Friday, September 5, 2014

My Favorite Musicians!

I LOVE my new shirt!!!

I got lots of compliments today!
If you would like to order one, follow this link:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Protecting Your Interactive White Board

I suppose I should've shared this information at the beginning of summer. I apologize. But, if you have an interactive white board, like a SMART board or ActivBoard, you may worry that it would get damaged over the summer with cleaning crews, painters, and other strangers working in the schools during break.

I protect my board during the summer with a full-size waterproof mattress cover. It eases my mind that someone cannot accidentally write on it with a marker. It is protected from paint and/or wax splatter. It is somewhat protected if there was a roof leak or if the sprinklers malfunction. The best part is that I bought it at Big Lots for only $5! Buy one new and stick it in a drawer so you have it ready for next summer!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Musical Toms


Today is my birthday and my husband just scored major brownie points. He gets all the credit (even though I shared a link to the Toms ordering site on my Facebook page. I also included a coupon code ... and tagged his name ... but he gets all the credit! ;)
I have several shoes that are made like Toms and they are so comfortable for teaching. I can't wait to show these off at school. Our first day of school is tomorrow!

If you would like to order your own pair, here is a link:
If you search RetailMeNot, you can also find a coupon code to get $10 off!
Also, the Toms website is currently offering free shipping for orders $25 or more.
Don't miss this great deal!

Sunday, August 3, 2014

8th Grade Throwback

All summer, I have been organizing and decluttering my house. My productivity was paused briefly by this lovely blast from the past. It is a project from 8th grade English class. We were given half a poster board and some rough guidelines. I'm not sure if it served much of a purpose other than to ease us into writing and let us learn a little about our classmates.

At first glance, I thought, "What a great pic for Throwback Thursday on Facebook!" But, as I kept reading the words I had written as a student nearly twenty years ago, I kept thinking about my current students and my role as an educator.


How My 8th Grade English Project Made Me A Better Teacher

1) Student Goals: The Difference Between Setting Goals and Achieving Goals

My proudest moment of the previous school year was the success of the quick recall team, making it to the state level competition for the first time in school history. Even though I wasn't a star on the team and only played for a few minutes in scrimmages, I was proud to be a part of the team.

I set my goal for the current school year "become very successful on the academic team". But, I never became the quick recall champion. I used the excuse that I was too shy and not fast enough on the buzzers. A teacher asked me to set a goal, but that goal meant nothing unless there was a plan to achieve it. My high school band director, Mr. Parker, asked us to write a few specific goals at the beginning of the marching season. He taped them on the wall in the back of the band room to remind us what we were working for. Most of those goals were achieved because they were short-term goals and we were reminded of them often.

I chose a quote by President John F. Kennedy--"Never settle for second when first is available." I find this very ironic considering how I abandoned my goal to become a quick recall star. I had the desire to be the best on the team but I had no plan to achieve that goal.

Do you ask your students to set goals? If you do, don't forget to ask them how they will reach that goal and offer support along the way!

2) Lesson Goals: Some Of the Most Important Lessons Will Not Have a Core-Content Number

I chose my grandmother as the most influential figure in my life. I further explained, "She taught me to do the right thing and to learn from my mistakes, not grieve over them." This seems like a simple lesson that everyone learns at home. But, teachers must assume the role of positive adult figure and often offer guidance and support beyond our job description. Sometimes we must abandon the learning objective written in our lesson plans and take the opportunity to guide students through a life lesson. 
In my room, we learn about respect for peers, respect for authority figures, respect for property, and self-respect. Through teamwork and cooperation, we learn about community and compromise. We learn about acceptance, embracing differences in abilities, cultures, beliefs, and traditions. These are the lessons that can never be measured on a standardized test. But, these are also the lessons that students will remember for years to come, long after the learning objectives (and, perhaps, even my name and face) are forgotten. This poster reminded me that all teachers should share one common goal--"To help our students become better humans."

3) Long-Term Goal: Find Happiness

As an 8th grader, I was only 12 years old. I was asked to imagine my life ten years in the future. I thought I would be in Harvard getting a law degree, but that is far from reality. I don't even remember being interested in law. It was probably just an answer I thought others would want to hear. This vision was far from my actual path. In August 2005, I was not sitting in a Harvard classroom. I was sitting in an elementary classroom beginning my first year as a music teacher.

There is a trending buzz word in the education field to prepare students to be Career/College Ready. Elementary teachers are pressured to get students thinking about their future--a future they simply cannot grasp. When we ask children to envision their future, we need to make sure they aren't pressured to give us answers they think we want to hear. Encourage them to answer honestly so they will find happiness in their career path.

