Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Dear Santa...Five music books you'll want to find under the tree!

Hope you are all having a joyous holiday season!

Today I'm sharing five books with you that I think are wonderful for Christmas lists! How many of us ask for supplies for our classroom for the holidays or end up using gift cards/money to purchase things? I know my husband just shakes his head at me occasionally for it. However, we just want to bring the best musical experience to our students - even at our own expense, sometimes.

I've included a nice variety of books and how I utilize them in my classroom. Each is linked to Amazon, but please contact me if you have difficulty locating the book. 

The Story Orchestra - Four Seasons in One Day
listening, composers, music appreciation, mood
My students LOVE this book! It takes the reader through Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" with beautiful illustrations and sound samples. Each page has a short musical example to press. More information, vocabulary and all of the sounds are on the back, too. If this book interests you, definitely check out her other story The Nutcracker for your lessons next year. It's wonderful for all ages!

It's a Small World
singing, diversity, popular music/appreciation
I love books that include CDs. They are great for days when my singing voice is off, a substitute or when you want students to hear a different singing voice. But, it's always a fun time when you and the kids sing it! Aside from that, this timeless song is a great bridge for families AND it promotes diversity. Our building does a huge Culture Week in the spring and this will definitely be brought out to introduce different countries, traditions and more. 

Tap the Magic Tree
fingerplays, sensory, drumming
This book is wonderful for so many reasons! It is interactive so readers can do fingerplays with it as a large group or at a center. Personally, I like to use it with beginning drumming. Throughout the book I have my students participate on their drum (tap, whoosh, plop, etc.) to make the tree change. For example, here's one of the beginning pages:

I would have the students tap four times (steady beat) on the top of their drum. You can incorporate lots of different drumming techniques and teach appropriate playing with a relaxing story. It's a great sensory activity for my adaptive classes as well. I usually put on some calming yoga music as we read the story and drum together. 

Ada's Violin
orchestra, diversity/cultures, STOMP/found sounds, music appreciation
This is a relatively new story, but it's already a hit. It tells the story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay - a group of children that created instruments from recycled trash. I like to use it with my older kids to bridge them from learning about the orchestra to a STOMP unit. It also includes wonderful information, pictures and additional resources at the end. There are so many ways you could bring this into your classroom and it will definitely stay with the kids!

Tangled - It's Better When You Sing It
singing, steady beat, vocabulary, vocal exploration 
I discovered this new series at my local music store. Hal Leonard has put together stories (with Disney characters) that bring music to families with young children. However, they are great for my Pre-K and Kindergarten classes! I'll be using this one in January to help us remember the comparitives we talked about earlier in the year and get our singing voices working again. It has a fun song as well as online interactive activities for extension. Two other books are now in the series as well - Mickey's Found Sounds and Moana: The Beat of Your Heart. I can't wait to share these with our baby in a few years, too. 

Here's a story for you! We focus so much on our students and lessons that we tend to forget about ourselves. Take time this break to rest and rejuvenate! I definitely recommend this book to remind you about the good, the bad and the downright silly times you've had as a teacher! It is honest but REAL. 

I hope you have a wonderful holiday and break. Our beautiful baby should be arriving in the next few weeks. What a whirlwind of a January it will be. Until later - take care!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Success & Joy in the Adaptive Music Classroom

Happy October! I hope your year is off to a wonderful start - can you believe it's fall already???

Today I'd like to share about a topic near and dear to my heart - adaptive music classes. My nephew is non-verbal, autistic and struggles heavily with behaviors. I've seen first hand the power that music has for everyone, but especially these unique students. Educators around the country are also beginning to see the benefits that music has for students. Because of this, more and more music teachers are being asked to teach "adaptive" or "contained" small group classes. Many are thrust into this situation without any prior knowledge or even a clue of what to do. 

Two years ago, I was placed in this exact situation. I discovered that I would be teaching a Severe & Profound group twice every cycle in addition to their regular music time. I'd been to classes with my nephew and worked with him while I was in college. However, each student is special and learns in their own way, no matter their abilities. 

