Sunday, September 30, 2012

MelodySoup - Monday Linky Party! - How do you generate funds?

So every day I learn something new about blogging! Today I am learning about linky parties.

I know that in these days where employment security for many music teachers is far from guaranteed we are all just grateful to be working..... Often in that environment where there is very little if any funding that we can count,  we work with and have become accustomed to the expectation that we will generate the necessary funds to make our classes work. If you are like me, you like being part of the solution rather than the problem, so I'm always looking for new and creative ways to ensure that I can accomplish basic things like purchase enough music,  repair and replace instruments and equipment and purchase the things that will make help my students shine brightly on program days.

So for this first Monday in October the linky party question is this...... "How do you generate funds for your music program?"

Do you sell tickets?  Do you do fund raisers? Maybe you write grants, or have become addicted to like I have..... Maybe you've found a great corporate sponsor in your community or Maybe you've partnered with the best PTA ever..... What do you do?

Here is what I do...... I write grants and use  The way I see it, the time I could spend writing and managing a grant is time I don't have to spend selling popcorn. or cookie dough..... but that is just my personal preference.....

The point is the great idea that you have might just be the program saving idea that someone else needed to read about..... so feel free to share.

How does this work? 
Here is how a linky party works......
1. You write a post related to this post.... ."How do you generate funds for your music program?"
2. Then link back here to MelodySoup......You can use my button if you wish

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Then your AND all the others will show up below!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The power of a name

As we move into middle and late September let us not forget the power of name games.  Most music teachers use name games extensively at the beginning of the school year in an effort to build community and as a way to get students singing. However as the demands of our performance and curricular schedule take over our thinking, name games take the back burner and it isn't long before they are a distant memory and a collection of songs that we take out only in August and early September.

I've studied with ETM for a long time and one of the most extensive strands of study in the institute is social and emotional development of children.  As part of my study my co-teacher and I were privileged to take part in a 2 year residency with the director of the institute Dr. Randal McChesney.  As part of our work together we talked extensively about what combination of song experiences were best to help facilitate the emotional well being of our students so that they would be available to all that we wanted to teach them.

Name games are the quickest means to that end because they build regard between the student and the teacher as well as with students. A name game well placed and well played at the beginning of the lesson can take up 10 minutes but earn you 15 minutes of quality instructional time rather than 25 minutes of tug-a-war as you drag your students into the music curriculum.

My favorite name games come from the "Let's Do it Again" book such as "I'm looking for a friend" and "Hickety Tickety" that we use in ETM.  In fact, many of the songs of ETM are found in similar versions as part of the standard Kodaly and Orff repertoire. The point is to facilitate the experiences with sincerity, regard for the child and with true playfulness.

This week my second graders were using Hickety Tickety Bumblebee. We did the version found in "Let's Do it Again" and we had a grand time exploring the different ways that we could say our name. We had such fun I was reminded of a very sweet story that a dear friend of mine named Tobey Unrath once told about a precious experience she had with a student.

My friend Tobey has been a music teacher for a long time and was one of the first music teachers that I met when I started teaching.  I met her during my very first ETM class and we immediately became friends. She invited me to visit her church because she knew that I was looking for a church home and it wasn't long before we were not only professional colleagues and members of the same church choir.  Now 13 years later we are still both teaching and we are still both in the same church choir singing 2nd soprano when we have a voice left after teaching all day.  Last spring Tobey was given the chance to share a devotional before choir began and because she is all things music teacher it wasn't long before her story, like most of mine, rounded the corner into a conversation she had with a little girl just that week.  As I try to remember how Tobey told the story, I'm sure I'll get parts of it wrong, so Tobey if you read this, please forgive my poor memory.  I think the conversation went something like this:

Girl : "I love you!"
Tobey: " Why do you love me?"
Girl: "Because you love me!"
Tobey: How do you know that I love you?"
Girl: "Because you sing my name"

I don't know about your students, but my students with all of the needs and troubles they bring with them to school are in desperate need of someone to sing their name.  What a difference we can make in the lives of the children we are blessed to teach when we sing their name.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Music Class Organization - teacher corner upgrade

Every year I try to get better and better at organizing my room.  Today I'm going to share how I overhauled my teacher corner.

This was my teacher corner last year.  I am somewhat bound in how I can set up the area because my computer has to be next to my activeboard.  I also like to keep my electronic piano as near to my computer as possible so that I can easily hook them up when I need to make a quick recording of something. I don't do it very often, but when I do need to record something, I don't have time to re-arrange everything.  I thought that if I taught in front of the keyboard then I would be in the way of curious fingers who want to touch all the chords they can get their hands on........ it didn't work...... 
I made several improvements and two weeks after school started I'm still happy with them.  

