Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I may email/send home more newsletters than most, but I think it is sooooo important to keep parents informed of what is going on.  In addition to emailing parents reminders and updates about after school performing events, I also help organize our quarterly special areas newsletter and send e-news to specific grade levels throughout the year.  Below are some of the templates I use to help keep my parents informed.

Clef Notes News is the newsletter for my performing groups. 
 This is just the view of the 1st page of the document.

Specials All Around goes out quarterly to help inform parents about what is happening in special areas.  
This is just the 1st page of the document.

If you are interested in these templates, you can request them in the Freebies section of my blog.

Monday, October 29, 2012


It's the end of the first 9 weeks in our district and time for reflection.  I feel like I have posted a whole lot since June and I know that when I visit other blogs I often wonder what a teacher uses certain resources for or reasons why they have laid their room out a specific way.

Do you have a question about something in my classroom?  Or anything else about me or the way I teach?  Please feel free to leave questions or comments in the box below.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Singing in the....

During a 1st grade rhythm activity this week I had a little interruption.  We were working on labeling ti-ti and it was the meat of my lesson, the kids were just making the connection to a previous lesson when all of a sudden I heard a little voice singing.  I looked around to try and figure out who was randomly singing when I remembered I had just sent a child to the bathroom!

The bathroom is at the front of my room.

This isn't the first time this has happened.  It seems that the popularity of singing in the bathroom was something I was unaware of (at least outside the shower) and it isn't relegated to the younger grades.  I have had K-3 students singing in my bathroom, which makes me giggle every time.  :)

Friday, October 26, 2012


I am so blessed to have a job that I love.  Working with kids is wonderful and making music with them, even better!  But, let's face it, being a Music Specialist is not my life.  It's a fun job I do to make money to help support my family.

So, I find that it's important to do fun little things for myself while at work.  One thing that I like to do is Countdowns.  This is something just for me.  Countdown to the next vacation, holiday, or special event.  I keep it on a little calendar next to my desk.  It's not something I dwell on but a nice little reminder of something special to come.  I don't count weekends, just work days.

With that all said,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Treble Clef Words

I can remember doing Treble Clef worksheets in middle school and enjoying them and my students still enjoy doing this same activity.  Throughout the first 9 weeks of school I had my 5th graders work on writing their own Treble Clef Words.  

Using notebook paper, I made a sample; I traced the lines of the notebook paper to create a staff and then drew a Treble Clef.  When I introduced this idea to my classes, I had them write the music alphabet at the top of their papers.  I found that this made it easier for them to come up with words because they could visually see the letters rather than have to think of them off the top of their heads.  I demonstrated the word "Add" on my paper and how to use a bar line to separate the words on the staff.

I was quite impressed with some of the words they created; defaced, beaded.  This was not something I spent a lot of time on.  The papers were kept in their music folders and when we had a few extra minutes, they could work on writing a few more words.  

This week was the end of the quarter, so I went through their folders and picked out some of the best work to share in the hallway.  I copied the treble clef staff onto some colored paper and then slipped them into sheet protectors.  (I cut the 3 whole punched part of the sleeve off.)  

The reason I displayed them this way was so that I could change out the words from time to time.  I wrote the name of the child at the top of the sleeve using a dry erase marker and then attached an index card to the bottom of each staff.  When flipped up, the index card reveals the answer.  

Afro Circus

Today was our annual Book Character Parade.  Each year our guidance counselor does a fantastic job of creating a week of events to celebrate being drug free and the week culminates in students and teachers dressing up as some of their favorite characters and parading around the school bus loop.  

Each year our specials team has a theme.  One year we were witches, another characters from Alice in Wonderland but this year was the most fun!  We were all Marty from Madagascar 3.  Don't know what I'm talking about?  Watch this!

We paraded around the school in all our afro splendor chanting lyrics that were similar to Marty's.  (In reality the chant changed each time we started it!)  Below are two of my teammates Mrs. P and Mrs. M.  We opened the school together a few years ago and now I can't imagine my day without them.  

I know this is not really on topic but something fun that I enjoy from year to year.  While not part of my classroom, I think it is important for specials teachers to participate in these events.  The kids notice and so do the other adults (parents and teachers).  It's a great way to show that you are an important part of the school.  

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rhythm Building Blocks In Use

This week we sang about the zoo and created a B section using the Rhythm Building Blocks.  Here are the words my students came up with to match the rhythms on the blocks.  Each class was slightly different but ti-ti ta seemed to always be kangaroo.

More on Rhythm Building Blocks.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Recorders: Hallelujah, the counter is clean!

I finally got rid of this recorder mess!  It seems that my counter and desk have been over run with recorders and other materials for the last 3 weeks and I am happy to be rid of it.

I finally handed out the last recorder order!  I do this a bit differently than many of the teachers I know but it seems to work well with my kids.  After collecting all of the orders at the beginning of the year (you can see my order form here) I place an order with West Music and my school cuts a check using the money that is in my account.  

Once the order arrives, I sort them and attach each students order form to the recorder and write their name on the plastic sleeve.  I don't waste my time trying to put their name or initials on the actual instrument because it tends to rub off.  After everything is sorted I hand them out when their class comes to music.  This gives me a chance to go over caring for the instrument and rules about when to play their recorders (i.e. not on the bus!).

It has taken me awhile to get this process down to a science and it works for me.  What are some of your recorder ordering tricks?  Is there something you do that makes it easier to distribute to your students?  

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Spaces Spell FACE!

In 4th grade Game Plan there is a suggestion to have students make a face so that they will remember that the spaces spell face.  So, for the past 3 years, I have had kids make faces to decorate our music room.  I love seeing what they create from year to year!

The sign was created by a 5th grade students older sibling.  I told her what I wanted and she made this beautiful sign!

I give this as a homework assignment.  These are the faces I have had returned so far.  I don't get 100% participation but most of the kids end up bringing theirs in.  I give each student a paper plate and they can create any face they want, using any medium they want.  They can cut their plate, add more paper to it, anything goes as long as its a face.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October's Featured Product

3rd Grade: Pease Porridge

The first quarter seems to be mostly review for my kids.  There are a few new things I introduce but more of it is content that we started last year and I find slightly more challenging activities.  This past rotation we reviewed downbeat, bar lines, and measures in 3rd grade.

After working to figure out where the strong beats were in the poem and adding the bar lines, we used body percussion to practice 4 different instrument parts.  For this lesson, I used a SMD melody so that we could review singing these patterns, finding them on the barred instruments and in some classes notating them on the staff (this was an extension that I did not have time for with all classes this rotation).

Pease Porridge Hot  Rest  Pease Porridge Cold Rest Pease Porridge in the pot nine days old Rest
S        MM       S               S        MM        S              S        MM       S  S   M   S     M     D

Snap to show the strong beats.
Pat to show where the quarter rests are.
Clap the rhythm of the words.
Sign the SMD pattern in the melody.

Formation:  Seated Circle

I set the instruments we were using around my staff rug.  We used xylophones (SMD), lollipop drums (strong beat), triangles (rests) and rhythm sticks (rhythm).  We transferred the parts to each instrument and then played them altogether while singing the melody.  We rotated clockwise one instrument, reviewed the parts and performed it again.  This process was continued until everyone had a chance to experience playing each part.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Understanding Lyrics

I know that it is important to help my students understand lyrics but today I realized that I may need to take a bit more time to make sure I'm doing this.

During my K lesson we were working on the poem This Little Pig from Game Plan.  As we were echoing the text I was surprised by how they were speaking the text back.  In the 3rd phrase it mentions the word "Snout" but instead of hearing "This little pig shows us his snout", I heard "This little pig shows us his SNOT"!  After stopping and talking about this word, there were giggles all around.

I have always been careful about discussing lyrics with deeper meaning and words that I know were well beyond their years but I never thought about this word.  Lesson learned, we may need to make sure and discuss what a snout is before echoing.  :)

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Video and Photos

I had a conversation recently with a younger teacher about using photos/video of students, so I thought it might be something good to post about.

Before taking, posting, or using pictures/video of your students make sure:

  • Each child pictured has filled out the photo/video release form for your school.  I know each child at our school is given one of these forms at the beginning of the year and our registrar keeps track of who has/has not completed one.  Be mindful of this because there are some families who do not take pictures because of cultural/religious beliefs.
  • If you have an after school group, make sure to get separate authorization.  While I'm pretty sure my district form covers using photo/video of these students, I like to have something at my fingers tips.
  • Think before you post a picture/video.  Do I need to reveal the identities of my students?  Is this a safe site to post something? 

I may be a bit extreme when it comes to posting pictures of kids but there are so many people out there who aren't respectful of young people.  I do have all of my after school groups fill out a release but I use this for showing videos on the morning announcements and for pictures I occasionally hang in the hall way.  It is very rare for me to reveal the identities of my kids.  I prefer to take pictures showing them from the neck down or to blur their faces using Photoshop.  This is what makes me most comfortable.

Monday, October 15, 2012

SFOC Guest Post

I was recently asked to write a guest post for the South Florida Orff Chapter's Blog.  You can check out the post I wrote and all of the other great resources here:

Saturday, October 13, 2012

What is your school like?

Part of why I started this blog was to network and learn more about other music teachers.  Over my 5 years, I have noticed that there are big differences from school to school in my own county.  So, I'm wondering what your school is like.  What is your enrollment?  How many music teachers are there at your school?  How often do you see your kids?  What are your responsibilities outside of your instructional time?  Do you have after school performing ensembles?  Do you do grade level performances?  What makes your program special?  (Of course the answer to that one is you!  But what are some of the special things YOU do with your kids?)

Here are my school facts:
  • Enrollment: 830 (I think that is the most recent total!) We don't ever seem to stop growing and they are actually building more housing that is supposed to be completed in December!
  • Music Teachers: Me and our strings teacher. She is at our school in the AM two days a week to work with our 4th and 5th strings students.
  • Schedule: I see my kids once every 7 days for 45 minutes at a time, 35 minutes if it is a Wednesday. Some grade levels have more than 7 classes which means the 8th class has to split. I would say I typically have 18-20 little ones and with the older kids 20-24. Some of my classes end up a bit larger with the ESE students that are pushed in for specials.
  • Duty: I am responsible for monitoring students during arrival and dismissal.
  • Performing Ensembles: I have two groups, chorus and orff. They meet once a week each for an hour.
  • Grade Level Performances:  I don't do grade level performances.  When our school opened we were part of an Arts Integration grant, so classroom teachers took on the responsibility of grade level performances that incorporated what they were learning.  Since then, this tradition has continued and I only assist with these events.
  • Special Things: I am all about celebrating success from the very small, to the very large. We celebrate funny reactions, birthdays, finding our singing voices, and many more special occasions. Music should be enjoyable! I find celebrating these small moments helps my students feel more comfortable which means I get more out of them.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, OH MY!

I'm soooooooo excited!!!  This week one of my parents mentioned that she wanted to donate something to our music program.  After asking how much she was thinking of gifting, I sent her a list of materials that were around that price.  I can't tell you how excited I was this morning when her little one walked in holding Artie Almeida's Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, OH MY!

I have been sitting here looking through the pages and getting more and more excited about the fun lessons I will incorporate this year.  I love Artie's stuff and I can safely say (even without testing this with my kids) that this is a resource well worth purchasing for your classroom!  Below is the link to this book on West Music.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

1st Grade: Spooky Rhythms

I happened across a post on The Sweetest Melody and it inspired me to do some Spooky rhythm patterns during my 1st grade lesson this rotation.  We've been working on reviewing ta and rest from the end of kindergarten and experiencing eighth notes.  After singing a song that had eighth note patterns that we moved to, we looked at our Ghost rhythms.

I asked my kids to tell me how these rhythms looked different than the rhythms we read during our last class.  They said "Some of the beats have 2 ghosts".  So I asked them what they thought would happen and their response was exactly what I wanted "there will be two sounds".

So, we played our spooky rhythms saying ghost for one sound on a beat and spooky where there were two sounds.  Oh my goodness did they love this!  Afterwards I gave them an opportunity to compose their own spooky rhythm.  I kept it to 4 beats since this was our first composing experience this year.

I didn't have any Halloween themed manipulatives but these worked.  I had some cardstock that was cut into 8ths and some button shapes that had been donated.  I separated them into baggies, each bag had 4 pieces of cardstock and 8 buttons.  The cardstock is to represent the beat and the buttons the notes.  These are nice because I can use them throughout the year.  I think I will give each group 8 beats next time for a longer composing experience.

Hear is some video of my kids working on their rhythms.  Sorry my voice is so loud, you can't really hear it in the video but the class was kind of loud as they worked in their groups so I had to speak up so my little ones could hear me.  Unfortunately, my cell phone picked my voice up more than anything else because I was so close to it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Spotlight Performers: Freebie

Every month I select a class that has been working together to be the Spotlight Performers.  This group then records a video that goes on the morning announcements for the whole school to see.  I never really know what I will be videoing from month to month, think of it as more of an informance than a polished piece.  This gives the kids a chance to see what other kids are learning and the adults a snapshot into the music room.  I also include a photo of the Maestro of the Month in the video.

