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Monday, May 1, 2017

I think it's a great time to be teaching about composers. In fact, thanks to the "Star Wars" saga I've noticed a lot of enthusiasm and relevant learning going on right now during music class.I feel that the more relevant the lessons-the more learning and retention. I'm taking advantage of it and using John Williams movie music along with music movement and activities to teach and reinforce student skills in Music Elements such as DYNAMICS, TEMPO, FEELINGS or EXPRESSION and also Concepts such as STEADY BEAT, RHYTHMS,  LOUD/SOFT, FAST/SLOW and INSTRUMENTS of the ORCHESTRA. 
There are so many different activities you can do with the Music of John Williams. I thought I'd just share some of the things we did with "Star Wars" music. 


I start the lesson showing this video. This video features John Williams conducting the opening theme of "Star Wars" with some unexpected guests, who get a lot of ooo's and ahhhh's!
I've got everyone's attention now!


We then watch  "Cello Wars" by the Piano Guys and discuss the difference between the two presentations. 

How was the music different? What did you hear? Which one was your favorite?  


I then grabbed a "light saber" and waved it around saying things like "down with Darth Vader", "glory to the Republic". I got a lot of "ooo's and yay's" as I passed them out to everyone. I showed the students how I wanted them to play the beat  and then set some up parameters to our listening activity. I asked the students to freeze during the sections of the music where there was no clear steady beat. (like during the parts of the music when there are sound effects).  I had them wave the Light Saber in the air and express the sounds through movement (fast/slow). 

            Then, using a Rhythm Activity power point I made from 
some Clip Art that I purchased on Etsy. (I am in no way affiliated with this artist.) Since the graphics are copyrighted, all I can do is share the link with you.  Vivispartyshop. Here is the LINKWe play some "Star" Rhythms.
Here's a snippet of my students finding the Steady Beat to the "Star Wars" theme.


Using a variety of music that I've previously purchased, I then had the students participate in a movement activity.
I made a power point with each character representing a different kind of activity.
 Each page had a different action on it. For example:
Princess Leia – TWIRLED
Chewbacca- STOMPED

The students especially enjoyed this activity as it was just a bit different than their normal "Freeze" Dance. I'd love share that one with you--but I can't due to copyright laws.  Feel free to check out the links yourself.  It's not hard to create. It comes with the star backdrop.
I fell in love with these activities and so did my students. So, 
I created a product that has all of the Activities and Lessons with Directions, teaching pages and Action/movement pages. 
It's 100 pages of intergalactic fun!

           I hope your John Williams composer lessons are as fun for your students as they are for mine!


Monday, April 17, 2017

Springtime music lessons can be so much fun. I like to play a lot of circle games with my students during the last quarter of the school year.
I also make sure to bring out the puppets. Why?
Children respond to puppets so differently than to people. I love using puppets especially with my preschool and Kindergarten students. I've made puppets out of some unusual things. These rabbits were from the dollar store and have a webbing back. I made a white sleeve out of a dish towel and just hold the bunny face with my fingers.



These cute little animal puppets are actually hand washing cloths that I found at Walmart. The interior has two openings for your hand and so they make a perfect puppet head. Once again, I just used the white sleeve for the body.
  For these fun Valentine's Day Puppets I took some dowels and painted them white. Then I took some puff paint and wrote on some pre-made heart foam shapes. I used some leftover fringe to make a mustache for my boy puppet and used it for hair for the girl. I put all of the puppets in a vase and set them on my piano.
You can make puppets out of animal paper plates just using the plate and popsicle sticks. Or turn it into a craft activity.  Give each child an animal and have them share the sounds, actions and information about the animal.
Sing "The Animals at the ZOO", to the tune of 
"The Wheels on the Bus".
The lion at the zoo goes-ROAR-ROAR-ROAR,
 all around the zoo.
The monkey at the zoo goes-EEE-EEE-EEE-, 
all around the zoo.
The bear at the zoo goes GROWL-GROWL-GROWL, 
all around the zoo.
The alligator at the zoo goes-SNAP-SNAP-SNAP, 
all around the zoo.
Now add some fun instruments. Have students choose 1 different instrument for each animal. Work with them to create and compose a rhythm or a melodic phrase. During their verse have them play their phrase.
For my Spring lessons I picked up some cute little Styrofoam bunnies and put them on dowels.

