Tuesday, June 24, 2014


If you've read my blog posts before, you know that our district is 1:1 with a huge emphasis on technology. All students have laptops in the classroom, as well as 2 computer labs in the building and several mobile iPad carts. Here is my previous post on some ways I incorporated technology in the classroom this spring: 

Today, I'm going to dive in a little more to the world of Symbaloo. It is available on it's own, but our district uses the Symbaloo EDU platform. It's free - which rocks - but you can also upgrade to premium for a cost. Symbaloo is basically a board with all of your bookmarks on it. Our kids use this all the time, so they are very comfortable with it. Each grade has their own board, which is then divided by teacher. Our technology integrationist updates the webmixes and can quickly add, delete, or copy tiles. I like to have control of my own (since I do a lot of switching and adding), so she has my own webmixes linked to my picture. Here is a screen shot of how the boards look from our district:
Each grade has their tile (specials is the bottom right blue tile) and then the rest of the board is filled with quick resources for the students to use in class. 

Here is the Specials webmix. Our tech person has uploaded our school picture as the launch for our pages. The art teacher links tiles below, while mine are launched from clicking on my face. The students do enjoy seeing my school picture each year - ha!

And here's my landing page! As you can see, I have tiles that lead to other boards of the same nature. This helps the students know where categories are. You can attach pictures as well to your tiles. Those that are already linked up with Symbaloo have pictures available. If not, you can save and add a picture of your own to the tiles. 

Now, I'm going to go through how I create, organize, and code tiles. 

Once you've created your account, go to the top right corner and click on the black/white "plus size" - this is used to add a webmix or "category."
Choose your name for the webmix, like Composers, Orchestra, Christmas, etc. From there, it leaves you with a screen full of grey tile space. Click on a space to add your tile. 

Here, you can add the website, source, etc. that you want on the tile. Name your tile, click "show text" so that you know what the tile is and choose a color. If the site already has a picture, it will pop up - otherwise, you can save and upload your own. Click "save" and it will pop up. You can move it around wherever you'd like. 

As you create more webmixes with tiles, your top bar will start having tabs. Anytime you want to save or update, go to the top middle bar and click on the circling arrow. This will update and save your webmix on the tabs above with a lock picture. You can also share or delete with the middle bar. You can only edit if a webmix if does not have the lock on it. This way, you don't lose all of your information if you make a change. 

From there, have fun organizing, arranging, and linking. Here is my "composing" tab and it's arrangement. The tabs for my intermediate students are on the far right. The top line of tabs are for primary and the others are organized by different composing aspects. 

From there, click on the top middle's bar "greater than" picture to share your webmix. You can write it on the board, email it to all of your students, link to your teacher's page for at home music learning - the possibilities are endless! The students click on the link and are instantly taken to your Symbaloo. If they click on a picture, it will take them there immediately - no typing in, searching, going to wrong sites or stuff like that. Wonderful! The whole process doesn't take that long to set up and get going, trust me! My main webmix is called "Elementary Music." Click here to check it out:

I also use this to link to GoogleDocs. You can make the tile the link to a Google form, presentation or something else for a quick assessment. I've also linked it to Padlet and webquests for students to share their learning and ideas with each other. So many possibilities!!

There are many more features and playing around that you can do. If you have questions about Symabloo, creating webmixes or finding fun, appropriate music sites, let me know! Hope you've enjoyed my tech tip for today :)

Friday, June 20, 2014

Teaching Tips from the Trenches

I will be starting my 4th year of teaching in the fall. While I'm still a newbie, I have learned a thing or two to share with others in my short time teaching. I'm excited to learn and share tips with other music teachers through Pursuit of Joyfullness' linky party. 

The one tip I'd like to share is to stay fresh. Granted, I've only been teaching for 3 school years, but I constantly try to bring new ideas and lessons into my music classroom. There are favorites that I use throughout the year, but I love sprinkling in something new. I feel like this is something that wasn't done in the past. Here is my memory of music class back in the day:

1. Walk in
2. Find your seat on the line
3. Back row grabs books; front row grabs book
4. Turn to page ......
5. Sing song - talk about paragraph at the top of the page
6. Turn page
7. Rinse and repeat! (okay, not rinse, but you get the idea!)
8. Return books to shelf
9. Line up

Now, routine is great in any class. However, I don't think music should be that predictable from Kindergarten through 5th grade. In 4th grade, we learned how to square dance. Otherwise, this was music class for all of my elementary years. My music teacher was always smiling, had mad piano skills and put on large musical shows. She's still teaching today and is wonderful at her craft in many ways. However, my memories are not really those that I want my students to have of music when they leave elementary school. So, I strive to stay fresh!

I find it hard to believe that there are no means for teachers, even music teachers, to find new ideas and resources. I am from a small town in the midwest, but I strive to reach out and discover new things for my classroom. Here are some ways that I recommend to stay on top of the world of music education and in touch with the needs of your students.

  • Technology
    • I am blessed to be open to technology. It has allowed me to connect with teachers all over the world and share ideas. Most of these ideas are FREE! woo-hoo!
    • Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest - so many ways to link up, see pictures, post comments, advocate, etc. I get most of my ideas from Pinterest. I have numerous boards separated for all aspects of teaching. Check it out! Mrs. Skog's Pinterest
    • New resources! Most companies (Music K-8, Music Express, Hal Leonard, Activate!) will post new publications and information online before the catalog can get to you. Don't be a stranger to these websites! They also have discounts, sales and free shipping offers.
    • TeachersPayTeachers, Teacher's Notebook, and other selling websites offer quick and easy ideas, worksheets, powerpoints, etc. to teachers. Each seller has free items, but also great products they've created by teachers FOR teachers. This website also has sales throughout the year and bundles to save money. 
    • Apps are also a great way to reach students. There are so many about music, many of which are free for a demo of the real app. My kids love being a 1:1 district and squeel over iPads. I've used them as a whole class or individually. Same thing with computers! The kids are instantly ready to learn and see what you have to show them. Test it out in your classroom!

  • Professional Development
    • In Iowa, teachers are required to have so many credits every few years for recertification of their license. Music Education classes are a great way to get these credits and learn more about your craft.
    • Many teachers also take certification classes such as Kodaly and Orff levels to learn more and gather new techniques and ideas. I hope to take Kodaly certification in the next few years.
    • Online options - while many online classes and tutorials are aimed at general classroom teachers, you can still learn a lot from courses about development, differentiation, and assessment. Just make sure you choose something that will help you in your classroom immediately or in the near future. Our district offers develop in the summer, but rarely does it pertain to something I'd use on a regular business.

  • Workshops
    • I cannot say enough about workshops! They are amazing and really light the spark for me each year. Most music education workshops last an entire day, but some are conferences with multiple days.
    • Check out your state's music educators website or different associations. Our state has several Kodaly and Orff workshops during the school year, as well as a state conference for choral directors in the summer.
    • Many companies and organizations promote online, too. West Music, Hal Leonard, and such have summer conferences throughout the country. This year, I went to the best workshop I've ever attended in Branson. Denise Gagne and Artie Almeida held it. It was a bit more expensive, but the knowledge I gained was well worth it. Here are 2 photos I took of one of my new creations from the workshop I just attended:

 These are Noodle Notes! The idea came from Tracy King, "The Bulletin Board Lady." They are pool noodles cut into different sizes for rhythm work. The students can do dictation or compose with them. 

Tracy uses them in centers, but I hope to be able to use them in large groups as well. Here are the 3 different shapes I created. There are rests on the back side of the green and blue. The red quarter note also has 2 eighth notes, 4 sixteenth notes, and a quarter rest on different sides.

