Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Music Classroom Organization {BTS Blog Hop}

Happy Back to School!  I hope the beginning of your school year has been fantastic.  Today I am partnering up with a great group of music bloggers for a Back-to-School Music Blog Hop!

This blog hop includes six blog posts about Back-to-School in the music room, from lessons, to organization, to games, and more! To continue on the blog hop, keep clicking the pictures at the end of each post to hop to the next blog!

I just started my 5th year of teaching, and I am so excited to be in a new school.  Previously, I taught at four different elementary schools.  This year, I am at ONE, yes, ONE!  I am still in disbelief that I get to drive to the same school every day.  I was so eager to jump into my new classroom this summer to organize and decorate my one classroom. After spending many hours in my classroom, it is ready!  It is is is ready for music-making!  

Organizing....I LOVE to organize.  From my classroom instruments, to school supplies, to planning, I feel it is important to be organized.  Items need to be easy and convenient to find in order to save time and be efficient.   

Here are my tips for being organized in the music room: 


In my classroom, I have EVERYTHING labeled! Every cabinet, every instrument, every supply.  Every item has a label.  This not only makes it convenient for myself, but everything is clearly labeled so my students know that each item has their own special place in our classroom.  Here are some pictures of the many labels in my classroom.

My new classroom features wall-to-wall cabinets.  This is perfect for staying organized.  On each cabinet, I have a label on the door.  This not only helps me to remember where every item is located in my classroom, but if I ever have a guest teacher in my room, they are able to find the items as well.  And they also add some cuteness! :) 

Inside the cabinets, I also have my instruments labeled.  

Wooden instruments feature a red label, while metal instruments have a blue label.  Most labels also include a picture of the instruments for those students that can't quite read.  Looking for your own set of classroom instrument labels? Check out my set of classroom labels.  

This set is color-coded for the type of instrument.  Each label also includes a picture. 

Besides my small classroom instruments being labeled, I also have my xylophones labeled.  Each xylophone features soprano, alto, or bass on the instrument. 

I have a free set in my store! Click the picture to check them out!

One of my favorite features in my room are my crate seats.  These crate seats are used for storing items. They can also be quickly grabbed and used as a seat.  I label each crate and store items that I often use in my classroom.  These crates feature movement props, puppets, scarves, and masks. And of course, each crate is labeled!

 When it comes to my desk, I used a teacher toolbox to organize all of my desk supplies.  Here is a picture of my toolbox. 

Everything from Band-aids to pencils are stored in my toolbox.  Like these labels?  I have two options available in my store! It is so much easier to just look at the toolbox to find what I need, instead of digging through a desk.  

Behind my desk, I have a Copy/Grade/File three-drawer filing system.  There are many free options available on Teachers Pay Teachers.  

Instead of piling items on my desk, I stick them in one of these drawers.  I wish I could find a set of four drawers so I could add a label for "return."  For now, papers that need returned to students are stored in the "file" drawer. 

To keep my art supplies organized, I purchased shower caddies in the dollar spot at Target.  In each caddy, I have glue sticks, crayons, and scissors.  I even color-matched the scissors to the caddy.  I keep the caddies stored on my counter so they are easily accessible to students. 

By having different colors in the art caddies, I can also categorize groups by color for classroom management! For example, I may have my blue friends, or those students at the blue caddy, share an answer or perform for the class. 

#2:  Command Hooks are your best friend! 

I love to use Command Hooks in my classroom for organization. My favorite way to use Command Hooks is for storing bulletin borders.  Most people, and I was one of them, roll up the borders and stick them in a drawer.  When it comes time to use them, they do not want to lay flat.  Instead of rolling borders up in a drawer, use Command Hooks in a cabinet or closet.  

Attach hooks to cabinet or wall.  Keep borders in the plastic wrap.  Use a binder clip to clip border packaging and hand on hook. Nice and organized! 