I can say, now, that I am certain I was put on this earth to teach elementary music. Music is my passion. In 1995, I was beginning my 3rd year in band. Music was more of a hobby instead of a passion. I was a mediocre trumpet player sitting comfortably in the middle of the section playing a 2nd trumpet part. But, there were other clues that music important in my life.

In my spare time, I enjoyed listening to music. My favorite album around that age was Mariah Carey's Music Box (Yes, that is a hand-drawn cassette tape!) My passion for music grew more each year and began challenging myself to improve my trumpet skills. By senior year, I knew I wanted to teach music. I was very fortunate to have the support to pursue a career in a field that gives me true happiness. I hope that all my students can be guided to find their own happiness in life.

Thank you for letting me reflect on the past. This was a great opportunity to reexamine my teaching philosophy and provide some perspective as I start fresh with a new school year. Our first day with kids is August 6th. Happy Back-To-School, everyone!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Anti-Pinterest Classroom Pictures

In August, bloggers usually post pictures of their classrooms prepped for the beginning of school.  Everything is clean and organized with true Pinterest perfection! This year thought I would post some anti-Pinterest pictures. What does your classroom look like when preparing for summer?

4 Classroom Pictures You WILL NOT See On Pinterest!!!


1) Dirt

You will not see piles of dirt on Pinterest. Does anyone else loathe the dirt that accumulates under a large area rug? Is it truly dirt or is it the bottom of the rug deteriorating? You should have seen the floor when the rugs were first rolled up. At least this dirt has been swept into a nice pile. I think my custodian is trying to convince my principal to buy me a new rug. My rugs are in rough shape.

2) Mismatched Boxes

In the world of Pinterest, all the boxes would be matching sizes and modpodged with cute wrapping paper.  The two diaper boxes do look out of place on top of all the matching Lowe's boxes. This is actually a spare room which will store my instruments for the summer so it will be temperature controlled. Our floors are getting ripped up and replaced this summer. My wall of wooden cabinets had to be emptied and boxed up. I'm so thankful for my old post on Organizing Instruments. I'm certain I will be using it as reference when unpacking boxes.


3) Stuff Covered In Plastic Table Cloths

If you type "plastic table cloth" in the search window on Pinterest, you will find many creative and beautiful uses for this cheap party supply. People use them for backdrops, chair covers, curtains, ceiling swags, pom pom flowers, and more. However, you WILL NOT see them draped over computers and printers. We are not certain what kind of dust and debris will be created when they replace the floors this summer, so everything must be protected. 

4) Unlabeled Boxes

This picture MOST DEFINITELY does not belong on Pinterest! As I began the packing process, all of my boxes were labeled neatly with all the contents, down to the last egg shaker. I even made matching pink labels reading "MUSIC ROOM 129, FRAGILE INSTRUMENTS!!!!". However, at the end of the packing process, I got tired of being neat and organized and started shoving things in boxes and throwing them on the purple table. You will also see more plastic table cloths covering textbooks that are not even boxed. That laziness would definitely not show up on Pinterest!!!

In order to offset the chaotic disarray of my classroom at the moment, I would like to declare one last thing . . .
Before I began the packing process, I attacked my filing cabinets with a trash can and a label maker!!! Lots of things got thrown away and minimized. I made new labels for the drawers.

The drawer I use most throughout the school year got new file folders with new printed labels. My handwriting is atrocious, so I will be able to locate things much quickly now. I can't wait to tackle the other drawers in the fall! I'm sure I will search Pinterest and find more projects to put my label maker to use around the house this summer!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Art With Mrs. Dennis: Rotational Symmetry

Many of you may not know that I also teach visual art in addition to music. My school does not have a full-time visual art teacher and hasn't had one in many years. Three years ago, at the request of my principal, I began teaching one art lesson a month. I have had no formal training in teaching art, but I personally enjoy using my creativity and creating art.
I am very thankful for Pinterest and many art blogs for helping me discover art projects for my students. My fifth graders love this project from Mrs. Brown's Art Blog.
  1. Trace a plate and cut a paper into a circle. We used white printer paper
  2. Fold the circle in half, then in half again, then in half again. When you open the circle up, you should see eight sectors "slices". 
  3. While the circle is folded, draw a word stretching the letters to the top and bottom edges of the fold. We used pencil first, and then traced with a black marker.
  4. Open the fold and trace the pattern onto a neighboring sector. We took a "field trip" to the lunchroom were there is an entire wall of windows. We used the windows and sunlight as a cheap and free tracing box!
  5. Continue to open and fold the circle until you can trace the pattern onto the remaining sectors.
  6. Fill in each section with color to form a symmetrical design. We used crayons or color pencils.
Mrs. Brown has provided a wonderful Powerpoint to accompany this lesson. It usually takes two 50 minute lessons to complete this project. We cut, fold, and trace the design during one lesson. We finish tracing and coloring in the second lesson.
This year, I observed a table of fifth graders working on this project, and noticed that none of them had chosen to write their name. Instead, they chose characters or words from a book series. This sparked an idea that this project should not be limited to our names. I thought the 5th grade students should create something to present to our school as a type of service project. Each class would create a large canvas with a word hidden in the symmetrical design.
Can you view the words in each design? Try isolating one sector (pie slice) and read from the outside to the center. The words are "CEDAR", GROVE", and "VIKINGS". Cedar Grove is the name of our school and our mascot is the Viking. I chose "VIKINGS" because "Elementary" has too many characters. This design looks best with words that have 5-7 letters. If you are still having trouble viewing the words, I have helped you in the image below.
Our school colors are purple and gold. I chose to use shades of purple and silver on the outer canvases with shades of yellow and gold in the center canvas. The canvases measure 24" by 24". To create the design on a larger scale, I first followed the steps above to create a paper version. taped the circle to a black paper and cut the excess paper to form square frame. I scanned the image and used the projector to trace the design onto the canvas. I did have to do some adjusting to size the image to fit the canvas. The students were given detailed instructions of which color to paint each section. They worked on this in their homeroom classes during free time.
We unveiled the canvases to their parents at the 5th grade send-off ceremony. The following day we unveiled them to the entire school on morning broadcast. The canvases are now hung in our front lobby above the main doors and below some windows. We have some beautiful architecture and skylights in the front lobby but people rarely stop to admire it. Now, the artwork catches your attention and draws your eye upward. It is a wonderful improvement to the aesthetics of our building. The canvases and paint were purchased by our Parent Teacher Organization and all the supplies cost only $70. 

Now, the 5th grade teachers have asked what we will do next year! I think I have started a tradition that they would like to continue. I'm excited to add beauty and art to our building, but I am in desperate need of some inspiration and ideas for next year! I may have to search Pinterest all summer! If your school has completed a mural or art project for the school, please share ideas below!

This concludes the first post of "Art With Mrs. Dennis." Music teachers, please share the idea with your art teacher, if you are so lucky to have one. I promise I will post more topics soon! Thank you for letting me share a glimpse into my other world as an art teacher.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Tangle-Free Ribbon Wands

Are you looking to purchase some ribbon wands or do your ribbon wands keep getting tangled? You need to read this!
Eight years ago, I completed my first level of Orff Schulwerk training and devoted a big portion of my classroom budget for creative movement props. One of my biggest regrets, until now, was purchasing a class set of ribbon sticks from Oriental Trading. A very similar product is still found on  They come in sets of 6 and are currently $8.

I had immediate buyer's remorse when I discovered how easily they would tangle. These ribbon sticks do not allow for the ribbon to swivel 360 degrees and therefore the ribbon tangles very easily. Also, once the ribbon is tangled, kids start yanking on it and cause the rubber end cap to come off. For years, they have been stored in the cabinets without being used.

This year, I pulled them out of the closet again after finding the "Chinese Ribbon Dance" lesson in Artie Almedia's Mallet Madness. I was determined to find a solution and put these props to use. 
 I searched online and found the Tikkido blog which suggested using swivels that are used for fishing lures. I had actually purchased a small package of swivels and had planned on investing in some new dowel rods. Since I had not purchased the dowels, I had not repaired them yet.
But, this week, two third graders showed ingenuity and solved my problem without the purchase of extra hardware!
My ribbons were connected to the stick with an eye hook and a metal clip. They discovered that if you remove the eye hook and rubber end cap, you can slide the biggest side of the metal clip around the stick. Then, simply replace the black end cap. The end caps may need a drop or two of glue to ensure they won't come off. My students are begging to come back to glue the end caps on another day! I was going to try super glue or a hot glue gun. But, if I let students repair it, I may use a safer adhesive.  Yes, the metal clip will slide up and down the stick. But, when you are using the ribbon your arm is continuously moving, so it does not slide around until you stop.
When these two showed me their discovery, I was elated!!! They repaired all 30 of my ribbon wands for FREE! (Although, I do plan on buying them some M&M's) 
 I have one last picture to show you how I store my ribbon wands. This is similar to my Boomwhacker storage, if you have seen that post. I separate each color in a smaller box which fit inside a bigger box.

The skinny boxes were actually very long boxes I kept when I purchased some wooden decorative shelves for my home. I had 3 boxes and simply cut them in half down the middle. I'm sure you can find similar sized boxes if you look or ask around. I am very conscious of our planet and try to reuse or repurpose things whenever possible!

I am so excited about the ribbon wands. This summer I plan on going through my Orff Level binders and searching the web for ideas to use them in lessons. If you have any suggestions, please comment below. I will leave you with one last picture of my problem-solving duo, Hunter and Leah, demonstrating the tangle-free ribbon wands!!!