Image Map

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: dynamics lesson for "too much noise"

I'm back with another lesson idea for using literature to introduce and practice music concepts with lower elementary students! Today's post is on a book that is brand new to me this year: a wonderful book by Ann McGovern called "Too Much Noise".


I just used this book this past week (you can get it on Amazon here) with first grade to review loud and soft, introduce the vocabulary forte and piano, and review classroom instrument names and playing technique. You could use this book with any lower elementary grade to practice or introduce dynamics and/or timbre.

The first thing we did was read the story. This book is a wonderful story about a man who thinks the quiet sounds in his house are too loud, who gets a bunch of loud animals at the advice of the town's wise man, and then realizes how quiet his house actually is when he gets rid of all of the animals. The illustrations are wonderful and there are several sound words in the story- the swishing of the wind, the mooing of the cow- which I had the students say with me as I read.

At the end of the book, I asked the students to retell the story, and then asked them which sounds were loud and which were quiet (or soft. I know some teachers care deeply about which word you use- I use them both interchangeably but will use "quiet" in this post for consistency's sake). We practiced saying the animal sounds loudly and the house sounds quietly. Since I was using the book to introduce the vocabulary words "forte" and "piano", I introduced those words here, having the students say the words loudly and quietly, respectively. That was the end of the first 30-minute lesson.

In the next lesson, we reviewed the basic story line, reviewed the words "forte" and "piano", and I had students sort the sound words into categories of forte and piano. I did this on my interactive whiteboard, but you could also do this on a regular whiteboard and just write the words, or print the words on cards and have them sort as a class or in small groups.

Then I told the students that I wanted to use instruments for each of the sounds instead of our voices. We quickly reviewed the classroom instruments we used last year, including small percussion and barred instruments, and for each discussed whether the instrument could produce sounds that are forte, piano, or both (An egg shaker, for example, is hard to play forte, but a cowbell, on the other hand, is difficult to play quietly, although it can be done. A hand drum could easily be used for either forte or piano).

Once we reviewed the instruments, the students chose one instrument to represent each sound, and I assigned a few students to each one. Then we read the story again, this time playing the appropriate instrument each time the sound came up in the story. I reminded the students before we started that they should play their instruments at the appropriate dynamic level that we had discussed, but that they should never play over the sound of any other instrument or my reading.

This lesson was a great way to review dynamics and instrument names, give the students a chance to play some instruments, and introduce forte and piano. Have you ever used this book in your music classes? I would love to hear your ideas as well- leave a comment! If you want to see some of the other lessons I teach with children's literature, click here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Mommy Monday: preschooler pumpkin craft

Well, it's that time of year, folks: pumpkin season!! People seem to have a very strong opinion on the topic of pumpkins, one way or another. I never realized this was such a touchy subject for people- I honestly don't really have strong feelings one way or the other in regards to pumpkins, or any other gourds or vegetables for that matter. But I did enjoy this fun pumpkin craft with my 3-year-old girls recently that I wanted to share with you! :)


There are tons of amazing jack-o-lantern and other pumpkin crafts you can make with kids if you have the time and resources to put them together. I have neither at the moment (it's the end of September, guys, come on), so this craft activity fit the bill!

We were at a farm stand recently and saw some of these cute little pumpkins, so we picked up one for each of us. Everything else we had on hand: some paint, brushes, tacky (craft) glue, and googly eyes (I believe that is the technical term).

I set the girls loose on their pumpkins with the paint, and it was interesting to see what they did! One painted hers purple, then added green on top of that, then added orange on top of that. So hers hardly looks painted at all (but, I must admit, it is probably the coolest looking one of the bunch!). The other added a splotch of every color paint she could find, including some bright white paint for the stem. We let the paint dry overnight, then took a couple of googly eyes and stuck them on the pumpkins with the craft glue and voila!

One of my girls is concerned that the pumpkins have no mouths, so we may go back and add something later, but I think they're pretty cute just the way they are! We may get around to some actual jack-o-lantern type things eventually, but for now I'm happy to have checked some pumpkin off the list with a fun, low-stress, low-cost craft!

What are your favorite ways to decorate pumpkins with your kids? Share your ideas below- October is coming up fast!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Fermata Friday: September 25, 2015


Welcome to this week's installment of my weekly linky party, Fermata Fridays! This is a chance for music education bloggers to share blog posts with readers and bloggers alike, so we can all mingle and learn from each other. Readers, you are going to love all of the awesome blog posts that are out there- I hope you discover some new blogs to follow and get some new inspiration for your teaching! Bloggers, make sure you read the directions carefully before linking up to make sure we keep the party fun for everyone. Thanks! :)

Here are the rules for the linky party:

1. Add the linky image to your blog post, blog sidebar, linky party roundup, or other similar location on your blog and link it back to the party. Copy and paste the code for this button, or use the image above and link to the label "Fermata Fridays".

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://caldwellorganizedchaos.blogspot.com/search/label/Fermata%20Fridays"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-8g8YQudJiB8/VaoWoBnpJ3I/AAAAAAAADuU/GeG51-nOB0Q/s1600/fermata%2Bfriday%2Bbutton.jpg" /></a></div><br />





2. Add up to two blog post links to the linky. The posts can be old or new (but no posts that have already been linked up to Fermata Fridays in the past), on any topic related to music teaching, but must not be primarily featuring a product. It's fine to have a link to a relevant product within a post, but that should not be the primary focus of the post. I reserve the right to delete a link that is too product-focused. If you're not sure, just ask! :)

3. Leave a thoughtful comment on at least two other links, including the one right before yours. Add #fermatafridays to your comment so bloggers know where you found them!

4. Pin at least one other link to one of your Pinterest boards.

5. Make sure you are following me on Pinterest. I will be pinning every link to the Fermata Fridays board each week.

6. Make sure you are following me on Facebook and check back next Friday- I will be featuring one of the links from the previous week's linky on my Facebook page each Friday!

The linky will be open every Friday starting at 4:00am EST and will be open for links all day.



Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: from national standards to specific lessons

I'm back today with another post on lesson planning! A couple of weeks ago I shared a brief overview for how I go about my long-range planning. Today I want to talk about my overall process for getting from the broad National Core Arts general music standards to my specific, day-to-day lesson plans.


1. From National Standards to Scope and Sequence

The first step is taking the standards and creating a more specific scope and sequence of skills and concepts that you want to cover in each grade level. In many cases, your district will have something already in place like this for you to use. My district started the process of re-writing our curriculum to align with the new standards this summer, and we came up with a scope and sequence for each grade level that took the concepts from our old curriculum and meshed them with the new standards. The simplest way to explain my way of thinking through the new standards is to think of the new standards as an added layer on top of the skills and concepts mentioned in the old national standards- for example, if you required 2nd graders to read and perform half notes in the old curriculum, you might require 2nd graders to perform half notes by reading standard music notation, and also use half notes in a short rhythmic ostinato accompaniment and discuss how using long and short sounds adds interest to rhythmic accompaniments. If you are interested in more specifics of how I went through this process in my own planning, check out my long-range planning templates. I also use these standards checklists to make sure I have covered all of the standards- it can get confusing and overwhelming when you start going back and forth between multiple documents, and I was finding that often I was completely missing a standard or two after I had finished mapping everything out! Having some way of checking them off as you go can really help with that process.

2. From Scope and Sequence to Monthly Plans

Once I know which skills and concepts I need to cover in each grade level, I like to map out a rough monthly overview of which skills and concepts I will cover in each month of the school year. I think this process is one of the most important ones for effective lesson planning, because I can plan ahead for special events like Music In Our Schools Month and performances, make sure I am keeping myself accountable to getting through everything, and plan out the most logical sequence for introducing new concepts. I wrote more about this specific process in my previous blog post on long-range planning.


