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Tuesday, May 11, 2021

My Digital and Paper Hybrid Planning System

I often see the debate among teachers over digital vs paper planning, but the truth is there are benefits to both! In fact although I consider myself a paper planner at heart, I use both for my lesson planning and I think I get the best of both worlds without duplicating my work. Here's how I use each one, and why I think it works best this way.

1. Paper

If I had a dollar for every time someone sees me pull out my paper planner and launches into an advertisement for their favorite calendar app.... I truly do think there's something about physically writing things down that helps me process and remember things so much better, and I find I can set things up better visually to see everything I want to see at once instead of scrolling and clicking around to find what I need. My paper planners also serve as a creative outlet for me- I like to decorate my pages like a scrapbook- but even if you're not into that sort of thing I think there is merit to paper planning for day-to-day. 

I use paper planning for:

  • weekly and monthly calendars, with everything (meals, lesson plans, appointments, birthdays, etc) consolidated in one place
  • running to-do lists
  • brain dumping (especially for things like concerts or new curricular units)
I keep paper copies of other things in my paper planner, just to have it available, but those are the things I truly rely on my written plans for and I think are better suited for paper planning. Sure, these can all be done digitally as well, but my brain just doesn't process it the same way on a screen.

2. Digital

As much as I love paper planning though, there are definitely areas of planning for which digital planning is much better suited! For anything I want to keep and reference long-term, or things that don't require a lot of thinking through on my part, digital planning is definitely better because I can save it without needing a mountain of papers to sort through!

I use digital planning for:

  • curriculum outlines by grade
  • lesson plan ideas by month for each grade
  • grades and attendance
  • student contact information
  • concert and performance plans/ repertoire 
Could I keep paper copies of all of these? Yes, and in the past that was what I did. But for things that I want to store and reference for years to come, having a running document saved digitally is far more helpful than a piece of paper, and I can add in links, copy and paste, and otherwise organize everything to keep it more streamlined. I do keep notes to myself on performance task assessments I grade in class on paper, but I transfer those to our district's online grading platform when I am figuring out report card grades and keep all other grades there, so I don't have to go looking for things when it's report card time.

I think the key here is to think about the purpose of your planning, then figure out how to best accomplish that, realizing that not every part of planning will be best served by the same system! As with most things in life, there is no dichotomy here- we don't have to pick a team, we can take the best from everything to do what works best!

Are you a paper planner, digital planner, or a hybrid planner? I know everyone has their own system, and I'd love to hear yours! If you want to read more about how I plan my curriculum and monthly lessons digitally, and write out my weekly lessons in my paper planner, here's a good post that explains my system. If you want to see the paper planner I use to consolidate everything on a monthly and weekly basis to keep me on track, here's a walk through of my entire planner. And if you're a die-hard digital planner, did you know you can use the same planner templates digitally? This post has a tutorial on how to do that. 

If you're new to the world of Organized Chaos planning, or just need more planner content in your life, you can find all of my planner-related posts right here.

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Tuesday, May 4, 2021

April Highlights 2021

April is probably my favorite month of the year. I love the change in weather, all the blooms that come out, and the mood in the classroom- people aren't super antsy for summer yet but more cheerful since we aren't cooped up inside all day any more. This April brought some extra fun and excitement for me! Here are some of the highlights from the past month.

1. Back in the Classroom


After teaching on a cart all school year, I got my room back!! The joy and relief I felt when I finished my last lesson on a cart was indescribable. It was a bit of a scramble putting my classroom together, since I was only given 2 hours to move in and set up, but I am so very happy to have my own space again and the students have been thrilled as well (several classes cheered when they came in for the first time)! If you want to see how my room is set up to teach synchronously with social distancing, you can see the full tour in this post.

2. Blooming Trees


One nice surprise when I moved back into my classroom was realizing I had made it back just in time to enjoy the blooming tree outside my classroom window (pictured on the left)! It is a beautiful tree and always one of the first to bloom at the beginning of spring, so I'm so glad I was able to enjoy it this year- last year the building was closed when it bloomed and I had to drive over to school several times just to visit it from the outside! The other important highlight from every April, though, is the sakura. Growing up in Japan, going to see the cherry blossoms was an annual tradition that marked the spring season for me, so I'm grateful my current city has a square with lined with sakura, complete with an annual cherry blossom festival, so we can keep that tradition going! 

3. Music Education Posts

Every week I share my favorite music education content on my Facebook page- here are the ones I found this month! Click each image to read the posts- they are all excellent reads.






Tuesday, April 27, 2021

AAPI Heritage Month in Elementary Music

With the rise in anti-Asian hate in the United States during the pandemic, there has never been a more impactful time to recognize Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. While the month of May should certainly not be the only time we recognize and include AAPI people and music in our classrooms, it is an important opportunity to shine the spotlight on a group that has historically been largely ignored and exoticized.