For the rest of this blog post, I'd like to share with you what has worked in my classroom with a variety of students. Every day is different - never forget that! You will have ups and down, triumphs and stepping stones. These students have truly become my favorites and I look forward to their classes each cycle. I hope that you will also find success and joy with these classes because I know they find joy in the music you are making!

What does "adaptive" mean?
Adaptive classes can take on many names, faces and descriptions. The word "adaptive" just means that you are making changes or adjustments so the students can be successful in their learning. You want your goals and lessons to be accessible for each student in their own way.

What might a classroom of these students look like?
A class like this can differ from building to building and even year to year! The students may be in wheelchairs, unable to speak or need help with general movement. Some could be struggling with regulating themselves emotionally. Others might be learning how to recognize and cope with a certain behavior. Many times these students will come with a group or individual aide who knows their situation and can better assist you in planning or making changes. They may or may not participate, but are there to guide the student. 

What things can you do with these students?
As each student is different, they will naturally gravitate toward something musical that excites them. Many of my students love movement, whether we do a simple dance or just wave scarves. Some love to play on a drum. In time, you will learn more about your class and some of their likes/dislikes. 

What are some things you can do to be successful with these students?
First of all, get to know your kids! Many people keep notes to remember what the student struggles with or if they have a specific classroom goal they are working towards. Talk to the special education teacher, school therapist/guidance counselor and their aides. I once had a student that had a very traumatic experience with balloons. I immediately scratched off all the lesson ideas I had with balloons because I wanted to make that student comfortable and happy in music. Maybe the whole group is working on their ABC's in the special education room. This is a great way for you to help while also working on a musical goal like singing together. Second, routine is huge! Below, I will share with you the routine I have established in my classroom. It took many weeks, but the students are happier and know what to expect. It also helps teach them patience and understanding because they know we will play the drums at some point. Finally, don't be afraid to adapt as a teacher. You might have a stellar lesson that worked previously, but it's been a long week and the kids have had it! Don't be discouraged! Maybe give them a choice between two things or let them pick a favorite song. Take some calming time or a sensory activity. Some days will go perfectly and other times you just have to work with it. Don't let this turn you away from music, teaching or these awesome kids. Tomorrow is a whole new day!

So, what does a day in music class with this group look like for me? I've found that this routine works well for my students because it provides them with multiple musical activities while also practicing concepts that I want them to experience:

  • beginning activity
  • vocal exploration
  • steady beat
  • game/sensory/literature
  • simple songs
  • creative movement
  • classroom percussion exploration
  • calming/cool down

Below, I will detail each category and share some of my activities that have worked well with my students. Many of the songs and activities I use come from Listen & Learn Music, Laurie Berkner, Miss Carole, Hap Palmer and assorted other places. If you have a specific question, please email me and I'd be happy to help you!

Please understand that your students are so unique and may not enjoy or be able to participate in any of the above categories. This is simply what is successful in my classroom after several weeks of getting to know my students. My aides are great fun and are always happy to participate with the students. This makes things like games and dances easier because each student has a helpful partner. As always, do what is best for your students, classroom, building, district and self. 

I use a short beginning activity to get everyone into the room and settled in. Many times it takes these students a bit longer to get to the classroom and I don't want them to miss any of the music making so this is a way for them to get stretched, focus and ready to start class.
  • stretchy band (Listen & Learn Music)
  • parachute (Shakin' the Chute)
  • bean bags (Bean Bag Boogie, Bean Bag Fun, Bean Bag Beatbox)
  • Brain Bop
  • GoNoodle/Just Dance

Vocal exploration is so important for these students! We work to hear all the parts of the voice, regardless of the ability to form words. I have an interactive whiteboard in my classroom, so it is always a treat when the kids get to come up and draw their own pathway on the board.

