Monday, December 29, 2014

2015 New Year's Resolutions

I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room for some New Year's resolutions. In the past, I've been pretty good about keeping resolutions. This year, though, wasn't the best, so I'm hoping to do a better job in at least one area.

Personal: It has been a tough few months for my husband and I, but we're still moving forward. I've been gone from school several times with nothing much to show for it. Hopefully, 2015 is a more positive year for us as we try to start our family. 

Professional: With a lot of personal stuff going on, I've also had somewhat of a smack in the face with our local boosters. I am not the lowest on the totem poll in the music department, but as an elementary teacher, sometimes I feel pushed to the side. I ended the year by writing a very personal email. It might not have been the best way to address things, but I had to get something off my chest. This year, I want to continue to be strong for myself as a teacher, but also for my classroom and students. Even though we don't win awards, elementary music is the foundation of those successes later on. 

Classroom: I have discovered so many wonderful center ideas. Most of July was spent creating materials and they are still stuck in our spare bedroom. I really want to get these things out and just try to do centers with at least one grade level before school is out. In the fall, I want to take the positives and negatives and keep utilizing centers.

Blog/TPT: I keep teetering on the edge of starting a TPT store. I have so many ideas, but I keep worrying about copyright and credit. I really want to share things that go on in my classroom with others, but I need to keep reading up on things before I give it a go.

Just for me: I purchased a FitBit on Black Friday and love it already. It can even sync up with my Weight Watchers program. Last year, I wanted to lose weight. This year, though, with the medications and stress, I just want to be more active. It amazes me how active I already am in the classroom! I want to keep up this momentum and striving to reach that daily step goal.

What are your resolutions for the new year? I know I've forgotten something really important that I wanted to focus on this year. Hopefully, I can keep at least one of these resolutions, if not more. Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hour of Code

Hour of Code - what is this?

I saw numerous tweets, emails, tutorials, etc. talking about the mystical "Hour of Code." In the end, it's really simple! Basically, we are introducing students to computer science and showing them how easy coding can be. 

So, this can't be done in music....right? WRONG!

Our elementary tech integrationist really encouraged each classroom to jump on board. Well, I don't like being left out of the loop, so I did some researching. I found a wonderful website and picture from a friend during our weekly elementary music chat on Twitter. He said it was SO EASY that I had to try it out.

Now, has a ton of different activities, but none were really "music" related. However, the Google website MadewithCode has two really great activities for students to do. 
One is "Yeti" and the other is "Beats."

Basically, coding is putting different pieces together to create sequences. With these activities, the students put the pieces together and then customize what they would like their dance or beat sequence to be. There are many more activities for students wanting to learn - these are just basic or beginning ones. It even gives you a blue pop up window to guide your process. Here are some screen shots:

I also showed my students the video of Miral Kotb and her dance/code creation iLuminate. It is a glow in the dark light show that works with music via code. It was really cool! You can find the video here: Danced w/ Code

I did this with 2nd and 3rd graders, but it is easily accessible for younger and older kids. Check it out this week if you have time - help your students earn their own "Hour of Code" certificate!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Amahl and the Night Visitors

In my previous post, I mentioned "Amahl and the Night Visitors." I have always wanted to talk about opera with the students and they have begged me to use my "opera" voice. However, I have never been able to figure out how to do it successfully for my students --- until now!

Bless you, Tracy King aka The Bulletin Board Lady! 

She recently posted about it here: Rockin' Resources and provided a link to her TeachersPayTeachers store for the product.

I was also able to find the VHS she mentioned from Amazon. I don't have time to do the whole unit/set she provided, but I was able to put my own twist on it. My primary students will do some coloring while they listen to the music. In the future, I'd like the intermediate students to do some comparing of themselves with Amahl through the venn diagram Tracy provides.

I created a powerpoint of pictures from various performances to give the students a little background on the store. Then, we looked at the first verse of words to "We Three Kings." Many students knew these words already, but we did sing it once and talk about the meaning behind the verse.

Here's the fun part - next, we added CUPS! I discovered this wonderful resource from I usually use this resource for ideas on piano and how to add new things to my studio. However, this activity looked so fun I had to use it in the music classroom!

You can have a piano player accompany the group, but I put the provided cup rhythms to a children's group singing "We Three Kings." We practiced by ourselves first at different tempos and then added the passing. This does work for any level, as you can keep it to yourself or move the cups in groups. 

