Monday, December 16, 2013

Choir Gifts

I wanted to do something for my choir kids as a thank you for all their hard work this semester. This was a relatively affordable "gift" even though I ended up getting the giant sized Symphony bars (since Walmart didn't have enough of the XL bars stocked....) I conned my sister into helping me cut out the tags and tie up the ribbons.  Here is the finished product.

I designed the tags in powerpoint. Here is a closer picture and a PDF if you'd like to print your own.

Whacky March for Boomwhackers

In December, we have been studying the Nutcracker. Like last year, I used the storybook app and the kids were once again mesmerized by it. In order to use the Nutcracker in the older elementary grades, I drew an arrangement of Whacky March from Music K8.  First, we learned the kazoo part then added the boomwhackers. I was a nice change of pace (for my recorder classes) especially with all the craziness of field trips and parties.

This goes right along with the CD, although we enjoyed playing it unaccompanied.

You can get the PDF HERE

Friday, November 1, 2013

Halloween Treat

I love Halloween and we always have a lot of fun celebrating the not so scary parts of this holiday. My recorder class has been working hard on Recorder Karate this semester, so we decided to work on a fun piece for Halloween. Here is B A Dancing Zombie from Music K8.

All the credit for the acting goes to my students. They made it all up.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Beginning Belts for Recorder

It's recorder time!! My 4th grade classes have been playing for two weeks now. We have been working on fundamentals and playing with a pretty, soft sound. I've also been crazy about articulation. I don't know why but a "fwah" attack drives me insane!

I am doing a couple things differently this year in order to reinforce all these great fundamental habits and really motivate the students. First, like recorder karate, we have 3 beginning belts: Black and Yellow striped, Pink and Sparkly.

Black and Yellow: "B Belt"
Hold a B with a soft, pretty sound for 20 counts with left hand on top and good posture. We practice a breathing exercise every time they come to music up to 24 counts.

Pink: Tonguing Belt
Tongue 4 notes in a row with a tah attack on each one

Sparkly: First solo
Play Hot Cross Buns for the class. I make my students leave their recorders in the classroom until they can play a song as a class. It is a great motivating tool and keeps them from going home and reinforcing bad habits.

Here is a picture of my recorder with the belts attached. I use pipe cleaners and they work like magic. The kids can get them on easily and they stay on! For the B belt, I just twisted yellow and black together. My fifth grade class came up with pink for tonguing. Everyone has gotten a kick out of that. And of course, sparkly is the most exciting belt.

Second, during class I am watching for students who are putting forth great effort and doing the fundamentals well. When I see or hear something great, I give the student a ticket. (Those carnival ride tickets...2000 on a roll for 4 bucks) They write their name on it and place it in the box. At the end of the six weeks, I will draw out x number of tickets and we are having an "Ice Cream Sundae Party."

As a review of fundamentals and a ticket opportunity, I sat in front of the class and performed things wrong, like posture, left over right, breathing, tonguing, etc. I asked the class to figure out what I was doing wrong and when they knew, raise their hand. If the person I called on got it correct, they got a ticket. Every hand in the room was up!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Carnival of the Animals Listening Tickets

Last year, my third grade classes were split by semester. This year we have year long classes with 3rd grade, but they are HUGE!

The good thing is that I can revisit Carnival of the Animals! The librarian and I have decided to do art activities with 3rd grade (because our art teacher travels to the high school after lunch) and I am incorporating that into my Carnival of the Animals unit with 3rd grade. This also coincides with their field trip to the zoo!

As an intro to each lesson, I have decided to play the piece and have the students make a prediction about the animals that is being depicted.

You can get the tickets HERE.

Fossils has a special ticket asking for the name of a familiar song. These tickets are included in the PDF.

Football Rhythms

In 5th grade, I have a room full of boys! I mentioned in an earlier post about playing the rhythm football game. Everyone loves this game! It is definitely worth the 3 bucks! As an additional activity for 5th grade, I created a word rhythm matching worksheet with NFL teams.

I let my classes work with a partner to sound out the teams and match them with the rhythms. My 5th graders are especially interested in college teams so I added a page for them to figure out the rhythm of their favorite college teams.

