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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Classroom Tour: 2016-2017

It's that time of year again! I started classes with students yesterday, so I wanted to share my classroom setup for this year with you. Many things are the same as last year, but I've made some changes as well. It's not quite done yet, but that's OK- it's ready enough for my students and I to make music, and so far they are loving the space!


First here's a quick video tour to give you the "lay of the land":


So now let's go around the room the same way I did in the video so I can point out a few things! :)


My open shelving FINALLY got the facelift they deserved. I fell in love with the rainbow patterned contact paper in the dollar spot at Target and bought them out of every roll they had. It still didn't get me enough to cover every shelf, but I was able to cover all of the eye-level ones that have instruments. Last year I had different colored table cloths on each shelf (which worked fine but if any sharp object got scraped across it, it was toast) and I loved being able to direct students to a particular shelf by saying, "the yellow shelf on the right", or "the blue shelf on the bottom". So I added some of my trusty colored duct tape to the front of each shelf, and now I have the best of both worlds! Actually having the color on the front makes it even easier to see the colors, so this is even better :)

I also added lots of new posters this year that I made myself, including the two big ones above the open shelving. The one on the left says "walk around the instruments" and the right one says "If you play before I say you'll make the instrument go away" (you can find the complete set of rainbow colored, tribal / bohemian patterned music class posters that I made here).


Just to the right of my door is my behavior management / student jobs board. You can read about all of my behavior management systems, including the piano keys and the classroom jobs, in this post. If you have keen observation skills and a sharp memory, you'll see that I replaced one of the jobs with a new one. More on that in a future post after I see how it goes ;) I also added a couple of charts to help me track how many incentives each class has earned and when the students switch jobs. I used to keep track of that on my seating charts, but I had a hard time keeping up with everything on my own, so I'm posting it on my wall so the students can keep me accountable (as I know they will!).

The wall next to the board is blank. I used to have a large table with my computers there, but I moved it to make room for something new and exciting.... but it's not ready yet! I'll share once it's done :)


Continuing around the room, I have my objectives for each grade, my piano (with concert programs and artwork students give me posted above), my reading nook, and the main teaching area with my new SmartBoard! The rainbow border framing the bulletin board is another Dollar Spot find, and almost all of the posters in the picture are a part of the new rainbow tribal set I made. I love them so much! 


The posters you can barely see in the previous photo, to the right of the board, are anchor charts showing the elements of music. I go back and forth on whether I should have information like this posted or if I should expect students to memorize/learn as they go without the visual reminders, but I've decided it is helpful to have, so I've put them front and center where students can reference it whenever they want! If I am having a particular grade practice a particular set of vocabulary, I will cover up that information to see if they are actually learning it.

Next to that is my small teacher desk. If you missed it, I gave a video tour of my desk a couple of weeks ago. Here's the blog post with the video included:


Next to my desk I've put a lot of the student supplies in caddies, sorted by the color teams I use for seating, on the window sill. I'm a little worried that they are going to get knocked off, but we're going to try it and see how it goes- I like the idea of having everything close by. I've put the pencils (with color-coded duct tape on each one) and dry erase markers in each caddy already, and I'm leaving the big section open to put any other supplies students may need for class that day. They certainly do add a lot of pretty color to that side of the room! The caddies are, you guessed it, also from the Dollar Spot.


The big change that happened in my room (and actually the whole building) this summer was new flooring! Now that I have new carpet, I really can't justify sticking yucky duct tape down on the floor to mark my rows of chairs and circle spots like I did in the past. I did a lot of research this summer, reading reviews online and even testing strips on the edge of the carpet, and finally settled on this gaffer's tape. It definitely doesn't leave any residue, the colors are great, and it seems to hold well, I have yet to find out how well it holds up to having chairs dragged across it, students picking at it, and all the other abuse floor tape takes in my room. Only time will tell!


I used the same tape for my circle (which I was standing on in the video and forgot to show you!):


The back wall of my classroom is mostly the same, except that I moved the large table with the student computers to the back wall and got a new stand rack (yay!) to hold most of the music stands behind the chairs.


The only parts of my classroom you haven't seen yet are the outside of my room. The wall just outside my door, which is actually in a very small alcove off of the main hallway, has the same music advocacy posters that I made a few years ago:


Outside the second door, which leads to the main hallway, I have my new welcome banner:


I have gotten so many compliments on it already! I just tacked up some string and hung each letter with a clothespin. Hopefully nobody will try to take them down.... In the background of the picture you can see through the two doors into the back of my classroom where I have my boomwhackers velcroed to my closet doors- I got two more sets this year so I added a 3rd row to the top of the doors!

That officially completes my classroom tour- I hope you've enjoyed this post! I'm so happy with my room this year and I've loved seeing the students' reactions as they come in the room. I'll be sure to update you once the rest of the projects are complete!

I'm also linking up with Mrs. King, who is hosting a link-up with lots of other music classroom tours. Go check out her post to see lots of other awesome music rooms!

Music classroom set up and decorating ideas galore! Check out this article for ideas for decorations, bulletin boards, classroom organization, music class management, room set up strategies and more.  It is definitely more than just pictures of music classrooms and bulletin boards.  It is inspiration!
Blogger Widgets

Monday, August 29, 2016

Kid's Artwork DIY Display

One of the greatest challenges of parenting school-age children is managing all.the.papers. It is incredible how many pieces of paper travel with us from school to home each day, and my kids are only in preschool! I shared recently how I plan to take control of the paperwork that comes home from teachers- lunch menus, field trips forms, and more- in my purse this year in this post. Today I want to share my solution for displaying all of the artwork that my daughters bring home!


It is amazing how much artwork my daughters create at school. I've created a system to sift through all of the artwork and figure out what to display, what to throw out, and what to store (and where to put the ones we store) but I'll share all of that in another post. In our house, no matter how much we sort and put away, we still have a lot of artwork to display, and not all of it is on a sheet of paper! In my old apartment, I had a few oversized clothespins stuck to the wall to display their artwork:


I love this system because it is easy, cheap, fun to look at, and allows me to hang lots of artwork at once so I can display new art the kids bring home, and deal with old artwork later when I have time. When we moved into the new house a few months after the girls started preschool, I knew we needed an upgrade because 1) they now had a lot more artwork they wanted to display and 2) they were bringing home sculptures and other 3-D stuff that I couldn't hang from a clothespin.

So here's what I have now (in the basement, which I have set up as the playroom):


I was so happy when I found some more oversized clothespins AND these wooden cubes on clearance at Michael's last fall! The colors are perfect, and the cubes allow us to display their 3-D stuff. They new clothespins are actually bigger than the old ones, but I don't mind. It actually makes everything look more eclectic.


I love this wall now! It is so cheerful and fun to look at, and my daughters love seeing their artwork displayed like this :) You can find similar clothespins and cubes at several different stores- I've seen them at Walmart, Target, Michael's, and other craft stores. Now is a good time to look for them on clearance as well- they put these out for college and back to school organization, so check out your local store soon if you think you want to try setting this up for yourself! You can also get some plain clothespins, which you could paint any color you like, here and different colored cubes here if you can't find them in stores.

How do you display your children's artwork? I am loving my new display area and can't wait to see the girls bring home this year!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

August Favorites!

I am starting a new monthly series on my blog, which will be a quick list of some of my favorite things: blog posts I loved, new teaching resources I found, recipes, planner supplies..... whatever I have been enjoying the past month that I want to share with you! I hope you enjoy this new series- let me know in the comments!


The first favorite I have to mention is the new sign I made for our bathroom:


Yes, my daughters are having trouble remembering what to do in the bathroom these days.... My theory is that they are too busy having fun to remember, because it certainly wasn't an issue until a couple of months ago! Not only has this little sign helped them remember on their own, but I think it is pretty cute too! :)

My favorite at school has to be my new posters that I made:


Aren't they gorgeous? I'm so happy with the way they came out :) I'll be sharing a tour of my classroom on Tuesday, so stay tuned if you want to see how they all look on my walls (and you can get the full set of posters here in my store if you want some for your own room).

Last but not least, let's talk about some of my favorite music education blog posts from some of my favorite blogs! Check out the links below- they are all awesome resources as you start your school year and I am looking forward to implementing several of these ideas in September!


lesson planning



By the way, if you want to share a blog post you've written for me to potentially share with my readers, you can submit as many blog posts (old or new) as you like here

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my favorites this month- I had fun writing it! :) Enjoy those last days of summer!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

This Year I'm Telling My Students I'm a Single Mom

This year I'm telling my students that I'm a single mom. I decided last spring that this was something I needed to do in the fall, and now that school is starting, I am more and more certain that this is the right thing to do. Today I want to share some of the heart behind my choice, because the general principles really apply to all teachers, and I'm sure there are others out there who have been in similar situations.


So a brief background on my story, for those who don't know: I taught elementary music for 6 years before having twin babies, moving to the U.S., getting divorced, and starting my current job. When I started this job 3 years ago I had been separated for a year and divorced for a week or two, and my daughters were 18 months old.

I have always felt strongly about the importance of developing relationships with my students (even though there are hundreds of them!). Not that I try to be "buddy buddy" with them, but I really do honestly enjoy connecting with them on a personal level, and I think the trust and respect you really need to have a positive classroom environment cannot be created outside of those relationships. So I used to freely tell my students about growing up traveling the world, telling them about my hobbies, and sharing some of the struggles I went through when it related to their situations. I think the students understood that I really was invested in them as human beings, and both trusted and respected me more as a teacher because of it.

But when I started this job, I didn't feel like I could go through my usual "get to know your teacher" stuff at the beginning of the year. I hadn't even gotten used to not being "Mrs" yet, and I didn't feel like I could share my story without things getting sticky. Not that I haven't told my students anything over the last 3 years- I haven't ever lied about my marital status or hid the fact that I have children, and I have even mentioned on a couple of occasions that I am a single mom, but for the most part I've avoided talking about myself. And because I was trying to avoid sharing about the more recent parts of my life, I didn't share as much about the other parts of my life either. I still have students who don't know that Japanese is my first language, or that I taught in South Korea for 6 years, even after being in my class for 3 years, and that is just crazy to me! How can I expect students to be willing to trust me enough to share their own stories, take risks in the classroom, or even just feel comfortable enough to be themselves if I am a complete unknown to them?

After spending the last 2 years focusing on improving school climate and culture in our building, I've come to realize that for me, this is the biggest missing piece. So this year, part of my first day lesson plan is going to include telling students about my life. No, I'm not going to rehash my divorce with them or vent to them about the struggles of being a single mom, but I am going to tell them that
1) I grew up in Japan mostly, plus some other countries,
2) I taught in Korea before I came here,
3) my immediate family now consists of me and my two 4-year-old daughters,
4) I love bright colors, music, delicious food, crafting, and reading, and I don't like cleaning, scary movies, or tomatoes.

Seems like a pretty basic thing to do, now that I write it out. Don't all teachers share a little about themselves at the beginning of the school year??? I never even noticed that I had stopped doing it until recently, and it was a combination of not really knowing what my new life had become or how to explain it to anyone (let alone children), and feeling....ashamed. Why? I know for a fact that lots of my students come from broken homes- in fact I think they are the majority. And either way, my story is not something I need to be ashamed of or hide from my students.

This year I'm sharing more of myself with my students.

Want to read more of my thoughts on developing a positive culture in my classroom and beyond? Here's a good post to start with:


Monday, August 22, 2016

My Favorite Family Back To School Ritual: the Dry Run

Today is my first day back at work (students start next week), so I guess it is now officially Back to School! The hardest thing about starting school as a teacher/mom? Mornings. Man, as a morning person I never understood what all the fuss was about when parents talked about dreadful school day mornings. I get it now. Today I wanted to share my favorite trick for getting all of us ready to go back to school: the "Dry Run".