My kids loved it! It was also very relatable to many of them, as they have learned variations of cup routines by watching YouTube, friends, movies, etc. Here are some photos of my 5th graders trying it out:

We will start the video of the opera this week and finish it next week. I'll also be using my "opera" voice in the talent show before Christmas break. It will be fun for the students to hear mine in comparison to the different voices they heard in the video. 

Both Tracy King and Wendy at have wonderful resources throughout year. Tracy just gave some new bulletin board ideas for winter and Wendy released several ideas for cup rhythm explorations. Be sure to check them out! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Nutty for The Nutcracker!

'Tis the season for "The Nutcracker!"

Normally, I do this with all grades, K-5 during the last few weeks of December. This year, however, I'm incorporating "Amahl and the Night Visitors" thanks to Tracy King over at Mrs. King's Music Room. Check out her information here: Amahl and the Night Visitors

Each year, I gain more insight into how to teach "The Nutcracker" and find new, exciting resources to use. As always, I LOVE to use Artie Almeida's book Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, Oh My!
It has so many great ideas for incorporating movement into classical movement. Here are some of my students using the stretchy band to show form with "March." They love listening and running to a new spot on their color's turn! I usually do this with 3rd and 4th grades.

We also talk about the "March" in kindergarten. First, we use jingle bells and egg shakers to show the different parts of the "A" section. The "B" section is sitting, with the "C" section laying down. The kids loved that part! Then, we are up moving. Artie's idea for candy cane horses is genius! Here are some kids "watering" their horse on the "C" section. They are so creative - the blue tile is the river!

We also do a mystery song activity from Cori Bloom. These are so fun and interesting to do with students. Many recognize the tune of "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy" but can't remember it's title. I love reading their titles and seeing what they come up with for a picture. The big reveal is always fun, too!

Later in the month, we'll be doing some more movement from Artie (ribbons and parachute), as well as different activities from some fellow bloggers and great TPT sellers. Here's what I'm planning to use:

Play Alongs
These are both great resources to use with the students. It's fun for them to play along with known music, but also reviews their rhythms, instrument technique and listening skills.

Plate Routines
I am obsessed with plastic plate routines! They are a fun, cheap way to add color and beat work to the music classroom. I used a patriotic routine last year and it was a hit! There are several videos online of different Nutcracker plate routines. This is a new one I'm excited to use:

It's from Emily at Emily's Kodaly Music. She has a wonderful blog and just posted some more ideas about using "The Nutcracker."

Listening Glyphs
Let's face it: I'm a coloring junkie! I think it is great to have students color and listen - it doesn't matter what age. Sometimes, just having them sit and forcing them to listen does the opposite and they dislike it. However, when they are creating a picture that relates to the music, they are actively listening and enjoying the experience. Music should be fun and interesting - not a chore. Tracy's listening glyphs are wonderful to do this time of year. It allows the students to have a relaxing, yet informative listening session.

To end, I'm going to use this fun scavenger hunt. I tried to put one together my first year and teaching and it was a disaster. I'm so glad that I found a new one with great graphics. 

Hope this gives you some new or different ideas to try this year. Have a great Friday!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Five Favorite Pins of November

Hello all! It's the end of the month and time for Mrs. Miracle's "Five Favorite Pins of November." Sorry I've been absent lately - it's program season around here. Four programs in five weeks takes a lot of time!

#1: Kitty Snowman

If you follow me on Pinterest, you will definitely see funny cat photos. I love my kitty, but I also enjoy seeing hilarious pictures and videos of cats. This one puts me in the winter mood!

#2: John Williams

I really enjoy opening my students minds to all kinds of music. The Bulletin Board Lady just put out listening glyphs and a bulletin board all about John Williams. The kids love making connections to this composer. Plus, his music is just plain fun!

#3: Peter Pan Live

I am so excited that NBC is doing this again. Last year, "The Sound of Music" was a great way to bring Broadway to homes. This year, though, is a little more aimed at kids. We did several activities this week with "Peter Pan" in 5th grade. Encourage your students to watch it this week!

#4: Jingle Bell Rock

These videos are great and interactive! I wish there were more rhythms, but they are still great to review ta, titi and rest with clapping or instruments. This one is also festive and a student favorite!

