Thursday, August 22, 2019

All Are Welcome

All are welcome here! It's time for a new school year and I'll admit, I'm just as nervous as the kiddos! It's my 9th year of teaching, but I still get butterflies and so many emotions as the families come in to find their classroom, locker, etc. 

This year, I'm starting music class with this amazing book by Alexandra Penfold: All Are Welcome. 
The current climate in our country is far removed from our origins. We are a land of many different peoples and should be embracing that. Children need to come to school and know they are safe, loved and accepted. This book is a beautiful way to share with any grade level or classroom. 

To get my kids singing on the first day, we will be singing the tagline instead of speaking. Initially, I will sing it and have them echo. Once we begin the story and they catch on, the singing grows and everyone is confident by the end. It's a simple refrain, but powerful.

All are welcome in school. All are welcome in music. All are welcome here.
Have a great school year!

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Puppet Placement

Happy Spring! Our school year has been crazy! We had several weeks of illnesses - so bad that they considered closing our building and cleaning it. Then, we had several snow storms in a row. We didn't miss that many full days as much as we had late starts. When the snow melted, massive flooding occurred. Our area was able to absorb most of the water but other parts of Iowa and Nebraska were not so lucky. Many places (including our schools) have begun donating items, money and volunteering to help these people put their life back together. #NebraskaStrong

But, spring has given me some more time to share ideas and thoughts as we finish one year (and start thinking about another). Today I'm going to share with you my organization for various puppets. 

I love puppets so much! You can read about some of the puppets in my room here: Puppets - A Newfound Love.

For my soft, plush puppets, I use a shoe rack. I found this pretty durable one on Amazon. It's not exactly the straightest one, but my custodian was able to tighten it up for me. I've organized mine a little differently to evenly distribute the weight. 


I place the puppets on the different hooks using the gap where you would place your hand to use each one. It's even able to prop up my smallest finger puppets, like the seal and bird. 

My favorite collection of puppets, though, are the ones on a stick. Education Insights makes these wonderful plastic puppets on a stick, giving you two different ways to use them. I especially love these because you can easily clean them! This is so important with all the germs going around. I would even clean them when we didn't use just to be safe. You can push down the thumb lever or pull the ball at the base of the puppet. 

They've released different sets in the past few years, but I currently have:
  • Monsters (Fez, Kai & Lex)
  • Rainbow Prancers (Dazzle, Twinkle & Shine)
  • Prehistoric (Buster, Crusher & Stomper)
  • Sea Squad (Bob, Chomper & Dipper)
  • Zoo Crew (Elephant, Giraffe, Lion & Monkey)

I have 35 in all - some I have duplicates of while others don't. I like to have extras so the kids do have some selection even if they're the last ones called to come up. Because of their interesting shape, I struggled to find something that would hold all of them, not take up much room and also be easily accessible for my students. Then, I struck gold! 
Walmart was clearing out the last of their "back-to-school" items and had these wonderful storage crates for $2! I bought one and brought it to my classroom - they were perfect! Thankfully, I was able to snatch up a few more for my puppets and general storage. The bright colors were also a big bonus. The puppet is able to slip through a hole at the top and dangle inside the crate. Since some of the heads are large or irregular, I space them out a bit and try to sort them. I actually have a student that comes to my room and sorts them regularly as a calming activity. She never sorts them the same way, but it a place for her to come and find comfort in a unique sensory situation. 

I hope this gives you some new ideas on what to do with those puppets. Do you have another way to store them? Share below!

Monday, October 1, 2018

Tuneful & Trendy: Maternity Styling Tips

Fashion is hard as an elementary music teacher. We are up dancing, moving around instruments or sitting on the floor for a circle game and so much more. My skinny jeans and high heels WILL NOT cut it.

Now, add being pregnant into that mix. Every day is a new adventure.

WARNING: I'm about to be honest and candid throughout the rest of this blog post. I was extremely sick during my entire pregnancy. I ended losing 30 pounds. It was scary but Harper was safe, sound and growing beautifully the whole time. Each day, I'd open up my closet and decide what is going to be comfortable, appropriate and not too precious enough to get thrown-up on. It stunk. Some days I was so hot in my room (with two fans), that I wore a tank top during my breaks. Most days I was proud of my bump, but on self-conscious days I wanted to cover up. 
So, how do you go about having a wardrobe as a pregnant elementary music teacher without breaking the bank? Well, first I took note of what I already had that would work well as my belly grew (stretch, empire waist, flowy fabric, etc.). Here's what I came up with from my closet:
  • leggings, leggings and more leggings
  • palazzos pants (flowy and stretchy)
  • empire-waist, wrap or maxi dresses
  • cardigans & kimonos

I LIVED in black leggings, solid tops and kimonos or cardigans. Chiffon kimonos provided coverage if I needed it, but also draped nicely with my bump. I swapped those for cardigans as it got colder. Sometimes I did a solid, but more often I chose a patterned one for a little more fun with my look.

