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Thursday, April 28, 2016

Fermata Friday: April 29, 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, April 26, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: lessons for the end of the year (part 2)

Now that my spring break is over, it's back to reality.... and the reality is, once spring break is over, everyone is super antsy and more than a little bit crazy! Last year I shared some of my favorite lesson ideas for the end of the school year in this post, and today I thought I'd share a few more that I'll be using this year to get us all through the remaining weeks in one piece!


Last year, I shared my favorite lessons and activities that require very little preparation and can be done in 1-2 class periods (or part of a period). This year I'm sharing some longer "units" that you could run for several class periods in a row. You could obviously shorten these but they will require some prep work on your part, so why not take a little more time? These are also great to do with any age, so I would suggest picking one and doing it with every grade. In my last school I did one of these at the end of each school year and I did them on a 4 year rotation so that students weren't doing the same thing every year.

These units are perfect for the end of the year because they are all designed to "shake things up"- by transforming the classroom environment, style of teaching/learning, or just the material that you're using, you can keep students on their toes and engaged when they're losing focus and tired of the "same old, same old" at the end of the year.

1. Country of focus

This is what I'm doing right now! Each April I pick one country or culture on which to focus with each grade level, and the students get a chance to really delve deeper and explore the culture through some of its music. You could also pick one country for the whole school to study each year and really go all-in by decorating the classroom with paraphernalia to match the country: a map, a flag, photographs (find them online and print them off), any instruments you have from the country, tokens and souvenirs (ask if anyone from the school community has visited before and brought things back), or words like "hello", "music", or "thank you" in the native script would all help set the mood and create that impact of "ooh, this is something new and exciting" when students walk in the room.

Over the last few weeks I've been posting all of my lesson ideas for each of the countries that I have taught as an area of focus. Click on the country to see more specific lesson ideas for each one:
Brazil
Japan

2. Camping theme

I did this one year at my last school and it was a huge hit, so I am thinking of bringing it back this year! I set up my classroom to look like a campsite by making a "camp fire" in the center of my circle rug (logs made out of paper towel rolls with red, orange, and yellow tissue paper stuck in between the rolls as flames) and putting up pictures of various woodsy scenes everywhere. I had students choose from a list of "camp songs" and we sat around the "fire" singing silly songs. Here are some of the camp songs I will be using this year:
Boom Chicka Boom
I Love the Mountains
Baby Shark
Miss Julie Ann Johnson
There's a Hole in the Bucket
Down by the Bay
The Bear Song
Reese's Peanut Butter Cup
Dum Dum Da Da
Limerick Song

You can find more camp songs here and here. Any echo song or silly song that is easy to learn will work- especially ones with movement or motions!

This year I am thinking of taking it a step further and throwing in some review games. My idea is to split up into teams, giving each team a stick and several different pieces of paper cut in the shape of marshmallows with paperclips on them (folded open so they are attached to the paper on one side with a "hook" sticking up to hang on the stick). I can change these for each grade, but basically I plan to call out a letter name, clap a rhythm, or some other musical concept or vocabulary, and the students have to find the matching visual, hang it on their stick, and hold it out over the fire to roast the marshmallow. The first team to roast the correct marshmallow gets a point. So for example, I can review treble clef letter names with 3rd grade by putting a 5-line staff with one note on it on each marshmallow, and then when I call a letter they have to find the correct note. Or I can review rhythms by writing a 4-beat pattern on each marshmallow, and they have to find the matching notation when I clap the rhythm. Or review vocabulary by finding the correct symbol or word when I call out the name or meaning ("forte" or "loud"). The possibilities are endless!

3. Music careers project

This is a great project I have done with students from 4th grade up through 8th grade. Essentially the idea is to allow students to research an area of music in which they are most interested and give them the opportunity to experience what a career in that area would be like. This can get pretty broad (and, hence, very difficult to manage well) so I've found a few ways to make it both manageable and meaningful after doing it a few times.

The #1 key is to limit the scope of the project by giving students limited (but varied) options for careers they can choose. I've found the best way to do it without leaving out an area that students would potentially be eager to try is to keep the job descriptions broad (so, have "performer" as a career instead of "band member", "pop star", and "church organist" all as separate items). By limiting the different options students can choose, I can better help guide students in their projects. I do always, though, tell students that if they are really eager to explore something that is not on my list, they are welcome to make a case to me individually. If I know they can work independently, and they are able to explain how they would go about it, then I allow them to do something different.

The other key is to come up with easy but meaningful ways for students to apply skills from their chosen career to a project that can be completed in the classroom setting, and have those ideas ready for them. So for example, some of the most popular career choices over the years have been performer (students need to pick a song to learn and perform for the class), critic (students listen to a recording and write their own critique), conductor (students conduct a recording or, if there is a group that has chosen to perform something together for a performer project, they can conduct them), composer (students create a piece and either perform/record it themselves, have me perform it, or have one of the students doing a performer project perform it), and dancer (students choreograph and perform a dance to a recording). Some other careers can be more difficult to manage logistically but can be doable: students who want to try teaching, for example, could set up a time to meet with a family, student in another class, or someone else outside of class time, but work on first writing a lesson plan and then looking through and reflecting on their lesson that they videotape afterwards during their class.

It sounds complicated but it's actually not much more involved than putting together some basic job descriptions and possible classroom projects, like the ones I just outlined, having students choose what they want to do, and giving them a couple of class periods to work on it independently. The students love the opportunity to try something different that they are interested in, and the end results are usually pretty fantastic. I often have homeroom teachers, the principal, or other adults come to see some of the final presentations. You can find extensive lists of music related careers here and here to get you started if you want to try something like this in your own classroom.

Not enough time left for a full unit? Try one of these shorter lesson ideas:


I hope you find some new ideas to get you and your students through the end of the year having meaningful fun! I'd love to hear your favorite lessons for the end of the school year too- leave a comment below to share yours!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Mommy Monday: the ring I put on the day of my divorce

The day I got divorced, I took my wedding and engagement rings off of my left hand and put another ring on my right hand. Not to celebrate my "freedom" or to commemorate the event or anything like that- I did not celebrate being divorced even a little bit- but to reaffirm my commitment to my family. I have worn the ring every day since and have been happy with my decision for so many reasons I didn't expect, so today I'm sharing why I'm glad I have it. If you are facing a divorce yourself, you might consider if this might be a good choice for you too- I don't think it's for everyone, but I do think it's worthy of consideration.


1. It's a nice piece of jewelry

I got the ring off of Etsy- I wanted some kind of "mother's ring" to remind me of the girls, and fell in love with this one with the vines intertwined with the birth stones for each child (obviously I went with the colors I have always used to color code the girls' stuff since they were babies, rather than their birthstones, which would have been the same...). So the first reason I love the ring is that it's a beautiful piece of jewelry! :) Why should only married people have a nice ring to wear every day?

2. It is a symbol for me of my commitment

When I was married, I wore my wedding and engagement rings all the time- I never took them off, even to shower (I don't recommend that, by the way). It was a symbol to me of my commitment to my marriage, and it was just a part of who I was (and who I presented myself as to the world). When I got divorced, having the new ring to put on gave me the sense that I was not abandoning my commitment, but rather transferring my commitment. Rather than having a constant reminder of my commitment to my husband, I now have a constant reminder of my commitment to my children- they are now my entire immediate family.

3. It is a source of comfort for my children

This is something I didn't anticipate when I got the ring, but has become one of the main reasons I love my ring now. Especially when they were toddlers, but throughout their lives, the girls have gone through periods of separation anxiety and it was very difficult for all three of us. One day I sat down and showed them my ring, and explained to them (they were around 2 years old) that the two stones were the two of them, and the vines were me, always surrounding them, always there. I explained that I wore it every day because I was always thinking about them and because I was always their Mommy. Since then, even 2 years later, the ring has been a source of comfort for them when they are having a difficult time leaving. When they are upset, I can simply show them my ring and let them feel it in their hands- I don't have to say anything, and it doesn't take much time, but it always comforts them and reminds them that I am always there for them no matter what.

4. It is a symbol for others

I have had several meaningful conversations with people who have asked me about my ring, including my students, coworkers, and friends. I am very comfortable sharing (the basic facts of) my story at this point, and I love any chance I get to tell people how much my children mean to me! Without a wedding ring, many people assume I am single without kids. Sure, don't care about what people think, blah blah blah, but it helps me knowing that my ring at least gives people pause, and often provides me the opportunity to tell people a little about who I am as a mother, without wearing a giant sign on my chest when the girls aren't with me.

5. It provides a sense of normalcy

This is minor but when I got divorced, it was a huge change. A lot of things about how I lived, how I identified myself, and how others saw me changed dramatically. Having a ring to put on every morning, to twiddle with mindlessly (as I was in the habit of doing), and see when I look at my hands somehow eased that one small change of taking off my wedding and engagement rings. It may not seem like a big deal, but I really think it helped things seem a little less strange.

