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!

Choir Songs for Christmas and the Holidays

Happy December everyone! Some of you are still teaching and others (like me) have been off since Friday. This year it was a "push to the end" as my choir concert and first grade concert were on December 1 but then my tonechime choir had a performance on December 10th and my choir had a field trip to sing at the Senior Holiday Lunch on the 15th.  My friend, Aileen Miracle, and I were talking about choir music and we thought it would be fun to bring you some of our favorite choral pieces that we've done as well as some we're excited about for next year.

Before we start, my choir is made up of 4th and 5th graders. I have 93 in choir this year.  Before I was at my current school my choir was 3rd, 4th and 5th grade and it was at a title I school. It was quite a different demographic but I had rehearsals structured the same.

We start choir in September with 4th graders coming one morning and 5th graders coming a different morning.  We keep this rehearsal schedule until the 1st week in November. This allows me to thoroughly teach each grade a different part. As we approach the end of October/beginning of November I start to sing the other grade's part so they start to get use to hearing it (and it's not that strong yet as it's me "vs" them" so they can really hear each other still.

Once we hit the second week of November we start combining. We usually have 3-4 practices before Thanksgiving week and then the concert is traditionally the week after we get back.

This year we had a fun and full program with 10 different octavos, here are my "Favorite Five"

1.  Sleigh Ride by Cristi Cary Miller

This song is non-holiday specific, it's not Christmas, not Hanukkah so if you're in a situation where you can't sing about holidays this song is wonderful!  There are some tricky spots where the kids are singing in thirds but there's a beautiful section towards the end where they break into partner-like parts. Here's my choir singing it at rehearsal last week:

2.  My Favorite Things by Rodgers & Hammerstein/arr. Mac Huff

We're having an "Erie Choir Festival" this year and I knew I needed to pick something that would work on a holiday concert and we could sing again in February.  This arrangement is lovely: there's a part where the first part sings on an open vowel "ahh" above the melody line. Later, there is an echo part where the first part sings and sustains a pitch which part two echos it.

3.  Ring Bells arranged by Susan Brumfield

I LOVE this arrangement. It's two parts and very obtainable for young singers. Additionally, there's a bell part which my tonechimes learned how to play. The kids loved it and it was nice because it's a traditional German Folk song.

4. Mary Had a Baby (forgive me, my music is at school and I can't find the arranger- I will update in January)
THIS was the kids' favorite this year.  The majority of the song is in unison (it was our only unison piece this year actually) but there was a part where 4th grade sang a 5th lower.

5.  I Saw Three Ships arr. by Ruth Morris Gray
This one was MY favorite this year. I LOVE this song and it's really pretty simple with most of the part singing in echo.  There is a section in which their is singing in parts that is not echo and its' lovely- it also has a descant that was very obtainable and I had a small group sing.

When I select concert repertoire I try to get a variety- we have Christmas songs, Hanukkah songs (this year with did Bim Bom and Shine Hanukkah), winter songs and one non-holiday or winter song. I also try to pick some pieces that are more serious in nature and then at least one or two that the kids will really like, despite their cheesiness.  This year we did We Are Santa's Elves, which was pretty darn cute.

Next year I know that I'd like to include these pieces:

1.  You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch.  This is a "kids'" choice piece and I'm picking it because I promised my son that we would add it next year. Lame reason I know, but it's important for kids to have a say in the music selected as well!

2.  Old Man Winter by Lois Brownsey and Marti Lunn Lantz
We sang this one a few years ago and the kids LOVED it. It's an easier two part song with body percussion. It's non-holiday specific so if you are looking for that kind of a piece it's wonderful!

3.  Linus and Lucy by Vince Guaraldi (Arr. Roger Emerson)
We did this one in 2015 and it's SO hard but next years group I think will be able to handle it. There's no text, just nonsense syllables. The kids LOVE it and it's challenging.

4.  Peace on Earth/Silent Night by Peggy Lee & Sonny Burke/Snyder
I haven't done this one for a few years and it's one of my all time favorites. I was telling Aileen about it a couple weeks ago: it meshes up "Peace on Earth," the song from Lady and the Tramp with Silent Night and it's just lovely.

I know Aileen and I are bringing you this blog post towards the end of December but we hope that it helps in your planning for next year!  I would love for you to comment below with some of your favorites! I am really on the look out for some authentic, tried and true octavos for Hanukkah, if you have any!

Happy holidays everyone!!! And Happy New Year!

Holiday Gift Guide for Music Teachers

Happy December 16!! (also Kodály and Beethoven's birthdays!!!)
I'm teaming up with my good friend, Aileen Miracle from Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to blog about some of the items that we love or that would like to get for our classroom!

1.  Touchjet Smart Touch Projector

Moment of truth, because of having a student teacher I have not had a chance to use this in class yet. What is does is it's an android device from which you can access the Internet, google drive and various android apps and project them on a wall, board or other surfaces. It has a pen that makes it interactive. So, if you have an PDF with links, like a lot of the games that I make, you can use it like a SMART Board, but cheaper. The downfall? The light isn't that strong so it can't project that well to make it big but it's great if you have an easel that you can project on, if you're teaching music a la cart. But the way I see it being really useful is in centers. I could see having an interactive game as a center for use on it. OR you could use it for awesome sites like the Dallas Symphony for Kids page.

2. Spheros
My technology teacher is pretty cutting edge and has been having the students learning coding.  While my student teacher was soloing I was in his class learning more and he was teaching a unit on Spheros.  