#5: Holiday Form
I can't wait to buy this resource on Cyber Monday! It has 27 different holiday tunes in different forms. It's a wonderful review for form, especially after we do several Nutcracker form activities this week. 

As I mentioned, many of these resources and more will be on sale tomorrow for Cyber Monday. TeachersPayTeachers is supposed to have a wonderful discount, while many teachers are also discounting their stores or items, too. Plus, if you provide feedback, you can cash in those credits. Happy shopping!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Incredibox 2014


My students LOVE this mixing activity. It is great to hear them use words like "beat" and "melody," as well as work to create different combinations.

Here's a sneak peak of the music video they unlock with the right combination:

Check it out - I guarantee your kids will be hooked!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Liebster Award

Hi all! This week has been a crazy one! Monday was our yearly Veterans Assembly in the afternoon, but this was the first year I was mostly "in charge." Then, Tuesday night was the 4th graders music program for Veterans Day. I'll be posting pictures and videos later.

Today and Friday we don't have school - hooray! Our volleyball girls are playing for their 2nd state championship tomorrow. Good luck, ladies!

Due to this, I have some free time to blog. I'm honored to be nominated for a Liebster Award by Jennifer at The Yellow Brick Road!

The Liebster Award was created to highlight blogs with growing audiences (200 followers or less). The rules for receiving this award are:
1. In your post, link back to the blogger who nominated you as a thank you and a 'shout out'.

2. Answer the questions that the tagger set for you, plus create 11 questions for the people you've tagged to answer (please use the set questions I've answered).  

3. Nominate eight people, (blogs with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post. 

4. Let your nominees know and provide them with a link back to your post (so they can see the rules).

5. No nominating the person who nominated you, however you may send them a thank you.

1. Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
I started blogging in August 2013. It was only a year or so ago, but it feels like forever! I wanted toshare all of the amazing ideas I've found, adjusted and used with my students. I am my own person at my school, so it's hard to find people to share things with and bounce ideas off of. I hope that my blog is helpful to those teachers that are a little more secluded or just need some new ideas.

2. What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
Share! I want to share ideas as much as possible. I love when readers comment on my blog with twists or adjustments that they've used with a lesson. I enjoy having another pair of eyes look at things and give me suggestions!

3. Is there something you learned late in your blogging journey that you wished you knew before?
I didn't know how to link pictures! It is so much quicker for someone to click on the picture of what I'm talking about to direct them to the resource! In the past, I would post the link underneath. I am much quicker at it now - hope it helps!

4. What is your favorite past time other than blogging?
I love TV! It feels great to snuggle up on the couch and watch one of my favorite shows. Over the summer, my husband and I binge watched all of Game of Thrones. Now, I've been trying to find all of the seasons of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. My husband and I also watch Jeopardy every day, no matter what.

5. How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog?
I try to dedicate a couple hours or so. Right now, it's program season, so school and piano lessons are taking a lot of my free time. I struggle with whether something is worth posting or not. I always try to have supplemental pictures, links and other items before posting to catch people's attention or give them a resource to check out. The linking tends to take a bit for me.

6. What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most?
I love blog posts that include pictures or videos. I am a very visual learner, so it's easier for me to scroll straight to a picture or video to see what's going on before reading. This is another reason I try to bring visuals into my posts as much as possible.

7. Where does you blog inspiration come from?
My inspiration comes from my classroom or Pinterest. More often than not, I will find an idea on Pinterest that is not as accessible to my classroom as I like. So, I tweak it and want to share those adjustments or accommodations with other teachers. I was always told to "make it your own" and "give credit where credit is due" so I strive to do this, while also sharing another perspective.

8. Which post that you've written are you most proud of? 
I am most proud of my very first post, all about my Teacher Planner. I seriously love this thing! My life was a mess before it (okay, not really because I have OCD, but you get the idea)! I would have 4-5 things to take to every meeting, calendars here and there, lessons bent and messed up, etc. Now, everything is together and color-coded. However, my most popular posts have been about room setups and how I use Symbaloo in the music classroom.

9. Is there any post you've been planning to do, but have been postponing for awhile?
I know blogging is supposed to generally be positive, but I feel like there are a lot of struggles in teaching music education, aside from the popular "advocacy" post. Some day, I'd like to share the day-to-day problems that I face, as well as the chaos of programs, early out days, "prep time" and so on. I'm not sure if I'm the only one that feels this or it's mostly an unspoken thing. We'll see if I ever get up the gumption to do it!

