A Linky Party: Ideas for Surviving the End of the School Year

Hi everyone!  And happy Mother's Day to all you moms out there!

I've got 9 days of school left so I thought I'd host another LINKY Party!!!  There are so many talented music teachers out there blogging so I can't wait to read some of their posts about what they do to survive the end of the year.  If you're wanting to link up, please scroll to the bottom of this post (sorry, it's a little long!!!)

I'm going to list four things that I keep in the back of my mind when I think about the end of the year:

  1. Make sure I'm forward planning.  The end of the year is a a lot about review and planting seeds for next year.  I do a lot of review games but I also start singing games that we're going to use in the first month of the next grade level so that I can have the song repetoire in their ears. This one I'm going into greater detail below.
  1. Make sure I'm having fun.  If I get stressed out thinking about grading 5 grades times 550 students that's only going to trickle down into problems in the classroom.  The kids know when you're having a bad day or when you're stressed out.  So, I make sure to be present in my teaching, have fun, challenge the students but laugh and make music.  To avoid feeling overwhelmed with grades I focus on half of one grade level a day.  That's only a little over 50 students, which is easier to tackle then 550 in one sitting!
  1. I check in with my team mates.  If I think I'm stressed about 5 x 550 grades (plus two kinder springs sings) I can only imagine how stressed my pe teacher is with planning the ALL school field day, the librarian with getting all of her inventory of books in BEFORE report cards go home (in our district if a student has any books out they don't get their report card.  Although, now we're on electronic report cards so I think parents cannot access it unless all books are in or paid for).  I find that the more I support them, the more we communicate and help each other the more "even keel" we are as a team.  Plus, surprising your teammates with Starbucks every now and then doesn't just make their day but it give me a warm-fuzzy as well!!
  1. I check in with my classroom teacher friends.  We're all in this boat together and the stronger your support system amoungst your teachers the better the school climate.  The teachers in my school have been testing our kids unrelentlessly.  Not because they want to. They'd rather teach.  But they're required to test so they do. And that means that if, with two weeks left of school, that they have to pull a student out of my class that it's okay.  They NEVER do otherwise.  I'm very lucky that way!

A Little More on FUN Review and Forward planning:
There are a few elements that I take into consideration here.  Number one is mastery of the concepts that the students need to know in order to get to the concepts they need to learn next year.  So, I do a lot of review and we do this through games.

With kindergarten we're doing a lot of beat vs. rhythm games so that way in the first couple months of 1st grade we can present ta  and ti-ti.  One of their favorite is my "Magic Drum".  At the beginning of the kindergarten year I use the "Magic Drum" to cast a spell on their feet and then drum controls their feet.  If I keep a steady beat they walk, if I play a quarter-eighth (6/8 meter) pattern the gallop or skip.  If the drum is played softly they tip toe, if the drum played loudly they stop.  If the drum is played slow they step slowly and if it's played fast they .. . . . well, they run!  It's great fun.  But at the end of the year I'm forward planning, knowing that I'm going to want to get to ta and ti-ti.  So, instead of it being JUST the magic drum, the magic drum now plays either the beat or the rhythm of a chant that they know and their feet must match the drum.  I do choose to use chants rather than songs because it's a little easier.  That being said, I have one kindergarten class that can really handle matching pitch which listening ans responding to the drum so I'll change it up for that class.  Another way to differentiate is to let the kids be the "magicians". That is, they play either the beat or "the way the words go."

My first graders will be doing a lot of review of ta, ti-ti & rest and so-mi.  We'll be playing review games such as this favorite (that I didn't bring out until this coming week to keep them really engaged.  I know that once we do it they'll ask for it at the next lesson, which is the last time that I will see them for this school year.  How awesome to have them WANTING to read and practice rhythmic reading.  Although, if you ask them, they're playing with ligth sabers!)

Some of the forward planning that we'll be doing will be playing games that contain half note and la, in both the s-l-s-m  turn and the s-m-l-s-m turn.  We'll probably go outside and play "We Are Dancing in the Forest".  And we'll play this is a very FUN la game. 

In this game, the students are in two lines, facing each other.  The students in the lines are the "houses."  One student will be assigned to be the "cop".  The cop faces away and one of the "houses" is assigned to be the "robber".  Now, the "cop" can go anywhere": the alley (the area between the two lines in a traditional two line set) is assigned as the street and the area behind the houses (behind the students) are assigned as the "alleys."  We talk about how all neighborhoods use to have alleys, none of them in our area do so we have to define this.  The cop does not know who the robber is until the end of the song. Afte the students sing the song, the robber may only run through the alleys to stay away from the cop (running out of their spot and returning after one full run around all the houses to where they started).  The cop, however, may run both in the alleys and the street. The kids LOVE this.  You can easily transition into a s-m version of "poison" but instead of calling it a "poison" pattern, you call it the "stollen" pattern.  It's great aural practice of so-mi but they're playing a game and having fun!!!

