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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Favorite Lesson for Teaching Sixteenth Notes

Something about teaching barred sixteenth notes is always so much fun. I think students get a kick out of singing and playing fast notes and the 4 barred sixteenth notes look "fancy" to them, so it's inherently exciting :) Today I'm sharing my favorite way to introduce and practice barred sixteenth notes for the first time.

I teach sixteenth notes in 4th grade in my current district, and by the time I get to introducing them they have already experienced them, without labeling them, many times in 2nd and 3rd grade. The song I like to use to introduce it is Ding Dong Diggidiggidong. I love this song because it is perfect for practicing other concepts and skills my 4th graders need to review from 3rd grade as well: singing rounds, and pentatonic solfege. It's also quick and easy to learn and easy to sing. 

I first teach them to sing the song by having them pat the beat while they listen, and then practicing singing it in canon to get them more familiar with the song. Then we review pentatonic solfege and decode the melody. Now that they've spent significant time with the song, I ask them to identify how many sounds are in each beat, and they quickly discover there are several beats with 4 sounds all in one beat! That's when I show them what 4 barred sixteenth notes look like and we practice counting them in a few example rhythm patterns.

But my favorite part is having them practice playing the melody on xylophones! We remove the F and B bars (burgers and fries) and I have them figure out the notes with a partner, using what we've already discussed about the solfege of the melody. They are so proud of themselves when they can play the whole thing, and it sounds instantly amazing when we play it in canon! Some years when I have the time we take it one step further and add some ostinati- because it's pentatonic pretty much anything goes, honestly, but here's one example of how you can put it together, and there's also an arrangement in Orff and Keetman's Music for Children Volume I.

Of course there are lots of other great songs with sixteenth notes that we use to practice them throughout the year, but this is definitely my favorite song to use to introduce them! What is your favorite song for introducing barred sixteenth notes? I'd love to hear more of your favorites in the comments below. And if you want to see my favorite lessons for teaching other specific rhythmic elements, you'll find them all in this post:

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Posting Lesson Objectives

Today's post is a simple one: after getting several questions about my lesson objectives boards I realized I never specifically explained them anywhere on my blog! If you're looking for a simple way to post lesson objectives or "I can" statements for multiple grades, here's how I do it.

This post contains affiliate link(s). This post is not sponsored.

This is perhaps one of the easiest DIY projects I've ever done: I teach seven grade levels, so I went to the dollar store and got seven picture frames, then got scrapbook paper in seven different colors. I cut each piece of paper to the size of the frame, put a sticker in the corner to indicate the grade level, and stuck it inside the frame instead of a photo. Ta-da! 

Over the years I've changed out the poster above the frames, and added one of these pen holders to keep a dry erase marker nearby, but the frames have stayed the exact same for almost a decade now! Actually the color paper I ended up choosing for the frames have become my designated colors for those grade levels in everything else: in my lesson planner, drawer organizer, grade level expectation posters, etc. So they may seem small and insignificant but they have had a big impact!

I like being able to write the objectives in dry erase instead of printing out signs and posting those, because it's much quicker for me to handwrite and I can add/ remove/ tweak things more easily as I go. And I know some teachers like to have the objectives in their lesson slides, but I've found I prefer having them posted separately somewhere where any administrator can see them no matter when they come in my room, and students can see what other grades are working on (they do sometimes comment on that, actually).

I hope this helps you if you're looking for an easy way to post your objectives in your classroom! If you want to see what the rest of my classroom looks like, here's my latest classroom tour for the 2022-2023 school year. And if you want a copy of the poster I have above the frames (and any of the other coordinating posters I use all over my classroom), you can find it in this set with the rules and procedures posters.

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

Latine / Hispanic Heritage Month in the Music Room

Latine/ Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15- October 15 in the United States, and today I want to share some ideas for recognizing it in the music room, as well as some culture bearers to follow to learn more about Latine / Hispanic heritage and culture for yourself. Although this month should not be the only time we incorporate Latine / Hispanic culture and people into our classrooms, it's a great opportunity to shine the spotlight on an under-represented people group and celebrate the contributions of important artists and elements of Latine / Hispanic culture!

First a quick word about terminology: although it may be a bit more cumbersome I'm using both the terms Latine and Hispanic in this post. I've learned from listening to culture bearers that there are many historical, cultural, and linguistic factors that play into individual preferences for the terminology they use to refer to themselves, so I'm choosing to include both here. If you are from outside the culture I encourage you to listen to what individuals choose to use and mirror their language when you speak with / about them.

1. Artists to Feature

One way to celebrate Latine / Hispanic Heritage Month is to introduce students to some important Latine / Hispanic American musicians. Of course there are many more, but here are some examples to get you started, with a link to a song you could use in class:

Selena Quintanilla-Pérez

Tito Puente

Carlos Santana (note this is his version of a song by Tito Puente- I like to tie them together)


Jennifer Lopez

2. Books

There are so many wonderful books featuring Latine / Hispanic characters and heritage that are perfect tie-in's to music lessons! Here are a few of my favorites, with a link to a read-aloud or ebook for each:

From Across the Street

Rosa's Song

Drum Dream Girl

Dancing Hands


3. Puerto Rico

I've heard some differing opinions on whether Puerto Rico should be represented as part of Latine / Hispanic Heritage Month- there is in fact a separate Puerto Rican Heritage Month in November in New York. But from most Puerto Rican and other Latine / Hispanic people I've spoken to, it's my understanding that it's appropriate and important to include Puerto Rico in Latine / Hispanic Heritage Month recognitions. And regardless of when it happens, it's important for US American students to gain an understanding of Puerto Rico in particular. I still have a lot to learn myself, and I certainly can't cover everything that should be said in this brief mention here, but here is an article that gives an overview of Puerto Rican music, and here's a lesson plan for a Puerto Rican children's song with an accompanying game that's perfect for lower elementary:

4.  Culture Bearers to Follow

As with any post like this, I've just barely scratched the surface here for incorporating Latine / Hispanic Heritage Month in music class, but as someone outside Latine / Hispanic American culture my hope is to encourage you to find ways to incorporate it into your teaching, and to seek out culture bearers to learn more from, and compensate when you can, directly. Here are a few Latine / Hispanic music teachers I follow and am learning from myself, with links to their Instagram accounts:

Wanda Vasquez Garcia

Juliana Dueñas Lopez

Nora Hernández

Ani Silva-Berrios

Martin Urbach

Juan Carlos Tavarez

What are some other ways you recognize Latine / Hispanic Heritage Month in your music classes? I'd love to hear more ideas and resources in the comments below! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2022

Elementary Music Classroom Tour 2022-2023

It has taken me a while to put together a classroom tour but I am thrilled to have a week of school under my belt and my classroom set up and humming along! The most exciting part of my classroom setup this year is being able to get back to many of the things I haven't been able to do during the pandemic, but I have also added a few new tweaks to my room from my pre-pandemic setup too, so I'm excited to share those as well.

First to give you a lay of the land, here's a quick video around the entire space:

Now let's talk about this year's updates! First of all the biggest change is going back to pre-pandemic seating arrangements. Oh how I have missed my circle! This year I used these carpet spots, which have a darker green color than the ones I used last year (my old ones were hard to distinguish between yellow and green), and so far they're holding up well.

I've also got my chairs back in rows by color team instead of having each chair spread out:

Last year because I had to set up the chairs spaced out 3 feet each, I wasn't able to use my normal job of line leader (I had a job for hand sanitizer instead). This year my line leaders are back!

One of those, "Why didn't I think of this sooner?" tiny upgrades this year was on that same magnetic board where I have the color team jobs- the magnets for each class going up the piano keys are now horizontal and much easier to read:

A procedural change I made this year was to designate my own hand signals for students to use in music class when they need to use the bathroom or a tissue- I made posters showing those hand signals next to the board. I also made new letters for my "MUSIC" letter system, which you can see in the same photo (those were long overdue for an upgrade!):

The final update is one that I'm probably more excited about than I should be... I got new clipboards! I added these to my Amazon wishlist this summer and was thrilled to get them. The clips are much smaller, and they are plastic and of course in my 6 rainbow colors. So much to love about these compared to my old ones! I also decided this year to give students the choice between regular pencils, which I wrapped in a small piece of duct tape, or mechanical pencils. 

