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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dance Playlist: 2017 edition

Last year I shared my favorite kid-friendly, school appropriate songs to use for dance parties that are also cool enough for older kids. My students in kindergarten through 6th grade were all happy with those songs every time I used the playlist! I'm back again with more upbeat dance songs that are cool but also kid-friendly (without being edited): use these in your dancing games, slideshows, celebrations, or just put them on at home to lift your mood! This year I've included more "oldies but goodies" that my students all love (and my older students don't complain that it's out of date).

Any time of year is a good time for a dance break! For more music to get everyone up and dancing, check out last year's playlist. What are your favorite school-appropriate songs to use for dance parties? Let's hear them in the comments!

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Monday, May 22, 2017

Books to Help Little Kids with Big Emotions

While there are many things I absolutely love about 3-5 year olds, the overwhelming bursts of emotion they go through on a daily basis can often be.... well.... challenging to deal with. Similar to puberty, kids this age usually to go through a phase where their emotions are often more than they're equipped to handle. Today I wanted to share a few books I've found that I think have really helped my girls to better process, understand, verbalize, and respond to their emotions.

Happy Hippo, Angry Duck

I pretty much love every book Sandra Boynton has ever written, and this one is no exception. This one is great for the younger crowd. I found it really helpful for developing the girls' emotional vocabulary and helping them understand that having different feelings throughout the day is normal. Here it is on Amazon if you want to check it out.

Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day

My girls adore this book. It is written from the perspective of a young girl- probably 5 or 6- responding to different events and triggers and talking about how she feels. It touches on everything from not liking her curly hair, to friendship problems, to family dynamics, school, and so much more in a totally relatable way. My girls really got into this one around 4, but I think they will continue to love it for the next few years. The best part is the little spinner at the back that lets kids change the main character's facial expressions. It's a great way to start identifying the facial expressions that match different feelings, which is perfect for developing empathy. Here is the book on Amazon. 

My Many Colored Days

This is great for slightly older (school-age) kids. Each feeling is described with a color and an animal (like "On bright red days how good it feels To be a horse and kick my heels!"). It provides a slightly more concrete way for kids to verbalize and describe more complex, nuanced feelings. I also love the emphasis the book has on how our emotions can vary from day-to-day and accepting each feeling- whether positive or negative or neutral- as a normal part of life. Here is the book on Amazon (the hardcover version is totally worth it for the illustrations!). I actually use this book in a music lesson for kindergarten as well- here's my post on that lesson.

Two Homes

This one is specific to children dealing with separated parents but it has been so beneficial for my girls! The book is written from the child's perspective as he describes some things that are the same and different at each of his two homes (mom's house and dad's house) and ends with the conclusion that no matter where he is, he is always loved by both parents. My girls ask for this book over and over again and I know they are absorbing the message! Get the book on Amazon here.

Double Trouble for Anna Hibiscus

This is another "special issue" book that talks about a preschool-age-ish girl who gets twin siblings and feels jealous about all of the attention that the babies are getting. But even though my girls haven't had that experience, they still got a lot out of this book- one of the things I love is the way the book describes the adults reacting to the main character's emotions and how they all adapt. Also a nice bonus that it features characters from Africa! Here is a link to the book on Amazon. 

I hope you find some new books to love on this list! Do you have any other favorite books to help kids learn about their emotions? Share them in the comments!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Review Games for the End of the School Year

As the end of the school year approaches, everyone starts to switch into vacation / party mode. With everyone's brains partially switched off, it's hard to get students motivated to do any kind of standard "class work". But it's also really important to review the concepts you covered this year so that they will remember them more quickly in the fall! Here are some of my favorite review games that I love using at the end of the school year.

1. Hula Hoop Conductor: instrument classifications and playing techniques review

I've written about this game before but it's one worth mentioning again! Lay out several hula hoops on the floor and have the students sit on the floor facing the hula hoops. Assign each hula hoop to a group of instruments (woods/metals/scrapers/shakers/etc) and tell students to only play when you step into their hula hoop. Proceed to make a fool of yourself by running back and forth between the hoops, stepping in 2 at once, leaning over and putting your hands in the others, jumping over hoops to trick them, etc. Try stomping in one then tip-toeing in the other and get them to follow you by playing at different dynamics/speeds etc.

Then choose a student to be the conductor in your place. When you pick the next conductor, have the first conductor take the next one's instruments so that they start switching around. Add more hoops and make the classifications more specific, or make the new ones another set of groupings, like one for all boys and another for all girls, so that they have to watch 2 hoops. The variations are endless and it's a great way to get them focused and attentive and review different instrument classifications.

2. Rhythm Chairs: meter and rhythm review

Set up a row of 4 chairs at the front of the room. Show (on the projector or with a flashcard etc) a 4-beat rhythm (such as ta, ta, ti-ti, ta) and have them replicate it in the chairs, telling them the chairs represent beats and they represent notes. Help them out on the first one by making sure they end up with 1 person sitting in the first 2 and last chair, and 2 people sitting together in the 3rd chair (I usually tell them they can stand behind and touch the chair to count as sitting as well if they're uncomfortable sharing a chair). Now split up into 2 teams, each team having their own row of chairs, put up a new rhythm, and see which team can get the right people in the right chairs first (be sure to throw in some longer notes, so students have to lay across multiple chairs- hilarious!). Mix it up (and review meter) by adding in some rhythms with different numbers of beats- they'll have to think outside the box to figure out they need to add or remove chairs!

Read more about the Rhythm Chairs and other rhythm practice games in this post.

3. Note Races: letter names and solfege review

Split the class up into teams and have each team get into a line. Give the person at the front of each line a dry erase board and marker. For letter names review (in any clef), say a word that can be spelled with note letter names (like BEEF or CABBAGE) and have them spell the word with music notes. For solfege, sing a short phrase on solfege and have them notate it (having established beforehand where do is). The first one to correctly write the notes and hold it up to show you wins a point for their team. Have them pass off the board to the next person and go to the back of the line after each round.

There are TONS of great games I love to use for reviewing notes names! Here's a whole post full of some of my other favorites.

4. Dry Erase Dice: music expression vocabulary review

I picked up a few dice with dry erase boards in each side at the Dollar Tree this fall (I still see them in stores- run to your local dollar store if you can to see if they have some!) and I use them for all kinds of games, but my favorite is to put a different dynamic marking on each side of one and a different tempo marking on each side of another and have students take turns rolling both at once. Then they choose a song (sometimes they draw one out of a hat, or they choose from a list, or I let them pick their own) to perform with whatever tempo and dynamic they roll. If they do it correctly they win a point for their team.

5. Truth or Dare: any and all concept review

This is a simple concept but the students go NUTS for this game! I made one deck of "truth" cards and another deck of "dare" cards. The truth cards have trivia questions, like "name a woodwind instrument" or "what does forte mean". The dare cards have tasks, like "clap this rhythm while stomping on the beat" or "do the alphabet song in a whisper voice". On their turn, students pick a card from one deck or the other (each set is a different color) and try to answer the question or complete the task. If they do, they get a point. If they don't, the first person/group to yell "steal" gets a turn to try to do it correctly to take the point!

This can be done as a simple card game like I just described, or you can use them with other games like Jenga. Here's the blog post I wrote explaining how to use them, with a link to the printable cards I made if you want those :)

6. Twister: vocabulary review

I've seen review games with Twister boards on Pinterest before, usually with quarter notes drawn on all the blue circles, eighth notes on the red circles, etc. So the person spinning the spinner calls out the name of the note instead of the color and the players have to know where to put their hand/foot. This is a great way to review vocabulary because the words get repeated over and over again and the students physically connect the word with the symbol. But I didn't want to have just one set of vocabulary that I could review with the game- that would make it less effective to use with multiple grades. So instead of drawing the symbols directly on the Twister mat, I drew them on clear contact paper and then stuck them on the circles. Now I have a whole set that I can change out for whatever I want them to review! I have a set with dynamic markings, tempo words, lots of music notes and rests, and even whole notes on different lines/spaces in treble and bass clef. For the dynamics, notes/rests, and notes on the staff, the person with the spinner calls out the name or letter of the symbol (if they're doing it in a center and a student is doing the spinner, I give that person a "cheat sheet" that tells them what to call the symbols on each color). For tempo words, the spinner calls out the meaning of the word ("fast", "walking speed", etc). This is another one where the possibilities are endless! I'm pretty happy I came up with this solution so that I can use different symbols without buying 10 different Twister games ;)

I hope these ideas help you keep your students engaged without throwing all learning out the window! What are your favorite games to use for reviewing at the end of the year? Leave a comment! If you're looking for more lesson ideas to keep students engaged at the end of the school year, here is a post on end of year lesson ideas, and here is another post on longer "units" for the end of the year.

Looking for more teaching ideas? See my full curriculum here.

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Monday, May 15, 2017

Favorite Crockpot Recipes for the Busy Spring Season

Crockpots tend to get a lot of attention in the fall and winter, because it's a great way to simmer up warm and cozy stews, soups, curries, and more. But honestly my favorite time of year to pull out the crockpot is in the spring when, you know, everything in life seems to happen at once and my brain is in a constant state of overload. Here are some of my favorite recipes to simplify meal prep during this crazy time of year!

The nice thing about crockpot cooking is that you can throw stuff together in the morning and not have to slave over the stove when you come home exhausted in the evening. If it's a warm day, you won't be heating up your kitchen with the stove or oven either! 

Click on the pictures to go see the original recipes:

1. Salsa Chicken

This recipe is absolutely as simple as it sounds, and it's so versatile. You literally put some chicken in the crockpot, cover it with salsa, and cook it on low for 6-8 hours. That's it. When it's ready, I like to use it for a simple taco night (pull out some tortillas, shredded cheese, and canned corn and beans, chop up some cilantro and whatever other veggies you have in the fridge and let everyone make their own soft tacos) or add it on top of a simple salad for a quick lunch to take to work, but you could also use it as filling in a casserole, add it to some one-pot pasta, or use it as enchilada filling.... you get the idea. 

2. Honey Garlic Chicken

This another recipe where you throw in some chicken and a few ingredients to marinade and you're done. I do it with chicken thighs because I prefer it but it would work with breasts as well. When I come home, I throw some rice in the rice cooker and steam some broccoli, asparagus, green beans, or some other veggie and dinner is served! Everyone that tastes this chicken LOVES it- it's super yummy.

3. Baked Potatoes

This is the perfect example of something you don't want to make on a busy warm evening because it takes a long time to cook and it heats up the kitchen, but you can eliminate those two problems with the crockpot! Wrap the potatoes in foil, throw the in the crockpot, and let them slowly cook while you're at work without heating up your house. When it's time to eat, I pull out whatever toppings I have on hand: maybe some leftover cooked broccoli, bacon bits, shredded cheese, butter, canned beans, etc, and add some chopped cold vegetables like bell peppers or carrots or pull out a bagged salad. Done! And I always make a couple of extras to take to work for lunches.

Those are my top favorite recipes to make in the spring: all of them are easy to throw together in the morning, but aren't going to feel too warm and stuffy for a sunny spring day. For more crockpot recipes (I'm a huge fan), here's my crockpot Pinterest board :)

What are your favorite ways to save time in the kitchen this time of year? Share your tips in the comments below!