3. From Monthly Plans to Daily Lessons

I plan out my specific lessons a week at a time- I plan ahead to have a chunk of time (usually an hour or two) to write out all of my lessons for the week in my planner and make any visuals and other materials I need to go with each lesson. With my monthly concepts planned out, it usually doesn't take me too long to write out my specific lesson plans, especially since I tend to write in a lot of the specific strategies I want to use to teach each concept in my monthly plans, as you can see in the picture above. I am lucky enough not to have to turn in any lesson plans to my administration or anything, so my lesson plans are pretty general- I'm the only one who needs to understand what I'm saying! :) Here's what my weekly lesson plans usually look like:


As you can see, it's really just a list of activities for each class. But I have friends who do have to turn in specific plans, showing how it aligns to the standards and blah blah blah, so I made up a lesson plan template PDF document with clickable check boxes for the standards. You can download that template for free here. And if you want my lesson plans, including all of the visuals I make to go with them, you can get those here.

4. From Daily Lesson Plans into the Classroom

I know some people have their lesson plan book open at their desk, or on their music stand, and just refer to that as needed when they are actually teaching. I am not one of those people. First of all, I don't really have a teacher desk anymore (and I like it that way- more room for movement). And even when I did, I didn't want to be walking over to my desk in the middle of my lesson. Nor do I want to be shuffling through seating charts, grade books, schedules, and lesson plans on my music stand in the middle of my classes- I want everything on my stand to be right at my fingertips (you can see how I have my music stand set up in this previous post). So I take one final step when I get to school each morning: I write out the bare-minimum lesson outlines for each class on a sticky note and stick it on my music stand next to my class schedule. That way I have a place to quickly glance if I lose track of what I'm supposed to do next (which happens more than I care to admit)!

I hope this helps give you some ideas for taking the standards from broad topics to specific lesson plans! I'd love to discuss this process with other teachers- leave your thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comments! If you have a blog post to share, you can add it to our linky party on lesson planning resources below. You'll want to check out all of the awesome blog posts linked up- there are some great ideas from tons of music teacher bloggers!




Monday, September 21, 2015

Mommy Monday: lunchbox menu ideas

Well, the girls have been in preschool for about 2 weeks now, and I am calling it a success! One of my girls announced the other day that she would like to go to school every day. Instead of counting down to the weekend, they are counting down to Mondays! So yeah, I feel a little bit like chopped liver, but that's OK :)

Although I was pretty anxious about making lunches for all of us every day, so far things have been going pretty smoothly. My lunchbox menu planning board is working well for me so far, and the girls are enjoying all of their food as well. And having the bento-style lunchboxes with separate compartments is awesome. I'm seriously thinking about getting one for myself. Today's post is short and sweet, but (I hope) helpful for busy moms like me: I made a visual of things I pack in the girls' lunchboxes to make it easier to create a balanced and yummy lunch quickly each morning.


The image above is a high-quality (300dpi) image, so you should be able to save to your computer and print from home or send it to a printing service and have a nice print for your kitchen. This is basically the same idea as my lunchbox menu planning board but simplified. If you are using lunchboxes with different compartments like I am and don't want to think about where/how to pack everything each day, check out the post on my menu planning board.


With this visual, though, you could easily laminate it and hang it on your fridge or somewhere else in your kitchen to use as a reference.

If you like to plan out your meals and grocery shop once a week like me, you could use this to plan out your shopping list as well. I tend to pick about 4 veggies and fruits, 3 grains and proteins, and 2-3 dips for each week and then mix and match each day. If you laminate this list, you can use a dry erase marker to mark the items from each category and add those to your shopping list.

I hope this helps make your mornings a little bit easier! If you decide to download and use the visual, I'd love to hear from you! Leave me some love in the comments :) I'm also thinking about taking pictures of the girls' lunches each day for a week to help give you some inspiration- let me know if that's something you are interested in seeing. Have a great week!!

