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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

My Go-To Online Resources for Music Teaching

Tomorrow is the first day of March and that means Music In Our Schools Month! I hope you are able to celebrate and advocate for the importance of music education this month and have tons of fun in the process! I have a few special plans to celebrate with all of you as well, all designed to make the job of music teaching a little less stressful and a little more meaningful (and fun!). Today I'm kicking things off with a list of some of my go-to online resources that I refer to regularly as a music teacher. These are the sites I find myself telling other music teachers about constantly, so if you haven't heard of these before, I know you'll find them useful!

I want to be clear that I am not being paid or otherwise motivated to share any of these sites with you- these are all places that I really and truly use in my teaching and in most cases have been for years! I hope you discover something new to help reinvigorate your teaching and make your life a little easier!

1. Beth's Notes (find songs to address specific concepts)

Beth's Notes is my favorite source for finding material to address specific musical concepts. The site has tons of awesome features, but the ones I go back to again and again are the rhythm and pitch indexes. Whether I'm looking for more sol-mi songs or a new way to teach half notes, those indexes are great resources with tons of material.

2. Mama Lisa (find songs from specific cultures/countries/regions)

If I'm looking for songs from a particular country or region, Mama Lisa is my first stop. The site has tons of material organized by continent, country, language, and more, and all of it is well-researched. Many of the songs include notation, sound recordings, translations, and background information from native sources!

3. Midnight Music (find tons of ideas for music technology)

If I am wondering how to use a particular piece of new technology in my teaching, looking for apps to use as a center, or just wanting to get new ideas for integrating technology in the music classroom, Midnight Music is by far my favorite resource. Besides all of the wonderful articles, podcasts, and other great resources on every topic relating to technology in the music room you could possibly imagine, you'll also find a set of music note image files you can download for free to use in worksheets, posters, or other visuals (much easier than using a font in my opinion)!

4. MusicEd Blogs (keep up on music education blogs in one spot)

I love getting new ideas from my favorite music education blogs- being a blogger myself has only made me a more avid reader of other blogs, and I'm constantly finding new ones! The trouble is I don't have tons of time to check on each individual blog all the time, and I often miss blog posts if they don't show up in my social media feeds. Because of this problem Jennifer (from The Yellow Brick Road) and I created MusicEd Blogs. I know it sounds like I'm plugging my own project, which I am, but I am honestly a frequent user myself and I know how much I love having it! The site gathers all of the latest posts from tons of music education blogs all over the web in one spot so you can quickly look in one place and see the latest posts from all of the blogs. There's also an index with links to all of the blogs, and you can sort by topic to find new blogs you may not have seen yet!

If you haven't yet, you'll want to follow the MusicEd Blogs Community page on Facebook ASAP- we're going to be sharing a different tip for teaching rhythm from tons of amazing music education blogs every day during Music In Our Schools Month! Starting March 1st, you can find all of the tips by searching for #31daysofrhythm

Did you find any new resources on this list? I love all of them dearly and use them ALL THE TIME so I hope you've found something to make your music teaching better! Happy MIOSM!

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Rainbow Party Ideas

As many of you know I'm a big fan of rainbows, so when my daughters decided on a rainbow theme for their latest birthday party I was pretty excited! There are lots of great reasons to throw a rainbow party, no matter your age, gender, or occasion, so find an excuse and party on! Just seeing the rainbow colors all over the house kept me happy all day :)

Let's start with the cake. The original idea came from this video, which gave us the idea to bake 2 round cakes, cut them in half, and set them up on their side to create a rainbow. Somehow my daughter got the idea that rather than putting M&M's inside the cake, she wanted to use them on the outside to form the rainbow. She also declared that the rest of the cake should be pink. The clouds, of course, are marshmallows. I was so happy with how it turned out, but it really isn't that complicated to make!

For the decorations, we didn't do much. We hung a few rainbow-colored banners around the house, and we left up the rainbow colored string lights from Christmas. The only thing we made was these giant pom poms, which we hung around the food table. These are your standard tissue paper pom poms- you can see how they're made (and get tons more rainbow party ideas!) in this video. It was super cheap too- the Dollar Tree has packs of rainbow colored tissue paper for a dollar (although for some reason there is no orange in the packs....)!

