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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: teacher goals 2016

Yesterday I shared my new year's resolutions as a parent for 2016. Today I wanted to talk about my new year's resolutions as a teacher. Do you set goals for yourself each calendar year? I do the bulk of my reflecting and goal-setting as a teacher over the summer, but it is nice to have a mid-point check-in over the holiday break as well. If you haven't set your own goals yet, I hope my list will provide some inspiration for your own reflection on your teaching as well!


1. Develop more personal relationships with my new students
Our school actually lost quite a few students over this past summer, and some of our classes were quite small when school started (which was wonderful!). But there was about a 3-month stretch between August and November where we were getting 2-3 new students almost every week (or at least it felt that way!). I realized in December that, because we had had so many students come in mid-year, there were quite a few students with whom I hadn't had a chance to connect the way I would like. My goal is to get to know those students better and develop those relationships.

2. Find/create better sub plans
To be honest, this has been a goal of mine for a couple of years now and I'm still not happy with where I am. I had some sub plans that worked well, but I've reached that point where all of my students have done all of the decent sub plans that I had prepared and I need new ones! Part of my struggle is that our substitutes aren't supposed to use the laptop computer that the school provides for our teaching (not to mention, the technology is not always reliable, and, let's be honest, the substitute teachers' tech knowledge is not always reliable either), so I can't have them show a video online, play music from a playlist, or powerpoint from the computer, I have one or two ideas that I will be working on over the holiday break, but I'd like to get some more plans ready for all of those sick days in the winter.

I'm going to stick with those two- I don't want to make too many goals and get overwhelmed! What are your goals for yourself as a teacher this year? Share them in the comments below!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Mommy Monday: mommy goals 2016

Can you believe 2015 is ending this week? I certainly can't. I'm pretty sure my daughters' first day of preschool in September was, like, a week ago. And it definitely hasn't been a month since we moved into our new house.

I know some people grow cynical of making resolutions at the beginning of each calendar year, but I actually enjoy the opportunity to reflect and set concrete, specific, and (hopefully) realistic goals to focus on each year (you can read more about my goal-setting process in this post from last year, or get your own copy of the goal-setting worksheets I use here). Today I want to share my home/parenting goals for 2016. I'd love to hear yours in the comments, and if you haven't made any yet, I hope mine will give you some inspiration!


1. Be patient with mistakes
I've been aware of this since the beginning, but because I am a "type-A" personality and people-pleaser myself, it's tend to respond to my children's mistakes the same way I would to my own: gasping over spilled milk, getting frustrated when I'm in a hurry and someone is having trouble getting their shoes on, or when they aren't able to do something that I didn't anticipate being difficult for them. I am aware of this and I try hard to work against that tendency, but I want to continue to make it my goal as I can definitely still improve.

2. Be as phone-free as possible between dinner and bedtime
I'm definitely a morning person, so by the time dinner rolls around I am usually exhausted. We usually have about 45 minutes between dinner and getting ready for bed, when the girls and I can play together. It's easy for me to get sucked into scrolling through my newsfeed, watching videos on YouTube, or checking my email instead of being with my daughters. You know what happens when I do that? The girls start fighting with each other. I'm not saying that I necessarily want to always be totally engaged with them every time- I'm an introvert, and I have some pretty hectic days, and I think it is totally legitimate for me to want to sit and relax sometimes. But I want to make it a goal not to turn on my phone and become almost oblivious to what is going on around me, but instead draw, rest, or just sit if I need some time to myself. That way I can still notice when any problems are brewing and redirect the girls before they get into a huge fight. And the rest of the time, of course, I want to be playing with them!

I think I'm going to stick to those for this year- I have a couple of teacher goals (which I will share tomorrow) and I don't want to have too many things to think about! What are your goals as a parent for the upcoming new year? I'd love to hear them!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Happy New Year- a planner giveaway!

It's almost 2016- can you believe it?!? I'm hosting a giveaway to help you get organized for the new year. It will only be open for a few days so act quickly!!