*update* If you're looking to break out of the sandwich rut, I've posted some pictures of the girls' lunches in this post:

Friday, September 18, 2015

Fermata Friday: September 18, 2015


Welcome to this week's installment of my weekly linky party, Fermata Fridays! This is a chance for music education bloggers to share blog posts with readers and bloggers alike, so we can all mingle and learn from each other. Readers, you are going to love all of the awesome blog posts that are out there- I hope you discover some new blogs to follow and get some new inspiration for your teaching! Bloggers, make sure you read the directions carefully before linking up to make sure we keep the party fun for everyone. Thanks! :)

Here are the rules for the linky party:

1. Add the linky image to your blog post, blog sidebar, linky party roundup, or other similar location on your blog and link it back to the party. Copy and paste the code for this button, or use the image above and link to the label "Fermata Fridays".

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://caldwellorganizedchaos.blogspot.com/search/label/Fermata%20Fridays"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-8g8YQudJiB8/VaoWoBnpJ3I/AAAAAAAADuU/GeG51-nOB0Q/s1600/fermata%2Bfriday%2Bbutton.jpg" /></a></div><br />





2. Add up to two blog post links to the linky. The posts can be old or new (but no posts that have already been linked up to Fermata Fridays in the past), on any topic related to music teaching, but must not be primarily featuring a product. It's fine to have a link to a relevant product within a post, but that should not be the primary focus of the post. I reserve the right to delete a link that is too product-focused. If you're not sure, just ask! :)

3. Leave a thoughtful comment on at least two other links, including the one right before yours. Add #fermatafridays to your comment so bloggers know where you found them!

4. Pin at least one other link to one of your Pinterest boards.

5. Make sure you are following me on Pinterest. I will be pinning every link to the Fermata Fridays board each week.

6. Make sure you are following me on Facebook and check back next Friday- I will be featuring one of the links from the previous week's linky on my Facebook page each Friday!

The linky will be open every Friday starting at 4:00am EST and will be open for links all day.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: September small goals

OK, so I'm a little late. September is definitely flying by! But in any case, I'm linking up with Jennifer at The Yellow Brick Road to share my September small goals. Setting small goals each month has been a great motivator for me- check out the linky party to see what everyone else is up to this month and maybe you'll get inspired to set your own goals!


1. Don't eat out more than one meal a week.

I've written before about how much it freaks me out that I am now responsible for all 3 meals for all 3 of us every day, and that I have to have it all done before school every day. My goal is not to cave and order in or go out to eat more than one meal a week. That's more eating out than I have done in the past, but less than the number of times I am tempted to abandon my meal plan and let someone else do the cooking! I don't want the girls to get into the habit of eating out a lot, and I want to keep us healthy and within our budget!

2. Start using my new Chromebooks in my classes!

So exciting- I got 3 new Chromebooks for my classroom from DonorsChoose this summer! I got them in my room right at the beginning of the year but as with any new technology, it takes some time to get everything running smoothly enough for me to feel comfortable letting my students use it. With some of my classes reaching their first "music party" incentive, I want to get them up and running so they can use them in a center activity.

3. Experiment with some more organizing and decorating techniques in my planner.

This goal is both functional and just fun. For the past 2 years I have been using my planner to keep track of everything from lesson plans to home management to blogging, and basically using different colored pens to make things visually appealing and easier to find information. This summer I started getting into decorating my planner a little bit, with an emphasis on functional decorations (like color-coded stickers and consistent icons) and adding more color. Half of me felt silly about it at first, but I am realizing that I now look forward to sitting down and planning out my lessons for the week and getting the rest of my life in order too! So I'm going to continue to try out some different ideas until I find the ones I like the best. You can see what I've done so far in my planner share post

Well I've managed to set a goal for each of the 3 main topics I focus on here- home, school, and planners- so I think this is a good list! What are your goals for this month? Leave a comment, or better yet, go link up with Jennifer! :)

Monday, September 14, 2015

Mommy Monday: DIY planner stickers

So.... it's September. Anyone else feeling the pressure?!? Wow, as an elementary teacher for almost a decade you would think I would have had a clue what it was like to be a parent of preschool children. I didn't. Now I know. Guys, back-to-school season as a teacher is tough, but it's 10 million times harder as a teacher and parent combination. Whew!

All of that to say, I appreciate my planner now more than ever (yeah, I didn't think that was possible either!). I refer to it multiple times every day in order to have any clue what I am supposed to be doing for the next few hours. If you haven't yet, you can check out my "planner share" post, where I showed you the good, bad, and ugly of my August and September monthly planning pages, where I first started experimenting with decorating and adding some other elements besides colorful pens to my planner. My favorite new planner accessory is my DIY stickers, so today I'm sharing with you how I made them- I promise it's super-easy and definitely cheap!



The supplies you'll need are some markers (I used some sharpies, since my wonderful friend Megumi gave me a set- she sure knows how to make me happy!- but you can use any kind with a reasonably large tip), a dark pen, some scissors, and some of these white Avery labels. You could make this project even one step easier by using these colored ones. (I bought my white ones at Walmart and they were a few dollars cheaper than those online links.)


I started off by coloring one sticker in each color. Because first of all it makes me happy to see a rainbow of stickers like that, and secondly I wanted to see what each color looked like on a sticker and choose a designated color for each category of sticker I wanted to use regularly.

I chose a few of my favorite colors and made a "sample sticker" of each category that I wanted to use. I keep these samples with my planner supplies so that when I want to make a sticker I can quickly see which color I was using before for that item.


Since I keep my entire life in one planner, everything has to be as space-efficient as possible (without making me go cross-eyed). For things that just needed an icon, I put two on each sticker and cut it in half. I tried using half of a label (cutting long-ways) for the ones with writing (mostly school events), but it was too hard to read. Here's what they look like on my monthly spreads:


Aren't they cute? I'm not totally in love with the larger stickers yet, but I'm working on some ideas to tweak them a little.... maybe I will be totally in love by October :)

Do you use stickers in your planner? Do you buy them or make them yourself? There are tons of cute planner stickers on Etsy but I just can't justify that kind of spending, nor do I want my planner to get too close to an art project and lose it's practicality ;)

Best of luck to us all as we fly through the rest of September!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fermata Friday: September 11, 2015


Welcome to this week's installment of my weekly linky party, Fermata Fridays! This is a chance for music education bloggers to share blog posts with readers and bloggers alike, so we can all mingle and learn from each other. Readers, you are going to love all of the awesome blog posts that are out there- I hope you discover some new blogs to follow and get some new inspiration for your teaching! Bloggers, make sure you read the directions carefully before linking up to make sure we keep the party fun for everyone. Thanks! :)

Here are the rules for the linky party:

1. Add the linky image to your blog post, blog sidebar, linky party roundup, or other similar location on your blog and link it back to the party. Copy and paste the code for this button, or use the image above and link to the label "Fermata Fridays".

<div class="separator" style="clear: both; text-align: center;"><a href="http://caldwellorganizedchaos.blogspot.com/search/label/Fermata%20Fridays"><img border="0" src="http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-8g8YQudJiB8/VaoWoBnpJ3I/AAAAAAAADuU/GeG51-nOB0Q/s1600/fermata%2Bfriday%2Bbutton.jpg" /></a></div><br />





2. Add up to two blog post links to the linky. The posts can be old or new (but no posts that have already been linked up to Fermata Fridays in the past), on any topic related to music teaching, but must not be primarily featuring a product. It's fine to have a link to a relevant product within a post, but that should not be the primary focus of the post. I reserve the right to delete a link that is too product-focused. If you're not sure, just ask! :)

3. Leave a thoughtful comment on at least two other links, including the one right before yours. Add #fermatafridays to your comment so bloggers know where you found them!

4. Pin at least one other link to one of your Pinterest boards.

5. Make sure you are following me on Pinterest. I will be pinning every link to the Fermata Fridays board each week.

6. Make sure you are following me on Facebook and check back next Friday- I will be featuring one of the links from the previous week's linky on my Facebook page each Friday!

The linky will be open every Friday starting at 4:00am EST and will be open for links all day.



Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Giveaway: world music lesson set

I recently reached 500 followers on my TeachersPayTeachers store! As a thank you to everyone who has been supporting me on this journey, I am hosting a giveaway! I will also be sending out an exclusive freebie to all of my followers on TPT at the end of the giveaway so everyone will be a winner! :) You have several options for entering below, including one that you can enter every day until the giveaway closes on 9/15/2015, so keep coming back to earn more entries!



The winner will receive all of the world music lesson sets I currently have in my store:

The Pirate-Themed World Music Introduction Set (perfect for elementary):


The World Instrument Listening Unit (great for upper elementary up through high school):


And the Japanese Folk Song Lesson Bundle, packed full of teaching resources for 4 songs:


Thank you so much for your support and good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: classroom tour 2015

OK everyone, get ready: this post is going to be super picture-heavy and LONG. Today I'm giving you a tour of my classroom setup for the 2015-2016 school year! With 7 days of classes done, you would think I would be done setting up my room. I'm not. But I've given up on waiting until everything is done- if I do, I'm not sure it will happen before Christmas! Ugh. So here we go! :)


Let's start at my front door, shall we? There is a small alcove, with doors to the art, music, and band lesson rooms, off of the hallway. This picture is from inside the alcove, looking into my room:


I love the "Welcome to our village" poster (I got mine here) and the wall showing the benefits of music (movement, beauty, soul, intelligence, and connections- you can get the printables for that one here). I feel like my basic philosophy of music education- the importance of music for its own sake, and the importance of building community in the classroom- is summed up in these displays, welcoming everyone to my room. 

Just inside the door, I have a line of minion duct tape, where I have the students line up at the end of class (I call out, "Minions assemble!" and they all stand up straight and quiet), with my wall of shelves on the right and my boomwhackers hung on the closet doors with velcro. Next to the boomwhackers I have a small "rest area", with my large speaker system next to that (in front of the blue chalkboard). On the floor next to the minion tape, I have two sets of music lines, which I use for centers to practice letter names of notes. This is looking back at that side of the room from the inside:


On the blue chalkboard is one of my newest projects: my word wall! I worked with some other elementary music teachers this summer to re-write our district curriculum based on the new National Core Arts Standards, and part of the curriculum we developed was a vocabulary list for each grade. I printed all of the vocabulary words, put them on construction paper that matches the color paper I use for that grade's lesson objectives visual (I'll get to that), and lined them up by grade. 


Above the vocabulary words I have some posters describing the various elements of music: rhythm, pitch, timbre, articulation, form, beat, dynamics, tempo, and harmony. I considered separating the vocabulary words by musical element, and putting the appropriate words under each poster, but since not every grade has a word for each element, and some have many more words than others, I realized it would look really wonky and would probably be more confusing than helpful. I may change my mind later, but for now I'm happy with my rainbow of words :)

In the previous picture you can see the rolling whiteboard, which I keep next to the word wall. Behind that board is my recorder karate board, which you can see in my other post here. I have it hidden right now because I start recorders in January with my 3rd graders. That means I have a few more months to figure out what to do with my whiteboard when I need to have my recorder stuff visible...

Facing the word wall, on the other side of my front door, I have my behavior management board, computer table (which also serves as a secondary "rest area"), lesson objectives for each grade, and piano. Can I just say how excited I am about my new Chromebooks??? I got them from a DonorsChoose project this summer to replace my ancient iMacs (you know, the originals from 1998 that came in a bunch of flavors...) and can't wait to start using them with my students!!


My behavior management board is almost the same as last year- you can read about my system with the classes moving up the "piano keys" in this post. I am making a few changes, though, mostly to the "color houses" that I started in my room and rolled out now to the whole school in a PBIS / Harry Potter-style system, which you can read more about here. We are continuing the color house system school-wide this year, but are moving away from the PBIS system of giving tickets for positive behavior and more towards building relationships and community through the houses. Along those lines, I created "classroom jobs" for each house, which will rotate every half-trimester throughout the school year:


The attendance group is in charge of telling me where any missing students are, the supplies group passes out pencils, papers etc to each group and the clean up group collects everything, the line leader group leads the class to the door at the end of class (I have a hand signal system that you can read about here), and the teacher helper group does anything else that needs doing ;) The compliment group is a new thing I am trying this year- at the end of class, someone from that house gives a compliment to someone in a different house. I am continuing to give happy notes this year, but I like the idea of having them practice giving compliments as well, instead of just receiving them.

The piano now sits where my old desk was, and I am so happy with how much more open the room feels. The lesson objectives are posted in some dollar store frames with scrapbook paper inside, and I write the objectives on the glass with a dry erase marker. I use the colors in those frames to color code my word wall and the lesson plans in my planbook, so it's easy for my eyes to find the grade I'm looking for.


I had the pillows last year but moved them here in the new space next to the piano. On the other side of the door (which leads to the band lesson room), I have a crate with some music-related books in it (everything from stories, to biographies, some magazines, and even an encyclopedia- just whatever I already had on hand). My plan is to have this as a center activity, where students can relax with the pillows and read.


Now we're on the other side of the room. Here's what that whole side looks like (taken from near the front door entrance):



I have my DIY smartboard set up at the front of the room, my new small teacher desk in the corner, and the student chairs lined up by color house groups:


Now, I use duct tape all over my carpeted floor. For most teachers this is probably not the best option- it does leave residue when you pull it up. For me, though, it's the best solution. It's cheap, comes in tons of colors and patterns, and my carpet was already in pretty bad shape so I'm not making it any worse with the tape :) Just a word of caution for anyone thinking about doing something similar!

Next to my "smartboard" is my music stand, where I keep all of the essentials I need while I'm teaching:


I have a magnetic kitchen clock/timer and laminated copy of my teaching schedule on top, my seating charts on my clipboard, and my projector remote and other supplies in the pockets underneath, You can read more about how I set up my music stand here. My seating charts got a major upgrade this year- I'll write a more detailed post about what I did later, but you can get this and tons of other seating arrangements in my seating chart set here


Behind the chairs I have some instrument posters, and extra chairs and stands for the band, which meets in my room once a week. On the floor next to the chairs I have some velcro strips that pull double-duty as a giant staff for practicing letter names and as lines for my kindergarten students when I need them in rows (like if I'm reading a book etc), and next to that I have circle spots, again with the same house colors.


I loved having the circle spots color-coded last year. My kindergarten students usually sit on the floor in those spots, but I also have the older students use them for movement, cup games, and other activities on the floor. When they go to make a circle, I can simply tell the green house to find a green spot, and so on. It gives them some choice but not too much choice. 

We'll finish up back over by my front door with the wall of shelves:


I've written before about small percussion storage in general, as well as how I organize my hand drums and triangles. I'm also continuing to color-code all of the writing supplies like I did last year:


My main project that I cannot seem to get done, though, is lining my shelves. As much as I love my shelves, the reality is they are pretty gross. There is graffiti, dust, chips, and other general grossness all over them, and no amount of cleaning is making much of a difference. Eventually I would love to paint them, but I wanted something to add some color and make them cleaner for the time being:


I'm using tablecloths from Party City (the kind with some cotton backing on it- not just the thin plastic ones) and attaching them to the shelves with double-sided tape. I'm telling you, it sounds ridiculous, but that was the cheapest option I could come up with! I was shocked to realize how much it would cost to line all of the shelves with contact paper.... sadness. But I'm happy with how the tablecloths are working out so far. I've only managed to get those 4 shelves done so far, but once I've done the others I'll post another picture :)

OK, whew! I think we've made it through the whole room! Thanks for sticking with me through this incredibly-long post. Best wishes to everyone on another awesome school year!!

I'm linking up with Tracy King- if you want to see TONS of amazing drool-worthy music classrooms, head over there to check them out!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Mommy Monday: packing for air travel with young kids

This summer I got to take my 3.5-year-old girls on our first airplane trip in 3 years. If you know anything about my upbringing, then you know how insane it is that it's been that long since we traveled! Crazy. It was a relatively short trip-3 nights, 4 days- but everything is a little bit harder when you are packing for two preschoolers! Today I thought I would share my favorite packing tips with you.


