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Monday, February 29, 2016

Mommy Monday: functional wall art for kids (closet update)

A few weeks ago I shared an update on my preschool-age daughters' closet in our new house. Today I'm back with another update because I am just so excited with the way this latest update came out! I think something like this would be a perfect addition to any kid's bedroom, no matter their age.


So, just to refresh everyone's memory, here is what the closet looked like in my last update:


I had gone back and forth quite a bit on where I should keep the girls' dress up clothes, and had decided that, since their closet was so big anyway, I would keep them there with the rest of their regular clothes. But after a couple of weeks I realized that they weren't getting used very much there, so I moved the costumes. This left a huge, blank wall in the middle of their closet, and it looked, well, empty. My other problem was that I was having a hard time keeping track of which girl's clothes were on which side of the closet. When I was putting clothes away, I was finding that I was having to open bins to try to figure out whose clothes were inside in order to know where to put their clean clothes. The third idea/problem that I had in the back of my mind was that I wanted a place for the girls to keep some of their own things that they choose to put up on the wall now that they are older. I have always had their artwork and photos up on the walls, but they didn't really have a place where they could put things up themselves. Out of these three problems, the new wall setup was born!


I had the big, white letters S and L from our old apartment. I had found them on clearance one time and used them to hold the girls' hair clips. In the new house I am using a different system for hair clips, so I decided to decorate them and use them to indicate whose stuff is on each side (S and L are the first letters in their names). I decorated them with washi tape using the colors I have used for each of them since before they were born- purple and green- and stuck them on the wall with command strips. That's one problem solved!


Of course my initial thought for giving them space to hang up their own things was a bulletin board, but I quickly realized that giving my preschoolers thumb tacks was probably not a good idea. So I started thinking about other ways that they could safely hang things without my help. Next to their initials I tacked up s piece of ribbon and clipped a few clothespins to it. Under the ribbon is a metal sheet that I got years ago to use as a magnet board in the car, which I stuck to the wall and stuck some magnets on the front. They can use both of those spots to hang up photos or small drawings they make. I found a couple of strips of "key hooks" on clearance, so I hung those next to the magnet board for the girls to hang purses, bags, or jewelry.

That's the other two problems solved- the girls have places to hang their own things independently, and the wall looks pretty instead of empty! And now I can tell where to put their clothes with a quick glance.


Do your young children have a place to hang their own artwork in their rooms? What have you used? I am loving this new setup and the girls love it too, so I'm calling this a success!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Fermata Friday: February 26, 2016


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!


Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: Chinese music in elementary music class

I'm back with another post in my series on music from around the world, and this week I'm sharing my ideas for teaching music from China! This is the 3rd in an 8-part series- I'm including a list of all of the countries I will be writing about in this series at the end of this post. As I publish the posts, I will add the link so that you can find each post quickly from that list- you may want to bookmark this page so you can find all of the posts to reference later. 


I'm also linking up with a group of music teacher bloggers to share ideas for teaching music from a variety of cultures. We will be linking up any post, old or new, that relates to teaching music from around the world. Make sure you check out all of the linked up posts at the end of this post to get tons of ideas for your classroom, and if you are a blogger with ideas to share, please join in with us- link up instructions are included at the end of this post.

Although I use music from a variety of cultures and traditions regularly in all grade levels throughout the school year, I spend about a month focusing on the music from a particular culture in each grade. I teach music from China to my 4th graders because it is a great way to teach minor modality and pentatonic scales.

I know this is not exactly a traditional way to start, but I usually kick off our study of Chinese music by showing them a clip or two of the Twelve Girls Band, like this one:


Also this:


I of course discuss with the students which instruments are traditionally Chinese and which or not- that part is pretty clear- but it is a great way to showcase many of the instruments from China, see how they are played and what they sound like, and also get a taste of what Chinese music is like while still sounding somewhat familiar for students- this is like the gateway to exploring the traditional music that will sound more foreign and strange to their ears. Plus it is so much fun!

I use these recordings as a starting point to jump into a discussion of Chinese instruments, including the erhu, xiao, dizi, pipa, guzheng (duzheng), and yangqin. After showing one of the "Twelve Girls Band" videos, I usually show them pictures of each instrument, tell them the name of each one, and see if they noticed how each one is played, or what familiar instrument it is most similar to. Then we watch one more video and I have them point out and identify each instrument as we see it. I use that as an introduction to Chinese music as a whole, but in subsequent lessons I will show them short clips of each instrument in a more traditional setting. This one is great for showing both the yangquin and the erhu:


I have used a lot of different songs in my classes over the years. There is so much that is included, both historically and geographically, when we talk about "Chinese music", that it's honestly hard for me to pick one song! The last few years I have used "Cowboy" (I know, you're already thinking what? stay with me...). I don't generally like to teach songs from other cultures with translated lyrics- I think it takes away from giving the students an authentic presentation of the song- so I always try to find songs that have fewer lyrics while still being interesting. This one fits the bill (although, let's be honest, we are talking about a rather difficult language for English speakers- it will still take some time!) and has some great possibilities for discussions about Chinese history, architecture, and/or geography. You can find the original lyrics, the translation, the notation, and a sung recording on Mama Lisa's website here. I always go by the sung recording rather than the music notation as my guide here- I'm sure, since it is a folk song, it has been sung many different ways over time, but I can know for sure that a Chinese person learned it that way, I will go with that one! I usually just teach one verse for brevity's sake, and I teach by rote. I find that having students read from English letters makes them pronounce it more like English words instead of listening to the sounds and copying them that way. If you aren't comfortable modeling yourself, you could use the recording in your class to teach it- just pause after each phrase and have students echo.

Another great song for incorporating pentatonic music is the Chinese shanty song "Yahu hei". As students sing, I have them pretend to push and pull the oars of a boat on the beat. The lyrics are simple: yahu, yahuhei, yahu, yahuhei, hai yai yai, hai yai yai, yahu, yahuhei.


With any of the songs that I use, I will usually add some percussion ostinati, along with a simple bordun on the xylophones and/or metallaphones- in this song I would just have them play E and B together on beats 1 and 3. Here is an example of some of the percussion parts I might add (this one has tambourine, hand drum, and finger cymbals):


Gongs, triangles, and rhythm sticks would also be good choices for adding some quick instrument accompaniment. Since I am working with 4th graders, I have them come up with their own arrangement of the song using the sung melody and instrument parts- often we will have each instrument come in one at a time, layering on top of each other, then have everyone sing while playing, then play the song with only instruments, then sing one more time (or something like that). This is a great way to practice ensemble skills, inner hearing (if you do a verse with only instruments), and arranging.

As I said before, there are so many songs to choose from, and you can easily teach them in the same way, adding instruments and arranging them in different ways. Two excellent sources for more songs include Mama Lisa's website and this collection.

One more thing that I like to cover is Beijing (Peking) Opera. I don't introduce this genre until we are well into our study of Chinese music, because I don't want students to immediately start laughing or draw back in disgust, but it is such a significant part of Chinese music that I think it is important for students to at least be exposed to it when they study the music of China in general. I usually use a clip from this video to show in class (it is nice because it has the English translation underneath- so it is important to check and make sure the material is appropriate before you show it! I haven't come across anything that is not, but I haven't watched the whole thing so please do check beforehand):


I usually introduce the genre by telling students that Beijing opera is one of the most famous forms of Chinese music historically. I also tell them in advance that it is going to sound and look very different from what they are expecting, but that I want them to tell me what they notice after watching. Most students tell me that they notice the performers moving with the instruments, their makeup and costumes are very dramatic, and they sound like they are half-singing and half-speaking. We often end up having a very good conversation about what the definition of music is, because there are usually some students who question whether or not this "counts" as music at all! You can learn more about the genre here and here.

That's everything I teach for music from China. Do you teach Chinese music in your class? I'd love to see any additional ideas and resources you have in the comments below! And don't forget that there are tons of posts related to world music being linked up the whole month of February. Check out the posts below and be sure to keep checking back this month for more ideas. Here's the schedule of countries/cultures I will be writing about over the next several weeks (country names will link to posts once they are published):

1. Brazil

Monday, February 22, 2016

Mommy Monday: holidays in the broken home

The week before Valentine's Day, I wrote a post about how I planned to celebrate Valentine's by focusing on my love for my children. I was excited to be in a place emotionally where I felt comfortable even acknowledging the holiday at all (something I had not done for the last 3 years). I don't want to negate anything that I said in that post- I really did enjoy the day, had fun with my daughters, and for the most part joined in the general revelry of hearts and everything pink- but I also want to offer a bit of a reality check for those of you who may be in a similar, single-parenting situation, or are hoping to better understand and support someone who is. So here goes: holidays as a single/co-parent really and truly stink most of the time. Let me tell you why.


1. Holidays remind us of what the idyllic family is supposed to be

The holiday propaganda stuff that appears in stores, media, and festivities everywhere tend to subconsciously promote the idyllic family: two parents, happily in love, and children who have strong relationships with their parents and siblings. It's assumed that we want to be with our family during the holidays, and that we will be most happy (and most appropriately celebrating the holiday) if we do. We all have people to whom we should give a card or a gift, and from whom we can and should expect to get something as well, right? And of course when we gather with extended family, it is easy to find ourselves the only broken family among people who knew (and probably loved) your ex. Reminders of how we thought our children would grow up celebrating the holidays are everywhere.

2. Visitation schedules are usually more complicated

Co-parents who share physical custody usually have a separate custody schedule for the holidays. So on top of the general craziness of transporting and transitioning our children back and forth between two homes, we are now doing so on a different schedule than what we or our kids are used to, which causes stress, and likely some confusion, for everyone- especially the kids. Which then rubs off on us, because we don't want our kids to be stressed, especially at the holidays. 

3. We miss our kids more when they're gone

Because of the different custody schedules for holidays, most of us have to spend part of the holidays away from our children (courts seem to generally agree that, no matter how limited the normal visitation time is, parents have a right to be with their children around the holidays to some extent). When we become parents, holidays take on a whole new exciting meaning. Holidays that we used to think were just ho-hum suddenly become opportunities to spend time together, do something fun, and see our kids' eyes light up with wonder. It stinks to have to send them off (to someone that we usually don't like very much) and miss out on some of that magic.

4. Holidays are emotionally charged

We are almost always more emotional around the holidays, whether married, single, divorced, or anything else. Being a single/co-parent is already emotionally difficult enough without the added holiday element! So every little blip on the emotional radar becomes bigger, more stressful, more anxiety and/or depression- inducing.

I really want to try to communicate a balanced view of what it means to be a single / co- parent. I hope this post will help someone feel they are not alone, or better understand a loved one who might be struggling through the holidays. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Fermata Friday: February 19, 2016


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!


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: busker performance program for Music In Our Schools Month

March will be here before we know it, so that means it's time to get ready for Music In Our Schools Month! I like to do lots of fun things that get students and community members excited about music while advocating for its importance in schools as well. Last year I shared the 2 activities I do during music classes in every grade, some bulletin board ideas, and a little bit about the "busker" performances that I run throughout the month in this post- check it out to see what I do, as most of what I'm doing this year is the same and all of these ideas have been huge hits for many years! This year I have made updates to my "busker" performance program, so I wanted to share about that in more detail with you today!


The basic idea is to have students, and other members of the community, perform in the entryway / lobby / some other common area with high traffic for a few minutes first thing in the morning every day during the month of March. There is no place for an audience to sit, no stage, and no pressure. I tell everyone that they are not performers on a stage but rather buskers- street performers- making music for passersby to enjoy on their way in to school. Here are some tips for running a similar program in your own school for Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM)!

1. Make it open to all levels, all styles

There are plenty of chances for students to showcase high levels of skill. For me, this is a chance for everyone to share the joy of music making, no matter their skill level. I have had everything from 1st graders banging on a gong for 3 minutes to parents performing piano concertos, and everything in between. If students want to perform something, I welcome them all. I include dance, instruments, singing, solos, ensembles, rap, classical, pop, and pretty much any other idea that will showcase music making in some way.

2. Limit the performances to 2-3 each day, 2 minutes each

I used to be really strict and limit it to 2 performances each day, but inevitably there are absences, performance anxiety, and other problems that get in the way of some of the performers, so I've let up to 3 sign up each day. To make sure it doesn't go too long (and risk cutting into the school day), I limit each performance to 2 minutes.

3. Remind students the day before as much as possible

As much as I can, I try to give students a sticky note the day before to remind them that they are signed up for the next day. This is especially important for students who have signed up to play an instrument, or who are wanting to sing or dance along with a recording.

4. Write down sign-up's on a calendar to keep track

I keep a blank calendar for the month of March, with any days off school blacked out, on my desk for the last few weeks of February. I announce signups to parents and teachers first, since they have tighter schedules (more on that in a minute), then announce it to all of the students in class. I don't let them sign up during class- they have to come and talk to me outside of class time. This cuts down on students who sign up just on a whim. If they are committed enough to come and find me, they are committed enough to want to perform! It also, of course, prevents those conversations from taking over class time in February! I always write in pencil so that if and when plans change, I can easily adjust it on my calendar.