First a little background: AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander. May has been officially designated as AAPI Heritage Month since 1992 (although AAPI Week has been around since 1978). The history of AAPI people is long, broad, and often completely overlooked- this video gives a good starting point if you are unfamiliar. With that said, here are some general suggestions for recognizing AAPI Heritage Month in your elementary music classroom respectfully, responsibly, and appropriately.

DO celebrate AAPI excellence

While these musicians should be included in our regular, every day lessons when the musician's race is not the focus, spending some time sharing AAPI musicians from throughout history and across genres and musical roles is a great way to recognize AAPI Heritage Month in the elementary music classroom. If you need a starting point for some musicians to feature, you'll find some in these lists of instrumental performers (but definitely do not stop at these- there are SO many more out there in so many different musical fields, from conductor Xian Zhang to film composer Sujin Nam):

DO NOT limit AAPI representation to only East Asians

The AAPI community extends beyond Japan, China, and Korea- it's important to include Filipino, Vietnamese, Samoan, and so many other Asian American and Pacific Islanders outside of East Asia, particularly people with darker skin. It's important to push back against colorism by making sure, when we share AAPI musicians, that we're including the full spectrum.

DO incorporate AAPI representation throughout the school year

Don't throw in a few featured Asian American musicians in the month of May and check AAPI representation off your list- as with all minoritized cultures and people groups, the most important work is in making sure they are incorporated in our everyday lessons and materials. What faces and skin tones are included in the posters hanging on the walls? Whose music is performed in concerts? Whose faces do students see when we use video and photo examples of any musical concept we're teaching? AAPI people and cultures needs to be normalized by including representation when race is not the focal point.

DO NOT play into stereotypes

There are so many AAPI musicians outside classical music! It's important to push back against the stereotype of Asians being most successful as classical string and piano players by including representation in other genres and roles as well. That doesn't mean we shouldn't share Yo-Yo Ma and Lang Lang with our students too, but we need to be intentional about expanding our students' understanding of what it means to be an AAPI musician. Outside of the genres and roles we portray, it's important not to exoticize or generalize AAPI cultures or portray them as the "model minority"- not all Asian Americans are good at math, career-driven, or shy. 

DO listen to, learn from, and compensate AAPI music educators

I'm not sharing specific lesson plans in this post because it's important to learn from and compensate AAPI people directly- I'm here to amplify and point as many people as I can in the right direction so we can all do our own research and center AAPI voices in these conversations. If you are going to use resources to teach about AAPI history and heritage, make sure you are getting them from (and compensating) people from the AAPI community! Here are a few AAPI music educators and musicians, besides the ones mentioned above in this post, to get you started- I encourage you to follow them if you aren't already and check out their resources:

Czarina Jimenez (LittleUpbeatClass)

Darlene Machacon (TheDarlingMusicTeacher)

Alice Tsui (MusicWithMissAlice)

Melissa Stouffer (MrsSMusicRoom)

Jane Lee (SillyOMusic)

AJ Rafael (especially this song, "Our Friend Larry Itliong")

Joe Kye

I hope this helps steer you in the right direction as you work to recognize AAPI culture and people in your elementary music class in the month of May and beyond! If you know of other AAPI people that should be amplified, please add to my list in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Elementary Music Classroom Tour: April 2021

I never thought I would be sharing my classroom setup in April, but here we are! After spending the entire school year on a cart, I am back in my classroom and I couldn't be happier. We still have a lot of mitigation protocols in place and we still have distance learners joining classes live on zoom, but being in one place, in my own space, makes a huge difference! If you're interested in seeing how I've set up my room for this situation, here's a quick tour.

I know many schools are operating with different protocols, so here's what I'm working with:

  • everyone is masked at all times (except to eat and for mask breaks)
  • with masks on, students should be at least 3 feet apart
  • singing will now be allowed for short periods, with masks, at least 6 feet apart
  • no shared supplies
Because students have the option to either be in person full time or distance learning full time, my class sizes vary anywhere from 24 in person to 5 in person! So I need the ability to teach a lot of different groups with one set up. I was only given a couple of hours before spring break to set up my classroom, since it was being used by a 4th grade cohort, so I haven't been able to do as much work making it look nice as I would in a typical year, but I've spent a lot of time thinking through the logistics and I'm happy with the set up I have. So here's what my classroom looks like now:


If you have any questions please let me know in the comments and I'll get back to you as soon as I can! If you want to see how I set up the cart I've been using so far this school year, I shared that in this post. For more posts related to pandemic music teaching, from distance lesson plans to tech tips and everything in between, head to this page: