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Monday, November 30, 2015

Mommy Monday: Christmas activities bucket list with preschoolers

Last week I shared my top tip for handling the holiday season: plan ahead for lots of little things to get you in the holiday spirit and spend time with your family without getting stressed and overwhelmed. I am going to be using my DIY advent calendar again that I made last year to put pieces of paper in showing the day's little activity. Today I wanted to share my list of activities for my almost-4-year-old girls and I to do each day this holiday season!


Here are our activities for this year:

1. bake sugar cookies
2. decorate sugar cookies
3. deliver cookies to friends
4. wrap presents
5. pick out presents
6. get out felt tree
7. get out big Christmas tree
8. decorate Christmas tree
9. hang Christmas lights
10. call family and friends
11. go see Christmas lights
12. make gingerbread house
13. make Christmas cards
14. hang stockings
15. mail Christmas cards
16. eat candy canes
17. get out Nativity sets
18. sing Christmas carols
19. visit Santa
20. read Christmas books
21. make marshmallow snowmen
22. make hand and footprint reindeer
23. take family photo
24. give presents to teachers

If you're interested, here is my list of activities from last year (when the girls were almost 3).

The key to success with this system is having everything planned and set up at the beginning of the month so there are no more errands and to-do's to kill your joy and stress you out. Here are all of the supplies I am preparing (buying/getting out of storage) so we can enjoy all of these activities!

1. sugar cookie dough
2. sprinkles/frosting for cookies (and gingerbread house)
3. gingerbread house kit
4. marshmallows
5. food pens
6. candy canes
7. felt Christmas tree
8. Christmas tree
9. Christmas lights
10. tree ornaments
11. wrapping paper/ribbon
12. Nativity sets
13. Christmas books
14. postage stamps

What are some of your favorite things to do during the holiday season? I'm very excited to get started tomorrow with my girls!

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fermata Friday: November 27, 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 post 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 until 4:00am EST Saturday morning.


Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: handling the holidays

Yesterday I shared my top tips for enjoying the holiday season (and not getting stressed) at home with your family and children (you can check out that post here). But music teachers face just as much (if not more) stress over holiday events at work, between caroling, concerts, and everything else we are expected to do (and oh yeah, teach)! Today I am sharing my tips for keeping stress at bay at work when you are a music teacher in the middle of the holiday season.


1. Plan for review, and little else, in your long-range plans for December

If you want to read more about how I go about making my long-range plans for each grade that I teach, check out this post. One thing that I have learned over the years is to never plan too much for the month before a long break (December and June, in my case). I don't have to stress as much about getting behind because I have some buffer built in twice a year, and if the students are on track, I can plan for some low-pressure lessons during the crazy "holidays are coming" seasons. This is a great time to review concepts that we have been practicing over the last few months, do some fun holiday-related songs and games, and build musical memories for my students! It reduces my workload a lot when I don't have to worry about pushing to teach a long list of concepts.

2. Plan way ahead for performances

I plan everything for my fall/winter performances during summer break, and plan all of my spring performances over winter break. I start by figuring out my end goal (the songs/ show I want the students to perform), figure out when I will rehearse, build in 2 rehearsals for just "run-through's", and plan backwards from there to figure out when I need to start practicing for the performance. 

I know what you're thinking. OK, that's all well and good for next year, but this doesn't help me for this year- it's too late to plan ahead! All this does is make me feel guilty! Not to worry. You can apply the same principles even at this late hour ;) Lesson plans? Trust in the fact that you have worked as hard as you could these last few months and give you and your students a chance to breathe, review, reflect, and have fun. Over break, you can figure out your game plan to fit everything else in before summer. Performance preparation? Use the same backwards planning strategy to make sure you are ready for the stage. That may mean planning an extra rehearsal or cutting a song from the program, but believe me, it is far better to have a calm director and smooth, successful performance than to have a stressed out director and a jam-packed performance on the brink of falling apart. 

I hope you all enjoy this holiday season- it really is a lovely time of year, even with all of the craziness. Hopefully these tips will help you have less crazy and more lovely :) For more tips on handling the holidays, check out the posts from other bloggers below!


Monday, November 23, 2015

Mommy Monday: handling the holidays

The holiday season is officially upon us. The thought can strike both dread and joy in every parent's heart! It is a vicious cycle: we want to make sure we savor the special moments, especially with our young children, but in order to fully accomplish that we have quite the list of things we want to do, which makes us so busy that we can't enjoy them at all. Today I want to share my top tip for both fitting in all of the wonderful traditions and memory-making moments, and making sure we don't spend the whole season preparing for everything and miss out on the moments themselves.


So are you ready for my tip?

Make a hybrid bucket-list-schedule-thing for the month of December (or whatever you consider your "holiday season" to be). It should include lots of little things, not too many big things, and many of those little things should be things that you feel an "obligation" to do, for one reason or another (like buying gifts or sending cards).

You would think making a list of lots of little things to do with your family for the holidays would make things more stressful, but planning ahead for all of those little things will actually help you avoid the panicky feeling of, "oh no, it's Christmas Eve and we never even baked any cookies!". I know it sounds frivolous but if we are honest with ourselves, I think most people are with me on this- it may not be baking cookies but everyone has things that, if left undone, stress you out.

I will be using the same advent calendar I made last year for my daughters- you can read more about my muffin tin calendar, with a small activity to do together each day in December, by clicking on the picture:


I planned a small activity for each day, and I'll be changing some of those this year now that the girls are older but many will stay the same (you can see my full list from last year, when the girls were 2, in this blog post). Things like driving around to see Christmas lights, wrapping presents, putting up the Christmas tree, singing a Christmas carol... you get the idea. The key is to break up bigger activities/tasks (like decorating the house) into smaller chunks (like putting up the tree, putting up lights, decorating the tree etc) and turn your "chores" into "activities"!

You don't need a fancy advent calendar to accomplish the same effect though- you can easily write something down for each day on a calendar or even just make a list to hang on the fridge. The important thing is that you make a plan in advance, before you get caught up in the hustle and bustle and things get lost in the shuffle. Just don't get too attached to the plan- that's why I call it a hybrid with a bucket list. Start off knowing that you will want to move things around, switch up the days, or replace things as you go through the season.

The last point to keep in mind is to prepare everything you need for anything you are planning to do in advance as well. This is actually the key difference between stressing out over all the things you want to fit in and being able to enjoy doing lots of fun things without the stress. Buy the gingerbread house kit, pull out the Christmas lights, buy the tickets for the Christmas train ride. Have all the materials ready before Thanksgiving and then sit back and enjoy the season! Last year I gathered everything around Thanksgiving time and stored everything in a closet that the girls don't use. Then each day I knew I just had to pull out what I needed and we were good to go!

What are your top tips for enjoying the holidays? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments! I'm also linking up with some other bloggers so check out all of the other awesome posts below for more great ideas :)


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fermata Friday: November 20, 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 post 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 until 4:00am EST Saturday morning.


Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: the phrase I want to stop using in my classroom

Last week one of my daughters came home from preschool repeating a phrase she had learned from her teacher. It is one that I use quite often in my own teaching, but when I heard it come out of my 3-year-old's mouth (with the R's sounding like W's and the cute, high-pitched tone), it gave me pause.


The phrase? "Worry about yourself".

I think it struck me most because just a few days before I heard my daughter say it, I had heard her teacher tell me at parent conferences that my daughter was very good at helping the other students, and even the teachers, when she sensed that they needed something or were not feeling well. Isn't it kindof backwards to tell children NOT to worry about anyone else, but rather to only worry about themselves? And yet we say it all the time.

We have very good reason for saying it. I usually use it when students are, in a rather haughty or accusatory tone, telling other students what to do (and thus creating more noise, chaos, and conflict). Because the original offenders are then getting offended by the other students telling them what to do, I tell all of the students to "stop worrying about what other people are doing and worry about yourself". We say it because we want them to mind their own business and let us, the teachers, handle any inappropriate behaviors (since we clearly know how to handle it more appropriately without hurting students' feelings and making a small problem into a bigger problem).

But what about teaching children how to help each other? How to correct and remind without offending? What about teaching children to be able to accept help when it is offered graciously instead of automatically getting defensive?

I think telling students to mind their own business- to worry about themselves- is the easy way out. That's why we say it so often. But when I really think about it, that's not what I really want my students to do. I want them to be able to help and accept help from each other. I want them to worry about each other in a healthy and empathic way.

I don't want my 3-year-old daughter to stop running across the room to get the tissue box when she sees another student has a booger hanging out of their nose. I don't want her to stop asking the teacher, in a concerned little voice, if she is tired. In fact, I want to teach all of my students to do exactly what she is doing right now- show concern and care for the other people in her classroom community.

Instead of telling everyone to worry about themselves, I want to start talking to my classes about how to help each other, when to ignore small things that come up, when to let an adult or someone else handle something, and how to accept help and reminders when they are offered. It will certainly take more time than telling everyone to mind their own business, but I think it will also help foster important character traits and develop a healthy and safe classroom community as well.

Do you use this phrase in your classroom? Have you ever thought about it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Mommy Monday: my favorite planner supplies

It's about that time of year when everyone starts thinking about calendars and planners for the new year. It's enough to make this planner girl squeal with excitement! I've been in love with my planner for several years now, but only started decorating it (somewhat) this school year. I've finally gotten to the point where I am happy with the way my planner looks and I enjoy my weekly planning times, so I thought I would share my favorite planner decorating supplies with you this week!


In this post I will be focusing on supplies for decorating your planner pages. If you want to see my favorite supplies for planner binding and setup, you can get started with this post on my planner setup for the 2015-16 school year.

So, on with the supplies!


As a single mom and full-time teacher I don't have the time or money, let alone space in my planner pages, for the full-out scrapbooking style planner decoration that I love to see on Instagram and YouTube. But I have found a happy medium that allows me to be creative and colorful without taking away from my time, budget, or planner page real estate. I've put my favorite supplies into five categories- first up is, of course, washi tape!


Washi tape is one of my favorite ways to decorate in my planner. I like to add some to the top and bottom edges of my planner, and I also make little flags to denote extended events and appointments. I know it looks like a lot of washi, but I am actually due for a little purging- some of it I stopped using months ago because it got tacky and difficult to use (considering I've had them for over 2 years that doesn't upset me too much). It is a fun and cheap way to add some color to my pages, though, and it's so easy to use!


My pens are another staple for my planning. I recently got the Frixion erasable ink pen in black, which I use for the bulk of the writing in my planner. It is so nice not to have to cross things out or pull out the white out every time plans change or I make a mistake! I use the sharpies to color my planner stickers (more on that in a second) and write on washi tape, and the colored Staedtler pens I use to mark the classes in my lesson planner, which I color-code by grade so I can quickly find each grade's lessons when I am looking in my planner.


Let's call this the slightly-miscellaneous category. I use the Avery all-purpose labels, which I color with the sharpies, to mark appointments, blog posts, and other events in my planner. After I color them, I use the small planner icon stamps from this Etsy shop to make my own, repositionable stickers! I also sometimes use the patterned stickers to mark important events. The glue stick is perfect for making my own page flags and stickers, because it is repositionable too! I use it to add sticky notes, scrapbook paper, and other things into my pages.


Speaking of sticky notes.... I keep a bunch of pages flags on my dashboard (see my tutorial for making your own dashboard here), and I keep larger sticky notes and notepad paper on the back of the dashboard too. These are great for marking things in my planner that I want to make more noticeable, or that I think the date might change. I also use the bigger notes for grocery lists and other reminders that I can pull out and take with me on errands.


I really resisted the cutesy, purely decorative stickers for a long time, but I have finally succumbed to the pressure. These sticker books are great because each book is $1, and you get a ton of coordinating stickers in each set. I've seen them at Staples, Michael's, and JoAnn Fabrics, and they come out with new sets every season. I like to give half to my daughters to use in their art projects and keep the other half for myself. If anyone asks, I bought them for the kids! ;)

If you want to see all of my supplies in action, I've uploaded my first "plan with me" video on YouTube last weekend. And if you want to see more of these, subscribe to my channel and you'll get an email when I add new videos (no promises, it is holiday season after all, but I will do my best)!