5. Invite teachers, parents, and other adults to join in the fun

It is so much fun for students to see other teachers and staff perform, and whether they intend to or not, having them participate sends the message that they support music education. Homeroom teachers often get to experience a side of their students that they have never seen before! Getting parents and other members of the community brings even more benefits.for all involved- my favorite performances are the ones where families do something together. Not only is it a fantastic experience for the families, but it gives parents a really positive impression of the music program and allows them to see the benefits that music can have for their child. And you get a chance to get to know the parents a little better as well! This year I am being more intentional about inviting parents and teachers well in advance to give them time to put something together. It already seems to be having a positive effect- I've had several responses from adults who are interested in joining in the fun!

Because the whole point is for this to be laid-back, it can be a very easy and low-stress way to bring music to center stage every day during Music In Our Schools Month. If you are interested, I've uploaded all of my materials- scheduling calendars, posters, and letters home- here to save you even more time!

I'd love to hear if you decide to put together something like this- have a wonderful month ahead!

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mommy Monday: rainbow lunch - healthy kid-friendly meal

The other day my 4-year-old daughters and I were snowed in so I had a chance to be a little more creative with our lunch. It was so much fun and it was quite healthy too. I can guarantee we will be doing this again!


To be honest the meal started out because I was rummaging through the fridge to try to find something for us to eat- I was way overdue for a grocery store trip! I always keep a bunch of produce on hand for the girls lunch boxes, and when I started pulling things out to eat I realized that I had enough colors to almost make a rainbow! When I spied the tuna I had made up earlier, I knew we had a winner. It was easy to cut up some fruit and vegetables, threw some tuna on one side of each plate, and arranged everything else in rows in rainbow order. I used tuna for the cloud, and red bell pepper, carrot, banana, sugar snap peas, and raising for the rainbow.

Here are some options that I've thought about for doing this again. I'm sure you can come up with other awesome twists too.

Cloud: egg salad, bread, rice, pasta, mashed potato, crackers, hard boiled egg, cheese

Red: red bell pepper, raspberries, strawberries, tomatoes, beets
Orange: carrots, sweet potatoes, tangerine/clementine/orange, butternut squash, orange bell pepper
Yellow: banana, corn, yellow bell pepper, pineapple, mango, grapefruit
Green: green beans, peas, spinach, celery, cucumber, broccoli, zucchini, kiwi, avocado
Blue/Purple: raisins, blueberries, blackberries, plums, eggplant, grapes


I think cooking for toddlers and young children is pretty much the same as being a chef in a 5-star restaurant- presentation is very important. Kids are easily swayed by colors and shapes, so making a rainbow is a great way to get children eating a variety of foods in a fun way.

Have you ever made a rainbow with your kids' meal? What did I miss that could be used for the parts of the rainbow? I can't wait to try this again sometime! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Fermata Friday: February 12, 2016


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!


Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: Music of Mozambique in elementary music class

Over the next few weeks I will be posting a series of posts with my favorite resources, lessons, and strategies for teaching music from a particular country or region. Although I use music from a variety of cultures and traditions regularly in all grade levels throughout the school year, I spend about a month focusing on the music from a particular culture in each grade. Today's focus: Mozambique! I'm including a list of all of the countries I will be writing about in this series at the end of this post. As I publish the posts, I will add the link so that you can find each post quickly from that list- you may want to bookmark this page so you can find all of the posts to reference later. You'll find last week's post on Brazil linked up there already.


I'm also linking up with a group of music teacher bloggers to share ideas for teaching music from a variety of cultures. We will be linking up any post, old or new, that relates to teaching music from around the world. Make sure you check out all of the linked up posts at the end of this post to get tons of ideas for your classroom, and if you are a blogger with ideas to share, please join in with us- link up instructions are included at the end of this post.

I teach music from Mozambique to my 5th graders because it is a great way to introduce the concept of chords (on which we spend a great deal of time in 6th grade) and include a lot of syncopated rhythms. Within the music of Mozambique, I focus on two elements: the Timbila ensemble and Ngoma drumming.

