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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Editing Boxes in Your Teacher Planner

With schedules so up in the air this year, I have already had to switch the format of my weekly lesson planning pages several times, and we're barely a month into the school year! If you are using a #PlanMyWholeLife teacher planner, you can easily edit the number of boxes you have for each day to suit your changing needs before printing your pages.

In PowerPoint, you can easily add new boxes to go over the standard ones and format them however you like! Here is a demonstration of how to do that:


I know we are all scrambling to adjust to the ever-changing teaching situations we're dealing with. I hope this helps you customize your planner to adapt as well! Of course if you find your schedule has completely changed for the year and/or you don't want to have to edit everything yourself, there are many formats already made to choose from- browse all the planners here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

The Unexpected Realities of Hybrid Teaching

Amidst the ongoing covid19 pandemic, I have been teaching elementary music in a hybrid model for about a month now. In our district, families were given the option of keeping children home in a fully online distance learning program or sending them to school in a socially-distanced classroom 4 days a week. I teach both the online learners and the in-person student simultaneously by having students join my classes through Zoom. For any teachers anticipating going back to some form of in-person teaching, here are some of the things I didn't expect before I started.

1. Technology Fails

Over the course of the pandemic I have become somewhat of a tech guru- I'm not sure how, because I've never considered myself a "techie" person, but nonetheless I find myself often being the one explaining how to use certain programs or solving tech problems for my colleagues. I spent most of my summer figuring out and testing the best solutions for how to make this hybrid situation work. I came in with a plan. All of that went out the window when the wifi at school went down.

One of the things I've learned about hybrid teaching is that I have to have at least 3 backup plans for how I'm going to deliver my lesson if the technology fails, because it will. My computer died in the middle of the day, I got kicked out of my zoom in the middle of a 1st grade lesson, taught an entire day without wifi, had both Google Classroom and Zoom report massive outages across our entire region... the list goes on. Always have another way to deliver the lesson, and expect to have to change course multiple times a day. Be patient!

2. Loads of Laundry

...and by loads I mean lots. After a few positive cases in my building, I quickly got serious about our school nurse's advice and started changing clothes after school every day, and I wash them all after each use. My two daughters who are learning in-person also have a different mask for each day of the week that need to be washed every week. That means every weekend I'm now doing 3-4 loads of laundry for just my small family, when I used to do 1, maybe 2! 

3. No More Skirts

My staple teaching outfit used to be dresses and skirts with pockets (I wrote a whole post about my favorite teacher clothes here). Not this year! Because I am on a cart, I carry my cell phone in my back pocket to be able to check email and send messages to families with our communication app. Because I am wearing a mask and don't want to project my voice, I have a voice amplification system, and the speaker hooks onto my front pocket. And I'm walking around the building with my cart all day, getting down on the floor to plug into the outlets in each classroom. My dresses and skirts also aren't as sturdy as my pants to hold up to weekly washings, so it's pants and t-shirts every day for me! 

4. Parent Communication

Because parents of distance learners have to be so much more directly involved in their children's education, I have had a lot more frequent and direct contact with my students' families. I also switched from handing out physical "happy notes" to students at the end of class to sending a message to a student's family on our parent communication app. It has actually been really great to connect more with the families of my students- something I hope will continue after this pandemic is over!

5. Low Energy

I was shocked the first few days at how quickly the kids and I would lose steam! I think it's a combination of stress, the mental energy required to do everything differently, and the physical toll of wearing a mask all day. I have had to really tone down the energy I expend when I'm teaching, although I think the students and I are also starting to adapt now that we've been doing this for a while.

If you have been teaching in a hybrid model, I'd love to hear other things you've experienced that you didn't expect! And if you're heading back to in-person teaching soon, feel free to leave any questions in the comments below. It is a lot to adjust to but we are adjusting and adapting and making it work!

To see more posts with ideas and tips for pandemic teaching, click below:


Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Bickle Bockle Social Distanced Modification

One of the songs I use to practice mi, sol, la and half notes with my 2nd graders is Bickle Bockle (also known as Ickle Ockle). My students always love it because of the game, and I love that they get a lot of practice repeating the song as they play, so they can internalize the rhythmic and pitch concepts. But this year with social distancing protocols in place at school, I realized I wouldn't be able to use it the same way. Here's my adaptation of the game so I can still use it!

I'm sure there are many versions of games you can play with this song, but the one I have used for years has players stand within a defined space, then walk around within the space on the steady beat while they sing the song. At the end of the song when they sing, "Just choose me", they face one other person. Whoever does not find a partner is out, and takes one other person out with them. As the number of players decrease, I usually make the space they can use smaller and smaller so they have less and less space to move in. If they touch someone else they're out!

This year with covid restrictions we can't get within 6ft of each other, and I can't have students move around the room freely. I also have students participating virtually through zoom, so they wouldn't be able to join in the original game either! So instead, I'm having the students walk in place while they sing the song. At the end of the song after they sing the last word "me", they hold up their choice of 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 fingers on one hand. If at least one other person chooses the same number they did, they're in. If they are the only one with their number, they're out. It's fun because sometimes nobody gets out, and sometimes multiple people are out. And as the game goes on and there are fewer players, it becomes less and less likely that you'll choose the same number!

Of course the other modification I've had to make is to do it as a chant instead of a song, since we aren't allowed to sing in person. I can still practice half notes this way, but it doesn't allow student to practice solfege. So after we've played the game a few times, I'm having them walk on the beat and clap the rhythm of the words while they listen to a recording like this one, then I ask them to listen for the notes they hear on the line, "fishes in the sea" and identify the solfege that they hear.

It's not ideal but it's still fun and still gives students practice with both the rhythm and pitch concepts I want them to learn! One pro tip after playing it with my classes: it helps to tell them they have to choose a different number each time- they're not allowed to use the same number twice in a row. I found some students who matched numbers the first round quickly figured out they could keep doing the same number so they would keep matching! Making them switch prevented those silent alliances :) 

As we all adapt to this new way of teaching, I'm collecting my ideas related to covid teaching on this page- click the image below to see all my other lesson ideas and tips for teaching in these new conditions: