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Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Elementary Music Teacher January Jumpstart

I know it can be hard to think about going back to work when you're enjoying a relaxing winter break snuggled on the couch under a blanket, so today I thought I'd share all of my top tools and ideas to make your life easier as you head back to school, from calendars and organizational tools to lesson ideas and management tips. Hopefully this will help you be able to focus on the joy of seeing your students again and less on the dread of returning to a pile of work!

1. Lesson Ideas for January

For me January actually kinda plans itself. I always focus on reviewing all the main concepts I introduce in the beginning of the year- rhythm and pitch concepts in particular- and include lesson material centered around new year's celebrations and winter themes. I promise you, all of these ideas have been big hits with my students year after year and they are highly effective for reinforcing and learning key concepts. And if you want a little extra help putting all the lessons together with each grade's plans written out and all the materials put together for you, you can grab the January curriculum set here and check it off your list in one click!

2. Behavior Management Reset

If you had a tough time with difficult/ disruptive behaviors in any of your classes at the beginning of the year it can make it particularly difficult to think about going back (I know because I've been there). Just know that it is never too late to implement new procedures or systems to help your classes run more smoothly and help foster a positive classroom environment! If you left for winter break feeling dissatisfied or discouraged about your classroom management for one or all of your classes, here are my top recommendations for procedures and systems to implement midyear and hit the reset button, both general strategies and ideas to address specific issues. If you want to set up any of these systems quickly without having to make visuals and materials from scratch, here are the posters and visuals I use ready to print and go!

3. Organization

I know for me, January is when I get the urge to organize, purge, and streamline everything! Here are my favorite organization ideas for the classroom, planning, and home life to help get your life in order and take away so much stress! And of course if there are 2 things that I think play the biggest role in relieving stress and keeping me from dropping all the balls I have in the air, it's my planner and my K-6 general music curriculum. Trust me, if you are really serious about making your life easier to focus on what matters most, those are the two biggest "bang for your buck" things you can get.

I hope you find something here to help make back to school a little less intimidating and a little more exciting. If there's something else you're feeling anxious about or just wanting to improve that you don't see an answer for here, let me know in the comments and let's talk! 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Meaningful Ways to Encourage Teachers

If you haven't heard, teaching is hard! And at this point, a jeans pass is not going to cut it to make teachers feel better about their jobs- we need real, systemic changes in policies, pay, budgets, and so much more. But I also know that is a long game that is going to take a lot of time and group effort, and many of us are looking for ways to help teachers feel supported and appreciated in the meantime while we work on that! Whether you are a teacher like me trying to support your colleagues, an administrator wanting to show your appreciation for your staff, or a parent or other community member wanting to support your local teachers, here are some things you can do now that don't require a big social movement or a massive budget but also won't feel trivial or trite.

I've written about each of these ideas in more detail in their own separate blog posts- click on the images to read more about each one.

1. Start a teacher shoutout book

2. Set up a place to share "wins" in the staff lounge

3. Set up a water station for staff

4. Find opportunities for affirmation

5. Get them a gift they'll truly appreciate

6. Adjust your language 

Bonus ideas specifically for administrators/ school leaders:

I hope this gives you some practical ideas if you've been wanting to do something to show teachers your appreciation but felt helpless to do so! And teachers, if you have other ideas you've seen that help teachers feel encouraged, supported, and appreciated please leave them in the comments.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

Teaching Fa

I introduce solfege notes sequentially over the course of 4 years to really make sure students are comfortable working with the pitches before adding more to the mix. The very last note that I introduce in the middle of 4th grade is fa, and today I'm sharing some of my favorite lessons for introducing and practicing reading, writing, hearing, and singing fa along with the full diatonic scale.

