Monday, June 5, 2017

Summertime for Teachers: A Time to Purge, Plan and Prepare

The long awaited summer's here and  it's the perfect time for teachers to purge, plan and prepare for the coming school year. If you're like me, you're lowering your shoulders a bit, de-stressing and doing things you don't get to do during the school year. I try to get out of the Arizona heat and get to the mountains or the beach. I love to visit Utah where the trees are green, there are real mountains, sometimes with snow caps, and plenty of outdoor activities to choose from.

Even as I drive out of the desert and into the green mountain areas I'm  reflecting on the past year. I'm asking questions like, "what went well?", "what do I need to do better?", "how can I make my job easier?"
I too feel like the summertime is when I can focus more on balancing my life. For me, Exercise is the best stress reducer and I sleep better and I'm happier when I work out hard too. It helps me stay on a more peaceful path in my daily life.  
Besides all the fun family and vacation activities I would guess that most teachers are spending time doing one or more of these things:I made a cute little poster for myself to encourage my inner self to stick to my goals. You can download your free poster at the end of the post.


I'm not talking about going on a diet! I'm talking about tossing things that are left over, you didn't use or didn't work in your classroom. During the month of May I like to toss one bag of trash out each week.  The beauty of the digital age is that you can store your files in Dropbox, Google Drive or on your hard drive and have access to them as needed. There's no longer a reason to have thousands of copies in your classroom. I used to save every slip of paper that I put words on. I had file cabinets and file boxes and notebooks. Now I have 2 filing cabinets, but I mainly use notebooks. I've found that it's easier to print the worksheets a short time before the students will use them. I've found that printing them about a week in advance is a good amount of time.


Planning begins with organizing your teaching materials. I love notebooks and have one for every music program and for my lesson plans in addition to special units I've created like multi-cultural, Jazz Music, Guitar, Ukulele, Keyboards and Recorders. My filing cabinets store resources that I pick and choose from to put into the notebooks for the next school year. They are organized by Quarters. I have drawers for my special units that I rotate through the curriculum about every four years. I also have one drawer for my Recorder, Guitar, Ukulele and Keyboard curriculum's.
I have an Emergency Substitute notebook that is easy to access, but I also have a SUBSTITUTE LESSON drawer with worksheets, CD's, and Lesson Plans-just in case I'm out for more than a day or so. I've written a blog post just for Music Teachers on Preparing a Music Classroom. You can read it HERE: How to Energize a Music Curriculum
Music Concerts and Programs are probably the most difficult to plan. I've set up a thematic rotation for my school, and I also do a traditional program for several grades. Each program is in a notebook with the accompanying CD, program outline, speaking parts, staging and complete script. I try to get the concerts organized for the next school year even before school let's out. In the planning section I go into more detail about my programs.



Preparing means to have your lessons, programs and classroom decor all ready before the students arrive. If you've planned your curriculum, programs and organized your materials-it's usually an easier process to prepare for the next school year. If you are a new teacher, this may seem like an overwhelming task. You might only be able to get one quarter planned ahead of time. But that's okay! Just think-the next year, you'll have a whole year's worth of lessons that are mapped out for you. 

For Music Programs, I've set up a rotating schedule at my school which is based on THEMATIC UNITS. I rotate them every 4-5 years. That way my kiddos from Kindergarten up get a variety of musical experiences while they are in my care.
For Example, last year I did a SCIENCE and GO GREEN theme.
First Graders did a program about Desert Habitats.
Second Graders did a program about GARDENS
My extracurricular CHORUS did a musical I wrote called "WE'RE GOING TO THE RAINFOREST".  Another theme is concerts based on MUSIC AROUND THE WORLD.
I really think it's important for children to have the experience of singing songs in a foreign language  and folk dancing--which I love.
Some more programs that I've used for my students are:
"TEMPLES and TOMBS" which I modified for first grade.  This program ties in with their Social Studies Standards.

                                   Here's a cute group of 2nd graders from a YouTube Video


Music from Around the World:
I have the children sing at least 1 foreign language song and each class does a dance routine.  I think my favorite one was KARANGATIARA from New Zealand. They had so much fun watching the videos of the MAORI dancers!

And learning the hand movements to Karangatiara....

I always do a song in JAPANESE because we lived there as a family for 6 years. That's me with that great 80's hair do and my four little boys--the baby was only 3 weeks old when we left the states...

I'll also do one traditional American Folk dance. I like "CHICKEN ON A FENCE POST" and have the students play the song and do the dance. We make bandannas for them to wear.

Another favorite of mine is ARTSA ALINU a great song to dance to! This isn't my performance-but it gives the general idea of the dance. My students all wore Blue and White and a bandanna to symbolize Israeli colors.

To finish off the program we'll sing "It's a Small World".

I keep my programs under 30 minutes. I feel like well prepared is better than an amount of time. The program has about 6-8 songs in it. Each class does a dance and I teach everyone the words so that they can sing it as the class dances. I also have them learn how to play the songs on instruments.  It takes a bit of planning--but the parents really like the programs.

If you feel like you need some help with planning and preparing your music class curriculum, I've created a Music Teacher Essentials Bundle with the basics you need to have in order to establish a music classroom.

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