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!


  1. Thanks for linking up! I definitely recommend taking your Kodaly or Orff levels! Kodaly certification totally changed me as a person and my teaching. I can't imagine teaching without it now!

    1. Awesome! I look forward to them in the coming years!

  2. I didn't realize that we both live in the midwest (I'm from Indiana) and teach in a small town until now. A lot of what you describe reminds me of my first few years teaching. The internet definitely keeps me connected too! Thanks for a great post Christine!


    1. Cool! As I've said before, your style of teaching really speaks to me. Thank you for commenting, sharing your blog and your great resources :)


  3. Hello there, I am just starting out, and this is all very inspiring! We live in a time when technology can often keep us from feeling too isolated as the only music teacher in our building. Through all of the above, I don't ever want to stop learning! Unfortunately, I once had to do a field experience in a classroom run like your "rince and repeat" list above. Thank gosh none of us have to be that way!
    The Learning Metamorphosis

    1. Great! I am so happy to inspire others! I felt really alone and isolated until last year when I discovered the internet and actual music education (not just general ed) workshops. All too often, teachers stop learning, either after years of experience or right out of college (stuck like glue to those method classes!). This can be beneficial in some ways, but I think everyone can grow and learn these days. I was blessed to never have a mentor teacher or field experience like mentioned above. I'm glad that you noticed and want to be better - your students are blessed to have such a teacher!