If you haven't already, this is the perfect time to get organized for the new year with one of the Entire Life Planners. If you haven't seen them yet, here's an overview of what's included:


Here's a rundown of all the options you now have for lesson planning formats to help you find the one that best fits your planning style and teaching schedule! The photos link to the Entire Life Planners, which include planner pages for lesson planning, music teaching, home, and budget/business tracking, but you can also mix and match just the parts you need- the link to each included portion is included in the description in my store so just click on the ones you want to purchase them separately :) Every planner has the same contents except for the weekly lesson planning pages- you can see a preview of more of the pages in the other sections by clicking on the pictures.

Dated Five Lessons:
This is the one I use personally. It has space for 5 lesson blocks (which are big enough to split in half if you have more classes on some days etc) each day, and includes space to note life events etc for weekends as well. Each day for the entire 2015-16 school year is dated in the planner.

Dated Six Lessons:
This one is almost the same as the first one but just has 6 lesson blocks per day.

Dated Five Big Lessons:



This version includes more space for lesson planning, and has space for just the weekdays. If you don't need to keep track of many life events in your weekly planning but you do want more space for lesson plans, this one might be the best fit. I know many people who use this one plan their "life stuff" on the monthly calendars and that is enough space for them.

Dated Eight Big Lessons:



This version is for people who need a LOT of lesson planning space ;) Like the previous version, there are only weekdays, but there are 8 lesson planning blocks each day. There is also just one space at the top that is not labeled- you could use it for life events, prep work, or anything else you need.

Dated Weekly:
This version is for people who see classes on a weekly basis (so, for example, you see Ms Smith's 3rd grade class every Monday and Thursday) and only want to write down their lesson(s) for each grade or subject once for the week. The lesson planning boxes are big enough that if you see some or all of your classes twice a week, you could split the blocks in half with a line and write both down in that space. Weekends are included in this one as well.

Rotational:


This version is for people who see classes on a rotational basis (so, for example, you see Ms. Smith's 3rd grade class every A day and C day) and want to plan by rotation rather than by the dates you will see each class. There is a place to write down the start date of each rotation at the top of each page.

And now for the GIVEAWAY! :)

I am giving away a set of planner swag to one lucky winner! This set includes all the extras that I have in my store to add to your planner: some inspirational teaching quotes (for dividers, journaling cards, stickers etc), perpetual calendars (for those who may want a different monthly or yearly calendar format), and two seasonal planners- a holidays planner and a summer planner! Click on the pictures below to see what is included in each one. You can enter the giveaway twice, and you have until midnight EST on December 31st to do so, so make sure you enter! Whether you are the proud owner of one of my planners or not, you will find some wonderful stylish and organizational items in this set! Happy planning, and good luck! :)





a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fermata Fridays CHRISTMAS EDITION: free ideas and resources for music teachers


Welcome to this week's installment of my weekly linky party, Fermata Fridays! This week's party is a special Christmas party- I'm inviting music teachers to share a freebie or two as special Christmas gift. They can be free items from your blog or another website, but they must be free and they must be your own creation. It doesn't have to be a specific file- it could also be an idea that other teachers can implement without any purchases. I'm excited to stuff my stocking so I'm ready for the rest of the school year!

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. For this week, link up a freebie file or blog post that includes free resource(s) as a Christmas present to each other and to all our fellow colleagues! 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/product 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, December 22, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: holiday break teacher tasks

Well, I'm sure many of you have started already, but my holiday break officially begins tomorrow afternoon. I know as a good teacher and mommy blogger I'm supposed to tell you to focus on your family, relax and recharge, and don't even think about school over the holiday break. I plan to do (almost) all of those things and I encourage you to do the same. But the reality is, these longer breaks are the perfect opportunity to complete some tasks for your teaching that require a more relaxed frame of mind and some uninterrupted blocks of time. Because we all know that doesn't happen during the work week! So yes, focus on your family, take some time to relax, but make your teaching life a little more relaxed too by going through this task list, at your leisure of course, over the holiday break.