My favorite song to use to introduce fa is "One Bottle of Pop". I'm also introducing partner singing in 4th grade, so this song is the perfect way to practice partner singing and also introduce the last solfege note in the same song! I'm sure most people have heard the song but for those who may not know, the song has 3 short verses that can be sung at the same time as a partner song- this video shows the melodies so you can hear how they go together. I actually lived in Edinburgh, Scotland for a year in elementary school and learned this song there so I teach the lyrics I learned there, which are slightly different than the ones I see U.S. Americans using online:

After learning each of the 3 verses separately with motions, I ask students to aurally identify the solfege of the first verse, which is incredibly easy with just do and sol. Then I tell them I want to figure out the solfege of the very end of the last verse and work backwards, so we start with the last note do and I ask them to aurally and visually identify the solfege from do back to the 2 eighth note "fa"s, which comes naturally since it is just a scale. There's fa! I like using this phrase to introduce the note because the phrase starts on fa and makes it easy to hear the tonality of the note and how it leans into mi. Once we've figured that phrase out and officially added the final note fa to our diatonic scale, I ask them to visually identify the solfege of the beginning of the second verse to see fa in a scale passage going from do to sol. Then we practice singing the entire song in solfege with hand signs, reading from the notation. Students are usually pretty surprised to find that they're able to do that pretty easily!

By 4th grade students are already aware that the note between mi and sol is fa, so introducing the note is not a major step. But it is a big deal that they now know the full scale and will be expected to use them all going forward! We always have a "solfege celebration" afterwards with Maria Ellis' Soul-fege Slide- I like to use this to practice the hand signs and solfege notes the next few classes after that as well:

Once they've gotten enough practice reading, hearing, and singing all of the solfege notes, I have them practice contextualizing the melodic and rhythmic notation concepts they've been working on by writing different rhythms on the staff with different pitches. Up until this point they have mostly either worked on writing rhythms in isolation on a 1-line staff, or writing melodies in isolation with just noteheads, so this is a big step for them. I have found that showing them on my computer how to take notes of different note values (like a set of beamed sixteenth notes or a dotted half note) and drag it onto the staff in different places helps them understand how the two concepts come together. We practice picking out different rhythms and putting them in different places on the staff on the computer together, then I have them work in groups to create a rhythm using rhythm cards, then write that rhythm on the treble clef staff to create a melody.

It is so much fun to see the excitement on the students' faces when they realize they have unlocked the entire set of solfege notes after all those years of practice! And they love the partner song because we make it silly with motions to exaggerate the nonsense lyrics. I hope you enjoy using these lessons with your students! You can see all of my lesson plans for melodic concepts all the way from teaching high and low in early childhood through the full progression of solfege notes in 1st through 4th grade, and practicing note letter names in treble and bass clef, in this post.

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Interactive Display for Teacher Staff Lounge

The staff lounge can be a very negative place sometimes. While it's good for teachers and staff to have a safe place to vent and complain, it's also important for our own emotional well-being to share positive things as well, and that can be difficult to do when you pop in to have an adult conversation for the first time in 4 hours! This is a simple and effective way to help lift everyone's mood when they're having a tough day, and serve as a reminder of the good parts of our work.

As teachers we spend our whole day trying to maintain calm and positivity in the face of disrespectful parent emails, disruptive and rude student behaviors, and overwhelming work loads, so it's perfectly healthy and good to be able to vent and share our frustrations with colleagues who get it. The problem is that, especially with the very short length of time we usually spend in the staff lounge, it will often stop there and we never hear or share the positive things that happen, which can feed into the perception that there is more bad than good going on, which in turn can feed into an "us vs them" mentality, or just negative feelings about school in general.

While there are definitely plenty of aspects of teaching that need fixing, it has really been helpful for me to find ways to refocus on the positive, fun, happy, funny moments as well. I definitely can take myself and my job too seriously sometimes and that makes me a much more uptight, cranky teacher! So I decided to put up this display in the staff lounge and invite colleagues to add to it:

I just put some butcher paper on the wall, used some extra border I had with stars on it (our school's PBIS system is "STAR" so we do a lot of things with a star theme), cut out a few star shapes from regular copy paper, and made the letters and sign to create a title and explanation above it (feel free to copy and print to use yourself):

I also grabbed a few extra markers and pencils and put them in a cup to leave next to the board so people could write things down whenever they thought of something. I talked to the principal beforehand and each of us wrote an anecdote up immediately so staff would get the idea. It definitely took a few days to catch on but slowly but surely, more and more stories and quotes have started to be added- I love walking in to see a new one on the board, it makes me smile every time! And although the venting and complaining is definitely still there (as it should be), there are also conversations about the funny quotes that people posted mixed in as well, and that has had a small but positive effect on the mood in the room.

I've loved seeing people use it, and I hope we can fill up the entire wall by the end of the school year! And maybe next year I'll make something a little more permanent to use the same way so we can keep it going. What other ideas do you have for fostering positivity in the teacher room? I'd love to hear what you've seen in your buildings in the comments below!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

#Watertok Education Hydration Station for the Teacher's Lounge

I've been especially focused this school year on finding ways to boost teacher / staff morale in my building. The last few years have been incredibly stressful, to say the least, and with so many new teachers coming into my building I knew it would be important to try to build a positive, supportive work environment with my colleagues if I was going to avoid being completely miserable this year. I have taken on a few different projects to that end already this year, but the one that has gotten the most buzz amongst the teachers so far this year has been the "education hydration station" I set up in the teacher's lounge.

I am definitely not the first person to do this- I completely stole the idea from this video I saw on Instagram:

To be honest I had not heard of #watertok until I saw this video- I'm not actually on TikTok at all. So for anyone else hiding under a rock like me, apparently there has been a trend recently of people sharing "recipes" for flavored water that they make by mixing water with different drink mix powders and syrups. The idea behind the "Education Hydration Station" is to set up all of the ingredients, along with some recipes, so staff can mix and match different flavors with their water.

I set this up the week of Halloween- we had a VERY long week that week with a full 5 days of school (with Halloween on Tuesday), evening conferences on Monday, and a 90 minute staff meeting after school on Thursday (yikes). I really do think having the motivation to drink more water actually helped keep my energy up, and everyone loved trying out the different combinations! I was only going to have it set up in the teacher's lounge for one day but ended up leaving it out for most of the week. 

The one part of this I will take credit for is the name (yes I know I am so clever). If you want to use the signs I made for the table, you're welcome to print them out below:

All you really need are the drink packets, syrups, and ice to make this work. I also had jugs of water, because we don't have a bottle filler or any other source of drinking water in the staff lounge, and I also got some cups with lids and straws, although most teachers have their own water bottles so they aren't absolutely necessary. Here are the links everything I bought for the recipes on the printout above (plus a few other drink mix flavors):

plastic cups with lids and straws

coconut, peach, pina colada, and vanilla syrups

grape, strawberry, orange, pineapple, fruit punch, pink starburst, and cherry drink mix packets (I got mine at the dollar store- they were cheaper there- but you can get them online at those links if you can't find them locally)

water jugs from (I got mine at Walmart)

ice from Sonic

I think this is a fun way to change up the usual the staff lounge treats, and it was definitely a big hit with a low budget. Maybe you can find a way to sneak this post in front of your principal or PTA to keep in mind for teacher appreciation week....? We all know teachers are always dehydrated, so we can pretend it's healthy :)

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Teacher Shoutout Book

I've been especially focused this school year on finding ways to boost teacher / staff morale in my building. The last few years have been incredibly stressful, to say the least, and with so many new teachers coming into my building I knew it would be important to try to build a positive, supportive work environment with my colleagues if I was going to avoid being completely miserable this year. I have taken on a few different projects to that end already this year, but by far the easiest, completely free, and genuinely effective one by far has been the teacher shoutout book.

As I'm sure many other schools are experiencing, we have a lot of new teachers in our building this year. Along with that, there is (understandably) a general sense of negativity in teacher land right now because of student behavior, mounting pressure and micromanaging from administration, ongoing inadequate pay, and other factors that have been heightened coming out of the pandemic. I also am very aware that we are in a time in education where, because teaching has been so dramatically different the last 3 years, administrators, consultants, families, and others in the community are uniquely unable to understand what teaching is like for us, which adds to the level of stress. 

While certainly working towards improving and fixing the structural, societal issues that are causing this stress and negativity is obviously the most important thing that needs to happen, I wanted to do what I could to help foster a sense of community and teamwork with my new colleagues, and do what I could to spread positivity- not the toxic, fake kind that ignores the real issues, but the genuine kind that helps everyone feel seen and valued- in our school staff.

The basic idea of the teacher shoutout book is simple: someone writes a note to another staff member about something they appreciate about them, something awesome they did, etc in a notebook and leaves it in their mailbox or on their desk for them to find, with directions to pass the favor along to someone else. I had a few blank notebooks laying around at home that I wasn't using so I picked one that had a bookmark (added bonus, as more notes get added it's easier to mark the current spot), wrote "Staff Shoutout Notebook" on the front, and taped 2 pieces of paper on the inside:


On 1 piece of paper I printed out a list of all the school staff- their names and positions- to hopefully encourage people to think of someone that hasn't been recognized yet when they are thinking of who to pass it along to next. On the other side, I put a basic explanation of what the book is with instructions to pass it on when they get it. 

So far it has been circulating well among different members of the staff, and the principal told me she has had several staff members comment to her that it was the best thing that had happened to them that year and totally made their day. I did find it on someone's desk a few weeks after I started sending it around and peeked at some of the messages people had written- it was so nice to see all of the positive and encouraging things people were saying about each other!

I highly recommend this to everyone. Even if you already have a really strong, well-connected staff, this is still a great way to help teachers feel appreciated for the work they are doing, and it really does make you feel better both as the writer and the receiver! And it's so easy to set up: all you need is a notebook, or you could even use a binder with some looseleaf paper inside, and a little note somewhere on the notebook explaining what it is so people know to keep passing it. I hope you'll consider trying it out in your school- let me know if you do! 

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Teaching Ti

I'm returning to my series on melodic teaching strategies from years ago today with my favorite lesson ideas for introducing ti. After working on the pentatonic scale in 3rd grade, I introduce ti in 4th grade: singing it, identifying it aurally, and notating it as well.

My favorite song to use to introduce ti in 4th grade is "Boots of Shining Leather". I like using this song because I use it to review canon singing (as we get ready to learn partner songs) and this song is a good level of challenge for singing in canon while adding some movement as well. Here is one example of movement you can use- adding the element of having the groups face each other and walking back and forth makes it interesting and challenging for this age group! I tend to change up some of the movements to make them a little more modern but the basic idea is the same:

Once they are familiar enough with the song to be able to sing and move in canon, I show students the notation of the 2nd line, "boots of shining leather". This line works particularly well for students to see adjacent notes and quickly find ti because it starts on do, goes up to re (which they already know), and then goes back down the scale to la. There's our new note ti right in between do and la!

I don't get into minor scales until 5th grade so I don't explicitly touch on it in this lesson, but this is also a great song to use for la-based minor. Every single year I have had at least one student who notices that the song "sounds minor" and I often give a quick explanation of la-based minor for that student(s) by pointing out that the phrase ends on la instead of do.

Once we've practiced singing the note names in the song, I introduce the "me salty" game. If you have seen my previous post on mi/ sol/ la, then this game works the exact same way the "salami" game does: I sing a 3-note phrase with hand signs and students echo it back, but if I sing mi-sol-ti (which sounds like I'm calling myself "salty") then they are not supposed to sing it back. I of course mix all the other pitches into the phrases they echo so that they get plenty of practice with all of them! Once they can consistently sing the pitches with correct hand signs, I up the ante. First I sing the notes with hand signs but humming instead of singing the names, and they have to sing them back with the note names. Then I take away my hands and continue humming and have them sing and sign the notes back, and then I use just my hands and have them sing and sign the notes back. It takes quite a bit of concentration!

My favorite way to have students practice notating melodies including ti, at this age, is with Chrome Music Lab Song Maker. I like using this software with upper elementary because it's an easy way to use the colors to see which note is which, and they can see the melodic contour of the notes going higher and lower on the screen. First I have them practice notating short phrases I sing on solfege on the computer, then I have them notate the melody for "Boots of Shining Leather", and then eventually they compose their own melody including ti on Song Maker and transfer that to staff notation.

All of this is done over the course of the entire year as they get more comfortable with the pitch concepts. If you missed them, be sure to check out my previous posts on introducing sol/mi in 1st grade and introducing la in 2nd gradeAnd if you want to see the full lesson plans for how I teach the pentatonic pitches throughout the year in third grade, along with all the materials I use, you'll find them in my 3rd grade curriculum set here. All of my posts on teaching melodic concepts, including solfege, pitch letter names, and more are compiled in this post.

Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Teaching Do / Re / Mi and Pentatonic

I'm returning to my series on melodic teaching strategies from years ago today with my favorite lesson ideas for focusing on the do/ re/ mi pitch set. If you sequence your teaching by starting with these 3 notes, you can use these ideas to work on just do/re/mi. If you, like me, start with mi/ sol/ la and add do and re afterwards to make a pentatonic scale, you can use them that way as well.

After focusing on mi / sol / la in 2nd grade, I add do and re in 3rd grade. There are TONS of pentatonic songs using do, re, mi, sol, and la from all over the world that are perfect for practicing those pitches, but to first introduce do and re, especially in relation to mi, I like to use the song "Zudio" because it's a great way to get students moving actively with the song and repeating it over and over again!

There are so many super fun movement games to do with this song! If you are going to devote enough time to the lessons to do the full song, this game is so much fun (I like teaching just the one part in the beginning of the year with a quick game and then coming back to this full version at the end of the year- this game is perfect for the pre-summer wiggles)! This kind of movement is also really fun and much faster to learn, especially if you're just focusing on the 2 parts of the song notated above. I like to have students partner up and do a simple 4-beat clapping pattern (clap your own hands on beats 1 and 3, cross to clap each other's right hands on beat 2 and each other's left hands on beat 4) for "here we go" and do a simple hand jive for "step back Sally".

If you're following the pitch sequence to introduce do re mi first, this song works great because you can focus on the last 3 notes of the phrase where it says "all night long" and identify just those pitches. If you have students learning mi sol and la first and are then adding do and re, which is what I do, I still start with "all night long" but then go back and identify the solfege of the first line, "here we go Zudio" to have students identify the sol and la in the melody as well.

Once we've practiced singing the note names in the song, I introduce the "me dodo" game. If you have seen my previous post on mi/ sol/ la, then this game works the exact same way the "salami" game does: I sing a 3-note phrase with hand signs and students echo it back, but if I sing mi-do-do (which sounds like I'm calling myself a "dodo") then they are not supposed to sing it back. I of course mix all 5 pitches into the phrases they echo so that they get plenty of practice with all of them! Once they can consistently sing the pitches with correct hand signs, I up the ante. First I sing the notes with hand signs but humming instead of singing the names, and they have to sing them back with the note names. Then I take away my hands and continue humming and have them sing and sign the notes back, and then I use just my hands and have them sing and sign the notes back. It takes quite a bit of concentration!

As with the other solfege pitches that I introduce, the last step is to practice notating. To practice with all 5 notes (which can be pretty overwhelming at first), I bring back the monster magnets that I introduce in 2nd grade, and then later have them use solfege stickers, color-coded to match our boomwhackers, to practice translating a rhythmic composition to a melodic one. If you haven't already, be sure to read about both of those DIY manipulatives in the posts below- they are so effective in helping kids see the different pitches more concretely and keeping them engaged while they practice notation! 

In my case, since students now know the 5 pitches of a pentatonic scale after introducing do and re, this is also when we first talk about the word and concept of "pentatonic" music. The best way that I've found to have students grasp the idea of pentatonic melodies and see how versatile that set of pitches can be is to have them improvise with pentatonic notes on barred percussion. We get out the xylophones and remove the F and B bars (the "burgers and fries") and then take turns making up whatever they want for 4 beats each. They're always surprised at how they can use those notes in any order or combination and still sound like "real music"! 

After those lessons, the rest of the year is spent practicing and reviewing do, re, mi, sol, and la and learning lots of pentatonic songs! If you missed them, be sure to check out my previous posts on introducing sol/mi in 1st grade and introducing la in 2nd gradeAnd if you want to see the full lesson plans for how I teach the pentatonic pitches throughout the year in third grade, along with all the materials I use, you'll find them in my 3rd grade curriculum set here. All of my posts on teaching melodic concepts, including solfege, pitch letter names, and more are compiled in this post.

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

3 Common Consequences Music Teachers Need to Stop

We need to be able to enforce boundaries and standards of behavior, but it can be hard to come up with consequences that we can use as elementary music teachers when our class times are so short and there are often several days between the times we see them. But there are some common practices I hear teachers recommending to others regularly that I think do more harm than good- here are my top 3 consequences I wish elementary music teachers would stop using, and what I do instead.

1. Give a class intentionally boring worksheets as a consequence for expressing or demonstrating negative attitudes towards regular lesson activities

As logical as it may sound to think that students will appreciate the fun and exciting lesson activities more if they experience what a boring lesson is like, if there is toxic, negative energy going around for whatever reason about your class, making it more boring is not going to help- it's going to make it worse. There is always a ringleader or two that is the root of the negative energy, even if it feels like the whole class is against you. Start by explaining at the end of the lesson that the negative energy is ruining the vibes and preventing the class from having fun and from learning- not every activity or class has to be their favorite, but everyone needs to do their best and have a positive attitude: "don't yuck someone else's yum". Tell them that starting next lesson, you are not going to allow anyone to ruin the positive energy.

If possible, make someone- the principal, the social worker, etc- aware of the situation and that you are trying to turn around the negative energy in a class. Warn them ahead of time that you may need backup during a particular class period while you handle the situation, and work out a plan, either for someone to push in or be prepared to take students, if you need it. I know sometimes teachers don't have adequate support staff or their administrator is unsupportive- in that case I would get a colleague on board who is willing to have a student or two come in their room. But I would encourage you to try to advocate for someone to be available to come in if needed- I've found administrators and support staff appreciate when you explain all the things you've already tried and that you are wanting to do this as a short-term strategy to keep everyone in class instead of having to throw them out or stop your lessons in the long run.

Once you've established that you expect everyone to keep negative energy to themselves, start the next lesson overflowing with positive energy, grinning as soon as you see them to show you're excited about having a good time that day. Don't plan anything different than what you normally would have, but be super excited about everything. Give positive reinforcement for all the students who are engaged, whether that's points or whatever other positive reward you have in place in your school or classroom (if you don't have one, start one and explain what it is to everyone!). As soon as the first person starts to make a negative comment/ face (even if it's right as they enter the room), try to quickly catch them and remind them to keep it positive. If they don't, ask them to sit away from the rest of the class and take their negative energy elsewhere and go back to having fun with the others. If they are still disrupting the lesson, offer to let them write down their negative thoughts instead of saying them out loud and spreading their negativity. If that doesn't work, put the backup plan into action: ideally I think it works best if there is someone that can be on call to come and sit with the negative student(s) while you proceed with the others, but if not, get them to leave the room, whether it's the principal's office, another classroom, or somewhere else. The goal is to turn the tide so that the majority of the class that was getting sucked into the negativity before, gets sucked into your positive energy instead. 

If you have to have a student (or several students) leave the room, it will be important to follow up with that student after class. Often they will be happy that they got to leave the class they were complaining about (which is why it's best to find a way for someone to come in if at all possible)! So there needs to be a consequence for that specific student, whether that's giving makeup work, calling/ writing home, or something else to make sure that student doesn't want this to keep happening. Having that positive reward for the students who were engaged will help here too, since obviously the ones who left will not get whatever the others did. It will get easier and easier to get those students to at least tone down their negativity to a manageable level once the attitude of the rest of the class is positive- it has never taken me more than 4 class periods of this to turn the class around.

2. Put away instruments and ban their use from the entire class because of chaotic behavior while using them or damaging an instrument(s)

If students don't know how to use instruments properly, giving them less opportunity to learn how is not going to help long-term. It's also never helpful to punish an entire class for something that most likely wasn't something everyone did. First of all, I have a strict rule in place of, "if you play before I say you'll make the instrument go away". I tell them every single time we get out instruments, and I also remind them often that I'm not here to judge if it was intentional or accidental- if you touch/ make sound with something when you're not supposed to, you will miss a turn with that instrument. The key is to make sure the time they lose the instrument is short and then they quickly get a chance to try again and do it right.

If as a group a class is too chaotic while using/ getting out instruments, slow it way down to whatever point you need to be able to monitor each student more closely. Sometimes that means only half the class plays at a time instead of everyone at once, having one student at a time go and get out their instrument while the rest of the class waits and watches and you narrate the correct way of doing it every step of the way, or having a few students designated to get out an instrument for others, etc. 

3. Having a class practice coming into class silently/ calmly over and over until they are all coming in the way you expect

I used to do this ALL THE TIME at the beginning of my career. Having students practice a behavior or procedure the right way when they do it wrong is obviously a good thing. But again, punishing an entire class for something that is probably not something everyone is doing is only going to make students feel frustrated and agitated, not calm and focused like you want them to be.

If the vast majority of a class comes into my room too rambunctiously, I will definitely stop and have them go back and try again. But 1) I only do it one time and I make sure to give positive reinforcement to the ones that do it right, and 2) I do not have them go back in the hallway- I have them line up as close to the door as possible but still inside my room, and then walk to their spots from there. I find going back in the hallway is counterproductive because I never know who else is going to walk by making noise and/or distracting my students, and usually sound carries a lot more in the hallway so every little noise is amplified. I keep them in my controlled environment to practice instead.

If it's just a few students, obviously I just ask those few students to do it again. If the class has practiced once there will only be a few students, if any, who still aren't doing it right- in that case I will have those few students try it again by themselves. But again, only once- after that it just turns into a power struggle and it's not effective. If I still have students who are running/ talking loudly etc after that, I tell them we will practice another time and move on. I talk to the homeroom teachers and/or principal and figure out a time when I can take them by themselves and practice walking appropriately (some years I've been lucky enough to be available to do it during their recess, other times I take them first thing in the morning when everyone else has circle time, or immediately after class).

As a sidenote, one thing that has helped tremendously with this problem specifically is I've stopped needing my students to walk in silently. Yes, they should not be yelling, running, or touching other people or things, but the thing that has helped me get everyone focused right away without requiring them to be silent is to immediately start student-led warmups. It took away so many power struggles to start class this way! Check out this post on how I do that, and this post for a whole bunch of activity ideas for warmups.

I know this may ruffle some feathers but I hope this gives teachers some new ideas to try that will help turn the tide in a positive direction! I would love to hear your thoughts on these common consequences, and any other strategies you have used effectively in these situations, in the comments below. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Elementary Music Lesson Warmup Activities

I've been using student-led warmups at the beginning of my elementary general music lessons for years now and I am a big fan! I've gotten a lot of questions about the warmups I do and how I do them, and over the last few weeks I've been sharing my favorite activities for lesson warmups in my K-6 general music classes (26 in all!) that focus on important musical skills and concepts. In this post I've compiled all of my posts on how I set up and manage the student-led warmups in general, all of the different activity ideas, and the visuals I use to run them.

First of all, my warmup activities start as soon as students start coming into the room- it's more like a "do now" where I don't wait for the class to all be seated before I start. Once I get it going, I hand it off to the small group of students assigned to lead warmups (the job rotates throughout the year) and they take over, giving me time to finish setting up, pull aside a student who needs a checkin, etc while the others are engaged in the activity. Here's the full post on how I run my warmups:

Besides the benefits from a management perspective, I've found the warmups very helpful for student learning because it gives me an easy way to quickly touch on those skills and concepts that need regular "drilling" for students to attain and maintain fluency, especially steady beat, rhythm, pitch, reading notation, and music vocabulary. In each of the posts below you'll find 4 or 5 different activities I use with different grades to practice these fundamental skills and concepts in quick and easy (and fun!) ways:



All of these can truly be done without any special slides or equipment, but I got several request to share the slides I use- for those who want something ready-made at your fingertips to implement all of the different warmups mentioned above, here they are:

If you haven't tried using warmup activities at the beginning of your elementary music classes, I highly recommend trying them out! It took me a long time to be convinced I should do it, but I have been hooked ever since I started. If you have more ideas for activities, or questions about anything, please leave a comment below.