Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lesson Plan: Back to School

I've seen many posts and questions about back to school, lesson planning and classroom management around the web.  Below is what I typically do for my first rotation of lessons with grades 2-5.  I call it "The Boring Stuff"(not my original idea, came from my supervising teacher).

I explain to the kids that we are going to do a lot of talking during this lesson and while it may seem boring, it's important because everything we talk about will help us work towards our goal of becoming Great Musicians.  The kids are usually okay with it, plus when I mention that I have a game for them at the end, they work hard and pay attention to the beginning of the lesson.

1. Welcome
Introduce myself, outline of what music is all about, quick tour of the room (bathroom, water fountain, etc.).

2. Rules
My rules are posted on the wall by my desk.  We echo clap through them.  After clapping them the first time, we go one rule at a time and discuss what each looks like in the music room.  We echo them again.  During the next rotation we will play a rhythm game with the rules as a review.  These rules were something Sandy Lantz shared during my Orff Level I.

3. Rewards/Consequences
I keep these two posters on my board throughout the year but during the first rotation they are front and center on my board.  We talk about the positive/negative behaviors that could result in rewards/consequences and what the results of our actions are.

4. Seats
I typically fill in my seating charts before the first rotation; usually while watching TV the weekend before school starts.  I'm pretty good at being able to separate my talkers and personalities that clash. Although it has worked, I found some problems with my system. We have had a more mobile community in the last year and my seating charts ended up being a sloppy mess because there were so many changes to class rosters and students who never returned to our school.  (Post on Seating Charts here.)

This year I'm going to assign seats during their first music class.  Upon entering the room I will hand each child a colored card (red, green, blue or black).  When it is time to assign seats, I will ask the kids with green to sit on the floor in front of the green riser.  Same goes for red and blue.  The kids with black cards may select any seat on any riser except the section leader seats (see post here on seat numbers).

After the kids with black paper have chosen their seats, I will place the rest of my students by the color paper they have received.  What I like about this system is I'm still able to seat students in a way that will be productive without making them feel like I'm completely dictating the arrangement.  It will feel more like chance to them.  I'll try and take pictures of the system during the first rotation.

5. Recorders (4 and 5 Only)
I always hand out recorder information during this lesson.  Since I advertise, collect money, place and sort the order, I want to start ASAP so that kids can have recorders in hand as early in the year as possible.  More on this soon.

6. Chorus (3, 4, 5 Only)
This is time for me to drum up interest in after school performing groups.  This year I'm only going to have chorus (more on that another time), so during the first lesson I will hand out Interest Meeting Flyers to any child who thinks they may want to be a part of this group.  Sorry to say this again, but more on this soon! :)

7. Grade Level Specific Activity
I plan some sort of name game for every grade during this first rotation.  It's important to get a musical activity going on after all this talking.  I want kids excited about coming back to my room for the next lesson and it's a refresher for me.  I always feel so badly about being rusty with names for the first month of school and these games definitely help me get back into the swing of things.

8. Lining Up
I'm changing my line up procedures, so I will make sure to save a good 5 minutes to go over this at the end of my lesson.  I'm planning on incorporating this resource I found through Pinterest.  I may not use them every time but it's always good to mix things up a bit.

I've created some homework for myself with this post and I will do my best to get more information about Chorus, Recorders, K/1 Back to School Lessons and much more up ASAP.  Hope this helps with your back to school planning.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Back to School: Popsicle Sticks

I was at the Dollar Tree this evening doing a bit of my Back to School shopping and I happened across these:

What a great deal!  100 Popsicle sticks for $1.00.  I think my box was $7 or $8 when I bought it at one of the craft stores.  There are about 16 of each color which is great for Popsicle Stick Rhythms.  You only need 12 sticks per students, so I would purchase 3 or 4 packages.  Four may be a bit much but you would always have spares just in case.

Here is the post I wrote in January about Popsicle Stick Rhythms.  

