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Saturday, December 30, 2017

December Favorites 2017

It's time for my last "favorites" post of 2017! And what a month of wonderful favorites it has been. I hope you all enjoy this short trip down memory lane as much as I have! I've actually been looking back on my year on Organized Chaos the last several days, and to celebrate an awesome year I'm hosting not one, not two, but three giveaways! Be sure to go back to those posts (linked at the bottom of this one) to see some of my most popular content from the past year and win some awesome stuff to kick off the new year :)


1. Advent Activities


I've had a tradition with my daughters since they were 2 of doing some kind of small, Christmas-related activity every day in December leading up to Christmas, and every year it is one of the highlights of the year. It's not too stressful to organize because I stick to things I would already be doing, like putting up a tree or hanging lights, or little things that require very little time or supplies like calling someone to wish them a Merry Christmas or eating a candy cane. And it's such a fun way to enjoy the season with each other without me worrying about "when are we going to do this or that?". Here's the post I wrote with a list of what we did this year as well as a description of how I made the advent calendar (super easy).

2. Music Banner


I found these music note pennant banners at the Target Dollar Spot at the beginning of the month and couldn't believe my luck. They are so pretty! I hung them up over my open shelving and I love having that extra little touch in my classroom (here's a classroom tour- pre-banner obviously- if you want to check out the rest of my room).

3. Christmas Planner Spreads


I had so much fun decorating my planner for the holidays! It's impossible for me to pick a favorite- check out my instagram photos if you want to see the others. I often get tired of decorating around a certain season or theme, but I'm honestly a little sad to move on from the Christmas theme! Here's a post I wrote on functional decorating for teacher planners if you're new to the concept :)

4. Music Education Blog Posts

I share one favorite blog post from other websites every Friday on my Facebook page- and I found some great ones this month!





5. 2017 in Review (and giveaways!)

If you haven't already, you'll want to come take a look back at the most popular posts from this past year. So much great content to cover every aspect of life. My final "favorite" is all of you- thank you for all the support and inspiration you have given me this year! I am so grateful to have the opportunity to connect with so many amazing people. Take a look back at all the fun we've had this year:




What an amazing month, and an even more amazing year! I can't wait for more awesomeness in 2018. Happy New Year everyone!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Top Posts 2017: Planners

As the year comes to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the past year at Organized Chaos and share some highlights from 2017. Today I've gathered the top 5 most popular planner posts from the past year- if you missed any of them, you'll want to be sure to check them out below! And be sure to read to the end for a chance to win an awesome planner prize!


Click each picture to visit the post. You'll find everything from ! Don't forget to stick around to the end of this post before you head off to read...






And now, as promised, a giveaway!

Enter to win a #PlanMyWholeLife planner of your choice by signing up (or confirming your address if you're already signed up) for the Organized Chaos email list! You can also earn additional entries by sharing this post on social media. This gives you lifetime access to yearly updates of the planner so you can reprint each year for free! Good luck and thank you for reading :) (and if you haven't already, go to this post to win a home organizer, and this post to win a music curriculum set!)

**If you have any trouble entering, email me at caldwell.organized.chaos@gmail.com and I'll add you!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Top Posts 2017: Music Teaching

As the year comes to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the past year at Organized Chaos and share some highlights from 2017. Today I've gathered the top 10 most popular music teaching posts from the past year- if you missed any of them, you'll want to be sure to check them out below! And be sure to read to the end for a chance to win some general music lesson resources!


Click each picture to visit the post. You'll find everything from organization tips to behavior management strategies, tips for elementary choir to middle school general music lesson ideas, and so much more! Don't forget to stick around to the end of this post before you head off to read...











And now, as promised, a giveaway!

Enter to win a month or grade level of your choice of my Elementary General Music Curriculum sets. All you have to do is sign up (or confirm if you're already signed up) for the Organized Chaos email list. You can also share this post on social media for more entries! Good luck, and thank you for reading :) (and if you haven't already, be sure to check out my top home and life posts to win a handmade home organizer, and my top planner posts to win a #PlanMyWholeLife planner!)

**If you have any trouble entering, email me at caldwell.organized.chaos@gmail.com and I'll add you!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, December 25, 2017

Top Posts 2017: Home and Life

As the year comes to a close, I want to take some time to reflect on the past year at Organized Chaos and share some highlights from 2017. Today I've gathered the top 10 most popular home life posts from the past year- if you missed any of them, you'll want to be sure to check them out below! And be sure to read to the end for a chance to win a great tool for home organization!