It has been a great start to the year to far and I do have a couple more updates to the classroom I'm hoping to get to throughout the year... we'll see! But for now I'm very happy with our space. Rather than rehashing all of the details on where I got things or why I have things set up the way I do, I'll direct you to my classroom tour post from 2018 where I have a lot more details on most of what you see here. And of course please leave a comment with any questions! 

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Organized Instrument Storage

As I was setting up my classroom last week I was reminded of all the little "hacks" that I've come up with over the years for instrument storage that have made my life, and more importantly my students' lives, so much easier! If you're looking to up your classroom organization game and make instruments more accessible for students, I hope these ideas are helpful!

1. Hand drums & Tambourines

My hand drum solution is by far my favorite idea and I've since done the same for my tambourines as well. Click on the photo to read the blog post where I explain what I used to get this set up:

2. Triangles

Another one of those instruments that is always so annoying to store... anyone else used to have triangle beaters falling through the holes in those plastic baskets? No longer. Click on the photo to see what I used to forever detangle my triangles!

3. Boomwhackers

Attaching boomwhackers to the wall with velcro is not an original idea but I do have some strong opinions about my specific arrangement- click on the photo to see the exact velcro I used and read the pedagogical reasons I have them arranged the way they are:

4. Ukuleles

This is also nothing original or terribly unique but I highly recommend, if you have the wall space, hanging the ukuleles with utility hooks like this! It makes it so much easier for students to get the instruments and put them back quickly.

5. Recorders

My students purchase their own recorders rather than having a classroom set, but I have them keep them at school for the first few weeks while I teach them proper playing technique and get them playing their first song before they take it home to practice independently, and this is what I do when they're keeping them in the classroom. This system made the process of students finding their recorders at the beginning of class so much faster! Click the picture to see what I used:

6. Other small percussion

I know not everyone has a giant wall of open shelves like I am blessed to have in my current room, but I've developed several key strategies for how to store other specific instruments, where to place them, and other little tips over the years that have made it possible for even my youngest students to use them much more independently! Click the picture to read about some of my top tips for these:

Which one are you most excited to use in your music classroom? Which ones do you already do? What other cool ideas have you used or come across for instrument storage? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

My Favorite Teacher Discounts

As teachers we're always trying to stretch our budgets, and this time of year I often see ads for teacher discounts floating around that are honestly just not substantial enough to be worth my time, or aren't things I really can use. Here are some of my favorite teacher discounts that I love that you may not be aware of (this post is not sponsored in any way, just sharing information!).

1. Food

My favorite little-known teacher discount is from Thrive Market: they give teachers a free membership for a year! They have good prices on a lot of specialty food items that can be pricey at the grocery store, plus lots of home items from toilet paper to shampoo. And because the membership is free, the cheaper prices are actually cheaper, even if you don't order often! Use the link above to sign up for the teacher membership.

Home Chef gives teachers 50% off the first meal delivery box and 10% off boxes after that. I've tried a few different meal delivery services over the years when things get especially busy and they are definitely a great way to save time and energy.

2. Shoes

Good teacher shoes can be expensive! I've been happy to find several good discounts on shoes that I've had success with: 20% off Keds, and 50% off Reebok, to name a few.

3. Glasses

I know this doesn't apply to everyone but for me this is huge! Lenscrafters has 60% off lenses, and has 60% off lenses and free shipping.

4. Craft supplies

I think these discounts are fairly well-known, but it's worth mentioning that Michaels and Joann both give 15% off for teachers as well.

If you click on any of the links you'll see that the key to many of these discounts (and many others) is signing up with - the first time I used it I got discouraged thinking it would be cumbersome to verify my teacher status but it was actually pretty easy and quick! I highly recommend signing up if you have never done this before.

OK, those are just a few of my favorites that I find useful and I don't think are very widely-known, but I'm sure there are other good ones out there! If you know of other teacher discounts please leave them in the comments so other teachers can use them too :)

Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Elementary Music Procedures to Practice

One of the most important things we can do at the beginning of the school year is practice classroom procedures- the less time we have to spend explaining and managing logistics throughout the year, the more time we have for music-making and the smoother our lessons will go in general. Part of creating a "safe space" classroom is making sure students feel confident that they know what to do in common lesson situations, and procedures are the foundation for that. Here are the most important procedures I make sure to make time to practice at the beginning of the year with my elementary general music students.

Before we jump into the list, I want to make it clear that I do not cram in practice of all of these procedures in the first lesson, or even the first week, of the school year. But I do try to introduce them within the first 3 weeks or so. I found if I don't make the time to practice them within the first month, the first time we really encounter the procedure with a particular grade I forget they haven't practiced it and I get impatient when they don't know what to do, which invariably leads to problems. And I definitely do not tell students how to do these things, or even have a class discussion about them or have students model examples- I build the actual activities for which the procedures are needed into my lesson plans so that the students naturally have opportunities to practice them when the need arises. Contextualizing it helps students understand the importance and purpose so much better! If you want an example of how I do that in the first few lessons with each grade level, see my first day of music lesson plan blog post.

1. Entering and exiting the room

Establishing how to enter and exit the room is probably the most important procedure for elementary music because we tend to have such short class periods, and the students spend so much of the rest of their day in one room with one teacher- coming into and leaving a room is not something they do all day like high schoolers and middle schoolers do! My procedure for leaving class has changed very little in my 16 years of teaching: we quickly review what we learned, line up in a very specific order on the line marked on the floor, give compliments, and walk into the hallway. Students know class is almost over when I give the silent signal for them to stand up and walk to the line, and they know exactly where and when to go. Keeping the end of class predictable and highly structured makes the transition out of music class so much smoother! Read all the details of my exit procedures in this post.

Predictability at the beginning of class is key as well, but my procedures have shifted over the years as I've recognized that I need to build in time to address any "baggage" students come into my room with, whether it was an argument on the playground or a test right before class they think they bombed. I've also realized nobody can (or should) be expected to instantly switch into "music class mode" the minute they cross the threshold of my classroom- they need time to transition into the space, some more than others. I started doing student-led warmups at the beginning of class a few years ago and it has been magnificent. I get those going as soon as the first few students are walking in, and everyone knows they need to join in as they get to their seats. Read about the kinds of warmups I do, and how I've made them student-led to free me up for side conversations etc, in this post.

2. Standing, sitting, and sitting up

This isn't always at the top of other teachers' lists but it is on mine- with all the singing, movement, and other transitions I have in my lessons we are rarely in one position for long, and it's important to me that students learn how to sit up properly in chairs for singing or playing wind instruments to give them proper breath support (one of the reasons I am a firm believer in using chairs rather than just sitting on the floor). I've established a silent hand signal for standing, sitting, and sitting up that we practice starting on the very first day- read about those in this post.

3. Redirection

One of the most important procedures I go over with students at the beginning of the year is how to handle themselves when they feel themselves getting out of hand, they're upset and aren't quite ready to resolve the issue yet, or need to share something with me that I can't listen to right away when they need me to hear them. We talk about taking responsibility to take space themselves rather than waiting for me to intervene, and I show them a few different places they can go when they need to remove themselves from a situation. I also have sticky notes and a pencil in a corner where students can write notes to me if they need to tell me something and I either can't listen right away or they want to keep it confidential. And I also try to reinforce with everyone that if I'm asking a student to go sit in one of those spaces or take space away from the group, that's to give them the opportunity to resolve the situation before it escalates, not as a "punishment". 

4. Instruments

The most important expectation I establish with instruments is written on a giant poster on my wall: if you play before I say you'll make the instrument go away. We practice the importance of holding instruments in a way that they won't accidentally make sound when they are waiting to begin playing, and we also practice what happens when they do play out of turn- I make sure they see early on that if they make a mistake it's not a big deal, they put their instrument down for one turn and then they always get another chance to join and try again. 