  • TeachersPayTeachers
  • John Feierabend vocal exploration cards
  • slide whistle
  • Hoberman Sphere
  • pipe cleaners

Steady beat is so important for all grade levels, so this is something we do every class period. Normally, we use body percussion or instruments but we also move around the room occasionally.

  • body percussion - simple activities from Elementary Etudes
  • beat buddies
  • Music Express (The Beat is the Heart of Music & Steady Eddie)
  • John Feierabend's Keeping the Beat
  • movement (Movin' to the Beat from Music K8 or The Ants Go Marching)

This is the part of the lesson that can differ daily. I try to rotate them unless it's "student request day." Sometimes we play a simple game where the students are working on taking turns or understanding that they are out. Other times they do an activity with a partner. There are lots of things that can fit here - email me if you'd like more information!

  • iPad apps (Singing Fingers, Monkey Drum or GarageBand)
  • Tap It Here (Musicplay) or Charlie Over the Ocean
  • Great Big Ball (Miss Carole) - this one is HUGE with my kids!
  • Music Mega Blocks - create combinations of ta/titi
  • Hot Potato

This category can be filled with any type of singing you want. At the beginning of the year, we do a lot of echo singing and vocal exploration before diving into full songs. I do use this time to practice program songs if the students want to share with the others. We also combine classroom learning, such as the ABC's, counting and family/community awareness.

  • folk songs and/or nursery rhymes
  • program songs
  • Friends & Family (Hal Leonard)
  • Alphabet Action Songs (Musicplay)
  • echo songs (Oh, In the Woods, Green Grass Grew All Around, Walking in the Jungle)

This is where many of my students shine - they love to move to music! We do simple dances, actions or just free movement with props like scarves and ribbons. Freeze dance is always a hit, too, because they get to hear their favorite tunes.

  • scarves & ribbons (Listen & Learn Music)
  • Parachutes and Ribbons and Scarves, Oh My (Artie Almeida)
  • literature with actions (My Aunt Came Back, Animal Boogie)
  • musical spots (instead of chairs)
  • freeze dance/folk dances

Next to creative movement, this is one of my students' favorite times! They love tapping, shaking, and more with instruments. Sometimes we use songs with guided directions while other times we just tap along at our own pace.

  • guided directions (Listen & Learn Music, Hap Palmer)
  • play & stop - take a song and add random moments of silence with Audacity
  • Preschool Prodigies (for boomwhackers & bells)
  • children's literature (Tap the Magic Tree, Haja, Shaggy Dog & the Terrible Itch, Pete the Cat)
  • Mallet Madness (Artie Almeida)

I've recently added this component and it's really been a hit. It's a chance for the students to rest and collect themselves before the leaving the room. I also use it if they are out of control or not listening - we immediately stop and cool down for the rest of class. I turn off all the lights and project glowing stars on the ceiling as they lay down and listen.

  • Kira Willey (Peace & Joy, Namaste, Just Be)
  • GoNoodle (Melting, Breathe series)
  • classical music (Pathetique 2nd mvt. theme, Claire de Lune, Promenade from Pictures)
  • Listen & Learn Music (Around the World We Go, I'll See You in the Morning)
  • Sleepy Bells (Music Express, seasonal)

To keep track of all these wonderful ideas, I have a spreadsheet that I constantly update. It gives the name, origin, category and any additional information I need. It will definitely come in handy for my maternity substitute in a few months! I also have a playlist for this class that has most of the music I use regularly. Finally, I have ideas saved in many different boards on Pinterest. I like to be organized and so far, this is the only way I'm able to keep everything together. If you have any questions, please email me. I would be happy to help you collect resources, talk about ideas or just share experiences with you. 

I hope these ideas give you some sort of foundation or step in the right direction for your adaptive music classes. My goal is for my students to experience the world of music, but also foster of love of it. They might never sing and show the handsigns for the entire solfege scale, but that doesn't matter to me. What matters is that they love coming into my classroom and find joy in singing, dancing and playing. One of the best moments in my career was when a student of mine with Down syndrome (normally nonverbal) sang "Let It Go" from Frozen in its entirety. She was so happy and excited for that song! Her para cried, I cried and it was truly a beautiful moment. My nephew is eased with certain sounds and projects his aggression through drumming. It is not a cure or quick fix, but any little bit helps to bring happiness to a child. I hope you have inspiring moments like these with your students - it reminds me why I do what I do. 

