooled by the word "programmed!"  It's super easy, and Aileen goes into more detail on her blog post about Specdrums. 

I've now had the Specdrum for a week and the very first use in my classroom was using it to practice mi-re-do patterns with third grade.  Here's the very first use of the Specdrum ring in my classroom:
The sound is being amplified by plugging my phone into the sound system in my room.  Through the Specdrums app I programed the colors to match the pitches B, A and G. The student then tracked the notes on the staff to play mi-re-do in the song "Hot Cross Buns" as the class sang the song.

Again, we've only had the rings for a week.  Since I see my kids on a 4 or 5 day rotation (depending on the grade level), this is the first time any of the children in these videos are using the rings. 

Here a student is tracking the melody of "We Are Dancing in the Forest" as the class sings the song. What I LOVE in listening to this is how they are responding vocally to the way the Specdrum is playing the melody. When the sound is shorter and choppier the students are vocally matching it!

Here's another example of using the ring to play the melody of "We Are Dancing in the Forest". I took a second in class to program the pitches I needed into the app, based on the color of the students' shirts.  (See Aileen's post. What I did was put the ring onto the shirt, dragged the color on the app to the pitch I needed and viola! The note was programed to play the pitch). Please forgive our excitement, we recorded this on a Friday... during the last 20 minutes of the day!

Fourth grade used the Specdrums to review low la, in the song Skin and Bones.  One student would play the pattern on the "ghosts" that I had printed out.  They passed it around as we sang, so that they took turns. This allowed me to check for individual tracking (and they thought they were just playing with the new technology!).  This one you'll hear that there were a couple times that they accidentally missed the color and the pitch in the pattern was off:

One final way that we've used Specdrums (SO FAR. . . . . ) is with tone ladders.  The third graders are reviewing mi-re-do.   We practiced echoing vocal patterns with solfa tone ladders.  All students had a tone ladder that they pointed to as they echoed the pattern.  This is an "easier" version as I sang the solfa and they echoed on solfa.  To make it harder I could sing on a neutral syllable and students would echo on solfa.  

In this lesson, two students would use the Specdrum rings to echo-play the pattern as everyone else sang. After they played they would pass the ring to their neighbor.  In one minute everyone in class got a chance to play the pattern and I got to assess who really understood the mi-re-do tone scale. You'll notice that some students don't track the pattern, they're a little distracted by our new "toy" (technology) and that I do take time to give them a second turn.  As they get more familiar with the rings some of the technical glitches should get worked out.

Right now Specdrums is finishing up their kickstarter. There is only ONE DAY left to donate to their kickstarter campaign! If you donate  $39 or more, you'll be sent one Specdrums ring, and if you donate $74 or more, you get two! If you'd like 10, you can get them by pledging $349 or more. The rings will be delivered to you in January of 2018.

I can't wait to get the additional Specdrums that I ordered. Not only are the kids having a GREAT time playing with them but I can see the uses in the music room as endless! As we "play" with the Specdrums I'll be posting more uses that my students and I come up with.  

If you already have a Specdrum, please comment below with some ideas, or if you have any questions, please comment below. Aileen and I have created this FB group for music educators with the rings to share ideas, so please join if you're interested. Have fun!

Back to School!!

Hi there and LONG TIME NO BLOG!!!

We've been back to school for a while so I feel like I'm a little late to the party showing you my classroom for the new year, but I do know a lot of you actually start back on Tuesday!
My classroom theme for the years is "A Cave of Musical Wonders":
 I decided to tie my classroom theme into the spring musical and all I can say is the kids are SO excited, they've been talking about it since they saw the decor in my room.  The picture above is the "bulletin" board outside my classroom.  I use bulletin board lightly as we don't really have boards in my school but the "tack friendly" walls....  The Iago and Genie pictures are taken from images that I downloaded and then put into Block Poster, which is a really cool website that you can enlarge images into poster size. Choir will be starting back up and I'll be making some huge posters to promote choir with the site.

My former principal wouldn't let me hang my previous years' musical posters in the hallway (strange, I know) but this year I was able to!  These are the three previous years' musicals (mind you, there is/was a typo on our first year's posters with Seussical being spelled wrong):
 Just inside my room, to the left as you walk in, is my bookcase, on which I have some trinkets that are personal. It think it's important to have these in my room as my kids see them and know my interests and it helps open conversations with them, especially those older students.
New this year is my boyfriend, Kris Bryant..... you know, third baseman for the Cubs, lol!
 Next to my bookcase is my mini counter.  It houses my puppets on a stick and my Genie, who, is there just for fun but the little love him to help him keep a steady beat!
Next to the counter is one of my IKEA 2x2 cubes.  These are so awesome and last year at winter break I bought three of them for $19.99 each!!!  The bottom has boxes that I use to store various manipulatives.  The red box is my choir folder box. Above are my file folder boxes that I use to store various things that I need for each class throughout the day.
Continuing along that wall, below my whiteboard are my MUSIC behavior posters.  These really tie into the three principles that the school has which are respect, responsibility and safety.
These are my schedule cards that I got from Aileen Miracle, they SAVE my life every day!! I have 4 classes on a 4 day rotation and 2 on a 5 day rotation and they're not clumped so I made arrows to point to the other schedule so that I can have them side by side to see which classes I have in which order. These cards are SO AWESOME!
From there we go to my desk. Here's where the two other 2x2 cubes are.  I would have LOVED to have gotten a 4x2 cube and turned it on its side but the 2x2s were so much cheaper!! (Pardon the dark picture. Hannah, my 2nd grader, and I took these on a Saturday and the lights are off on the weekends.) I LOVE that these cubes are level with my desk. So, I have my document camera handy, but it's off my desk and out of the way.  My phone isn't in an ideal spot because if I'm working during my planning I have to get up to answer it, but it's better this way as I can reach it easier when teaching.
This is the view from the other side of my desk. The cute 2nd grader is there often, but not all day. Usually just before and after school and during 2nd grade music!
 I LOVE these new mugs that I got to house my pens and pencils.  What's fun is the kids, as they're lined up, like to look at my desk and they get a kick out of the mugs!
 This is harder to see because of the lighting but under my table are stools that I got at Amazon. The table on the right has my new ukuleles and the stools will be used when we play ukes.
Moving along we have my open cabinets. They look WAY more organized from a distance, lol!
My "back wall" looks like this:
Here's a close up of the left side, again, I used the Block Poster site to make the genie really big:
And here's the right side:
 My final wall is a wall of cabinets. This houses my Orff instruments, my GAZILLION puppets, bells, handbell pads, concert props, manipulatives, drums, etc:
And finallly this is my "Do I Get It?" board, with my objectives:
 Here's a close up of the "Do I Get It? board:

I really promise to try to blog more! I have lots of ideas, it's sometimes finding the time to write them all down, in addition to all the growing sets that I have going on at TpT!

New Years Resolutions for the Music Room

Happy (almost) New Year everyone!! Today I'm teaming up again with Aileen Miracle to present you with blog posts about New Years Resolutions for the Music Room.

1.  Classroom Management Systems
With most of us getting about two weeks off for winter vacation, it's a good time to make any big changes in any systems that you have in your classroom. Inevitably we all know that systems and habits in your classroom are pretty much established from day one. From the way you answer questions to allowing students to use the restroom during class (this one is requires training your teachers too, I don't allow it so they know they go before they come in the room).  But with about two weeks off you can have a little bit of a reset or redo with somethings that you'd like to change. For me this, this year in our building, has been incredible challenging with classroom behaviors. We have about 800 kids in our school. That's 5 rounds of classes in a building that was designed for 4 rounds of each grade level tops.  My team (pe, computer and art) have all been trying to implement "Magic 1, 2, 3" by Thomas Phelan. Here's the gist of how it works: when a student doesn't follow a rule you say their name and "1". This serves as their warning. You don't say anything else as this put the accountability for their behavior back on them.  (and you don't explain or let them argue. I will often do this by going over by them and telling them they're on "1" by whispering in their ear.) If the behavior continues you say their name and "2" and then they go to an assigned timeout spot.  Usually students don't get here... but this year, like I said has been challenging. I usually invite them back when we move from a game to a curricular/instructional area of the lesson.  If the behavior continues a third time they're sent to the office. Our dean is really supporting our team, as she knows that it's hard having the students in class once a week and that teaching 800 kids is a lot. So, with the three when they go to the office she conferences with them and then she calls home.  My problem this year is I had a student teaching from October-December. Don't get me wrong, she was wonderful and a joy to work with but with me being back in my classroom it's definitely a reset.  This will require reviewing expectations. Will I have to spend as long as I do at the beginning of the year, but I will have to take time setting these expectations and then reinforcing them like crazy. 
** All this said, I will tell you that if you're really struggling with classroom management, as a music teacher, look at the following first:

  • Pacing:  How much downtime is there in your lesson?  How are the students ACTIVELY involved in the lesson?  How are you using your time?  How are you wording things?  My student teacher heard all the time last semester, "use less verbage."

  • Student vs. teacher involvement in the lesson:  what are the students doing and what is the teacher doing in the lesson. This is the number one problem I see when I watch my levels students- they are doing too MUCH and the students are doing too LITTLE. That is, the focus is on what the teacher is doing to teach the lesson instead of what the students are doing to be actively involved in the lesson and their learning. For this reason.
  • Age-appropriateness of song material and activities: this is a BIG one. Sometimes you go to a workshop and you see an activity that is SO much FUN and you want to share it with all your students. DON'T!!!  Susan Brumfield, in my levels training, once shared her Disneyland philosophy. It goes like this, why take your child to Disneyland if they haven't been to the state fair?  Why take your child to the state fair if they haven't been to the local carnival? Why take them to the carnival if they haven't been to the local park? Why take them to the local park if you haven't played in the backyard?  Get the idea? If you share all your BIG, FUN activities with every grade level you have nothing saved to keep them engaged in your classes when they get older or later. 

2.  Curriculum Redirect
The new year is an awesome time to refocus your yearly plan. I know for my yearly plan I sketch it out, without much detail. I know the main points of what I want to teach and when in the year I want to teach them.  (For my details, I leave that to my concept plans).  Again, having had a student teacher, the pacing of the year is off.  She had to do a student work sample and with seeing the students only once a week it was a bit like putting a square peg in a round hole.  She and I talked about this quite a bit. Because of this work sample that she used with third grade to teach low la, it was rushed and their readiness skills (the prior skills needed to know low la) weren't quite there and the preparation of low la wasn't long enough.  When we go back, 3rd grade will have three weeks where we're focusing on a concert (thank goodness for amazing teammates who are letting me pull them for this- I basically will have three classes at a time so instead of 9 weeks for concert prep I can do it in three), but after the concert prep we'll reteach low la.   My first graders are also another class that's behind.  We haven't gotten to rest yet. This is due to a concert and to seeing them once a week.  So, I'll be remapping out their curriculum of when I want to teach specific concepts.  Related to this is a TpT goal of compiling all my planning materials so I can share them in August.

3.  Technology (what?!)
I have had 20 iPads sitting in my room for a year. Yep, sitting in a lovely charger... I have used them just a few times. There is an app called Socrative that is AWESOME and amazing. (I learned about it from Nyssa Brown when she presented for ROCKE).  This is great for pre and summative assessments, especially if you have to collect this data for your teacher evaluation or for MSLs or SLOs.  But I know there's more to do out there with them. I have a couple students who have IEP's and paras and I do see these as excellent tools to increase their engagement and participation in music class. I'm hoping to continue with my concept sets because these students can use the iPads to view the teaching PDFs.  I know I'll be stalking Aileen's technology posts like crazy this spring!!!

I hope that you all have a refreshing and relazing remainder of your vacations!  We dive back into school on January 2nd!

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