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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: Behavior management (part 3) and Color-coding (part 2)

If you haven't yet, I would suggest catching up on the previous posts that relate to this one before digging in here. Click the picture below to see all the posts on behavior management:

Click here to see my post on the new color-coding system I am using for seating and supplies:

And click here to see my 2014 classroom tour:

OK, so on with the show. Today I am so so excited to show you the magnet board that I finally finished last week:

If you saw my classroom setup post (which you all have, since I know you all follow directions carefully!?!), you saw an almost-completed version of this board, which is hanging next to the front door of my classroom. The reason I wanted to make sure you read the posts on both behavior management AND color-coding is because this board covers BOTH of those things!! It is an oil drip pan from the auto department at Walmart, hung with some command strips (the same thing I did for my kids' calendar). Let's go through the two main functions of the board:

Color Coding

I made squares of each color I have for the student chairs and supplies (yes, using the same rolls of duct tape) to assign groups for music centers, classroom jobs (such as fixing chairs or putting away supplies), and tracking points in school-wide contests I am planning to run. I will also have magnets with pictures of a few of my "special" instruments of which I only have one- my bass xylophone, gong, slapstick etc- to indicate that someone from that group has first dibs on that instrument when they are choosing something, so that I can be sure to spread the love around the class throughout the year. It will not only help me to keep track of these things but will also help the students to answer some of their own questions (although I'm sure they will still ask anyway...) and remind students who can't keep an organized thought in their brain for more than 60 seconds. 

Behavior Management

Where my board is now hanging, I used to have this:

I have been using a sticker chart every year until now. Each class had a row of stickers to earn and they got to choose their favorite music activities when they finished a row. It has been great to me over the years, but it's time to move on. I looked at a lot of music classrooms using clip charts, with a clip for each class that can go up or down, including some really cute ones that go up a keyboard or guitar. I loved the idea of using an instrument like that, but the more I thought about it I really did NOT like the idea of a clip chart. Too many maintenance issues. After writing my post about my kids' calendar/chore chart, I realized that I could use the magnet board idea in my classroom too- and this is the result.

This entire board is actually pieced together from scraps. The duct tape I already had for all my other color-coding, the letters (which have magnet dots on the back in case I decide to put something else there later) are leftovers from the pre-made cutouts I bought to make the behavior management posters and MUSIC letters, and the keyboards are made from extra white contact paper and black painter's tape which I used to make my DIY interactive whiteboard. 

I made little magnets with the name of each class on it. I had to make them small so they would all fit on one key, but they will quickly get spread out as they move up at different speeds so it won't look so crowded. Right now they are all on the bottom black key (all the K-3 classes are on the bottom keyboard and 4-6 is on the top). Instead of earning stickers to fill a row, they will work their way to the top black key. Once they earn that first incentive, they have to start back at the bottom but this time on the white keys (so it will take a little bit longer). The third step will be to go up all the black and white keys by half steps. I LOVE the idea that they earn the first incentive more quickly, but then they have to up the ante each time! By my calculations it should take most classes about half a year to go through those 3 steps, and then they can start over on just black keys.

I am still waffling about the incentive when they complete a set of keys. In the past I let them vote on their favorite music-related activities and we did them together (usually a music talent show, game like freeze dance, free instrument choice, or a favorite game/song from class). I am considering making some or all of the "reward days" into center options so that a variety of students can pick things they want instead of having to endure what the majority wants after working so hard. My issue is I really like the idea of talent shows and full-class games. So my current thought is make the first two (for just black or white keys) centers and make the 3rd (for the whole keyboard) a full-class one.... Thoughts??? Please leave a comment here or head on over to my Facebook page. I'd really like your input! Let me know what you think of my new board too. Improvement? I definitely think so :)

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mommy Monday: command center

For this edition of Mommy Monday, I'm going to be sharing the heart of my organizing and planning at home: my command center. It hangs on the main wall in my kitchen, where I can easily reference it whenever I need.

There are 4 components, and 2 are Pinterest- inspired. Let me show you each of them separately so I can explain:

Weekly Dry Erase Planner

I've seen different versions floating around Pinterest, but I originally got the idea from this post. Basically it is a collage frame, scrapbook paper, letter stickers, a pen holder (the same one I use for my laundry), and a dry erase marker. Use the little pieces of paper with cute puppy dogs and happy, color-coordinated families frolicking in the meadow as your template and just cut out the pieces of paper to fit each frame.

I use this for everything- meetings, kids' schedules, appointments, friends I want to call... I also use the top space labeled "this week" to write down to-do's. I also write the date next to the day of the week so I can easily see it when I need to. This has been a great way to put just the things from this week that I have in my planner up where I can glance at it whenever I need to remember whether or not we are free for a playdate on Saturday, or when I could go see the doctor. 

Menu Planner

This is the other Pinterest-inspired portion of my command center. I got the idea from this post. When I was getting ready to go back to work, I knew I needed to get serious about menu planning, so I started thinking about and looking online for ideas to organize my menu planning. I looked into online planning programs, apps for my phone, menu planning pages for a planner, and lots and lots of menu planning boards. Just search it on Pinterest and you'll see what I mean- there are A LOT of ideas out there! But I am convinced that this is by far the best one. 

Let me explain how it works: the clothespins are labeled with each day of the week. The cards have my main recipes that I tend to rotate through, as well as cards that say "leftovers", and "out". On the front of the card is the name of the dish, and the back lists the ingredients (so I can easily make my grocery list for the week). The top box has the recipe cards I haven't used yet, and after I make something, I put it in the bottom box. When the top box gets low I move everything back up. I love this system because I can visually plan out my meals for the week, keep track of what I have made recently, plan one week at a time, keep track of my shopping list, and easily make changes if something comes up. If you want to know how to make it, go check out the original link I posted. That blogger is a genius, I tell you.

Cleaning Schedule

This is where I keep track of my cleaning. If you've seen the cleaning pages in my planner (which has my monthly and seasonal cleaning items), you know that I have pretty low expectations for myself. I freely admit that I have never been a good cleaner- just ask my mother, or even my college roommates. With my busy schedule, I have found that having a "bare minimum" checklist and then adding things as needed has been the most workable solution for me. So my schedule is (and I don't know why the writing is so hard to read in the picture...sorry) bathroom on Sunday, laundry on Tuesday and Saturday, and vacuuming on Thursday. The schedule is based on when my girls are visiting their dad, and when they take their long bath (Sunday, duh!). Nothing more than that. I use the dry erase marker to check those things off through the week, and I add in things to the other days when I see that something else needs to get done (like the dish drain). And yes, in case you didn't notice, the papers for each day match the weekly planning board (and my kids' calendar).

Bulletin Board

This is probably the least glamorous but still an important part of my command center. I have some cards where I keep tried-and-true menu ideas for snacks, lunch, and breakfast (since the menu planner is just for dinners) for those times when I just don't have the brain power to come up with anything and the kids are starting to beg. I also keep papers I want to be able to reference- during the school year I keep a copy of the meeting schedule so I know which type of meeting I will be attending that week, and this summer I had a schedule of free family events in our area. Sometimes if I get a piece of mail that I don't want to forget I'll put it there to remind me.

I don't want to get all sappy on you here, but this command center is way more than a logistical tool for me. It reduces my anxiety because if I ever start to feel like my life is spiraling out of control, I take a quick look at that wall and remember that I actually do know what I'm doing. It has also started a wonderful ritual for me. Each Saturday night I erase/take down the previous week's notes and get the next week set up. Thinking through the entire week, from appointments to work events and social gatherings to cooking and cleaning, makes me so much more relaxed on Sunday. I used to wake up with a bit of sadness on Sundays, because Sunday meant that the weekend was almost over and I had to frantically sort my life out again. Now I wake up knowing that I have already thought through and prepared for my responsibilities that week, and I can relax and enjoy the day. 

Well I think that about covers it! How do you keep everything organized at home? Do you have a command center? Leave me a comment- I always love hearing your thoughts and ideas! :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Much, much exciting news!

If you haven't heard already, there's a sale going on on TeachersPayTeachers again tomorrow:

If you haven't yet, this is a great time to get organized for the new school year. Head over to this post to see the details of all the different planners, binders, organizers, and other printables I have in my store. I even added a new product to the store today that I am sooo excited about (did you hear? no? then you should click on the green star in my store to "follow me" so that you will be in the know next time!):

There are 3 different worksheets to help you think through your priorities and make concrete goals for yourself. I have included some filled-in examples in the thumbnails so go ahead, click on the picture to go see it and tell me what you think! I know with the added commitments of blogging and maintaining my TpT store, it was really helpful for me to fill it out and commit to spending time on the things that matter most.

As if that wasn't enough, several music teachers on TpT are having a fund-raiser of sorts tomorrow as well. One of our fellow music teachers has had some difficult circumstances thrown her way recently and we want to help by donating some of the proceeds from one of our products to her and her family. Since the teacher is another TpT seller, I thought it would be fitting to donate my teacher-entrepreneur bundle for the cause:

Thanks to Jena at SewMuchMusic for putting the graphic together!

Several music teachers will be donating a portion of their proceeds from one of their products as well. Type "teachershelpingteachers" into the search box on TeachersPayTeachers (Wednesday 8/19, the day of the sale ONLY!) to see all of the products. Or just click on my handy-dandy link right here to go straight to the search I already did for you (see how nice I am?!?).

OK, and onto my wishlist! I have quite a few things I am eyeing this time around, since I go back to work on Monday. Have you seen this huge bundle of music centers from Tracy King? I am going to be doing centers in my classroom for the first time this year, so I am definitely eyeing this awesome resource!

Music Workstations MEGA Bundle

I am also want to incorporate a Native American unit with my Kindergarten classes this year, since I found out that they focus on the United States when we have our school-wide multi-cultural celebration in the spring. I think this lesson from Lindsay Jervis will be perfect:

Ho Ho Watanay: A Native American Lullaby for practicing lo

I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle at Mrs. Miracle's Music Room so go check out what all the other fabulous music teachers are shopping for! 

What's on your wishlist for the sale?!? Time to face reality and get organized for the start of school!!!

Teacher Tuesday: teacher music stand organization

For this Teacher Tuesday I'm showing you my music stand that I keep at the front of the room when I'm teaching. It is my command center during the day- I really only touch my desk before and after school. Maybe during lunch if I'm lucky. I try to keep it uncluttered and sorted so I can grab what I need without missing a beat during class.

On the stand itself I have three things that are always there: a magnetic clock/stopwatch/timer, my class schedule, and a clipboard with all my seating charts on it. I got the clock in the kitchen section because my wall clock is not where I can see it when I am teaching most of the time. It has come in handy as a timer and stopwatch too though, and it's easier to see at a glance than a wall clock anyway! I made a condensed version of my class schedule with the start and end times, laminated it, and put little magnet dots on the back so I could reference that whenever I need to. I find that I sometimes get lost in the lesson and can't remember when I'm going to need to stop! The clock and the schedule help me stay on track throughout the day.

On my clipboard I have my seating charts for each class. At the beginning of each day I get out the ones I will be using that day and put them in order, so that as I teach a class I can put it at the back and have the next one ready to go. I write down EVERYTHING on the seating charts. Besides the obvious seating assignments, I also have space to jot down grades for informal assessments, part assignments (if I want them to continue working on the same part of a song next class), who has played those instruments everyone wants (like the bass xylophone), notes about the class as a whole, behavior notes tracking (more on that another day...), and anything else I want to remember about a student or class. By the end of each trimester those things are chock-full and pretty worn down, but it is the best system for me for sure! I don't like to have to stop class for even a second to pull out a grade-book, list, or other chart. And I don't want to have to go looking for something when I need information in the middle of class unexpectedly. It's also handy for parent conferences, because it's easy for me to find everything I need about a particular student to talk to parents. Plus I'm more likely to remember where Johnny in Ms. Smith's 2nd grade class sits than what Johnny's last name is- so it's better to have that information by seating rather than alphabetically. **You can download the seating chart I use for free here or get a set of seating charts in several class sizes and configurations here!**

Then we have the make-shift organizer that hangs down from the stand. It's actually one of those cheap aprons from Home Depot. I had seen people using them on the backs of student chairs to hold books and supplies, and bought one to see if they would work in my room. Although I decided against using them for the student chairs, it was a perfect solution for my music stand! Ever have your projector remote sitting on the stand, pick up the clipboard and set it back down on top of the remote, and then spend 10 minutes trying to find the remote? Maybe that's just me... In any case this really helped with that problem! Now all the other bits and pieces I used to keep on the music stand are in one of the two pockets of the apron.

On the left, we have my projector remote and infared pen (for my DIY interactive whiteboard). I use both of them frequently during class but they are constantly either getting lost behind my clipboard or falling off the stand. Now they have their own space where they don't bother anyone :)

I keep all of my behavior management-related things on the right side. I wrote about my letter system in this post on behavior management. The extra letters (for if they earn letters beyond the original word) are in this pocket. I also have my behavior slips and happy notes and a pencil for students to use to fill it out during class if needed.

It's very poorly-made, but I had some leftover fabric from another project that was just the right size, so I hot-glued it over the front to cover the Home Depot logo (and make it look a little less apron-y). Someday I may go back and spray paint it or something, but for now it's functional and cute enough to not bother me too much when I use it :)

Do you keep a music stand at the front of the room? What things do you have on it and how do you organize all of your stuff? Leave a comment below or come join the conversation on facebook by clicking on the link in the header!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Mommy Monday: girls' hair elastics organization

Welcome back to Mommy Monday! Today I'm going to show you how I organize all those little hair elastics that I use for my girls' ponytails. But before I show you what I do, I should explain one thing- I am a big believer in giving toddlers as much agency in their own lives as possible. There are so many things in which they do not have a say- when they eat and sleep, when their parents go to work and when they stay home with them, when we run out of milk and now we can't have cereal for breakfast.... you get the idea. When they really start learning to do things for themselves and develop their sense of identity as an individual, it helps a lot to let them make choices for themselves when we can.

So, all that to say, since they were a little under 2 years old I have been asking them to pick what color hair elastic they want that day (when I do put their hair up). I had gotten this set of hair ties before they were even one I think (one of my girls has always had a lot of hair!):

Basically there are 3 sizes, with yellow, pink, blue, purple, green, and red colors in each size. The nice thing about this set is that is lasts a long time. When they were tiny I used the smallest size, and as their hair grew in more I have moved up to the medium ones. So I have at least only ever tried to keep up with one size at a time- the rest I keep in the back of the bathroom cabinet with other extra toiletries. But as you can imagine, these things are pretty small. And they get tangled up with each other pretty easily. Even detail-oriented me got a little crazy trying to pull out the ones I wanted.

Then I was at the dollar store for something else and saw this in the checkout lane:

It's a medicine pill box. Even though it had orange instead of pink I knew it was what I needed! So now I have this:

With the pinks in the red compartment and the reds in the orange one, they look like they are made for each other! This thing has made my life so much easier. And when I switched to the medium size elastics, I stuffed the rest of the tiny ones in the top (in case I ever decide to do some kind of fancy hairdo that would require the use of several smaller ponytails- hey a girl can dream...). Color coded, organized, and simplified: that's the stuff that makes my heart happy! :)

Friday, August 15, 2014

Simple Stuff: duct tape!

Today I'm linking up with Yellow Brick Road's linky party to talk about a simple item that I use in my classroom. Don't forget to checkout the other entries in the party and check out her blog while you're there- she's got some great stuff!

So if you have been following me much at all it will come as no surprise to you that I am talking about duct tape! I have duct tape all over my classroom at this point. It's kindof ridiculous.

Because my room is carpeted, I can't use floor tape to mark lines on the floor, and although I tried the velcro idea one time I found that the students picked at them all the time and it was more distracting than helpful. But with duct tape, I'm able to get it down on the floor and for the most part, it stays all year! I know the custodians hate me for it but they did an awesome job cleaning it all up this past summer. Just so I could put more down again. Mwahaha... (Shout out to Joe and John. I'm truly sorry.)

The beauty of duct tape is that is comes in so many colors and patterns, and it is readily available for a relatively cheap price. Quick tip: don't buy the same color in multiple sizes just because you want some skinny pieces and some fat pieces. Just cut/tear the tape vertically. You will save so much money that way and it's really not hard to do.

If you haven't seen my post explaining how I use duct tape to color-code my seating, circle spots, and supplies, go check out this post:

I also shared some more ways I am using duct tape in my post in my classroom setup, including my incentive chart:

And my line guide, to show students where to line up at the end of class:

Click on the image below to see my entire post on my classroom setup for 2014-2015:

The possibilities are almost endless!

Have you used duct tape in your classroom? How? I'd love to hear more ideas! Leave me a comment! :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: my classroom set-up 2014!

I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room for today's post- click on the picture below to go to her post and see all the awesome music rooms in the linky party (they are incredible!).


My classroom is definitely still a work-in-progress, so I will update this post when things change. But I just couldn't wait any longer to share my set-up this year- I'm so excited! Here is the view of my room as you first enter the door:

So yeah, my room is pretty big. I'm pretty sure I gasped out loud when I first saw it. I LOVE having enough space for movement without moving chairs out of the way all the time! So let's take a quick trip around the room, starting on the left hand side of the picture and going clockwise. 