***Disclaimer: I am not a music therapist nor am I certified in any classes or techniques relating to music therapy. I am simply an elementary music teacher asked to teach something that I wasn't prepared for and struggled to find resources or ideas for this class and its special students. If you are interested in music therapy or are wanting more information in regards to it, please visit the website for the American Music Therapy Association. Thank you!***

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Elementary Music Programs 16/17

Two posts in one week - look at me!
All funnies aside, this post is always one that I get lots of emails about - programs!

This past year I moved to a new district. One of the good things about changing districts is that they probably haven't experienced the programs you've already put on. Because of this, I chose a winner from my previous year for Kindergarten again. I also chose two other "pre-done" musicals as this was something that this district has done in the past. I didn't want to drastically changes things immediately! I also did one of my own programs where I took songs from various resources. 

Again, due to copyright, no additional information is given other than the source. If you would like more information on difficulty, the types of music it entails, etc. feel free to email me at 

At my new district, I have roughly 100 kids split into 5 classrooms throughout the year. We not only sing but also dance, play instruments, use movement props and more. Again, please let me know if you have any questions about my programs - I'm always happy to help!
*Thanks to Aileen Miracle, EduClips and I Teach, What's Your Superpower for graphics*

3rd Grade - Flakes!

2nd Grade - Happy!

1st Grade - It's a Hit!

Kindergarten - Friends & Family

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Bump Goes to School!

Happy New School Year!
I'm so sorry that I have been absent - BUT, it's for a good reason.

I'm currently at 18 weeks and wow, they have been a doozy. My mother and grandmother were sick their entire first pregnancies so I knew I was in for some fun. 

The last few weeks of school were the most exhausting days of my life! Imagine "beginning of the year" tired and take that times THREE! I literally went to school, came home and slept, went back to school in the morning. Summer wasn't much better - morning sickness hit me hard! I lost 20 pounds over the summer which is not necessarily the best when you're trying to grow another human being. 

Thankfully, Baby Skog knew it was time to go back to school and has settled down. I still eat multiple times a day, chug my water and have Preggie Pops but at least I'm not hanging out in the bathroom all day and night.
So, what does this mean for my blog and TPT? Now that I am feeling better, I will be back posting classroom tidbits, products and clothing advice as always. However, you will see some maternity entries pop up every now and then! It truly is different for a "specials" teacher to be pregnant than a regular classroom teacher. Trust me - folk dancing is not your friend when you are nauseous! But, more on that in a later post. 

Until then, have a great beginning of your school year!
Here's a picture of my kitty and bump savoring the last afternoon nap before it all starts:

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Culture Day

Wow - the school year has gotten away from me!
Sorry for my lack of blogging. I will definitely get back on track!

Today, I want to share with you one of the traditions are my new school district this year: Culture Day! 

This day is actually a weeklong celebration of countries around the world and their unique cultures. Each class picks a different country (usually the teacher picks the same one every year) and studies about it throughout the week. They create flags, masks, and do other activities that relate to their country. The hallways are lined with flags, the kids eat unique foods and there are even guest speakers! It really is a fun week - plus, it helps the students understand that we are all unique but share similarities throughout the world. 

On the final day, each class chooses representatives to share their country in the grand march in the afternoon. The kids line the gym and applaud as each country is called. They circle the gym twice dressed up and holding their flag. I also play music from each country so the kids can listen and jam along. Here's India:

So, what connects the world better than anything else? MUSIC!
I don't choose a country during this week - I share as many cultures as I can during this special week. Each class gets a day to just talk about their country and head instruments, styles and famous musicians. The next class, we do various activities from some other parts of the world. Here are some of the things we did this year in music class for Culture Day:

My primary students are junior kindergarteners, kindergarteners and first graders. We did several short activities each class period. Some examples are:
  • ribbon creative movement to world music (love Putumayo World Music series)
  • song stories like Creepy Crawly Calypso (Barefoot Books) & Kookaburra (Cantata Learning)
  • Zumba from GoNoodle
Zumba was one of my favorite activities all week! Our guidance counselor previously taught classes and had these fun jingle scarves for the kids to use. Some tied them around their waist while others tied them across their chest. She even had some small ones to put on your wrists. We used Zumba Kids videos from GoNoodle, specifically Indian Moonlight and Bouje. The kids didn't want to take them off - they loved that jingling sound as they danced. I'm definitely doing this again next year!

My intermediate students are second and third graders, but these activities would work well for older kids, too. Here's what we did:
  • World Instrument BINGO by Cheryl Lavender
  • Music Express Magazine/John Jacobson - the kids loved singing and learning about the music from Moana! We also sang Wavin' Flag from the 2010 FIFA World Cup. John Jacobson's "It's a Musical World" is a great song set with information, dancing and translation for several world songs. I also use it for programs every now and then.
  • Games (Se Se Se & Throw Catch) - both of these games are so fun and can take 5 minutes to a whole class period if the kids want to keep playing

Se, Se, Se is the Japanese version of Rock, Paper, Scissors. If you click the picture above, you can download the directions, game and accessory pieces for free! My students loved it so much that they had rematches at recess.


My Severe & Profound students are kids with various special needs. They come to a separate music class just for them in addition to their regular music class. We do a lot of repetition of activities and try to meet their learning needs in addition to personal ones.
  • "Hola" from Music K8 - I love this song! It is simple, repetitive and great for the kids to identify another language. We also add maracas to it and practice taking turns. Songs with multiple purposes are great for these kids!
  • free movement (freeze dance, scarves, stretchy band) to cultural music
  • "Waka Waka" with body percussion
As the year has gone by, I've noticed that my Severe & Profound students aren't affected much by noise. This isn't normally the case, but for the kids this year, they are fine with noise. One student doesn't speak much but does like to communicate with her body through sound. I had one of those lightbulb moments - we should do body percussion! The kids love it! However, there isn't much out there for basic body percussion, as these students' goals aren't to read 4 beat rhythmic patterns and such. Their goals are to follow directions, understand personal space, keep a steady beat, body awareness, etc. 

This led me to create several products in my store that appeal to other classes similar to mine. They feature only the picture of what should be done. The teacher can lead a steady beat, let the kids freely do the movement, create an echo or other things. It's up to the teacher to choose what works best for their kids. To celebrate Culture Day with my kids, I created a body percussion activity to "Waka Waka" - a song written for South Africa. It also features a Columbian singer named Shakira. It works well for little ones too if you're not ready for rhythms.

For all of my classes, I recommend this story written by Margaret Wise Brown (Goodnight Moon). I use it as a way to talk about respect, understanding and appreciation. They listen to me read the story, including the different languages and pointing out historic landmarks. We finish with listening to Rachel Rumbaugh (a music therapist) singing the story in a gentle way. It's a nice, calming activity to end class. My Severe & Profound students always need a calming activity, but this is great for all of the kids. As they listen, I ask them to think about being mindful during the week, but also when they leave school. You can sing the story yourself to the tune of "The Farmer in the Dell" if you prefer.

Next year, I hope to do more folk dancing and bring out my ukulele (I'm just learning to play and no one wants to hear that! lol). You can bring world music into your classroom at anytime, but this week is truly a unique and special experience for our kiddos. Take care!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Kick-Off Books for Music In Our Schools Month

Happy Music In Our Schools Month! 

This is a great month to bring music to our students, building, school district and community. I love using children's literature in music class, especially as a way to start something new or important.

To help you kick-off Music In Our Schools Month, I'm sharing ten of my favorite music books to read to your elementary and middle school students.