I also use Command Hooks on my bulletin board to store dry erase markers.  I bought cheap buckets in the Target Dollar Spot.  I store the markers in the bucket and then hang on the hook.  I also used Command Hooks on my Piano Rewards bulletin board.  Similar to my marker storage, I placed the hooks on the board.  I then hooked buckets onto the hooks.  Inside the buckets, I store clothespins that have class names on them for my incentive board. You can see the buckets and Command Hooks on my bulletin board below! 

#3: Organize your planning

When it comes to having a successful year, it is important to organize your planning.  There are many resources available to help plan and organize your curriculum.  One resource that I recently purchased is Lindsay Jervis' "Ready, Set, Plan: Yearly Planning for the Elementary Music Classroom."  

In this resource, Lindsay provides everything you need to plan for a year in your classroom. This set features a yearly plan template.  My favorite part of this source is that she includes song list for each grade.  The song lists are created in an order that is developmentally appropriate for students.  Once you have a song list, the planning is much easier.  These song lists have helped organize my lesson planning to fit in a sequential order for each grade level throughout the year. 

When it comes to lesson planning, I have been using David Row's FREE lesson plan templates.  

These templates make it very easy to organize your lesson.  Each template allows you to check off the standards and focus area.  It also includes a section for materials needed, objectives, review, and assessments. My favorite part of this template is that David's includes a section for transitions.  Many times, teachers don't plan for transitions.  With this template, I am able to organize my thoughts and plans for each music lesson, including the transitions. Also, by listing the materials needed, I can quickly grab what I need prior to my students' arrival in order to be more organized in my lesson. 

#4: Use a planner

Use a planner, use a planner, use a planner! With a planner, I can plan and organize my year.  I can make reminders, lists, put in grades, and mark events.  This year, I am using an Erin Condren Teacher Planner.  I won this planner at the French Lick Blogger Meet-up.  Even though I LOVE Erin Condren's life planners, the teacher planner is pretty awesome as well.  However, it is not very suited for special area teachers.  The teacher planner features items such as classroom birthdays, grades, student information, etc.  With a class of 30 students, this is ideal.  However, when you teach over 600 students, these features are of no use.  As a result, next year, I am planning on investing in a teacher planner geared toward music teachers.  In particular, I have had my eye on The Yellow Brick Road's Editable Music Teacher Planner

This planner features a data tracking section, binder spine inserts, blank forms and checklists, calendars, class lists, contacts, desktop organizers, notes and lists, planners and schedules, resource forms and checklist, seating charts and class jobs, sub binder, and tutorials.  It is also editable and easily customizable. It is specifically designed with music teachers in mind. My favorite feature is that it has a section for you to place sticky notes.  I have sticky notes all over my desk.  This planner allows you to place the note in your planner and move your tasks from week to week.  I think this will be a great tool in organizing and planning my classroom in the future. 

Thank you for stopping by my blog in the Back-to-School Music Blog Hop.  I hope you learned some tips and strategies for classroom organization! Now on to the next stop.  Click on the picture below to visit Tracy King at Mrs. King Rocks where she will be giving tips on creating classroom resources yourself! 

Enjoy the rest of the hop!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Tutorial: How to Print Life-Size Clipart at Home

While brainstorming on classroom decorations, I wanted something large, bold, and eye-catching!  I wanted a showstopper that wasn't overwhelming! After discovering the adorable Melonheadz Musical Kidlettes, I knew I wanted to put these kidlettes on my classroom walls. Here is my first kidlette I made at home! I later made 5 more :) I may have started a slight obsession in printing life-size clipart!

In the past, if I wanted a poster-size image printed, I just took it to our local print shop.  It would cost around $15 for the image.  I really didn't want to take the trip to the print shop with a baby on my hip this summer.  So instead, I started to research websites for printing poster size images.  I then discovered It. is. AMAZING! 

Here is how it works! 

1.  Find clipart or image you would like to print poster-size!  One tip: the image can not be a PNG.  Therefore, if your clipart is a PNG file, you must convert to a JPEG.  I simply convert to a JPEG through my Preview program on the Mac.  I open the PNG file and then export to a JPEG.  I am not familiar with out to do the conversion on a PC, but I am sure there is a simple way. 

2. Visit

3.  Click "Get Started." 

4.  Then click, "Upload your image."  Select the image or clipart you wish to print. 

5. It will then place your image on the left side of the page with a grid over top the image. On the right side of the page you can customize your poster. Select the page width you wish to print. NOTE:  In the gray box underneath, it says the approximate dimensions of each page width.  This will be how large your actual image is going to print.  

6. Check the Terms of Use and select "Create my Poster." It will then create a download of your file. 

7.  Open the downloaded poster and print. 

8.  Once the image is printed, I laminated each sheet, then cut it out.  You may choose to cut first and then laminate.  You may also choose to cut, tape, and then laminate.  I actually laminated mine twice: I first laminated each page and then I used the school laminator to laminate the entire poster.  It all depends on the size of the image you are wishing to print/laminate. 

9. Tape pages together to create life-size poster. TIP:  Leave a small edge on some edges of the pages to make taping easier.  Laminate the entire poster to make it last longer and add durability. 

10. Hang your life-size poster and bring your room to life! 

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask! I hope you find some amazing ways to make life-size images with this tutorial! 

Classroom Reveal 2016

Wow! I can't believe I am already back in school. What an amazing, but fast, summer it has been?!  Now that the 2016-2017 school year is upon us, I have some exciting news to share.  This school year, I am teaching at a new school, in a completely new city!  Even though it was bittersweet, I left my job at four elementary schools, and I have accepted a job for ONE elementary school.  Yes, I have ONE room to get ready this year.  I get to drive to the same place EVERY day, and I get to see my same students EVERY week! I couldn't be more excited. And another great thing about my new job?!  I am just teaching kindergarten through 2nd grade. Ekk! I am silently squealing inside!

With a new school, comes a new classroom! I was so excited and eager to get started on making my classroom home! My new room features storage, storage, and more storage.  It makes this teacher heart so happy.  My abundance of storage features wall to wall cabinets and a large storage closet for program props and supplies.  

As I greeted my new students into my classroom this week, a kindergartener said, "This place is magical!"  I have to agree.  Welcome to my magical music room! 

As I entered my new music room for the first time, I was greeted with the 10' 9'' X 13' 1" Noteworthy Rug.  I had requested it after I was hired, and I was thoroughly shocked when I saw that package in my room!  Ekk! It is such a life saver for kindergarten classroom management.  Also, since I am in a Primary School and the students are small enough to fit on the rug, I decided to get rid of all my chairs so I had space for movement.  All of my students can nicely fit on the rug in their very own square! 

Over the summer, I purchased a Silhouette Cameo.  I used it to cut out the words, "Sing, Say, Dance, Play." I also cut out the same phrase in white vinyl and stuck it over my door!  

In the front of my room, I used my crate seats for storing masks, movement props, scarves, and puppets.  With these items in the front of the room, I can conveniently find them, and they just add come cuteness!  They also serve as seating.  My class rules are posted above the crates.  They are posted at the perfect level for my primary kiddos to easily see. 

With having 24 classes of primary grades, I wanted to create a system that was quick and easy for students lining up.  After searching Pinterest, I decided to add these numbers to my tiled section of my floor.  I made the numbers, printed them, laminated them, and then I used contact paper to stick to the floor.  There is the perfect amount of space between each student to stand without touching each other.  Now that we are entering the second week of school, my students already have their number memorized.  I can just say go to your number, and they know exactly where to go! 

This year I decided to slightly change my classroom management system. This year I added letters on my board that spell "Music."  Each time a rule is broken, I take a letter away.  If a class has all of their letters on the board by the end of class, I move their class clothespin up two keys on the Piano Rewards board.  If one letter is taken away, they get to move up one piano key.  If more than two letters are taken away, they do not get to move.  Once their class clothespin is on the Piano Rewards board, they compete against the other classes to reach the end of the piano first.  If they are first, their class gets a prize!

