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!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Making Sense of Major & Minor

Today, I'd like to share about a topic that I think is overlooked in music education: major & minor. 

Being in Iowa, there are very few opportunities for elementary music teachers to meet and collaborate. A small group of us started having a workshop day twice a year (late summer & winter) at a centrally located spot. Two of the teachers involved were gracious enough to host and plan it out the first time. From there, we've started tweaking certain things, but overall have had a wonderful day of sharing, planning and just being grateful for the chance to talk with others in our field.

I met up with a few of these teachers at our yearly state conference this past fall. One of them, Anne, shared with me (because she knows I love books in music!) about the story called "Fortunately" by  Remy Charlip. Each part has a good thing that happened followed by a not-so-good outcome. Here's a sample:


Anne explained how she used this book to present and review major/minor to her students. I had a eureka moment! The kids always catch on to when something is "happy" or "sad" but they need to know the terminology. I feel uncomfortable just springing stuff on them, so this kind of connection would be perfect! I also wanted to introduce my new handbell/deskbell sets. More and ideas kept coming to me and I was so excited!

I sat on this lesson for a bit. I wasn't quite ready to bring it to my kids just yet, as the holiday season approached and then program practice. 

Then, one day I was at Half Price Books with my mom (we love this place). I stumbled upon a cute book in the CLEARANCE section, no less called "Good News, Bad News" by Jeff Mack. Those are the only words in the entire book and it shares a similar idea as the "Fortunately" book.

Another eureka moment - I could introduce major & minor to my younger students with this book. Then, bring it back in the later years with "Fortunately." HOORAY!

I haven't been excited about lessons like this since I discovered Artie Almeida's movement activities. So, I wanted to share this idea and how I'm going about it with you all!

The ideas below are merely suggestions - I'm sure you all have your own way of teaching, additional materials, assessments, etc. You can use these ideas as a whole lesson or break them into parts and do other things. Click below for the freebies you can use with this unit! As always, make it accessible for your classroom.

Lower Elementary:
  • First day: introduce & read the story "Good News, Bad News"

  • Second day: project story (kindle version) and play major or minor chords for each page of the story - I'm a pianist so I'd just play it and click through the story as the kids watch.

    After the story, play the chords one at a time and talk about how it makes the students feel (happy, sad, mad, etc.)

    Stick up or project the two faces (without words) on the board; play sounds and have students use their own faces or point to the right picture

  • Third day: bring the faces out again and play examples (mp3 or piano) - can the children pick the right face?

    Let students create their own happy/sad face cards; attach to a pencil, popsicle stick, etc. for easier flipping!

    Replay the examples and have the students use their own cards

  • Additional ideas: add instruments; introduce terminology; create listening examples & place the identification cards at a center; introduce & practice borduns, use beat buddies with different examples; make half the group happy & other half sad - have them stand when they hear "their music"

Upper Elementary:
  • First day: introduce & read the story "Fortunately" - if previously talked about in lower elementary, bring up the faces & happy/sad idea

  • Second day: stick up faces and have the students identify as they listen to different examples

    Then, introduce the terms "major" and "minor" ; write the words on the faces or swap with terminology faces

    Identify the examples again, using the vocabulary

  • Third day: bring out "Fortunately" and talk about the different pages using major & minor

    Introduce the handbells/deskbells (from here, you can talk about scales, chords structure, etc. but I just group them for the kids already) and play the major sounds, then minor

    Read the story, having half of the group be major for fortunately & the other half be minor for unfortunately; switch groups

  • Fourth day: From here, I would use Linda McPherson's Major/Minor games. You can buy the games separately or as a bundle.

    First, the kids would make their own major/minor assessment tool and as I played the examples in her product, they would use their card to share their idea (instead of shouting it out)

  • Additional ideas: introduce scales, chord structure, etc.; create listening examples & place the identification cards at a center; written/aural test; mystery patterns & chords; students creating their own pattern or chord & having other students label major/minor

I know there are tons of ideas out there for teaching major and minor but none ever really spoke to me for introducing it. I love both of these books and my students enjoy using those two words to start describing music. They even use them as they talk about their favorite pop songs - it's awesome!

If you introduce or teach major and minor in a different way, please share below. I love having multiples ways to bring something to my students. Don't forget to click upon to get that freebie with the ideas and materials mentioned above!

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tuneful & Trendy: January (#9)

This week's outfit included pattern mixing - something I'm not quite comfortable with. I am a type A personality and need everything to go together nicely. Pattern mixing confuses me because there is no specific focal point. However, pattern mixing is really in this season and I need to venture outside of my comfort zone every now and then. 
The easiest way to start pattern mixing is to go with stripes and a floral print. This dress is just that!
Who? I picked this dress out but my husband really liked it. Bonus!


Why? Like I said above, this dress is pushing me out of my comfort zone. I also struggle with pairing browns and blacks. This dress does that as well. While it made me uncomfortable trying it on, I immediately fell in love with it! It has pockets (awesome) and is nice and flowy. I also like the pop of pink in the flowers against the taupe and black. It is 3/4 sleeved, but pretty warm considering the lightness of the fabric. I wore it with black leggings and brown boots, but you could easily pair it with brown or pink leggings and black boots. I received a ton of compliments on it when I presented at a conference last year. At the end of the day, I felt like a million bucks!

This dress is from an online boutique which can be a little daunting. When you order online, it's hard to get the sizing right. Paisley Grace has been quick about orders and returns, but you won't get money back - just store credit. I don't mind it most of the time because I get unique pieces that stand out. Do you have an online boutique you adore? Share below!

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Tuneful & Trendy: December (#8)

Happy New Year!

The previous month is a busy time for a lot of people. I was also blessed with getting the stomach flu on Thanksgiving. So, needless to say, I haven't posted in awhile.

Hopefully you had successful programs, holiday lessons and a relaxing break! When I wasn't sick, busy or completely exhausted, I did have time to snap a few Tuneful & Trendy photos for you all.

Who? The kids and teachers at school LOVE this shirt! 


• jeans: Torrid
            • fleece: Columbia
            • shirt:

Why? Elf has become a staple at Christmastime. This quote from the movie is perfectly adjusted for teachers - "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is teaching music to everyone here!" I really should wear this more than once during the month of December because the kids love it and the teachers recognize it. I just might decorate my door with that theme next year...hmm...

Who? This is one of my go-to comfy outfits for casual days.

          • jeans: Torrid
          • sweatshirt: Maurices
          • scarf: 

Why? Our school colors are yellow/gold and black. Luckily, the "in color" this season is mustard. I snagged this comfy pullover sweatshirt as soon as I saw it. I wish I would have bought two in hindsight. Anyways, I found this super soft infinity scarf on Two-day shipping brought this beauty to my house and wardrobe. I could also pair this outfit with skinny colored pants, khakis, black pants, etc. It really looks put together but comfy on casual Fridays.

Who? My husband (bless his heart) encouraged my addiction to damask with this dress.

        • dress: Perfectly Priscilla Boutique
        • leggings: Maurices
        • boots: Torrid

Why? This tunic dress had to be in my closet! The base color is a dark hunter green with the print allover in a cream. It's super flowy and flattering over my curves, too. Best part: POCKETS! Paired with my super soft brown leggings from Maurices and comfy boots, this outfit is great for most of the year. I loved it so much that I wore it for conferences and received tons of positive compliments!

Again, sorry for being so quiet lately. I hope to get back in the swing of things as the second semester starts up. Look for a post coming later this to introduce and/or reinforce major & minor. Enjoy!