First we have my dinosaur display (aka computer table) and behavior management posters:

The computers were here when I started last year, and I fiddled with trying to use them a bit last year, but they are SUPER slow and outdated (so I can't use any of my software with them). I'm getting 1 or 2 iPads this year (yay!) so I may gradually replace those computers with iPad stations. 

The two posters are from the district-wide emotional literacy program- one about taking time to think about your behavior, and one for charting your mood. I honestly don't use the "mood" one very much because my classes are too short to talk about everyone's mood each time, but I use the "thinking" one a LOT (more on that later) and they are both a good reference for the students since they discuss them extensively in their homerooms and other classes. 

The giant magnet board is my big project this year- it is replacing my sticker chart as my behavior management chart this year. I am resisting the urge to go into great detail about it because if I do this post will never end, but I will write a separate post on it later. You can probably guess where I'm going with it though ;)

Moving along that wall, we come to my teacher desk:

On the left are my objectives. I have a dollar store frame with colored paper for each grade, and a dry erase marker. That space is hopefully getting an upgrade soon with a new "title sign"- we'll see. My teacher desk has my "teacher toolkit" organizer and a tray for any papers from each grade level. Next to my desk is my piano, which helps hide my teacher area from the main seating area we use ;)

So now we've come to the front board on the far side of the room:

I have my solfege ladder, then my MUSIC letters (see this post for the explanation) with my class charter underneath, my DIY interactive whiteboard with my three class rules posted above (see this post), and then a couple of "music quote" posters next to that. 

As we turn the corner you'll see my windows:

I have a minion poster with the quote, "Don't judge me. I was born to be awesome not perfect" that I created after I saw a similar idea somewhere. Under that is a small table where I keep my teacher laptop and stereo speakers. I run most of my tracks through my computer and my projector connects to my laptop as well. Above the windows I have the sign language alphabet. I like to incorporate sign language into singing as much as I can. In the middle are these awesome anchor charts from Sara Bibee. They are seriously the best ones I've seen and the students LOVE them.

Going around the corner, I have my instrument family wall behind the student chairs:

I have extra chairs and stands stacked along that wall as well because the band rehearses in my room once a week as well. 

Next we have the giant-and-awkward-blue-chalkboard-wall:

I have a plan for this wall, I promise, but for now I have my rolling whiteboard and giant stereo system (which I mostly kept for when I have a sub) sitting in front of it. I also have my recorder karate area (with these fingering charts from Marti Chandler) on the left and a music history timeline above it. 

Next to that is my closet. No, I am not under any circumstances going to show you the inside, but here is the outside, where I am storing my boomwhackers:

I got the idea to stick them on the doors with velcro from this post by Yellow Brick Road. Just to the left of the closet is a small desk with a "rest" sign above it. This is where students go, either by choice or at my request, to think about their behavior and try to make better choices. It has been a very helpful tool and it also fits right in with our district's emotional literacy curriculum.

When you turn the corner, you come to the most awesome part of my room. Behold, my Wall of Shelves:

These are obviously still a work in progress too, but my-oh-my aren't they wonderful? I have manipulatives, writing supplies, mallets, and extra xylophone bars on the far left. In the middle are the Orff instruments, then the drums, then on the far right are all the other unpitched percussion instruments. I try to keep the most commonly-used items near the bottom. The goal is always for students to be able to get things out and put things back by themselves. 

That white line on the floor is actually minion duct tape (squeee!!). I got it to go with my minion poster, and put it down on the floor leading to the front door to provide a guide for where students should line up at the end of class:

It's not the most aesthetically pleasing part of the room, but I like the idea that they are the minions- awesome, not perfect- and it's a lot easier than constantly trying to tell them to move away from the shelves when they line up. 

So now we've come full-circle! Here's a picture of the room from the far side, looking towards the front door where we started:

Did you see the different colored tape on the floor in front of each row of chairs? If you missed my post on my new color-coding system for seating, go check it out here:

And there you have it! Don't forget to go check out the other music classrooms in Mrs. Miracle's linky party, and check back for updates on my classroom. School starts in 2 weeks so it's time to kick it into high gear!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Mommy Monday: reusable pouches

So you know those pouches? Yeah you do. Those super-overpriced-but-somehow-I-keep-buying-them ones.


It's amazing how the combination of  organic produce and convenient packaging can lure us in... am I right? While I am pretty certain that all parents with children under the age of 3 have heard of these pouches, you may or may not have heard about the reusable ones. There are quite a few options out there, but this is the one I have:

Basically the bottom of the pouch is like a ziploc bag so you can fill it up with whatever you want! When I first bought these almost 2 years ago I had high aspirations of creating smoothie concoctions equally delicious and healthy to the store-bought ones. In reality, I mostly fill them with yogurt or apple sauce straight out of the giant container. BUT they are still really awesome. It's another way to save money and save the planet by using less packaging! (Also as a sidenote: they came in really handy when one of my girls needed to take powdered medicine for a while- mixed it with applesauce, put it in the pouch, and she chugged it!)

My main problem? Keeping up with all the pouches and caps. At first I was just throwing them in one of the kitchen cabinets, but it's really hard to get what you need because the pouches are flat and floppy, and the little caps have a way of disappearing.

My solution: a jewelry organizer.

I have the pouches in the two side-by-side compartments in the back, and all my caps in the drawer. It works perfectly! Since the pouches stand upright I can find what I need and pull it out quickly, and the caps all stay contained in their little drawer. And if I am being super-mom and making a bunch ahead of time, I can pull out the whole thing and set it on the counter so I can fill and go.

Have you used reusable pouches? Where do you keep them?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Teacher Tuesday: behavior management (part 2)

If you missed part 1 of my behavior management posts, click the picture below:

Part 1 was focused on the letter system shown above, which I implemented in the middle of the year last year. The criteria for losing or earning letters, however, is based in my class rules, which I have had since my first year of teaching and remain the same:

They are posted at the front of the room, right above my board. I love these rules because they are simple, easy to remember, and pretty much all-encompassing. Let's briefly go through each of them, shall we? :)

Respect Others

This one is not uncommon in classrooms- respect your teacher, your classmate, and any other person we come across. When we go through the rules at the beginning of the year, we discuss some specific examples of this for the music classroom, including listening carefully when others are speaking or performing, listening to the teacher, raising your hand in a class discussion, involving all members in small group activities etc. I also talk, especially with the older students, about respecting other people even when they aren't physically there- speaking kindly of other people in the building and at home, and being respectful of the composers whose music we hear. Pointing out that a real person created the music that they are listening to makes a difference in helping them understand why they need to listen carefully and try to understand music created by them, even if they are dead :)

Respect Things

This is another fairly common rule- respect the objects we use in our classroom. When we discuss this rule, the first thing to come up is always, of course, the instruments. We talk about making sure to know how to play it correctly before playing, asking permission before using it, walking around instruments on the floor etc. But we also talk about respecting the chairs (we have nice Wenger student musician chairs, which the students like to rock back in or stand on), the whiteboard (I made my own interactive whiteboard, which is what you see on the wall), and the writing supplies (like please don't steal my pencils...). Oh and please try not to use more tissues than you need (Can I get an amen, teachers?!? You know you've got one in every class...).

Respect Yourself

This is the head-scratcher for students who are hearing my rules for the first time, but it quickly becomes their favorite when they see how it plays out. When we talk about this one for the first time, I generally get crickets. And maybe some wise guy who says it means don't slap yourself in the face. Then I explain it to them this way: "OK, so is it nice/respectful if I say to Billy here, 'Billy, you stink! Did you take a shower this morning?' *insert laughter* So what about if I say, '*sigh* I stink! I can't do this!'? I hear that all the time in music class. Do you think it's OK to be mean to yourself, just because something is hard for you? Of course not! We are going to do lots of hard things in music class this year. And just like some people are good at math, some are good at kickball, and some are good at drawing, everyone is good at different things in music class too- some are good at singing, some are good at dancing, and some are good at listening and noticing things in the music. If we are doing something that is harder for you, don't be mean to yourself. Just ask for help and try again! That's why we're here- to learn how to do things you don't yet!". I think it's really important to start off the year talking about working hard and self esteem. And I also think it's really important to cover a wide range of music-making so that all of your students do in fact experience things that are easy and things that are difficult. I think music has a lot to offer in that regard. And students are shocked the first time the class is penalized because one or more of them is not respecting themselves- I think they assume it's just "feel-good fuzzies" stuff and I don't really mean it's a rule of equal importance to the others. It really helps foster a safe and nurturing learning environment when everyone starts taking this rule seriously.

So there you have it: my three class rules. The letter system that I described in part 1 of this series is based on these rules. So they lose letters if they are not following one of the rules (usually after a warning), and I almost always point out which one they are not following. By the same token, when they are all doing all three exceptionally well, they earn a letter. 

What are your class rules? What do you think of the 3 "respect" rules I use? Leave a comment below to share your thoughts.