Timbila music is perfect for elementary general music classes because they are easily adapted to Orff barred instruments. Here is a video I like to show my students (and point out that the leader is younger than they are!):


I found a wonderful book a few years ago when I was fortunate enough to see Walt Hampton's elementary student group perform at the Texas Music Educator's Conference, and I use his arrangements, or modified versions of them, to teach the Timbila ensemble music on xylophones. If you can, grab your own copy of this book- you seriously won't regret it! The arrangements are written to be performed on Orff instruments and the teaching instructions are laid out very clearly, so it makes it much easier to teach (and for students to learn!).


(The book is also available on Amazon, but without the CD as far as I can tell)

Walt Hamptom's background, and the basis for the book, is in the marimba ensemble from Zimbabwe. However the Zimbabwean marimba ensemble is a modern phenomenon that comes out of the Timbila ensemble tradition from Mozambique, so the style, techniques, rhythms, and instrumentation are almost identical- just slightly modernized and simplified for the purposes of teaching elementary students! I explain all of this to the students to help them understand the connection between what they are playing and what they see in the video examples I show them.

For drumming, I teach more general African drumming. I have already written about how I teach my drumming circles: click below to see those posts.



There are some suggestions for including drums and other percussion instruments in the timbila book mentioned above, but I like to take it a step further and put all of the instruments together for our culminating performance- I have 3 hoshos (gourd shakers) and plenty of djembes and xylophones so I split the class up into 3 groups and, within each group, have students rotate between all of the different parts so that everyone has a turn on each one (shaker, djembe, soprano xylophone, alto xylophone, and bass xylophone- usually doubling some of the xylophone parts depending on class size). If they can handle it, I'll throw in some other African instruments I have collected over the years- talking drums, various shakers, a Frikywa bell, etc. When they start having to switch instruments, the students really start to pay attention to the other parts while they are playing and they truly start to play as an ensemble. It is truly amazing to watch! They hate me at first for making them repeat the song with different parts over and over, but when it "clicks" it is magical.

Because of the Zimbabwean influences in the Timbila music we perform, and the instruments from other African countries (mostly Ghana) that I include, we actually end up studying the basic geography and culture of several African countries in our studies. A word of caution: be careful to distinguish from which part of Africa each element you study originates. Because the musical traditions of many African countries are so historically intertwined, I think it is OK to mix and mingle various instruments and styles (especially at the rudimentary level that elementary students can realistically achieve). However, I think it is important to explicitly tell students when you do so, and never generalize and say that an instrument or style is "from Africa". If you are interested, you'll find the visuals and worksheets I use for teaching basic facts about Mozambique as a country and its instruments in this set:


That's everything I teach for music from Mozambique. Do you teach Mozambican music in your class? I'd love to see any additional ideas and resources you have in the comments below! And don't forget that there are tons of posts related to world music being linked up the whole month of February. Check out the posts below and be sure to keep checking back this month for more ideas. Here's the schedule of countries/cultures I will be writing about over the next several weeks (country names will link to posts once they are published):

1. Brazil

Monday, February 8, 2016

Mommy Monday: Single Mom on Valentine's Day

There's no denying it: Valentine's Day is just around the corner. Valentine's is always an awkward holiday in my opinion, whether you're in a relationship or not. For the last few years since I became a single mom, I have quite honestly just ignored the holiday. No, I didn't go on some kind of crazy "down with love" campaign, wear all black, or drown my sorrows with ice cream. It didn't really bother me all that much. I basically just did my best to avoid thinking about it at all by staying busy. This year, though, I am actually going to be celebrating it!! I thought it might be helpful for other single parents if I shared my thoughts and plans for this year.


I'm in the mood to celebrate my love for my children on Valentine's Day this year. I've got some fun little heart-shaped cookies and a few little chocolates, and I'll be making them each a card to give them as well. I remember my father giving my sisters and me little chocolates on Valentine's Day growing up, and I thought it was so special- I can't wait to share that tradition with my own daughters!

Even my planner is decorated for the occasion- Valentine's is definitely not ignored this year:


I think a big part of my motivation to celebrate the day with my girls is that I know they will be more aware of the holiday this year because they are talking about it at school. Before now it didn't matter because to them it was just any other day, but this year if I don't celebrate it, it will be noticeable to them. I want them to know that 1) they don't need to feel uncomfortable about enjoying the holiday with me, 2) I love them very much, and 3) that love is enough to celebrate- I am not bitter or sad to not be in a romantic relationship right now (I have been separated from the girls' dad for 3.5 years, divorced for 2.5, he has been re-married for 1.5 years, I have no interest in starting another relationship any time soon).