You can get the PDF file HERE.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sail for Boomwhackers

My 3rd graders are loving boomwhackers right now and so am I! These things are one of my favorite classroom instruments! This summer I added some additional tubes to my collection and now have 6 sets. That seems to be enough to accommodate my largest classes of 24 students. That being said, having more boomwhackers means I can write new songs!

Last year, we played "Somebody That I Used to Know" and everyone enjoyed playing a pop song. So, last week I arranged "Sail" by Awolnation for boomwhackers and we started working on it. The boomwhacker part is the chordal accompaniment and I play the melody on the piano. I did have to transpose the piece because I don't have chromatic notes so we can't play with the recording but everyone seemed to like hearing it on the piano.

I've found when teaching boomwhackers to younger students it is easier to group them and have them play by color. That is how I arranged this piece. Group 1 is A minor, Group 1+ is the A minor chord with D, Group 2 is G major and Group 3 is C major. Then I added the group numbers to the rhythmic notation. To my surprise, this was INCREDIBLY EASY to teach, even the group 1 to 1+ change! They picked it up with no problems.

Just like the groups below, I have the students sit in their groups in a line facing the smartboard. This is easy for them to see when it is their turn to play. The next page in the file is the rhythm with the group numbers. You can download it HERE.
Finally, here is a short clip of a 5th grade class demonstrating this piece. We finished early and they were interested in learning it! I didn't have enough students in the class to fill out the entire chord (they are split between music and library for the semester) but you can still hear the general idea.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Melodic Dictation

So far this year, fourth graders are building skills for playing the recorder. Our recorders should be here next week! We have worked on rhythm and rhythmic dictation and last week we started melodic dictation. Our focus is learning B, A and G this year.

Last year, my first recorder class ever, did really well learning B, A and G on the recorder but many of them struggled to correlate the notes on the staff with the notes on the recorder. So, to fix that, we have worked hard learning about the staff.

My first activity was using Mr. E's Musical Apartment to teach B (Bad Boy), A (Always Awful, the ghost) and G (Good Guy). I drew the characters from the book and laminated them with magnetic tape on the back so they stick to the white board staff. The kids love these characters and have no trouble remembering their names.

We then talked about how Bad Boy and Good Guy have to go to the right apartment or else people would confuse them for each other and Good Guy doesn't want to be confused for Bad Boy.

I used words like BAG, GAB, AB, GAG, BAA to discuss how we read music, left to right. I used the characters to help the students write the notes in the correct order. In BAG, Bad Boy came home first then the ghost was awake, then Good Guy came home. That seemed to help and keep them from stacking the notes when they wrote them.

In my first activity, the students were paired up with a xylophone, a clipboard with a dry erase staff and marker. I would give them the order of the notes and they would write the letter names on the correct lines or spaces. I only used B, A and G. They worked together to write them out and then we played they notes on the xylophone.

To make it harder, I played a pattern on my xylophone and they had to figure it out and write it out on the staff. They did so well with this and really enjoyed it!

Last week (and continuing lessons this week), we all had a dry erase staff. I gave them letters to write down in the correct place and the first correct answer won a prize. My classes love this game! I also threw in some melodic dictation patterns, too.

Here you can find a pdf of my rhythmic dictation worksheet and melodic dictation staff. I put these papers in a page protector and attach them to a clip board to create a dry erase board. They work great!!

In order to connect both the note names and the rhythms we played Rhythm Football. I saw this on Pinterest and bought it from Teacher's Notebook. The kids loved the game! When the scored a touchdown, they earned 6 points and in order to earn the extra point, they had to write B, A or G on the staff.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Classroom Tour

I think I am finally done with my classroom for this year! It was so much easier the second time around!
Here are some pictures!

First, my new curtains! I reused some sheer panels from last year and made 2 panels from fabric we found at Wal-Mart. The valence is actually a vinyl table skirt that we found at a going out of business sale! It already had the peel and stick feature so all we had to do was cut it off to fit the window.

The ukulele cart is now between the windows. I added a vinyl sticker that my husband bought for me. Last year, I had an old tv on a wooden cart there. After an entire year of not using it, I gifted it to another teacher in need. So, I had a big open space to fill this year.

This was on the first day getting back into my room. Thanks to Pinterest, I am using book covers on the backs of my chairs to house pencils, expo markers and erasers. I think that will save time when transitioning between activities.