With my second graders we're going to be reviewing half-note & do and we'll be using this game to do some of that this week:

Additionally, they did learn re so we'll be using some of the "Swat that Fly" re games to do this.  They LOVE This game.  You can read about it in this post.

My second graders will also be playing a lot of tika-tika games.  We're really close to presenting it but with two lessons left in the year it's pointless to present it.  We'll just continue with those fun games!

My third graders will be practicing low so and ti-tika.  We're going to be doing game that have tika-ti in them and high do in addition to practice games for low so and ti-tika.

For ti-tika review we'll be playing "Slug Bug" as thematically I can tie it in with summer vacations.
It works pretty much like the swat the fly games but I have them play it in smaller groups with everyone having a mini guitar fly swatter that I found on Amazon:

 Here's what the small Slug Bug cards look like:
Forward planning for 3rd grade, this week we'll be playing "John Kanaka," "I Lost the Farmer's Dairy Key" to prepare high do but also play "Our Old Sow" and "Sailing On the Ocean" to review low so.  We'll play "Over the River/Charlie" and "Bubblegum" to prepare tika-ti.

Now, to keep 4th and 5th grade engaged and learning at the end of the year, I do my recorder "unit".  I really wish I could come up with a system that worked for me to have them play the recorders all year round.  But I'm not sure that would lend itself as well to the Recorder "Karate" that I've done in the past.  I mention done in the past because this year I've been working on a "Recorder is AWESOME" file which is Building Block (aka Lego) themed.  I'm LOVING the way it's working but it's become pretty big.  I do have colored levels, and use the same colors as Recorder Karate so I can give them strings for their recorders but we talk a lot about the "building blocks" of a song. Here's an example from "Hot Cross Buns":

**  a little side note: I'm using lower case letters for the form because it's only ONE measure.  If it was a larger section of music then it would warrent an upper case letter.  By 4th and 5th grade they know this and it doesn't throw them off.

I've redone my packets as well, here's a preview (I'm hoping to finish this soon!)

We've playing "Find the Building Block Games" in which cards like this
 are scattered on the floor (like legos are.  If you're a mom you know what I'm talking about!)
I'll either sing or play a pattern and they want to find the card that has that pattern.

We've played Recorder King of the Mountain, which they LOVED:

And this week we'll play an  "I Have/Who Has?" Recorder game: 

Recorders are VERY motivating and the students are dying to come in and test all the time!

We'll also be playing singing games, just like with the other classes.  A really fun one is one that I re-blogged about on "Throw Back Thursday" a couple weeks ago:

Formation:  standing circle, with partners facing each other with and extra player in the middle.

Action:  The song is sung numbers one through twenty while the players clap a steady beat.  At the word "Twenty-one" a partner clapping pattern begins as such: 
Beat one of each measure all players pat both hands on their legs.
Beat two of each measure players clap their own hands.
Beat three of each measure players pat the hands of their partners.
The other action that begins when the text says "twenty-one" is the middle player (the person without a partner) cuts into one of the sets of partners, replacing one of the players who then becomes the new person in the middle.  This action continues throughout the game with the new center person cutting into a new set of partners and taking one of their places and leaving the partnerless person to become the new center person.  This continues until "one-hundred" and the goal is to not be the person in the center without a partner.  

Forward planning with 4th grade, in addition to the recorder we'll be playing games that contain ti  and tom-ti.  Here are two of my favorites:

Formation: double circle, facing a partner
Action: on "Cross town" players cross arms across their chest on the word "cross" and one "town" they pat their legs.  After that they start the pattern clap own hands-clap right hands with partner-clap own hands-clap left hands with a partner.  This repeats until the next "Cross Town."  Once students have mastered the clapping patterns, they rotate to the left every time they sing "cross town."

2.         Black them boots and make them shine, Goodbye, goodbye

            Black them boot and make them shine, Goodbye Liza Jane

            Goin’ down to Cairo, Goodbye, Goodbye
            Goin’ down to Cairo, Goodbye Liza Jane

3.         The old cow died and how I cried, Goodbye, goodbye.
            The old cow died and how I cried, Goodbye Liza Jane.
            Oh, how I loved her, Goodbye, Goodbye
            Oh how I loved her, Goodbye Liza Jane

Formation: single circle with 6-10 couples, 8 preferred
Verse 1:  circle left, single file.  Players may walk or use a shuffle-stamp two step.
Verse 2-end:  grand right and left.

Have a great day!


  1. I should've commented on this much earlier, but I LOVE your "The Recorder is Awesome". I will probably be purchasing that over the summer and using it with my class next year. What a great way to get them to understand "chunking" in their instrumental practice. I'm constantly reinforcing this idea with my classes, to help them better understand how to practice. I think using legos is a great visual and will really be meaningful to them :) Thanks for a great post!

  2. You have put in a ton of work here. Thank you so much for sharing. As a first-year music teacher, I so appreciate all the help I can find.


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