Monday, July 10, 2017

How to Energize a Music Curriculum with Creative Materials

When I first began teaching music, I was a traveling "overload" teacher. I traveled to four different schools and taught in band rooms, classrooms, hallways and other interesting locations, picking up the extra classes for the home school music teacher. I loved teaching and kept my lessons simple to accommodate the challenges of the traveling teacher. Soon I was able to get my own school and begin the process of decorating, planning and executing my own Music curriculum and "presence".  I didn't get any, and had to come up with all of the teaching and management tools by myself.  I'm sure that's why I felt impressed to create songs, games and decor that would provide the structure for any Music Teacher using any curriculum methodology.


There are so many things to consider. Keep reading to get a clear picture of the things you might need to set up, establish and even embellish your music classroom. And at the end of the post, you'll find a free checklist of Music Class Essentials. Here's just a few questions you might be asking yourself.

What grades will you be teaching?

What is the core curriculum focus?

What Standards will you use for each grade level?

What kinds of sound equipment will you need?

What kinds of technology will you use?

What instruments do you need?

Will you need creative movement props?

How will you establish classroom management?

How will you decorate and organize your room?

 Depending on your training, you'll be focusing on one or maybe a combination of methodologies to use to teach your students. I've garnered Kodaly and Orff teaching skills and also combined them with my experiences as a private teacher and student. Here's how I organize my curriculum.

K-2 Kodaly   
3-Kodaly and Ukulele's
4-Orff  with Recorders 
5-Keyboards and Music History
6-Music Styles and Guitars

There are many dynamics to a music teacher's job. I think it's important to ask yourself 


Songs to teach the rules. I like to use songs to teach the students the rules.
One favorite is my "Criss Cross Applesauce Song". It's perfect for Kindergarten through Second Graders. You can grab it in my store for free HERE:

The BIG RULE? I teach students about their bubble space. And I sing this song with K-3 grades.

"Keep Your Hands Feet and Words to Yourself"

I believe it's important to encourage classroom community and so I also teach my students K-3 this friendship song.

Friendship Song to build classroom community "I Like You"


I integrate a lot of movement activities including folk dances, multi-cultural games and dances along with scarves and bean bags.
I developed units that coordinate with holidays. For example, in March, I do a whole Irish music unit with activities and lessons that reflect learning about Ireland and it's traditional music and instruments.
Since I teach all students K-4, I developed a rotating curriculum of more in depth units that I rotate through those four years so that students have the opportunity to experience each unit at least one time.

Some of the units I've developed are:
Music from the Caribbean
Music from Asia
Music from Around the World
Music from America
Holiday themes

I also incorporate creative movement activities with Composer studies. Classical music provides many opportunities for students to experience music through movement. Here's a post I wrote about using classical music in your classroom. FIVE REASONS TO PLAY BEAN BAG GAMES and HOW TO STRETCH LEARNING WITH STRETCHY BANDS

I've found that it's essential to have:
Scarves-1 for each student
Bean Bags-1 for each student

Before you get too overwhelmed, there's one more thing-


Since I also compose music, I have written many of the songs that my students sing in their concerts. I have also created a set of four core program themes that I rotate every four years. Sometimes I use the same songs, but many times I will change them.
Here's my basic plan:
GRADE 1- Multi-Cultural, Desert, Valentine's Day
GRADE 2- Garden Show, All About Music, Martin Luther King Jr.

One thing that's super helpful is using my Concert Manners poem at the beginning of each concert. Now the whole school knows the poem and it's an easy refresher of how to act during a concert. You can grab this Free Resource at the end of this post.

And then what about your classroom environment?


Something that I think is a necessity is some kind of floor markers for students. I use large velcro that I marked with numbers. Using the numbers and the circle gives me a lot of flexibility to have students in rows or in a circle. "Boys-take a red or an orange spot. Girls take a color in between." Using these simple tools solves a lot of my classroom management problems.
The most helpful thing I found were SITSPOTS (no affiliation).

Using them has made a significant difference in the way I teach and also giving me tools to help manage student behavior. Everyone has a place-in their own space-using sit spots.

I also like to have my Solfege Posters, Note Names and Music Symbol posters put in easy viewing.

I prefer to keep the same decor in my classroom every year but I do change some of my bulletin boards.
That's an important thing you'll want to take some time deciding. Do you like to redecorate?  Do you like to have themes? Then you'll be able to make your teaching job easier. I think it's important to stick to what works for you. And, maybe you'll be a traveling teacher or a teacher on a cart. So many decisions! Hopefully you're getting some ideas and some direction by reading this post.