  • Ah, Music! by Aliki  - This book is really dense with information. However, it divides it into sections the students can understand, such as Music is Sound, Conductor, Practice Makes Perfect, etc.
  • M is for Melody: A Music Alphabet by Wargin & Larson - This book is part of a series that helped students learn about subjects and vocabulary words through the alphabet. It is also based on national music standards!
  • Music Everywhere! by Ajmera, Derstine & Pon - If you're looking for an easy read with multicultural information, this is it! The pictures and descriptions are wonderful and represent how many cultures make music throughout the world.

  • Music Class Today! by Weinstone & Vogel - I read this story to my Junior Kindergarteners at the beginning of the year, but it can be used at any time. It tells the story of music class, complete with instruments, scarves and one little boy who isn't sure if he wants to participate. The author has recorded the story into song, too. Love!
  • Music Is... by Stosuy & Martin - This story introduces styles, sounds, instruments and more to little learners. The pictures are bright and vibrant featuring different ages and races throughout.
  • Music is for Everyone by Barber & Smith - I cannot say enough awesome things about this book. I read it to the kids at the beginning and end of school, including once more in March. The rhyming text helps connect the many different genres and sounds of music. I also recommend using this at the beginning of a music appreciation class and having student share their favorite kind of music (yes, it includes rap and heavy metal!). So many uses!

  • I Got the Rhythm by Schofield-Morrison & Morrison - I found this neat book at our school book fair last year. The girl in the story hears rhythms, beats and sound everywhere. She starts snapping, dancing and moving along. This is one of those stories that you can introduce and then come back to for scat, improvisation, rhythmic speech, etc.
  • The Music in Me by Pinczuk - This sweet story is about a little boy and his love of music. Everyone around him is playing an instrument and he just can't get it right. He eventually learns the music is inside of him thanks to the Magic Music Man. Bobby McFerrin helped with the creation of the book and has some accompanying tunes.
  • The Really Awful Musicians by John Manders - If you're looking for a book for older children, this one is always a favorite of my kids. The story and pictures are hilarious! The musicians of the kingdom are so bad that they are all captured and fed to the crocodiles (big selling point for older kids right there!). A few head for the border, meet up and try playing music together. It's terrible. Eventually, they learn to play together and write down the first musical notation. It's a goofy story, complete with sound affects all the way through. I also like using this with a beginning chorus or band because it teaches students to work together and listen to one another.

If you are only looking for one book this month, I highly recommend "Sing" by Raposo & Lichtenheld.  This timeless song (from Sesame Street) has been given new life with this lovely picture book. The first few pages have no words, only the pictures of birds singing and flying away. One small bird doesn't have a song - yet. The CD is included and is great to leave for a substitute or just have fun and sing along. If you want to share a book with a wonderful message, make it "Sing."

I hope you have a wonderful month spreading the joy of music! Please let me know if you are unable to locate one of the books I've listed and I'll help you find it. Take care!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Valentine's Day for All Ages & Abilities

This week is Valentine's Day! I'm excited to share with you some new activities I've stumbled upon and created to use in the elementary music classroom.

Upper Elementary

First, we'll start with the older kids. I think it's tough to find activities that are fun for them but not lovey-dovey or girlfriend/boyfriend focused. Even at 3rd grade, my kids are already thinking this and it stinks! It leads to hurt feelings, low self-esteem and so on. Here are two ideas you can use with your older kids that are a little more unique.

"One Love" is a great song by Bob Marley. His daughter took this famous song and created a beautifully illustrated story book about loving our friends, family and community. Sometimes we need to take a step back and think about what "love" really means. This book is a nice way to do that and promote friendship and creating a better place for everyone. I like to pair it with a listening glyph from my set of Listening Glyphs for Black History Month. This gets the kids listening and thinking of the meaning of the words, but you can also use this for review or assessment. 