Now, what if I have a dress or top that makes me look like a big blob? I'm feeling confident and want to show off my bump. What can I do?
Add a belt! It will create more definition for your bump and help make those unflattering dresses a little more appealing. You might already use belts to create an empire waist with some outfits. I didn't previously, so I grabbed some skinny belts from the clearance section of Torrid for $3. It also helped to dress up a regular outfit for Conferences, church or a program. 

Many people love maternity stores while others hate shelling out money for something you'd only wear for 9 months. I recognize and utilized both ideas. There are some key staples that I purchased from the maternity section that really made my life easier and my bump happier. 
  • maternity belly band
  • band insert denim
  • graphic t's

Since I lost so much weight, my bump wasn't exactly "noticeable" for a long time. The belly bands I purchased helped round and support by bump, but also showcased it a bit more. I also purchased some denim capris and jeans with the support built-in. I couldn't make the denim I already have work with all the "tricks" out there, so I just splurged (and was much happier!). 

Finally, I got some graphic tees as holidays approached. These were a few of my favorites:

We didn't get maternity photos done because my pregnancy was all over the place and we weren't sure when Harper would arrive. One of the last photos I got was in front of Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. I had a basic, long black tunic and leggings. For Christmas Eve services, I added a red lace kimono from LuLaRoe. 

Two weeks later, our miracle arrived. She is everything good, pure and happy in this world. I'm the luckiest mommy in the world.

Before I end this post, I know I didn't talk about shoes. Footwear is such a unique situation and preference for each person. What works for you might not work for another expecting momma. Or, your feet might change as pregnancy progresses and then stay that way. Personally, I wore flip flops most of my pregnancy - yes, even in the winter.

Many of these items (maternity or not) work well for the postpartum phase as well. I had a C-section followed by a gallbladder removal at 2 months PP. Because of these, I had to be very careful about stitches, healing and the placement of waist lines. My kimonos, cardigans and leggings were really helpful and comfortable. 

My biggest piece of advice is find something that makes you feel comfortable and beautiful. You are bringing a life into this world. There may be days when you aren't glowing and that's okay. Don't feel like you have to squeeze yourself into a cocktail dress or wear stilettos. Breathe. You will rock it, momma, no matter what you wear!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Elementary Music Programs 17/18

Time to share my programs from the previous year! With my pregnancy, they were not my best showings or preparations. But, the kids had fun! 

Don't forget to check out my programs from previous years. You can search for them or use the sidebar. Let me know if you have any questions regarding my programs. Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Be a Musical Marigold

Wow - it's been a whirlwind the last few months! My daughter is almost 8 months now and she is our world 💗 However, it's time for a new school year! I have been anxious about this school year for several reasons:
  1. Not pregnant
  2. Only 1 building again
  3. Setting expectations
  4. Meeting expectations
  5. Being innovative

Basically, I had a rough year being pregnant, trying to be in two buildings and maintaining my best teacher-self. This year I want to remind everyone why I'm a music teacher and how music can positively impact people. At the same time, I am hoping to bring some new ideas into my classroom while preserving those tried-and-true, core lessons. Above all, I want to have more joy in teaching.


Wait - you're a teacher....shouldn't you be joyful and love what you do every day?
I wish this were the case for myself and all the other teachers out there but it isn't true. I struggled during and after my pregnancy. I wasn't my best self. I clung to several friends, family and teachers who could answer my questions, be an outlet and just understood what was happening. 

When we started professional development sessions, I was immediately touched by the idea of marigolds and walnut trees.


Uhhh - what does this have to do with teaching?
Read this article. DO IT NOW! Don't skim. Truly take a few minutes and digest the goodness of this article. 