1. Create a long-range plan for your classes from now until the end of the school year
(or if you are on a January-December school year, from now until the next long break). I make year-long plans for every class I teach over the summer (read about that process in more detail here). Over the holiday break, I take stock of where I am and make adjustments to my original plan so that I make sure we cover everything before the end of the school year.

When I make the year-long plans I am making them without knowing what each class is going to be like. Although I know most of my students from the previous year, the way a class as a whole is able to learn in class is affected by more than individual personalities- so much depends on the homeroom teacher, the particular mix of students in a classroom, the time of day that the class meets, and other factors. Not to mention the new students that are added to the mix and the ways that personalities change and (hopefully) mature over time. Now that I have a better feel for how my classes actually learn, I can go back and make a more realistic plan for how to effectively teach the skills and concepts that need to be covered before the end of the year.

If you didn't start the year with long-range plans, don't fret! Go back and read my post on long-range plans. Take stock of what you have done so far this year and go from there. Trust me, you will feel much more confident that your kids are learning what they need to learn by starting with a long-range plan!

2. Reflect on your classroom culture/ behavior management
It is so, so difficult to take time to reflect, in a meaningful way, on your teacher practice in the middle of the school year. You need some distance to get the necessary perspective, and with the hectic pace we keep during the year it is next to impossible to get any distance whatsoever. Breaks are the perfect time for some reflection for this very reason! I always spend some time reflecting on what is and is not working well to create a healthy and vibrant classroom culture in all of my classes. 2 years ago that meant making a complete transformation of my behavior management systems (read about all of the systems I put in place in my 4-part series: part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4). If you have had a particularly difficult semester, don't feel like you have to wait until the start of the next school year to completely change your behavior management style and/or systems. Do it now!

For me this year though (and for most teachers I'm sure), things are going pretty OK and I don't feel like I need to make any drastic transformations to how I manage my classroom. There are definitely some classes and individuals that are *cough* not working to their full potential though! I need to spend some time thinking about how I can help them be more successful.

The good news is, I often find that I don't need to add another new behavior management system or make changes to the things I have in place for those specific classes or individuals- usually I realize that I just haven't been following through as completely as I could be on the things I already have in place! It's so hard to maintain consistency and follow through on rewards, consequences, and routines when things get busy in the middle of the year. Sometimes those specific students just need more consistent or frequent reminders to maintain a positive classroom environment.

Another possibility to consider is whether you should spend some focused time connecting on a more personal level with those specific classes and/or students. There are a few classes and students I can think of where my relationship with them has been affected by inconsistent attendance (whether because I was out, or there are assemblies scheduled, or other unforeseen circumstances), or the diversion of my attention (usually because of another class or student that was a major concern for one reason or another) this past semester. I will be thinking about ways that I can re-establish my relationships with them to get us all back on track for the rest of the school year.

3. Organize your computer
I know we often joke about how messy our desks, and even the our entire classrooms, get during concert season. But have you thought about the state of your work email inbox, your desktop icons, your digital lesson files, or your iTunes playlists? I'd be willing to bet things are a little out of control right now, because I know mine are. The problem is there are probably some really awesome and helpful resources on your computer that you have either lost or forgotten about because of that disorganization. Spend a little time over break putting things into folders and playlists and deleting old and unnecessary files. If you want to see how I organize all of my digital recordings, check out this post. And if you want to get all of your desktop icons organized so you can actually find what you're looking for, check out these desktop organizers from The Yellow Brick Road. It's on my list over break to put one of these to good use on my school computer!

I hope you find these suggestions helpful, and that you have a relaxing, rejuvenating, and productive holiday break! If you want more ideas to get organized and refreshed for the rest of the school year, download a free copy of my "fresh start checklists" for school and home. You'll find the checklists for the ideas in this post and much, much more to help you get ready for the new year!

Monday, December 21, 2015

Mommy Monday: teaching the joy of giving

This past weekend I took the girls on our second annual trip to the dollar store to buy presents for them to give to other family members and friends. Although many of the gifts are still pretty random, I was pleasantly surprised with how appropriate and thoughtful many of the items the girls picked out actually were! I thought today I would share this little tradition in case others with young children might want to add it to their family Christmas traditions too.


Like many other parents, I'm sure, I have thought often about ways to try to encourage the spirit of giving rather than receiving at Christmas time. When I became a parent I quickly realized that, as a society, we have a double standard in this regard. On the one hand we expect adults to be focused on giving rather than receiving- just look at all of the heartfelt videos posted on social media this time of year- and we would look down on any grownup who went around telling everyone what they want for Christmas. And yet we expect the exact opposite of our children. We take them to go tell Santa what they want, have them make lists, even put little elf dolls on the shelf to determine whether or not they should receive any gifts. It is the one question shopkeepers, friends, and random strangers on the sidewalk want to ask my children: "So what do you want for Christmas?". Never once has anyone asked my children what they are getting for other people.

I actually think this double standard is coming from a very well-meaning place: we are indulging our own desire to give. Because honestly, who are the most fun to buy for? Kids. We grownups can't get enough of their squeals of delight and happy hugs, so we encourage them to tell us what they want so that we can get it for them!

Of course the other reason we don't always think to encourage giving in young children is that they don't have any income. One option is to have children make something to give to friends and family as gifts. I have done some of those with my daughters in the past and I am here to tell you that it can be a real headache getting 2 and 3 year olds to make 5 or 6 crafts, especially if you want them to make the same thing over and over again for different people! Let's just say it doesn't really encourage joy. So until the girls are a little bit older, I've come up with the dollar store solution.

The most important element of this shopping trip is actually the way we talk in the weeks and months beforehand. Instead of constantly asking them what they want to get for Christmas, we talk about what they want to give other people. After we visit with someone, talk to them on the phone, or see their photograph, I ask the girls what they want to give them for Christmas. It really helps them to get excited about giving!

About a week or so before Christmas we go to the biggest dollar store in town and we go through the list of people to whom they want to give a present. Part of what I love about this process is the conversations that inevitably happen when they pick out a Barbie-esque doll for Uncle Joe. It is a constant reminder to put themselves in the other person's shoes and think about what the recipient would like rather than what they want themselves.

The best part? I get those same happy hugs and squeals of delight as they take home their gifts to wrap and hide, and the recipients get them again when the gifts are presented- they are so proud of the gifts they have picked out to give! Sure, they are absolutely still excited about the gifts they receive, but it feels good to know that they are getting to experience the joy of giving as well.

Do your young children give gifts to others? How do you encourage a giving spirit in your children? Share your thoughts below!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Fermata Friday: December 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 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, December 15, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: the psychology of preparing young students for performance

My choir students will have their first concert of the year tomorrow. They are all sounding great and are well-prepared, but I also know that most of my students struggle with performance anxiety, mostly because for the majority of the students in my Title I school, this is their only experience performing in front of others, let alone an audience of hundreds. Over my years of teaching elementary music, and through my experiences as a music student who struggled with a lot of performance anxiety, I have picked up a few tricks for preparing my students to be as well-equipped as possible to deal with performance anxiety. I am pretty well settled into my procedure for psychologically preparing my students for performing, so I today I wanted to share that procedure with all of you. I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments at the end of this post as well!


In the weeks leading up to a performance, I always go through the following steps to get the students in the best possible psychological and emotional state for their time on stage:

1. Second to last rehearsal
There are 2 things that I make sure happen in the second-to-last rehearsal (not counting the day of the concert) before a performance: 1) that we have all of the material learned beforehand and are running through the music in that rehearsal and 2) that I tear them down. *deep breaths* Let's start with the first point and we'll come back to that second one... it's going to be OK. 

I've found that, if the students don't have the musical material learned by the second-to-last rehearsal, they will be very unlikely to pull it off in a performance. I have, at times, cut pieces from a program if I realize about a month out that they won't be ready by then. It's simply not worth the stress. So take stock of your pieces when you have about 4-5 rehearsals left. Are the students going to know all of their songs (memorized if it will be performed by memory) by the second to last rehearsal? If not, that is the time to re-think your program so you can have everything ready in time.

OK, back to the whole tearing students down thing. If you've been with me for very long, you'll know that I am a big fan of positive reinforcement and all that jazz. It is very important, in order for this to work, that you have an outstanding relationship with your ensemble as a whole and the students individually as well. With that said, I have found it most effective to nit-pick the mistakes and tell the students that I am concerned about their preparedness for the performance in the second-to-last rehearsal. I make a conscious effort to have them leave rehearsal feeling a little bit worried about whether or not they will be ready for the concert. 

This tearing down does several things: it motivates students to practice and improve in those last few days/hours before the final rehearsal, it gives students a bit of "edge" on the day of the performance that improves their focus on the stage, and it prevents the ensemble for slumping right before a performance, encouraging them to peak instead. I have seen this happen time and time again both as a student and a teacher in a wide range of settings, ages, and genres, again with the understanding that the teacher and students have a good enough relationship to be motivated to make the performance successful in the end.

2. Final rehearsal
There are, again, 2 things that I make sure happen in the last rehearsal before the day of the performance: 1) that we practice everything, including bows, announcements, and movement as much as possible, and 2) that I build them up (see? don't you feel better now?). I do generally start practicing things like bows a few weeks before, but at the very latest, I make sure to run through the entire performance, including any movement on and off stage, bows, introductions to songs, announcements, and other extra-musical things in the final rehearsal. In my current position I don't have the opportunity to have the students practice in the performance space until the day of the concert, so we mimic it as much as we can in my classroom- I set up microphones on stands, and have students turn and take a few steps in the direction they would walk.

After tearing them down in the previous rehearsal, I spend a lot of energy making the students feel as confident as possible in the final rehearsal. If something goes wrong, I make sure they have the opportunity to make it right. I praise them every way I can, and I smile through the entire rehearsal. Where the previous rehearsal was all about giving them some extra drive, this rehearsal is all about building excitement and anticipation, along with the confidence that they will succeed.

3. Day of the performance
I learned this from my private piano teacher in high school: once you've learned it, your first performance of a piece on a particular day will almost always be your best. I don't have my students perform any of our concert pieces, at least not in their entirety, on the day of the performance. As I mentioned earlier, my choirs only have one short rehearsal on the day of the concert to practice on the stage (well, you know, or cafe-gym-atorium). I still don't have them sing through their pieces in that rehearsal. We spend that time doing an extended warm-up, practicing our movement on and off stage, and addressing any last minute logistical concerns (like whether or not Johnny can wear the black pants that have red pinstripes on them or does he need to call home and have his mom bring another pair? Because his mom really wants him to wear these...). I don't know why this works but it's true- the students always do better in the performance if they have not played/sung through the pieces yet that day. I keep the rehearsal on the day of the performance as low-key and stress-free as possible and reiterate my confidence in their preparation and ability to succeed.

The last step? Go perform! Know that your students are learning even on the stage, and enjoy the results of all your hard work. I can't wait to do so with my choirs tomorrow! :)

How do you help your students prepare for performances? Do you agree with my strategies or have you had success with other procedures? Share your thoughts below!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Mommy Monday: fresh start checklist 2016!

With Christmas getting closer and December almost halfway over, is anyone else starting to look ahead to the new year? The beginning of the school and calendar years always bring out my most reflective side, and it's also a great time for me to get in some good cleaning and organizing time. I created some checklists for getting a "fresh start" at home last year and I found them so helpful- I've updated them for the new year with a few tweaks. Click on the picture below to download your free copy:


This download includes two checklists- one for home and one for music teachers- but they are separate files so you can print out just what you need :) The area that I really want to focus on? Digital cleaning and organizing.


I find it so easy to let the files on my computer, my email subscriptions, and my social media accounts get out of control during the year. I subscribe to something to get access to a coupon or discount, fully intending to immediately unsubscribe, only to find myself deleting emails every week because I can't be bothered to take 2 minutes to click the "unsubscribe" button at the bottom of the email instead. And social media? With privacy settings constantly being updated to keep up with new risks online, I often find that my privacy settings are way out of date and things that I thought were private really aren't at all! I find it really helpful to take some time to sit down and sift through everything at least once a year so that the task of organizing and purging is at least slightly manageable. 

