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Friday, November 29, 2019

Giveaway Cyber Monday 2019

This time of year can be so overwhelming for music teachers- I decided this is a great time for a giveaway! I've included lots of my favorite things to use this time of year, and made it super easy to enter below. Good luck, and if you know another music teacher that could use a pick-me-up, share the giveaway with them!

I'm giving one lucky teacher a magnetic notepad (I keep one of these on my fridge at all times to jot down to-do lists, shopping lists, or just to brain dump), some winter-themed mini erasers (my favorite composition manipulatives- click here to read my post on how I use these), a teacher planner accessory pack from The Happy Planner that includes a bookmark, folder, stickers, and more, and a $10 gift card to my store on TPT! Earn up to 3 entries below- giveaway closes at the end of the day on Monday 12/2. Winner will receive an email with their gift card code on Tuesday morning and must send their mailing address to receive the rest of their prizes.

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Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Boomwhacker Storage

I love using Boomwhackers in my elementary music classes! Not only are they fun and accessible for even the youngest students to play, but they are a really helpful tool for exploring some key musical concepts that make them useful well into the upper grades. You can see some of my favorite ways to use them in class in this post, but today I'm kicking things off by addressing the most common setback for teachers: organizing and storing them so they're not a pile of plastic hot mess!

If you don't have a good way of organizing Boomwhackers, they can quickly become a major problem. They're too large to fit into nice neat bins, especially the longer ones, and they topple over easily. If you search the internet for Boomwhacker storage ideas you'll come up with some great ideas: some of my favorites include this idea to use plastic shoe organizers, this idea using plastic bag storage containers, and this idea using cardboard magazine holders. But for me, I have found hanging them on the wall with this type of strong velcro very effective (and fun to look at)!

I always get questions about my wall-hanging Boomwhackers when I share pictures of my classroom, so let me start by answering those frequently asked questions:
  • Yes, they have held up well. I've had mine up for 6 years and have never replaced any velcro.
  • No, the velcro does not affect the sound of the instrument. I tell students to hold the velcro side in their hand and strike the other side on the floor/hand/whatever they're using. The only time we can't do this is when we're using octavator caps, which don't fit over the velcro- then I just have them tap the velcro side and it still sounds fine.
  • You want to make sure to put the soft side on the instruments and the scratchy side on the wall so that they can hold the velcro without getting scratched.
Besides being aesthetically pleasing and keeping the instruments from being a hot mess, I like having them on the wall this way because I often use them with small groups and I like having each octave set separated so I can tell each group to get the ones they need from one row, and they can clearly see the notes next to each other in order when they refer to them for musical concepts like solfege, chord functionality, etc. I've seen many other teachers hang them on the wall with all the same notes next to each other, but I think having one of each note together makes it easier for the ways I use them most. It also makes it easier to get out one set to use in a center etc by taking all of the ones in one row rather than having to go through and collect one of each note.

If I had all the chromatics and extended octaves (bass / treble) and such (which I don't), I would not keep them together with the others because I wouldn't want to confuse my students when they're using as a tool to understand a concept- I would store them in one of the other methods I mentioned above off to the side, and pull them out when we needed them for a specific activity.

I hope this helps you get your Boomwhackers in order so that they can be more of an asset and less of a headache for your classroom! Next week I'll be sharing tons of ways I like to use them to meaningfully and effectively teach specific musical concepts, so stay tuned, and if you have your own favorite ways to use them in your lessons I'd love to hear about them in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Make Music Lessons Seasonal All Year Long

Confession: I'm not that music teacher who gets all excited about doing snow songs in winter, Halloween songs in October, or patriotic songs for certain holidays. A lot of that has to do with being raised in multiple continents and therefore having less of a strong association with holidays (which I think is a good thing considering our students don't all celebrate the same things). Another big factor has to do with my prioritizing concepts, and sequencing those concepts, over seasonal material in my lesson planning. Not that I don't do both- it's just not my priority. But I have found in the last few years that referencing seasons, holidays, and other events that are a part of my students lives (and on their minds) in my lessons gives students another point of connection to the material and helps keep things interesting when we're reviewing those fundamentals again and again throughout the school year.

I prefer incorporating seasons over specific holidays because we all experience the same seasons when we're living in the same location. The same cannot be said for holidays. While I don't completely steer clear of holidays- I don't mind referencing them occasionally as a side note as a fun way of bringing in specific students' experiences and interests into the classroom- I try to keep them less of a focus and I make sure to include a variety when I do.

A special note about winter: let's all remember that winter is not "THE holiday season"! There are lots of very significant holidays that happen at other times of year, or run on a different calendar and therefore coincide with different seasons depending on the year, particularly in non-Western cultures. Let's not add a Hanukkah or Kwanzaa song to our Christmas carols and pat ourselves on the back. Let's also remember that not every holiday uses singing as a primary means of celebration/ recognition. Just because there aren't a lot of children's songs about it doesn't mean it's not a significant holiday. See how complex this gets?

Although I have found ways to incorporate seasonal song material as well, my favorite ways to reference seasons is with other small changes I incorporate into existing lessons, like manipulatives and visuals. It's an easy way for me to continue to keep the emphasis on sequencing concepts while also incorporating seasonal "material"! Click below to see lots of specific ideas that I use for each season:

What other ideas do you have for incorporating the seasons into your music lessons? I'm still a newbie in this area, so I'd love to hear your ideas (and I'm sure other readers would as well)! Leave a comment below if you have a favorite to share.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Bring Fall to the Music Room

Ah, fall. We've had some extra-cold weather this week that's making it feel more like winter around here, but the fall leaves are a nice reminder that there's still a little Autumn left to enjoy (whether the temperature wants to cooperate or not!). I don't tend to plan my lesson material thematically- I plan out my entire school year for every grade by concept (see how I do that here)- but I have found some easy ways to incorporate the season into my classes without having to completely change my curriculum so that we can keep things interesting and bring some of the "outside world" into what we're doing.

1. Leaves

I love using songs about autumn leaves (here's how I teach my favorite one) this time of year, but it's also fun to use leaves as movement props and manipulatives! I found some beautiful silk leaves at the Dollar Tree last year that I have students use as movement props to show melodic contour, and little foam shapes and mini erasers that are perfect to use as composition manipulatives or for dictation practice (use them at note heads on a staff).

2. Pumpkin

Of course pumpkins are another great theme for fall! I have some pumpkin erasers that I use for composition manipulatives and dictation practice, and I have a few pumpkin-themed singing games that I love using with Kindergarten to practice steady beat (and with older grades if we have a "catch-up day" or something)- Aimee from O For Tuna Orff has lots of them in this post.

3. Holidays

I tend not to reference specific holidays too much because it can often feel exclusionary for students who don't celebrate, and it can get tricky keeping track of any students who aren't allowed to celebrate any holidays at all. But I do like to include some holiday-themed lessons depending on the classes I have, and fall is the perfect time to focus on Diwali (this lesson from Manju Durairaj is excellent, and this song is an easy way to introduce the holiday), Chuseok (Korean "thanksgiving"- this would be a great time to introduce ganggangsullae or any Korean traditional music like Arirang), or other fall holidays students may not normally experience.

4. Forest Animals

Is there a reason I associate forest animals with fall? I'm not sure.... but my students seem to as well so I'm going with it. In any case, forest creatures are an easy theme to incorporate into any lesson with (you guessed it) composition manipulatives and dictation practice using mini erasers and figurines in animal shapes, or songs about different animals like Grizzly Bear or Hop Old Squirrel.

5. Acorns

Acorns are perfect to bring in to use as manipulatives (and you can get them for free, right off the ground!). If you have little popsicle sticks to use for stick notation, acorns are a good size to use as note heads with those, or you can just use them on a staff like any other manipulative (and they're safe for anyone with tree nut allergies). There are also some really great acorn songs, like I'm an Acorn and the Japanese Donguri Korokoro.

Those are just a few ideas to bring fall into the music room- what are your favorite ways to celebrate the season? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments below. Enjoy what's left before we hunker down for winter...

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

October Favorites 2019

Another month has flown by, and I'm glad for the chance to stop and look back on the past month and appreciate the highlights from school and home life- join me in looking back through my Instagram photos to reflect on the month of October!

1. Book Character Costume

My school did a book character day for Halloween this year and I dressed up as the teacher of music and magic from the book Twinkle. Super cute and appropriate, and so easy for me to just put on my daughter's fairy wings and be done with my costume!

2. New Planner Supplies

I have been restraining myself from going into any craft stores lately but I stopped by Michael's and stumbled upon some beautiful scrapbook paper and a giant book of amazing planner stickers- I've had so much fun using both in my planner! You can read about how I use these craft supplies to add fun and function to my planner in this post :)

3. Composition Lessons

I always do some composition lessons around this time and it was fun to pull out the rhythm manipulatives I use with my older students again to get them into the composing groove again with the new rhythms they're learning. It has made it so much easier for my students to create their own rhythms and notate them properly now that I have them use these first before they write! You can read about how I made them (super easy) in this post!

4. Music Education Blog Posts

Here are some of my favorite posts I found this month! Click the images to read each post:

I hope you had a fantastic month as well- I'd love to hear about your highlights in the comments below! Happy November :)