Here's the whole set that I used to display the puppets and brighten up my room. You can see vegetable, butterfly, and bunny puppets that I use for various songs in the SPRING.

Mama Lisa has a wonderful Japanese Rabbit song with the lyrics, explanation and midi listening files featuring the Koto.
Usagi usagi
Nani mite haneru
Juugoya o-tsuki-sama
Mite haneru

The following information was told to me by my friend Ayako Egawa:
The Rabbit Song is associated with a Japanese festival called "JUGO-YA" (full moon night).
Some people gather to watch the beautiful full moon in Japanese gardens and temples. The green tea ceremony and KOTO playing are held. Pampas grass, SAKE, and DANGO (rice paste ball) are offered to the moon.
Japanese people associate the pattern of the moon's surface with rabbits making MOCHI, that is rice cakes. 
Ayako translated the rabbit song like this:
"Pretty rabbit, what do you watch while hopping around?
I watch JUGO-YA moon while hopping around."

I also have a fun "Bunny" Song. I use it as a movement activity with Drama and as a Rhythm lesson with an Ostinato.


  If you are interested you can find it HERE.

What are your favorite Spring Lessons and what props and manipulatives do you use in your classroom to "Spring" into Spring Music lessons?


Monday, April 3, 2017

Easter and Spring are just around the corner-for me spring is already blooming in the desert and the trees are blooming as well as all of the desert cactus. It's a great time to reinforce music class concepts and add movement for the spring wiggles. 
I hope you'll keep reading to find the  FREE- FABULOUS and FUN resources you can use immediately-with NO PREP at the end of the article.
Egg shakers are hand percussion instruments like Maracas. They are found in Caribbean and Latin American Music resources. Some music styles that depend upon this fun percussion sound are Samba and Mariachi. Students will love exploring these kinds of music styles while moving and playing games with the egg shakers.


If you're a music teacher, you're sure to have some kind of maracas or egg shakers.

Don't have any? no problem.
Grab some from the dollar store, or your favorite shop.

Open them up and put in a bit of rice and some dry beans, like Pinto or kidney, put them back together using hot glue.
You can make some using recycled containers. Fill them with rice, beans, spaghetti or other (dry) noodles and duct tape them together.  If you're not in a big hurry-you can paint them too.

I've also made them from the plastic eggs you can find everywhere. Just fill them up with some of the above ingredients and I use clear packing tape to seal them up. Mine actually lasted for over 10 years!


Pass out all of the eggs to your students. Put on some of your favorite music, and ask students to play the steady beat. For more fun, have them walk in a circle and play their eggs.


I like to divide the class into small groups and ask group #1 to play the beat and group #2 plays the rhythm. Then we switch parts.
I do love to use classical music too! I found this pretty video with spring flowers to Vivaldi's Spring from The Four Seasons.
Or this one with a picture of Mt. Fuji at the end.

Each video is about 4 minutes long which is perfect for the younger students.
Older students might enjoy shaking eggs to some Latin Music.
This video features some fancy guitar playing.


I have the students sit in 2 circles, one circle inside the other. Then I play the music. Students love this variation! Instead of sitting out-they trade places with the student in the other circle.  With upper elementary students, I will create 3 circles. 
Three Little Birds
Bonjour Pra Voce


I love Laurie Berkner and this song is perfect for Egg Shakers!

Or try learning to Samba! (for upper elementary only)


I love this song that Miss Nina sings while kids shake their eggs.
Or this song by
Here are the lyrics sung to the tune of "London Bridges". You could do this without their video. Play this song using 2 simple chords on the Guitar or Ukulele: C and G7...Or on the xylophones have students play the steady beat on C and G as other students sing the song. 

Shake your shakers in the air

Shake it here, shake it there

Shake your shakers in the air

Shake your shakers.

Shake it high and shake it low (I change my voice to reflect High/Low)

Shake it yes, shake it no

Shake it high and shake it low

Shake your shakers

Shake it up and shake it down (Hold it up high and then down low)

Shake your shaker on the ground

Shake it up and shake it down

Shake your shakers

Shake it near and shake it far

Drive your shaker like a car

Shake it near and shake it far

Shake your shaker

Shake it fast and shake it slow

Shake it stop, shake it go

Shake it fast and shake it slow

Shake your shaker

Easy Version:

Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake

shake, shake, shake, shake, shake shake

Shake your shakers, shake, shake, shake

Shake your shakers

Verses: Shake your shakers high, high, high

Shake your shakers low, low, low

Shake your shakers fast, fast, fast

Shake your shakers slow, slow, slow.

I do Like Nancy Music's song SHAKE SHAKE SHAKE--it plays as soon as you upload the web page-but it's free and I know your Kinders will love it!
To finish off the lesson, you could have students write a HAIKU using

 Rhythmic notation from 

Spring Haiku Rhythm Activity Freebie

And, I found some fun and easy songs you can sing with no-prep. 
Over at Sally's Sea of Songs there's a fun FREEBIE "SPRING FLOWERS" VOCAL EXPLORATIONS. 
Spring Flowers Animated Vocal Explorations PowerPoint and
It's an interactive power point file that you can download and use right away. 
If you're interested,  I have a really fun "Shake Your Egg" song that also reinforces colors.
 I have students play only when it's their "color" turn. It's a great activity for those visual and kinesthetic/tactile learners. The video keeps student attention focused and engaged. They love the's a sample:                                  
You can find it in my store: "SHAKE YOUR EGG-ACTIVITY SONG" WITH VIDEO and MP3.
Most of all--have a good time using egg shakers to get the  spring "wiggles" out. Try using some of these activities "before" you teach a mini-lesson...I find that an activity song can also be a good transition song and helps students settle down and get ready to learn something new.
Happy Spring!
I hope you found some great ideas for your Spring Music Class Lessons.


Monday, March 27, 2017

From the minute my students walk in to my classroom to the minute they leave, I take them through a sequence of activities and routines that work seamlessly together to ensure that student learning is optimized. For me, having a flow during the class time is the critical element in teaching the lesson concept . Without that flow throughout the class time, I don't have student engagement.
Then there's THAT kid--you know, the one who can't, won't or shouldn't join your party.
It's not just one kid-it's 5, 6, 7 of them....
NOW WHAT??????
I have had this experience more and more lately.
I'm finding that my students are buzzing with energy and have shorter attention spans these days. I'm grappling with how to keep students engaged and help them focus. Although there's many ways to do this, by bringing in technology gadgets and gizmo's into the classroom, I'm finding that there's one element to my teaching routine that's beginning to make a huge difference  for me and them. One thing I've noticed is that students don't know how to be calm and be still. Transitions are tough for them, so why not teach students how to be calm?

My hope is that as I teach my students all about musical concepts and give them a wide variety of musical experiences in Singing, Solfege, Beat, Pitch, Rhythm, Folk Dancing, Multi-Cultural Music, Note Reading, Ukulele playing, Guitar Strumming and drum tapping, I'll also be able to incorporate some strategies to help them feel "calm".
I've also implemented the idea of being "calm" into my own personal daily routine. I practice Yoga, Stretching and Meditation every morning and sometimes again at night. I also use physical activity to "de-stress" and get calm again at the end of the school day. One teacher friend comes home from work and then goes straight into her room and lies down on her bed in the dark. Shutting out light, sound and distractions can help you get calm too.  No matter how you choose to get "calm" or "de-stress", it's an important element to add to your bag of life skills as a teacher.