Click each picture to visit the post. You'll find everything from home organization to parenting, productivity, and more- there's something for all walks of life! Don't forget to stick around to the end of this post before you head off to read...











And now, as promised, a giveaway! :)

Enter to win a dry erase organizer handmade by me- all you have to do is pop it into an 8x10 frame and use a dry erase marker to write on the glass! You could use the weekday spots for meal planning, cleaning checklists, or general calendar, and use the other smaller spots for a to do list, shopping list, inspirational quotes, or whatever else suits your needs. 


There are two ways to enter: sign up (or confirm if you're already signed up) for the Organized Chaos mailing list, and share this post on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. You can share every day to earn more entries! Good luck, and thank you for reading! :) (and if you haven't already, check out the music teacher giveaway in this post to win a curriculum set, and the planner giveaway in this post to win a #PlanMyWholeLife planner!)

**If you have any trouble entering, email me at caldwell.organized.chaos@gmail.com and I'll add you!**

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Thoughts to Ponder Over Winter Break

Winter break is the perfect time to curl up in the big armchair in front of the fireplace with a hot mug and a plate of yummy snacks. Sound good right about now? Perfect. First, take some time to breath, release all of that stress, and reflect on everything you have to be grateful for. And while you're there, here are a few more thoughts to ponder that will help the rest of your school year go more smoothly.


1. Long Range Plans

You've made it partway through the year. Maybe you went in with a plan for the year mapped out. Maybe you didn't. If there's one thing you do for your teaching over break, make it this one: take stock of what you've covered so far this year, and figure out how to cover everything else before the end of the year.

This may sound like a gigantic, impossible task, but it doesn't have to be. Sit down and make a list of the most important concepts and skills students need to have by the end of each grade/class (or pull out your pre-made list if you already made one or have something you use from your state/national standards, district curriculum, or textbook series). Next to each item, put a quick ranking:

0 = haven't touched it yet
+ = started but they need more work
✓ = they've got it- just need to review for the rest of the year

Now write out (on the computer or on paper) each month left in the year (hint: don't include the last month. That month should be for review and catch-up) with space to write under each month. Look at your calendar to check for things like testing, long holidays, concerts, or other events. Plan around those- here are some ideas for ways to "keep teaching" when you are forced to focus on specific content or working under other constraints. Now go back to your list, and start filling in the skills and concepts you'll teach each month, taking into account 1) the priority level of the skill/concept and 2) the best way to sequence your instruction.

There. Now you can go into the rest of the school year with the confidence of knowing you're not going to be scrambling to introduce half notes in May.

Want to dive a little deeper? Still overwhelmed or confused on how to plan out your year? If you haven't already, please read through my post on lesson planning from the broad to the specific, sign up for my free Lesson Planning Made Awesome email course, or make your life easier and purchase my plans for the entire year.

2. Lesson Structure/ Format

Think back on your most successful lessons so far this year, and also the ones that flopped. Can you find any common traits that made some lessons work and others not? Maybe one class responds really well when you begin class with movement, or with quiet music playing. Maybe some classes work best in small groups. Are the students most engaged when they're playing instruments, moving with music, or when there's a competitive element involved? Does the lesson screech to a halt whenever you pull out pencils and papers? Maybe they respond best when it's material that you're most excited about yourself.

While I firmly believe in providing students with multiple modes of learning, keeping things interesting by changing up how I deliver content, and making sure my students grow in all aspects of music-making, I also think, especially if you have a class or grade that you're struggling with, that it's important to take advantage of each class' strengths. If one class responds best to active, competitive games, look for more opportunities to incorporate those types of activities the rest of the year (especially if it's a difficult concept they need to learn). If you find the beginning of your lessons are always the hardest, maybe you need to think of a new routine for beginning class.

Don't just think about what you're teaching- take some time to think about how you're teaching.

3. Behavior Management

This is a great time to take a step back and hit the reset button on behavior management. My first year in my current building, I did a complete overhaul of my behavior management systems when we came back in January. It made a HUGE difference! I've written many, many posts over the years on a wide range of behavior management topics. If you're looking for some new ideas, whether it's systems or routines or how to think about and talk to students more effectively, please take a look at this post. I've compiled all of my top ideas into one place so you can find the ones that apply to your situation (and I'm continuing to add to this post as I write new content, so if you haven't looked at it recently, you may want to take another peek).