Below is a picture of the Piano Rewards board.  I used command hooks to attach the cute buckets on to the bulletin board. 

The "I Can" bulletin, posted above, features three laminated sheets.  I use a dry erase marker and write each "I Can" statement on them for the week. 

Here is my Word Wall bulletin.  I color coordinated each card for a specific grade level.  My favorite part of this bulletin is the organization of the word wall cards. 

I hole punched each card and attached them in alphabetical order with a binder clip.  I then used a command hook to attach them to the side of the board. 

One of my favorite classroom features are my life-size Melonheadz Music Kids! I discovered this amazing website called "Block Posters."  It takes any image and tiles it into regular sheets of paper.  Then you print, cut, and tape together. It is so easy, and it is FREE! Check out a full tutorial here

My Grungy Edition Alphabet Banner is hung above the kids.  We are also required to have two phrases posted in our room: "Do the right thing," and "Treat people right."  Those two quotes are on each side of the kids. 

On my board, I posted my new Curvy Solfege Signs.  I attached each one with binder rings and added a ribbon on top.  I just LOVE how they turned out! 

This year I created a pencil station for my primary kiddos.  There are five quick reminders posted above the Sharp and Dull buckets! 

This year I also labeled EVERYTHING! And when I say EVERYTHING, I really mean it.  Every drawer, every basket....I forgot to take picture of the inside of my cabinets, but I am telling you, everything is labeled! 

Here are my color-coordinated art caddies.  Since they are so cute, I have left them on top of my counter.  Even the scissors match the caddies! 

Last year, I had my Boomwhackers attached to the wall with velcro.  Since my walls were freshly painted at my new school, I didn't feel comfortable sticking up 10 feet of velcro.  This year I decided to use these labeled buckets that I found at Dollar Tree.  I wish they were going low to high, but I have to have the biggest Boomwhacker set up in the corner for stability. 

I hope you enjoyed my classroom tour. I have already had a fantastic start to the year in my new school, and I hope you do too! Thank you for visiting my magical place!

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Recorder Game: Tic Tac Toe

Long time, no see! I know....I have not blogged in forever!  But it is my personal goal to get back into blogging to share ideas and resources with you.  However, I do promise that I have a very good excuse for my lack of blogging.  I was a little busy growing and bringing a human into the world! 

Welcome Finley to this big beautiful world!  She has stolen my heart, and all my time, but I wouldn't change it for the world.


Now that I am back into the classroom, I have been trying to do new activities with my students!  When I returned from maternity leave, it was time to introduce high D and high C on the recorder for my fourth grade students.  To get in some practice on high D and high C, I introduced a tic tac toe game to my students. 

I have came across numerous tic tac toe games on Pinterest for rhythms, but not one for melody.   As a result, I decided to create my own.  For this game, you will need the following:

- tape
- bean bags (two different colors)

To begin, I created 9 melody cards that all featured high C and/or D.  You can get these cards by clicking above.  I chose to keep the rhythms very simple on these cards so they could focus more on note reading.  Tape the melody cards onto the floor to make a tic tac toe board.  Also tape a starting line on the floor.  

To prepare the game, I displayed the melody cards onto the board one at a time.  We then played through each card as a class to get them ready for the game. 

Next, divide the class into two teams.  Assign each team a team name and a bean bag color. To begin the game, one student from a team goes to the tic tac toe board.  They pick one card to play.  I just had my students tell me what color card they were going to play since each card is a different color.  The student then plays their selected card.  If they play it correctly, they can then throw a bean bag.  

To throw a bean bag, the student goes to the starting line and tosses the bean bag.  If the bean bag lands on the card they played, then that team claims that spot.  If the bean bag does not make it onto the correct card, then the team can not claim that spot.  Continue with the game going between teams until the team has three bean bags in a row. 

This game was a HIT in my classroom, and the students were begging for more.  Each class got very competitive with their tic tac toe skills.  Many students tried to block the other teams from getting three in a row.  The game was very fun, and it allowed the students to get in a lot of practice on high C and high D. 

Hope your students enjoy it as much as mine! 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Digipalooza 2015

Wow! Digipalooza 2015 has been jam packed with some excellent techie information that I can't wait to incorporate into my classroom next year. I am so fortunate to work in a school district that is leading the way in regards to technology in the classroom. As a result, we host this amazing two-day educational technology conference in my home town.  This has allowed me numerous opportunities to present about technology in the elementary classroom, not just in the music classroom. 

This year I presented two sessions at Digipalooza. My first session presented Web-Based Tools in the Elementary Classroom. This session was a crash course on some of the simply, but useful learning tools that are available on the web.  Just click on the image to download the presentation. 

The second session was titled " Blogging Platforms: Inside and Outside the Classroom." This session discussed the blogging platforms that are best in the classroom.  From Weebly to Blogger, learn the pros and cons of using each platform, whether for classroom use or personal blogging. 

If you were lucky enough to attend Digipalooza, I hope you enjoyed your experience at SCSD2. 

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Musical Road Trip: Folk Dancing

Hello everyone! Today, I am very excited to be participating in the Musical Road Trip with an amazing group of music teachers. This is the third stop on the road trip as we head to the midwest and stop in my home state of Indiana! 

For this blog hop, each blogger will discuss a musical topic.  The third stop on this road trip is right here in Indiana, where we will be discussing folk dancing! 

One of my favorite things to learn while in college and at conferences is folk dancing! I love attending folk dancing sessions at conferences, such as the National Conference for AOSA. It is such a blast to just learn and dance with hundreds of other music teachers up into the wee hours of the night. Not only do I enjoy participating in folk dancing, I love to share this experience with my students. 

Typically, I teach folk dances throughout the year in every grade...yes, even with the kinders. Even though we may learn simple circle dances in kindergarten, they are still learning the basics of building community through folk dancing.  I also teach a large folk dancing unit with my fifth graders.  In the spring time, the fifth graders are beginning to get very antsy as they are ready to move on to the middle school.  I am sure all of you know what I am talking about ?!?! By incorporating this unit during this time of year, they stay actively engaged and excited about music.  When I first mention folk dancing to them, they typically moan and groan, but by the end of the first day, they are all leaving with a smile on their face and eager to come back for more. 

So today, I am going to give you some tips and tricks for incorporating more folk dancing into your classroom.  You do not have to do an entire unit in your curriculum.  Instead, incorporate a dance or two throughout your units to reinforce musical concepts, such as form, rhythm, and melody. 

Tip #1: Find folk dancing resources that are worth the investment.  
There is an abundance of folk dancing resources available online and in book form.  Through the numerous resources I have purchased or perused through, I have discovered many resources that are worth the investment and are a great addition to your library!

Resource #1: 
Anything by the sweet and adorable Amidon's is a fantastic resource for your classroom.  Each book comes with a CD and very descriptive directions for each dance.  

Here you can find all of their folk dancing resources with books and CDs.  One of my favorite things about the Amidon resources is that they play and record all of the music.  If you ever have a chance to see them in person, DO IT!  Mary Alice usually plays the accordion, while Peter Amidon leads the dances.  It is a blast of fun and entertainment! 

Resource #2: 
Even though this resources is a pretty penny, the book, 120 Singing Games and Dances for Elementary Schools, is completely worth the investment.  Along with dances, it also includes directions and resources for a variety of singing games. 

This resources comes in a spiral bound, and it can be incorporated with all grade levels. 

Resource #3: 
My last resource I will be discussing is created by John M. Fiereabend, titled, The Book of Song Dances.  This book comes at a very reasonable price, and it is filled with a variety of dances.  I typically use my Fiereabend resources for my younger students. 

In this book, the dances are organized by type (circle, double circle, square dance, etc.). Each dance comes with clear and written instructions. 

Tip #2: Avoid the term "couple" or "partners"
Through my years of teaching, I have realized that the older students tend to have issues with being partnered up with students of the opposite gender.  The fear of cooties has finally set in! In the past, I would use the term couple or partner when teaching the dance steps.  However, it often ended up with giggles and/or moans and groans.  So, I have resorted to the use of "pair."  For example, I would now say a phrase like the following, "The top pair will sashay down the middle."  The students don't even react to it.  This term also works very lovely when you have same gender partners.  

Tip #3: Pick partners (pairs) in a fun way! 
I always try to randomly partner up my students so they aren't always partnered with their best friends or even the same students dance after dance.  I feel that this avoids students being left out as well.  Instead of the teachers just picking the students, try something new like dividing students up based off what they are wearing, their birthdays, height, picking sticks, name them off by fruits, etc.  Many TPT sellers also have partner picking manipulatives to make it easier and fair for your classroom.  There are an abundance of ways to partner, just be creative!

Tip #4:  Less talking, more doing! 
I can say I am guilty of this, especially during my first two years of teaching.  However, the less talking the teacher can do, the better!  I have made it a personal goal to talk less and to just do it! I have even challenged myself to teach an entire class period without any vocal commands, using only hand and facial gestures and movements.  It was very uplifting learning experience for myself and my students.  By just doing the dance with your students, instead of talking them through it and explaining the steps,  they will be able to visually see the dance and follow along. 

Tip #5: Don't let them count! 
I feel that a major part of folk dancing is being able to feel and react to the music.  If students are counting the steps, they aren't using their ears to listen to the musical changes, but are instead just focusing on the numbers they are counting.  First, if needed, model the steps for them with the music playing, then have them do it.  This way, they are actually using their ears to perform the dance.   If they are struggling with the steps, I find it helpful to add a sound cue, such as a triangle hit, to cue the next set of dance steps or different section of the music. 

Tip #6: Use visuals for formations.
In the beginning of my teaching career, I would often set the students up into the dance formation (double circle, square dance, longways sets, etc) by placing each pair of students in the correct place.  This would take a lot of time away from my lesson, and often students would begin to misbehave as they waited.  As a result, I created a set of formation posters that I have posted in my room at all times.  I literally just have to point to the correct poster, and my students make the formation on their own. Of course, the younger kiddos have a few more issues so I offer more guidance. 

Tip #7: Use hand stamps or scarves to differentiate left and right. 
 Still to this day, many of my 5th graders even struggle with differentiating their lefts from their rights.  I know many educators tie a scarf onto the left or right hand to differentiate between the two.  I often don't want to drag my scarves out and take time tieing, so I just place a stamp on one hand to differentiate between the two. This saves a lot of time and confusion. 

Tip #8: HAVE FUN!!!!!!
GET IN AND HAVE FUN WITH YOUR STUDENTS!  Enjoy this experience with your students. 

And there are my top tips and tricks for folk dancing in the classroom!!!

As part of my folk dancing post, I will be having a 25% off sale on my Folk Dance Formation Posters.  These have been a major time saver in my classroom, and they added some brightness to my room, too! These will be on sale for the next several days. If you are a blogger, feel free to link up your post below about folk dancing and/or folk dancing product on sale for 25% off. 

Our next stop is at Music a la Abbott in Colorado on June 24th! 

Here is the rest of the itinerary for the Music Road Trip!  Hope you follow along with us as we travel across the states in our musical adventure!

If you are a blogger and/or music seller and want to link up, here are the directions:
  • Link up with a blog post specifically about rhythm/ rhythmic concepts, AND/OR
  • Link up to a folk dancing product on sale for 25% off (you can leave it on sale until Wednesday, June 24.)
  • You can do either simply by clicking on the button below!

Link up here with your folk dancing blog post or a discounted folk dancing product!