Also, the cabinets I covered in a scene-setter background last year are now serving as an additional bulletin board. I covered them with a vinyl tablecloth and used magnetic tape to attach my border! Very Easy!!

Thanks to Cara at Miscellaneous Me for the anchor charts! These are so great and fit my classroom perfectly. You can get them from her blog here.

 My piano will work so much better here! BUT, I needed wheels so I could roll it out. The scooters were just for moving purposes but it gave me a great idea....

Furniture movers! I found these at Big Lots for $9.00! And they are the perfect size! When I looked at an actual piano mover/roller/cart, I could get one for $350.00!

I'm also loving the new cover on the piano bench. I love that pattern.

I bought these genre posters last year and placed them above my board; however, that was just too high to use them. So, this year they are more accessible and I'm so glad. They will really help during the 6th grade History of Rock unit.

I debated about using Recorder Karate and finally decided to try it. I didn't want to go overboard with the karate theme so it is very subtle.

Again, thanks to Pinterest, I found so many recorder resources so I didn't have to reinvent the wheel! (which has made my summer so much more relaxing)

Thanks to...
Lauren at Rhythm and Glues for the recorder fingering charts. You can visit her blog here!
Emily at The Sweetest Melody for the Recorder Job Lanyards. You can visit her blog here!
The recorder rules picture from Pinterest! See it here! (If it is yours, let me know so I can give credit!)

I created an 11x17 chart to keep up with who has passed off which belt. You can write the students' names in the blanks and fill in the appropriate box once they have passed off that song. Download it here.

I also made a chart that lets everyone know which song correlates with which belt. I had a fear that students would be asking a million questions about this so I made this chart. You can download it here.

My choir section of the board. I included the choir tips charts and the singing shapes posters as well as a dry erase calendar from the Dollar Tree.

Finally, the ukulele section of my board. This one is not totally complete. I kinda just stuck it up there. I have my student expectations and the 4 chords we are going to (hopefully) master. Also, love that little ukulele chihuahua.

 My one and only formal bulletin board. I wanted to use birds in my room this year so I am calling them song birds. Song birds sing solfege so their word bubbles are do, re, mi.

I made the birds from scrap paper that matched my theme with inspiration from Carson Dellosa's Boho Birds (they kinda scared me a little...weird eyes)

Here is a close up of the poster in the middle. I want to print it 11x17 but that requires a trip to Office Depot. I'll get to it...  This came from here!

My door!! I kinda love how it turned out! I wanted to do an advocacy type door for Back to School Night when parents will be buzzing about. I just cut out a thought bubble from poster board, added some letters and cut out some question marks.

Here is an up close of the answers to the question! You can download them here!

 Unrelated to my room, are these two pictures. The guidance counselor and I have teamed up to make a bulletin board for parents and students to identify ways they can get involved. I added band and choir and she wanted to include a Get Fit program. Between the two of us, we came up with other programs we already had at school to include on our board.

Also, the librarian and I came up with a no curtain, no blinds, no sew, window covering for her windows in the library. We coordinated our fabrics, covered cut pieces of foam board, attached the fabric with no sew double sided fabric tape and stapled the corners (essential upholstering the foam board). We cut the board the exact size of the window so the squares fit snug in the window.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

Hello, Goodbye

This past week was our first week back to school for inservices. Our band director is retiring after this year and he has asked me to take over more of his band responsibilities at the middle school. So, there is a big chance that I will be moving to beginning band for grades 5-7 and only teaching general music for K-4. Nothing is official yet due to scheduling but it is more probable than possible.

So, being the obsessive preparer that I am, I created some resources for my (hopefully) new band classes! Plus, after sitting in those teacher evaluation meetings, standards are on my brain.

Here are some sample standards posters for beginning band based on the Virginia Music Standards of Learning, which are based on the National Music Education Standards.

The wording is adapted for a middle school level. A teacher I worked with in college (while Tennessee was going through their new teacher evaluation training), created a poster that had basic beginning band standards that we do everyday because we are developing skills throughout the class, hence "Everyday, we will.."

You can download all 8 HERE.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Guest Post and Freebies!

In the spirit of "Back to School", my sister (who is starting her internship with the math department at a Knoxville, TN high school) designed a planning packet and included related arts teacher in her designs!

