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!