Friday, September 28, 2012

First Grade Lesson: Up and Down

I don't feel that this lesson is earth shattering or innovative but it worked.  The kids were successful, it was a great review and it was a lot of fun.

1.  Hello Song (3 min.)
 - We do this at the beginning of every class with steady beat movements.  I will probably continue it through the first quarter before picking a new hello song, just to keep things fresh.

2.  Sing Me Your Name  (7 min.)
- I demonstrate how my voice can move up and down by singing a simple SM phrase "Sing Me Your Name".  What's very cute is how all of the kids kind of move their head up and down slightly with me. Then we practice the answer together "My Name is ______" and everyone fills in the blank.  After we practice I go around the room and each student gets to sing solo into the magic microphone.

3.  Moving Up and Down (3 min.)
-This week I had my flute with me, so I played scale patterns up and down and the students responded with movement.  I really liked how this worked.  While I have done this with my students before, I really liked how playing the patterns on the flute made them listen carefully.  When I play a barred instrument or the piano they can see my hands and respond to the direction I move my hands.  Some of the students aren't truly listening.  I will have to remember this in future years.

4.  Playing Up and Down (10 min.)
-In K we learned how to play upwards and downwards glissandi on the glockenspiel.  We reviewed mallet technique and what bar to start on to play up/down.  Then we moved to the floor, seated in 6 lines.  I would say up or down and the person at the glockenspiel would play 1 up/down glissandi.

5.  Hickory Dickory Dock (Idea from Game Plan) (3 min.)
-We have used this poem during the previous 2 lessons moving our voice up and down like the mouse in the poem.  We played up/down sounds on the words in the poem during this lesson.

6.  Mortimer (Mallet Madness) (12 min.)
-If you have not checked out Artie's Mallet Madness, you definitely should!  I love this little story (it reminds me of my brother when he was 2).  For the first reading the kids sang along with me and showed a thumbs up/down for the sounds I was making with my voice.  Afterwards we played up/down sounds on the glockenspiels to help tell the story.  You can find more details in Artie's book.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Lines and Spaces

I can't tell you how much my kids love this video!  I played it for them during the 3rd rotation and they remember it verbatim.  I'm sure you can imagine what they look like trying to do the dance moves.  :)

It has been a breeze to teach the lines and spaces this year thanks to this video.  The kids just get it!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Only 4 Days Left to Win!

I will draw the winner of the 5S Line Giveaway on Sunday.  If you would like to be entered for a chance to win, make sure you are a member of my blog who has made at least one comment during the month of September.  Good Luck!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Rhythm Building Blocks

I learned about the Rhythm Building Blocks (technically called Bricks in Keetman's book) during my level II.  I loved the idea but I have never really incorporated them into my lessons.  This year I am trying to find as many ways as possible to incorporate them.  I have found that my kids have a hard time with clapping the rhythm of words, so it's something that I want to work on throughout the year.

I started the year off using them with 2nd grade (I wrote about this lesson earlier:  2nd Grade: First "Real" Lesson).  For this lesson, I chose the words to coordinate with each rhythm pattern but the next time we experience them, I will choose a theme and ask the kids to come up with words that fit the rhythms.  This is not only a great way for kids to visualize the rhythm but there is such a strong connection to syllables and reading.  I actually write the words under each rhythm using a dry erase marker (my blocks are laminated), so that I can easily move them from place to place.

To help build this into my lessons and visually remind myself (I am very visual!), I posted them on my cabinets.  Now they are easily visible and accessible anytime.  If something happens in the creative process we can just pull them down and create an ostinato, introduction, etc. on the spot.  They are also placed where the kids can see them while sitting in line, so I'm thinking we can even play a game with them at some point this year.

I attached the blocks to my cabinets using velcro dots (what a fabulous product!).  I made sure to put the loop side on the block so that they won't scratch any little fingers if we take them down to move around the room.

Don't have a set of blocks?  They are a free resource here:

Monday, September 24, 2012

My Instrument

I have started a year long study of instrument families with my 2nd graders.  Each 9 weeks we will focus on a different instrument family.  I started with the Woodwinds during the first rotation.  We talked about how an instrument fits in that family.  The second rotation we listened to the clarinet and looked at actual clarinet reeds and this week starts the 3rd rotation.  My principal instrument is the flute and I am so excited to share my instrument with my students but I must say I am struggling with my technique.

Now I know that the kids will hear me and be amazed (because they are oh so sweet) but on a personal level I can't help but think back to my college days when I was immersed in music.  I'm a bit sad at how I have let my personal love of the flute slip away because of life!  I know that I'm exaggerating, I haven't lost it all, I just know where I once was.  :)

Do you find this happens to you?  I really can't dedicate myself to performing with church or a community group right now but I truly miss performing.  How do you find balance between school, family and making music for you?