Did you read it? If not, scroll up and click. This is the most relevant, powerful and unique article I may have ever read. For those of you who didn't read it (shame on you!), here's the gist of it:
  • Marigolds help other plants thrive
  • Marigold teachers in your career will help you be successful
  • Walnut trees take from others and drag plants down
  • Everyone knows a few "walnut tree" teachers who are always negative
  • This can also be applied to family, friends AND students
  • If you're negative or convene with those that are, your teaching and life is affected. If you find your marigolds, they will lift you up, provide support and make you a better teacher

Now, this is nothing compared to the article. It was written by Jennifer Gonzalez from Cult of Pedagogy. She originally wrote it for beginning teachers, but it can be applied to anyone. These were truly the words I needed to hear to put my feelings and thoughts into an idea. Not only am I going to work to be a marigold this year, but specifically a musical marigold. Music has the power to touch people and I want to use it to support and celebrate my fellow teachers and students. 
My classroom environment is joyful. My students are joyful music makers. I haven't been joyful - until now. 

I challenge you to find a marigold in your life. I also challenge you to be a musical marigold and use music as a tool to raise others up. You might even start to change a negative walnut tree into something beautiful. 

Here's to a new school year - which one will you be?

Thursday, January 18, 2018


She's here!

Harper Louise Skog made her debut on Saturday, January 6th. There are not enough words for how much we love this little bundle. 

I'm on maternity leave until February, but momlife is no joke! In time, I'll definitely get back to blogging, being active on social media and creating more products.

Thank you for understanding the hiatus as my husband and I embark on this amazing new step in our lives!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dear Santa...Five music books you'll want to find under the tree!

Hope you are all having a joyous holiday season!

Today I'm sharing five books with you that I think are wonderful for Christmas lists! How many of us ask for supplies for our classroom for the holidays or end up using gift cards/money to purchase things? I know my husband just shakes his head at me occasionally for it. However, we just want to bring the best musical experience to our students - even at our own expense, sometimes.

I've included a nice variety of books and how I utilize them in my classroom. Each is linked to Amazon, but please contact me if you have difficulty locating the book. 

The Story Orchestra - Four Seasons in One Day
listening, composers, music appreciation, mood
My students LOVE this book! It takes the reader through Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with beautiful illustrations and sound samples. Each page has a short musical example to press. More information, vocabulary and all of the sounds are on the back, too. If this book interests you, definitely check out her other story The Nutcracker for your lessons next year. It's wonderful for all ages!

It's a Small World
singing, diversity, popular music/appreciation
I love books that include CDs. They are great for days when my singing voice is off, a substitute or when you want students to hear a different singing voice. But, it's always a fun time when you and the kids sing it! Aside from that, this timeless song is a great bridge for families AND it promotes diversity. Our building does a huge Culture Week in the spring and this will definitely be brought out to introduce different countries, traditions and more. 

Tap the Magic Tree
fingerplays, sensory, drumming
This book is wonderful for so many reasons! It is interactive so readers can do fingerplays with it as a large group or at a center. Personally, I like to use it with beginning drumming. Throughout the book I have my students participate on their drum (tap, whoosh, plop, etc.) to make the tree change. For example, here's one of the beginning pages:

I would have the students tap four times (steady beat) on the top of their drum. You can incorporate lots of different drumming techniques and teach appropriate playing with a relaxing story. It's a great sensory activity for my adaptive classes as well. I usually put on some calming yoga music as we read the story and drum together. 

Ada's Violin
orchestra, diversity/cultures, STOMP/found sounds, music appreciation
This is a relatively new story, but it's already a hit. It tells the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay - a group of children that created instruments from recycled trash. I like to use it with my older kids to bridge them from learning about the orchestra to a STOMP unit. It also includes wonderful information, pictures and additional resources at the end. There are so many ways you could bring this into your classroom and it will definitely stay with the kids!

Tangled - It's Better When You Sing It
singing, steady beat, vocabulary, vocal exploration 
I discovered this new series at my local music store. Hal Leonard has put together stories (with Disney characters) that bring music to families with young children. However, they are great for my Pre-K and Kindergarten classes! I'll be using this one in January to help us remember the comparitives we talked about earlier in the year and get our singing voices working again. It has a fun song as well as online interactive activities for extension. Two other books are now in the series as well - Mickey's Found Sounds and Moana: The Beat of Your Heart. I can't wait to share these with our baby in a few years, too. 

Here's a story for you! We focus so much on our students and lessons that we tend to forget about ourselves. Take time this break to rest and rejuvenate! I definitely recommend this book to remind you about the good, the bad and the downright silly times you've had as a teacher! It is honest but REAL. 

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and break. Our beautiful baby should be arriving in the next few weeks. What a whirlwind of a January it will be. Until later - take care!