I'm thinking the variety of colors would lend themselves well for small group work.  I'll have to think about that and how I could use a variety of colors for other rhythmic activities this year.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Classroom Management: Seat Numbers Revisited

I've posted ALOT about seating in the last year but with good reason.  There is such high accountability as a teacher that I want to ensure that whether I'm leading a lesson, a colleague is covering my room or a sub is in for the day that students are organized and everyone is accounted for.  I also want to make sure that my room is arranged in a way that is best suited for student learning.

I've spent a bit of time thinking about how I want to tweak my seating arrangement for grades 1-5 and I think I've come up with a good solution.

Here are my seat numbers from last year.

All of my first thru fifth graders sit in an assigned seat on one of my flip form risers.  To make sure that everyone has a spot and isn't squished I added Seat Numbers.  It worked very well and was an easy way to quickly get everyone where they needed to be with the exception of one problem.

Last year I had section leaders on each riser that served as my helpers (you can read the post about it here).  I didn't have special seats for my section leaders, so what I noticed happening was section leaders crawling over classmates to get to the materials behind them.  It slowed down the process and caused arguments, so instead of having to stop and remind students about rules/procedures, I think I've created a simpler solution.

This year I'm remedying the problem by keeping seats 9 and 10 as section leader spots.  These two seats are where the two sections of riser meet.  So in the picture above, 9 and 10 are the two seats on top where the risers meet.  They will now have a star instead so that others can quickly see the difference.  When a student is a section leader, they will sit in this spot.  Each 9 weeks I will select a new leader for each team and they will then sit in these spots.  I will indicate this change on my seating charts so that any other adult can quickly find each child.  

One other slight change I'm going to make this year is how I attach my numbers to the risers.  Instead of using contact paper, I'm going to use velcro dots.  Thank you to Robin for suggesting it!  :)

Here are links to both the old and new seat numbers:

Old Green                New Green
Old Red                   New Red
Old Blue                  New Blue

Here are other posts on seating:

Sunday, July 28, 2013

In My Desk

I'm just starting to think about, wait who am I kidding?  I've been thinking about things I will need for this year since school ended.  My shopping trip for back to school items will be this week sometime and I can't wait to share all of my ideas with you.  Tonight I'm focusing on my desk.

I try to keep my desk stocked with things I know I will need throughout the year to keep me healthy and happy.  Below are some of the things I keep in my desk and why.

1.  Band-Aids:  My husband says I'm as graceful as a newborn giraffe (well without the height).  I'm constantly bumping into things or bashing my finger in something, so I like to keep some good quality band-aids in my drawer.

2.  Excedrin and Tums:  Ever try to teach recorders with a pounding headache or dance around with kindergartners on an upset stomach?  Enough said?

3.  Vitamins and Allergy Medication:  Usually my breakfast happens while I skim through my email before morning duty.  I always keep vitamins with me so that I can stay healthy with all of those germy kids roaming around.  :)  It's not easy to teach if your sneezing up a storm, so I keep some allergy medicine with me as well.

4.  Plates, Napkins and Plastic Utensils:  This Girl has gotta eat!  If I don't eat I get kinda mean, so I always make sure to keep these things around just in case.  Nothing is more annoying than having a cup of yogurt but no spoon to eat it with.

5.  Body Spray:  Some of those back to school days in August are HOT!!!  Florida humidity is no joke and when I come in from morning arrival I need a bit of freshening up.  It's also nice to have to spritz on before an after school event.  Makes me feel a bit better.

6.  Hair Products:  Frizz-Ease to combat the Florida heat and hair ties when I just need to pull it all back.  It's especially great to have an extra hair tie when I forget to pull it back on a movement day or when I'm setting the stage after school.

7.  Lint Roller - I don't know what it is but sometimes I look down at my slacks at lunch and it's like I rolled through a ball of lint.  

8.  Feminine Items - Keep some in a nice little bag just in case.

9.  Mouthwash (not pictured here):  I don't want to kill my kids after lunch, so it's good to rinse quickly before afternoon classes.

10.  Lotion (not pictured here):  For after washing recorders for the millionth time that week.  :)

11.  Chapstick:  I can not live without some sort of lip balm, so I always make sure to have one in my desk.

12.  Note Cards - My cousin gave me these cute personalized gift cards.  I always keep a bunch in my desk.  You never know when you will need one for a parent, colleague or student.  

