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Tuesday, January 15, 2019

15 Fun Videos for Music Class

I tend to avoid showing full-length movies in my classes, even when I'm out with a sub. I just find my students watch TV and movies so many other places in their life that they truly aren't interested. But for a quick break, an example of a musical concept I'm teaching, a wind-down activity at the end of class, or just a funny momemt to share, I have found lots of great uses for short video clips from YouTube! Today I want to share some of my favorite music-related (and school-appropriate) videos to share with my students in class.


Over the last few years I've found some favorite videos that are

  • entertaining for my elementary and middle school students, 
  • encourage students to think about music in a new way,
  • reflect a variety of backgrounds of musicians and musical genres,
  • are appropriate for even my youngest students,
  • and are short enough to take very little class time.
Of course the internet is an endless source of material- I could keep going and going for days and days with videos like this, but these are some representative favorites!



















These little videos are frivolous is many ways but I've come to realize just how important they can be to my classroom. Often it's one of these videos that will inspire a student to go home and try something themselves (like beatboxing with their recorder), help students to see themselves as musicians regardless of their background, build relationships with students by showing a lighthearted side of music and connecting over a shared sense of humor, help them finally grasp a concept, or introduce them to a new genre or instrument. 

What are some of your favorite videos you've shared with your students? I could probably do 5 more of these posts and still not run out of material.... I'd love to see some of your best finds! Leave a link or title in the comments below so we can all find some new videos to love :)


Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Mid-Year Review in Elementary Music

We're just coming back from break and it's time to get back into the swing of things! I always start off in January with some time to review the fundamentals I introduced to each grade in the fall. Between the chaos of December and the break from school, everyone gets a little distracted and needs a refresher before we're ready to dive into anything new. At the same time, I want to get everyone singing, playing, and moving as much as possible to remind everyone of how much fun music class is! Here are my favorite ways to review with my elementary music students mid-year.


1. Vocabulary/ expression

My favorite way to review dynamic, tempo, and articulation vocabulary and symbols is to put all the words/ symbols on the board and have students sing a song while matching whichever one I point to. I just focus on one area at a time- so just dynamics, just tempo words, etc- and once they get the hang of it I have students come and point to lead the class. It's a great way to throw in some "just for fun" songs that you may not get to use in class otherwise, and it's a really simple way to review with the whole class. This even works with my youngest students to review musical contrasts, like fast/ slow, and the 4 voices- I just use pictures instead of words (I print them out and either just lay them on the floor or put them up on the board).

2. Form

In my brain learning form = movement. Always. I love reviewing form concepts by having students use contrasting movements for contrasting sections- they can either come up with their own, or you can assign specific movements to specific sections. They can also use different props or body parts for different sections- maybe they use a scarf for the A section, a beanbag for the B section, and just their bodies for C, or they use their arms for A, legs for B, and face for C.

3. Pitch identification

I incorporate pitch and rhythm concepts into lessons all year long, but I like to do some focused review of notation/ identification when we come back from break. One of the easiest ways to see how well students know these quickly in a way that's fun for them is with Music Note Races- I wrote a whole post on this activity, which you can read below, but the basic idea is to split the class up into teams and have them race to write the note or name the note. It's a super-simple concept but it works!


4. Rhythm reading

It's not hard to make rhythm review exciting: just use percussion instruments! :) I usually just throw a few measures that include the new rhythmic elements they're learning on the board, practice speaking/ counting them, then let students choose an instrument to use to play them. Often students walk in the first day from break thinking of that one instrument they can't wait to play- this is their chance! You can read more examples and step-by-step directions for how I do this in point #3 of this post:


I hope this gives you some fresh ideas for re-establishing that solid foundation mid-year to ensure success all the way to the finish line! For lesson ideas to start the new school year, head over to this post:


And for review games I like to use at the end of the school year, check out this post:


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Monday, January 7, 2019

Family New Year's Ideas

New Year's Eve has rarely been a significant holiday for me, either as a child or an adult. Mostly because I am not AT ALL a night person, so the idea of staying up late waiting for midnight is not in the least bit appealing! Up until this year, I didn't do anything that interesting to celebrate with my daughters either, but this year we all had an absolute blast on New Year's and we've all agreed we want this to be an annual tradition, so today I want to share what we did for other families who may be looking for something fun to try next year!


1. NYE around the world

The main thing we did all day on New Year's Eve day was watch countries in each timezone celebrate their midnight every hour. I found a few live videos on YouTube that were showing live coverage throughout the day of celebrations around the world, so we were able to easily tune in each hour and see who was up next. We have a giant world map rug in our basement playroom, so we looked at the map and talked about how the time zones work and looked at what order different familiar countries would be celebrating. We only watched for 3-5 minutes each hour most of the time, but it was fun to pause every hour and see everyone celebrating, and the girls loved comparing their favorite firework displays and hearing different languages.

This one was only fun because my daughters were old enough to understand what was happening- they are seven years old and they were the perfect age for this. I wouldn't recommend this one for any children younger than that.

2. Looking at the calendar

Over dinner we got out the outgoing year's calendar and looked through each month, remembering events and birthdays and vacations we had had over the past year. My daughters draw a picture each month to put on the calendar too, so it was fun to look back on those- here's a blog post showing how we make our own family calendar each year by hand. It's almost like having a scrapbook minus the photographs!

3. Fondue

I had never made fondue before this night- somehow it seemed intimidating- but it was a fun and easy meal to put together with minimal cooking, and we all loved it! We had cheese fondue (I used this recipe) for dinner with mini hot dogs, carrots, sugar snap peas, broccoli, apples, ham, and bread. For dessert we had chocolate fondue, of course, with bread, leftover Christmas sugar cookies, apples, strawberries, and bananas. We also picked out some cranberry apple sparkling cider, which made the whole affair feel extra fancy.



4. Keep it lazy

The best part of our day? Staying at home in our pajamas all day relaxing, then going to bed at our normal time feeling like we weren't missing a thing since we already saw midnight come many times over! Especially with the girls still being young, and with school starting back on January 2nd for us, it's still not worth staying up late just to say we did it.

What are your favorite family New Year's traditions? Do you do much to celebrate? I'd love to hear your favorite ideas- I know it's too late for this year but it's fun to think ahead to next year and share while I still remember :) Happy New Year!

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Tuesday, January 1, 2019

December Favorites 2018

The last "favorites" post for 2018- crazy! Of course December is always a fun-filled month so it's hard to choose, but here are some highlights from the past month, told through some of my Instagram photos. Come follow along for some inspiration, and share your own favorites in the comments!


1. Concerts, assemblies, and field trips, oh my!



December is always a crazy busy month for me and this year was no exception! I don't have any pictures from the concerts and programs themselves to share but this corner of my planner with the 4 additional to-do lists (on top of the regular to-do list I have on the opposite page!) sums up the craziness that was December. Sure, it was overwhelming at times, but for the most part I honestly enjoyed seeing my students' success so much this year- what a great way to celebrate all of our hard work! And seeing them genuinely enjoying themselves while performing was amazing. And yes, it's also a highlight to be able to check all of those off of my list and pat myself on the back! ;)

2. Holiday music conversation



Related to all of those aforementioned events and performances: the thought-provoking conversation I had with some very wise educators on Instagram about the place of holiday celebrations in schools and in particular, the way Christmas is centered over other holidays in most US American classrooms. I am most certainly not done with this conversation and hope to continue to think and listen and share. If you didn't see it yet, I saved some of my posts on the topic to my Instagram story highlights (you can see them on my profile page). I'd love to hear your thoughts on this as well!

3. Advent activities



This is always my top highlight for December: doing little Christmas-related activities each day leading up to the 25th with my daughters. And each year is more fun as the girls get older! If you don't know what I'm talking about here's the blog post where I shared my list of activities I planned for this year along with a description of how I made the super simple advent calendar I use each year.

4. Music education blog posts

I love finding great ideas from other bloggers to share each Friday over on my Facebook page! Here are all the amazing posts I shared this past month- if you haven't yet, be sure to read them all:





What were some of your highlights from December? What are you looking forward to in January? I'd love to hear about them in the comments. I hope you found some fresh inspiration amongst my "favorites", and I wish you all the best in the new year!