The basic idea behind the Back to School "dry run" is to practice getting ready for school in the morning before you have the actual threat of being late for school and/or work on the first day of school. Everybody gets up at the same time, gets all of the same stuff ready, and leave the house at the same time, but you don't actually go to school! I'm sure other parents do the same thing, but if you haven't yet and would like to try it, here are my tips for making it work:

1. Do it several days before the real first day of school

Because school started on a Monday this year, we did our dry run last Friday. Actually a few days earlier would have been great, but Friday was the best day for our schedules. I always do the dry run a few days before the real first day so that I have time to make changes to our morning routine if something doesn't work, and we all have a few more days for our bodies to adjust to the new sleep schedule.

2. Actually go somewhere

I think what helps make the dry run most effective for me is that we actually go somewhere. I usually try to make plans with someone to meet them somewhere for a play date or breakfast so that we are actually committed to being somewhere on time. It also makes the morning a little more fun for the kids because they have something to look forward to! This year we met my mom at IHOP and had an epic breakfast :)

3. Practice your routine too

The dry routine is really for me more than anyone else, although it does help the kids get used to getting up and at 'em again before the Big Day when they're more emotional. Because let's be honest: as much as I foster independence in my preschool age children, and as much as they do things on their own pretty well for 4-year-olds, the biggest key to school morning success is me, not them. So I get up and get all of the same stuff ready that I need on school mornings too: purse with all of my work stuff, lunches for everyone, etc and even making sure I have decent clothes. I actually put on earrings! There were several times Friday morning when I realized I had forgotten all of the STUFF I do on school day mornings. Oh boy.

4. Don't neglect first day jitters

Even after practicing everything, we all know that a "dry run" is still not the same as the real thing, when we all (kids and adults) have so many mixed emotions about the first day of school. I always allow extra time in the mornings the first few days of school to allow for potential meltdowns, or just general contemplating.

Do any of you do a "dry run" before school starts? What are your favorite tricks for helping your family adjust back to hectic school mornings?

Friday, August 19, 2016

Fermata Friday: new format

After hosting the Fermata Fridays link-up each Friday on my blog for over a year, I've decided to change the format of how I run it. Starting this week, I will no longer host the link-up in a weekly blog post, but I will continue to feature a post each Friday on Facebook and Pinterest. I will also be sharing a monthly round-up of my favorite things, including the featured posts from Fermata Fridays, on my blog.


To be considered for a Fermata Fridays feature, you can submit your blog post any time through the submission form that I now have in my sidebar. Look for and click on the Fermata Fridays button in my sidebar to be taken to the form:


As before, I ask that you limit your submissions to blog posts that are primarily focused on ideas rather than the promotion of a paid product. Otherwise, I invite you to submit any blog post, old or new, that is related to music education! The beauty of this system is that you are welcome to submit as many posts as you like in one sitting and I will consider them for feature whenever I can. I will select one blog post to be featured each Friday on my Facebook page and will also be pinning the post to my Fermata Fridays board, and each month I will include all of the blog posts from that month in my monthly favorites blog post.

I hope bloggers and readers alike enjoy this new format. I think it will help more people to see all of the awesome blog posts out there while also making it easier to sift through my posts on my blog. I look forward to reading all of the amazing posts- thank you for submitting and reading! If you have any questions please leave it in the comments below or email me (link in my blog header).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Teacher Desk Tour

Today I'm giving you a tour of my teacher desk in my classroom! I still have one more week left of summer before I start work, so things are still in progress, but most of my stuff is set up (well, around my desk anyway) so I thought I would go ahead and show you what I have. Jennifer from The Yellow Brick Road is also sharing her desk for her home office, so be sure to head over to her post after you read mine- she has some awesome techy solutions to get organized and work efficiently!


If you remember from last summer, I actually downsized my desk quite a bit. You can read more about how I corralled everything into my current small semicircle desk here:


So here's my little tour of my desk! :)


If you want to read about how I made my "teacher toolbox", which has all of my smaller bits and bobs in it, you can read that post here:


I'm also joining in with other music teachers who are sharing their desks this week as well! Check out all of the other posts below (and add your own link if you have one to share)!