I created my video using iMovie and I use the same template from month to month, year to year.  The only thing I have to change out is the month and name of class/maestro.

You can request this template in the freebies section of my blog.  Remember, this will only work on Macs.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Sub Plans

Recently there was a question posted regarding how I handle sub plans.  To be honest, if I know I can catch up during the next rotation and I'm not sure who will be coming into my room to sub, I leave a video.  Although I don't like to do this, it is sometimes the best option not knowing a subs musical background.  

I am known for leaving ridiculously detailed sub plans.  I want to make sure that I am very specific because I know that going into a music room without a musical background can be intimidating, so I try to give as much information about activities as I can.  Two years ago, I was out on an extended leave because I was getting married.  I had to come up with lessons for 6 grade levels and make it sub friendly.  It can be a taxing job but I did it and since then some of the ideas I included in those lessons are some of my go to's.  I really should create a sub tub but I haven't had a minute yet!

A few of my go to activities are:

1.  The Sound House
This was one of my earliest posts and it is something I do year to year with my students.  It can be done without a house.  You could have a student sit behind the piano or another object in your classroom and play an instrument.  This is something that subs have done with my students before and have been successful with.  Plus, if they give each child a turn in the sound house it can take up time.  Subs come to the music room with a different perspective and sometimes can better explain the sound of an instrument better than I can.  Sometimes I think well it's a triangle it has a triangle sound!  Which, is definitely no help to little ears and at times some of the ideas my subs have shared with the kids have been great explanations.  This is one of the only instrument activities I will leave and for a sub I'm familiar with.

2.  Beat Leader
I'm sure you have done this with your little ones before.  Play a piece of music with a strong steady beat.  Teacher keeps the beat on their body, students keep beat in same place.  Change where you keep the beat every 8 to 16 beats.

3.  Drum Game
Teacher plays the steady beat on the drum.  Students move feet to the beat, freeze when drum stops.

4.  Sing-a-Longs
You can find sing-a-long cd/videos that have a variety of children's songs but occasionally I make my own.  I have a little microphone that plugs into my ipod.  I record the process that I would use to teach the song, so that students can echo.  The sub just has to hit play.  Once learned, they can sing it along with a storybook.

5.  Rhythm Caterpillar
This only works if you have already done this with students before hand.  I originally found this idea on Mrs. King's Music Blog.  Check it out: Mrs. King's Music Class.  I have created different sets for each grade level.  2nd grades have half notes, 3rd grades have sixteenths, etc.

6.  Story Books
Have a sub read a book that you will be using soon for an activity.  They could also read a book about a composer and then students could divide up into centers to experience more about that composer.

7.  Name that Note
This game can be played with a sub in a variety of formats.

8.  Compositions
Using the rhythm building blocks, students could compose rhythm patterns.  I would assign each rhythm a word so that the sub can easily play the game.  You could add an extension for older kids where they need to create a melody for recorder.  Once they have their rhythm, they assign each note a pitch.  They could even transfer the rhythm to the 5 lined staff.

9.  Worksheets
I created these for a recent absence.  Due to budget constraints, our copies are being limited this year.  I wanted to use these worksheets but didn't want to waste my copies.  So, Pinterest to the rescue.  I put them inside of sheet protectors and students were to use dry erase markers to complete the sheet.

I made these so that I would have an easy way to practice notation on the staff.  The front is a treble clef staff and the back a 3 lined staff for my little ones.  You could use poker chips or bingo chips to notate if you didn't have enough dry erase markers for a full class.

I found this worksheet on The Plucky Pianista.  We have not learned bass clef, so I crossed that part out so that my 5th graders could focus on the treble clef.

For my 4th graders, tracing treble clefs and practicing line and space notes.  Now line and space notes is not a new concept but reading the line and space notes from bottom to top is always a challenge when it comes to recorder and this worksheet addresses that.  I found these two at  There are tons of worksheets on this site.

Some things that I would avoid.....

1.  NO Instruments
I always indicate that students should NOT touch instruments in my absence.  I had one sub who decided to use instruments anyways and it resulted in a couple of mallets being broken.  Now, I know that I have taught my children the right way to handle instruments but there are always a few students who, given the opportunity, will beat the living daylights out of an instrument.  I'm sure you can picture those boogers in your mind!  :)

2.  New Concepts
I would not allow a sub to introduce a new concept.  They are not familiar with your curriculum and often times music concepts at all.  Enough said?  :)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Woodwind Videos

So far for my 2nd grade instrument families unit I have used these videos.

They loved them both!

Thursday, October 4, 2012

2nd Grade: Ballet

This is the best thing I've ever done!  This rotation I began my introduction to the ballet to prepare my 2nd graders for their trip to the ballet later this month.  In the past I have introduced it by reading the fairy tale and then going through a slideshow of what ballet is and trying out the feet/arm positions.  While there was nothing wrong with this lesson, what I did this rotation seemed to get such better results.
I had seen a post on Warren Ainley's blog about introducing ballet through a pantomime activity about a little fish and a shark but it didn't really fit with the woodwind instrument we were discussing this rotation.  So, instead of scrapping the idea I used Peer Gynt:  In the Hall of the Mountain King.  Our instrument was the bassoon, so it worked very well for telling the story.  I kept the story telling simple and actually told it as the music was playing.  During the 2nd listen, we pantomimed the chase, making sure to use our facial expressions to share what Peer Gynt must have been feeling.

After we finished pantomiming, we sat back down and I told them in a few weeks we would be going on a music field trip and that the performers would be pantomiming to tell a story, just like they had.

WOW!  Not one "eew" out of a single boy when I said the word ballet!!!  And even fewer than normal when I said that both boys and girls can perform in the ballet????  It was both refreshing and astonishing.  I will never teach my ballet unit again without doing a pantomime exercise first.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Hooded Sweatshirts Make Great Costumes!

I am pretty crafty but I have never had the time to sit down and really figure out how to sew.  I can do buttons and hemming my pants but beyond that I am rather impaired.  When I plan musicals I really have to rely on my parents help putting things together and sometimes they are as sewing illiterate as me, so I have had to do my research.

What I have found makes a great costume that are versatile and easy no sew/bit of sewing are hooded sweatshirts!  Here are a few examples of the costumes my parent have made.

6 Geese-a-Laying

4 Calling Birds

The pictures above are from the performance we did of Randy and Jeff's Five Golden Rings.  I buy adult size sweatshirts so that they are a bit baggy.  This is helpful because then students can where leggings underneath and they feel a bit more covered.  These were made using some cotton fabric from Joann's, felt, the sweatshirts and I also found a stiffer material for the beaks but I'm not sure what it is called.  You can find it near the felt in Joann's.  The fabric was used to create wings that attached along the bottom of the sleeve and then down the side of the sweatshirt.

These costumes are from our performance of Randy and Jeff's The Princeless Princess.  They were made using the same materials as the other costumes.  Both projects were no sew!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Section Leader: Update

Over the summer I posted about Section Leaders.  I have been using the clothespins for a little over a month and I am very happy with how they are working.  The kids have taken on the responsibility for coming in getting their pin and taking care of their team.  I must say these clothespins are pretty resilient, which surprised me.  I thought for sure one would break quickly, but fingers crossed, we haven't lost one yet!

If you want to try this out, a couple things to think about.

1.  Jumping is a risky adventure!
The clothespins tend to come off fairly easily when moving briskly.  They don't go flying but they fall pretty hard.  I have not decided how I want to handle this but it may just be to take them off before movement activities.

2.  Oh the places clothespins go!
I specify that the clothespin should be on their outfit.  I really don't care where (collar, pocket, short leg, etc.).  It is a bit amusing to see all of the different places the clothespins end up.  I have seen them as earrings, nose clips, pinched to the extra skin on their arm, their friends hair, and one little boy decided to pin his to the inseam of his pants!  I quickly redirect the student in these cases and if it continues I make sure to remind them that this is a special privilege for a responsible student and if they can not use the clip responsibly I may have to select a new section leader.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Orff: Bar Bags

I'm looking for your feedback....this is the first year I will be taking students from my current school out into the community to perform.  We will be giving a Winter Concert at the Barnes and Noble Book Fair and I'm taking my chorus and orff groups.

Now, I have thought ahead and limited our instrumentation to those that will be the most convenient to move but I'm still a bit concerned about transporting some of my barred instruments.  I don't have far to go but I am considering purchasing some bar bags.  
What are your thoughts?  Do you use bar bags?  Is there another way to transport my instruments that won't cost me anything?  

I would love any advice you can give!

And the Winner is....

The winner of the 5S-Line Giveaway is Brittany De Laruelle!  Congratulations!  :)
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