Friday, December 20, 2013

Treble Clef Candy Cane Video Tutorial

Many of you may have already seen my previous posts about Treble Clef Candy Cane ornaments.

This is the 3rd year I have made these for my Choir and Orff kids. I've gotten pretty fast and efficient at making them over the years. I decided to make a video this year. Perhaps it can give you a few tips to save you some time as well.

I have also uploaded the file for the Christmas card in case you don't want to start from scratch.
I uploaded it as a publisher file instead of a pdf so you may edit it to suit your needs.

I apologize for not posting this sooner. I'm sure all of you are on Christmas Break already. I'll try to post holiday tips in advance next time. I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Blubbr Vs. eduCanon: Creating Online Video Quizzes

I have recently been introduced to two websites that allow you to create quizzes using videos on YouTube or other websites. I have explored both sites and would like to share my observations to assist you in selecting a tool for your classroom.

I created an easy infographic above, but will give a more detailed explanation below.


Video Selection

If you want to combine clips from more than one video, Blubbr is the choice for you. You can only select one video for each quiz with eduCanon.

If you want to show more than 19 seconds of the video before inserting a question, eduCanon is the choice for you. But, with eduCanon, you have to show the video in its entirety. You cannot trim the video or skip to a specific time marking. With Blubbr, you can select any clip (up to 19 seconds) from any part of the video.


Creating Questions/Answers

Blubbr has a minimum of 5 questions and you MUST create a 4 option multiple choice question. EduCanon has no limitations or minimum requirements on questions. With eduCanon, you can create 2 or more multiple choice selections for each question.

EduCanon also allows for more customization offering different font choices, bold, italics, font color, font size. You can even insert pictures or charts into the question.

Below is a screenshot while editing in Blubbr:

Below is a screenshot while editing in eduCanon:


Blubbr times the questions and gives you 20 seconds to answer each question and you are rewarded more points for answering more quickly. You are shown a score at the end of the quiz, but individual scores are not reported to the quiz creator or teacher.

EduCanon gives the student unlimited time to answer the question. If the video is shared publicly, there is no score tracking. However, if students create usernames, the teacher can assign specific videos to students and get a report of their individual scores.

Viewing the Quiz

When each question appears on Blubbr, you cannot see the video anymore. You can see colored dots at the top of the screen tracking your progress in the quiz.  They change green if you answer correctly and red if you answer incorrectly. The student has the option to skip the video clip and advance directly to the question if they wish. Below are two screenshots showing the video screen and then the question screen:

EduCanon questions appear to the left side of the video screen and you can still view the paused video. You can view the timeline on the bottom to show your progress in the quiz. Little question marks are used to show the student where the upcoming questions will appear. You are not allowed to skip ahead and advance the video. Below is a screenshot of the quiz:


When you share a video publicly on eduCanon, a user will still need a URL link to view your quiz. Teachers can also assign videos to their students so they will automatically appear when they log in. At this time, EduCanon does not have a way to search for videos created by others.

If you post a video on Blubbr, it is automatically made public. There is no option to keep a video private. Blubbr has developed a great database to search for videos by title, keywords, or even category. When creating a video, you can pick up to 2 categories (Music and Education are available options) and you can also list many keywords. The education category is the largest and has more than 3000 trivs. Music is the second largest with over 1,300 trivs. Click here for a link to browse Blubbr categories.

Both sites allow you to share by URL or embed the quizzes into a website using html code.


I decided to use Blubbr to create a video quiz for my Nutcracker unit. I really liked the freedom of eduCanon to insert questions wherever you would like, but I ended up choosing Blubbr because I could not show the full ballet and needed to be able to trim selections. Ideally, I would love a combination of these two sites which would allow me to use clips from multiple videos, but show video clips at least 30-45 seconds long. In the future, I will probably use both of these sites and evaluate the needs of each project before selecting the right tool.
Click below for links to my Nutcracker Blubbr Trivia!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nutcracker Resources

I have been teaching the Nutcracker for many years and my resources continue to grow!

The Story

My favorite book to share is a pop-up book that I got on sale one year in February for $3.99. Unfortunately, it is currently out of print. If you happen to see it in a used bookstore, snatch it up! Here is the full information:
The Nutcracker: A Magical Pop-up Adventure
Published by Macmillan Children's Books 2003-10-17, 2003
ISBN 10: 033396134X / ISBN 13: 9780333961346

The students are in awe of this pop-up, especially the spinning sugarplum fairy at the end!