10. What's your favorite aspect of blogging?
I love connecting with other teachers! I have made so many connections through following, commenting and posting with other teachers around the world. It's wonderful to join linky parties, Twitter chats and group discussions. I don't feel so alone in my little world anymore :)

11. Which recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you be most likely to try yourself?
This wasn't on her blog, but her TPT store. I just did Jennifer's "Leaves" lesson with my kindergarteners. It was a great way to introduce the mallet instruments, while also reviewing high and low. Thank you so much, Jennifer!

Wow - it's great to look back on all of the things I've blogged about. I've enjoyed reading back through comments and checking out the traffic, too. Thank you again for the nomination, Jennifer! Here are the blogs I'm nominating:

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Piano Maestro

I'm a day late, but I'm linking up with "Tech Talk Tuesday" from Pitch Publications.

I'm so excited about this linky party because I've been wanting to get the news out about a fabulous free app. Yes, I said it - FREE! It's called Piano Maestro and it is from Joytunes. They also have a great note naming app called Dust Buster, but that is a whole other story. 

Anyways, I stumbled upon this app through a piano teacher's Facebook group. I was a bit skeptical about using an app in my piano studio, but it is a gem! It helps motivate students to practice, as well as learn notes, rhythms, technique, sight-reading and much more. Students unlock different chapters as they progress in their skills, racking up points with a maximum of 3 stars per song. 

You can also adjust things while practicing. This was super helpful for some of my students. You can slow down the tempo, put the letter names up and even freeze until the right note is played. This costs the student "points" but really, it's about their progress more than points. You can also choose to "test" out of a level if the student is more advanced to begin with. It also works with several piano method books. I haven't used this portion, but I'm sure it's really helpful. Finally, you can assign home challenges to your linked students. Again, I haven't tested this one out yet.

When playing, you can use the iPad keyboard screen or let the microphone pick up your accoustic piano. You don't need any cords or bluetooth technology. If there's a problem, you can re-sync it or send a ticket for help. The group is also awesome for ideas, suggestions, lessons, or just chatting about what's going on in your studio. 

Aside from the journey, you can also isolate skills or play familiar songs. If my student is struggling with an F Major scale, the app gives several exercises to practice and review it. They also just added several Christmas songs, as well as pop/rock/country/TV, etc. My students love the different levels of "Happy." 

So, how do I use this in the general music classroom? I'm just scratching the surface of this app, but I would really like to teach a unit on beginning piano. It is offered in high school, but I always have a ton of students who want to learn or just experience the piano. Our school doesn't do recorders (numerous reasons) and I am not certified or strong in Orff, so this seems like a way for me to bring note reading, rhythms, and so into the music classroom.

I'll be testing it out in the spring with my older students and see how it goes. We are very student-centered and project driven in my district, as well as putting an emphasis on technology. I really hope this app will touch on each of those, as well as allow the students to learn piano in a fun and educational way. 

Below are some great resources about Piano Maestro. Please check it out and share your thoughts. I'd love to hear if anyone has used it before or if you have recommendations.

I'll leave you with two videos that I watched before diving into this wonderful, FREE app. It's easier to understand probably than my rambling explanations. Happy teaching!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

High and Low

My Kindergarteners have been learning about steady beat and musical opposites. We just finished up loud and soft last week, thanks to Aileen Miracle's great bundle!

This week, we began talking about high and low. I love this series by Thorne and Felts! It's not in a print anymore (one copy goes for $2,000 on Amazon!), but if you can find the books somewhere, get them! They are a wonderful introduction to steady beat, loud/soft and high/low.

After our story, we began listening to "Faeries & Giants" from Elgar's The Wand of Youth Suite. Our Spotlight on Music series has a nice listening map to follow in the kindergarten big book. We were able to point to the different pictures when we heard the appropriate music. The students figured out that the faeries had lots of high music, while the giants had deep, low music.

Then, we acted it out! The kids loved this part. First, we practiced in our spots before splitting into 2 groups and moving throughout the room. When it was the faeries' turn, they fluttered with high arms around the room while the giants stood frozen.

When the giants heard their music, they stomped and marched around the room. The faeries were frozen until it was their turn again. So much fun! The students even recognized the loud and soft spots!

Afterwards, we watched a short clip of the "High Low Song." The students stretched high and down low during the song and sang along. Next week, we'll add different classroom instruments to represent high and low. Plus, the colorful ribbon wands will come out for a fun high/low movement activity with Saint-Saens' "Aquarium" from The Carnival of the Animals. 

How do you teach high and low to your students?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

H-A-double L-O-W-double E-N spells Halloween!

Ha, sorry! I learned this song in elementary school to the tune of "Danse Macabre" and it's stuck with me ever since. Here's the video from YouTube that I like to use.

Anyways, I thought I'd share some Halloween activities my classes have been doing.

In the Hall of the Mountain King - Grieg
This is the first year I've really delved into Grieg. I love the music and the melody really sticks in the kids' heads! I start introducing it in Kindergarten and 1st grade with Eric Litwin's (Pete the Cat!!!) song from The Learning Groove. It takes the melody and puts in words like "I can shake my shaker egg and sneak around the room." It's fun to add egg shakers and a little movement once the students have learned the melody.

As they get older, I show my intermediate students a short cartoon of the story.

It's only about 5 minutes, but also adds in the "Morning Mood" music, which many of the students recognize. In the future, I'd like to add a literature connection. I've seen some great picture books online, but haven't picked one up yet. Soon!

I also add rhythm sticks to the main theme, with the help of Malinda Phillips' great active listening resource! Check it out - it's free :)

From there, we move on to actually feeling the beat, tempo and dynamic changes in the music. If you follow my blog, you know I LOVE Artie Almeida. She has a wonderful guiro and kickball lesson for this piece. I tried it with my third graders last week and we had so much fun! I used basketballs because we don't have enough kickballs and it still worked out just fine. Here are some pictures from my students engaging in the music:

It was Character Counts week, so they're all dressed up in the careers they'd like to have.The basketball coach had to come get the balls for practice at the end of the day, but we had a good time while it lasted. Artie's lessons are truly wonderful resources. I encourage you to check out her videos on YouTube and purchase this resource. You won't regret it!

Some other activities we are doing this week are:
  • singing the story "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!" with melody from Kristin Lukow
  • Halloween melody patterns from Aileen Miracle's 13 Nights freebie
  • Halloween vocal explorations and "create your own" template from Amy Abbott
  • Witch Witch (so-mi activity) and game from The Yellow Brick Road
  • Spooky Music listening & rating from Music with Sara Bibee (this one is a fun activity for the older kids!)

The last game we are playing is a favorite of my primary students! I discovered it on Pinterest last year and the students just love it. I can't seem to find the right recording for it, though. There is a faster version and a Denise Gagne version that has a different melody. I kind of plunked it out on my own and adapt it to my student's singing ability. Here's the video of the song I use and the game:

It's really fun and a great way to reinforce steady beat. What Halloween or seasonal activities are you doing this week with your students?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Five Favorite Pins of October

Hello all! Sorry it's been awhile. We just finished up the first quarter and conferences are next week. Wow, time flies!

I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room for her monthly linky party. Here are my favorite pins of October!

#1: Music Gifts

I had a couple of students who just finished up auditioning for Opus Honor Choir. Unfortunately, none of them were selected. They worked really hard, though, so I wanted to reward them for their dedication to becoming a better singer and all around musician. I can't wait to make these and leave them in the office next week!

#2: Drummer Pete

I just LOVE this video! My husband is sick of hearing it already. However, it is a great review for my students and we can break out the new drums.

#3: Amusement Park Mallet Exploration

I adore all of Cori Bloom's resources. This one is a great exploration for mallet instruments. It has a wonderful lesson plan attached to it, complete with standards, skills and a composition. I snatched it up right after I pinned it. Check it out!

#4: Pete the Cat bundle

My primary students love Pete the Cat. I usually bring him out in the spring or with a sub. However, our book fair has the Christmas story available this year AND I just received my Pete the Cat puppet from our project. How happy was I when I stumbled upon this new blogger/TPT seller's page! There's a section for steady beat buttons and prereading rhythms with colored shoes. 

#5: Dancin' Scarf Blues

Jazz and scarves? Win win! Can't wait to get the recording.