Friday, October 2, 2015

Recorder String Epiphany!!!

For over 10 years, I have used embroidery floss for my recorder reward system. I cut strings 13 centimeters long to allow enough length to tie around the bottom of a recorder.

Yesterday, I forgot to prepare and cut the strings!!! So, with only 5 minutes until the fourth grade class time, I had an epiphany! The embroidery floss already comes packaged and folded in loops approximately 16 centimeters long. I made 2 quick cuts through the ends of the loops and then instantly had 50 recorder strings ready for the fourth grade playing tests!

By cutting them at this length instead of the 13 cm., I am losing approximately 16 strings per package of embroidery thread. But, it is definitely worth it! At first, I was so excited I had discovered something that would save me time!!! Then, I was mad at myself for not having this epiphany TEN YEARS AGO!!!  Learn from my mistake and save yourself some time when you cut your recorder strings! 
For more of my posts about recorder, click this link.
This past was featured on Formats Fridays on October 2, 2015. Click the link to view the party.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Glockenspiel Storage

I use baskets to store my glockenspiels and the basket becomes a table to raise the instruments to a more comfortable playing position. At first, it was difficult to find a cheap basket that would be flat when flipped upside down. I found these baskets at the Dollar General for about $2 each and have used them for over 7 years.
I recently acquired some extra glockenspiels from another school, so I needed to purchase some new baskets. I could not find baskets identical to the these, so I needed to replace the entire set.  I found these baskets at the Dollar Tree for only $1 each! I also took this opportunity to color code my altos and sopranos.

They are not as deep as my original red baskets, but they are wider and will provide more surface area when flipped upside down. 
I used to store my accidental bars in Ziploc bags in the baskets. But, they would often need replacing because they would get ripped easily. I recently found these plastic snap cases on clearance at Walgreens. The index card cases were only 67 cents each and are the perfect size for the soprano glockenspiel bars. The pencil cases were only 32 cents each and are the perfect size for the alto glockenspiel bars.

I love my new baskets and storage cases. Now, I'm on a hunt for the perfect shelf to store all these glockenspiels. My glocks runneth over!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Classroom Management During Game Songs

Do you ever have discipline problems with game songs? Children quickly lose patience while waiting for everyone to have a turn. It is especially difficult in elimination games when kids get eliminated early and have a longer time to wait. Over the years, I've developed some tricks to help these activities go much more smoothly.

First of all, I think it is important for your students to understand that sometimes we don't all get a turn. Class time is short and sometimes we must move on to another activity. Children need to learn how to deal with disappointment. But, most of the time, I try to allow everyone to have a turn without the activity taking up too much lesson time or encountering too many discipline problems. Here are some tips avoid chaos while still allowing everyone to have a turn.


How Will I Know When Everyone Has Had a Turn?

In most games, I rely on the students' honesty. They know they cannot have a second turn being "It". If they get tapped as "It" and have already had a turn, they just shake their head "no" so the tagger can move on to someone else. If the taggers are having a hard time remembering who has had a turn, the students who still need a turn raise their hand.

It is easier to tell who still needs a turn in an elimination game. In games like "Bounce High, Bounce Low" students do not have to leave the circle to be eliminated. Those who have had a turn simply sit in their place; those who have not had a turn remain standing. In passing games, like "Acka Backa", students must be removed from the circle as they are eliminated. This can create some discipline issues if you do not have a plan for those students. I will give you some ideas for those situations below.

How Do I Make The Game Go Faster?

Make Smaller Groups
Depending on the game and your space, it may be possible to create two small groups that play the game simultaneously. This will speed up the game and allow everyone to have a turn. For a chasing game, like "Charlie Over the Ocean" or "Cut the Cake", make sure the running paths would not collide with each other. 

Make More "Its"
Sometimes it is possible to increase the number of people that are "it". I do this often in games like "Bluebird, Bluebird, Through My Window". I have up to four or five students weaving in and out at once and tapping a new friend on the shoulder to trade places. If it is a passing game, you could have more than one item passed around the circle simultaneously. Either of these modifications would make the game go much quicker.


How Do I Keep Students From Getting Bored?

Instrumental Accompaniments
With fourth or fifth grade, sometimes I allow students to move to the xylophones to accompany our game after they have had a turn. I can trust that they would be using the instruments appropriately and wouldn't need too much supervision or conducting. If it is a simple accompaniment, like a broken Bordun, the students would not need any preparation except some verbal instructions. For more complicated parts, I have the entire class learn the parts on the barred instruments before returning to the carpet to begin the game or dance. 

Younger grades would need more supervision at the instruments, So, instead of using all my barred instruments, sometimes I use only one or two bass bars or just 2-4 barred instruments. I can supervise the small group much more easily. I've also had a small group reading notation on the board performing sol-mi songs on Boomwhackers. You could also have them perform a short rhythmic ostinato with unpitched percussion. This is a great opportunity for a performance assessment! After their turn playing they may return to the group but cannot be chosen as "it" anymore. If it is an elimination game, they sit to the side of the carpet and wait. 

Body Percussion
During elimination games, sometimes I have students create new body percussion patterns. Second and third grade love this the most! I have one student stand in front of the eliminated group. They create a four-beat body percussion ostinato and the rest of the students copy them.  

Interesting Props
A Slinky can be used to keep a steady beat.  Hold one end in each hand to make it look like rainbow. Transfer the weight back and forth to the beat. You can also open and close the Slinky with vertical, horizontal, or diagonal motions. An Original Slinky made of metal also creates a very pleasant sound!  I really want to get a class set of Slinkies, but they can be costly. Cheaper plastic springs just don't have the same weight or feel and wouldn't make as pleasant of a sound. I've even found the miniature ones by Slinky brand in the Target dollar section, but they just don't have enough weight to move to a slower tempo. Even if you only have a few Slinkies, students can take turns using them to keep a steady beat. 

Beanbags can also be transferred from hand to hand to make steady beat.  My beanbags are homemade. My mother helped me make them during my first year teaching. We used plastic pellets made for adding weight to stuffed animals. The make a pleasant sound, although it is much quieter than a Slinky. (The quietness may actually be a good thing!) I asked students to hold their hands with palms up and to flatten the beanbag like a pancake. They then flip the pancake from one hand to another trying to match the steady beat.  My daughter and I are demonstrating this activity in the short video below.

Both my second graders and kindergarteners used the beanbags this week to keep a steady beat when they were eliminate from a game. They all enjoyed using these props. We practiced the pancake flipping as a class and then I collected the bean bags in the bucket before the game started. As they got eliminated, they would get a beanbag from the bucket and sit on the edge of the carpet away from the game circle. Some students wanted to throw the bean bags, but I warned them that they would lose their bean bag if they were not using it properly. If you don't have a set of beanbags, I bet your gym teacher may have some you can borrow!
In my Level III Orff course, another teacher brought in tennis balls. She had made a small slit in the balls, filled them with a small amount of BB pellets, and used hot glue to seal the hole back. We used the balls similarly to the beanbag and passed it from hand to hand, around our backs, and under our legs. We also tossed them gently in the air and would catch them to the steady beat. This would be a great activity to challenge older students. The teacher said she had a connections with a local gym and got all her tennis balls donated! You never know what you may be able to get until you ask!
Repeating anything the same way over and over would make anyone bored. So, why not change it up? Vary the tempo or change up the voice. With kindergarten, we reinforced the types of voices while practicing a steady beat. The class stood in a circle and passed a ball while saying the "Acka Backa Soda Cracker" poem. As a student got eliminated, they would go to a music stand and draw a voice card (either speaking, whisper, calling, or singing). We would use that voice to perform the poem the next round. After they drew a card, they got a beanbag to do pancake flips. This activity was very successful with minimal behavior disruptions. The students loved changing their voices, drawing a card, and mixing up the cards for the next student.  My free printable voice cards are featured in a previous blog post. 
 Children learn best when they're engaged in play. Game songs are a great way to get all children actively making music whether by singing or playing an instrument. I hope some of these tips help reduce your frustration and eliminate some discipline issues which may occur during games. Now that you have some tricks and strategies for these activities, what are your favorite game songs? Comment below, or add a link to share your favorite game songs with others!
Join the Link-Up Party! Add a link to your favorite game song activity or game song resource book!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Music Education Blog Carnival: September 2015

I am happy to host the September 2015 edition of the Music Education Blog Carnival! Here you can find a collection of posts from the previous month. I hope you find some inspiration to as you begin the new school year!
Aileen. Miracle has shared a video touring her classroom. She also created video tutorials to assist in lesson planning and creating song lists and song indexes. Be sure to follow her channel! I'm sure she'll be posting more great videos in the future.
 Elizabeth Caldwell shares some insight on her methods for scheduling long-range goals and objectives.
Mallory Martin shares her Meter Wall which challenges students to be active listeners. When they discover the meter of a song, they add it to the appropriate column on the bulletin board.
Rachel Tanenblatt takes us on a tour of her cart filled with all the essentials for the traveling teacher. She also taught me something new! I can't wait to create my own ThingLink.
Jennifer Hibbard shares her methods for keeping entering, exiting, and other transitional procedures safe and orderly.
Jennifer Foxx gives us an introduction to Periscope and suggests ways it can be applied to music education.
Tracy King shares advice for any new teachers out there. This is a MUST READ! I agree with every single word.
David Row posts some great advice on setting professional goals and how to keep yourself focused to achieve those goals.
Melissa Stouffer shares a kindergarten lesson. I love how she scripts all her transitions and includes them in her plans.
from Elementary Etudes
Christine Skog shares a fun game song to help older students use their head voice. Everyone loves a game with props!
Debbie O'Shea shares 20 different activities that could be applied to a single song.
I share a fun craft using old sheet music that can help you decorate your classroom or studio.
Thanks for reading! I hope you learned something useful to help your year go more smoothly! If you would like to read past editions of the Music Education Blog Carnival, or if you would like to be a future  host, visit this link
The image background of the post header can be found at

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Sheet Music Pinwheels

I am patiently awaiting the arrival of a new carpet before sharing updated pics of my classroom. But, I couldn't wait to give you another sneak peak.
 I have this large space above my filing cabinets. I used to hang content posters there, but the words were too small to read from across the room and I didn't want students coming closer to the posters and invading my desk area. So. last year, I moved the posters and left this space blank.

This year, I have been very picky about what goes on my walls, in hopes to create a space more aesthetically pleasing. I knew this blank space needed to be filled.
 I found a very simple tutorial explaining how to create Sheet Music Pinwheels by Jessie Marie on Here is a pic included in Jesse's tutorial.
I fell in love with this project as soon as I saw it. I decided to create several pinwheels and repurpose a large treble clef I had cut out of black foam board for a past project. 

To create one pinwheel, you need: 8 sheets of music, tape, scissors, hot glue gun, and a small cardboard circle. A full tutorial can be found at this link.
Here are some more close-ups of the pinwheels. I printed just the title page eight times so there would be a sense of symmetry in each pinwheel. I also used corrugated cardboard to make a backing, instead of a tissue box, to give the pinwheel more stability. I used a hand-held hold punch to put a small hole in the cardboard near one edge. I tied some string in a loop through the hole to make it easier to hang. I used small Command hooks to hang the pinwheels.

 I chose a few pieces of music that were sentimental to me, including our state song, "My Old Kentucky Home" and an arrangement of our national anthem for trumpet and piccolo which was performed by myself and a former student teacher at our field day one year.
I'm hoping this addition also prevents me from piling papers and books on top of my filing cabinets. I don't want clutter to distract from their beauty.
If you would like to create your own music pinwheel, follow this easy tutorial.
If you would like to see more picture of my updated classroom, stay tuned! Follow me on Facebook to receive notifications of recent posts.
This post is also featured on the September Music Education Blog Carnival!

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Lesson On Perspective

I recently found a box of items that used to decorate by school desk. They were packed up for renovation, but somehow they got shoved to the back of my cabinets and were never unpacked. Among those items were these two metal figures.

These figures used to sit on a small ledge above my old computer desk. The instant I saw them, I was reminded of a former student and of the valuable lesson he taught me. 

I was very young, probably in my second year teaching. This particular student  was on the autism spectrum. He would rarely make eye contact and struggled to communicate verbally. He liked to wander the room and often found his way to my desk area. After that class would leave, I would always discover my trumpet player was turned backwards. 

Months would pass and I was growing more irritated that this student kept moving my things. I'm not sure what finally sparked my epiphany, but one day I figured out why this student was persistently moving these figures. In my mind, each figure represented a separate part of me, the performer and the educator. I faced the figures outward so people could look at them. But, this student wanted the figures to interact instead of being separate! He was turning the trumpet player towards the teacher to read the notation from the board!

This lesson was very humbling. It reminded me to think from another's perspective to try and understand their point of view. In my mind, I was right. In his mind, he was right. You can disagree with someone forever, but it will be wasted energy until you try to view the problem from a different perspective.

Now that I have unpacked these figures, they will sit on my cabinet facing one another and interacting, just as my former student always positioned them. They will remind me to always examine things from a different perspective.

This post is part of Fermata Fridays!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

New Musical Door

The new year is already in full swing and we have taught three days this week! As I prepared my room this year, I changed many things to improve the aesthetics. I will be posting an updated tour of my classroom soon, but I am patiently waiting the arrival of a new rug! For now, I am going to give you a sneak peak because I just couldn't wait to show you my new door!

My door is decorated with wall stickers. I found them at Walmart in the hardware section. They only cost me $9.97. They can be found at this link, although they are higher online costing $13.99. The product name is "RoomMates RMK2083SCS Music Scroll Notes Peel and Stick Wall Decalls".

These stickers are designed to stick to any wall surface and they are removable and reusable! I removed and reapplied a few as I was creating this design because I realized a few were too close. They were very easy to move and did not seem to lose their stickiness. But, before I applied the stickers, I scrubbed my door with a magic eraser and then Clorox wipes. I'm sure that helped with the application. I started withy the largest scroll pieces first and then the smaller scrolls. I added the notes and treble clef a last. I used only one set on this door. 

 I am also reminding students to keep their hands to themselves in the hallway. My door is on a corner. Many of the classes stop at the corner of the hallway and wait for the end of the line to catch up before turning the corner to proceed to their classroom. While waiting, I didn't want their fingers to wander to the stickers. 

I hope these stickers last for many years. I absolutely love my new door and have gotten so many compliments from students and adults. Don't forget, I will be posting an updated classroom tour soon. Follow my blog on Facebook or Pinterest so you don't miss it!


Many of you may remember reading a previous post about the quote above my door. Each teacher got to pick a quote and a former parent, who owns a screen printing business, applied the quotes with vinyl. It has been two and a half years and none of the letters have started peeling.