And that's it! Which ones are your favorites? Do you have other recommendations for supplies I should try? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Fermata Friday: November 13, 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 until 4:00am EST Saturday morning.


November Small Goals

I'm a little late, but today I'm linking up with Jennifer from The Yellow Brick Road to share my small goals for October. Check out the linky, by clicking on the image below, to see all of the other bloggers who have shared their goals for the month- you may even be inspired to set some goals of your own! ;)


First a look back at my goals for October! My goals were to 1) cook some soups, 2) figure out the last song for the winter concert, and 3) experiment with my new planner stamps. I actually did pretty well with these! Not only did I cook soups but I also introduced my daughters to a soup restaurant in town with which they are now obsessed. I figured out the last song for our concert and have managed to rope in the district fine arts department chair and my building principal to play with the superintendent as well, so it should be fun. And last but not least, I have loved playing with my new planner stamps. You can see them in action in my latest planner share post here.

So on with this month's goals!

1. Purge, pack, and try not to panic

So I am buying my first home, and we are moving out of our little apartment at the end of the month. As those of you who have purchased a home before will know, the paperwork for getting a loan is insane and it seems there is always something new that the underwriter wants before closing.... (also, side note, has anyone else noticed the similarity between the words "underwriter" and "undertaker"?) So I am mentally preparing myself for the possibility that we may not close by the date we had originally planned. HOWEVER, either way, I have already told the apartment complex we are moving out, so there's no way around that one! My goal for the rest of this month is to finish the packing/purging process and try to remain calm no matter what ends up happening with the rest of this moving process.

2. Survive report card writing and parent conferences

I think I am in pretty good company when I say that the paperwork and adult meeting aspects of teaching are among my least favorite parts of being a teacher. Report cards are due at the end of this week and then we have our marathon 4 days of half school, half conferences starting a week after that. My goal is to, again, remain calm and keep my mental sanity throughout this season.

3. Finish planning my Christmas presents

As some of you will recall, I started my holiday planning in July. Yes I did. I did it precisely because of the craziness of this time of year, which you can see reflected in my previous 2 goals. So a lot of my shopping (or plans to shop) are done, but I really need to get the rest of it finished so that once December hits, I can focus on enjoying the Advent season with my girls and not worrying about getting ready for the 25th.

Well I think that's it for this month! Make sure to click on the picture at the beginning of this post to go check out all the other goal posts that are linked up. What are your goals for November? I'd love to hear them in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: time fillers for elementary music


The other day we had a pre-planned fire drill. The teachers knew it was coming but the students did not. Since it was scheduled to happen 15 minutes before the end of my 4th grade class, I rushed through the last activity and made sure the instruments were all cleaned up in time for the drill. Then nothing happened. For about 7 minutes. Woops.

We all have times when we have extra time to fill in class, whether because the lesson went a lot faster than we thought, or the homeroom teacher is late, or something else unexpected happens. Today I'm sharing some of my favorite time-filler activities that I keep in my back pocket for moments like these.

The Salami (sol-la-mi) Game
I get requests for this one almost every time the class lines up and realizes that the homeroom teacher isn't there yet! I sing a 3-note pattern on solfege with Curwen hand signs, usually using only mi, sol, or la, and the students echo me. But if they hear me sing the notes sol-la-mi (which sounds like the word salami), they don't sing. It is basically like the "Poison Pattern" game, if you've ever heard of that. I've also done a variation called the "Me Dodo" (mi-do-do) Game as well, which is pretty fun too :) This is an easy game to use while waiting in line, but I have also used it to fill time in class by doing different levels of the game- get faster, take away hand signs and/or solfege syllables etc.

Move with Different Music
I know that is a very vague title for an activity, but I don't know how else to describe it. I use this whenever I have extra time while we are still in the classroom, or if it becomes clear that the students need a quick mental break or a chance to get out some wiggles. I have all of the students spread out around the room. They must stay in their spot, they cannot touch any other person or thing, and they cannot make any sound. Then I start playing random snippets of music from my iTunes. The more random and disparate the better. I try to switch between serious classical pieces, pop songs, world music, and everything in between, switching moods, tempi, and genres. I tell the students to show the changes in music with their movements. This is actually a great way to assess student comprehension of a particular musical element- I have used it as part of regular lessons to have students show the changes in tempo with their movements, or instruments, or dynamics, or... you get the idea. It's also a fun way to expose students to a variety of music.

Spell Words with Rhythms
Unless I have something else that needs to be up there, I keep a set of simple 4-beat rhythms up on my lined whiteboard, with each 1-measure pattern labeled with a letter of the alphabet (I usually have A through H). If I have some extra time, I have students first practice clapping each pattern, then we try to spell words by clapping several patterns in a row (like clap rhythm B, then A, then D, for example). The students love coming up with their own words to spell with the given letters, and it is a great way to improve sight reading skills since their eyes have to jump around the board from letter to letter.

SQUILT (Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time)
This is a great one when a class is riled up and I want to calm them down before sending them back to the poor homeroom teacher. I tell students there is no agenda here- just a chance to listen to a new song, in the same way that we might have time to read a book just for the pleasure of reading. If there is time, I invite students to share any thoughts or observations after listening, but in this case I do not pose any particular questions or ask them to listen for anything before starting the piece- I simply tell them to listen and pay attention to the music.

What are your favorite time fillers for the elementary music classroom? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below!

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mommy Monday: DIY calendar as a family scrapbook

I am so excited about my latest project: a DIY calendar as a family scrapbook! I am excited to use it with my family this year and I am seriously thinking about giving one to friends and family as well- it would make a great Christmas gift!



This is such a simple, cheap, and fun way to keep photos and note dates for things that happen throughout the year without the pressure of a full scrapbook.

I printed this blank 2016 calendar that I made and had it bound at Staples with a simple plastic coil. With printing and binding, the total cost was around $4. I printed every page 1-sided, including a title page, so that there would be a blank page before every month (where a traditional wall calendar would have pictures).


My plan is to add printed photos, notes, memorabilia, and decorations to each month as we go to both keep track of important dates (like birthdays and appointments) and remember things that happened (like a scrapbook). This way, instead of having old pictures from last year or generic nature scenes or cats snuggling balls of yarn, I can put pictures from the family vacation, birthday party, or trip to the ice cream store right into that month's calendar.

I have, of course, already decorated January so it is ready to go:


Because there was extra space at the beginning and end of the month, I was able to include a space to write down goals at the beginning and favorite memories at the end of the month. I also noted birthdays (and New Year's) with some washi tape. I left the rest blank so we can add in photos and note the things we do as we go. And the best part is, we can stick things in with washi tape, so if we get tired of looking at one picture we can just change it out (or add another)!

I've often made calendars for family members with photos from previous years on each month and had them printed to pass out to everyone at Christmas. While looking back on the past can be fun, having the freedom to make something that fits the mood and style of our family in the present sounds really appealing to me. I'm also excited to have an easy way to "scrapbook" to look back on years from now without adding a major craft project to my list of to-do's.

Because the calendar is plan and blank, I am thinking it would be a fun way to make the gift of a calendar a little more handmade by adding some washi tape, stickers, or other decorations to each month to give as gifts. Then they can add their own photos and events wherever they want.

I don't know if this is even a thing... do people do this and I am just now stumbling onto an old idea?!? Do you do something like this with your family? If you want to print out the blank 2016 calendar that I made for this or any other project, click here to download it for free, and I'd love to see how you use it! :)

Friday, November 6, 2015

Fermata Friday: November 6, 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 until 4:00am EST Saturday morning.


Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: solfege stickers

Today I have a simple 20-minute DIY project that costs very little money but makes written composition assignments a little more fun and a little bit easier for students to grasp: solfege stickers! I am using them with my 5th grade students this week and so far it has been a hit.


It's no secret that I believe very strongly in the importance of incorporating composition regularly into elementary music curriculum. In the younger grades, I use a lot of manipulatives, iconic notation, and other non-traditional notation methods, but in the upper grades I have general stuck with standard notation. But lately my 4th-6th graders are getting more and more tired of paper-and-pencil activities. Has anyone else noticed this trend? I attribute it to all of the extra pencil-and-paper work they are doing in their homerooms. I already stick primarily to singing, playing instruments, movement, and other activities that don't involve writing for this reason- don't get me wrong- but I knew I needed to come up with some alternatives for even some of the writing I was having them doing.

Enter solfege stickers! When I have upper elementary students do melodic composition work, I generally have them start by creating a rhythm (on a one-line unpitched staff), write the solfege syllable they select under each notehead (usually within a pentatonic scale), and then transfer that to a 5-line staff. I am using the solfege stickers in place of having them write the syllables under each note, and I have found that not only do the students get more excited when you hand them a sheet of stickers instead of a pencil, but the students find it much easier to see and understand the concept of the different pitches because they are related to the boomwhacker colors!

To make these stickers, I used some small Avery labels and markers. I actually went to the store intending to buy circle labels, but these were on sale and I figured they are close enough to an oval shape to work. The nice thing about the Avery labels is that they are pretty easy to pull off and move without ripping the paper, so if students change their minds they can move the stickers around without too much difficulty. I use them in my planner all the time and, even months after I put them down, I am able to easily lift and move them without damaging the paper.


I am having my 5th graders compose in minor mode, so I chose a 5-note scale in minor (la-based) for these. Since the sheets have 10 rows of stickers, they lend themselves to pentatonic or other 5-note scales, which is a great way to get students composing without worrying too much about pitch function. Obviously you could use any combination of notes to match the assignment you are doing and use the colors that coordinate with your boomwhackers, handbells, or other color-coded instruments. And you guys, coloring the stickers really isn't as tedious as it may sound. I just color straight across the sheet, and got 6 sheets with 5 colors each done in under 20 minutes.


The last step is to cut the stickers into strips. Of course you could just pass out an entire sheet to each student, but that means more coloring and more opportunity for students to waste stickers (which, in turn, means more coloring again). I only do 1 or 2 measures for most of my student compositions, so there are plenty of stickers to fill up the notes. The other advantage of limiting each student's stickers is that they are forced to use all of the solfege syllables (not just all "do" or some other boring melody) in their composition :)


Voila: solfege stickers! After students stuck the stickers onto the notes, I had them get together in groups and play the rhythms on the boomwhackers before having them transfer the composition to a 5-line staff. That extra step has made a huge difference in my students' understanding of the process of going from an unpitched to a pitched line!

I am a huge fan of simple manipulatives and visual aids that increase student comprehension and engagement. For my younger students, my latest project has been rhythm monsters- check out my post on those if you missed it because they are amazing!


If you want to see the kind of worksheets I use with my students to go along with these manipulatives, check out my composition worksheet growing bundle, which has worksheets for every level from kindergarten up through middle school or even high school.

What are your favorite composition tools for elementary age students?

Monday, November 2, 2015

Mommy Monday: magnetic calendar for preschoolers DIY

My girls started preschool in September, and they have been loving it! One of the big changes I have seen is that they are more aware of approaching holidays and other events now. In the past, I never talked to them about anything more than a week in advance (except during Advent), and usually no more than a day in advance, to avoid the constant questions thereafter of "is it today?". Now that they are able to understand the passing of time better and look ahead to events farther in the future, I have updated their magnetic calendar and chore chart to include a monthly calendar!


I have had the weekly calendar, which has the main things they will do that day- when they eat and sleep, go on outings, go to school, to to Dad's house etc- shown with pictures and icons, and the chore chart, with pictures for some of the basic chores they each do, on this magnet board for about 2 years now, and it has been fantastic. One of my daughters has a very difficult time adjusting to unexpected events, so being able to anticipate what will happen that day has made a huge difference for her especially. If you want to read more about how I made it and how we use it, you can catch up on my previous blog post from many moons ago by clicking on the picture below:


The space below the chore chart, though, has been morphing to meet the girls' changing needs as they get older. Most recently, I had a simple visual showing the routine things that the girls needed to do each morning and night to help them remember their new routines as we started school. You can read about that, and download the visual I used for free, in this post:


But enough backstory... so my latest update! 