What are your most important home organizing tasks when you need a fresh start? Did I miss anything on my list? Leave a comment!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fermata Friday: December 10, 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, December 8, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: sticky notes organization

Sticky notes are awesome. Let's just start there. I unashamedly use them all the time, both at home and at school. But they can easily become just another messy pile if used haphazardly. Today's post is both an ode to the wonders of sticky notes, and tips for using them effectively so they work for you, not against you ;)



Here are 5 ways that I use sticky notes in my classroom:

1. Lesson plans at-a-glance



I plan out my lesson plans in my planner, but it can be difficult in the 2 minutes you have between classes to keep track of what you are planning to teach to each grade level, and I don't want to be walking over to my desk to look at my planner in the middle of class! Having a few notes to myself of the general topic or activity for each class, stuck right next to the copy of my schedule that I keep on my music stand at the front of the room, makes it much easier for me to remember what I'm doing!

2. Song lyrics and game directions



After teaching for almost a decade, most of the songs and games I teach I know from memory at this point. I do still find new songs that I want to use, or dig up old ones that I haven't used in a while, and know that I may not remember the words in the "heat of the moment". Some are just hard to remember no matter what- anybody else struggle to keep track of the verses in "My Aunt Came Back"? Anyway, I write out the words, game directions, or instrumental parts on a sticky note and put it in the notes section of my planner. Then when I'm teaching it, I stick that note on the seating chart for the class that is learning it. I actually re-use these from year to year- that fireman poem in the first photo is from last year and I pulled it out again this year. And yes, they actually do stick! 

3. Track information


I mean "track" the noun, not "track" the verb. Sometimes you need to be able to get to a specific spot in a track for a lesson. I write down the exact time in the track so that I can skip right to the spot I need each time instead of fast forwarding and rewinding over and over in the middle of class (I know we've all been there). I stick it on my laptop so that when I go over to use iTunes I can pull it right up. I keep these sticky notes from year to year as well!

4. Schedule notes


If students are being pulled out during class for private lessons (as sometimes happens at my school), or for some other reason need to leave early etc, I mark those with one of the tiny sticky flags with the time and stick it next to the student name on their seating chart. There is no way I can keep track of those things otherwise!

5. Reminders for students

This one is slightly different than the others because it is for use outside of the music room, but when I need to remind students to come for a pullout lesson to rehearse a solo part, or they need to remember to bring in their recorder after forgetting the last two class periods, for example, I write a note for them on a sticky note and tell them to put it on their desk. I've found students are much more likely to remember when the note is staring at them all day on their desk instead of crumpled up in their locker!

What are your favorite ways to use sticky notes in the classroom? Leave your ideas in the comments below!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mommy Monday: helping children through a move

My almost-4-year-old daughters and I moved houses just over a week ago (over the Thanksgiving weekend). The logistics of moving don't actually worry me that much- I grew up moving quite a bit (and often moving not just to a new house but to a new continent), so I've learned most of the tricks of the trade. Not to say that I didn't get stressed out about packing, utilities, and address changes in the days leading up to the move, but I at least was confident that I (mostly) knew what I was doing. And since we were just moving literally down the street, there were no tearful goodbyes or anything else to make the move emotionally stressful for me either. What did concern me, though, was helping my daughters through the transition. More specifically, one of my daughters who has always had a difficult time with transitions, changes to routine, new settings, or really anything unexpected. After going through lots of moves as a child myself, and now going through it as a parent of a child who struggles with these types of changes, here are my top tips for helping your young children transition well when you are moving, whether it be down the street or across the world.