The food was the best part, and super easy to pull together too! We had 3 main trays of rainbow food: fruit, veggies, and savory. We used strawberries, clementines, pineapple, green grapes, and blueberries for the fruits, cherry tomatoes, carrots, yellow bell pepper, cucumber, and purple potatoes for the veggies, and pepperoni slices, orange and yellow cheese squares, and green and purple tortilla chips for the savory (with ketchup and salsa for dipping the potatoes and chips on the side). We also put out the rest of the M&M's and marshmallows leftover from the cake (arranged by color of course!), and red, orange, and yellow juice boxes (the girls wanted every color of the rainbow for juice boxes, but that was where I drew the line). I could eat like this every day!

We had a few low-key activities, including some rainbow coloring pages, set out for the kids. The favorite was an activity and snack in one: fruit loop necklaces! The girls and I spent one evening sorting out a box of fruit loops into colors so that we could set them out in separate bowls, and my mom found rainbow colored twine to use to make the necklaces. We stuck a piece of tape on the end so that the fruit loops would stay while everyone strung their necklaces. 

The only really "organized activity" we planned was the rainbow scavenger hunt. My girls are still begging to play that game any time we're stuck inside! To read more about the game (and get the printable I used for the game cards) check out this post:

I hope you found some ideas to inspire your next rainbow party! Hey, St. Patrick's Day is coming up... ;)

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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Sign Language in the Music Room

I have always felt strongly about the benefits of using sign language in the elementary music classroom, and over the years it has become a regular part of my teaching, especially in the younger grades. Today I want to talk a little about why and how I use sign language in my music teaching, along with some resources to help you get started with sign language in your own classroom.

I taught in international schools for the first 6 years of my teaching career, so I developed strategies early on for teaching language through music (since so many of my students were second language learners). This was initially my primary reason for incorporating sign language into my teaching- by using sign language along with the words when learning a new song, more students were able to grasp and retain the meaning of the words and learn new vocabulary.

I quickly realized, however, that using sign language was benefitting all of my students- not just the second language learners! First, there is the obvious benefit of including movement to keep kids actively engaged and involve kinesthetic learning. But I've found that using actual sign language, and not just generic motions, makes a huge difference in learning. The key I think is that with sign language, each word/phrase/concept has a unique gesture, so students can attach meaning to the motion through the word and vice versa, to better remember the music and better understand new songs when they recognize a familiar sign. There have been many instances when students would figure out the meaning of a difficult word in a song because it was a synonym of another word they had sung before and they remembered the gesture/sign. And because the gestures in sign language are designed to communicate the meaning of each word or idea, most of the signs make sense to kids and provides another way for students to understand a word or concept (besides having me bumble through a verbal explanation myself).

I've also found it so helpful to include sign language for any performance songs I do with younger students, particularly up through 2nd or 3rd grade. By having students sing all of their songs with sign language, they are better able to follow my conducting, control their bodies and behavior on stage, and communicate the message of the piece more clearly. If you've ever tried to conduct a group of kindergarteners, you know that it's very hard to get them to stop mirroring your conducting motions- the more focused they are on following you, the more likely they are to move their arms right along with you! With sign language, I can sign along with them rather than using traditional conducting gestures to keep everyone together. Having meaningful movements to do also helps keep those jittery little bodies engaged and controlled on the stage, and no matter how excited or nervous they get, the sign language also helps to communicate the meaning and message of the words to the audience as well.

Convinced yet? Here are my tips for getting started:

1. Pick and choose the most important words to sign

Especially with younger students, signing every word is going to be next to impossible and counterproductive. Choose just the most important words to sign so that the gestures flow together easily and line up with the music more readily. For example, when my students sang, "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas", they did the sign for the words I, hippopotamus, and Christmas. Depending on how fast the words are being sung, you'll be able to adjust how many words you sign.