I want them to know these things because they are true, not because I want them to think that about me. Every person is different and will go through the single parent experience in different stages as well. I think the important thing to remind ourselves is that it's OK to celebrate holidays however we see fit. I am perfectly happy with my decision to ignore Valentine's for the last few years. I also think it is perfectly OK to feel a little lonely, or to want to go out with other single friends and enjoy their friendship on Valentine's.

But I think my Valentine's Day this year will probably be the most fun and least awkward one I have ever celebrated since becoming an adult and I can't wait! Celebrating holidays with my children makes every holiday more magical. If you are a single parent contemplating how to get through the holiday and think this sounds like a fun way to celebrate, give it a try! It doesn't have to be expensive or time-consuming to make it fun. Buy a few of those cheesy boxes of chocolates or candies, write each child a little love note on some pink paper, and wish your children a Happy Valentine's Day this year!

I hope you find a way to cherish the loving relationships that you have in your life, no matter how you choose to spend it. Happy Valentine's Day, Single Mom. Know that your children love you and admire you very much.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Small Goals: February 2016

Today I'm joining my friend Jennifer at The Yellow Brick Road again to share my small goals for February- I think it is great to set small goals each month to stay focused on my priorities. It helps me not get overwhelmed by all the stuff I feel like I could/should be doing. Head on over to the linky party on Jennifer's blog to see what others are up to this month, and maybe even join in the fun yourself (click on the picture to go to the post)!


1. Get some curtains up in the basement

I plan to share the complete project once I am at some semblance of done-ness down there, but the finished basement has been the single most MAJOR project I have been working on since moving into my new house. Just to give you an idea of what I was dealing with, here's a before picture (excuse the furniture from the open house- it's the only photo I have of the old condition- bad blogger!):


It's not that it was in bad condition, it just is sooo outdated, not my style, and doesn't exactly scream "playroom", which is what I'm going for. The dark wood paneling, dark cabinet, and medieval lighting have already been rectified, but I took down the vertical blinds as well and now I have a bare window that needs covering! I've got the curtain and the curtain rod, now I just need to install it.... That's my goal. If I can get more than that done, great, but I'm trying to be realistic here. ;)

2. Get ready for MIOSM

I have a few new ideas in mind that I'd really like to get up and running this year for Music In Our Schools Month, and that will require some advance work. It's going to be a crazy month already with some other events I am preparing, curriculum writing for the district, and just general school craziness, but I want to make sure I don't forget to get ready for MIOSM amidst everything else (if you want to see some of the things I've done for MIOSM in the past, check out this post).

3. Start creating the 2016-17 planners

Yep, it really does take me 3-4 months of solid work to create the teacher/life planners. I have been thinking about and planning for them for a couple of months now, but it's time to start the actual creation process now. I have gotten some great input and had some new ideas myself for the planners for next school year that I am excited to get working on, but it is a time-consuming process! If you want to help give input into the new planners or just get the inside scoop on what's happening in my little corner of the planner world, join my Planner Collaborative group on Facebook! It has been great to be able to interact with and get input and ideas from other teachers and parents using paper planning to stay organized.

That's it for this month, folks! Thanks Jennifer for hosting such a fun linky each month. Make sure you head over to her blog to see everyone else's posts!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Fermata Friday: February 5, 2016


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, February 2, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: Brazilian music in elementary music class

Over the next few weeks I will be posting a series of posts with my favorite resources, lessons, and strategies for teaching music from a particular country or region. Although I use music from a variety of cultures and traditions regularly in all grade levels throughout the school year, I spend about a month focusing on the music from a particular culture in each grade. I think it is so important for students to have the opportunity to really experience and appreciate the music (and, by extension, other elements) of a particular culture rather than always just including cursory overview lessons in elementary music (such as a "world music" lesson where students listen to, perform, or otherwise learn about music from a bunch of different cultures all in a short period of time). It can be difficult, however, to teach music from an unfamiliar tradition at more than a surface level if you as the teacher don't have experience with the culture yourself! I hope that these resources and ideas will give you the courage to delve deeper with your students- it really is a valuable learning experience for both students and teacher when you do!

Today's focus: Brazil! I'm including a list of all of the countries I will be writing about in this series at the end of this post. As I publish the posts, I will add the link so that you can find each post quickly from that list- you may want to bookmark this page so you can find all of the posts to reference later.