  • Subscriptions 
    • Sign up for as many subscriptions as possible!
    • While I don't always order products from different sellers, I am part of their list server. Music K-8 has an idea bank and offers several free songs and activities throughout the year. Plank Road Publishing also sends out free demos and chances to listen before buying so you are aware of the product you are getting.
    • This is also another place you can find out about products, hear reviews and grab some new books, props, and music for the classroom.
    • Follow blogs! Many bloggers have linky parties (like I'm participating in right now) and blog hops where they offer great ideas on behavior, programs, assessment, anything you could want! They also offer freebies occasionally for loyal followers

  • Kids
    • Talk to your students! They are the quickest way to see what excites them and what is "out of style"
    • Listen to the radio - when we play freeze dance, I try incorporating some of their favorite songs to dance to. If the words are suggestive, I use the KidzBop versions that are appropriate.
    • Our district is also focused on student centered learning. Giving your students some leadership in the classroom will quickly make them excited to be in music class. It might not always go according to your lesson plans, but they are taking learning into their own hands. What's fresher than that?

Wow - that was a lot of information once I got started! I know I am forgetting something really important. However, I hope you are able to pull something out and give it a try in the future. I want to always be on top of music education because I want the best for my students. What ways do you stay fresh and new in your classroom each year? I love hearing feedback, so please share an idea or two. Plus, don't forget to go through and read all of the "Teaching Tips from the Trenches." Have a great weekend!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Dazzling Discipline

Today, I'm blogging from the amazing Artie and Denise Music Symposium in Branson, MO. This conference is 3 days of diverse workshops for the elementary music educator. It's so wonderful to connect with fellow teachers and share new resources, as well as tried and true favorites. Also, "The Bulletin Board Lady," Mrs. King is here! She is leading a session all about workstations. HOORAY! I can't wait to hear all the fun ideas she has. Check out here blog here: Mrs. King's Music Room

Anyways, back to discipline. I am linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room for a linky party all about discipline. My first year, my principal said I was one of the best first year teachers he had seen with discipline. I took that as a huge compliment, but the students have risen to the challenge the last two years. To encourage them, have a positive learning environment and hold them responsible, I've added a few new tricks to my bag. A couple of these ideas are going to be things I'm tweaking for the fall as well. Enjoy!

If you have followed my blog and lesson plans, my classroom is very active. Rarely, and I mean rarely, are my students sitting for the majority of class. We do active listening, dances, singing games, instruments, etc. I hope to start using centers in the fall as well. I have had numerous comments from staff, parents and the students that music has completely changed. They are more active and "injured" in music class than in P.E. They are having fun and enjoying music - something that wasn't really the norm for many years before me. This speaks to my philosophy of music. If the students are active and having fun, the behavior problems and wiggles go down. Granted, we constantly go over boundaries and guidelines throughout the year, but the students always come in being ready to learn and move around somehow. Some days, it's hard to keep up with them! 

I can't remember who I got this from (Pinterest somewhere for sure!), but I love the idea of year-long seating charts. I do the traditional ones for primary kids, but it takes forever to do 4-5 seats charts per class per grade each year. With 5 classes of each grade, it's a doozey! Anyways, I found this idea for my older students and I've really enjoyed using it. I have their beginning of the year and "sub" spots always in my binder. However, by October, I give them somewhat of a choice. Each row is a color (red, green or blue). Out of my cup, they pull a popsicle stick each day. Whatever color they draw, they can sit in any seat in that row. If they get the lucky music note stick, they can sit anywhere. They expect this every day and even have to remind me! If it's a problem, though, they go back to that beginning of the year chart for the rest of the year. They will get on each other about it! It's hilarious! I've seen other teachers do similar things with numbered spots, shapes, etc. Try it out - I was pleasantly suprised!

I have several students that need to take breaks in music to be successful. It is also the second step on the behavior chart for the room and most classrooms. With my younger students especially, they like to wiggle and pick at things when they have to sit out. It bugs them and they beg to come back in! Still, I found this free sign from Music and Technology to use for a rest area. I already have mine in black and white, posted on red cardstock and laminted. There will be one on each side of the room in the fall. Hopefully this method works out a little better and gives the students a preview to the different pictures of "rest." Here is a preview of her picture:

I make mistakes in the classroom. It's a given! If I joke, they joke. I also love having fun and being silly. I try to create that bond with all of my students. When the students respect you and know you are human (gasp!), they work hard in your class. They also know that if I'm not happy because of behavior, then something is really wrong. I am normally always happy, so that's bad news bears! When the humor is gone, it means business or their fun activity is taken away. In the end, when the kids are happy and I am happy, there's less distraction, outbursts, idle hands, etc.

