Thursday, May 30, 2019

Bubble Wrap Incentives



Since spring break, I've discovered a cheap and effective behavior incentive--BUBBLE WRAP!
It happened by accident. I had opened a box of supplies but didn't have time to put them all away before my first class came in. The 5th graders immediately spotted the bubble wrap and begged to pop it. I told them they would have to earn the deserved the bubble wrap. They were angels!!! So, I cut off some squares and let them pop! I tried this with the next class and they, too, were fascinated with the bubble wrap. So, here's my system:

I cut the bubble wrap into squares roughly measuring 3" by 3". I had a jar with a hinged lid that was a gift from a student from Christmas. I store the bubble wrap in the jar. I have a plastic basket in the closet with a bubble wrap stash ready to refill my jar.



At the end of class, I pick some "Pop Stars" who get to pop some bubble wrap. I wait until they are standing in line and pass some out. They must pop it in line and dispose of the spent bubble wrap in my trashcan on their way out the door. 

I have even offered therapeutic bubble wrap to teachers who looked extra stressed when they came to pick up their classes. No one has refused!

During the last 2 weeks of school, I got a package in the mail that included these giant pillow bubbles. I have now called them "Super Bubbles" and I have chosen one person in each class to stomp on a super bubble.


Students and teachers have learned of my bubble wrap rewards and have been bringing me their bubble wrap to replenish my stash. I'm sure between donations and my own habit of online shopping, I will not have to spend a dime on more bubble wrap.

The bubble wrap was such a hit, I'm sure it will return in the fall to start the school year. How are you surviving the end of the school year? Do you have any incentives to encourage good behavior? I'd love to hear your comments.

Friday, March 1, 2019

Instrument Repair: Recorder Block



In my 14 years teaching, I’ve always used Yamaha 3-piece recorder and I’ve never had a recorder sound block fall out... until now! This student tried to fix it himself and got the block misaligned and stuck. In the video below, I show how I attempted to remove the block safely so I could fix it properly.  


Have you ever had a sound block fall out of a recorder? This was my first and it certainly challenged me to think outside the box. If you do not already have an arsenal of tools in your classroom, you should consider getting a multi-tool and a quick change screwdriver like the ones I used in the video. I am often needing them to repair something quickly and I am glad I don't have to wait to borrow tools from the custodian. I bought these tools very cheap at Walmart during my first year teaching and they were a great investment. Links to similar products can be found below.

Multi-tool

This is usually found in the sporting goods section with camping or fishing gear. You can get one similar to the one I have for about $10. Here is a link to purchase.


Quick Change Screwdriver

This can be found in the hardware section. You can get one similar for around $5 or $6. Here is a link to purchase.



Saturday, September 8, 2018

Classroom Mascots


I recently saw a post on Facebook that Target had a doll with a musical shirt with solfege. I had to run to Target to check it out. While I was there, I also saw a doll with paintbrushes on her shirt. The dolls were part of the Pillowfort collection and can be found in the children's bedroom section. They are named the Composer and the Artist on the Target website and retail for $16.99 each. Even though I had already spent a lot of my personal money on school supplies, I decided that these dolls needed to become part of my classrooms (I teach both music and art).

I first introduced the dolls as our classroom mascots. I told the students they would get to help choose their names. For a week, I had two baskets sitting by the dolls for students to submit name suggestions. I narrowed the suggestions down to about 5 or 6 that were inspired by music or art.


The most unique music name was a combination of "xylophone" and "Kylie". A kindergartener mashed the words together to form "Xylie". There were many more suggestions I did not choose, including several "Keke" submissions inspired by the recent viral video challenge. But my favorite suggestions were John Lennon and Ringo Starr.

I wanted students to vote on their favorite names secretly but also avoid me counting a thousand tiny slips of paper. So, I created a simple Google Form. Here is a link to a sample form if you would like to see how it looks from the students perspective. Feel free to vote and predict what my students chose if you haven't already scrolled to reveal the results.


When creating the form, I changed the settings so that students did not have to log in with a Google account. I also changed a setting allowing them to vote for more than one name if they wished.



I passed around an iPad during class and it allowed me to continue teaching the lesson. Google calculated the winner complete with a bar graph analyzing the responses. I announced the names of our mascots at our first school-wide assembly. The kids were very excited. Our music mascot is named DJ Melody. Our artist mascot is named Sapphire Rainbow.

At the start of each class, I select two students to take care of DJ and Sapphire. I tell them that if they are not treating them nicely, I will select someone new to take care of them. We have not had any issues so far and all grade levels are excited about our mascots. Almost everyone is eager to volunteer to hold them. Honestly, I was surprised at how many older boys raised their hands to hold the dolls. I try to pick one girl and one boy during each class to hold them.

The mascots are certainly making an impact on my class. One 4th grade student, in particular, surprised me when he raised his hand to volunteer. This student frequently causes disruptions and removes himself from the group refusing to participate. I explained to him that if he took care of DJ, he had to remain with the class, fully participate, and treat her nicely. He agreed and took his job very seriously. I was amazed to see a different side from him!

Here are some action shots of DJ and Sapphire on the mallets.


DJ and Sapphire are a wonderful addition to my classrooms. I'm glad I bought them. If these dolls are too expensive for your budget, you could turn any doll or stuffed animal into a classroom mascot. You could use some musical fabric to make a little scarf or vest. You could use puff paint or glue felt to add a music notes to some plain doll clothes. You could get really fancy if someone you know has an embroidery machine or a Cricut machine that cuts vinyl. If you create a classroom mascot, I'd love for you to share a picture on my Facebook page. A link is at the bottom of this post. 


Coda

 A student came up to me yesterday afternoon and said that she saw DJ's twin sister at Target. She convinced her mom to buy it for her. I asked her what she named her and she said "Rebecca" which is my name! My heart melted! 


Share a classroom mascot pic!




Saturday, September 1, 2018

Challenging Early Finishers






In every subject, in every class, there will always be students who finish very quickly and others who need extra time. But, how do you keep the early finishers engaged and allow enough time for the entire class to finish?

I recently did rhythm composition lessons with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. We always complete an example on the board together and then they are given their own paper to compose on their own. Many students will finish quickly, others may need help and take longer.

These staggered finishes are perfect to allow me to also hear them perform their compositions. As they finish, they have to come to my desk and vocalize their rhythm while clapping, patting, or drumming on the edge of my desk. I tell them that an author wouldn't use words they couldn't read, so composers should not write music they can't also perform themselves. This also allows time for me to grade their papers in class and not have to take anything home! They get 2 grades during this assignment--one for their composition and one for their performance.

After performing for me, I needed something to challenge those early finishers. In the past, I've allowed them to get instruments out of the cabinet to perform their rhythms. But, this becomes very loud and distracting for those who are still composing. My 5th grade classes currently have 35 students each, so instruments were not an option. I've also challenged them to create more rhythms on the back, but only a few students were interested in that.

My newest idea was a great success!! I told the students to have others perform their rhythms and if they did so successfully, they can autograph the back of the music. I challenged them to get as many signatures as possible. They all loved this idea and were asking everyone to perform their composition. It allowed plenty of time for all students to finish their compositions with minimal distractions.


The 4th grade paper is pictured above. It was a full sheet of paper with a blank back. They were able to sign their full names. The 3rd grade papers were half sheets with content on both sides; they did not have a blank space. I told them they could sign their initials in the margins around the rhythmic composition and they still enjoyed the activity.

I'm sure the novelty of this activity will grow old if I use it often. So, please share your ideas below. How do you challenge early finishers?


More details about the lessons discussed in this post can be found at the following links:

More about these composition activities can be found on these links:


Saturday, April 14, 2018

"When Words Fail, Music Speaks"

Yesterday, thousands of Kentucky teachers descended on our state capital to fight for school funding. Many programs are being cut from schools including textbooks, professional development, preschool, Family Resource Youth Service Centers, and more. Many universities are also losing funding. Eastern Kentucky University will forced to cut many programs including their marching band and pep band.

"When words fail, music speaks . . ."

I had the pleasure of performing with many music teachers across the state. We communicated through Facebook and met each other for the first time on capital grounds. We found a quiet place under some shade trees to have a quick rehearsal and then used music as our language to speak out for our students. Here are some pictures and videos of the day.



 

"Fund Our Schools"


"Don't Stop Believin'" that our legislators will do the right thing!


"We're Not Gonna Take It"


Our state song, "My Old Kentucky Home"




My sister also snapped this candid of me teaching a fellow teacher how to play ukulele. We will have no funds dedicated to professional development, but there was teacher growth still happening on the capitol grounds!


Music is a powerful tool and I hope our message yesterday was heard loud and clear. I will continue to be an advocate for music, for education, and for my students.

"When words fail, music speaks . . ."

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Instrument Family Races


Need an engaging activity to reinforce the instrument families? Need an emergency sub plan that can be used by a non-music sub? You should try this new resource--Instrument Family Races.
This resource includes 24 instrument cards, 2 game versions, and a video demo. You only need to provide 4 or 8 hula hoops.

I divide the class into 2 groups. Each team has 4 hula hoops to represent the 4 instrument families (string, woodwind, brass, percussion). The hoops will be on one side of the room. One student from each team will stand on the opposite side of the room from the hoops.



The teacher will have 2 stacks of instrument cards which are in identical orders. The teacher will draw the top card from each stack and reveal it to the players. Each player will grab their card and race to place it into the correct hula hoop family. The game will continue rotating new teammates each turn.


When all the cards have disappeared, you can play in reverse. The teacher will call out an instrument and the players will race to find the correct card and bring it back to the teacher. This will get the instrument cards back into two identical stacks ready for the next class to play the game.

This game is very engaging and can easily be managed by a non-music substitute teacher. I recently left this game with a sub along with this demo video and she had no trouble understanding the rules and procedures. Here is my demo video:



This game is available for download on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store. 
Just follow this link:

Friday, March 2, 2018

Washi Tape for your Whiteboard




I have to display my learning targets in student friendly terms. I used to write these on a laminated poster but it became difficult to erase and clean each time.



I have now divided my whiteboard into sections with Washi tape so I can erase my objectives more easily and cleanly. Below, you can see photos of my objectives in the music room and in the art room.



Here is a brief video tutorial showing how I divided the board into sections and kept the lines straight without using a level.






I used less than one roll of washi tape for each board. You can purchase a roll of washi tape for less than $3. It comes in many different colors and designs. For the music board, I used glitter washi tape.


The whiteboard wipes off so much easier than laminated posters. Comment below if you have any more questions or if you would like to share your favorite use for washi tape.