The first thing I did was make some of those handy dandy crate seats and I was able to store an entire grade level of text books in them.  I LOVE my crates for three reasons.
1.  My students sit on the floor and if they are going to lean on something, I would rather it be a padded crate than on the wall under the electrical outlet where my activeboard is  plugged in. (those crates buy me a buffer zone
2. My large or heavy students can sit on those crates and it's not the same as getting to sit in a chair. ]
3. When we use the activeboard in kinder and first grade, my students (with me right there) can use those crates as a stepping stool so that they can reach the activeboard.

When I was making my crate seats I purchased some crates thinking that I would make more and on a whim I stacked them up and voila!  A new shelf that not only helps me to organize my teaching materials, but keeps my little friends from playing with the chords on the back of my piano.

I have a basket for each grade level where I keep todays  teaching stuff.  This picture was taken the first week of school so I didn't have too many materials, but I can already tell that this system is going to help me keep my areas neat.  I hate trying to start a lesson knowing that I have set the one thing that I need down somewhere.... now each teaching tool has a home!

So far, I've used the baskets across the top to keep track of things that I need to copy, or return to the office, or for things that I need that are not necessarily for students like my clipboard that I used to help students find their homeroom on the first day of school.  I haven't labeled them yet because I want to make sure that the labels are really what I will use. 

My favorite part of my shelf is that there are holes - this way I can see if any of my friends decide to hide behind the piano. 

By the way - I found the baskets at my local Dollar Store Chain called "King Dollar"  It's the BEST Dollar Store ever..... if you are ever in Houston look them up! 

I don't know about you, but three things are true in my classroom.  
  1. I need a reminder about the daily schedule much more often than my students do. 
  2. My students have not all mastered the skill of how to read a traditional clock
  3. I am rarely if ever in the place where I need to be to see the clock
So to help alleviate this problem, I took a good idea that saw (but forgot to pin) from pinterest and posted clues on the clock to help my time tellers tell time.  I also posted a schedule right there.  That way the responsibility for keeping us on schedule is shared with the students (this is a skill they CAN handle and enjoy) AND when they aren't there and I'm sitting at my desk, I can use the schedule too.  

Organization never happens overnight!  I organized my desk drawers last May using some little food containers with snap lids that I purchased in packs of 5 for $1.00 at KING DOLLAR! It may not look like much to you, but can I just say that this is the very first time that I've EVER shown anyone the inside of my desk drawer because until this last May it literally looked like a bomb went off.  I've been able to find things easily and the best part is that I've even taken out materials and managed to put them back..... did I mention that I am a recovering mess maker? .....putting things back where I got them from is no small feat for me! 

My use of technology means that I have an over abundance of gadgets, remotes, pens and other usb devices that  I need to have readily available at all times.  - This basket is half way between my desk and the "real world" so I can get to it easily from anywhere.  - Basket from Dollar Tree

My text book CDs are right by my desk at eye level so that I can get to them quickly.  
The colorful boxes above are not labeled because they will be called into service to serve as a holding place for choir, guitar and piano materials which all take place after school and are not needed just yet. 

The student issues of Music Express Magazine are sorted by month and issue in hanging files that I got at KING DOLLAR! 

My teacher files are at eye level.  These files used to be on my desk, but my new goal for the year is to keep my desk clear for doing work.  

There is a box for each grade level where I will store student work - I have a whole system for student work that I will share in a later post. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

My Music Classroom has a Word Wall - NOW WHAT?

So - You've finally found the time to go to the extra effort to create a word wall just like in everyone else's classroom.  You've got the words, you've got the letters up, you staple and staple and staple, and then you realize.....

If this is all the word wall is, then it is just a fancy dust catcher!

That will never do!

So, if you are like me, you start trying to do some homework to figure out how the regular folks (classroom teachers) use their word wall.

Here is what I've found so far in my very hairy scary quick searches.

First I went to Pinterest and found this awesome blog called Excuse Me Mrs.C  Which as it turns out was a great place to start.

Then I did some basic searches and came across a great site ALL about instructional strategies.  This one is a site we should probably all keep in our back pocket when we go to meetings because it is one of those sites that can alleviate a great deal of confusion by providing common definitions to all of those instructional terms and methodologies we throw around at meetings expecting that everyone has the same definition.  A site like this can create a shared understanding YAY!   It's called Instructional Strategies and wouldn't you know it?  They have a page dedicated to word walls and how to use them. At the bottom of the page there is an awesome bibliography.  I bet your school already has copies of some of those books referenced in the site that you could take a closer look at.

Here is what I gleaned from my very quick read of these resources.

1. One very basic use of a word wall is to provide a reference point for students as they practice spelling and reading common words.

That is just fine if the words on your word wall are common..... but what if they are uncommon? or content specific words as most musical words are?

So I kept digging.

I came across a study that followed the use of word walls with older students study from the Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy  This article gives lots of insight in how to help students be meta-cognitive about how they use the word wall. Great Questioning strategies for older kiddos!

