Saturday, January 21, 2017

40 New Ukuleles!!!

Thank you, Kala Brand Music!!

In December, we were very fortunate to be selected to receive 40 new Waterman ukuleles from Kala Music! The giveaway was announced on Kala's Facebook page. We were one of 125 schools across the country to receive this generous donation.

The shipment arrived just in time to surprise the students at our Christmas concert. I placed the ukuleles in their boxes on an old TV cart with a few unopened on the top level. I wrapped the cart with bulletin board paper to make it look like a present.

During the concert, the present was revealed and the entire school was screaming with excitement! I began learning ukulele last February after a student teacher introduced it to me. I've fallen in love with the instrument and play it often for the kids. They knew immediately what was in those boxes. On the video, you can hear one student screaming ,"Ukuleles! Ukuleles! Ukuleles!".


My first task was to find storage so I could access them quickly for distribution and tuning. Keeping them in their cardboard boxes was not going to be convenient. My librarian had an extra cabinet in her closet with a broken door. She offered it to me and, with help of the custodian, we repaired the door.

The ukuleles were too long to lay horizontal in the cabinet, so I experimented with tension rods to support the ukuleles at an angle. Due to the plastic walls of the cabinet, the tension rods would slip and fall from the weight of just a few ukes.

I searched Pinterest and google for ukulele storage ideas but didn't have funds to invest in wood and materials. Instead, I decided to utilize the cardboard boxes the ukuleles were shipped in.

I cut each box in half and then made one side shorter (about 5" tall).

There are 4 shelves in my cabinet so I planned to have 10 ukuleles on each shelf. I measured and divided to determine the spacing needed and cut notches in the back for the neck to rest.

I cut some tabs in the front which fold down and keep the ukuleles from bumping into each other.

Here is a final pic with all the ukuleles nestled into their new home!


Now that I can access the ukuleles easily, I have began the long process of tuning. It is taking quite a long time to get the strings stretched to hold their pitch. The students keep begging to play them, but I told them to be patient. If they sound bad, I want it to be the students' fault and not the instruments' fault. 

Since tuning is taking such a long time by myself, I have started a Donors Choose project requesting funding for some clip-on tuners. The project is titled, "Tune Our Ukuleles". Hopefully our project will get funded soon so we can begin making some beautiful music with these new instruments!

Stay tuned!
I'm sure I will post more about the ukuleles in the future!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Monkey In My Chair

I would like to introduce you to Skylar.  I have taught Skylar music and art since kindergarten. This year, as a third grader, he very enthusiastically joined the Choir and Orff Ensemble. Unfortunately, Skylar has a difficult road ahead. He was recently diagnosed with Stage 3 Burkitt Lymphoma, a very fast, aggressive form of non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Skylar is on a schedule for chemo treatment for the next six months. Skylar's diagnosis was caught early, giving him better odds in his recovery. But, it will still be a difficult fight--one that no child should ever have to endure.

Shortly after his diagnosis, Skylar met with a Child Life Specialist and expressed concern that his friends would forget about him while he was out of school for treatments. The specialist returned with a Monkey In My Chair which Skylar named George.

George is Skylar's surrogate monkey in the classroom. He will sit in Skylar's chair in the classroom and travel to special areas with the class. George also attends morning rehearsals for Choir and Orff Ensemble. The monkey's hands are Velcro, so it made it easy to wrap around a music stand which stood in Skylar's spot on the risers.

Last week was our Christmas concert, and George was center stage ready to play his glockenspiel. We even dressed George in Skylar's music shirt. I used a few binder clips to secure the shirt and monkey to the back of the music stand so he wouldn't fall over.

The Monkey In My Chair program has been very helpful for many students who had a difficult time processing their emotions. The monkey is therapeutic and can provide a comforting hug when they are missing their friend. The monkey provides a continued line of communication between Skylar and his classmates. The other teachers and I occasionally send pictures of George involved in school activities. But, we all look forward to the day when we can bid farewell to George and see Skylar's smiling face back at his desk.

I end this post with one last request, can you please take a moment to send thoughts or prayers for Skylar and his family as they endure this long battle? If you feel so compelled, there are also links below for monetary donations towards Skylar's medical expenses, to sponsor a Monkey In My Chair, or towards research for a cure. Thank you so much!

Click Here if you would like to donate money to #TeamSkylar to cover medical expenses.

Click Here if you would like to help sponsor a Monkey Kit for another child with cancer.

Click Here if you would like to donate to the American Cancer Society to help find a cure for cancer.

The personal information in this post was shared with permission from Skylar's family.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

A letter to Wells Fargo ...

These advertisements by Wells Fargo we're brought to my attention in a Facebook group for music educators. 