Sunday, September 23, 2012

A few years ago I had heard about a magical website where you could request materials for your school and people, who had no association with you or your students, would donate to help fund the materials you needed.  I always had this idea in the back of my mind but I had never sat down and really taken a look at the site or thought about how I would use it to enrich my classroom.

Last year I finally took the time to look at and found what an easy site it is to use and  what great success a teacher can have in getting new resources for their classroom.  You have to build up points through having successful projects, so my first request was pretty basic, some visuals, books, puppets, etc.  Within around 3 to 4 months of posting the project it was funded!

This year I'm thinking big.  My husband had mentioned a few times to me how cool it would be to introduce my students to ukuleles.  So, why not.  Although I have not had much experience with this instrument, I have started learning and gathering resources on teaching children to play this instrument.  I have created my latest project and I am hoping by the end of the year we will have 8 shiny new ukuleles with gig bags! (You can check out my project here:  Ukuleles: Starting a New Program!)

Are you in need of something for your classroom?  Yes?  If you haven't already been to, then you should definitely check it out!  You will be pleasantly surprised by the generosity of complete strangers.  :)

Why Arts Education Matters

Check out this post by David Cutler, there is a great collection of advocacy videos.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Name that Note: Staff Review

I have been doing a bit of staff review during each lesson with 5th grade and this week I included a new variation on an old game.  We have played Name that Note as a class, around the world style, in centers, etc.  Today I didn't want to spend a lot of time playing the game because we had other things to move on to like "Play Me Maybe!" so, we played it game show style.

I gave each team an unpitched percussion instrument (conga shaker, jingle bell, large maraca).  I would toss a bean bag on the staff rug and students would buzz in to answer.  The first to buzz in answered.  If they got it correct, their team got the point.  If not, the 2nd team to ring in could steal it.  This was easy to play, fast and we only had to do 8 rounds at most before the game was done.  I think I spent 7 min. from introducing the game to concluding it.

The kids were actually disappointed when they didn't get a second chance to answer for their team.  I will definitely have to play this again when we have spare time and it may even be something I can leave for a sub during a planned absence.

Friday, September 21, 2012


Best thing I've ever done...

Store bandaids at the front of the room!

I can't tell you how many times kids will say "I'm bleeding".  They seem to find any little scab to scratch away at and before you know it blood everywhere!  Last year I had to walk all the way around my piano to the cabinets above my sink and get a bandaid out of the box.  How ridiculous is that!

These are stored next to my doc cam right at the front of my room.  Easy access!  It doesn't slow my lesson down at all, which makes me a happy teacher.  :)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Featured Product!

Check out the Featured Product section of my blog.  September's featured product is listed along with July and August.  I'm not a paid spokesperson, just a teacher who loves these products!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Play Me Maybe!

I was looking for a fun way to continue reviewing the staff with my 4th/5th graders and I happened across a pin from Elementary Music 3T.  I tried it out today with my kids and they loved it!!!

I found that this was a great way to reinforce the name of the Treble/G clef with my students.  With my 4th graders we only focused on playing the verse because we are still learning the staff.  I don't introduce students to reading the staff this way until 4th grade.  In 3rd, I focus on solfege, skips, steps, pitch direction, etc., so today was my 4th graders first opportunity to read line notes in a piece of music.

For 5th grade, this ended up being a great review of the notes we have already learned on recorder.  We played the verse on xylos and the refrain on glocks.  I did make a change to fit the video I had of this song.  When I tried out the refrain before my classes arrived it didn't quite fit with the version I had.  So, I altered it to B-G-G, G-D-D.  That may not work with the recording you have but it fit with what I was working with.

My boys, who were skeptical at the on set of the lesson were jamming along by the end.  When we were lining up one of my 5th grade boys said "That was fun, still don't like the song, but it was a fun lesson!".

I think I will extend this lesson when we start recorders.  This would be fun to play along with!  I'll let you know how that goes.  :)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Staying Positive

Do you ever have those days where you think.....why?  I had one today.  Every why question went through my mind.  I felt very negative and unhappy/unsure with/of myself.  It happens to me every once and a while and there is no specific trigger.  Sometimes it is an unhappy encounter with another adult or a lesson not going the way I thought it would (can you believe that?) but by the end of today I felt very glum.

I have found that I need to find ways to pick myself up, de-stress and/or reenergize.  Some things that I have found work for me are:

1.  Completely unplugging myself from school.
I know this one is hard but you have to do this for you and your family.  I don't check email when I'm at home.  I have found that looking at my school email from home only leads to anger and frustration, so I leave it for the next morning.  I need this time away from school to truly be away.