I'm also linking up with a group of music teacher bloggers to share ideas for teaching music from a variety of cultures. We will be linking up any post, old or new, that relates to teaching music from around the world. Make sure you check out all of the linked up posts at the end of this post to get tons of ideas for your classroom, and if you are a blogger with ideas to share, please join in with us- link up instructions are included at the end of this post.

Whew! That was a lot of introduction- sorry. This is kindof a big deal for me, though. Having grown up in 3 different continents myself, I am passionate about helping my students to gain some of the perspective I have by giving them a truly meaningful way to connect to another culture in my music class. So on with today's focus on Brazil!

I focus on Brazil with my 6th graders because I know that they study some things about South America in their Social Studies curriculum, and because I can include some dotted quarter- eighth note rhythms from the Carnaval music we study. Quick tip: don't choose a country/region to study with a particular grade arbitrarily. Figure out which one(s) lend themselves to teaching/ reinforcing musical elements that are a part of their music curriculum and/or relate to something they are studying in their other school subjects.

If you know anything about Brazil, you will know that there is a HUGE variety of cultures within the country because of the history and geography of the country. In my case, I chose to focus on the Samba music performed in the annual Carnaval festival, in particular the Batucada music. It is fast-paced, upbeat, looks cool, can be replicated with classroom percussion, includes the rhythms they are studying, and is one of the most recognizable musical traditions from Brazil.

Here are some of the videos I show to introduce students to the style of music:



Depending on your students you can also show a video of the actual Carnaval parade and/or festivities in Rio- I avoid it because I don't want to deal with the fall out from showing the skimpy costumes (which are virtually impossible to avoid when you show Carnaval), but if I describe Carnaval to them, I have found that many are at least somewhat familiar with what it is.

Next it's time to learn some rhythms ourselves! Usually when I am teaching traditional music from any culture I like to teach it in the same way that it is traditionally taught. In this case, I want to reinforce the dotted quarter-eighth note rhythm notation, so before I teach it with mnemonics and modeling, I have them read the rhythms from standard notation. Once they have read it accurately and performed it from the notation (usually just with clapping), I leave it on the board and teach it by rote as if the notation wasn't there- I really think that part of immersing students in the cultural experience is doing our best to teach it in the style that it is normally taught. 

I adapt the instrumentation based on what I have. In the past I used our Mexican-style guiros in place of the metal ones used in Brazilian samba. This year I have a metal one from Brazil, so I will probably use both. For pandeiros I use tambourines, and for the drums I use hand drums in a few different sizes. I use egg shakers for the ganza, and luckily I have a few agogo bells. Use the instruments that you have on hand that will produce similar sounds- just tell students up front what you are doing, and make sure they see the "real thing" through videos etc. 

I use rhythms adapted from this excellent resource by Art Drum, which includes notation of some different rhythms and suggestions for how to teach them to elementary and middle school students. As suggested, I start by having all the students step back and forth (as you see the players doing in the first video above). I explain that they need to play while stepping back and forth because this is supposed to be parade music! It is also a part of the style, and how players learn in Brazil. Then I teach one part at a time, usually by having them speak their part first (either on numbers as suggested in the Art Drum resource, or on neutral syllables like "dum-di" etc), then echo me on their instruments. We layer them on top of each other, everyone stepping back and forth on the beat the whole time. It is always so cool when the whole thing comes together!

Although I don't have a cuica or anything even close to it, I love having my students learn about it because it is so different from anything I have seen anywhere else. This is another great video to use to introduce students to the different Batucada instruments, and it includes the cuica:



I also use some worksheets to have students describe the different Batucada instruments and compare and contrast them with instruments they already know. If you are interested, you can get the worksheets, teaching slides, and additional videos and resources that I use for this in my World Instrument Listening Unit (click on the picture to check it out):


The resource above also includes some basic information about the country of Brazil, but I don't spend a lot of time talking about generic facts about the countries we study- I find it is much more meaningful and memorable for students to simply experience the musical culture of the region, even if it is just one very small slice of the culture as a whole.