Of course, the entire arts community has a right to be offended by this ad campaign. Here is my response which I have already posted on their Facebook page:

"As an educator in the arts, I'm very disappointed in your ad campaign. You are suggesting that the arts will not prepare students for their future. Many people are employed in the arts. In December 2015, the Every Student Succeeds Act was passed which includes the arts alongside math and language arts in its definition of a "well-rounded education." I understand that you want to support STEM jobs, but it shouldn't be at the sacrifice of the arts. You could have easily changed "ballerina" and "actor" to "super hero" and "fairy princess"; the meaning of your ad campaign would not be lost and the dreams the kids are abandoning are truly fictitious careers. (This, of course, is assuming you didn't INTENTIONALLY mean to to post an ad campaign which implies that jobs in the arts are worthless in the future.)"

If you are also outraged, feel free to let Wells Fargo know how you feel. Here is a link to their Facebook page. 

Click "Posts" on the left column. You can write a new post in the center column. To view other visitor posts, click on the far right column.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Desk Tour 2016

Hello! I am linking up with some fellow music bloggers to provide a desk tour! In this video, I show you how I stay organized with schedules, lesson plans, and what I find essential to have at hands-reach on my desk. I hope you enjoy touring my desk! Don't forget to check out the linky at the bottom of this post and tour more music desks. Maybe something will inspire you!

There are a few things visible in the tour that I have written about in the past. Follow the links below for the details posts:

Canvas Quote

Sheet Music Lamp

Sheet Music Pinwheels

You can view my full classroom tour at this link:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Classroom Tour 2016

I have finally finished all my projects for my room (at least until another idea grabs my attention)! My last classroom tour was four years ago in 2012! If you missed this post, follow this link. I have included a few of the pics below. Lots of things have changed to improve function and aesthetics.

2012 Flashback

 2016 Update

This is the view from the doorway. Last year, I got a new carpet! I chose a solid because I wanted the biggest size possible. I chose purple because it is one of our school colors.

Two years ago, our PTO raised funds for 12 Wenger Flip Forms to serve as a portable stage. (Our stage got demolished during a remodel in order to make a larger lunchroom and kitchen.) I never thought I would want risers in my room, but I love how easy these are to move. At first, I stored the risers down the hall in an extra classroom that houses extra desks and furniture. I had some students roll them down to my room for the 2 days of choir rehearsal. I got tired of moving them and decided to reconfigure my room to make a permanent space for them. I had to move my keyboard and desk area. The Flip Forms are so convenient and portable. If I want my open space again, I can move them very quickly to the side of the room.

My floor staff is on the floor with gym tape. When I first decided to keep the risers in my room, they covered 2 lines of my floor staff. I moved the carpet a little closer to the board this year in order to squeeze it in that open space. Click here to learn more about how I use my floor staff.

My desk is now parallel to my computer workstation instead of perpendicular. I love this set-up now! I'm able to spin my chair instead of rolling back and forth in order to switch between work surfaces. I have also tried to improve the aesthetics of my workspace. Check out my previous posts on my painted canvas,  sheet music pinwheels and sheet music lamp.

My keyboard is in now front of my desk. A cord is hidden along the wall to connect the sound to my ceiling speakers. Two large file cabinets are behind my keyboard, but it is easy to move the rolling chair to access those drawers when needed.  Those cabinets contain sheet music and such that isn't accessed on a daily basis.

My Orff set up is very similar, but it has expanded. A local middle school offered to loan me some instruments that weren't being used. The teacher used them to teach general music classes, but she was only teaching ensembles in recent years. She hated to see them collect dust, so we are definitely showing them some love!

I made new color coded labels for my Orff instruments. I also made this poster to show the relative pitch of each instrument. I also integrated color theory. The warm colors have wooden bars and the cool colors have metal bars!

While creating the instrument labels, I also made some posters to help remind students of proper technique and procedures while at the instruments. The labels and rules posters are available for download on my TpT store. Follow this link!

The glockenspiels got new baskets last year, but now they have new labels and an extra shelf. Three of these glocks are borrowed from the middle school. All last year, their baskets set on the top of the shelf and I always hated how cluttered it looked. I stole the shelf divider from another bookcase to make 3 shelves for my glocks. Click this link to see how my glock storage has evolved over the years.

Last year, I created a new space on my white board for my student learning objectives. I divided the spaces using purple glitter washi tape. It is very easy to wipe off and write new objectives. The tape hasn't peeled. I write my objectives using "I can..." statements.

I haven't really done much to update this corner. I use my magnetic hand signs on a daily basis. They are available as a free download on my TpT store. I also use my Orff visual on a daily basis. It is getting in rough shape. It may not last the entire school year. I need to start working on a replacement soon. Click here to learn more about how I made mine.

I have reconfigured my cabinet storage and made new labels for the instruments. I will save the inside of the cabinets for another post in the future! I love how these labels help with clean up time. Even kindergartners can find the picture of their instrument and place it back in its home! If you are curious and want a peak inside, you can view this post from 2012.

This is the last corner of my room behind my door. It may become my favorite teaching space. I have acquired more Boomwhackers and needed more storage. This short bookcase is missing its shelf. I stole it for the glockenspiel shelf. The baskets on the wall behind the door are really grocery bag holders from IKEA and cost only $2 each! You can read more about my Boomwhacker storage at this link.

My ukulele and guitar are now wall mounted for quick and easy access. I'm on the lookout for a funky stool I can paint and reupholster. I'm calling this my jam session corner. When I moved my desk area around, I had this one lonely cabinet that would not fit. So, I stuck it beside the wall cabinets and placed a lamp and my scented wax warmer on top. It is so cozy now. Plus, the scents are closer to the door and more noticeable when the students walk in. I am currently using a Scentsy bar called "Skinny Dippin'" because I'm not ready to give up summer quite yet!

So, was it worth the wait? If there is anything you saw in a picture that I did not address, I'd be glad to answer questions and take more pictures. Feel free to leave some comments below!

Just for fun, here is a 360 photo of my classroom. Click the picture for the Facebook link. Click and drag or tilt your phone to explore my room! Don't forget to follow my Facebook blog page while you're there!

Monday, August 22, 2016

Boomwhacker Storage Upgrade

In the past, I have posted about my Boomwhacker storage, but have acquire many more sets since then. Here is a look at my previous Boomwhacker Storage.

I created these dividers out of hand drum boxes. I would slide the box right into my wall of cabinets.

Since I have purchased more diatonic, bass, and chromatic sets, I needed a new storage system.

For the diatonic treble sets, I took an adjustable shelf off my short metal bookcase. I went to Big Lots armed with a post-it with measurements of the height, width, and depth of my shelf and the width of one Boomwhacker or 2 side by side. I took some measuring tape with me to the store. After much deliberation, I purchased 8 vertical file holders which cost $2.50 each. At first, I was going to spray paint them to match the Boomwhackers, but getting custom colors would be expensive very quickly. So, I decided to make some labels.

This shelf used to store textbooks which I rarely ever use. Those books are now in my wooden cabinet and are available if needed. These Boomwhackers are now easily accessible and visually pleasing.

To store the bass and chromatic sets, I used grocery bag holders from IKEA. These were only $1.99 each! They are mounted with 3M Velcro strips. I have left room to grow my collection and plan on purchasing some more bass and chromatic sets this year.

I love how this useless space behind the door now serves a purpose! My custodian has sent a work order for maintenance to install a doorstop on the tile to prevent the door from squishing the Boomwhackers. I'll add a picture when it is installed.

If you would like a copy of my Boomwhacker labels, I have added them to my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. They include labels for treble, bass, and chromatic sets. There is an option for labels with solfa hand signs or with staff notation. There are bass labels with single notes, or with combinations of notes like you see above in my picture. This set has lots of options for you to customize for your own Boomwhacker collection!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Orff Organization

I have had my Orff instruments labeled for many years, but students are often confused with the names. If I ask for alto xylophones to raise their hands, alto metallophones often raise their hands as well. They see the first word "alto" is the same and don't bother reading the second word. Kids are lazy! I am tired of correcting this mistake, so I made some new labels to help prevent confusion and to integrate some color theory! (I am also responsible for teaching visual art.)

I have created labels that are color-coded. All instruments with wooden bars are assigned a warm color (red, orange, yellow, or pink). All instruments with metal bars are assigned a cool color (blues, greens, and purples). Now, when asking for certain instruments or groups, I can call out a specific color or a color family. There are large labels that I placed on the front of the instruments and smaller labels that are on the edge of the instruments near the mallet holes.

I also created a chart to show our entire instrumentarium from highest to lowest pitch. You see the soprano metallophone and soprano xylophone posters side-by-side because they have the same range of pitches. The alto and bass xylophones and metallophones are also at the same levels. (We do not yet have a bass metallophone, but I put it on the chart anyway because I have high hopes to acquire one soon!) The posters feature a picture of the instrument, the type of bars it has, and the relative pitch level.

Before we move from the carpet to the instruments, I always review our procedures to keep the students and instruments safe. I also review proper playing technique. I decided to create posters of these rules to help our visual learners. There are 6 rules: 1) Step Around, 2) Lift With 2 Hands, 3) Aim For the Center, 4) Alternate, 5) Bounce Your Mallets, 6) Wait For the Teacher.

My students recognized the new labels and posters right away and they seem to be a great reference during class. If you think these labels will help your students as well, you may find them on my Teachers Pay Teachers store.