Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas Activities

Holy moly - these kids are amped up! 'Tis the season of course, but wheww, they wear me out.
Tonight is the final program for a couple of months. They take a lot of time and effort, but they are becoming much easier and more fun for me. Good luck tonight 5th grade choristers - you'll rock!! :)

I thought I'd share a few fun activities that my students enjoy during the month of December. Some of these I have borrowed from others and some are my own creations.

1. Drummer Boy

This is a wonderful book by Loren Long. It's not the traditional story of the drummer boy, but instead one of his journey around town during Christmas. In the end, he is placed on the mantle and plays for the manger. The students loved it and the pictures are beautiful. I had my kindergarten students play hand drums each time the drummer played his "rum-pum-pum."

2. Jolly Old St. Nicholas

I found a fun freebie for this Christmas favorite. It is a great way to review half note, add jingle bells and play on boomwhackers. You can find it here from Emily F.:

3. Jingle Bells

So, there are thousands of fun things to do with jingle bells. I created this dance to it last year so my primary kids could get some energy out. Lo and behold, all of my older students still love it! It's rather simple and lets the students move around as well as find new partners and keep a beat. Here is a short video of my students performing it. The music is from Hampton the Hampster - I found it on Amazon.


I also do a lot of activities and lessons with the Nutcracker and other holiday carols. Let me know if you are interested in any of those ideas or resources. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Thankful Thursday

I'm linking up to Mrs. Miracle's Linky Party today, "Thankful Thursday."

It's concert season! I feel like I'm constantly running back and forth for some random thing. So far, I've had two successful concerts this year in November and onto the December ones! Tonight, my 2nd graders are performing "Flakes" by Jacobson/Higgins. We've had some hiccups along the way, but with the support of the teachers and students, it will all work out fine. This leads me to what I'm thankful for this month:

1. Supportive Teachers
                  I'm blessed to have such helpful teachers! They cover sound, technology stuff, decorating and anything else I may need. So awesome! As we get closer to the big day, they work with the speakers or whole class on memorizing words. And the biggest of all, they ROCK at crowd control. I had a glitch with technology today, so some helped me and the others led the students in practicing. Blessed!!

2. Hard working students

                  I had the best, unexpected comment yesterday morning. I was communicating with a parent about attire for the program and the mother replied "Well, I had no idea that they had to wear something special because she keeps running around with that program packet practicing all the time. I can never get a hold of it!" This is the best! I work hard on sending home the lyrics to the songs so the kids can practice. I hear them talking about practicing during free time, on the bus and at home. So many parents say their students sing and sing for everyone at home :)  Programs exist for performance opportunities, but memorable programs are made because of those great kids!

3. Administration

                 I'm finally beginning to realize the wonderful administration I have. They support me with decisions and morphing this into "my program." It took a little convincing but I think that everyone is starting to realize that even a 3rd year teacher can put out an amazing product and knows how to bring music education to everyone in a fun and unique way. I have some interesting parents here and there, but I've constantly have administration that backs me up and understands the choices I make for music education and best practice.

Maybe I'm just being corny and super thankful this month, but I'm blessed to be in this district. Cheers to you all - bring on the tonight's program :)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013


I'm joining another linky party, this time by Lindsay over at Pursuit of Joyfulness.

I've been several workshops and have seen lots of posts about manipulatives. I just started using them these year and I think it's going well. Here are two I've used recently:

1. Popsicle sticks

                These were awesome! My 3rd graders have just learned tiri-tiri and it's really nice for them to start dictating rhythms and writing their own patterns with them. They worked alone and in groups with this, helping one another to correctly create the rhythm patterns. Can't wait to do more with these!

2. Fall scatter shapes

I saw a post on this in September and was excited when I found them at Target. I used brown or red leaf for "ta" and pumpkin for "ti-ti." The kids went crazy for these! They loved making patterns of their own and sharing with others (awesome for student-centered learning!).