I voiced my complaint that I have 7 classes a day and typically can't find plan books that accommodate that many blocks for lesson planning. I'm sure there are others that can sympathize. So, she created a plan book for secondary teachers (weekly pages) and related arts teachers for K-5, 6-8 and K-7. The best part...they are SO cute and trendy!

Here is a shot of the contents.

Below are some previews

Related Arts K-5

Secondary Weekly

 Like the blue quatrefoil? Here is the link! (All three class breakdowns are in one file.)


Secondary Weekly

Like the teal? Here is the link! (Again, all three types are in one file.)

Friday, August 2, 2013

First Year Reflections and Advice for New Teachers

I spent the last two days working in my classroom and WOW! it is so much easier the second time around! This led me to think about just how different I feel going into year two. I am so much more relaxed and calm and minor details seem to matter a whole lot less.

So, this post is about reflections but also about what I learned and the tips I can share.

1. Pace Yourself...and your students.
You won't be a master teacher on your first day. In my first weeks, I had my (very detailed) lesson plan right next to me during every class. By Winter Break, a lesson plan was no big deal! It was all in my head and if an activity didn't go as I planned, I had a similar activity instantly. You will develop an arsenal of activities based on topic and student interest. Give yourself time.

1a. Give your students time to learn from you.
You have no idea what the teacher before you taught and what their teaching style was. I was lucky that I took over for a great teacher! However, they had to get used to me, my personality, and my teaching style. It took time to see their progress based on the goals I had set for them.

2. Remember why you love music.
I guarantee there will be days that you would rather be anything than a teacher. There were days when middle school attitudes drove me crazy, but there were also days when my students made me so happy and proud. In my opinion, the good outweighs the bad (but be prepared for the bad.)

3. Change is good!
Just because something has been done the same way for twenty years doesn't mean that it is necessarily the easiest or best way. Use your new, fresh ideas and energy for the good and don't be afraid to at least try.

4. Mistakes are the best learning tool.
This is just common sense, really.

5. Invest in a personal laminator!
When you spend so much time creating resources you want them to last! Personally, I don't care for the school laminator. It is very temperamental and if it isn't hot enough (aka you don't have 30 minutes to wait) it doesn't seal well.

So, invest in a personal laminator for home use. I got one from Wal-Mart for 30 bucks! The best money I've spent on my classroom.  Also, if you have a Sam's Club membership, check for the laminating pouches there. I found a pack of 200 for $20.00!!! At Wal-Mart, a pack of 50 is $14.00.

6. Be a friend, especially to the custodians and the secretaries.
These people run the school! And if you need something, they are the ones to ask. It is good to have them on your side. Thank you notes and appreciation gifts go a long way, especially around concert time when stress levels are already high (winter break, testing, etc).

7. If you can't be nice, be quiet.
Again, common sense. You don't know who is friends with whom. It is best to just keep quiet and observe. When in doubt, be quiet and smile.

8. Comfort before the case of shoes!
Let's be honest, high heels just aren't made for this job! Cheap flats aren't either. I learned that really quickly. Invest in some quality shoes that you can stand in all day, because you will be standing all day.

9. Embrace Technology!
Technology is here to stay so the more you know about it, the better. iPad apps, Interactive Whiteboards, Document Cameras, Powerpoint, graphic design software, sound equipment, Netflix (documentaries/rockumentaries), and a VGA adapter for iPad/Pod/Phone are all things I use everyday in one way or the other. It makes my life so much easier! Technology is awesome.

9 a. Sound Equipment
If you don't have quality sound equipment in your classroom, invest in some NOW! A boombox will not cut it. My wonderful, rocker husband loaned me his portable Marshall guitar amp and it has been amazing. I use it all day, every day (choir practices and performances, ipod with aux cable, iPad with aux cable, computer speaker for videos, microphone plug in)

10. Always have a Plan B.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Think ahead.
Be prepared.

Something will go wrong and if you think it won't, you are in for a rough year. Always having a plan B will save you from those "uhhhhh" moments.