Unplugging myself also includes leaving work at work.  My first couple of years I brought a lot home with me.  Now I just bring the essentials or busy work.  I don't bring something every night but when I do it is something I can do while watching tv or that absolutely cannot wait.  For example:  tonight I have to figure out what I want to teach tomorrow (I'm so last minute when it comes to lesson planning!).

2.  Doing things for Me!
It is very easy to get wrapped up in work, cleaning, errands and getting ready for the next day but I really have to stop and take time for me.  Now, I don't have any kids yet so, what I do may not be realistic for you but I'm sure that you can find a little something to do for yourself.  For me, cooking and painting are relaxing.  I will sometimes cook a Sunday dinner in the middle of the week just because I love the process (hate the dishes).  Or, my husband is a fantastic artist and we take time to paint things for our home.   It's a great way to spend time together while forgetting the troubles of the day.

3.  Remembering one simple rule!
You cannot do it all.  I am only one person and I'm not perfect.  Tomorrow is another day to make up for today's mistakes.  What I didn't teach perfectly this time, I can reinforce next time.  I tend to be really hard on myself, so every once in awhile I have to remind myself to relax.

4.  Find inspiration
Sometimes I just need a bit of inspiration, and thank god for Pinterest!  Today this video was inspiring.  Just look at all of those beautiful children and their fantastic teachers making music (the ending was a bit sad but the messages still just as wonderful).

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chorus Sign In

I can't remember where I read this (I feel so bad, I would love to credit the source) but someone had posted about chorus procedures.  One that I knew I needed to improve upon was taking attendance.  I hate having to call roll, it wastes so much time, but I hadn't found another way of doing it that worked for me.

Over the summer I bought command hooks and clipboards and this week I attached them to the book cases by my back door.  When students arrive for chorus or orff, they have to sign in by putting a dot next to their name.  This speeds up the attendance process by a few minutes, which means more time to make music!

Next to each clipboard is a marker attached to the book case with velcro.  These markers are actually overhead pens.  My plan is to eventually laminate these rosters so that they can be reused from week to week.  I just have to wait a couple more days until all paperwork/fees are turned in.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I'm extending the 5S-Line Giveaway to the end of September.  If you are interested in a chance to win a laminated 8.5" X 11" copy of this sign, you must be a member of this blog who has posted at least one comment during the month of September.  Good luck!  :)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Audience Behavior

Back door display.  Another check mark on my list of things that needed to be completed.  I created these over the summer and finally have them hung in my room.  These will be great as I prepare my 2-5 graders for their music field trips.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Moldau

Each year my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders get to attend the Young People's Concert performed by our local orchestra.  This is such a great opportunity for students to experience live music.  To prepare for this year's performance, I have been doing a lesson on The Moldau by Smetana.

After discussing the composer and what the piece was written about, we use a listening map while listening to the river begins (this piece is broken down into 4 sections; The River Begins, The Hunt, The Country Wedding, and The Rapids).  Then we discuss the piece and how we could use movement to represent the start of the river.

Most of my classes decide that they will need to divide into two groups so that they can represent the two streams that come together to form the river but this particular 3rd grade classes interpretation was very cool.

They decided instead of having 2 meandering streams, that they wanted to focus their movements to match the increasing dynamic levels that they thought represented the growing streams.  So, they opted to start in a seated position and use their upper bodies to represent the moving water.

As the dynamic changed (got louder), they used their bodies to show the change.

When the cellos enter to signify the merging streams and the start of the river they moved forward and together to create a river flowing around the room.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Look Who's in the Spotlight

I have mentioned before how much a feel like I am playing catch up this year and I still feel that way but this afternoon I made a bit of progress.  One of the projects I  have been wanting to get done is my hall bulletin board.  Open House is coming up and it's time to show off what we have been doing.  So, this afternoon that's what I worked on!

I was inspired by this pin:

But I wanted my board to feature our school colors, so I added a bit of blue fabric and some cute frames from Lakeshore Learning!  Soon I will have pictures of my Maestro of the Month and Spotlight Performers in those frames.

Mrs. P, our PE teacher was helping me hang everything and she taught me a cool trick.  The staples were pretty obvious on the letters, so we took Sharpies and colored over them and now they are barely visible.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Seven Blind Mice Lesson

Earlier this month I posted a request for ideas on how to use the book Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young. I guess there aren't many of you out there who have used this book before, so I had to brainstorm.  I tried out a lesson with my 1st graders today, and it was a lot of fun!  This was just a portion of my mouse themed lesson.

After reading the story (I did this in line during my last rotation in anticipation of using the book), I introduced this cute little refrain.

A Something?  A Something?
What could it be?
A Something?  A Something?
We'll go and we'll see!

After echoing to learn we discussed that "to see" doesn't always mean see with your eyes, since after all these little mice are blind.  To refresh their memories, I read the story and we spoke the refrain before each mouse said what he thought the something was.  This was a great opportunity to work on dynamic contrast.  We started the poem very softly and then crescendoed through the 3rd and 4th lines.

When we had finished the second reading.  I told my kiddos that we were going to tell the story again but that I wanted to use instruments to help.  We listed the things the mice thought the "Something" was on the board.  Then I pulled out a basket of instruments I had selected for the story:

wood block
jingle bells
conga shakers
large hand drums

I find it is easier to give 1st graders a limited number of instruments to select from.  If left it up to any instrument in the room it may take the whole class just to select sounds that represent each part of the story.

I demonstrated each instruments sound and then we discussed which instrument fit best with each item in the story.  I was actually surprised by some of their decisions.  They decided that the guiro sounded like a cliff because it makes a sound like you are climbing one step at a time up the cliff.  After assigning each instrument a part in the story, I distributed the instruments.  We sat in 6 rows and each student in the row had an instrument assigned to a part in the story.  When their part came, I cued them and then cut them off so that the story could continue.

We told the story again with the refrain and instrument sound effects.  It was truly a pleasurable experience, smiles all around!

I did this lesson in 20 minutes which is a little than less than half of my class.  Now I had read the story previously, so we were able to move a bit more quickly but if you were limited on time, you could just use this story as a way to experience dynamic contrast.  You could split it up between two classes, there are many options.

I hope you like this lesson and use this book in your classroom, it really is a cute story!  If you do decide to try out this lesson, let me know how it goes or any changes you make to fit your kids.  :)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Music Journal Storage

Earlier in the summer, I posted about my Back to School Find; file crates.  At the end of last year I was so sick of getting materials to kids because of the way I had them laid out.  My supplies were in one corner and it created a traffic jam and instead of taking 1 minute, it took 5.

Over the summer, I purchased some storage containers from Target, the Dollar Tree and Walmart to help keep things simple and fast.  Behind each riser I have a place for students to store their music journals, as well as storage for pencils, clipboards, dry erase markers and any other small material we need.

The file crates have really simplified things.  Last year I did not store the kids music journals.  This became a big problem because kids would lose them or classroom teachers may forget if they were coming right after lunch/playground.  This year the journals are always in the room when we need them.

Each team has 2 crates (I had to go back and buy more because I seriously underestimated how many kids I have!), and inside the crates are hanging folders labeled withe their classroom teachers name.  There are also numbers attached to the class I see first on each day of the rotation.  So, if I see Mrs. Smith, Ms. Jones and Mr. Johnson's class on day one, in that order; Mrs. Smith's Class has a number one stapled to it. (Hope that makes sense.)

When the kids brought their folders in during the first lesson, I gave them each a label with a color coded dot.  They put it on their folder and write their name and their teacher's name on it.  This let's me easily put their folder away should they leave it out by accident.  If you click and enlarge the first picture in this post, you can see the labels.

When the kids come in their Section Leaders pass out the folders and we get started on our lesson.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Hooks For Rhythm Cards

Over the summer I came across this pin from A Day in the Life of a Classroom Teacher .

I thought this would be a great way to store my 8 beat rhythm cards; I hate when they are laying all over my cabinets.  I found hooks at Lakeshore Learning, they weren't very expensive, and stuck them to the sides of my cabinets.  If you don't have a Lakeshore Learning near you, your teacher supply store  should have something similar or Command hooks are another great buy.  

My Rhythm Cards:

More posts on using hooks to come soon.

Time to Pause

Tomorrow is Friday and I don't know which makes me happier, the fact that it's Friday or that I get to wear jeans!

Anyways....early I posted pics of my classroom and at that point I was waiting for a few things to be laminated.  One of those was my thinking spot poster. This is new to my room this year.  I wanted something that included directions for what a child should do if they have to take a time out.

Here's my poster!

Below are the directions, feel free to print and use this.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Solfege Ladder

I'm sure you have seen or may even have this solfege ladder in your classroom.  I bought mine a few years ago from West (here's the link: Solfege Ladder ).  When I received my ladder I wasn't happy with the fact that it didn't have the syllables written on each pitch in the scale.  I created my own little labels to place on each card (they aren't laminated, just printed on copy paper and mounted to colored paper).  I wanted to be able to easily take pitches on and off when I needed to, so I attached them using magnetic tape.