Monday, November 11, 2013

Veteran's Day

Our 4th graders put on the yearly Veteran's Program for the community. This year, they performed for the elementary building on Veteran's Day, as well as their nightly performance on November 12th for the community. I'm super proud of how it all turned out and I'm hearing great comments from teachers, parents, and local veterans just from the building performance. It's great for them to get another performance - I can't wait for tomorrow night to see the whole thing put together for the community! Here's my program for this year, as well as a video of our plate routine to "America, the Beautiful." I took the routine from Sardis Enrichment Academy's was taped by a parent and put on YouTube. Just beautiful!

4th Grade Veteran's Program - 2013

The Star Spangled Banner (traditional)
Pledge of Allegiance (traditional)
Rockin' Adventure in the U.S.A. (Music K8)
Thank A Vet (Music K8)
The Stars and Stripes Forever
Taps - Prologue
Taps (Music K8)

            *honoring of local veterans in the audience*
America, the Beautiful plate routine (Sardis)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Music Express Magazine

Goodness golly! It has been almost 2 weeks since my last blog post - sorry!

My life has been crazy lately because....drumroll......I GOT MARRIED! "Ms. Dunn" is now "Mrs. Skog." Some kids have it down, but it's going to take awhile for the students, parents and teachers to catch on. No biggy, though!

There have been a lot of things going on in the music classroom because 3 grades (4th, 5th & 2nd) are getting ready for their music programs in November and December. Also, chorus is getting ready for their December concert AND several students were selected to participate in the high school's production of "Honk - the musical." Busy time!

Anyways, I am going to post today about Music Express Magazine. I am in love! (cue magical cartoon floating hearts above my head). I came across the mention of this several times in blog posts and resource lists but had no idea what it was. So, I checked out the website and literally gasped in excitement. This magazine has exactly what I'm looking for! There are world music articles, lots of music ideas (singing and instrumental) and their is always a small article about relevant music! This is huge! Sometimes it's a singer (Justin Bieber, Carrie Underwood) or a musician (Josh Bell) or even about music technology, stage production and recording. I am constantly trying to pull classroom activities back to why it's important in the big picture. We are really pushing this in our district and it's hard with some concepts. Still, this was so exciting!

Then, I discovered you could get a sample pack AND the previous music teacher had received some. JACKPOT! While some of it isn't as helpful, there is a big plus in having this subscription. It's almost $200 for a whole year (6 issues), but I can't stop thinking about how this is going to help students see the bright light and help them improve their reading and reasoning skills. As soon as I can scrounge up the money (weddings are expensive, wow), I am totally going to subscribe for a year and try it out. I get a teacher book filled with more ideas and a CD, plus 30 student magazines. I would love to use these for project resources throughout the year. So many ideas! I even found an awesome listening map that can be used for Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever next week with the 4th graders.

EEEK! Music teacher overload. 

Please let me know what you think about Music Express Magazine - good, bad, eh?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

2/4 Tuesday Linky Party!

I'm a little late, but I'm joining a new linky party! This one is from Steph over at 

I'll be sharing a few things I'm doing in my music room this week!

1. The Five Little Pumpkins

           I love the story The Five Little Pumpkins! My kindergarteners have done a lot with this tale this week. We started out by singing the story and patting the steady beat with our beat buddies. Then, the students got a chance to act out our song story by either being the pumpkins, witches or ghosts. Our next lesson, we sang our song story again with our beat buddies AND added boomwhackers. I found this great powerpoint to help the students see their color's turn as well as follow along with our music.

2. Tiri tiri practice

             My third graders have been working hard on tiri tiri the past few weeks. We did some reviewing yesterday by using "I have/who has." I'm new to this activity and it was hard for some of my students. However, I hope to use it more often so the students are communicating and negotiating without my assistance. Here's the version I used from Aileen Miracle:

               I also end the class with a game the student's love. All over the floor are rhythms we've learned (ta, titi, rest) and our new one, tiri tiri. The students dance around until the music stops, then they must find a card to stand on. There are more than enough cards for everyone. Behind my back, I pull out a popsicle stick that has a rhythm on it. Whoever is standing on that rhythm is out! We keep going until we have a winner and then start over. It's really simple, but the kids go crazy for it. It also helps me work out who can identify our rhythms pretty quickly. 

Thanks for reading! I'm excited about all the new ideas from this linky party :)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Five Favorite Pins of October!

I love Linky Parties! This is my second time participating and it's so great to see more resources to use in the classroom. I'm linking to Mrs. Miracle's Music Room about my favorite pins of October.

1. Monster Melody Madness

            It is Halloween and fall time, but I love activities that can be used throughout the year. My 2nd graders are just starting to learn about "do" and this set is a great way for them to review their skills soon. It's from Amy Abbott on TeachersPayTeachers.

2. Primary Listening Sheet

          I'm trying to focus more on listening this year, through various activities. It's hard for my younger students to do this because our district is really working on writing and communication/negotiation. I love this gem I found for primary students to start communicating how they feel and why about certain types of music.

3. Every Little Thing

           I LOVE singable story books, especially ones that have a great message and are relevant songs to people in every day life. I stumbled upon Cedella Marley as an author through the blog "Treble in the Classroom." I can't wait to order this book and her other story One Love.

4. Beat Buddies

            I saw this on Mrs. King's music room and knew I had to incorporate it immediately. I'm having some struggles with a couple of my kinder classes concerning behavior. Beat buddies are perfect for keeping the beat and learning, but also a behavior incentive for them. If they aren't following directions, their beat buddy is taken away. My 4th graders even wanted to use them for our program practice! If they were showing program posture and doing their best at singing and listening, they could sing with a beat buddy. Wow - love!

5. Emergency Sub Plans

          Whenever I am gone (planned or unplanned), rarely do I have a music sub or an actual scheduled sub. They are few and far between in our district, so I usually have an associate or someone in the building who is free to cover my class. I hate always showing a movie if it's not relevant to our current topics, but it's the easiest for whoever ends up teaching music. However, I found this great idea that will get the students learning about things we can't cover, as well as talk with one another.

Can't wait to see the other great ideas that others post. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

triangles, sticks and drums - oh my!

Sorry I've been off the radar for the past week - I've been dealing with some personal health issues. However, I am back to blogging!

My first year of teaching, I rarely used instruments. Seriously - like, never. They terrified the heck out of me and I had ZERO experience with them. During student teaching, I became familiar with recorders, but nothing "percussion" like. This is really sad because I am a percussionist. FAIL! 

Anyways, I came into the program at my school with the hope of surviving the first year. In the past, the students had used Mallet Madness and there were tons of smaller bell sets in storage. I didn't go near them until my second year, where I pulled them out a couple of times with the younger and older classes. This was a headache! It takes forever to get everything out and placed and then that is all you can do for the day because of the set-up/tear-down time in between. UGH!

This year, I vowed to instrument it up. I've been to some workshops with Orff ideas and they've been great! I love taking a poem or story and having the students choose instruments to play during certain parts. I have also been adding instruments to the song powerpoints I've been using. The kids are getting really good at reading the music, their instrument part and listening to others. In the next few years, my goal is to incorporate the Mallet Madness resources, as well as start up a recorder program. Fingers crossed!

Here are some of my favorite instrument ideas I've used this year:

I love this book! It is short and has huge pop-up pictures. Plus, you can start off with 3-4 instruments sounds and add more and more throughout the year. It gets the students talking and negotiating which instruments should be what and why!

This activity is so awesome! And...IT'S FREE! It is so good for my younger students. It reinforces our different types of voices, ta/titi/rest, a fun game and instruments. Each slide only has 1 instrument, so our new learners can see their picture really big. You can find it here, from The Sweetest Melody 

Last year, I introduced bucket drumming. Wow! So much fun and so much chaos. The kids love it and it's a great way to talk about steady beat, being a group and form. Here is a fun one for Christmas from "The Nutcracker."

Finally, I love boomwhackers! Cheap and fun for the kids to start learning about instruments and reading music parts. I started using these last year on a whim and couldn't put them down. Here's a fun fall activity with all of the C boomwhackers. It also has an action song and ta/titi work. 

I am always on the lookout for more Orff instrument books, songs and ideas to show the kids. I don't have a smartboard, but our district is 1-1. Send me any ideas you have so I can stay on my instrument track this year :)

Thursday, September 19, 2013


Every year, my 4th graders perform the Veteran's Day program. It's kind of a tradition at my school, where the students sing patriotic songs, write letters and recognize the local veterans in attendance. Each year, I try to find different songs about our country and the armed forces, as many of veterans attend each year.

This year, I found this really beautiful version of "Taps" from Music K-8. The first part is the students singing the familiar tune on "Loo" while famous quotes and poems are spoken by students into the microphone. Then, all the students sing the song with the traditional words, ending with the lone trumpet solo. It's gorgeous!

It's a great chance for some more students speakers to give a little history of our country and thank those who served our country. Also, I was able to find this clip from the History channel's overview of the story of "Taps."

Several of the students recognized the tune, but it's always nice to tie-in the history of music and why it is so important to our country and its' citizens. I hope it's a hit - I know it will be very emotional for some. We have talked about this in our class and many of the students can relate to the sadness it brings. I usually don't like tugging at the heart strings, but I love this song and it's powerful message.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Five Favorite Pins of September

I have been seeing all these awesome Linky Party buttons on the music education blogs I follow. Since I teach during the day and have a piano studio in the evening, I rarely get to participate in these because I'm too late! But, it's Friday! I actually have time to blog and link up.

I am linking up to Aileen Miracle from "Mrs. Miracle's Music Room." I LOVE her resources. I seriously use one every week, if not more often. So, here are my 5 favorite pins of September!

#1  Data Tracking in the Music Room (K-5)

Our district is really focusing on data tracking, project-based learning and student centered classrooms. I constantly evaluate my students and my teaching, but there is a push for more concrete data. This bundle has awesome resources and ideas for getting concrete evidence through progress goals, levels, and personal assessment for the kids.

#2 Wee Willie Winkie

This song is so awesome! It has steady beat, rhythms, solfege, a fun game and instruments! Perfect for my K-2 students. I love songs that have interesting games to hook the students, plus a lot of elements to review or introduce AND a fun ending activity (instruments). 

#3 Choral Singing Word Wall

I am so bad at emphasizing vocabulary in music. It's something I definitely struggle with! These choral words, though, are great to display. They hit the key words that beginning singers need to know and I can quickly point them out by color, word or stripes/chevron. I already used 2 of them on the first day. 

#4 Rig A Jig Jig


I constantly struggle with finding dances that are fun for my K-1 students. I like to hit on several things during music, so I find that a lot of dances are difficult for them to learn in a short amount of time or retain if we don't learn it all at once. I tend to do more movement activities with them because of this. However, I found this great video of a dance that starts in a circle and moves to partners. I love having the students partner with lots of people.

#5 A Soup Opera

Reading is something I'm focusing on a lot this year. Whether it's song stories, nonfiction, movement books or acting things out, I want to do more reading in my class. I've heard wonderful things about "A Soup Opera" and I'm really excited to try it out soon. It even comes with a CD, so it's great for sick voice days or substitutes. I'm hoping to read it, sing along and eventually have some classes act it out. We'll see what happens :)

It's finished - I have completed my first Linky Party blog post. Have a great weekend - woot woot!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Bounce High, Bounce Low

I love the song "Bounce High, Bounce Low." It has so many things in it for the students to learn! I am using it with 2nd graders for concepts, but I hope to glue it to the 1st grade curriculum by the end of this year.

To start, we play a singing game. The students are in a circle, with one person holding the ball. We all sing "Bounce high, bounce low. Bounce the ball to Shi-loh," but replace "Shi-loh" with a student's name. The ball is bounced to that student and we keep going. Granted, it is not the most exciting game ever but the students like it and it is awesome for helping with names at the beginning of the year.

Next, we take it apart. I got this wonderful powerpoint collection of Penguin Songs from Emily F. at

The students review steady beat, as well as "ta" and "titi." Then, I introduce our new solfege hand sign "la." The students have already heard of "La" through the book series "So-Me" by Stuart Manins. I highly recommend you purchase these books. They are great! The kids love singing So-Me's name and remember it forever. They are pricey, but they introduce rhythm, melody, different sounds and high vs. low. They are also awesome for a sick voice day because the author reads the stories on his CD that comes with the books.