2. Modify signs if you need to

Much as I like to stick to the "real deal" as much as I can, some signs are just too intricate for little hands, or take too long to complete. In those cases I've learned that it's OK to simplify things a little. The more you practice the signs, the more easily you'll be able to think of ways to simplify a particular sign without losing the meaning. If you watch people signing fluently, you'll notice that different people will sign slightly differently, just like different people speak with different accents. Just do your best to use whatever your modified version is consistently any time you have the same word or idea in other songs.

3. Learn the actual signs

It may be time consuming at first, but besides all of the benefits to student learning I've already mentioned, using *actual* sign language gives you the side benefit of learning a new language yourself! If you want to use ASL (American Sign Language), the site ASL Pro is awesome for learning new signs. Not only do they have videos for each word so you can see someone signing them, but you can actually rewind, pause, or slow down the video so you can practice it! If you happen to need a word that they don't have on that site (which has only happened a couple of times in my years of using it), do a google search for "(insert word) in ASL sign video" and you're sure to find something. If you're wanting to use another sign language, search for "(insert name of sign language) video dictionary" and see what you can find- there are many free ones available online.

4. Teach the signs before the song

Another benefit of using sign language to teach a new song is that you can have students follow along with you as they listen to you sing it by mirroring your motions/signs (I do everything left handed so they can more easily mirror me). This is a great way to get them listening and paying attention to the words before they start trying to sing! I have them mirror me as best they can while I sing it the first time, then I show them and have them practice any of the more difficult signs separately until they can sign the whole song with my singing, then I teach them the singing (which by that point takes no time at all because they've heard me sing it several times!).

Do you use sign language in your music classes? What are your favorite tips for incorporating sign language, and what have you found to be the benefits of using it? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

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Monday, February 20, 2017

DIY Family Game: Rainbow Scavenger Hunt

I'm always looking for new ways to have fun with together with my 5-year-olds at home this time of year. Whether we're home because someone is sick, or stuck in the house during a snow storm, I love to find things to do together that we can all enjoy, but so often end up getting tired of doing the same things over and over again! I threw this game together for my daughters' rainbow-themed birthday party last month, and I had no idea that it was going to be such a hit- the girls are still begging to play it every chance they get (almost two months later). If you're looking for a fun game to play with the whole family, this is a great one- there's little to no cost and anyone can play (even toddlers)!

The rules are pretty simple. One person is selected to be the "hider"- that person takes each of the colored "drops" and hides them while the other players wait in another room. We always try to stick the drops on items of a matching color (so the green drop on something green and the purple drop on something purple, etc) but if you have younger kids you may want to start by placing them on contrasting colors. Once the hider is finished, each of the other players takes a sheet with all of the colors on it and something to write with and goes to look for the drops. If they find one, they leave it there without saying anything and circle the drop on their paper. The first person to find all of them wins! If you want to mix it up, have players race to find a row of 3 (like BINGO) instead of finding all of the colors.

This is a great way for little ones to practice identifying their colors, and the older kids have fun trying to camouflage the drops to blend in with the surroundings. We specified at first that all of the drops had to be visible without having to move anything, but we've eventually evolved to making any spot fair game- some of them get really hard! It's like an Easter egg hunt without worrying about forgetting where you put that 30th egg.

If you want to try this game with your kids, you'll need:

writing utensils (enough for each player)
9 cut out pieces of paper in "raindrop" shapes (one of each color on the game sheet)
printouts of the picture below (set your printer to print the image full-page and in color)

What are some of your favorite games to play as a family when you're stuck in the house? I'm always looking for more ideas- share yours in the comments below!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Music In Our Schools Month: more ways to celebrate!

After 4 years at my current school, I'm ready to make some updates to the ways I celebrate Music In Our Schools Month (MIOSM). Although I have loved the things I've been doing, there were a few things that I knew I could do better, and some new ideas that I wanted to try just to keep things interesting!

If you missed my original post describing all of the ways I celebrate MIOSM, be sure to check out that post, linked at the end of this one, for more detailed descriptions of how I have been doing things up to this point, as well as TONS more bulletin board ideas!

This year I'm making several updates to my tried-and-true MIOSM activities. The biggest change is going to be with my busker-style performance program (read this post for more details on how I have run that in the past), which I am replacing with in-class informances/talent shows. I'm going to be sending home a letter to parents, emails to staff, and putting up flyers at school to invite anyone to come to an "open music class". There will be 1 open class period for each class, most of them falling in the last week of March. Throughout the month, I will spend time with each class preparing a short song for the class to perform together, as well as inviting individuals and small groups of students to perform whatever kind of musical talent they would like to showcase (dance, instruments, singing, etc). On the day of the open music class we will perform for our guests, and for the older students, I am planning to have them talk about their favorite way(s) to enjoy music in or out of school.

To make up for not having music playing as students are entering school in the morning (one aspect of the busker-style performance program that I will lose with this change), the principal is planning to play music from different genres each morning over the loudspeaker during the month of March.

I'm also updating my 2 in-class activities: the Disco Duel and Rhythm Battle. Confession time: I've been using the same materials I made for myself in a Word document 10 years ago for both of these activities until now! I was definitely due for an update. You can read more about each of these activities in my previous blog post, but basically the Rhythm Battle is an ongoing competition between classes within each grade level to see which class can perform the most number of rhythms in a row without mistakes to a steady beat. They get a score each time they come to music class during March, and at the end of the month the class with the most total points wins. The main updates I made to the Rhythm Battle materials were to add more rhythms so none of them were repeated (before I had 50 rhythm patterns but the second half was a repeat of the first 25 rhythms), and to add a button to the bottom of each slide to go back to the beginning. Because classes get to keep trying as many times as they can while a song is playing, I was having to click the back button over and over again before when they messed up in the middle of the song!

I'm most excited, actually, about the updates to my Disco Duel materials. The Disco Duel is a friendly contest within each class (split up into teams) where basically they have to perform certain moves (shown on movement cards) in order for the correct number of beats. When I sat down to spiffy-up the movement cards, it hit me that I should include some of those dance moves that all of the kids are obsessed with right now (like the "dab" and "nae-nae") along with my normal moves. Much as they can get annoying sometimes, I'm all about bringing the musical experiences my students are having outside of class into the music room!

The one thing that IS staying is my bulletin board (It's an acrostic spelling out movement, beauty, soul, intelligence, and connections with MUSIC down the middle to represent the intrinsic benefits of music- get a printable set here), but I'll be having the students make new cards to add to it:

I'm excited to try something a little bit different this year- I think it will be a lot of fun! And I'm so looking forward to using my updated materials for Rhythm Battle and Disco Duel (clicks the links to see the updated materials in my store). Make sure to check out my previous post to get more detailed directions on how to do these activities in your own classroom- they are so much fun and you can use them any time of year!

What are your plans for celebrating Music In Our Schools Month (if at all)? Even though it is admittedly a bit of a push each year to get my act together, I really think it is not only a fantastic, fun way to get kids excited at a time of year when everyone is antsy, but it's a great way to get the entire school community excited (and more educated) about music!

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Monday, February 13, 2017

Party Popcorn: a fun snow day (or any day!) snack

We had several snow days last week and my 5-year-old daughters and I had a lot of fun spending some time relaxing together! One of my favorite things to do when we have a snow day is to make something yummy, and I was pretty excited to bring back one of our favorite snacks from last year this past week: Party Popcorn! Next time you have a snow day, or a family night, or even a birthday party, give this a try :)

The idea is to let everyone create their own snack mix by mixing popcorn with tons of different mix-ins. When we did this last week I pulled out whatever sounded good from the pantry: chocolate chips, fruit loops (mostly because they are so colorful), pecans, raisins, and coconut. In the past we've also used gummi bears, crushed peppermints, mini peanut butter cups.... you get the idea. Basically it's like creating your own trail mix!