What he's done is taught the students how to use iPads to control and program Sphero to do certain tasks. Watching him teach made me think there are ways these can be used in the music classroom. He gave me one to play with and I've just ordered 6 more. What I see happening is me programming the Spheros to play random rhythms or melodic patterns when tapped or rolled and the students then decode the patterns that Sphero plays. These have been highly effective in student engagement, especially with some of our specials learners.  

3.  Polydots
What can I say, polydots are awesome and amazing!

  1. Mystery patterns. The teacher performs patterns that the students clap or echo back, as they walk around the room. When the teacher performs the "mystery pattern" the students then find a polydot to stand on to show that they recognize the pattern.
  2. Note heads: using a floor staff (either from Velcro or tape on the floor) or one made from a shower curtain from the dollar tree, (see this blog post), use the polydots to write melodic patterns on the staff.
  3. Grouping: I use these to group students when we're sharing manipulatives and resources. Students go to their assigned color and use the resources that are there.
  4. Relays: in Colorado we sometimes get stuck with have indoor recess. On these days I pull out a relay to give the students a chance to get wiggles out. The Polydots serve as a beginning and ending place for teams and help with organization.
  5. Write on them! You can write solfa patterns or rhythm patterns on them, use them for reading in teams or individuals.

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my eggspert!! We use it for melodic reading a lot- working in teams students have to write patterns together. As a team, once they are finished with the task they ring their buzzer.  A feature that I LOVE about the wireless version is that you can turn certain buzzers off. So, if a team rang in once you can make their buzzer inactive so other teams can chime in. Additionally, if you have those students that keep ringing the buzzer when they're not suppose to you just turn it off as a consequence.

5.  Susan Brumfield's First We Sing Series
These books are top notch. If you're only going to get one, get her Teaching Guide. If you have a little bit more money to spend, get the two song books (and I hear from Susan that book three is almost ready!!! I'm giddy!!!). If you can afford it, get all the supplemental materials: the teaching strategies and activity cards.

6. Aileen Miracle's Planning in a Snap sets
These are phenomenal!!  If you're a novice teacher or an experienced teacher these are great for helping plan your month and provide supplemental teaching materials to incorporate into your plans.  They provide monthly plans, weekly plans and materials for the month!

I am currently working on games for this set:
I'm a little excited about all the games that are going to be in it and am trying to use some new formats to some of the games.  Be on the look out for a Treble Clef Club coming at the end of December and a Orff Instrument Club, which will practice different patterns on the instruments.  It will include diagrams of how to set up your bars and have the students singing the patterns before they play them.

I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week and weekend! Happy Christmas list making! :)

Trepak from the Nutcracker

Hi all!! Happy December! Here in Colorado it hasn't felt much like Christmas until last week. It's been unseasonably warm, but we're making up for it now!!

Today I thought I'd blog about a parachute activity that I learn sometime in my teaching that I do with the Trepak/Russian Dance from the Nutcracker

The kids love it and it's great to teach form ABA form and when we use it with the older kids we talk about the bridge from the B to the second A section.

Before we use the parachute we doing some movement in the classroom where they follow me:
A Section:
Beats 1-4: giant leaping jump, straight up
Beats 5-8: another giant leaping jump, straight up (arms up, legs like you're attempting to do the splits in the air.... but you could do "Rock star" jumps or your own take on it)
Beats 9-16: "firecrackers" in your hands, where you start with a fist and explode the fingers out, for 8 counts, the micro beat of the song)

Repeat this, so you perform it a total of 4 times (it'll match what you hear).

"B" section:
"Wacky Jacks" to the beat- this is what my pe teacher calls them, they're like jumping jacks but you put your right arm parallel to the ground and the left arm straight up while the left leg kicks out and the right leg is on the ground then you hop and switch so everything is vice-verse.  This is done for 16 macro beats (big beats, until you hear the "bursts" of the bridge)

Do those BIG jumps on each explosion of sound, so it's two slow jumps, two medium speed jumps and 4 fast speed jumps)

"A" section:
Repeat above but add the wacky jacks at the accelerando at the end and finish with a big, giant jump.

Then we learn the parachute movements, sans the parachute.  This doesn't take long to learn as they're familiar with the music and the motions match really well.

Then we add the parachute (sorry in advance for the poor resolution):

My kids love to add the snowballs or baby grinches from Oriental trading. It's GREAT fun.

If you're looking for a parachute, this is the parachute I use. Simply click on this affiliate link:

I'll be honest that since I'm not teaching right now, my student teacher is soloing and I'm slowly taking back over, we haven't done much with the Nutcracker.

I did, however, make this set of playing cards for the Nutcracker- you can use them for Old Maid and Go Fish and work GREAT in a sub tub or for centers (and were surprisingly fast to print and cut out!)
click on the images for more information

There are colored cards....

And black and white cards
These turned out so well I'll be making a Peter and the Wolf set and a Carnival of the Animals set for my sub tub!!

If you're looking for more Christmas ideas, check out these bundles, three are from this year: 

The Christmas Songs from Around the World has rhythm and melodic games for every melodic and rhythmic element plus song PDF and games for each song.
The 25 Games for Christmas and Beyond is finishing up the 10 games for Christmas and then will have winter and anytime of the year games.
And this is the second year I'm doing a Bursting Christmas Day Bundle- these are things you can use all year, NOT Christmas related at all!

And to celebrate our last week before break, this weekend only my Christmas MEGA set is 75% off!!! That's a savings of over $50!!

I hope you all are having a WONDERFUL December!!

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