Plan B Tips
*Arrive early.
*Have the classroom set up for the day (to avoid any "unprepared" surprises)
*Write out your lesson plans and PLAN MORE ACTIVITIES THAN YOU NEED!
*Practice your songs, instruments, dances, etc.
*Test your technology.
*Save multiple copies in multiple places.
*Check the compatibility of those saved copies.
Have all the necessary cords at your disposal and within arms reach.
Establish classroom routines and practice them to avoid chaos in the event of an "uh-oh" moment.
 (entering the classroom, Hello Song/Bell Ringer, passing out instruments and supplies, etc.)
*Know your IEPs and Allergy Care Plans
  (especially for walk through observations and to avoid health emergencies)
Keep your keys around your neck. Don't lock them in or leave them somewhere!

*These tips are all first hand experience that I observed and helped teach my student intern this year. Take this advice, things will go wrong! Be prepared.

As much as I've learned last year, I'm sure there is more coming this year. It is just so wonderful to have the stress of the first year over with. Looking back though, it was nothing to stress about or worry with. In the words of my college professor, "if you love music and you love kids, you will do great."

Be patient, be creative, be positive. The rest will fall into place.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Singing Tips Posters for Choir

I've been searching for some sort of poster to display in my room to help my choir remember the fundamentals. I couldn't find exactly what I wanted to I decided to make it.

There are 7 posters in all that include basic singing tips such as breathing, posture, performing, listening, and being positive and prepared. Here are a few examples.

You can download the PDF HERE

The borders are not my own creation. I found them for free on from the following stores:
Digital Swirls Creations
Teacher Clipart
The 3am Teacher
Lovin Lit
Wild About 5th
Graphics from the Pond

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Also, I found a great freebie on Pinterest today from These signs look very helpful so I simply downloaded them and put them into a PDF to make them easier to print. These are not my own creation.

Download the PDF HERE

Sunday, July 21, 2013


Summer is winding down and I'm really excited to share something I've been working on this summer.

In late April/early May, I was able to order a class set of ukuleles! This is something I thought 7th grade students would really enjoy. That being said, I had never taught ukulele so I faced the task of creating a curriculum. I want to share resources I've created and those that I've found.

Resources from the Web
Kiwi Ukulele - I found this site on the web. It includes a great chord chart, chord diagram clipart and a great teacher resource pdf.

Ukulele Hunt - Awesome site with chords for popular songs, tutorials and tab.

Ukulele in the Classroom - Lots of FREE stuff including chord diagrams (poster size), music, flashcards, quizzes, and a cute poster of a little chihuahua playing a uke.

Cathy's Chords - Lots of ukulele songs with chords

Ukulele Tricks - Links to great video tutorials, especially one on strumming.

Ukulele Notebook 
I used the above resources to create a ukulele notebook for my students full of info on the uke, a chord chart and songs with chords and tab. Finding resources and hunting through them was a daunting task. If you would rather have my ukulele notebook, click here!

Course Syllabus and Loan Agreement
 I am so protective over these new instruments that I included a syllabus with all my expectations and an instrument loan agreement. This is something so new at our school that I figured, "better safe, than sorry."
Here is a link to my syllabus and loan agreement.

Beginning Ukulele Lesson
I created a beginning ukulele lesson (Smart Notebook file), including history of the uke, parts of the uke, names of the strings, information on tuning, strumming, and how to read chords and tab. If you would like a copy, comment and I will email you!

Pinterest Hint
I saw the "Ukulele by Dot" post at Treble in the Classroom and realized that is basically a must! I only have my 7th graders for a semester so I need all the time savers I can get!

Storing the Ukuleles
My dad and I designed and built this cart for the ukuleles!

I also have a ukulele bulletin board to put up, including my student expectations and chord diagrams. As soon as I'm able to work in my classroom, I'll add pictures of that, too.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Choir Basic Training

I just found out that this year, I have a choir class during school! I'm so excited.

Last year was definitely a learning experience with choir. I really didn't know what to expect as far as their abilities. This year, I am going to hit the basics and try to build fundamental skills, especially with new choir members coming. I was already working on a choir resource to help with sight singing skills when I found out about the class. This PDF is a version of my Choir Basic Training presentation.

In my version, the first slides are about student expectations, dress code, attendance policy, etc. I took those out for the shared version because everyone does something different. I left the basics of breathing, posture, rhythm review, rhythm patterns, warm ups and sight singing examples.

Get the presentation here.

I also added the PDF of sight singing examples. I plan to work on these at each rehearsal and include them in our warm up. Get the PDF here.