6. It helped with the pain of the day itself

I've already sort-of said this in so many words, but knowing that I had another ring to put on to show my commitment to my children helped ease my dread of taking off the other rings on the day of the divorce. I actually got the ring several weeks before the actual divorce, but decided to wait until it was finalized to help with the day of the divorce. I actually had something to look forward to that day- I like this ring a lot more than my engagement and wedding rings- they are much more my style! ;) Being able to put on the new ring helped brighten an otherwise difficult afternoon (that, and the Sonic coconut cream milkshake I got on the way home).

I am so grateful that I have this ring for so many reasons. If you are divorced or heading towards a divorce, have you considered anything like this?

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Fermata Friday: April 22, 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, April 19, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: Japanese music in elementary music

Today I'm on the 9th and final (for now) installment of my series on lesson idea for music from around the world. If you've missed any, be sure to check out the rest of the posts by clicking on the links in the list at the end of this post. So far I've talked about Brazil, Mozambique, China, Native American, Phillippines, Ireland, Maori (New Zealand), and Bolivia. Today's focus is Japan!


Some of you may know that I actually grew up in Japan. I went to Japanese public school until high school and consider Japan my home. And yes, I am fluent in Japanese. What I'm hesitant to admit is that I don't currently include it as one of my countries of focus for any of the 7 grade levels I teach. Rather than teaching a cursory overview of lots of different cultures, I like to focus on one country or culture in each grade level and study their music for a month or so in the spring. There are a few reasons why Japan is not currently one of those countries- not the least of which is I choose the countries on which to focus with each grade based on the concepts I can naturally cover through the study of the music- but I do incorporate Japanese music into my classroom quite a bit, as you might imagine. Today I'm going to share my ideas as I would present it in a unit of focus, which I have done in past years, but keep in mind that these lessons can also be taught separate from each other as more isolated lessons (as you could do with any of the countries of focus I have shared in previous posts).

My favorite way to start a study of Japanese music is to sing the song "Kobuta" together. Because it is an echo song, I don't have to teach it first- I just tell students we are going to sing a song in Japanese and have them echo me. I start with the animal names (kobuta = pig, tanuki = racoon, kitsune = fox, neko = cat) and then sing it again with the animal sounds. The best part is singing it again in the animal sounds but with different feelings- my favorite is the sad animals. Here is a recording of the song:


Another great simple song is "Kaeruno Uta". I like to introduce the song by telling students that the song is a Japanese song about frogs, and to listen to see if they can hear what sound a frog makes in Japanese. You can see the lyrics, translation, and recordings here on Mama Lisa's site. Once the students learn the song, I assign an instrument to "gero" and another to "gwa"- usually a ratchet, guiro, or other "froggy" sound! Students take turns playing their instrument when they hear their word. The next step is to sing it in canon (round). Each part enters every 2 measures. This is a great song for introducing canon singing, because it has a simple melody that is easy to follow.

I use one of those songs as a simple and quick introduction, depending on the age, and then spend a little more time on another song. There are so many songs I love to use that it's hard to choose, but "Donguri Korokoro" is great for introducing and practicing "syncopa" (eighth-quarter-eighth), "Ame Ame" is a great song for practicing 6/8 time (compound meter), and "Akatonbo" is another great (slightly more challenging) song to practice singing in canon, as well as teaching 3/4 time / triple meter (and happens to be one of my most favorite songs ever- it is so lovely). Click on the titles of each song to see the visuals, sound recordings, instrumental accompaniment parts for students to play, teaching aids, background information, and more for each one (the "Donguri" one is a free sampler!).

Of course there are tons more songs to sing that are great for teaching a variety of concepts, but I'll stop with those for now. You can find recordings, information, sheet music, and more for lots of Japanese songs here on Mama Lisa's site- most of them use a pentatonic scale so they are great for introducing the scale itself and lend themselves to easy Orff accompaniment parts, and many are in triple meter so you can practice singing/playing/moving in 3/4.