1. Talk to them early and often

The biggest mistake I see parents make time and time again, in my opinion, is waiting until they are absolutely sure they are moving before telling their children. Most I believe do it with good intentions- they don't want to unnecessarily upset (or excite) their children, only to have it fall through. I know because my parents did it once. Let me say from experience that it is always better to tell them as early as you can so that they have time to adjust to the idea! I say this not just from my experience as a child and parent, but also as a teacher in schools with high mobility rates- I have seen children experience moves both ways and it has always been smoother when the children know in advance. Involving the children early also means you don't have to try to take care of logistics or deal with your own stress in secrecy, which will in turn reduce your own stress. As soon as I found a house that I liked and decided to pursue it, I started saying things to my girls like, "you know, someday soon it might be good to move to a bigger house. You girls are getting so big!". Once I had the house under contract, we went to look at the house together. Once I had a tentative move-in date, I put it on their calendar and started talking about it often. When I almost didn't get to move in because of stalled paperwork, I told the girls that the workers were helping me buy the house, but it might take longer than I thought- we just had to wait and see. Thankfully we did get to move in on our scheduled date, but I felt confident that they understood the situation either way, and the it was worth the uncertainty to have them be prepared for the big change.

2. Talk to them about the good and the bad

Depending on the situation, you as a parent may have very strong feelings one way or the other about moving. Your children will, in most cases, have mixed feelings. No matter how much you hate your old house, or hate the thought of moving, dig deep and find that small part of you that can appreciate something about your old place, or look forward to the new place. Talk to your kids about the specific things you love about your current house, and the specific things you are looking forward to in the new one, and encourage them to do the same. They shouldn't feel guilty for loving their current house and feeling sad to leave it, or about being excited about the new possibilities in the new house. Again, the earlier you can start those conversations with your children, the more time it will give them to work through their mixed feelings and find ways to express them in a healthy way. The most wonderful words I have ever heard my change-resistant daughter say were when she very matter-of-factly announced that she was "sad to leave her old house, because it is our house, but excited about our new house, because it has a yard"!

3. Have them help with packing

It's always easier to pack without the kids there. I won't lie and tell you that I involved my girls in the entire packing and moving process- I picked my move date specifically because the girls were going to be away visiting their dad for the day! But I did have the girls pack a few boxes of their own toys and clothes, and I think it helped them realize what was happening and feel a part of the process, and less like the move was being forced on them against their will. We wrote their names on their boxes and decided together where those things should go in the new house. As a child I remember the painful process of choosing which toys to keep and which to give or throw away. If your packing space is limited, make sure your children make the final decisions on what stays and what goes, and let them be involved in giving or throwing away so they can "say goodbye" to their belongings as well.

4. Help them say goodbye

For us, the only thing we were really saying goodbye to was our apartment- we still have the same neighborhood, same school, same friends. So for my girls, saying goodbye meant going to the apartment after it was empty and saying goodbye to each room. For me as a child, moving often meant saying goodbye to friends, school, neighborhood, even language and culture. It's important to help your children think through all of the things that they are leaving and helping them to say goodbye to each of them. This is also a great time to help your children say thank you to important people in their lives- teachers, friends, and others who won't be around after the move. If they are old enough, cards are a great way for children to say goodbye and thank you in a concrete way.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: holiday music lesson ideas

December is always a crazy time of year for music teachers (if you want to read my top tips for making the holiday season less stressful, go to this post). The students get more and more hyper, your schedule is unpredictable, and it's hard to keep up with effective lesson planning when you are trying to prepare for concerts, sing-alongs, and musicals. These are a few activities that I found to be very successful with my students last holiday season- they involve movement, relate to the holidays (which is what everyone is thinking about anyway), teach and reinforce musical concepts and skills, and are just plain fun!


This one is a cup routine to go with "Sleigh Ride" that is great for K-2. I use it to teach form, reinforce steady beat, and discuss some of the instruments that they hear as well. You can make the routine more or less complicated for whatever age you want to use it with, but cup routines are fun for all ages no matter how you do it!


The second video is a set of movement ideas to go with the Sugar Plum Fairy, March, and Trepak (Russian) pieces from The Nutcracker. This is another activity that is easily adaptable to a variety of age groups- for older students, I would do one as an example and then have the students come up with their own movements for another piece to show whatever musical element I want them to practice. These movement activities are another great way to reinforce same and different sections to discuss form:


What are your favorite music lessons for this time of year? Share your ideas in the comments!