I heard about the singing game "Ida Red, Ida Blue" my first year of teaching. I played the game with an envelope and it worked great. This year, though, I found this adorable felt mailbox at Target. I knew this would be perfect for Ida! Technically, you can play the game throughout the year, but I like to bring it out for the first time in February. I cut out some small hearts and wrote movement words on them. Then I stuffed the mailbox. Here's how the game is played:

As the song is sung, the teacher walks around the circle with the mailbox. At the end, the teacher "cuts" between two students with the mailbox. One student opens it, the other pulls out a movement card. I usually say "ready, set, go" and both students have to go opposite ways around the circle doing whatever movement was chosen (chicken dance, run, skip, etc.). I also slip in a few free choice cards. The first student to get back and touch the mailbox wins. The other student has to sit down. I put the card in my pocket and it can't be chosen again. The teacher keeps cutting between students and having showdowns until there are only two players left or a winner (sometimes I let the last two be winners so there isn't as much frustration). 
The kids love it and sometimes, it is pretty hilarious! After that, my older kids beg to play it at least once or twice a month for the rest of the school year.

Lower Elementary

These activities are geared more towards lower elementary, but you can always use or adapt them for older students. 

I've always enjoyed using the finger play "When You Send A Valentine" with my little ones. However, I decided to put it to music this year. As I was working on it, I planned on using our hand/desk bells to make the sound. But, I decided to bring out a metallophone instead since we had just been using them with Freddie the Frog. It would work with any kind of ringing instrument, though, so please use what is available in your classroom. Here's what the set up looks like:

That envelope was another Target felt find. After teaching the students the song, I have one student sit in the chair, facing away with their eyes closed. As we sing, I hand the envelope to a student who places it underneath the chair quietly. After the first "ring the bell and run," the student gently taps a few notes on the instrument. Then, they run back to their spot and sit until the song is over. The student in the chair turns around and gets one guess to figure out who gave them the valentine.

It's pretty hard to guess the right person, but the kids think it's a hoot! It's also a nice lead-in to "Doggie, Doggie" where we begin solo singing with a similar set-up.

This last activity is great for really little ones including special needs students. It uses the song "Viva Valentine" from Music K8. If you don't have the song in your collection, you can stream a sample of it from their website. I strongly suggest getting it though - it's so versatile! 
I do this activity on two consecutive days. The first day, I pair students up and have them face each other. With my special needs class, I have them sit across from their para or helper. I give one partner a maraca. During the song, they shake and play their maraca. Occasionally, I say the word "pass" or "switch" where they give the maraca to their partner to play. They are actually switching every time the song says "valentine." The second day, we identify that and then they have to listen to know when the pass. It's a nice way for students to understand sharing, passing and listening while also playing their instrument correctly. Egg shakers work well with this, too!

I hope you are able to find an activity in this post to use with your students. 
Have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Tuneful & Trendy: February (#10)

Time for another Tuneful & Trendy post! Now, I haven't posted one in awhile for a couple of reasons. First, we have had snow days and delays sporadically followed by unseasonably warm weather. My wardrobe has been just as confused as Mother Nature! 
The second reason is much more positive. Our building raised test scores by 4% this quarter, helping to raise the district overall. Because of this, our principal (who's awesome BTW) is rewarding the kids with a showing of the new Lego movie. The teachers, however, get a full week of jeans, yoga pants, whatever! CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES, COME ON!

So, I've been wearing some pretty comfy and maybe not as "trendy" clothing lately. Still, this is something that I want to share with you all. Here is what this teacher wears on snow days or "teacher choice" days at school.

Who? I saw this outfit on a Buy/Sell/Trade group for LuLaRoe. I finally dove into the world of Carlys and Sarahs but realized they were too long to wear out. After learning some tricks from consultants and YouTube, I was able to shorten the dress and give it some fit. I used rubber bands or hair elastics for both items. The Sarahs is knotted on both sides by taking the long corner at the front, bringing it to the inside seam, pinching it together and pulling the rubber band around. The Carly is pinched from the inside right under my bust and wrapped with the rubber band. The same thing is done on the back, though you can't see it.