Lesson Ideas

During my first years teaching the Nutcracker, we did little more than read the book and then dramatize the story with a few props and music selections. A couple years ago, I purchased a new resource book to create lessons with more music connections.
Nutcracker Suite
Active Listening Strategies for the Music Classrooom
By Wesley Ball
Book and CD (
$19.99 at
.It includes many lesson ideas with a variety of activities. There are listening maps, printable worksheets, and a music cd. My favorite activity suggested by the book uses music from the March. When the students hear the trumpets, they are locomotor and march around the room. When they hear the strings, they are nonlocomotor and wave a scarf in the air. During the B section, when they hear flutes, they crawl on the floor and pretend to be mice. Many of the lessons encourage active listening and suggest activities to get the students engaged.

The Ballet

I always show portions of the full-ballet on video, skipping through the longer dance numbers due to time constraints. I was recently introduced to and decided to use that site to create an interactive quiz. (To learn more about Blubbr follow this link.) I created 2 quizzes, one for each Act. The questions cover some basic music terms such as melody, harmony, dynamics, tempo, and instrument families. It introduces some basic ballet terms--pointe, plié, pirouette, and passé; and some basic theatre elements--costume, prop, scenery, and special effects. The video clips were taken from a YouTube video from a 2008 performance by the Royal Ballet. Follow the links below to find the quizzes.


I also teach visual art once a week and stumbled across a few Nutcracker art projects on Pinterest. The students could be working on these projects while watching the ballet or listening to the music.
Grades 2 through 5 have had fun learning about symmetry making this project. We discuss how the ballerina has linear symmetry and the snowflakes have radial symmetry. Follow the link to the original post on for some printable templates and easy tutorial pictures.

Older students can practice symmetry by drawing Nutcrackers. This would take quite a bit of time to finish and would require more teacher guidance. I have not attempted this with students yet. I haven't had the time to invest in this project. If you have an art teacher at your school, perhaps you can suggest a collaborative unit. More sample pictures are featured on the original blog post at "A Faithful Attempt".

The younger students enjoy making these finger puppets. The free printables can be found on the website of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. To save paper, before copying I eliminated the instruction on each page to fit all 3 finger puppets on one page.  You can see this layout in the top picture of this post.
When searching for the original source for these finger puppets, I noticed they also have a new pair of finger puppets available and a project for a miniature theatre!


My students are always excited to see my Nutcracker sitting on the edge of my desk, but I think I may be more excited than them. I love the magic of the Nutcracker and look forward to teaching it every year!  Do you teach the Nutcracker? What are your favorite activities?
My 4 year old daughter is now in ballet class. Next year, we will start a tradition of seeing the Nutcracker live on stage. I can't wait!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Music Centers

During the week of Thanksgiving Break, I didn't want to start a lesson or unit when I wouldn't see all the classes of the week. So, we experimented with music centers. I have 50 minute classes, so I chose 4 centers. It took about 10 minutes to explain the games and then students travelled in groups and had about 10 minutes at each center. They seemed to enjoy them, so I will definitely try this again later in the year with all the classes. Once the kids have tried the centers, they would be great for emergency sub plans!

Giant Staff Twister

In a previous post, I shared the activity where we did relay races with our giant floor staff. Jen Fink, at, has used the floor staff to play a modified game of Twister. She created cards you can use for the game, one deck contains body parts (hands and feet) and one deck contains lines and spaces and they are available to print from her blog. We decided to make the game like traditional Twister and create spinners. The spinners are available on my teacher-pay-teacher store.


Boomwhacker Center

In the Boomwhacker center, students practiced note reading. They took turns playing songs from the book "Whack-a-Doodle-Doo!" I have 2 copies of this very affordable book ($5.95 from One student would attempt to play a song. The next student in line would be able to flip through the extra book to select the song they would like to perform for their turn. This book includes colored notation made it easy for the older students to perform the songs. The younger students needed assistance, so my student teacher positioned herself at that center.

Connect 4 Composition

The younger grades used a Connect 4 game for rhythmic composition. They took turns filling the bottom row with checkers.  The red checkers represented a sound and the black checkers represented a rest. The students performed the rhythms on lollipop drums. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of the younger students in action at this center.
For the older students, I used a more advanced game, Connect 4 x 4, with 4 different colors--red, yellow, green, and blue. I selected a few unpitched percussion instruments and the students would decide which instruments would play for each color. The students took turns creating new compositions and experimenting with different timbres at the same time. This version of the game has full and empty checkers. I forsee these representing quarter notes and half notes at some point in the future. (Connect 4 x 4 can be found on for $19.86)

Technology Center

The technology center used the Interactive whiteboard and the iPad. On the Activboard, the students took turns on a game from The game pictured below is "Music Match Instruments" which is a memory-type card game. I have also collected links to many other music sites and they can be found at this link.

They students could also play a music game on the iPad. Make sure you check out a previous post sharing 110 free music apps for the iPad. Kindergarten and 1st grade were playing rhythms on Monkey Drum. 2nd and 3rd grade were reading rhythms on Rhythm Cat. 4th and 5th grade were testing out a new app Cookie Beats. Look for a review of this app coming soon!

I have dedicated an entire Pinterest board to 
Check it out for more great ideas!

Friday, November 15, 2013

New Pinterest Board

I have noticed several photos from my blog floating around Pinterest with broken links. If you pin or repin something from my site, please make sure you are using an accurate link by pinning directly from my posts or from my new Music With Mrs. Dennis Blog Pinterest Board.

Don't forget to become a follower of the Pinterest board to stay updated on current posts. For more information about Pinterest, follow this link. You may also become a follower of my Facebook page. After each new post, I will cross post on Facebook and Pinterest.

Buzz, Ollie, Luke, and Lori

I see my students once a week for 50 minutes. Yes, even kindergarten! There have been some recent conversations on a Facebook Music Teacher board concerning lesson planning when you have kindergarteners for an extended time. This post will share a few of my tips when lesson planning for kindergarten.

I usually try to plan 3 different activities for my kindergarten classes in order to keep their attention and minimize discipline issues.  I include a variety of activities in each day which could include a listening activity or book, singing, instruments, movement (locomotor or nonlocomotor), dramatic play, dancing, play party games, etc. Today, I'm going to share a few books that are written with a specific goal to introduce a musical concept. I may begin a lesson with a book or use it as a transition activity between songs or games.

The first books I purchased were the Buzz and Ollie books.
There are 3 books in this series.  In Buzz and Ollie's Steady Beat Adventure, the kids travel to their grandparents' house and discover lots of environmental sounds that make a steady beat like windshield wipers, a clock, and a dripping faucet. In Buzz and Ollie's High, Low Adventure, the kids get lost in the forest and meet lots of animals giving them directions. But, they were told they should only follow the sounds that are low to find their way back home. The animals with high sounds are trying to trick them. In Buzz and Ollie's Loud, Soft Adventure, the kids hear quiet sounds like a baby bear snoring and then loud sounds like a bear roaring. The symbols for piano and forte also appear in the book.
I bought the hard cover books about six or seven years ago from for 14.95 each. Unfortunately, these books are currently out of print. However, you may find some used copies online for a variety of prices.

Another great book that is still in print is Luke & Lori's Musical Journey. You can find it at for $19.95.

This book is a collection of 4 short stories. They could be read all together or you could read each story by itself. Luke and Lori, the main characters in the book, introduce the basic elements of music as they take a musical journey and meet different people who teach them about long and short sounds, tempo, dynamics, and high and low sounds. 

As I said before, I try to plan a variety of activities for kindergarten classes to prevent discipline issues. Even if I cannot plan a movement activity in my lesson, sometimes simply changing locations in the room can help keep the wiggles to a minimum. Most of the time, my students are sitting around the edge of my solid blue square carpet facing the boards. When I have a book to share with the students, they get to sit on my alphabet carpet and face the back of the room near my desk and keyboard. The rule is only one person per square and everyone must be sitting criss-cross applesauce on their bottom so everyone behind them can see. Below, you can see a picture of my carpets. (For a full tour of my classroom, check out this previous post.) .

My students love these stories. I try to include one story every few weeks throughout the entire year. They would be great for a substitute teacher as well! Do you have any of these books? If so, share your ideas and opinions below!

Coda: An afterthought regarding the carpets. The solid blue rug and the alphabet carpet are actually touching because the older kids are too big for one carpet and must sit around the edges of both carpets

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Music Proficiency Packs

Do you have any of Artie Almeida's Music Proficiency Packs? 
I have 3, so far, and the students love them!

Pack #1--Rhythm Rockets

Each card features 8 simple rhythms with ta, titi, and quarter rests. You can use these as a class activity, small group, or partners. Someone counts a rhythm and then another student identifies the rhythm by moving their clothespin next to the correct rhythm. You could also use the rhythms as a starting point for melodic improvisation on xylophones or recorders.  If you have another idea for these, please share below! I laminated my cards to be more durable. The clothespins are also recycled from another teacher. This can be found at for 14.95.

Pack #2--Sneaky Snake

This game helps students test their knowledge of simple notation symbols. Each card features the symbol on the front and the name on the back. There is a hole next to each symbol. This game is intended to be used with partners. The student viewing the back of the snake would stick the pencil or straw in the hole and the other student would identify the name of the symbol. I use straws so the pencils do not make marks on the card stock. I did not laminate these cards because I did not want to punch holes afterwards. These cards come with the holes already punched and I did not want to take the time to do that myself! This is also 14.95 at

Pack #3--Beat Strips and Rhythm Markers

This game is allows students to practice rhythmic composition. The beat strips are in 4/4 time signature and the rhythms provided are quarter notes, eighth note pairs, and quarter rests. I laminated the beat strips and rhythms before cutting them apart. To contain all the pieces, I used legal sized envelopes. I taped the beat strips to the outside of the envelope and all the rhythm pieces are stored inside the envelope. Students could be given freedom to compose their own rhythms, or they could use these kits to dictate rhythms given by a teacher or student. I have even asked students to dictate simple sol-mi melodies by making the rhythms move higher or lower on the beat strip. Students could also get in small groups and make longer rhythmic phrases by lining up more than one envelope. This pack is also only 14.95 on


Do you have these or any other Proficiency Packs? If so, please comment below sharing your favorite lesson ideas. Pack #5--Melody Mice is next on my wish list!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Aurasma and Halloween

If you missed my previous post about the Aurasma app, you may want to read that first.

Our PTO sponsors a door decorating contest in conjunction with our trick or treat night. The winner gets $50 to spend on classroom supplies. Last year, I created a door that was linked to instruction with the students writing about how certain musical elements can make spooky music. I did not win the door contest, but I did win the costume contest!

This year, I designed a new door, integrating augmented reality with the Aurasma app!

The title is "Sneak a Peek, For a Musical Spook." Inside the windows and door you can see a photo of a class from each grade level. The photos have embedded auras. When you view the photos with the Aurasma app, they come to life and show videos of students singing, dancing, and playing music from the week of Halloween lessons. Take a look at the video below as demonstrate the app.

The tombstones and pictures as the bottom were really just an afterthought in an attempt to fill some empty space. However, the kids have really enjoyed seeing our silly zombie pictures. The free app I used is called Spooky Booth.

Next to the door, I posted instructions for downloading the Aurasma app and how to become a follower of the Cedar Grove Music channel as well as the learning objectives and core content for the lessons featured in the videos.

I know this post is a little to close to Halloween to implement in your classroom this year. Don't forget to pin this to your Pinterest board so you can remember to try it next year!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

3 Staff Games

We just finished some games to help reinforce note reading. This was a 50 minute class. The first activity was completed with the entire class together and lasted about 15-20 minutes. My student teacher and I divided the class into 2 groups. My student teacher was the leader of activity 2 and I was the leader of activity 3. They spent about 15 minutes at each activity.

Activity 1: Review the Musical Alphabet

We reviewed the musical alphabet by singing the alphabet song, but just repeating "ABCDEFG" over and over again. The students then got into 4 teams. One student in each row raced to arrange some alphabet cards in order starting on a given letter. Below is a picture from this activity. The student in the 2nd row finished first by putting the musical alphabet in order starting on D.  The cards were nothing fancy; just some construction paper and magic markers! I would have printed some on the computer with cardstock, but these were already in my file cabinet created by a previous music teacher!

Activity 2: Staff Races

We put gym tape on our floor to represent a staff. The students remained in four teams to perform relay type races.  First, they took turns running to stand on a particular line or space number. After most students were successful with numbers, we reviewed the letter names of the lines and spaces. They were first given space letters by themselves and then line notes by themselves before mixing up the lines and spaces.  Below is a short video of the races using line and space numbers:

For a few classes, we also challenged them to place each foot on a different space and line. Here is a short video showing the students using both feet on different notes.

The staff is going to stay on the floor throughout the year. It is very close to the door. I plan on using the last 5 minutes or so to review the letters of the lines and spaces as an exit activity to line up. They cannot line up in the hallway until they correctly race to the correct line or space.

Later in the year, we also plan on incorporating games from like Grand Staff Twister (but only treble clef) and Toss-a-Note (where student try to toss a beanbag and make it land on a particular line or space.

Activity 3: Alphabet Trail

This game is a free printable from It uses flash cards to help students recognize short melodic patterns, both ascending and descending. They must identify a missing pitch in the sequence. There are cards with a two line staff, as shown below,  and also cards showing a piano keyboard. I only used the staff cards for general music class.

I asked the students to get into 4 groups of 2 or 3 students (remember, I had half the class while my student teacher had the other half). I used bingo chips as the game pieces. I would show each team a flash card. I encouraged the students to talk about the answer as a team before giving me the answer. If a student yelled out an incorrect answer without consulting their teammates, that team lost their turn and I let the next team answer that card.

By allowing the students to be in small teams, the were actually learning from one another. For instance, one "star pupil" who caught on very quickly was answering immediately for their team. I was about to intervene and ask that they involve their teammates, but one of their teammates exclaimed, "How did you get the answer so fast?" While I continued to show flash cards to the other teams, that student was explaining the order of the musical alphabet to her teammates and they quickly caught on. I saw a similar peer teachings in other classes as well. It was very eye-opening.

I hope you enjoy these staff games. We used these games with students in grades 2-5. I hope your students enjoy them as well! Do you have an adaptation of any of these games? Share your ideas below!