Anyways, we learned about "La-Me" who is So-Me's older brother. They now get to see where La is! We use the powerpoint to see the picture relationships, sing the song, show the handsign and see it on the staff.

Finally, we add instruments! The students love the boomwhackers and they are a great way to reinforce our district goal of student-centered classrooms. I divide the students, explain to them about boomwhacker notation and we get started! They are given 10 minutes to work together before performing in front of the class. It's also a nice way to introduce and reinforce audience etiquette. The students listen to one another, clap, and encourage each person's playing. I love it! They are so brave to get up in front of their classmates and play - I couldn't even do that until middle school! It really helps them out as we prepare for our program in December.

What other ideas do you have for Bounce high, bounce low? I love songs that teach so many different things :)

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Ugh - I forgot to show the doors! They are the most important part because the kids get excited about music when seeing fun things. I finally decided to decorate them because otherwise, the brown just gets really boring. Also, one of my doors is on the wall in the hallway, so if I don't mark it, everyone walks right by it :(

Primary door - this is the one that is stuck in the wall. I decorated it with bulletin board letters, vinyl music stickers and a great "welcome" record banner I found from 


Intermediate door - this door is in the music/art hallway. I found this great quote online, only it said "art." Still, I thought it would look and sound fun for music. I also stuck a "welcome" banner up above the door. I found it here:

Near every door is my name and a "music" sign. I also decorate the small bulletin board with quotes about music and fun activities or information relating to music that students can use or find interesting.

There, the tour is finally done!

Monday, August 26, 2013

Room tour - final!

Okay, so I'm camping out in my room this evening before the music boosters meeting. Meaning, I finally had time to take pictures of the rest of my room! Granted, my room is HUGE and I love it. So, I tried to get the good stuff so you have a general idea.

This is my desk & resource area. I've already posted the book case photo, but you can also see the blue cabinets (they don't bolted to the ground...gross). 

This is my main bulletin board in the room. There is a smaller one by the door, but it's just used for the concert calendar. I got tired of kids asking "when is our program?" all the time, so I posted a concert calendar all year. Really handy! This one has our rules, plus ta & titi review for the beginning of the year.

The front of the room has a lot of whiteboard space, which I love. The only problem is the project screen blocks it sometimes, so I have to be strategic. Above the board is the alphabet, with something music related shown on the appropriate letter. The kids love looking at it and it's helpful for those kinders who are learning their ABC's. I also have the solfege handsigns posted in the middle. Underneath the board (if you can see it...sorry!) are the national music/common core standards in kid-friendly language. It also has some fun pictures! Great to connect in the classroom when we're hitting standards. 

 The big blue cabinets have our vocab words, as well as specific things we hit in chorus only. To the left is a bookshelf (I turned it on its' side) to hold our books. I don't use books a lot, but they are resource when we talk about American music and other things throughout the year. I do have a handicap ramp in the back and then the extra metal chairs for chorus. 

This is my favorite spot! I am in love with color and organization. This spot shows that really well! Up above, I have the solfege handsigns again, but they are color coordinated with the boomwhacker colors. Then, I have my boomwhackers organized and stored in coffee containers. On the top are the rhythm sticks and maracas. Underneath, are plastic square and round containers with the different instruments. Some are labeled with white board labels, while some are open so you can see. It also has storage on the back, so that holds instruments we don't use a lot. Finally, it rolls! If I have a lot of instrument stuff one day, it is so handy to roll around! Love, love, love! 

A lot of the ideas and decor templates I did get from various Pinterest sites for free, while other things I did on my own. Please let me know if you have any questions on things. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Classroom tour - part 1

My blog today is just a quick preview of my classroom. I am constantly changing things up and moving stuff around. I find things I really like each year, but then there is always something that irks me. However, I'm really liking most of the placement and design of things this year.

This is my big bulletin board. It sits right outside the music room and is always a pain. The students love touching things and it's so big - I can never fill the whole space! I started off with an iPod design that said "Tune into a new year!" I just changed it today to the Despicable Me Minions in solfege formation. I think it's so cute and relevant to the kids. Found this great idea on Pinterest, of course!