Now that I have lived with this visual for a few years, I love it!  It is so great to be able to take the pitch names on and off.  This seems to help students focus on the pitches in the song they are learning and visually see the steps and skips in the pattern.  I have noticed that they are better able to find steps/skips on the barred instruments than if I had all of the pitches labeled.

I also make sure to always hang the scale vertically.  I have seen it hung horizontally before, and while I guess this may be a great way to connect to the barred instruments, I feel it is easier to visualize up/down, high/low when the scale is placed vertically.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Gotta Love It!

In class this week, 4th grade used lollipop drums for a rhythmic canon we were working on.  This was a really fun lesson, I'll try to remember and post about it later.  Now I know I always think this...

...when I say lollipop drum but this week kids started singing the refrain unprompted and it spread throughout the class.  What's more, it happened in several classes!  I love teaching music.  :)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

5-S Line

I'm sure you have seen the 4-S Line posters all over Pinterest.  This is how Mrs. M (my art teacher buddy) introduced me to the world of pinning.  She was making a sign for her classroom and she had changed the poster to 5-S.  Since she shared Pinterest with me, where she originally found the idea, I have been a Pinterest junkie!

The 5th S that she added was sitting.  We both have the kids sit in line and wait for their teachers to pick them up, so this was the perfect addition.  Over the summer I made my own poster in Photoshop and now it is hanging on the inside of the door to my classroom.

Do you like this poster?  If the answer is yes, then I have good news for you.  I will be giving away a poster to a member of my blog.  More details coming soon.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Seven Blind Mice

I inherited a copy of the book Seven Blind Mice by Ed Young from a retiring music teacher.  This week at the end of my 1st grade lesson (which had a mouse theme) I read the book as we waited for their teachers to pick them up.  I couldn't help but notice this would be a great book for a lesson but I haven't quite figured out what I'm going to do with it yet.

I would like to use this story next rotation as part of a continuation of our mouse unit so, do you use this book in your classroom?  What do you use it to teach?  Please leave comments below.

UPDATE:  I created a lesson to use with this book.  Check it out here:

Seven Blind Mice Lesson

2nd Grade: First "Real" Lesson

Wednesday was the start of my second rotation and my first set of "real" lessons for the year.  Although I did incorporate music into my first rotation (especially with K-2), much of those first lessons was reserved for rules, info. about performing groups, recorder letters, etc.  So needless to say, it was refreshing to be able to focus on just making music!

My 2nd grade lesson for this rotation is one I'm particularly proud of.  Each activity was borrowed or inspired by a colleague but they way they came together was awesome.  It's not often that I don't feel the need to tweak after the first day.

Here's what we did:

1.  Hello Song
I do an echoing song that I got from my supervising teacher during my internship.  I start out the year leading the song and once students are comfortable, I invite a duet up to lead the song and the rest of the class echoes them.

2.  Instrument Families
Introduction to instrument families.  I plan to focus on one instrument family per quarter.  I started with WW's but I wish I hadn't.  It wasn't my original plan but because of the scheduling of some special events, my students really would benefit from being familiar with WW's now.  In this lesson we just discussed how they are played, what they are made of and special features (reeds, keys).

3.  Rhythm Building Blocks
I know that technically these are supposed to be called bricks but I always default to blocks, so that's what I'm using with my kids.

This was a great way to ease back into rhythm.  I came up with back to school inspired words for each of the rhythm building blocks.  Since my blocks are laminated, I wrote the words under the rhythms with a dry erase marker.  This is the first time I'm using the blocks with my students, so I picked the words this time.  Next month, I will let the kids brainstorm words that fit each of the rhythm blocks.

We clapped the rhythm of the words of each card as I stuck them to the white board.  Once we had clapped each card, I called students up one at a time to pull out a card to create their own 8 beat rhythm pattern.

4.  The Cougars Are Coming
This was a short back to school poem that a colleague, Mr. G, shared with me.  We echoed to learn the poem and then used the rhythm we had composed with the blocks as a B section.

We performed this in AB form:
A - poem spoken
B - Drums play building block rhythm

We sat in rows and the kid at the front of the row played the drum.  During the repeat of the A section they would move to the end so that the next student would be ready to play B.

5.  School Bus Rhythms
To assess what my students had retained over the summer I used Mrs. King's School Bus Rhythm idea.  This was such a great way to see how they were doing with aurally distinguishing rhythm patterns.  You never know what they are going to retain over the summer and it was nice to see where they were and who was struggling.

See Mrs. King's School Bus Rhythms
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