Here's some of the very basic supplies that I find essential:
Xylophones-Soprano and Bass at least 2 each/with mallets
Hand drums-1 for every other student
Shakers-1 for each student
Wood Tone Blocks 4-5
Recorders-1 each for each class

Once you have the basics you can add in some more instruments.
You'll find a free checklist link available at the end of this post.

I like my students to have many opportunities singing Acapella songs. This is a nice three part beginning round you can use in your upper grades as a "Hello" song.

                     Freebie: Kodaly Song "Come Along and Sing With Me" 2 part round.

The fun begins once you have your classroom decorated and instruments in place. I'll be writing about more organization and set up ideas in another post-but I'm hoping this post kicks off your planning and inspires you to be creative and do what makes you happy as the teacher.
After struggling for several years with accumulating my basic curriculum and management tools,
I created a basic music curriculum which can be found in my Music Class Essential Songs, Games, Chants- with a planner, sheet music, mp3's, which includes resources for you to set up your classroom. 
Music Class Essentials comes with a booklet of all of the songs, games, chants and the planner so that you can put it in a notebook for future reference. 
It also comes with ready made Body Percussion, Kodaly, Choral and Rhythm activities to use at the beginning of the school year-or anytime.
You'll also find a complete Music Classroom Decor set that blends well with any classroom decorations you already have displayed.

Whether a new music teacher or an established teacher looking for some new "tricks" to put in your teaching bag, I know you'll find the Music Class Essentials packed with materials that will make your music teaching easier, more creative and inspire your students to learn.

Sing Play Creatively Music Class Essentials


There are so many things to consider when organizing a music classroom.
Hopefully you've gathered some ideas on organization, methodology, decor, teacher planners and music programs.
Or, maybe just some inspiration to change up your routine.

For updates and a MONTHLY FREE RESOURCE, subscribe to my mailing list and get access to your free resource library.
If you like this post you can share it with your music teacher friends:



I hope you'll share your ideas below.
Happy Planning!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Summertime is a Good Time for GOALS

Summertime is a good time for goals. Especially if you're a Teacher. Setting goals for teachers comes naturally. I don't know any teacher who isn't constantly setting goals to improve student learning, engagement, skills or test scores. As a teacher, I set goals all the time. I want to do a DUATHLON in October, and so I've set some work out goals.  Basically--I need to work out harder and a bit longer. I discussed some ways to improve the after work schedule to give me enough time to help me achieve my goals.

On the professional side, I've set some goals to work on as I prepare for the next school year and into the first quarter. My first goal is to ENHANCE MY GUITAR CURRICULUM.
I do a pretty good job with my guitar classes, but I'd really like to improve in opportunities for more individual learning. It's hard when you have over 25 students in a guitar class to help students individually. I have found that pairing and sharing is a great tool as students can work on songs together.

My second goal is to improve my blogging skills. I want to provide better resources for teachers to integrate MUSIC with COMMON CORE. I feel like music is getting lost in the rigor of the elementary school classroom.

 My third goal is really a never ending goal, and that is to INCREASE STUDENT ENGAGEMENT.

Last year I experienced some of the most difficult classroom management situations ever. I want to come in prepared for these challenges in my class PROACTIVELY. And that means, STRUCTURE-PROCEDURES-CONSISTENCY-CARING-MOVEMENT ACTIVITIES.
Lastly, I'm continually working on maintaining BALANCE in my BODY-MIND and SOUL.
For me, Exercise is the best stress reducer and I sleep better and I'm happier when I work out hard too.
I feel like I'm always learning new things-especially now that I'm making a go of my TPT store SING PLAY CREATIVELY--my mind is definitely engaged.
Finally, my soul. I'm deeply committed to my beliefs and to making a peaceful way through life. I think the songwriter in me shows this best.  You can learn about SONGS and SCRIBBLES HERE--it's where I share the 'SOULFUL' side of myself.

I encourage you to set some attainable goals as you prepare for the next school year.
I have some fun products at my store that might help you with your planning too.

BACK TO SCHOOL Music Class *Songs*Chants*Games*Lesson Plan

Monday, May 22, 2017

Music Concerts with a Personal Touch


Every year I get these kinds of comments from my teacher friends; "Just do the same concert you did last year," "don't reinvent the wheel," "you work too hard." I smile when I hear these comments because I just can't do the same show year after year! I do use some songs in cycles of 4-5 years, and maybe I'll repeat a favorite song too, but I feel like I have to tailor make each show to fit the students who are performing. I feel like it's super important to add a personal touch to my music concerts.
Here's four ideas that will help you plan for your concerts and make them more personal.


Over the years I've had students who are in Band and Chorus and so I've written clarinet and flute parts for them to play while we sing a song. Another time I had some really wonderful soloists, so we had a whole section of the program that allowed for them to sing in duets, solos and smaller groups. It meant a lot of extra practice time for them and me, but I always felt that the end result was worth the time. I love watching the students grow in their talents.
I've also made it a point to include my special needs students per their ability to perform. Some get speaking parts, some special instrument parts or some a dance part. I enlist the help of the special needs specialist to help make decisions about what this student can do.


Some years I have students who can read the melody easily--and other years when they couldn't. When I have students who can read music I can tackle more difficult choral pieces and two part harmonies. Some years I've had Choruses that are almost 50% boys. Those years I did a special musical number just for them. We made snowmen costumes and the girls sang as the boys danced to "Snowman Jump" by Teresa Jennings. Another year we sang "Santa's Getting Fit for Christmas" and the boys dressed up as Santa Clauses.
I love to do multi-cultural music with the students. A fun program we've done is to sing a song in Spanish, a song from Hawaii "Mele Mele Kalikimaka", a Hanukkah song and dance, and a Kwanzaa song. I've written several songs for the students to sing, but I also use the MK-8 Magazine music from Plank Road Publishing.
Our Hawaiian leis and our Mexican hats.


When I begin planning for the Chorus program I don't plan everything ahead of time. I choose a selection of songs and then I see who joins Chorus. (It's an extra curricular program before school) The number of students and the talent that has signed up determines the songs. Sometimes we've done 10 songs and sometimes we've done 6. It just depends on the abilities of the students and their commitment to the Chorus program. We've done mini-musicals with all pre-recorded tracks, solos, speaking parts and many extra rehearsals and we've done A'capella songs, rounds, partner songs and Orff arrangements. The props, costumes, staging, instrumentation and parts are all directed by the students. This gives them a great opportunity to develop some leadership skills too. I love to have my band and strings students play xylophones to accompany the Chorus. We'll add in an Ostinato, Steady Beat, some dancing and come up with a fun and performance worthy number. I step back as the students gain more confidence in their parts. I don't stand in front of the group for the whole show-only on songs where a conductor is needed.
One year I wanted to do something where the students collaborated on a song. So we talked about changing the words on "The 12 Days of Christmas" to mean something more personal to our school. Since there are 60 students in the extra-curricular club "Chorus", I couldn't hold a lot of extra meetings where we all brainstormed and wrote it together so I did this instead. I had each student write 1 idea on a slip of paper. Then I took all of the ideas and came up with these lyrics:

A parent volunteer really went the extra mile and made some fabulous props for the song.

A student will hold up the sign as we sing the words.

My version for my school is a bit different than the one here..Our principal LOVES Disney, so we did a spin on her dressing up as Minnie Mouse.
For the 7 Lions Roaring...our parent helper made these awesome head pieces...

Here's me getting in the holiday spirit....

 This is the book mark I made for the students. I taped a piece of candy on the top of it to say thank you!


I've been doing children's concerts for a while now. I used to take my own children to care centers and have them sing for the folks living there. I always felt so great afterwards because the people there always thanked us so much for coming. They held our hands, spoke to us and were crying at how "beautiful" the children sounded.
I learned a great lesson from these experiences. "HAVE AN ATTITUDE OF GRATITUDE". After my programs I now go around to the parents and I shake their hands and tell them "thank you" for coming to our school, supporting music, and coming out to the program, getting their children to rehearsals and helping them develop their talents. Reaching out to them has helped me build a community of support when I want or need more materials for my classroom.
Although I work really hard and probably deserve some "thanks" too--I've found that if I take the first step in communicating, the parents open up much more to me and share their feelings about the performances and their gratitude too.


I'm sure you've been here-standing with your back to the audience waiting for the audience to be quiet. Most music teachers have had this experience. I wrote a poem with hand actions that I've taught to the whole school so that when we have a music concert the students all recite this poem. It especially helps during the evening programs to teach the audience about concert manners.

You can grab this freebie here: CONCERT MANNERS POEM 

Most of all I want my Chorus students to develop a sense of belonging, teamwork and sharing their talents.  What are some of your concert tips?

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Freebie: Music Class MIOSM writing poster

Monday, May 15, 2017

Four Things to Consider in Classroom Management

Just today a teacher brought her Kindergarten class my door greeting me with the rolling of her eyes, "They're a handful today," she whispered as the kids skipped happily into the room and headed for their dots. "Good to know," I responded and then began to assess how this lesson time was going to go down. Now what?

