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July 25, 2016

How to be Ready for an AMAZING Back to School Experience

Hey teachers, I know-the dreaded "Back to School" phrase sends shudders up everyone's spines and it's almost here. The swishing sound of backpacks bouncing on the backs of clean and excited school students pushing through the hallway to get to their new classes. Am I ready?  Almost... I've been revamping my materials and refining my lesson plans for the first quarter so that I am more focused, organized and relaxed.  WHO AM I KIDDING?  It's going to be crazy no matter what I do. But hopefully, the craziness will come from the sparks of learning in my students and not me going crazy!
So right now are you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated or disorganized? 
ok...scroll to the singing part and then watch the magic unfold...pretty impressive and well just plain fun inspiration! 

Some of you might thrill at the thought of meeting the parents, organizing your classroom and preparing lessons. Me? I don't like all the set up and decorating, but I do love to plan the lessons and get my teaching materials organized. 
So one thing that I've found useful is to have a regular set of lessons that I do each year with each grade level. So if you're having the "back to school jitters" - not to worry. You are going to be okay! Kids love their teachers. Here are 5 ideas I think will help you out.
I stand at the door and greet students as they walk in. This way I get to make eye contact with them and make an immediate connection. Oh yeah-SMILE! They will love you.
I try to speak as little as possible-What? Yep! I record my voice in a power point or use video to teach my students the rules and expectations. So the first thing I do is to begin by singing a "Hello" song. There are tons of hello songs you can use for your classes. I changed the words to "This is the Way We..." and added in "hello". Then I added in verses like "clap our hands", "pat our knees", "stomp our feet". I move around the room as I sing the song and do the actions all the while encouraging the children to copy my actions.
This is an original "Hello" song I use with my 3rd graders-but you could use it with 2nd through 5th grade.
If you want the music and background tracks, you can find it HERE

#3 PROP      
How about using some kind of prop when you are greeting students at the door? A fun hat, instrument or even puppet will work. Children love puppets and I use my friend "Arp" (short for arpeggio) to talk to my Kinder and First graders.
"Arp" has a funny voice and he says things like, "Hey!  Why did you wake me up from my nap? Oh--do you have some cookies and milk?" This get's the children laughing. He also tells them that you can turn anything into a song. Then I make something up about mice and milk and cookies and singing--whatever comes out and rhymes.  
I like milk, yes I do-
I like cookies and music too!
I like to sing and I like to play--
I like to make music every day.
I know how important procedures and routines are on the first day of school-but I also think it's just as important to play games. For my older students I play "Categories". I do a very simple version on the first day.

Sometimes I use a hand drum and let my students pass it around the circle or I put a drum in the middle of the circle and let each child go up to the drum and play while I sing/chant their name. I put my roll sheet in front of me and I call out the names. When I play this game, I don't go in order of the circle-I try to connect names to faces.

  I've been doing a lot more Yoga lately and even started a "Mindful Teaching" Pinterest Board. (CLICK HERE for the LINK) Why? Because it seems to me that there is so much input going on now in our daily lives and in the lives of my students, that I want to help them to "KEEP CALM AND LEARN ON". I use yoga at the end of my classes as a transition activity. After we line up I will use one of my Calm Down, Line Up chants. If you'd like a Free Resource click HERE.
Teaching is stressful and children have stressful lives too-- so it's okay to take a 30 second "breather" during your classes. Shoulders down, smile on and breathe!

For General Music teachers it's tough because you are doing your Hello songs, Procedures, Class Names, Rules over, and over and over for 4-5 days in a row and you are teaching up to 8 grade levels. I have found that if I keep the format the same, but change the activities, then I'm able to stay more focused and get through those first weeks a little easier.
Here's a general idea on how my classes look during the first week of school.
Hello Song and a little about me and my summer-
Circle Time:
     Chants and Songs about the rules, lining up song and activity, keeping hands feet and words to yourself song and actions, Bubble Space dramatic movements and play "Scrambled Eggs" (a find your place game).
     Name games and "what did you do in the summer" activities.
Line Up:
    Class reward
Breathe Again!
To help you out, I made this fun FREEBIE with some line up songs, chants and several brain break activities that any teacher can use throughout the year.

Line Up and Brain Break Chants and Songs

If you'd like to check out my BACK TO SCHOOL RESOURCES that include the first weeks lesson planning guide and all of my songs, chants and classroom management resources CLICK HERE . There's resources for World Themed, or just songs, chants and games, or just the planners.

Thanks so much for reading.  What are your tried and true teaching procedures, games and songs for back to school?


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