What do you have in your classroom to keep you happy and healthy?

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Resource: The Singing Classroom

Have you ever picked up one of your resource books, looked at a lesson and thought "What does that mean?"  It happens to me every so often and sometimes it's not convenient to call or email a colleague to find out how to do a certain dance step.  I've often wished that I had some pictorial guide or video to watch in order to better understand how to play a game or do a dance. is a great new resource available to music educators that solves these problems.  Deborah Pasternack, a Kodaly and Orff certified educator, along with her husband have created an online collection of songs and games to use in the elementary classroom.  Each song has a detailed description of the activity, materials required, the recommended grade and the skills/concepts that can be taught using the song.  In addition to all of this wonderful information, there are videos and animations of the games being played and recommendations from Deborah on how to implement the lesson in your classroom!

Check out a sample lesson here:

After browsing the site, I have discovered that even more than video instructions, what I really needed was organization.  Once you have discovered a song or game that you LOVE in the collection, you can bookmark it so that you can easily access it when you need it.  The nice thing about being able to bookmark a song is you don't have to worry about carting a bag of resource books around with you.  If I know the song is bookmarked in my account, I can access it from anywhere I have internet.

It's fun watching the videos and thinking about using the lessons with my own students.  Right now there are just over 50 games/songs in the collection but it grows every week.  I look forward to emails letting me know that there is new content available.

This resource is available for a $12.95/month subscription fee.  Now, I know that may seem like a lot but there is new content added frequently, so it's like getting a bunch of resource books all at once.  I'm pretty cheap when it comes to purchasing resources; I want something that I know I will use and won't just sit on a shelf.  For me, this is something worth the investment.  Remember, PTO is always a great option for resources like this!

I am so excited about this site and using it to supplement my curriculum this year.  I've already bookmarked a number of songs and games to use with my kids!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Classroom Management: The Stars

This is an idea I got from my supervising teacher during my internship.  On my board there are 10 stars. Throughout a lesson a class has to earn all 10 stars in order to receive some sort of reward.  I love this system because students have to work as a group in order to earn the stars.  I may push a star up for students entering the room properly and getting right to work or maybe for someone asking an awesome question, there are lots of ways to earn them.

The reward has varied over the six years I've taught.  Here are a few:

1.  Sticker on the chart, earn so many stickers receive a music party.
2.  Earn a paw (our school-wide behavior system at the time)
3.  Earn end of the year centers

While all of these have worked in the past, this year I'm ready for a change.  We are doing away with our school wide behavior management system, so Paws are out this year.  I think I'm going to do some sort of ticket system.  Earn 10 stars, your class gets to place a ticket in the jar with your teachers name on it.  At the end of each month, Mrs. Quezada draws a name and that group will be the Spotlight Performers for the month.

I like that this idea revolves solely around music.  If your class is selected as the Spotlight Performers, you have the chance to share the skills you have been working so hard to learn.

Here is a post about how I've done Spotlight Performers in the past.  Once I have my tickets and jar together, I'll post a picture!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Center: Instrument Sort

I always do centers during the last rotation of the school year.  With everything that is going on with end of the year celebrations, performances, etc., it's an easy way to keep the kids focused.  One of my new centers this year was Instrument Sort.  I only did this center with Kindergarten because it is pretty basic.

What you need:
Assorted basket of small percussion instruments
3 circles for sorting

How to Play:
Sort the instruments by the way they are played.
One at a time pick an instrument, demonstrate and tell your group how it is played (shake, scrape, strike) and place it into a circle.
Repeat with a new person picking an instrument.

This seems to take them about 7 minutes, as long as they follow the directions, which is about the amount of time my students get at each center.  If they finish early, they could sort the instruments again but by what they are made out of (metal, wood, skin).  You want to make sure to give students a mixture of instruments (known and unknown) so that they can discuss why it is being sorted into a particular circle.

Although I did this at the end of the year, this would be a great activity on a day when you have no voice!