I thought I would share a fun behavior trick I learned just this morning - the laser pointer! I feel like a dork saying this, but the light bulb came on this morning. Our district is very active with technology. I don't have a smartboard, but when I am running the projector or the students are working, I have to be up in front away from them. If we are reading music off the screen, board, or doing dances, I have to keep running back and forth to the projector. In doing so, the kids get disruptive or those two cherubs in the back began goofing around (yes "cherubs" is used lightly, ha!). The result is a disruption and loss of learning time. Enter, the laser pointer! Artie Almeida used her laser pointer all the time today! She could instruct the sessions, help with dances, instruments, etc. and still keep everyone on track. This would really help me when I need to separate Steve and Jimmy (examples only!) or help Donna learn how to handjive, and so on. I'm pretty sure I ordered a laser pointer and interactive mouse in my end of the year supply order. Fingers crossed - I can't wait to use this!

I've loved looking at other blogs that have already linked up. So many great ideas - you can never have enough different strategies for behavior! If you are in the Branson area, you really should check this conference out. It's only day one and the resources are endless. What are your thoughts on discipline? Have you tried any of these strategies before? I am always open to more ideas and suggestions. It's only the end of year 3 - I still have a lot more learning to do :)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Let's Talk About Books Linky (Little Green)

I LOVE books in the music classroom! When I saw other music teachers linking up, I had to join and share one of my favorite books for the elementary music classroom.

The summer after my first year of teaching, I went to our state-wide choral symposium. Normally, these are really set up for middle and high school directors. However, they had an amazing teacher named Aaron Hansen present. He still teaches in Iowa, I believe, but does clinics and performances throughout the United States. He is primarily an Orff teacher, but his ideas can be used in any classroom. All of Aaron's sessions were so fun and approachable for any teacher at any level. My favorite was his "Telling the Story" session, featuring folktales and children's stories. That is where I discovered the awesome book, "Little Green" by Keith Baker. It's all about a child watching a hummingbird he names Little Green.

I really enjoy using this book with my kindergarteners in the spring, but it's also fun for 1st grade, too. The first thing we do is read the story - the ending is super cute! The students really love finding where Little Green is in each page and discover what happens at the end. 

Next, we find our own space in the room and act out the story. Little Green goes up, down, in circles, zip zags, etc. It's nice for them to move around in their own space with the story and use their imagination. I also add in the finger play Five Little Hummingbirds for the kindergarteners:

Five humming birds flying in the air (Hold up five fingers)
The first one landed in my hair (Grab little finger)
The second and third were a pair. (Touch index finger and thunb together.)
The fourth humming bird didn't care. (grab ring finger.)
The fifth humming bird hummed everywhere (Touch middle finger and hum loudly)
Five humming birds flying in the air (Hold up five fingers)

The last thing we do is talk about vocal exploration. I really enjoy doing these more and more in all of my classes. I introduce vocal explorations with slide whistles, but this book is also a great review of all different ways we move our voice. First, we draw with our finger and sing the lines that Little Green makes. I usually demonstrate and then sometimes call up student leaders to do a few. 

The next part is up to you and your classroom resources. I like to let each student have a long piece of yarn, but I've seen other teachers use jump ropes, ribbons, etc. for vocal exploration practice. I have each student create their own exploration shape and practice following it with their voice. We share some as a class, but they also get into partners or small groups to share and vocalize together. This is also a fun way to demonstrate student centered learning and do a quick assessment of how the student's voices are changing. Here's an example from another vocal exploration story lesson from Stay Tuned!

I'm sure there are so many more ideas for this cute little book. It's only $6.95 on Amazon...I actually think I got mine used from an old public library, but it is a gem. So bright and colorful - perfect for spring! Please link up and check out all of the great books to use in your classroom!