Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Princeless Princess

This Spring my after school groups (Chorus, Orff and Recorders) performed the musical "The Princeless Princess".  This is a Randy and Jeff publication and the 2nd of their musicals I have performed with my kids.  Last winter we did "Five Golden Rings" and it was just as adorable as this musical.

I love these musicals because they come with everything; orchestration, text, staging, movement and costume suggestions.  The price is very reasonable ($20.00 + shipping) and the best part is that everything is kid done.  This is something the art teacher and I have been striving towards since opening our school a few years ago.  Up until this performance even the back drop and props were made by our art club (my art teacher was 8 1/2 months pregnant by the time this performance came around).

I love musicals and they have become a spring tradition at our school. Some of the things I like to do are:

-Put every child in costume.
I know, this sounds impossible but it can be done. The costume does not have to be extravagant. For some of the characters in this musical all I provided was a beret and handkerchief. I think that putting everyone in costume (even instrumentalists) makes the performance special for everyone and it helps set the scene for the audience.

-Involve kids in the whole process.
Duh! I know this is probably a give in but sometimes I get so wrapped up in getting everything rehearsed and done for the performance that I forget to slow down and get the kids in put. Have the kids help make decisions about entering, exiting the stage, movement, props, etc. It's their performance and they will take so much more pride in a production they helped create. Although I love the fact that Randy and Jeff give you everything, I use it as a jumping off point. What can we do to make it our own?

-Find Hidden Talents
Use your kids talents to make it a special production. This year I found out that one of my 4th grade chorus boys loves to sew! He made the robes for the King and Princes. What a great memory! It was so cute to hear the kids brag to their friends about the boy in chorus that "made" the costumes. :)

-Promote Your Program
Giving a performance that demonstrates the gamut of the Orff process is a great way to show parents what kids are doing not only after school but in your classroom. It also shows younger students what they can be a part of when they are in 3rd, 4th, 5th grade.

Some suggestions for getting resources:

-Teacher Wishlist
At Meet Your Teacher and Open House I make sure to put out a list of items that I could use in my classroom. These don't have to be items families have to spend money on. I include old Halloween costumes, fabric remnants, stuffed animals/puppets, etc. to my list. You'll be surprised at what shows up in your mailbox or at your door. Some of the fabric I used for this musical was donated by a parent who had a bunch of scrap fabric laying around her house.

I recently did my first project on donorschoose.org. I wasn't really sure how the whole process worked, so I kept it simple. I asked for a variety of materials and I was truly surprised at how quickly the project was funded and easy the process was. Don't just look at Woodwind and Brasswind. I was able to request fabric by the yard from one of the art supply companies. The fabric I received helped costume some of the children this year and will make more costumes for next year.

Ask parents, teachers, family members for coupons. When I was looking for fabric this year JoAnn's had an amazing ad with twenty coupons in it. I saved myself $300 on fabric because I had the coupons!

Parents are a wonderful resource. Create an email distribution list for your performing groups. This is a great way to keep parents informed about upcoming events and to enlist their help. Parents helped me this year by volunteering their time to make costumes/props, shop for items we needed, serve ice cream at our end of the year party, etc. These parents not only help with what the kids need but they are usually the parents who come to be your greatest advocates.

-Older Siblings
Many of my students have brothers and sisters in middle and high school. These students can be a great resource to take advantage of. One of these older siblings of a student at my school happens to be a truly talented artist. She makes beautiful posters and props for our productions and in exchange she can use this time as part of her volunteer hours.

This is the display case in the lobby of our school. It's a great place to advertise music events.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What is a Musician?

I originally saw this poster on Pinterest and I thought it would be really cute for the music room as "What is a musician?".

I was fiddling around in my sketch book and this is what I drew.

I have been thinking about the adjectives I should use to describe what a musician is and this is what I have so far...
  • creates
  • listens
  • plays
  • composes
  • performs
  • sings
  • improvises
  • conducts
What else would you add to the poster?  Of course I would rather have this be an interactive process with the kids but my interaction time is greatly decreased next year because of population growth.    Please feel free to make your suggestions via the comment section for this blog.  Thanks!  :)

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kindergarten Visuals

Earlier in June I posted a picture of visuals I use for Kindergarten seating in my classroom.  Here is the link to that post:  Kindergarten

I know they are simple visuals but why reinvent the wheel, right?  :)  Please feel free to use these in your own classroom.