Besides that though, I also believe it's important for instruments to be visible and available for students, and for them to learn how to safely and appropriately handle them early on. So we practice how to get instruments off the shelves and put them away, and how to hand out instruments or collect them from other students if they are assigned to that team job and we are using small instruments like egg shakers or rhythm sticks. 

5. Movement

I'm lucky enough to have 2 areas in my room: one where chairs are set up, and another with floor spots in a circle. The kindergartners sit on the floor most of the time, but for the older grades we practice how to safely move from one area to the other and back again. Seems self-evident but I learned very early in my teaching career that it definitely is not!

6. Writing

I don't have desks or tables for each student in my room, so when it's time to write or color it is quite an ordeal without procedures in place. I have teams assigned to pass out and collect things, and we practice how to get everyone pencils and paper. For younger grades I just have them use their chairs as desks and sit on the floor to avoid more transitions and logistics, but for older students who tend to find that uncomfortable I have clipboards, lap desks, and some table space that we go over how they can get and use. I keep all of our supplies organized by color team to make it easier to keep track of everything- you can read about that in this post.

7. Bathroom/ tissues/ nurse

To be honest this is the procedure I tend to forget to practice because I'd rather just have everyone stay in music and never have to use the bathroom, blow their nose, or visit the nurse! Of course life doesn't work that way so when I'm on my game, I make sure to show students where the tissues are in my room and where nearest bathroom is and (especially for younger grades) practice walking between the music room and the bathroom, and I tell them my one rule to not have more than one student in the bathroom/ at the tissues at a time (mostly because it's too much for my brain to keep track of, but also to avoid dilly dallying). I have tried to have students use whatever hand signals they have in their homerooms in the past to avoid confusing them, but I'm considering establishing a hand signal for bathroom and tissues this year and putting a poster up in the room for their reference, because I have had too many times when students are trying to signal something to me and I don't know what the signal means! :) Regardless, they're important to review so they don't become disruptions throughout the year.

I know what you're thinking: what about emergency procedures? I honestly don't count that as a separate thing to practice for music class because we go over emergencies in general as a building and discuss various scenarios, including if students are in art, music, the cafeteria, the bathroom, etc. If we didn't do that as a building, I would certainly include that on my list as well! What else is on your list that didn't make mine? What are some ways you've found to help the procedures above go more smoothly in your room? I'd love to hear more ideas in the comments!

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Planner Setup 2022-23

There are few things more exciting about back to school season than setting up my planner for the new year- it just reminds me of the fresh opportunities for a new start, and helps me feel so much better prepared to get back into the swing of things! 

I filmed my process of taking out the old pages from last year and putting in the new ones to set my planner up for the school year so you can see how easy it is from year to year once you get your system set up. It really takes very little time or effort, and of course it's easy to tweak things too! 

If you have any questions about anything you see in the video or anything I mentioned please leave me a comment! If you're interested in the specific supplies I use, like the cover, discs, pens etc, here are some of those links below:

Happy Planner Rainbow Expander Metal Discs
Happy Planner Rose Gold Snap-In Cover
Happy Planner Folder Rainbow Heart
Arc Clear Zippered Pocket
Staples Clear Pocket
Rainbow Paper Tabs
Frixion Erasable Pens
Bookmark/ Sticky Note Dashboard DIY tutorial

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

More Favorite Tech Tools for Composition in Elementary Music

One of the best things to come out of this pandemic is the technology infrastructure that we've been forced to put in place. And one of the most powerful ways I've been able to incorporate the new one-to-one devices my students have into my lessons is composition. Over a year ago I shared my top 3 favorite platforms for composition, which you can read about here. Today I want to share my 3 more favorite tools to use for composition in elementary music: all available free online with no accounts to set up, and easy to save and share their compositions.

1. Beepbox

Beepbox is my absolute favorite tool to use with my Video Game Music Project that I do with 5th grade every year. I discovered it a few years ago and started using it with my students, and every year it seems my students find new features I didn't know about that make it even cooler! 

It works very similarly to SongMaker in Chrome Music Lab, but much more sophisticated because you can create multiple layers and loops of sounds, bend pitches, and manipulate the sounds in so many other ways, and there are a huge variety of instrument sounds to choose from. But the concept is the same- click on squares to make them play a note, the higher up on the page the square is, the higher the pitch will be. 

