Saturday, August 23, 2014

I'm BAAAACK!!!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. It is a special calling to work with middle school/junior high kids.  And I don't have it.  After two (long, stressful, anxiety-inducing) years teaching grades 5-8 music and choir, I am finally back in my element--Elementary, baby!  These are my people.  We love the babies.  Hugs, notes, pictures, cute bulletin boards, and even shoe-tying and nose-wiping.  Okay, maybe not that last one.  But I am SO HAPPY to be back with the littles!  I am giddy with excitement, and I've spent the last two weeks organizing and decorating my new classroom.  It is an old building--my husband had elementary music in the SAME ROOM many moons ago--but I've taken the blue doors and electric yellow trim and turned it into my happy home away from home.  Here it is!



All my storage is in wooden cabinets.  The doors are not very attractive, but I'm gradually adding to them. 


Pocket chart ready for rhythm/melody cards, a spot for objectives (a.k.a. "What are we doing today?"), white board/projector screen, Who's Next Board.  


I think I'm going to like the cabinets and shelf here.  I keep all of my manipulatives, books, and toys/props readily available here.  And the clouds.  They are my new favorite thing.  I found them on Pinterest and downloaded them from this music teacher blog,  Rhythm and Glues


My teacher's corner.  Love. Complete with my very own teacher toolbox. 




It's hard to see, but I used colored velcro to mark sit spots on the floor.  I found colored velcro in 36'' pieces at Hobby Lobby this year for just $1.49! 


This is a shortcut version of my guided listening word wall, first introduced HERE. Hopefully one day I can upgrade to the original version, but this works for now. 


Just a closeup of the cuteness inspired by Rhythm and Glues. 


All ready to post objectives for the first week! 

That's it!  My new happy music home.  I am looking forward to a great year of singing, playing, dancing, and loving on my kiddos.  I hope your year is off to a great start as well.  Remember to take care of yourself, eat well, drink lots of water, and take your vitamins.  When I feel good, I am a better teacher/wife/mom/friend/person.  So go to bed early, and get ready to change the world, one song at a time. 





Saturday, June 1, 2013

Fun with Dice!

I just discovered a great app for classroom games! Make Dice Lite is a free app that allows you to create your own dice and roll them on your iPad or iPhone. You can put it under the document camera for the class to see. 


I can think of so many ways to use this! Composing, adding note/rest values, music baseball.....the possibilities are endless!


How would you use it?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Technology Withdrawal



Technology is a wonderful thing.  I am what my husband calls a "button-pusher"--someone who enjoys playing around with technology, figuring out how to do new things with it all the time.  At my last school, I was fortunate to have a laptop, projector, document camera, ActiveSlate,  iPod, and sound dock in my room.  I was getting pretty good a powerpoints and online lessons, and even smartboard activities with the slate.  I was in technology teacher heaven!

Then I moved.  My new school has a desktop computer, a stereo with CD changer, and.....um......that's it.  Oh wait, there's an overhead projector--as in, transparencies.   Okay, so I taught forever with less than that, right?  I can do this, right? ........ <crickets>.........  I never knew how dependent I had become on all my "toys" until I didn't have them any more!  Wow.  I have had to dig deep into my toolbox of teaching tricks to remember how to engage and excite students.  Some things have been great, others not so much.  I've had my share of failed lesson plans this year, but I think I'm starting to get in my groove (finally!).  I also found a projector no one was using and hooked it up in my room.   I spent Saturday rearranging my classroom to start fresh after the break, and I'm kind of excited! The district is issuing laptops to teachers this year, and I am scheduled to get mine on December 10--yippee!  I think I will be able to update this blog more often then, too.

So I'm looking for ideas now.  I have four sections of 5th grade general music, one 6th grade choir of 22, and one 7th/8th grade choir of 41 (mixed).  What are your favorite lessons, songs, sightreading materials, and games for this age group?  This is new territory for me, so I need all the help I can get!

Please, leave a comment and share your collective wisdom!



Happy Thanksgiving!

I know,  it's been a long time since my last post.  Things have been a bit crazy here in South Texas.  We are now living with my husband's parents, still trying to sell our home in North Texas.  Now before you start to feel sorry for me, let me clarify:  My in-laws are wonderful.  They have a large 4 bedroom home with space for all of us to have our own rooms and bathrooms, they are happy to help out with the kids while we are at work, they have a housekeeper who comes once a week (score!), and they are incredibly generous.  I know not everyone could stand to live with family, and we are blessed to be a part of this loving, supportive one.

That said, I am ready to have my own space.  It's still weird living in someone else's house, cooking in someone else's kitchen, doing laundry in someone else's laundry room (especially when you hate laundry like I do), and trying to keep kids and school stuff organized and together. (So NOT mastering this mayhem!)  So if you know someone looking for a home in the Keller area, I have a great one for them!!

In honor of the holiday, I would like to share some Thanksgivings of my own:

I am thankful for....
.....My MIL and FIL, who have been so generous and supportive during this transition.
.....My own parents, who are supporting us in this move even though it takes us farther from them.
.....Our new church home, where we have been welcomed with open hearts and arms.
.....Our church youth group, a safe haven for the boys to build new friendships and grow in spirit.
.....The staff family at my new school, who make starting over a little easier.
.....My husband's new job, which has given him a confidence and fulfillment that he truly needed.
.....A God who loves me and is providing for our needs every day.


Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the chaos of life and focus on the things we don't have.  I know I have been guilty of that many times in the last few months.  But really, I am so blessed.  I have a job, a stable family, a home (two if you count the one we own and the one where we stay!), plenty of clothes to wear, food to eat, and cars to get us where we need to go.  God provides for all of our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus (Philipians 4:19).

May God bless you and your family with peace, joy, and love this Thanksgiving.




Saturday, August 25, 2012

New School Jitters

Inservice is over, and the kids are coming Monday!  I haven't finished going through the storage room and library yet, but my office is no longer a hot mess--progress!  The room is set for students, even if the walls are a little bare.  I think the hardest thing for me is that I have to be okay with things not being "perfect" for the first day.  I keep thinking of things that I want to get out of my school boxes (we may need to rent a truck to get it all here next weekend!), and it's killing me to not have it all ready right now.  I don't have all the great technology and instruments that I had in my last school, so I'm having to remember how to teach without them--who knew it would be so hard?

I've gotten some great ideas from the amazing teachers on the Music K-8 list.  If you are not a subscriber, I HIGHLY recommend it.  It is a network of music teachers all across the country who share ideas, ask questions, and support each other in what can be a lonely job.  You can subscribe at musick8.com by clicking on the "Mailing List" tab at the top of the page.  I would suggest creating a separate email account just for this, though.  There can be 100 or more posts every day, so you may not want it clogging another inbox. 

Now that my stuff is organized, I need to write out my lesson plans.  Have a great first week, everyone! 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Let the Mayhem Begin!

WOW!  I knew I was tackling a lot of big changes all at once, but the details are starting to sink in.  This last week I went to my new school for the first time.  I found a large room (good!) that shares a wall with the band hall (not so good), with an office, music library, and two storage rooms (good) that were all FULL of stuff (not good!).  It looked like no one had cleaned out or taken joy in their teaching there in several years. It was overwhelmingly depressing.  I'll admit it, I cried more than once this week over the mountain of stuff ahead of me.

BUT....I spent yesterday cleaning out the office and arranging the room with the young man who will be teaching the other sections of 5th grade music while I am teaching choir.  Bless his heart, he is so excited to start his new job (he's a first year teacher), but he's kind of all over the place.  I've been asked to mentor him this year, which any other year I would be thrilled to do, but right now I feel like need to get myself in order before I can help anyone else.  If you are a praying person, please pray for me in this area!  I want to be a good leader and helper to him, as well as to my students.  I need a clear head and a calm spirit to make this work.

MEANWHILE, all of my school stuff from my old classroom is still in North Texas.  I came down with ONE crate to start the year, and I am wishing I had more here.  We will be going back to get more of our belongings Labor Day weekend, so I only have to get through the first week.  So it's my turn to ask you for ideas!  What activities can I do with 5th-7th graders that require little or no props/equipment?  I found rhythm sticks and egg shakers, and I bought 30 cups last night for cup games.  I'm going to try to borrow some beanbags or balls from the PE teacher (fingers crosssed they have some!). 

I need help to master this amount of mayhem!  Thank you in advance! 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A New Adventure!

This has been a crazy summer at our house. In July, my wonderful husband got a job in Lake Jackson, six hours away.  It is also where his parents live, which is helpful right now.  Hubby started his job last week, and the boys and I stayed home, planning to spend the school year apart since I still have my current (wonderful) job.  But wait!  God has another plan.  The district that hired my husband has found a position for me!

That is wonderful, because: now we can keep our family together.  Since our oldest son is starting high school, I am SO glad to be with Dad this year (even if said 14yo is grumbling about moving). The town we are moving to is a great place, with great cultural opportunities for kids and community members.  We already have a church there that we love, so we can jump right in there, too.

That is scary, because:  I have five days to pack up my classroom, my boys, my dog, and get us to south Texas. I will be teaching 5th grade general music and 6th-8th grade choir, something I have not taught before. New teacher inservice starts next week, I have to set up a new classroom, learn the curriculum, select music, and be ready for kids on August 27th. Yikes!

As much as I love elementary music, I am excited about working with "big" kids.  It's like I'm just moving up with my fourth graders from last year (except a completely new bunch of kids).  I have been a choir director before, so I know what to do. It's just that....in case you didn't know....I'm a planner.  I like to think, plan, make lists, and THEN get started.  This timeline does not leave me much room for that!  But you know what?  It's an adventure, and it's going to be a fun ride!

Guess I better redo my teacher binder.....





Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Google Docs for the Classroom

This is the time of year when most teachers are organizing, with a capital "O".  We plan, design, arrange, rearrange, redesign, and do everything we can to make the new year start strong.  One of my favorite tools to use is Google Docs.

If you have not seen or heard about Google Docs, it is high time you learned! It is a great way to store and share documents with others, collaborate on projects, and create forms for your programs.  Best of all, it's FREE!  All you have to do is create a Google ID for yourself. 

My favorite features are:

1. SHARING - I can share documents with anyone, anywhere I want.  If I want to share something I made with music teachers across the state, they can access it here.  No more multiple emails to send large files or pictures. Many of the bloggers I follow share their work as a Google document, so I can download them easily.  Also, if you open a shared document from someone else, it will be automatically added to your own Googledocs library.


2.  FORMS - OMGoodness, this is the BEST!  I use this to have kids sign up for choir auditions every year.  You set up the form and share the link with whomever you wish.  They fill in the form, and you have a spreadsheet with everyone's information already entered. I also use it to collect student information, take orders for t-shirts, and anything else I can think of.  No more worrying about whether I wrote down the correct size, or trying to read messy handwriting!


(You could also use the forms to create a quiz that students can take on the computer.  Their answers will be put into the spreadsheet for easy grading. I haven't done it, but I think it could be useful.)


3.  ACCESSIBILITY - You can access your Google docs from any computer, any time.  Left your laptop at home?  That's okay.  If you have an internet connection, you can access your stuff and work on it.  You can even share it with a colleague and work on it together. 

As you can see, I am a bit of a fan of the GoogleDocs.  I encourage you to check it out.  Get a Google ID for yourself, if only to be able to check out other people's stuff!

For more information about using Google Docs in the classroom, check out THIS LINK.

Here's to a well-planned, well-organized school year!

Goodbye Rhythms and FREE download!

Picture this:  It's the end of class and your students are lining up.  You look up at the clock and....DOH! There are still a few minutes until time to go! What do you do?  I've done several things to fill this time, depending on the class. 

1.  MAKE RAIN - this is a popular sound activity.  The students have to watch the person in front of them and copy what they do.  The teacher stands at the front of the line and starts a movement.  When it gets to the end of the line, start the next one.  The idea is for the sounds to overlap and morph into each other. *Remind them to NEVER STOP A MOVEMENT until the very end.

A. Rub palms together
B. Snap fingers
C. Pat knees
D. Stomp feet
E.  Pat knees
F.  Snap fingers
G.  Rub palms together
H. Softly blow out and return hands to your side.  It sounds like a rainstorm!

2.  SING - Of course, we can always sing the new song we just learned, or a class favorite. (If the door is open, we practice singing pianissimo)

3.  GOODBYE RHYTHMS - I got this idea from the girls at What the Teacher Wants.  They shared a list of fun rhymes to read/say together in line.  I copied the rhymes and added the rhythm under each.  Have the students clap the rhythm and say the rhyme together.  I'm going to start them as echoes, then have them read them after they become familiar.  This is a great way to reinforce the connection between words and rhythm.  I can't wait to use it next year!



*Note: The images are not mine, all I did was add the notes below each one.  Thank you Rachelle and Natalie for sharing!--Go show them some love at What the Teacher Wants!

For a FREE GoogleDocs download of these rhythms, click HERE. (If you don't have a Google ID, it's worth creating one to use Google Docs.  It's free, and you can access more freebies online, too!)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Do You Prezi?

For the past few years I have been using more and more powerpoint shows to introduce and review concepts in my class. I'm always amazed at how focused the kids are on a big screen!  My projector is my most used classroom tool, so I'm always looking for new ways to use it.  Enter Prezi.  Have you seen this?  It's like powerpoint on steroids!  It adds movement to still slides.  I can't wait to use it more and create some introductions to composers for my classes.  AND, you can import your existing powerpoint so you don't have to completely start over!  Woohoo!

I'm just a novice right now, but here is a small portion of my first week presentation:

Keys to Musical Success   (BTW, I can't figure out how to embed the actual vid. Any experts out there? Leave me a note if you can help me figure it out!)

By the way, I totally stole borrowed the Keys from Cara at Miscellaneous Me.  I may change them a little to fit my school this year, but you still get the idea.