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.



What/Where?
  • 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!