Before I pack, I always make a list of what we'll need. I usually start my list a few weeks in advance, because I always think of things between the time I write the list and when I actually pack. This time I kept my list on a sticky note on the back of my DIY dashboard in my planner- I LOVED it and will definitely be doing it again the next time we travel :)


Let's start with what I packed everything into: one carry-on size suitcase (don't pay for check-through unless you really need to!), a backpack for each child, one shoulder bag, a quart-size bag, a water-proof bag (plastic grocery bag or similar size), and wallet or card holder.


When you're traveling with kids (or, really, even without kids), the last thing you want to be doing is fishing through your bag trying to find something. It's so helpful to have everything organized where you can get to it quickly while you're traveling!

In the backpacks, I had the girls pack their own entertainment for the trip: a few books, a coloring book, some colored pencils, stickers, etc. I also stuck a new coloring book in each of their bags for them to find as a surprise on the trip. I didn't want their bags to be so heavy that I ended up carrying them myself, but I also wanted them to be responsible for some of their own things.

The shoulder bag is for the stuff we need while we're on the airplane  (I used the brown and blue one in the top right corner of the last picture- anything that you can sling over your shoulder will work). Now that you have to pay for check-through baggage, everyone is bringing the biggest suitcases they can get onto the airplane. There's a good chance you will have your carry-on bag in an overhead bin or even under the plane. Neither one of those are easily accessible during the flight. By packing the stuff you need during the flight in a shoulder bag, you can quickly pull it out of the suitcase before stowing the larger bag and still have the essentials at your fingertips. Here's everything that went into that bag:


I have a change of clothes for each of the girls (in case they get really wet, have an accident etc), a sweater and pair of socks for each of us (in case we get cold), some wipes, tissues, gum (for the grownups to chew during takeoff and landing to help with ears popping), and snacks. With younger (baby to toddler) children, I brought some bottles and pacifiers to use for takeoff and landing. For older kids you could just give them gum or hard candy, but I was stuck for a while on what to do for preschoolers. My girls aren't using bottles or pacifiers, but they weren't ready for chewing gum or hard candy yet either. I stumbled on my solution at the drugstore one day:


I feel like such a genius telling you about this idea right now! Hahaha, no seriously. These things were perfect. The girls had never seen a ring pop before (I hadn't even seen one since I was in elementary school I don't think) so it was a novelty, and it was easy for them to suck on without making a mess like a regular lollipop. After each takeoff or landing, I stuck it back in the wrapper and they were able to use one ring pop for two flights!

I always pack one empty waterproof bag for dirty clothes. My carry-on suitcase came with the purple drawstring bag you see in the top picture, but I've also used a regular plastic grocery bag before. Just make sure it's waterproof and not plain fabric, in case you have... you know... clothes that are wet. As the result of an accident. Or other such things.

I packed each person's clothes into one gallon-size ziplock bag. I love this system because it makes it so much easier to find each person's clothes when you arrive! I always take them out of the bags as soon as I arrive at my destination, so nothing gets very wrinkled, and I pack any dressy clothes separately. Any clothes that are for special situations (like in our case, swimming suits) get their own bag.


I pack each of the ziplock bags of clothes in the bottom of the suitcase, then pack miscellaneous items- electronics, cables, toys, etc- in the nooks and crannies around the bags. Everyone's pajamas go on top of those, on the bottom side (when the suitcase is standing up), and the shoulder bag goes on top on the top side:



I pack the pajamas separately so that if we get there late, I don't have to unpack all of our clothes to get to what we need before falling into bed. I also put the white noise machine, and the girls' lovey's, at the top with the pajamas. Anything that we need to go to bed needs to be quickly accessible!

The wallet holds all of our travel documents: ID, plane tickets, car rental confirmation, addresses and phone numbers, passports, etc. I put that in the front zippered pocket along with my quart-size bag of toiletries (as most of you know, TSA will only let you through with travel size containers of liquids that all fit into a quart-size bag). I keep those in the outside pocket because you need both to get through security, and I need to be able to get them in and out quickly when we're going though the airport.

That's it! What are your favorite packing tips and other travel tips with little ones?