After we have studied and performed Batucada music, I like to throw in this cup song / game from Brazil as well:


I like that it gets them singing in Portuguese (even if it is just nonsense syllables), and it gives them a connection to Brazilian culture as well because it is so similar to the popular "cup song" here in the States. I usually just have them repeat the lyrics of the first half of the song when they get to the second part so they don't have as much to learn (without changing the melody):

Zum zum zum, escatumbararibe,
Escatumbararibe, escatumbatinga
Zum zum zum, escatumbararibe,
Escatumbararibe, escatumbatinga

If it's hard to figure out how to do the cup movements from the first video, you can find tons of tutorials on YouTube. Here's one example:


That's everything I teach for music from Brazil. Do you teach Brazilian music in your class? I'd love to see any additional ideas and resources you have in the comments below! And don't forget that there are tons of posts related to world music being linked up the whole month of February. Check out the posts below and be sure to keep checking back this month for more ideas. Here's the schedule of countries/cultures I will be writing about over the next several weeks (country names will link to posts once they are published):

1. Brazil

Monday, February 1, 2016

Mommy Monday: printable co-parenting / divorce planner

Today I am finally sharing a special project that I have been working on for a while now: a printable co-parenting planner / organizer / workbook. This planner is available for free download so I hope you will share it with anyone else you know who might benefit from it (you'll find the link to download at the end of this post).


I think most people know that going through a divorce, being a single parent, and co-parenting (to varying degrees of "co-" ness) are all difficult things to go through. I think most people also realize, if they stop and think about it for a minute, that there are naturally some added logistical challenges associated with managing a broken home. What I don't think people realize is just how much information and logistics you are expected to manage when you go through a divorce and/or share physical and/or legal custody with someone.

When I first started going through the legal divorce process, I was (and continue to be) amazed at how much information the courts, attorneys, and everyone else expected me to manage. You would think that, given the emotional state most of us are in when we go through this process, people would expect you to not be able to manage much additional information and paperwork and would help remind you, or ask you about, the minute details of the legal proceedings, paperwork, etc. Nope. I consider myself an organized person, and I have found myself scrambling to find paperwork, looking up details from agreements we made months or even years ago, on multiple occasions. If anything, people seemed surprised that I did not have this information already on-hand. Nobody ever once has given me any advice on how to keep all of this information organized- they seem to just expect that I will, and if I don't, the courts could end up making a ruling that negatively affects my children. So there is a lot riding on my ability to stay organized!

The other surprise for me has been that keeping information and paperwork organized digitally is not enough. I didn't realize that in court hearings, meetings with attorneys, and other meetings, people often either do not have internet access available and/or will not accept a digital copy of a document for use in a hearing or meeting- they want a hard copy. When I first started going through the divorce, I stored everything in a specific folder on a thumb drive that I took with me to every meeting, appointment, and hearing. I have since learned the importance of also printing out one or more hard copies and keeping them organized that way as well.

I've put together this planner for my own use, and I've also tried to create forms that I wish I had had when I was first entering and going through the initial divorce process. So there are pages that would be helpful for every stage of the divorce/co-parenting process. To get the best use out of them, I would suggest printing single-sided. That way you can change, remove, or add pages without having to replicate anything that you filled out on the other side of the page. When you print, just select the pages you need and print those. You may also want to print multiple copies of some pages if you need more room for certain information. What you need to organize and keep on hand will change over time, so having the flexibility to add and remove pages is important- keep everything in a binder of some kind rather than having it permanently bound in a way that doesn't allow you to change the inserts. I have stuck mine in the teacher/life planner that I have already, but you could of course keep this in a separate binder as well.

Here's an overview of what's included:
1. Custody schedule: year at a glance (good for mapping out alternating weekends, holidays etc)
2. Regular visitation schedule (includes 2 weeks on 1 page for those with every other week schedules)
3. Holidays/vacations/days off (space to note schedule and any agreements you need to remember)
4. Court dates (note dates, topics, and anything you need to bring or prepare in advance)
5. Important contacts (like attorneys, therapists, other related contacts)
6. Documents (keep track of what they are and where you have stored them)
7. Agreement references (keep track of where to find agreements within your divorce decree, parenting plan, or other documents so you can quickly reference as needed)
8. Expenses (use this during the divorce process to keep track of attorney and other expenses)
9. Support payments (keep track of child support, alimony, etc, either paying or receiving)
10. Reimbursements (track expenses that need reimbursement, like medical, educational, etc)
11. Goals/journal (prompts to help you set priorities for yourself and for your children, plus blank pages)

I know every situation is different, so if you have any suggestions of ways I can improve or add to this please let me know in the comments or send me an email ( caldwell.organized.chaos at gmail dot com ) and I will be happy to make those changes- I want this to be helpful to as many people as possible. If you are unsure how to use a certain part of the planner or have another question, leave a comment below or email me and I will be happy to answer them as well! Click the image below to download. I hope you find this helpful!