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Recorder Karate Belts

While my kids were doing centers during the last rotation, I kept my hands busy cutting Recorder Karate belts for next year.  I normally don't do this for the kids, I usually have them cut them, but after seeing Lauren's post on Rhythm and Glues, I decided it was time for a change.  I'm excited about how this will simplify getting belts next year!

I had some empty ice cream containers from an end of the year celebration and I divided them up using pieces of cardboard.  Each belt is 7 inches long, which I think will be a good length for little fingers trying to double knot them around a recorder.

This would be a great project to work on during pre-planning meetings.  I  know that your supposed to go ready to focus and direct all of your attention to the meetings but that makes me antsy.  I can't just sit in a meeting, I lose focus.  A project like this keeps my fingers busy and helps my mind focus.  Yeah, I was one of those kids!  :)

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Have you ever wished that you had Photoshop?  Did the price scare you away from purchasing a copy? is a great solution!

Pixlr is a FREE photo editing service.  If you are familiar with Photoshop, it works similarly, you just don't have as many options.  This is a great resource for customizing photos or images to use in your classroom.  Here is a little image I whipped up using the service.  

Freebie: Barred Instrument Labels

I find the more I label instruments the better my students get at naming them.  Each of my barred instruments has one of these labels, which not only help students with the name, but understanding the differences in timbre. You can request this file in the Freebies section of my blog.

When I printed the labels for my instruments I didn't have access to a color printer, so I printed them on colored card stock.    The labels are small enough to fit between the mallets on the bass instruments and the box of the smaller.  I placed my glockenspiel labels on the stands I use in my classroom (check them out here).  I'll make sure to get some pictures during Pre-Planning.

iPad App: ABC Music

A couple of months ago, my husband came across the app ABC Music by Peapod Labs.  He thought it would be great for my classroom, and I think he's right.

I hadn't had a chance to really look at the app until he was playing with our 7 month old niece a couple of weeks ago.  She was delighted by all of the instrument sounds and video.

The App is basically an alphabetical list of instruments.  When you click an instrument, it opens up a screen with a picture of the instrument and it's name.  Along with each instrument are videos of the instruments being played.  The app can be played in either English or Spanish; this is great for bilingual programs.  It's available in the App Store for $2.99.

I plan to use this app with my Kindergartners this year.   We will do a letter each rotation, hitting my benchmarks and supporting their classroom benchmarks as well.  This will be a great way to end each lesson.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Gettin' Back to School

I still have a few weeks off but I know that many of you are already preparing to get back to school. With that in mind, this post is a link to some of the ideas I posted last summer.  I hope this list helps you as you prepare.

If you see something you like check out the Freebies section.  I have uploaded many of these ideas over the past year.

Don't forget to stop by my blog over the next couple of weeks as I will be posting new back to school and lesson ideas!  Hope you are enjoying the last bit of your summer.  :)

Display - Common Board Configuration
Display - Performer's Corner
Display - Word Wall
Display - Rhythm Building Blocks
Display - Time to Pause

Bulletin Board - Great Musicians Always...
Bulletin Board - Look Who's In The Spotlight

Advice - New Teacher
Advice - Meet the Teacher

Organization - Seat Numbers
Organization - Seating Charts
Organization - Schedule
Organization - Kindergarten Visuals
Organization - Storing Seating Charts
Organization - Hooks for Rhythm Cards

Classroom Tour 2012-2013

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Rest, Relaxation and Rejuvenation

July is here and although I have been off for just over 3 weeks, it doesn't feel like it at all.  The past month has been one of great personal joy and sadness.  Mrs. M, my art teacher buddy, and I successfully ran our first two weeks of camp ever!  We are excited to grow our business and share art and music with children in an environment completely free of distractions.

While becoming my own boss for a few weeks was a lot of fun, I also experienced great loss this month.  Within the past 18 days, two of my Uncles have passed away.

I have many posts planned to share with you and I will have them up by the time back to school starts but for now, I'm going to take a few weeks away from blogging to enjoy my family, rest, and relax before the school year begins.  Look for new posts in August!
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