  • dress: LuLaRoe Carly (leggings material)
  • cardigan: LuLaRoe Sarah
  • leggings: Maurices
  • boots: Torrid 

Why? I wear Carlys and Sarahs around the house all the time. The length is perfect, they are comfy as all get out and I can add or remove layers depending on the temperature. I can also add a solid or patterned legging underneath the Carly if I need to do so. When my principal said we could literally "roll out of bed" this past week, I basically did. It was fabulous, comfy and the kids kept complimenting my Sarah. I did feel a bit sleepy in the afternoon (normally nap time) but it was nice to be more relaxed at school during some of the more challenging schedule days.

I've mentioned LuLaRoe before and sadly, you can't just find a store and get the item. You must go through consultant groups or buy/sell/trade pages. Only so many of each fabric and size are made, so sometimes you regret that you didn't snatch it up. I prefer Carlys that are legging or tshirt material because they are super soft and stretchy. The Sarah above is stretchy, but I also have some that are ribbed, thicker fabric or stretchy. 
I live in these two items (in various other fabrics and colors) on a regular basis. As soon as I get home, I put on my Aveda Stress-Free lotion and comfy clothes. It makes my day so much better!

Do you have an item of clothing that makes you feel cozy and comfy? Share below!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Celebrating 100 Days!

So, apparently the 100th day of school is a BIG DEAL! This was something that no one ever told me about in student teaching or even my first year or two in the classroom. I've finally started to understand that for lower elementary, the 100th day of school is awesome!

The kids start the day by breaking through a big banner. How cool is that? The rest of the day is spent counting, moving, and creating with 100. As a music teacher, I've always wanted to be a part of the celebration, but couldn't figure out what to do.

This year I've come up with a few ideas of things to do tomorrow (our 100th day) and I want to share them with you!

Music K8 has some great songs for the 100th day of school. Some are easier and some a little harder. I usually like to project the lyrics through Powerpoint so the kids can see them nice and big. Here's a few suggestions:
  • One Hundred Days! (22/3)
  • The 100th Day of School (9/3)
  • One Hundred Days of School (3/3)
  • Happy 100 to Us! (3/3)
  • See How Much We've Learned (27/3)
You can also find free songs on Pinterest that take a traditional tune (Oh Christmas Tree, I've Been Working on the Railroad, etc.) and give it different words to celebrate the 100th day.

If you haven't heard of GoNoodle, you need to check it out ASAP! They have dances, yoga, brain breaks, and more stuff for kids. A lot of our teachers use the "Indoor Recess" mixes to give the kids some activity when they can't go outside. I love using the Kidz Bop guided dance videos or the calming ones at the end of a lesson. 

They've created two fun videos for the 100th day! You can choose Skip Count to 100 or Count to 100. Both look great for a quick mention of the 100th day if you have other things planned. Share with your classroom or PE teachers, too - they will thank you for it!

The final suggestion is the activity I'm going to be using with my students this year. I love "The Peas" series by Keith Baker. I've mentioned in a past blog post about using his other story "Little Green" for vocal exploration. He's a wonderful author. His "Peas" series includes books about the alphabet, seasons, and counting. It just so happens that his counting book goes from 1-100 in ones and tens - perfect for the 100th day!

I like to use books with drumming, but you can use any percussion instrument in your classroom. First, I read the story to the class. Then, I introduce and place the drums in different groups (i.e. bongos station, gathering drum, lollipop drums). From here, I read the story and have the students echo the text on their drums. Example: One pea searching (tap tap tap tap); I find that it's easier to project the Kindle version (Amazon) up on the whiteboard as I read so I can walk around and help the kids. Once we've read & played through the story, the kids move to the next station and we do it again. 

The story gets tedious by the last class of the day, but the kids love it! It also helps them work on hearing a steady beat, playing with others and working on sounds. You can always branch out into what rhythms would represent the text or have the kids create their own ideas for the 100th day. Then, have them write it and play it on a nonpitched percussion instrument. 

Best of luck on your 100th day! Make it great!