The great thing about this one is there's no multi-step process you have to go through to save/ share your work. All you do is copy/ paste the url. So it's very intuitive for students to remember how to save their work at the end of class. The only trick to point out is that the url changes when you edit the song, so if they edit their work they need to remember to copy the new url. Here's a nice quick tutorial that I've shared with my students before to help them get the basic idea.

3. Groove Pizza

Groove Pizza is great for creating drum tracks/ "beats" to add to student compositions. It's another great way to help students visually see the divisions of the beat, and an excellent starting point for exploring specific genres, because there are pre-loaded tracks in different styles that students can listen to and manipulate. I like to use this one with upper elementary/ middle school to have them add a quick drum part to a melody or chord progression they've made. It's nice for this because it's so easy for students to get started and make something they like, and it's easy to change things like tempo to fit what they need. 

One specific feature that I love using with my 6th grade students is the "swing" tool. I do a unit on jazz music with 6th grade and part of that is learning what it means to swing a rhythm. Just by clicking and dragging the "swing" setting, students can easily hear the difference between straight and swung versions of the same track! 

Saving and sharing is easy in this one as well- they just click the "share" icon, then they can export to soundtrap or noteflight (awesome feature if your students use those!), download, or (as I usually do so they can submit in google classroom) copy the link to their song.

3. Sampulator

This has been one of my favorite tools for a while now but I didn't include it in my first list mostly because it is missing one key feature that I love about all the other platforms: the ability to save and share songs without creating an account. BUT I have figured out work-arounds for this, and it's awesome enough without that feature, that I decided it needed to be on this list.

Although you have to set up an account to save and share songs, Sampulator can be used without an account. It's really fun for students to play around with because it's set up to be used primarily with a computer keyboard, with each key playing a different sound, so students can play it on the keyboard rather than working out how much to space out the squares they click to get the rhythm they want. You can also record multiple layers over each other, so students can end up with some pretty sophisticated tracks.

My work-around for students to be able to share their compositions is to have them record their screen while they play it, using something like Screencastify or Zoom recording, depending on what students can use on their devices. When I was teaching fully on Zoom earlier in the pandemic, I let them share their screen in class and just recorded it myself, but in the classroom obviously they have to record it themselves on their own device and then send it to you. Honestly I use this mostly without having students save their work at all, and just make sure whatever they're using it for is done in one class period, but when I have students who want to share something they've made at home or on their own time I tell them to record their screen.

There are so many great tools for online digital composition- which ones are your favorite? I'd love to hear about how you're using technology for student composition in elementary music in the comments below. 

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Best Strategies for Teaching Composition

Composition / creating is one of those areas we tend to throw in here and there without really thinking about properly sequencing and scaffolding our instruction for our students the way we do for other skills and concepts, but it's so important to be intentional about developing students' composition skills! When we don't, elementary students can get turned off to composition so easily. Here are my top strategies for teaching composition, including how I sequence the skill through the grades as well as my favorite lesson plans for doing so.

Lower elementary

In the younger grades it's all about keeping it short and simple, using manipulatives more than writing, and having them create frequently! Here's how I approach composition with my K-3 students:

Upper elementary / middle school

For older students I find the most important factors are to limit their options, and give context and meaning to their creations. There are so many fantastic composition projects I absolutely love doing with my 4th-6th graders! Read about how I approach composition in general, and about my favorite specific projects I love to use, in this post:

Using technology

If there's one thing I've learned through the pandemic it's new ways to use technology in my teaching! With our students now having one-to-one devices my students have been able to use some wonderful platforms that make composition fun and engaging, and also helps many students understand concepts so much better! Here are some of my favorite platforms to use with all grade levels:

Using manipulatives

Just like different technology platforms can help with student comprehension and engagement, manipulatives of all kinds have the same effect, and they can be used even if you don't have any devices available! I love using different types of manipulatives for different grade levels based on the concepts they are working on- here are my favorites, how I make them or where I find them, and how I use them with my students:


Creating without notating

Of course creating music doesn't have to include notating it in any way shape or form- it's important for students to have the freedom to focus on creating music without worrying about, or being limited by, the process of notating. Here are my favorite lesson activities and strategies for sequencing instruction across lower and upper elementary grade levels to teach students how to create music:

I hope this helps you teach composition and music creating skills more intentionally, and gives you some new lesson ideas to try! If you want to see the composition worksheet templates I use, you can find those in this set. I've found it makes composing and notating so much more accessible for students because they are intentionally created to scaffold from Kindergarten all the way through high school! If you have any other favorite ideas or questions about teaching composition I'd love to hear them in the comments below.

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Summer Renewal: music class reboot

I am at a place in my life right now where I am working towards renewal. For me renewal this summer means getting back to the things I love, the things that bring me joy that I had gotten out of the habit of doing or was forced to let go of. It means taking the fresh ideas I've learned through the pandemic and infusing them into my old best practices, both in my professional and my personal life. It means reclaiming my sense of purpose, and working towards a renewed passion and energy instead of just living in a constant state of triage. In yesterday's post I focused on home life, but today I'm focusing on the ways I'm working towards renewal in my teaching practices.

1. New ideas

Despite all the challenges, there have been many new lesson activities I've found, and new classroom setup, organization, and management ideas I've tried during this pandemic that I'm definitely holding onto and working into my teaching practice going forward- I wrote about the new ideas from this past year I'm excited to keep, and even expand on, in these posts:


2. Student seating arrangements

The last few years due to social distancing requirements and guidelines I've had to completely rearrange my student seating. This past year I moved closer back to how I had them pre-pandemic, but I'm eager to get (mostly) fully back to the seating arrangements I had before. Last year I had to have all of the chairs and floor spots both spread out in a 3'x3' grid, like this: 

But this year (barring a resurgence of covid protocols) I am excited to go back to chairs in rows and, especially, floor spots in a circle, like this:

The small tweaks I'm planning to make going forward are to 1) space the chairs out a little more in each row if I can- I had the chairs touching each other before and I saw the benefits of at least a little personal space during the pandemic and 2) using carpet spots to mark the circle spots instead of tape. Honestly, since I already used duct tape on the carpet pre-pandemic and I'm going back to the same spots for the rows and can put the tape on top of the existing residue (which is minimal but still there), I will probably go back to duct tape for the rows- it's just a lot more durable than the velcro strips, which I had to replace a couple of times throughout the year last year. But the spots are probably even more durable than the tape, and definitely don't leave residue at all, so I'm converted for those!

I know a lot of teachers are actually sticking with the spaced out seating arrangements because it kept students out of each other's business a little more, but I think we're ready for the messiness of learning to work more closely in community again, and it's important for the kids to develop those skills.

3. Team jobs

I was so happy to get back to having color teams, and jobs assigned to those teams, last school year, but I had to replace one of my jobs because of the aforementioned seating arrangement changes: line leader. I'm excited to get back to having the line leader job back in our classroom job rotation, because I love how it teaches students how to get on and off choral risers with the way I have them line up at the end of class in this configuration. You can read the details on how I have them line up in this post, and more importantly if you haven't tried color teams and/or team jobs for elementary music I highly recommend reading this post!

4. Movement

I know I'm not the only one excited to bring back more folk dancing/ movement without having to social distance students! There were so many lessons I had to let go of or modify, like Draw a Bucket of Water and Bickle Bockle, that I can't wait to get back to. 

5. Restorative circles

I did still make restorative conversations a part of my teaching during the pandemic, but because of the reduced class time and the lack of an actual circle to sit in, they were far less frequent, and it showed in student behavior. I'm looking forward to getting back to having restorative circles as a part of my regular class routines- you can read about how I use circles in the elementary music room in this post.

Those are the highlights of ways I'm rebooting my music teaching practices and classroom for the upcoming school year- I'm so excited to get recharged and get back to some of the things I have missed the last couple of years. What are you doing to regain your passion and purpose for the upcoming school year? I'd love to hear new ideas you're putting in place, and old ones you're bringing back, in the comments!