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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: music lesson for "Bear Snores On"

I have been using this wonderful book by Karma Wilson with my kindergarten and first grade students for almost a decade now and it is still one of my favorites! This is a great lesson for introducing and exploring the concepts of timbre / tone color, sound sources, instruments (and their names), sound effects, and communicating meaning and emotion through music / sound.

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First of all, the book itself is wonderful. If you aren't familiar with it, please go check it out. Karma Wilson and Jane Chapman have also done several other books featuring the Bear as the main character (like "Bear Stays Up" and "Bear Feels Sick", plus many more), so I've had homeroom teachers use some of the other books for read-aloud's in their class after the students did the lesson with me. You can get the book on Amazon here:

The story includes many different interesting sounds that are easy for younger students to identify, so this is a great way to introduce students to the idea of sound effects or soundscapes. In my lesson, I start off by reading the book and ask students to find the one sound that is repeated over and over. Usually they know what it is before I even read it (it's in the title and all!), and they say the repeated line, "but the bear snores on" with me throughout the story. Once we've read the story, I ask the students to remember other sounds they heard in the story. Then we go through each page of the book and identify all the sounds we can find. I put a sticky note next to each one they choose. Since I am usually doing this with multiple classes in a grade level at the same time, I use different colored sticky notes for each class. When I'm having them identify the sounds, I don't show them the page so they aren't swayed by the other class' opinions. It's always interesting to see what the students pick- some pick more abstract items like the sun peeking up, while others stick strictly to sounds that are identified in words in the story.

Before the next class period, I write down the names of students on each sticky note (I usually just do a simple rotation through all of the names by seating chart). The whole class does the sound of the bear snoring together (which helps keep students engaged in between turns). In the second lesson, I have each student choose how they will make each of their sounds. If I know they have a good understanding of timbre and sound sources, I tell them they have to use one of each different sound source category (instruments, voice, body percussion, found sound/object). I make a small note to myself of what they choose on the same sticky notes (like "clap", "pencil on floor", or "guiro"). 

The next class period we make a video recording of our story. I read the story out loud and the students add their sound effects when I get to each of their parts. Bonus concept: when they do the snoring sound together, I have them keep snoring while my hand is open, then I do the circular conducting motion and close my hand to have them stop. 

The students love putting their story together, and I have consistently gotten positive and enthusiastic feedback from parents, homeroom teachers, and librarians too! Have you ever used this book in your music classroom? I would love to hear your ideas in the comments.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Mommy Monday: displaying children's artwork

I've seen tons of cute ideas for displaying children's artwork at home. My favorite ideas are ones that are easily changed out and hold lots of pictures at once. I actually went to the store to recreate an elaborate display system involving various empty spray-painted picture frames and clothespins, but saw these near the checkout line and quickly abandoned my cart for them!

They're just giant clothespins, and I stuck them on the wall with some command strips. I love them because they are colorful and cute, but extremely functional. If the girls have a new picture they want to display, I add it to one of the clips. Every few months I go through and weed out the not-so-significant ones and keep the others in the pins. Eventually I will probably need to find a storage system for the really old keepsakes... But for now it's fun to flip through every now and then!

I got the clothespins at Michael's last year, and I think they were $1-2 each. I couldn't find them online anywhere but I did find these, which look similar (although you'd have to paint them yourself to get different colors). I know I have seen other large clothespins floating around though, so if you see some you may want to snatch up a few...

Twinkly Tuesday

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: powerpoint basics to customize printables

If you have been downloading teacher files from TeachersPayTeachers or other websites, you may have noticed that more and more of them, even if they are worksheets or printables, are PowerPoint files. When I first started buying files on TpT I thought it was weird- why not just make it a PDF or Word file- it's not something I'm going to be showing in a slideshow presentation! But after spending some time in the world of digital file creation I have learned the wonders of PowerPoint and why they are the perfect way to give teachers as much flexibility as possible in editing and personalizing the file while still using great graphics (and keeping them secure to follow copyright laws)!

The perfect example is my new line of Music Teacher Entire Life Planners. Last year I made all my planners in PDF form only, but this year I have included PowerPoint versions as well. Why? Because with the PowerPoint version, you can add and remove pages, change the order, add text or pictures, and combine documents very easily with software that most people already have on their computers! I've put together a quick video with some examples of the many ways you can customize and edit files in PowerPoint, using one of my Entire Life Planner files as an example. (Don't be scared- these are easy to follow for even the computer-challenged!)

I hope you learned a new trick or two from this video! There are so many ways you can customize printables, worksheets, and other documents for your classroom in PowerPoint.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Mommy Monday: toddler-proofing kitchen drawers without locking them

Child-proofing is an annoying but necessary element of every house with small children. We all want to make sure our kids can't access things that are dangerous, but by making it harder for them to access, we inevitably make it harder for ourselves as well! Nowhere is this more apparent than in the kitchen. Cabinets, drawers, refrigerators and more all have danger lurking inside. While I have child-proofing on most of the kitchen cabinets, I didn't find anything for drawers that wasn't a) super expensive and/or b) made it so unwieldy for me to open that I got frustrated. So I resigned myself to putting only kid-friendly items, like napkins and straws, in most of the drawers (I don't have that many in my kitchen anyway). But I just couldn't find any other good way to store some of my smaller, awkwardly-shaped kitchen utensils, and some of them were too sharp for me to leave out within the girls' reach. So here's my solution: drawer organizers!

It didn't occur to me, until I bought some drawer organizers for my utensils at the dollar store and put them in my drawer, that the bins naturally blocked the back of the drawer. Normally you could put in another row of bins and fill up the drawer, but I realized that I could keep stuff behind them to both keep them out of my girls' reach and keep them easy to access. Here is what it looks like when I pull the drawer organizers forward:

You can see that I have enough space to reach back and pull things out without having to take the bins out of the drawer. It's nothing earth-shattering but I love the system! I am able to keep all of these things behind the bins without over-crowding the drawer:

Do you keep things behind drawer organizers to keep them out of your children's reach? Like all child-proofing, if they really wanted to and worked at it long enough, the girls could probably get something out, but I'm comforted knowing that it would take them a LONG time to do it!

Twinkly Tuesday

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: small goals for June

For today's Teacher Tuesday I'm linking up with my good friend Jennifer from The Yellow Brick Road. She had a great idea to share some small goals for the month of June, and it fits in well with what I was planning to share with you anyway- perfect time for a linkup! Click on the picture to see the goals that other music teachers have shared and get inspired!

OK, so keep in mind that the point of this post is to share small goals for things I want to accomplish this month, and the month is already half over...

Seriously. I have one more week of school left, and I'm not trying to be funny when I say my goal is to survive. We have had major behavior challenges this school year and all of the teachers, staff, and students are exhausted. We have worked hard to make changes, and I have some big ideas for ways to improve things for our building next year, but with summer vacation approaching everyone is a little crazy right now. If I can keep everyone unharmed, and maybe even relatively happy, I will feel I have achieved something great.

Maybe this is getting a little personal but there, I said it. June 21st is father's day, and that is not an easy day to celebrate as a single mom- it's easy for me to focus on everything I feel the girls are missing out on. My own father continues to inspire me more and more, and he has been dealing with a lot of difficult things these last few months with incredible strength and dignity, so my plan to achieve this goal is to focus on him. I love you Daddy!

Ever since I printed and put together my new teacher planner/home management binder for next school year I have been DYING to finish it and fill it out! Some things I have to take from my old planner and transfer it to the new one (like the plastic covers and Arc rings) and the filling out part takes time that I really don't have until the school year is over. Once I'm done though, you can bet this will be one of my first projects! I'll be posting an update once it's all put together (get ready- you're going to be hearing a lot about my planner this summer from this planner addict), but you can see the progress setting it up so far here and a tour of the (mostly unfilled) inside here

Don't forget to go check out all the other linkups for June, and if you'd like to share your own goals for the month, leave a comment! Happy Summer!

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mommy Monday: daily routines for preschoolers

My girls turned 3 in January. My school year ends a week from today and, after summer vacation, the girls will be starting preschool at the end of August. So we have a lot of changes to our routine coming up over the next few months! Last summer I realized very quickly that it was important, for the sake of everyone's sanity, for us to find a balance between relaxing/ being spontaneous and maintaining structure/ schedules during summer vacation. On the one hand, the girls and I all relish the opportunity to stay in our pajamas and lounge around all morning, but too much boredom and lack of structure can quickly lead to acting out at this age as well!

Last week I shared my plan for this summer to keep me motivated to get us out and having fun, while also allowing for enough down time, with a loose weekly schedule. Today I want to share my plan for maintaining a certain amount of predictable daily routine without taking away the opportunity to lounge around in our PJ's when the mood strikes!

I made a very simple addition to the girls' visual calendar this week to help us with our changing morning and night routines:

I used to have things that I now just consider "morning/night routine" (like brushing teeth, getting dressed etc) as chores on their chore chart:

They have learned to do so much more now, so I'm going to be updating the chore chart with some new magnets next (you can read about what chores my girls are doing these days in this post). I found that, since brushing teeth and getting dressed are not really the major accomplishments that they used to be, the girls and I stopped even moving those magnets on the chore charts. They just do them. So now I just have a visual, which helps them remember what they need to do, but nothing that we "check off" when it's done. I also have found that the girls do better when they decide what order to do things and they feel they are initiating each thing, so I think this way it will make it seem less like something I am forcing them to do and more like a helpful reminder when they need it (which they sometimes still do!). 

I'll be updating you on the changes to the chore chart section soon, but if you're interested in reading more about the girls' visual calendar and original chore chart, click on the picture below:

I am hopeful that this simple visual will help us strike a balance between structured and relaxed, and between independence and support. I'm also hoping that we can keep this system when they start school in the fall and our morning routines change again! If you want to print one off yourself, here is the image I made- you can copy the image directly below or leave me a comment with your email address if you want the PDF version. Enjoy!

Twinkly Tuesday

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: top 5 silly songs to sing with kids

As the end of the school year approaches, one of my favorite activities to incorporate in my lessons is silly songs. Silly songs keep students engaged, motivated, and happy. It just feels good to sing joyfully with friends! Here are my top 5 favorite silly songs that my students consistently love. Click on the title of each one to see and/or hear the song.

1. Pizza Daddy-O 

I usually use this one with 2nd grade, when they are not too self-conscious yet about the boyfriend/girlfriend thing, but self-aware enough that they think it's hilarious. We sing it while jumping, crossing and uncrossing our legs with our hands on our hips, on "Pizza, Pizza, Daddy-O", and doing the appropriate dance moves on the various "Let's ____ it" lines.

2. Bazooka Bubble Gum

I use this one with kindergarten and 1st grade. It's a great way to review the concept of echo songs, and the kids think it's hilarious! 

3. Boom Chicka Boom

I like to use this song with kindergarten to teach echo songs, and then bring it back in the older grades to introduce variations. There are endless versions you can do, depending on your school setting! My kids especially love the cleaning version (I said-a broom, chicka, mop-a, chicka, mop-a, chicka broom!) and the baby version (I said-a poop chicka, waaah chicka waaaah chicka poop!). Again, the motions are what take this song over the top.

4. Baby Shark

This was a new one for me this year. I've used it with 4th grade and up and they all love it! It's fun because it's beach-themed too :) I've changed the ending so that after the lifeguard performs CPR we sing, "catch my breath" (and the doo doo part is said while sharply inhaling), then "never going back" while running away looking terrified!

5. Oh Me, Oh My

This is one of those songs that the kids think is waaaaay funnier than I do. I don't fully understand its power but I just go with it! I use this in kindergarten but I bring it back in 3rd and 4th grade to talk about writing lyrics and variations. This is another great song to add new verses to. I've had students come up with things like, "you don't need a cucumber to make a sandwich", and "you don't need a violin to dance dubstep". It's an easy way for kids to get creative and they love coming up with their own "jokes"!

I could go on for days, but those are some of my students' favorite silly songs. What are yours?

Monday, June 8, 2015

Mommy Monday: summer schedules with preschoolers

With summer slowly approaching (yes, I have over 2 weeks left of teaching.... the end is near though!), I've started thinking about my plans for summer break. It's easy with a long vacation like this to just sit around and do, well, nothing sometimes. And while there is definitely a time and place for that, I also have a lot of things that I want to do some fun things that I can't do with my kids during the school year! With preschoolers (and especially one of my two), it's helpful to have some semblance of routine and predictability. So this summer, I'm making a very loose schedule for my family to help everyone stay relaxed but kick my butt into gear to go have some fun too!

I say loose because, while I do want to create some predictability and routine for my girls, I also want to allow for unexpected whims and opportunities. Summer is ideal for that! The beauty of having a schedule is it gives us a starting place- something to look forward to, something to expect, something to help keep our lives balanced (not too hectic but not too lazy)- and know that the rules are there for the breaking! Our schedule is somewhat constrained by the fact that the girls will spend Tuesdays and Thursdays (and some weekend time) with their dad, so I picked things that we could still do together on those days without taking up a lot of time. Here's what I've come up with for this year:

Sundays are already a bit crowded with some dad time and church time already, but the girls and I love to eat out and there are so many restaurants I have been wanting to try, so that is our goal for Sunday. I tried to build in some low-key days- Mondays I'm hoping we can run errands around town, especially going to the library and the grocery store (my girls' favorite places to visit!). On Tuesday they are gone most of the day so I'm thinking we will make a special breakfast together- the girls love cooking and they love meals like pancakes, french toast, and breakfast burritos where they can "build their own" food on their plates :) One of the main things I look forward to in the summer time is spending time with friends that we don't get to see much during the school year because our schedule is so busy. I'm going to start talking to my friends this week and try to plan some outings and play dates for Wednesdays (and Saturdays when the girls are around)! Thursdays the girls will be gone again but I am hoping to do some kind of low-key craft or musical activity with them in the evening before bed. I'm going to try to plan some sort of outing on Fridays- the beach, the zoo, a special park, museum, fruit picking, and farms are all places on my bucket list this year. We'll see how much we can fit in!

That gives us some structure for the week as a whole, but what about the daily routine? Well, for one thing, you can check out my post about the visual calendar I have for the girls here, but for more on the specifics for this summer, tune in next week for part 2!! :)

If you were one of my first 300 followers on TeachersPayTeachers, make sure you have checked your TpT inbox and downloaded your freebie- it will only be available this week and then it's gone! If you missed it this time, make sure you go follow me so you don't miss any more freebies, and you can get the file for just $1 right here (I'm using it already- I'm kindof in love with the summer colors!): 

I'm linked up:

Twinkly Tuesday

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Teacher Tuesday: my cleaning to-do's for the end of the school year

So, my last day of classes is coming up in about 3 weeks, so I've started thinking about the things I need to do to get ready for the end of the school year. If you missed it, I shared my favorite lesson plans for the end of the year a couple of weeks ago. Today I want to share my top cleaning tasks that I need to complete before the end of the year.

1. Tackle the Closet Monster

OK folks, this is real life right here. That is the actual inside of my closet. I don't know how this happened. After coming in new last school year I spent an enormous amount of time throwing out old stuff, clearing shelves, and organizing new things in my closet. At the beginning of the year you could actually see stuff in there. And now, this. *sigh* After almost a decade of teaching I still haven't found the secret to keeping a closet organized all year. So my number one task is to do it all again- go through everything, throw away old stuff, and reorganize so I can see things again! I am going to start the process now, going through stuff in stages whenever I have time, but realistically I will probably have to finish it over the summer.

2. Exterminate the Dust Bunnies

Can you see the dust on that shelf? I did my best to get a good picture but of course dust bunnies are a bit camera shy. No matter if you can tell in the picture or not, the point is that my room is dusty. Very dusty. The shelves, the speakers, the tables, and even some of the instruments are just covered in the nasty stuff. So task number two is to clean it all up! I will most likely be getting some of the students from the last class I see on the last day of school to help me take care of this one.

3. Conquer the Paper Mountain

I'm actually not in as bad of shape as I thought I might be in this area, but I definitely have a lot of piles of paper in my room- on my desk, under tables, in my paper sorter. It's crazy. Before the end of the year I need to go through and pass back all of the student papers I have forgotten to give back, file away important documents that are sitting around waiting for a home, and throw away the rest. This is another project that I can work on in stages these last few weeks, but hopefully I will get it done before summer vacation!

What's on your to-do list for the end of the year?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Mommy Monday: a mirror for the shorties

I made a small update to our bathroom this week and it has made my 3-year-old girls so happy! It took me about 30 seconds and cost $1. Presenting: the girls' own bathroom mirror!

Last week I shared my girls' current set of chores, which includes personal grooming like washing hands, brushing teeth, and combing hair. I usually do those things right along with them, and I realized that they often saw me looking at myself in the mirror while fixing my hair, for example, and wanted me to hold them up so they could see themselves in the mirror. You can see my mirrored cabinets above the sink in the photo- it is way too high for the girls to see, even with their step stools and lots and lots of stretching! It took me a few weeks but it eventually hit me that they would enjoy having their own mirror so they can see themselves in the bathroom like I do. Duh, but it's amazing how often I fail to see the world from their perspective!

Anyway, I already had a dollar store mirror on hand (I had planned to use it for another project long ago- it didn't work out...), so I pulled it out to try to figure out how to mount it in the bathroom. In my case, I have a little ledge where the mirror can rest perfectly, but if I didn't have that I would just use some command strips made for the bathroom (trust me, you can't use regular command hooks/strips in the bathroom- I've tried multiple times. sigh.).

And there you have it! My girls absolutely LOVE being able to see themselves without help, just like Mommy. And I love watching them grin every time they catch a glimpse of their reflections- too cute!