4. Relationships

This topic is related to the previous one but it's more specific: this is a great time to take stock of your school relationships (both students and coworkers). Which ones can you celebrate? Which ones are causing you stress? Which ones have you neglected? Taking time to think through the people who are a part of your school life can help you make conscious choices about how you can relate to people more positively when you come back in January. Maybe you need to go out of your way to say hi to that kid in the hallway. Maybe you need to have an honest conversation with a colleague. Maybe you need to ask your coworkers for any insights on how to get through to that one student you just can't seem to reach. Maybe you need start eating lunch in the staff room, or forcing yourself to join your coworkers at some of those social gatherings. Maybe you need to take that time off to go to a music education conference this spring.

Relationships can make or break our ability to thrive at work. Take some time to think about what you can do to improve them- it's a win-win for everyone involved when you do!

5. Routines/ Organization

As you think back on how the first part of the school year went, what areas of life caused the most stress? Where did you most feel like you "dropped the ball"? For me it has been laundry, and remembering when to send certain papers to school. Maybe for you it's meal planning, or lesson planning, or the messy piles of stuff all over your teacher desk (or stuffed in your classroom closet). Now is a great time to pick one or two areas that you need to rethink. Figure out what keeps you from accomplishing your goal (for me, I often forget to finish the laundry over the weekend because there are so many steps) and come up with a plan to address those issues (I need to make each step of the process a part of my weekend routine- I'm thinking I will assign a certain time of day for each one, so that if I know I'm going to be gone at that time I can plan ahead for that).

Looking for ideas to help with your organization? Try searching the blog or check out some of these posts below:

Home Command Center
Meal Planning
Cleaning / Chores
Home Closet Organization
Classroom Organization
Teacher Desk

I hope you are able to pause and reflect over break to make some positive changes for the rest of the school year! What are you pondering over break? Leave any questions and ideas in the comments so we can all learn and be inspired by each other!

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Monday, December 18, 2017

Awesome Gifts that Aren't Things: trips

I'm wrapping up my series on gifts (get it? 😉) today with one more set of ideas for gifts that won't add to the endless clutter that piles up at home: trips. If you missed my other posts in this series, be sure to go back and read those- they are linked at the end of this post- to find even more ideas for experience-based gifts that kids will still get excited about.


I've gotten to that point where I look around the house and I feel like we just have way too much stuff. Mostly kid's stuff. Being the oldest grandchildren, my daughters have been doted on since the beginning, and it's definitely starting to catch up to us- it's crazy how often we will open a drawer and find an awesome game, book, or toy that we had totally forgotten we have.

So this year I'm focusing on getting the girls gifts that aren't objects per se. Things that will create memories, help them to grow, and allow us all to have fun without adding more clutter to our lives or feeding too much into the whole materialism thing, and I'm encouraging my family members to do the same (thanks, family!).

Over the last few weeks I covered some major categories: classes (clubs, lessons, teams etc) and quality time (memberships, outings, etc). Today I'm hitting one more type of gift idea: trips!

Trips can mean a lot of different things. They can be day trips or outings, full-on family vacations, or something in between. Here are some ideas to get you started in thinking of your own:

  • Family vacation (Disneyland, other amusement park, or even Grandma's house in another city)
  • Cruise trip
  • Day trip to a nearby city- plan specific places to visit, restaurants, shows, activities etc
  • Weekend camping, skiing, or fishing trip
  • Road trip
The possibilities are endless!

An easy way to actually present the gift is to give kids their ticket, a brochure or map, or itinerary that explains what they'll be doing or seeing. But it's also fun to give them a photo album (the kind with the clear sleeves to stick pictures in) with a "title page" that explains what the trip is (or if you're going somewhere famous you can probably get an album from that destination with the name already on it, like for Disney). You could also give them a suitcase or backpack packed with everything they'll need for the trip and see if they can guess where they're going!

Remember, these gifts don't have to be expensive (although admittedly, trips are harder to plan cheaply than the other ideas I've shared). You could plan an awesome day at the beach, or plan an entire day hitting their favorite spots around town, from the candy store to the skating rink to the local park. The idea is to make it like an exciting adventure!

I hope this series has sparked some ideas that you can use this holiday season, or even for future birthdays, to focus less on the accumulation of things and more on the experiences you have together as a family. If you want to see tons more ideas for gifts that aren't things, here are my previous posts:



Happy Holidays, everyone!