I took down the morning/night routines visual because the girls know what to do now and have not been referring to it for a few weeks. In its place, I put up a monthly calendar:


I printed out the current month from my blank 2015 calendar, which you can download for free here and will be updated for 2016 very soon. I used some of the same supplies I use to decorate my own monthly calendars in my planner to decorate theirs, and just put in the big picture events that I thought would be helpful for them to look ahead to: days when they don't have school, holidays (Thanksgiving, in this case, which is a 2-day celebration for them since they will have one with each parent), and yep, moving to their new house (more on that another day...)! I stuck the calendar onto the magnet board with a little double-sided tape and used another one of the magnets I had on hand (the same kind I have to track the current day on the weekly calendar) to track the current day.

I have a lot of fun ideas for ways to make each month's calendar fun and helpful for the girls- I might keep printing the blank calendars and have them decorate it themselves with their own stickers, or I might add in some icons or clip art to the holidays and other big days before printing- but I wanted to have something set up for the beginning of the new month to get them used to using it so this was the best way to get started. I also decided to write out the days rather than use pictures because they are starting to sound out letters and I thought this would be a great way to get them to recognize some new words. I color-coded each item (so all the "no school" days are in green, etc) to help them remember what the words say.

I'm possibly a little too excited by this simple monthly calendar. I think it's because it is a sign that the girls are growing up! Thinking back on how their calendar has evolved over the last few years is making me nostalgic and proud. What are some things that have made you realize how much your kids have grown recently? I'd love to hear them in the comments below :)

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Plan With Me Sundays: November 2015

Can you believe it's November already? Time for another Plan With Me Sundays post! :)


I have been continuing with my weekly decorating and it has absolutely transformed my motivation to sit down and plan out my lessons for the week. I look forward to my "planner time" every week and, although I didn't think it was possible, I am even more in love with my planner now than I was before! Using other things besides just pens also makes it easier for me to see everything I need to get done and find what I need quickly too.

My latest addition to my decorating is stamping! I wrote before about making my own stickers for my planner:


I am still doing basically the same thing but instead of having to draw/write every icon on each sticker with a black pen, I now use tiny icon stamps on the colored stickers instead. I will do a separate post on those another day (cuz this post is already going to be long!) but you will notice the stamped icons in my weekly and monthly spreads below. I got my stamps from this etsy store- Rowena the store owner was lovely and I adore my stamps!!

OK, so first my November monthly spread:


It's pretty busy, but that's because November is busy! Writing most of my appointments and events on washi and stickers has become my go-to now (rather than writing directly onto the paper). Not only does it look pretty but I can easily move or remove them when plans change.

OK, onto the weekly spreads! I am going to just show you all of the pictures in order here, because I have pretty much settled on the process I like for my weekly spreads- I use washi tape, $1 sticker packs from Michael's, and stamps pretty much every week. I'm pretty happy with my system, although some weeks I like more than others.





I think the Halloween spread is my favorite. One thing I will say- the notes sections look blank in most of the spreads because I mostly use that space to hold sticky notes that move from week to week or into a holding place to reuse next year. And yes, I missed 3 days of school one week because the girls and I were taking turns being sick- it was awful but not unexpected- October is always bad health-wise (can I get an Amen?).

For those who are new to my planner, you can get a full tour of my planner system (a combination teacher lesson planner/home management binder/life planner/blog & TPT planner) in this video, read about how I set it up using the Arc system in this post, see all of the planners I've made in my store here, and catch up on all things planner here :)

I'll post close-up pictures of my stamped stickers, along with a more detailed explanation of what I use and how, in another post. For now: are any of you decorating or using new materials in your planner? I'd love to hear about it!