Hall of Fame

I am very fortunate to have my room back up directly to the stage.  While this is convenient for a number of reasons, it also means extra wall space.  This hallway is directly behind my classroom and it links me to the backstage area and the cafeteria, so this wall is visible to students as they eat lunch.  After every big performance my performing ensembles sign the concert poster (got this idea from my supervising teacher during my internship).

After everyone has signed, I have the poster laminated and then it is hung in the "Hall of Fame".  Unfortunately, part of one of the posters fell before I had the chance to laminate it and someone decided it was trash.  :(

This is a tradition the kids really look forward to and the little ones love to tell me about their older brothers and sisters who were part of past performances.  We have only been open for a few years now, so I only have one wall covered but as we grow so will the Hall of Fame!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

More Recorder...

I wanted a recorder fingering chart that combined the staff, note name and an image of how to play the pitch but I couldn't find anything online that I liked or was large enough to be seen across the room.  I created these posters for my classroom and the kids reference them all the time.  I only have these up but I made an entire set with flats and sharps included.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Maestro of the Month

At the end of last school year I realized that there were so many outstanding kids that had worked really hard in music but had not really been recognized for their efforts.  My solution...Maestro of the Month!

Each month I pick one kid who has been doing an outstanding job and they receive some school-wide recognition.  

  • Maestro for a Day
    • I have a tux that was donated by a parent.  It's adult size so it looks extra adorable on the little kids.  They get to wear the tux for the whole day.  
  • Backpack
    • I got this idea from Sandy Lantz and Gretchen Wahlberg at my Level I.  I take some small instruments (triangle, maracas, etc.) and books, things that I have acquired a lot of and put them in a backpack.  The Maestro gets to take the backpack home for the month and enjoy.
  • Certificate
    • Each Maestro gets a certificate to take home and proudly share with their family.
  • Look Who's A Shining Star
    • In the hallway outside my classroom I have a bulletin board with this message.  Each Maestro gets their name on a star and they get to staple it anywhere on the bulletin board.  (I'll take pictures during pre-planning.)
  • Spotlight Video
    • Each month I create a short video of the Maestro and my Spotlight Performer's (I'll post about this later.)  The video is usually around 3' in length and our media specialist plays it on the morning announcements.  
  • Maestro Bulletin Board
    • In my classroom I have a whiteboard where I post a picture of the Maestro with their name, grade and teacher's name.  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Summer Project

One of the projects I want to work on this summer is solving the road blocks between me and my doc cam.  The layout of my classroom this year made it difficult to get to my doc cam when I wanted to display a recorder song, slideshow, video, etc.  Basically, I had to do a complete U-turn from where I usually do my direct instruction to get to my doc cam.

I think I have found the perfect spot at the front of my room but I need something to put the doc cam on.  I found this changing table from Ikea (Sniglar is the line.) but I think that I'm going to pretty it up by spray painting it a fun color and finding some fun baskets to put on the bottom shelf.  I'll post pics of it once it is pretty and in place!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Silver Belt

During my 1st year of teaching I complained to my mentor that I was having a hard time getting students to complete written work geared towards recorders.  She shared some of her written assignments with me and suggested requiring students to complete the worksheet in addition to playing the belt song.  I tried this out the following year and it became difficult for me to keep on top of all of this.  Below is one of the ways I solved this dilemma.

In order to earn their silver belt, students have to write and perform an original composition.  In their recorder packets is a copy of this worksheet.  Once they have completed their silver belt, I hang it on the "Featured Composers" wall outside my classroom.

I have found that by completing this one assignment a lot of musical concepts click a bit more for my students.  They seem to be more aware of meter, not value, etc.

Something I found that I didn't like about this format was the worksheet itself.  I think next year I will revamp it so that there is a brainstorming area where students can first create their rhythm before worrying about the melody.

Graphing Recorder Belts

Recorder Karate is a big deal at my school.  The kids love earning new belts and seeing the progress they and their classmates make throughout the year.  The program has become a highlight of my 4th and 5th grade classes.  It's amazing to watch the kids cheer each other on, especially when its a classmate who has struggled with covering the wholes or reading the staff.

This idea originally came from a presentation at my Level I.  The teacher that presented had a poster per class.  I liked the idea but I would have had to hang a lot more posters in my hallway.  This is what I came up with to fit my situation.

There is a poster for each belt (except rainbow I have to create that poster for next year) and each class is listed at the bottom of the graph.  This is a nice way for kids to see how many belts their class has earned.

I used poster board, a graph easel pad, a glue stick and markers to create my posters.  The easel pad paper had to be cut a bit to fit on the poster board.  I used our large paper cutter so that I would get a straight edge.  I had the posters laminated at Office Max so that they would be sturdier.

I keep track of belts earned during our lessons on a sheet of paper inside the class folder (I will post an image of my class folders later.).  After the lesson, I use Vis-aVis markers to chart new belts so that I can easily wipe the graphs off at the end of the year.

The only problem I encountered was little fingers erasing the bars on the graphs.  I have heard that you can use permanent marker on laminated materials and erase it later using a little more ink but I was afraid to try it.  Maybe I will test a spot on the back before starting next year.

At the end of the year the top earning class in 4th grade and the top in 5th grade each get an ice cream party.  It's great motivation and a nice way to recognize a class that may not have earned a group award earlier in the year.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Recorder Karate

This idea came from Mrs. Maddy, a teacher in my county.  By my door I have a stand with a binder of all the Recorder Karate songs.  Each song is copied onto a piece of cardstock that reflects the belt color.  At the end of our lesson students line up and I listen to students play for belts until their teacher arrives.

In a box next to the door I have all of the yarn and beads that I use for recorder karate.  I select a responsible student to cut belts so that I can focus on listening to students perform.  

Common Board Configuration

My county adopted the Common Board Configuration this year.  It took me a couple of tries and a lot of thought before I came up with something I liked.  I used duct tape and sheet protectors to create mine.  I can place a printed copy of each goal, activity, etc. for each grade level in the pockets and quickly flip them before the next class comes in.  It's still not ideal but better than using my entire white board!

Performer's Corner

I have 3 performing ensembles and keeping everyone on the same page can sometimes be difficult.  In an effort to lessen confusion over rehearsal/performance schedules I have taken a number of steps.  I created email distribution lists to email parents weekly about rehearsal schedules, morning and afternoon announcements, and the Performer's Corner.  Outside my classroom door I have a place to hang the most current newsletter and a calendar that lists the rehearsals/performances that are happening that month.  The purple and orange tabs on the calendar are Post-it's (I'm not sure of the exact name, sorry).  On the post-it's I write the name of the group that is rehearsing.  I can reuse these from month to month and if they stop sticking I add a bit of sticky tack.  I often see parents and students stop by to check out what is happening.


I have seen Memory games made a number of ways, including using seasonal paper plates.  This version is something I made quickly for an end of the year center.  My 3-5 students played this game and really enjoyed the challenge of trying to find matches.  This game is music/rest memory.  To make a match students had to find the note/rest name and the image.  I also made a version of this for practice with the staff.  Easy to create and fun to play!

Carpet Rhythms

Carpet Rhythms is another center idea.  I first introduce this as people rhythms with 1st grade at the beginning of the year.  Each carpet square is one beat and students can create rhythms with ta, ti-ti and rests by standing on the carpet squares.

At the end of the year I revisited this idea but with bean bags instead of people.  Students composed their own 4 beat rhythms and then the group performed the rhythm with body percussion.  Two bean bags on a beat = ti-ti, one = ta, no bean bag = rest.  The kids loved creating their own rhythm patterns!

The Sound House

I love Randy and Jeff's Game Plan curriculum and I adapted this center from a lesson in their 1st grade book.

The Sound House is an activity I introduced during a regular lesson and then used as a center during the last few weeks of school.  In "The Sound House" (which is just a tri-fold board that I covered in white butcher paper and had a student decorate) there are unpitched percussion instruments we have played throughout the year.  One student sits in the house while the rest of the group sits criss cross applesauce in the front yard.  The student in the house plays a short pattern on one of the instruments.  The students waiting in the yard raise their hands to guess which instrument it was.  If they get it correct they get to take the next turn in "The Sound House".


I finally found a solution for seating Kindergartners this year!  My classes 1-5 sit on FlipForm risers but these are too much of a distraction for Kindergarten.  So this year I posted some shapes under my white board.  Each shape is for a row of students.  At the beginning of the year I assign each child a row and a place in that row.  It takes two rotations before they've got it but it makes the rest of the year a breeze.  I can redirect students by recognizing a row that is making good choices, use this as a way to call students to line up and it is even great for taking turns at instruments.  Similar to what Artie Almeida does in Mallet Madness, I use my rows to take turns at instruments.  After they have taken their turn students go to the end of the row and we rotate until everyone has had a turn.


As I'm cleaning up my room and getting ready for summer (only 4 more days!), I am trying to organize things that have caused headaches throughout the year.  One thing that drove me up a wall was when I could find a poster but not the manipulatives that go with it.  My solution was Trend Poster Storage Boxes, Ziploc Bags, and Velcro dots.  Below are some images of how I organized my posters.

 I started by organizing posters by grade level.  I listed the posters that are inside the sleeve and then I velcroed a ziploc bag with any small items to the front of the sleeve.  I know my stickers aren't the cutest but its something I can always change later.

I did not put all the small items in the ziploc bag on the front of the sleeve.  If the manipulatives went with a poster I attached them to the back of the poster.  The pictures above are an example of one of the posters.

I'm still working on organizing my other miscellaneous posters.  When everything is complete I'll post pics.

Music Note Twister

I wish I could remember who had originally given me this idea but all I can say for now is that it isn't my original idea.  I played this game during the last few weeks of school as a center.  My classroom was in disarray because of performances and I had to quickly come up with something that would keep the kids engaged but we could do with limited resources (i.e. instruments).

This center worked with 2-5 students.  The rules are the same as regular Twister except for using the colors.  Instead of calling out a color, students had to call out the note name the spinner had landed on.  This is a great game to help reinforce note names.

Great Musicians Always....

I am so blessed to have an amazing art teacher at my school.  She truly inspires everyone around her to connect with their inner artist.  I have not been immune to her artistic inspiration.  Last summer I spent time drawing images that I thought would remind students of some of the things Great Musicians Always Do.  This board is at the front of my room and is a great way to redirect students when they are acting a bit silly.

I can tell it has made an impact because during Teacher Appreciation Week I received the sweetest little note from a student.  In the message she said "Thank you for believing we can all be Great Musicians".  It's one of those notes that brought a tear to my eye!

Word Wall

Every year I like to add a new display somewhere in my classroom for students to reference during lessons.  One of my most successful displays is my word wall.  It's not 100% complete yet but it is something the kids use more and more frequently to find a word to describe what they are hearing in the music.  Like I said this is not complete but every time we learn a new word it is easy enough to print that word and add it to the wall.  I think I might redo some words to add a picture because this seems to really help kids make connections to the musical meaning.  

Since the words are not permanently affixed to a surface, I can move them during my lessons.  For example, during a lesson on forte and piano, I will hold those two words up at the appropriate time in the music.  I may also have a student point to the dynamic they want students to use during a performance of a piece.

The elements of music toppers were easy enough to make in word and I printed them on legal paper and then backed them with colored construction paper.  After laminating, I attached the toppers to the cabinets with sticky tack.  I found these pocket charts at Target during back to school.  They usually have different colors and they seem to have them from year to year.  I attached the pocket charts with velcro strips so that I could put them away for the summer and easily reattach the following year.


Welcome to my music blog.  After spending hours on Pinterest, I thought there were some ideas that I could share with the music ed community.  By no way am I an expert but there are some organization, decor and lesson planning ideas that I thought others could benefit from.  Ideas to come soon.  :)
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