I know that students need a variety of activities to stay engaged. But the activities need to have different- to use a music word- "tempos" (the speed of the music).  The activities in the class time need to range from fast paced through calming experiences.
I'm sharing some ideas that I use and also ones I've observed from some great teachers who use them to help students transition from "activity" to "calm" and quiet.


One teacher friend I know has the class choose class officers. The class is also divided into “houses” as in “Harry Potter” houses. Each house earns points and then receives awards for earning the most points. Standing quietly in line and being respectful are two things that can earn points. As the students walk past me into my classroom, they say “excuse me” and enter quietly. If they are too noisy during class, they don’t earn points.
Another idea is to give students “stickers” or points for coming in quietly. After so many “stickers” students can earn a reward. The reward can be simple, like choose your own songs, freeze dance, or a favorite game.
At the beginning of the school year I teach students how to come into the music room by actually walking them into the music room after explaining that we’re going to be quiet when we get to our dots. I make it a fun activity by leading them around the circle, zig zaging, or tip-toeing, walking backwards, side stepping, or, winding them around the room-usually getting giggles, but then I stop and just get really quiet, I raise my arms up stretching them high and then bring them down so they touch my thighs and placing my finger on my lips, I wait for everyone to settle down, then we walk into the room.
Another cute idea is to play the silent game as the students walk in line and the student who is the most quiet and calm earns a reward. Younger elementary students love to please their teachers and these methods work well in the Primary grades. 
Upper elementary students need different strategies to help them get calm. I've found that they need to know why they need to be calm and that class discussions work really well in helping students be quiet and calm. 
Whether you implement point systems, games, class conversations, it takes  time to develop your own routine and procedures, but the reward and benefit outweighs the time invested. 


Brain breaks can be as easy as asking students to stand up and do 10 jumping jacks, side jumps, march in place, and free choice. After 6 of these activities, you can ask them to sit back down.
I use these kinds of brain breaks when we are doing long rehearsals and there isn't a lot of room in the room.
I also like to use drama and pantomime for transitions. I will ask students to pretend that we are going for a walk in the snow. I'll ask them to show me the actions without any words or sound effects. Then I'll have them put on their "pretend" coat and boots, and gloves and scarf and hat and then we will build a snowman. After we build the snowman, we'll have a pretend snowball fight. I over dramatize when I get hit by a snowball and will fall to the ground. This ensures giggles. With older students I will have them sled or ice skate or shovel the driveway. I'll also ask one of them to lead the class in the activity. After a couple of times I do these kinds of activities, the students "get" it and it's not so hard for them to be silent during the activity.

My hope with these kinds of breaks is to give the students some time to breathe and get their blood pumping so that we can return to the structure of a rehearsal or lesson.

I've shared some more of my Brain Break Ideas HERE: FIVE STEPS TO CREATING TRANSITIONS IN THE MUSIC ROOM The ideas will work in many classroom settings.
I made these easy to use movement cards for any classroom. Just play your own music and switch pictures about 15-20 seconds. It's an easy break and the kids really love the actions.
                                   Freebie: Brain Breaks, Movement Cards: "FEEL THE BEAT" & "
If you're interested, I have a great resources with Brain breaks and games you can check out. BRAIN BREAKS AND GAMES K-6


I personally use Yoga poses for calming transitions.  I've discovered several great short videos on YouTube you can use in your class for brain breaks. You don't need music to do yoga. You can ask students to breathe deeply and show you their favorite stretch and ask them to be silent. Model good breathing and gently remind students who are being silly to follow along. Expect everyone to join in and they will!
I've created a sequence of movements that gives students time to BREATHE and MOVE differently throughout the activity.
I begin with  STRETCHING and then progress to more ACTIVE movements, FINALLY calming down to YOGA poses.
When teachers come to pick up their kids they are amazed at the calm feeling in the room. My students even exclaim..."I feel so calm right now!"  "Me too," I say with a smile.
 It's important to let kids move during the day to keep their minds stimulated but also relax too. That's why I use movement activities in every class. For a classroom teacher, these activities are a great way to warm up before a test, a calm down at the end of the day, when you're feeling cooped up. 


I'll admit it--I can be a loud and noisy person. I am constantly singing, tapping, playing instruments and/or moving-but, I have learned the importance and the POWER of the Quiet Teacher Voice and using silent hand signals to give students directions.

I do use the clapping patterns to get my students attention, but you can use a tambourine, a bell, a light, a few seconds of a song to cue students to be quiet.


Morning meetings can be a great time to discuss with your students your expectations. I find that when I express "why" it's important for everyone to be quiet, it does make a big difference. Setting up procedures and then supporting those expectations with visuals, or aural cues, and consequences-positive feedback, will not only empower you-but your students to be calm.


My favorite type of calming music is natural sounds of water or ocean. For me, listening to music is actually a distraction (I hear the music and forget what I'm supposed to be doing). 


One teacher friend I know SINGS all of her rules, procedures and transitions. You can read all about it here: USING MUSIC IN YOUR CLASSROOM

I've used different types of balls to help students with fidgeting and to stay calm during program practices and programs.
                             Product DetailsStress Balls

I've used these spot markers to help students stay in personal space. They are bigger and colorful and are a great way to establish space, the center of a circle or where you want students to stand. I like them because I can place them anywhere I want to as needed.
                            Product Details Spot Markers

(These are available on Amazon-but I am not receiving any kind of remuneration for sharing the link.)

They are especially helpful for students who struggle with keeping inside their bubble or personal space. Sometimes a student who works well independently at their desk can be overwhelmed coming into the music room where their personal space is not defined by an object. Spot markers and numbers on the floor help students to define their space. Providing a visual cue to help a student define their personal space helps them feel a sense of calm because they know where they are supposed to stand or sit.
I created a resource that has some great transition and "calming" down activities and procedures.  It's a Freebie at my TpT store. You can print the cards and hang them on a ring for handy use.
Freebie Line Up and Brain Break Chants, Songs and Activities


Get the Free Coupon for Yoga Lessons Here (I am not affiliated-just sharing)

Teaching students to be calm also helps them in every aspect of their life. It will help them when they are angry, upset, or taking a test. I think it's a great strategy that can make a difference.

If you're interested, I have a wonderful movement Video resource that has a yoga section at the end. The nice thing about a video is that you can scroll to the section of the video you want to use. Music is included. 
Brain Break:"MOVE YOUR BODY" Video with Music for Music, P

I do really hope that you will be able to find a way to be and teach "calm" in your classroom.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

 I believe that singing and moving is as important in a young child's development as love. That's why I teach music. I know that singing and moving activities are going to help my students in their emotional, physical and "educational" health.
As a kid, my mom sang everything to me. She sang about work, play, fun things, sad things and spiritual things. She sang to us in the car, when we were in the tub, running through the sprinklers and when it was time to go to sleep. My dad always had music playing on the "record" player, anything from "The Clancy Brothers" to "Madame Butterfly". Little did I know that all of that singing and moving was helping us kids learn.

My mom was also very free in her expression of the music and we'd dance as we sang too. My dad-not so  much- but in that environment, I thought it was "normal" for most kids to sing and move A LOT! When I became a teacher- I realized that it was not necessarily the "norm". Many children do not have the experiences like I did-and gave to my own children-of moving freely to music, expressing their feelings through songs or listening to such a wide variety of genre's. Children need a variety of opportunities to connect to their emotions, and singing and moving to music provides a multi-purpose and effective way to help them.


Wow! It took me a long time to realize the great blessing/gift I was given as a child to experience music and movement freely. I count my blessings that I grew up with a pretty diverse repertoire of musical singing and listening experiences.

Some Ideas on how to Incorporate Singing and Moving into your classroom.
Sing "Hello" songs and gathering songs that include all students.
Sing songs about Feelings and then have class talks.
Sing songs to celebrate students' successes and milestones
Sing songs for transitions
Sing Academic songs to learn math facts, nouns, science facts, phonics- well anything you need to have them learn.

Moving to the music will help your students remember the songs.
Using sign language, gross motor movements or just clapping along can make the song more engaging and memorable.
Here's a fun Freebie Song and movement activity. You'll find a video and Mp3 Tracks to help you sing a long.
                                         "HEART BEAT"

I use a lot of transition songs in my classroom. This is a Freebie with Line up and Brain Break Chants and Songs.
                        Freebie: Songs and Chants to Line Up and Brain Break Activities
                      Line UP and Brain Break Chants and Songs
The song isn't as important as just singing!

Singing songs and engaging in musical activities helps students make  brain connections because it helps both sides of the brain work together. It helps strengthen the existing connections too. Picture your brain is like a computer and your internet connection is movement. When we get kids singing and moving we are creating stronger and faster brain connections for them. It also sparks creativity! 
As educators it's critical that we give our students the opportunity to experience music and movement in the learning environment.
Many teachers know that combining music and movement in the classroom improves student retention levels, builds classroom community and provides another way for students to learn skills. Music and movement not only reaches all the "kinesthetic" and "musical" students, but engages the verbal/linguistic, mathematical and scientific thinking students too.
Movement activities can be easy, short and are so effective in keeping students engaged all day. Here's a favorite freebie-Put on your favorite music and have student move to the beat.
                      Freebie: Brain Breaks, Movement Cards: "FEEL THE BEAT" & "

I've created many resources for teachers to use to integrate singing and moving into their classroom.
Teachers and students love to use my Reader's Theater, Songs, Poems and Writing activities. I've developed many different thematic bundles that you'l find packed with an incredible amount of materials.
Wow! This one is a FOREVER FREEBIE!
Patriotic Music Program with Script or Readers Theater and
Thanksgiving Play or Readers Theater and Songs with Litera
Thanksgiving Songs, Poems and Literacy Reading and Writing
Christmas Literacy Songs, Poems, Fingerplays, Readers Thea
Martin Luther King Jr. Songs, Poems and Readers Theater- W
Kwanzaa Songs, Poems, Readers Theater or Music Program and
President's, Ground Hog and Valentine's Day Bundle of Lite
Mother's Day Songs, Poems, Script and Literacy Activities
Spring and Earth Day Songs, Poems, Readers Theater with Li
Fall Literacy Print and Go Activities: Writing,Coloring, C
Fall Themed Literacy Activities: September, October & Nove
End of Year Songs, Games, Scrapbook Craftivity K-3

Dinosaur Songs and Poems -Readers Theater, Action Story an
 Dinosaur Songs, Poems, Readers Theater, Sound Action Story and Writing Packet in particular has many diverse options for learning. There are songs, poems, a reader's theater and an action story with writing activities. I sang these songs to my little preschoolers and afterwards they just wanted to ROAR and STOMP all day! Yikes!  
Isn't she cute? 
I had a blast writing these stories envisioning the students stomping up the volcano and running from the hot lava, or chomping, flying and swimming their way through swampy lands.
There's some great DIRECTIONAL movement vocabulary included too. ACROSS, ABOVE, OVER and more. These words support Math skills for Kindergarten. Movement is part of what kids need to know and it's our job to develop. It helps their reading and Math skills grow. There's so many ways to incorporate literacy and music activities in your classroom. They are perfect for Poetry Centers, Daily 5 and Reading Groups, Writing Opinion activities, Brain Breaks and shared reading groups. Reader's Theater's, Songs and Poems can also help teachers prepare their students for a classroom or school parent performance.  

I'm encouraging you to take another minute and subscribe to my email list. You'll want the monthly freebie! 
Feel free to share my ideas on your favorite Social Media.


Thank you!



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