Here's where procedures really pay off!


Each student stands on their number-silently until everyone is in the room. I enter last because I greet each student as they come into the music room. Students find their places on numbers. This way I can learn names quickly and students have their own space. I do change my routine once the school year is underway, surprising students with going straight to the circle or coming in and sitting down first. It depends on what's going to happen in class that day and the overall behavior of the school. But after doing the procedures, when I do make a change, students know to follow my directions.


After everyone is in the room, we sing a Hello song which includes singing all student names (echo teacher on so mi). As we sing their name, they sit down. 
 The kindergarten class coming into the Music Room can be challenging.There's a student who never stops blurting, is hyperactive and has a bit of an anger issue. It's very disruptive and affects how the other students respond to the lesson. What to do?


As soon as the student began blurting I asked him to raise his hand if he had a question and to participate in the movement activity.  He couldn't help it--he was blurting (shouting) over the music and the other students began to imitate his behavior.
I like to use the word "Magic". It get's everyone's attention. I use magic eyes, magic feet, magic music-- I made some posters just for you. They have the visuals-no words. You can apply them to pretty much any situation. "Put some magic glue on your shoes and stay in your place.", "Put on your magic glasses and tell me what you see on the white board?" Tons of ways to use these!


After a couple of tries of stopping the class and reminding them of the rule (no talking when we are listening to music), I then had everyone sit down. it was time for some kind of intervention and a consequence.  "Okay," if someone needs to talk to Mrs. H--what do we do. Immediately hands went up and everyone wanted to tell me that they are supposed to raise their hands. I responded by acknowledging that they had raised their hands. "That's right!" Here's my posters that I use to help students know exactly where their behavior is during class.


 Then I said, "let's all SHOW Johnny how to be quiet during a movement activity." And "I can't turn on the music when you are shouting to each other, so I guess we'll sit here and think about it for a few minutes." I was pleasantly surprised by the dead drop silence of their response. I realized that the teacher had used this technique too. I turned the music back on and the students once again were moving-this time I could hear the music.  I walked around the room complimenting them for being such a great example and making good choices. All the while Johnny looked a bit confused because he was having a hard time stopping his blurting--and that was okay. I knew that he didn't have complete control of this action and that the professionals were working with him and I wasn't going to be the one to make a huge difference in his behavior--but I also wanted my music class to run smoothly and for the other students to have a quality experience. Johnny ended up sitting in "Thinking Time" for a little while. He was very wound up and I asked him to sit quietly for a minute and calm down. He eventually did--just in time for his teacher to pick him up!


I have students line up silently-walking around the circle to a specific spot and end up in a line. Then when teacher comes they give the teacher a double thumbs up if they've done a great job-then they give me a "silent" thank you in sign language. I send them out silently. 

Every situation is a bit different and I don't necessarily handle every disruption like this one--but I believe that creating and following a standard set of procedures will ensure good classroom management and get me through the  difficult situations with students who can or will not follow the rules.

I do know that students in the primary grades respond really well to songs, chants and hand actions. When we line up and there's a couple of extra minutes before the teacher arrives, I can sing a little song or use some pantomime activities to help the students remain calm and quiet.


I find that I can be much calmer when I have a set plan to follow. I don't feel like it's the procedure that makes a difference-it is the teacher that makes the difference. I found that my procedures work well for me because I created them, or adapted them to fit me as a person. I like teaching hand signs and using silent motions which helps me save my voice. I like things that are simple and easily managed. I like to connect emotionally with my students and I also want to connect music concepts with my procedures. So many of them are singing and moving type procedures. I also have learned to adapt my procedures per the special needs of my students. I take the time to chat with the teacher about the students who are struggling and then adjust my procedures and behavior plans accordingly. It takes some time to become comfortable with procedures and it takes student practice too. But it's worth it! Having a caring and calm classroom is critical to learning success.

For some ideas on Transitions check out this article: Five Steps to Creating and using Transitions


Want to learn more? Here's what I created for my classroom along with some songs, games and activities you can do to help you get started.
 MUSIC CLASS ESSENTIALS- a complete package for a music classroom.
                               Music Class Essential Curriculum with Songs,Chants,Games,M

For any classroom teacher:
                                   Elementary Classroom Management Songs, Games, and Rules K-



I hope you'll keep reading to find more Classroom Management tips here:"HOW TO MANAGE MONSTERS IN YOUR CLASSROOM"

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