Of course, I have to mention the song "Sakura", probably the most famous Japanese song around the world. I use this with my older students to introduce the note F (one of the harder notes, so it is the last of the diatonic pitches I teach!) and low C on recorder and get them playing harmony parts to accompany the melody, as well as adding some simple bordun accompaniment parts on barred percussion instruments. It sounds amazing when we put it all together- the students LOVE it! You can see the notation, lyrics, translation, pronunciation, and more here from Mama Lisa, and I have the visuals, teaching aids, recordings, and more here:


I've done "Sakura" in the past without these visuals and notated parts as well- I have done the song with students as young as first grade to introduce the concepts of accompaniment, improvisation, and/or pentatonic scales by having students create their own accompaniment pattern (2-4 beats long) using barred percussion instruments with the D and G bars removed. You can even layer several students' patterns on top of each other to create an ethereal effect that fits well with the theme of cherry blossom petals floating through the sky. With younger students, who would need quite a bit of time to learn the lyrics and/or melody, I will have them play the accompaniment patterns while I sing and/or play the melody on recorder.

After we've done some singing and playing, it's time for some Bon odori! "Bon odori" is the name of a type of dance that Japanese people do at summer festivals. Every region of Japan has a different set of dances that they do, each associated with a particular song. Most of them are danced in a circle, usually around a tower in the center of the festival where the taiko drummer(s) (and usually some lead dancers) perform. The dances are usually just a few moves that repeat over and over, usually with some different arm movements while slowly stepping around the circle.

I usually teach my students the "Tokyo Ondo", because that is the one I grew up with and it is fairly simple to learn. This website has a video showing 3 different dances from the Tokyo area, and the "Tokyo Ondo" is the second one. There are also written-out descriptions of each one so you can quickly go back and remind yourself of the sequence, and also gives you an idea of how to teach it to your students. Here's another (more casual) example of someone teaching the same "Tokyo Ondo":



You can get recordings of the Bon Odori music, but I usually use the audio from this video for our dances:


I also show students some of the instruments of Japan, including the koto, taiko, and other instruments used in summer festivals ("matsuri") and Gagaku (traditional court music). You can get the visuals, teaching notes, worksheets, and links to the videos I use to introduce the instruments and genres for free in this set:


Besides the pretty foreign-sounding instrument timbres, I also like to discuss with my older students the comparatively flat / blank affect of the performers of the gagaku music. We discuss how beauty and feeling are expressed differently in different cultures, and how in Japanese culture it would be considered "showy" and even selfish to show a lot of emotion while performing (but that doesn't mean they aren't communicating feeling through their performance)! For upper elementary and middle school students, it is really interesting to look at traditional performances from different cultures and compare the ways they express the feeling of the music through their performance.

I hope these ideas and resources give you the inspiration and the tools to experience the music of Japan with your students! And of course, I am more than happy to answer questions or provide additional help if you are unsure about how to pronounce, teach, or perform something- this is my number one passion! Leave a comment or send me an email! If you have any additional ideas or resources that you use in your classroom, please share them in the comments below as well. 

This completes my series of posts on music from around the world! If I feature additional countries/ cultures in future posts I will link them below as well- click on the country to see the posts I have published with lesson ideas for each country below:

1. Brazil

Monday, April 18, 2016

Mommy Monday: eating well when you're eating alone

I used to assume that cooking for a family was harder than cooking for one or two people. I now know I was wrong. The reason is people generally don't want to eat just one thing when we have a meal- we want to have at least 2 or 3 different things, or at the very least a dish that has a combination of ingredients, and it's hard to find small enough quantities of each item to make a "meal" for just one person. I have found in the last couple of years that cooking for just myself is even harder when I am used to cooking for my kids. Not only am I not used to cooking for fewer people, but I am so used to making super healthy, kid-friendly meals that I feel lost when I'm only cooking for an adult. Plus it doesn't seem worth it to go through the effort of cooking a full meal for just me. I'd rather spend the time running errands, catching up with friends, or staring off into space- you know, the things I can't do when the kids are around :P

Because of all of these problems, I found that I was often resorting to McDonald's, or forgetting to eat at all, when the girls were not around for a meal. Since I realized what a bad pattern I was falling into, I've come up with a few strategies to try to still eat (relatively) healthy meals even when I'm not cooking for the whole family. I'm hoping these ideas are helpful not only for other single parents but also anyone who lives alone, or parents who find themselves occasionally eating alone for one reason or another.


1. Cook for more people and save the extras

This can go a few different ways: 1) when I'm cooking a meal for the family, I intentionally cook a few extra servings and eat the leftovers when I'm alone, 2) I cook a regular amount of something when I'm alone and save the extras for another time (I do this a lot with a big pot of curry etc and freeze half so I don't get sick of it!) or 3) make a meal that I'm planning to serve to the whole family later in the week ahead of time and eat a portion when I'm alone. I had already been doing this somewhat for the lunches I pack to take to work, but now I am also using extra food from family dinners for times when I'm alone for dinner.

2. Keep the freezer stocked

I really don't like to spend a bunch of time in the kitchen cooking when noone else is going to enjoy the results- it's just not gratifying. And I'm often running around trying to get things done when the girls are away, so I want to get something quickly. I have recently started keeping healthy frozen foods, that I can quickly heat up in the microwave, stocked in my freezer, and that has cut down on a lot of trips to the drive-through. Trader Joe's has a lot of healthy (and reasonably- priced) frozen meals, and I also love these frozen Indian style "burritos" that I found in the vegetarian section of the frozen food aisle at my grocery store (hint: if you don't know this already, vegetarian food tends to pack a lot more flavor and is often better-tasting than meaty frozen meals). 

3. Find someone to eat with

Yeah I know this is kindof straying from the idea of the post, but it bears mentioning- if you know you're going to be alone for a meal, why not find someone to eat with instead? I'm lucky because my parents live just a few minutes away from me, so I often head to their house for dinner when I'm on my own. I've also started trying to make dinner dates with friends sometimes, although those take up more time then a quick drop-in at the parents! Whomever I'm eating with, I can't get away with forgetting to eat, or eating something really unhealthy, when I have made a promise to eat with someone else. I'd like to be better about having other people over to my house to eat dinner when I'm on my own too, but my introverted self is usually not very motivated to play hostess after a full day of being with hundreds of students and colleagues.... Maybe over summer break.

4. Keep quick and easy produce around

I try to keep a few extra apples, avocados, bananas, and sweet potatoes around for something quick I can grab when I need a little extra food. Apples and bananas I eat plain, avocados I cut in half and eat with a spoon (sometimes with a little cajun spice mix on top- yum!), and sweet potatoes I can cook quickly in the microwave (pierce the skin with a fork a few times, wrap in a paper towel, cook for 3-5 minutes flipping once halfway through- you're welcome). I buy these foods for the girls' lunches already, so it's easy for me to buy a few extra for my own meals. I throw one in my lunch bag to take to work sometimes too.

5. Mug meals

I recently discovered Gemma Stafford on YouTube and I love her recipes! Most of them are really simple, and she has quite a few easy ideas for cooking for one. Here's one example of MANY:


I mean really. She also has a website where you can search all of her recipes here.

What are your favorite tips for staying on track when you're eating alone? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments :)

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Fermata Friday: April 15, 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, April 12, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: first year flashback

Today I'm linking up with Shelley at Pitch Publications to reminisce about my first year of teaching. It has been really fun to read the posts from all of the other teachers who have written about their first years as well- be sure to click on the picture to check out all of the other linked up posts! 

This post is by Pitch Publications with Shelley Tomich and is a linky party where several music teachers link up to talk about their first year teaching. For some it has been a decade, for others a few years. #pitchpublications #elmused #iTeachMusic” data-pin-media=

What subject/age and where were you teaching?

I did my student teaching at an international school in South Korea, and I was lucky enough to be able to land a job at another international school while I was there. The school was a relatively new one, and my first year teaching was their first year in a new building. It is now one of the biggest international schools in South Korea, but at the time everything was still very new. I taught K-5 general music.

What was your first classroom like?

As I mentioned, the building was brand new- I was the first one to teach there- so it was in good shape. BUT it was one of the worst classrooms I have taught in ever. The room was pretty small. When I showed up the first time, they had a class set of desks with the little desks attached. When I ran to the office to complain, they told me that the previous music teacher (whom they had consulted about how to set up the room, what to order etc) had suggested those. Turns out she mostly did music theory and music history. She taught K-12 music, though, and was primarily a string player with little background in elementary music. Thankfully they got rid of the desk-chairs and brought in some folding chairs, which they eventually replaced with some actual music chairs before the end of the year. 

The worst part, though, was that the classroom was in the 2nd basement. As in, the basement below the basement. I had a dehumidifier permanently running in there that I emptied at least once a day, and I had no windows so I never knew what the weather was like. I distinctly remember a day when the students came in from recess with snow all over their shoes and I had had no idea that it was snowing! My allergies did not fare well that year either because of the mold.

Were you given supplies and materials?

The previous teacher who ordered supplies did not know what things were most necessary for elementary music, so although the school invested a good bit of money into setting up the room, they didn't put the money into the right things. When I showed up, I had 20 soprano xylophones (but no alto's, glockenspiels, or any other variety of barred instruments), 20 guiros (yes, guiros), and the old Share the Music textbooks. No hand drums, no rhythm sticks, no triangles... There was also an electric piano, CD player, and a SmartBoard, which was awesome. Thankfully I was able to get the hand drums and rhythm sticks while I was still there, and got them started on some other types of barred instruments, small percussion, and other supplemental teaching materials for the following year.

What do you remember about your first day?

Honestly, not much. I remember the general feeling of, "what if people find out I have no idea what I'm doing?!?", and I remember that at the end of the day I felt completely exhausted and also excited, because I LOVED it just as much as I thought I would (and I was so relieved to have made it through the day). I remember too that my teaching schedule was very predictable- I had 5th, then 4th, then 3rd, and so on down to kindergarten every day in order- it was beautiful. The biggest difficulty was that kindergarten was at the very end of the day AND they combined two classes for specials, so I ended up teaching almost 40 kindergarteners at the same time (with no aid or other adult). I was terrified but I really love teaching the younger ones best so it was fun too :)

What was the hardest part of your first year?

The hardest part was the general stress and busyness of my life. I got engaged at the beginning of the school year and married over winter break to someone who taught on the other side of Seoul (which, if you don't know, is a pretty big city). And of course I had no curriculum to follow, so I spent a TON of time planning lessons. I was so tired.

What was the best part of your first year?

I think the best part was the teaching itself. I really do love teaching elementary general music. I was pretty sure that it was the job for me, but I still wondered if maybe I only loved it in theory and would end up hating it and/or being really bad at it once I actually started teaching. That didn't happen. 

What did you discover your first year that you didn't learn in college or student teaching?

First of all, I had really excellent preparation in my college classes and my student teaching, so all of those things that typically are surprises for first year teachers- how to prepare for a concert, how to make a bulletin board, how to run light and sound equipment- were not new for me. Because I literally wrote their elementary general music curriculum for them during that year, I think the biggest thing I learned was how to go about long-range planning. It was really a good exercise for me, and I think being fresh out of college actually worked to my advantage in some ways, because I still remembered all of the stuff from my child development classes and was in tune with the national standards and the latest research in music education.

Where did you draw most of your lesson plan inspiration from?

Most of my lessons were modified versions of the Share the Music textbook lessons. I also had some lessons that I had developed as part of my elementary music methods class in college, and TONS of lessons that I had stolen from my cooperating teacher during my student teaching. 

Is there anything you taught your first year that you still teach now?

Yes, quite a few! Most of my introductory lessons to start kids on recorder are the same, and I have a lot of activities and songs that I still use from the textbooks- "Hunt the Cows" for first grade and "I Have a Car" for second grade come to mind. Some of my classroom management techniques are the same as well- the hand signals I use for standing and sitting were stolen from my cooperating teacher in student teaching, and my classroom rules were ones I came up with for my first year and are still the same. I still use the same line up procedures as well.

What is one thing you know now that you wish you knew then?

I wish I had had the confidence to know that I am a good teacher. I spent so much time and energy my first year worrying about whether or not the students were learning enough, learning the right things at the right time, developing a lifelong love of music, etc. It's a crazy feeling that first year when you realize that someone has given you full control over the musical education of hundreds of children, and that the group of kids standing in front of you have been totally entrusted into your care. It was scary, really! I wish I had had the assurance, at least, that I was doing the right things (for the most part, anyway!) and that my students were getting a good music education from me.

Well, that's my first year of teaching for you. What are your favorite (or least favorite) memories from your first year? Share them in the comments or link up your own post here!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mommy Monday: 4 things I wish I had heard as a new mom

This week's posts are all about flashbacks (check back tomorrow to read my flashback to my first year of teaching)! I titled today's post what I wish I had heard rather than what I wish someone had told me because I have a sneaking suspicion that somebody actually did tell me most of these things as some point either before or during my daughters' newborn stage, but I just either didn't pay enough attention or just didn't have the capacity to comprehend how true their statement was. So, here are the things I wish I could go back and tell my new mom self (and find a way to make sure I really listen). **Warning: this post may be a bit TMI for some**


1. Sleep deprivation is no joke

I know people say this all the time but I really didn't get it until I went through it myself. I had a baby who was extra sensitive to noise and light, and didn't really feel like it was a good idea to sleep more than 20-45 minutes at a time. Also her twin. I kept telling myself, "I can do this, millions of other mothers have done this, sure I'm tired but all moms are tired! Suck it up!". You know what? I made my babies' sleep a top priority- I rearranged my entire life around their sleep- but I wish I had made mine a priority as well. I wish I had listened when people told me that I needed to stop and take a break before I seriously damaged my own well-being.

2. Cracked nipples are no joke either

Ladies, if you EVER get even a tiny cracked nipple, take it seriously. I took care of mine to a certain extent, but I was too busy to take proper care of it consistently and I paid for it big time with two bouts of mastitis that ended with a abscess that had to be drained and the end of nursing for me. And boy was it painful.

3. Whatever they end up eating, it's only for one year

Related to my last point- clearly I pushed to nurse way harder and longer than I should have. I know some people are going to seriously disagree with my sentiment on this one, but you know what, whether they get breastfed, pumped milk, formula, or any combination thereof, IT'S ONLY FOR A YEAR. I feel so silly for stressing out so much about it in hindsight. We humans live for a lot of years. And sure, I believe that breastmilk is better than formula, and that nursing can help prevent certain illnesses, etc etc etc. But I also believe that there are a lot of other things that can help or hurt your children's health, and they remain a factor of their lives far longer than what kind of milk they had for their first year. My kids are excellent eaters. They munch on raw spinach leaves and beets for lunch and enjoy it. I think that's going to have a much more lasting impact on their health than the kind of milk they had for their first year of life.

4. Nobody else knows what they're doing either

It's amazing how little we know about babies. There is a lot that not even doctors know for sure. I wish I had realized that my level of confusion and uncertainty about what in the world my babies wanted, were feeling, or were trying to tell me was equal to everyone else'- experienced parents, doctors, and others who seemed like they knew more than me about my children were just more comfortable making an educated guess and going with it.

What are the things you wish you had known as a new mom? Let's hear them in the comments!

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fermata Friday: April 8, 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, April 5, 2016

Teacher Tuesday: Bolivian music in elementary music class

Today I'm back to my series on music from cultures around the world, and this week I'm talking about Bolivia! 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. Over the last few weeks, I've been sharing my lesson ideas for each of those countries. I'm including a list of all of the countries / cultures 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 links to my previous posts on Brazil, Mozambique, China, Native America, the Philippines, Ireland, and Maori culture (native New Zealand) already linked at the end of this post.


I study Bolivian music with my first graders. I find that it is accessible for them at this age, as enough of them have had some exposure to South/Central American culture and/or the Spanish language in some form to feel a connection to it. I am also able to reinforce steady beat, quarter notes, paired eighth notes, quarter rests, and A and B sections through the music we study.

I start off the unit by having everyone listen to the instrumental recording of "Alturas" from this book and recording set from Daria Music. I ask students to listen silently and try to imagine what the song is about, and we all listen with the lights off. Most students are able to identify the sound of the wind blowing, which leads to a discussion of the composer's intent to convey the image of the Andes mountains, with the blowing wind and the llama's hooves. I love starting with this because it has great examples of zamponas (panpipes), rain stick, chajchas (rattle/shaker), and other typical Andean instruments.

We briefly discuss the instruments (I have rain sticks, chajchas, and zamponas in my room to show them) and then the students make their own zamponas (panpipes)! I keep it very simple: I cut one large straw per student into 3 sections (each different lengths)- I got these from IKEA because they are under $2 for a pack of 100 and they are a good size (and come in lots of colors)- and have the students arrange them in height order on the floor. As I go around helping each student put a piece of tape around the straw pieces to hold them together, we make predictions about whether or not the 3 pieces will sound different (I don't demonstrate on the real one until after this activity), and if so, how. This is a great introduction to the science of sound, and the students are able to make the connection to the xylophone bars that sound higher or lower with different lengths. (If you want to make slightly fancier versions of the zamponas, the book from Daria has an awesome tutorial as well- still easy and cheap but adds a bit more decor so kids can personalize!)

Once the students have had a chance to try playing their DIY zamponas, I demonstrate a little on my real set. I also like to show the second half of this video (when he switches to the panpipes) so they can see it played by someone who actually knows what they're doing:


I try to give students a quick turn playing the rain stick and chajchas (rattles) as well- my favorite thing to do is pass them around and have each student touch them before telling them that the chajchas are made of toenails- the looks on their faces are priceless!

After finding the Andes on the map of South America (which I also got from Daria's book), I tell them that we will be focusing on Bolivia, which we find on the map as well. Then we learn a dance to accompany the Bolivian song, "La Mariposa". In the A section / verse, the students walk around the circle on the beat, switching directions after 8 beats. In the B section / chorus, the students face the middle of the circle and sing, "con las manos" and then clap 3 times, sing "con los pies" then stomp three times, then sway both arms back and forth while bending their knees while the sing "la morenada, la morenada" (you can see another version of the dance, which is similar but has some different movements, in this video). I have this recording from Smithsonian Folkways (which I highly recommend- it's only a dollar for the song!), but you could also use the audio from this video (which also shows the clapping and stomping I'm talking about):


The best part of the dance is when we add scarves! I tie scarves to each students' wrists (or if we're short on time, they can just hold them in their hands) and have them do the dance. Now when they sway their arms back and forth in the chorus, it looks like a butterfly's wings (the title of the song)! The students love this, and it is a great way to prepare for half notes- I bring it back briefly in 2nd grade to introduce the 2 beat note (each sway is 2 beats long).

We also add some instruments to the song. I have small groups of students play a repeating pattern using quarter notes and rests and paired eighth notes on chajchas and drums, and other students play whole notes on rain sticks- I'll teach everyone the patterns for the chajchas and drums by reading from the notation, and then have small groups of students play it on the instruments while the rest of the class is singing and dancing (I usually have the instruments play only on the A sections). At the end of all of this, we have a brief discussion about the two sections of the music (A and B).

We also learn the song, "Mi Gallito"- you can find the sheet music, recording, lyrics, and translation here on Mama Lisa's website- along with motions. I like this song because it is short, simple and hilarious (at least to first graders)! It is a great way to end our study of Bolivian music. You can find more songs from Bolivia here.

That's everything I teach for music from Bolivia. Do you teach Bolivian 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 I will be posting more ideas, focusing on different cultures around the world, over the next several weeks. Check out the posts below and be sure to keep checking back 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

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Small Goals: April 2016

I'm linking up with The Yellow Brick Road to share my small goals for the month of April. Click on the picture below to see what others are planning for the month- it's a great way to connect with your favorite bloggers and get to know them, and also get inspired to set your own goals for the month ahead!


First let's look back on last month's goals and see how I did:

1. Finish organizing my jewelry: CHECK! And I love the end result. Check out my DIY jewelry storage that also functions as some pretty awesome wall art for my bedroom here.
2. Finish filling out report cards without losing my mind: DONE. It actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, to be honest.
3. Teach on a cart for a week without losing my mind: ummmm.... sorta. I knew teaching on a cart was going to be rough. No joke, when I graduated from college, I vowed to go unemployed before taking a job teaching on a cart after experiencing the struggle through some of my practicum experiences. What I wasn't prepared enough for was just how emotionally charged the experience would be for me- I felt degraded, unappreciated, humiliated. The lessons themselves were fine for the most part (except for the one where two fist fights broke out at the end of one of my kindergarten lessons...yeah....), but I'm afraid my sense of value and importance within the school staff was severely damaged. I know I sound super dramatic and whiny, especially to those of you to teach on a cart full-time, but this is my honest experience. Also (for better or worse) I was out sick for two of the days I was on a cart. Trying to figure out sub plans for those days was no small task in itself, but that probably was the one thing that kept me from going completely over the edge.

So! New month, new goals! :)

1. File my taxes

I'm filing my taxes myself for the first time this year, so I'm taking my time. I'm done with most of it, but I still have a few things to finish up and then get someone to check it over for me. 

2. Celebrate my birthday with my family! :)

My birthday is on the 13th, which is the day after our district's honor music festival and the Wednesday before spring break (I know, I can't believe how late it is either). I haven't figured out what I'm going to do yet, but I definitely want to relax and have some fun after the pretty insane and stressful month I just survived!

3. Finish next school year's planners

I'm honestly not sure I can actually accomplish this because so much got put on hold last month amidst all the craziness at work and a LOT of sickness at home (both me and my daughters, and yes we did take turns.. I hardly have any sick days left....). BUT it's my goal to get the planners for next school year's planners done and ready for everyone by the end of the month! I have lots of changes coming to make this next year's planners even better- I can't wait to show you what I've come up with and start printing off my new one myself! :)