Half the fun is deciding what to put in your mix- as we all know, any time a 5-year-old gets to make their own decisions that will always be a good thing :) Someone gifted us these fancy ice cream holders a couple of years ago, so we used those for our popcorn to make it even more fancy.

You could definitely keep things more on the healthy side or go all-out crazy depending on your mix-ins. Have you ever done something like this at home before? What are your favorite things to eat with popcorn? Leave a comment!

Looking for more snow day ideas? Here's a post I wrote a couple of years ago full of my favorite snow day activities with young children! Stay warm everyone! :)

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Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Froggy Gets Dressed: music lesson to review classroom instruments

I love using storybooks in my elementary music lessons, especially with my younger students, and I'm so excited about my newest lesson using the book Froggy Gets Dressed. I am using this lesson with kindergarten to review proper playing technique on our classroom instruments. This lesson could also be used to introduce and explore the concept of timbre.

*this post contains affiliate links*

First, if you aren't familiar with the story, this is a great book to use in the winter time because it is all about a frog who wants to go play in the snow when he's supposed to be hibernating, and he keeps forgetting to put on the clothes he needs! Here's a video reading of the book:

This story is perfect for adding different "sound effects" because it includes an onomatopoeia with each clothing item. I actually leave out those words when I read the story, though, and add in instrument sounds instead.

I start the lesson by reading the story, and I ask students to copy me as I act out putting on and taking off each article of clothing while I read it. Not only does it keep students actively engaged in the story because they are moving, but it also helps them better remember when each clothing item is mentioned throughout the story. 

After we read the book and briefly discuss the storyline, I tell them that we are going to add some instruments to the story! I have been gradually introducing instruments throughout the school year, demonstrating how to hold and play them correctly and helping them learn the names, so first as I pull out each instrument I have them tell me the name of the instrument and have one student demonstrate proper playing technique for each one. There are 9 clothing items in the story, so you need at least 9 different instruments- I use triangles, rhythm sticks, hand drums, jingle bells, egg shakers, tambourines, cowbells, castanets, and sand blocks because I have multiples of them and they represent a wide range of playing techniques and timbres, but you can obviously use whatever instruments you might have available. 

Once we have reviewed each of the instruments I assign students to an instrument and tell them which clothing item they will play with in the story. Because I have multiples of all of the instruments I have 2-3 students on each instrument so everyone has a part (tip: if you don't have enough to give everyone a part, have the others act out the story with the motions you did before, but assigning each student to a different clothing item so they still have to listen for "their part"). I tell them to play their instrument each time they hear their clothing item mentioned.

Because I am using this lesson to review playing techniques, I rotate students through several of the instruments to give them a chance to practice on different instruments. In the first lesson we went through the story with instruments twice. One of the main instruments I have been working on with my kindergarteners since January is barred instruments, so in the second lesson I added a twist: I assigned half of the class to play barred percussion using 2 mallets together each time they hear "flop, flop, flop" (when I introduce mallet techniques to them I call the 2 hands together (rather than alternating) technique "froggy jumps" so it's a natural connection!). The other half of the class takes some more turns on other instruments, and then we switch. By the end, each student ends up playing 4 different instruments: one barred percussion instrument and 3 auxiliary percussion instruments. 

The students loved the story because they can totally relate to the struggle of getting dressed in the wintertime, and they love getting a chance to play lots of instruments too! It's a great way for me to assess how well they know proper playing technique on a variety of classroom instruments.

If you're looking for more elementary music lessons using children's literature, I've written posts on the books Too Much Noise, Going On a Bear Hunt, My Many Colored Days, Bear Snores On, and Mortimer. What other books do you like to use in your music classes? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!

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Monday, February 6, 2017

Appropriate Chores for 5 Year Olds

I have always made sure my daughters are an integral part of the upkeep of our home, partly because I want them to develop an appropriate work ethic, a sense of responsibility, and learn how to clean and take care of stuff, and partly because I just can't do it all myself! I've often found people are surprised when they hear how much the girls are able to do around the house, so today I wanted to share the list of "chores" they currently do.

First a quick side note: I don't treat the jobs they do as "chores" that they are required to do, or that they earn money/rewards for. I just expect them to do these things as part of life, the same way I expect them to brush their teeth or wash their hands. One thing that has helped to keep things "fair" in the eyes of my justice-conscious 5 year olds is my family chore chart, which sets up a rotation of some of the major chores that we share. The major difference between my chart and others I've seen is that I am listed on there too, which helps a lot when I occasionally hear the inevitable, "How come I do EVERYTHING around here?" comments ;) You can read more about my chore chart in this post:

On to the list!

1. Pack and unpack their backpacks

Basically for now this just involves getting their lunchbox out of the fridge and packing it in the morning, and taking it out and bringing it to the sink for me to wash after school.

2. Set and clear the table

These jobs are a part of the chore chart rotation, so each of us sets and clears the table once a week (read more in the post linked above). Setting the table involves getting out dishes, napkins, silverware, and condiments etc, and clearing the table means putting the dishes in the dishwasher or sink and putting away extra silverware or condiments, then wiping the table.

3. Unload the dishwasher

As I already mentioned, the load the dishwasher as part of clearing the table, but they also help me unload the dishwasher once everything is clean. A lot of the dishes are stored in cabinets that are too high for them to reach, but they can take them out of the dishwasher and set them on the counter, and they can put away all of our silverware, mixing bowls, and other dishes.

4. Cook dinner

Yes, my kids cook dinner once a week. They choose the menu, shop for ingredients, and prepare the food mostly by themselves. We have certainly not been without our share of messes, and I do help them with some steps along the way when they need it, but for the most part they do it on their own. You can read more about that in this post (I'm planning to do an update on this soon as well):

5. Sweep the floors

Every now and then, probably about once a week, the girls help sweep the floor (especially under the dining table) with a brush and dust pan.

6. Water the plants

7. Put away clean laundry

An organized, easy-to-access closet is the key to enabling kids this age to take care of their own clothes! Here's my post on how I have their closet set up:

8. Put away toys

9. Take out the trash

They obviously can't carry the huge trash bags but they help me carry out smaller bags of trash or items to recycle to the larger garbage/recycling bins outside.

10. Make their beds

11. Clean up small messes

If they spill a little milk or something, I usually have them wipe it up with a rag themselves.

12. Get the mail

This is their favorite thing right now and they often fight over whose turn it is to get the mail! Unfortunately our condo complex recently switched over to locked mailboxes and our mailbox is now up a little too high for them to reach, so now I have to go with them and they carry the mail back to the house.

Did anything on this list surprise you? Fostering my daughters' independence and work ethic has been an important focus for me since the beginning, and including them in the upkeep of our home has been one of the main practical ways of doing that. I wrote a post a couple of years ago about the chores my then-3 year olds were doing, so if you've got younger kids around the house here's that post:

What other chores do your young kids do around the house? What is your opinion on how much kids should be expected to do around the house, and whether they should earn rewards or allowance for doing them? I am starting to think about if and when to start giving them an allowance, so I'd love to hear your thoughts- I know there is a wide range of opinions on these topics!

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Saturday, February 4, 2017

Small Goals: February 2017

It's amazing how quickly a month can fly by! I love taking the time each month to reflect on the past month and look forward to the next- it helps me stay motivated and focused on the most important things I want to accomplish. I'm linking up with Jennifer from The Yellow Brick Road to do just that- I hope you'll join us in taking a moment to reflect! Click on the picture below to see what Jennifer is up to this month, and leave a comment below to share your own thoughts and goals.

Last month's goals

My small goals last month were to clean the house, choose my choirs' repertoire, and make progress on my 2017-2018 teacher planners. I honestly didn't get as much done on each of these as I hoped, but I did at least do some work on each of them, so I'm going to call that a win.

Goal 1: get ready for MIOSM

I celebrate Music In Our Schools Month at school each year, and this year I'm planning to make some changes from my normal festivities. I am hoping (this weekend, actually) to update the visuals I use for the 2 games/contests I do in class (I've been using the same old images I found in Word 10 years ago! Woops...) and I'm also thinking of changing the way I set up my busker-style performances. (Click here if you want to know more about the activities I have been doing to celebrate MIOSM in the past, and stay tuned on the blog for updates if and when I get them ready ;) )

Goal 2: start my tax filing

I hesitate to make this a goal because it may not be realistic, but I would really like to at least make some progress on filing my taxes this month. I'm still kindof learning how to do all of this stuff, so I know it's going to take some time (also I avoid anything related to money management like the plague so I know I need extra motivation to actually do it).

Goal 3: more grace, more peace

The last 2 weeks in my school have been wacky. I don't know why but the students and staff have all been on edge and we've all been getting on each other's nerves. Everybody is grumpy. I need to remember to keep responding to negativity, hurt, anger, and stress with grace and peace, even when I feel like I've already done that 7 million times that day.

That's it for me! Looking for more inspiration to get your month going? Head over to Jennifer's post. Ready to share your goals with the world? Leave a comment below. Want to stay informed about what I'm up to? Sign up below for my monthly newsletter, or sign up over on the right side of this page to have every post sent straight to your email inbox!

Have a wonderful month, everyone! :)

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Wednesday, February 1, 2017

January Favorites 2017

Another month has flown by, and we are now truly in the thick of 2017! I'm taking a minute today to reflect on some of the things I especially enjoyed this past month. I hope you'll leave a comment at the end with your "January favorites" as well, so we can all find new things to enjoy in February! :)

1. The Rubber Band Method

As most of you know, I work in a pretty behaviorally-challenging building. I've put a lot of thought and effort into my behavior management systems and have built strong class communities and relationships in most of my classes now, after 4 years in this position. But there are always going to be those few students who, for a variety of reasons, will always struggle with their behavior and need a LOT of reminders/reinforcement to keep them on track. In their homerooms, most of these students have their own charts that they fill out, or systems in place with their teachers, to help keep them on track. The trouble is that with hundreds of students and classes coming in and out all day, it is almost impossible to keep all of that set up in the classroom AND remember what to do with which kid when they walk in the door.

Enter the rubber band method, a technique I learned from the school psychologist. Basically you start with several rubber bands on one wrist, and when a student needs a reminder to get back on track, you move one rubber band to the other wrist. The goal is to keep most of the rubber bands on the original wrist, and you pre-establish with the student what the reward and consequence will be for keeping or not keeping rubber bands. So that they can see success, especially in the beginning, it's important to start with more rubber bands than the number of times they are normally disruptive/misbehaving, and then as they become consistent with their behavior, you can challenge them to keep it up with fewer rubber bands to start with. The beauty of this system is that I can just keep the rubber bands on my wrist all day and not have to worry about pulling something out or putting things away depending on the class. It doesn't disrupt the lesson to move one over, and nobody else in the class needs to know why you're doing it.

I shared this technique in my recent blog post introducing myself on the TPT Music Crew blog. If you missed that post and you want to get to know me better, head on over there! :)

2. Music Ed Blogs website

Jennifer (from The Yellow Brick Road) and I have been working for a few years now on different ways to foster a spirit of idea-sharing amongst music education bloggers and the readers of those blogs, and I'm so excited about our latest project: the MusicEd Blogs website! Although a lot of people rely on social media (Pinterest, Facebook, etc) to find out about new blog posts, social media doesn't always reliably inform readers about new posts, and finding out about new blogs only happens by pure luck most of the time! To help people find relevant content, stay on top of new posts from favorite blogs, and discover new ones to love, we've created a website that currently serves 2 purposes:

1. Shows the latest posts from all MEB member blogs in one place
2. Gives a tabulated list of all MEB member blogs, organized by category/topic

We are still adding new blogs all the time (so if you don't see your own or your favorite one listed, fill out the form to get added!), and we hope you'll find this resource helpful! There are 2 ways to get the most out of MusicEd Blogs: bookmark/pin the page so you can visit it any time, and follow the site on Facebook to get notifications from all different bloggers from one spot.

3. This stuff:

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