This is my bookshelf. The last few years it has been horribly cluttered. Then, I discovered fabric bins. I am in love with them! I was able to separate my books into categories and use mini dry erase tags to label them. The bottom shelf is for media resources and the top shelves hold curriculum and staff development resources. The bins are in our school colors :)

I love this behavior chart! I hope it really motivates the kids to do their best, but also monitor each other. I have one for Primary and one for Intermediate. Each class has their own guitar pick clip, color coded by grade. They move up or down depending on their behavior. Here's the site I found the idea and template from:

This is the big shelving unit in the back of the room. It has a lot of great storage for mallet sets, old book series and other random odds & ends. However, the kids want to touch and see EVERYTHING! My mom is creating a curtain for this year that can be pushed aside, but is mainly in place to keep the kids from touching and messing with stuff. You can also see my other colored fabric bins. These are labeled and go along with the color coded schedule, behavior chart, and concert calendar for each grade. I store all of their activities and curriculum ideas in this bins. 

Hopefully I can get the rest of the photos up in the next week or so. What do you think? I always love hearing new ideas on room organization. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Back to school!

Wheww, I am exhausted! I went to bed at 9 pm most nights and still slept from 10pm until noon on Saturday. Those first few days are so exciting, chaotic and tiring at the same time! So far, I have a pretty great group of kids this year. There will be some behavior issues here and there, but I think the classes are divided better, so the students are more even-tempered this year. You really don't realize the impact of personalities until you have a really crazy class for an entire year. Love them, but boy, do they wear me out!

I thought I would post my first week lesson plans. The first week is hard, as most classes are still figuring out the schedules and with early outs, I don't really see everyone until the next week. I focus on some review activities for my primary students, while I try to start with a "bang" for the intermediate students. Here's an overview:

Kindergarten, 1st Grade

  • Beanbag Boogie
         I got this idea from:
     The kids loved moving around, balancing their bean bag and dancing with their new classmates - so fun!
  • The Music Teacher from the Black Lagoon
          I use books as much as I can in the music room. I love song stories, biographies, Orff, solfege, etc. Basically, if I can discover or create a lesson for it, I will use a story. This one is a great beginner because it's about a scared boy the rumors of music class. The students kept saying how I was "nothing like her" and "she's so mean - you're nice!" Makes my day when I get that feedback from my students!
  • Freeze Dance
           Let's face it - freeze dance is a staple in music class. I love watching the kids show off their dance moves and have a little crazy fun. The teachers have started using it in their classrooms for brain breaks and indoor recess. Can't end a first day without freeze dance!
2nd Grade    

  • "Sasha" partner dance
           As a former student of Simpson College, I had the opportunity to attend awesome MusicEd workshops every year. One of my favorites was given by Sanna Longden with the title "No Child Left on His or Her Behind." So fun and some awesome dances to boot! "Sasha" is a personal favorite of mine because the students are learning beat, rhythm, and dancing techniques, while also partnering with lots of students and working on hand-eye coordination. Win-win!
  • The Music Teacher from the Black Lagoon
           This was a new book for me this year, so I decided to share it with the 2nd graders. They loved it just as much as the younger students.
  • Freeze Dance
            I hate seeing a new class come in and leave without playing freeze dance. They get jealous and I'm a wimp at saying "no."

Intermediate (grades 3-5)  : I only saw 1-3 classes out of the 5 for each grade. I like to keep them altogether, so here was my "kick-off" activity for those that were able to come to their special.

  • Ida Red
           I learned this great song & game from one of my college friends and fellow teachers, Lydia. It sounded so fun and a great first day activity! We learn the song "Ida Red" and create a circle. After the song, I cut between two students. These students must race around the circle while doing something funny that I have placed in a letter. I could pull out anything from "hop" to "crabwalk." The kids race around the circle in opposite directions and the first one to get back and touch my hand wins. So funny! Here's a link to a great powerpoint on "Ida Red."
  • Oobleck & the differences in Sound
         This was the most fun (and most mess) I've had in music class. I saw this idea on The Big Bang Theory and new it was a perfect "first day" activity. Here is a link to the experiment:

    We tested several different tones from high to low. I also played "The Cupid Shuffle" which was perfect for the oobleck to move and bounce around. The kids loved it! I also created a little note & recipe from our activity, so the students could take it home and try it out with their families. It was messing and a lot of clean-up, but I hope it sparked interest in the wild world of music for this year. 

I promise to get pictures of the room up soon! I just want everything to look perfect and it's not quite there yet. What are your first day ideas & activities? Do you have full days or the half day chaos of trying to come up with filler lessons?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Join Chorus!

School starts this week - ahhh! It seems like it always sneaks up on me, even though I've been in my room several times throughout the summer. Still getting everything up and running - then, I'll take you through a room tour.

This post, however, is all about chorus. I originally taught 5th & 6th grade chorus. However, as more students have come into the district and class sizes are becoming smaller to better assist students, my schedule became too full. Now, I am just responsible for the 5th grade choristers. This is still no easy task. I start with these students in September, with 3 concerts throughout the year (December, March & May). I only see them twice every 6 days from 2:30-3:05. This is especially difficult during the winter and early out days because I don't get the end of the day and the letter days get messed up with missed days.

Behavior & attendance is also an issue. Chorus & band are during the end of the day. If the students choose to participate, they miss their last recess. This isn't a battle until the sun comes out and it gets warmer in April and May. Suddenly, I have students who "forgot" or just don't show up at all. They do get feedback on their progress, but our district is trying to move away from stamping a letter grade on everything.

In the past, I have spoken with each 5th grade class individually and occasionally in the hallways, as well as a letter I send home. This year, however, I'm changing it up! I recently saw some awesome chorus templates from Beth at I loved the pamphlet idea and the "cutting lines" and "keep...return to" spots. This seemed extra helpful. I immediately emailed her and asked about purchasing the template. She was extremely nice and glad that her ideas are helping other teachers. However, the program she used (Adobe Reader, maybe?) wasn't compatible with my laptop. She suggested just finding a basic template I liked on Microsoft Word and imput the things I liked and change the things I didn't like. So, off I went!

Here is what I ended up with:

Hopefully, this will work better for communication with the students and parents. I will also be coming up with a better attendance and rubric system in the next week or so. What ideas & suggestions do you have for chorus? What has worked or needed to be changed?

Friday, August 2, 2013

The dreaded "movie day"

I posted a sub sheet that I am going to start using this year in my last entry. This got me thinking about my emergency sub ideas for the school year. Substitute teachers are just few and far between these days! Maybe this is just in my neck of the woods, but it is a sad thing. Last year, I might have had one or two actual substitute teachers when I had other school events or was sick. In most situations, I had one of my principals or another teacher/associate cover and then switch back and forth with someone who was available for 30 minutes. Because I never knew what was going to happen, I was recommended to leave movies - I know, movies! The kids live for these days, but I am not too keen on missing some class time. Still, since this is an easy idea for a last minute sub, I wanted to have something that we could tie into our concepts or start up a new idea.

I am always looking for new ideas, especially for my intermediate students (grades 3-5). Here are some of my ideas. PLEASE give me suggestions, ideas, comments :)

Primary (K-2)
Arthur's Music Jamboree - I'll admit it...I still love Arthur. This DVD has several episodes relating to music, like instruments, performances and stage fright. It's especially good for my younger students before a performance. Even Arthur makes mistakes and gets nervous, but everything turns out great!

Lomax, the Hound of Music - I love the music and work of John Feierabend! I had the opportunity to go to his workshop last year and had so much fun. While some of the episodes steered away from his vision, this DVD has hand-selected episodes that Feierabend approves of. The kids will also recognize some of the music and stories because I use a lot of his materials in class.

The Tuneables - I haven't had a chance to watch this yet, but the reviews look great. There is singing, steady beat and lots of instrument introduction. However, it is pricey. For $30, you get a CD and DVD, but the DVD is only one episode. I'm really interested to purchase it and try it, but the previous DVDs are more worth the money in my opinion.

Little Amadeus - This is the other set I'm intrigued about. It is a boxed set of the first season all about Mozart as a child. It looks fun and is a great way to start talking about composers, classical music and opera. However, the reviews say that it is more "fairy-tale" like instead of historical accuracy.

Intermediate (3-5)

Fantasia 2000 - I love using Fantasia for lots of things! It's great for the kids to watch, but also to listen, create and compare with writing. I've done lots of writing activities and group discussions with Fantasia. The kids especially like The Sorcerer's Apprentice!

Classical Kids - Classical Kids has great stories about composers. My students love watching "Beethoven Lives Upstairs." The only drawback to these is that they are over thirty minutes. Therefore, I don't like using them in a pinch because I want to build on the information in it or use it as a review - not just shove it in randomly for them to watch and never mention again!

Musicals - We talk about musicals in 5th grade, but it's always nice for the kids to have a preview or small understanding of them. Again, the time length is a problem, but I always have The Music Man and Mary Poppins on hand in a pinch.

Any Grade - Phineas and Ferb & The Magic School Bus always work for both parts of the elementary. The Magic School Bus has a great episode about sound and a winter musical about recycling. Good introduction to musicals, especially during that "almost Christmas break" time. Phineas & Ferb is the same way. They do a rollercoaster musical and a summer musical. These aren't my favorites sometimes, but on emergency days, you have to do what you have to do.

Again, I am not an advocate for constantly using DVDs. I think they serve a purpose occasionally, but this post is for those last minute days or times when the substitute situation is out of your hands. Hopefully this provides some new resources. If you have any suggestions, I would definitely take them - thanks!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sub Form

As a music teacher, I tend to have a lot of subs throughout the year when it's time for music programs. Each grade has one program each year because my classes range from 100-130 students in each. I always try to be detailed with my sub notes, but it ends up being a complete page. This leaves no room for the sub to write good/bad things or any questions/problems that came up throughout the day.

I spotted this gem from

It's a free sub template that comes with other sub binder ideas. If you like this template and want to see more, you can go to Erin's store and download it for free:

Since this form is very "classroom teacher" based, I chose to edit it a little for my own tastes. Here is my version, though I give all the amazing credit to Erin and her wonderful design tools.

The graphics are more music friendly and I changed "students" to "classes," as I usually have more problems with classes as a whole with substitutes. Let me know if you'd like the form - I'd be happy to share!


Hello! Thank you for viewing my music education blog. People have been telling me on and off for the last year to write, so I finally took the plunge.

A lot of what I find, adjust and integrate is from Pinterest or work shops. I try my best to fit it for my classroom size, student needs and current curriculum goals of our state and district. I titled my first post "OCD" because I am OCD on organization and planning. My first month of school is mostly planned out already. Yes, this does adjust often but I always feel better with some strong ideas under my belt.

My Pinterest is a perfect example:

It is divided into several categories based on my needs as a teacher. I want to always give credit where credit is due, so I will link a lot of what I find. Most of the time I adjust it, but I want to make sure the original owner is praised for their awesome ideas!

My first post is all about my planner. Yes - a planner. I stumbled upon from pinterest (mention #1) and fell in LOVE! It is quite pricey for a teacher planner ($59 plus add-ons if you'd like) but it has everything I could possibly need. Here is a photo I snapped:

It arrived in an awesome box and I wanted to cry! Everything is huge, color coordinated and labeled. What else could an OCD music teacher want? 

Here is a monthly calendar view - I've already put in all of our school calendar dates, plus important "life events" and holidays.

Lesson plans with color coordinated days. It has 7 sections, so I can include K-5 and 5th Chorus.

Tabs for everything! And a swanky little pen/pencil holder for staff meetings :)

My last photo is the labels. It has 2 pages of printed labels (conferences, field trips, etc.) and then 2 pages of labels that you can write on. I've already taken some out and marked our elementary music concerts for the year. The color of the label corresponds with the same color fabric bin I have for each grade's curriculum and activities. has a nice tutorial video with everything in it, plus all the extras you can add on if you'd like. I haven't heard negative comments from people that have purchased and used it (only if their order was wrong), so I'm hoping for the best because I am already in love with it. When ordering, you do receive some surprise benefits like personalized items and discounts. If you're interested in ordering a planner, have questions or wonder about the other products on the website, let me know. 

Before school starts, I will post a completed room tour so you can see the layout, plus behavior charts and curriculum organization. Thanks for reading!