And then FINALLY, I found the article I had been seeking!  An article about word walls in the music classroom  Here it is.  It was published in General Music Today , entitled Making Your Word Wall Work by Angela Leonhardt. AND it's AWESOME!  VERY useful, VERY practical, and VERY easy to read!

So here are the things that I am going to do now that I am informed about how to use my word wall more effectively.

1. I'm going to take down the words that I haven't introduced.

2. I'm going to use my colorful small pocket charts to sort our current words by grade level. Then as words are introduced I will add them to the big word wall.

3. I'm going to provide an opportunity for students to personalize their word wall.  Since my older students have music folders this will probably take the form of a paper added to their folder on which they can add words that we know.  Except on their personal chart, we will have the words categorized by theme....i.e. rhythm words, tempo words, etc....With my younger students who don't yet have folders and who need the support, I'll have to be a little more creative.  I'm sure that as the idea arrives, I'll share it on this stay tuned. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Music Lesson Plan Template

For the first 10 years or so of teaching music I was free to use any lesson plan template that I chose.  I'll admit that mostly I just made my music plans fit on whatever was available.  Then around the time that I really started thinking about what would be most useful for me and really playing with templates, my school district handed down a required online template.

I used dutifully used that template with as much success as could be expected and had actually made plans on asking for a special exemption this year when much to my delight and relief we were told that we didn't have to use the "mandated" template any longer and that several templates would be suggested, but that we were to focus on using lesson plans that worked for us.  HALLELUJAH!  And there was MUCH rejoicing!

So - I took all of my favorite elements of what I liked and got rid of what didn't work for my class and came up with my own template.

I write in the cells that are open and I highlight  the parts of the template that I need for the lesson.  My favorite part of the template is the bottom where I can make notes about the needs of individual classes. 

I am leaving this in spreadsheet form so that hopefully you can edit it to meet your own personal needs.  Let me know how it goes. If you run into trouble or are unable to edit the form, please let me know and I'll gladly send you the file.    Due to damage to the file, here is an updated version in a PDF form.  Feel free to print.


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

September YUMMY AWARD! - Bling Blang by Woody Guthrie and Vladimir Radunsky

for September 2012

goes to 

Bling Blang by Woody Guthrie, Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

This book has so much to offer a music teacher in search of a book that will exemplify great literature and great music for kinder and first grade. 

First - The lyrics are very poetic and picturesque and when this book is studied in conjunction with Howdi Do and My Dolly you've got a really solid composer/author study.

If you are lucky enough to find a copy of Howdi Do WITH a CD, you'll get a recording of all 3 books.  Now - each recording is very different and not all of the recordings are created equal, but Bling Blang is awesome!  

In the recording of Bling Blang the violin creates a very convincing hammer and saw sound while the really nicely played tuba carries the melody.  There is an very proper and operatic baritone solo for all of the verses which serves as a great example of male singing.  The children who are singing in the recording are NOT the best example of children singing, but I rarely find recordings in which I like everything.... so I'll take what good stuff I can find.  overall Bling Blang is nicely done.   The recording also offers nice instrumental interludes that can serve as great preparation for playing rhythmic patterns.

Rhythm patterns:
Here are the ostinati that I use with this song.

First we "play" these rhythms with our hands and mouth sounds.  I don't know how to type the sound that kids make when they click their tongues, but all of my students LOVE doing it, so we use it as part of our pattern when we are using our hammers.  Then when we are using our saws, we switch sounds and rhythmic patterns.

Part work
I like to split the class into two groups with one group being hammers and the other being saws.  Then we pass the pattern back and forth, and work toward independence so that they can do the two patterns simultaneously (in harmony)  some classes can, some can't.....yet.....

Then we add instruments.  Woodblocks and tone blocks become hammers while guiros, cabasas, and sand blocks become saws.

Good Singing
We are working toward being able to accompany our singing with a different rhythmic pattern.  The book provides an awesome structure for the practice because just about the time that things start getting shaky or start to fall apart, it's time to regroup while we listen to the CD or the teacher sing another verse.

Early Writing
If your school, like mine, is working every minute to close that old achievement gap, this book is also a GREAT prompt for writing!  The last two pages of the book contain illustrations of houses created by children. We all know that the beginnings of writing are imitation, so I have my kindergarten students write the chorus and illustrate their writing with their own houses.  Then we put the book together and read it.  They LOVE reading their own music book and they practice their rhythms and singing the simple melody the whole time.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book List - Pete the Cat

I have joined the Pete the Cat craze!

I purchased the books this summer and they are an exceptional hit with my students.  They ask for these books again and again.  I decided to purchase the books after I saw a video of a a music class playing an orffistrated version of one of the Pete books on Pinterest.  I thought to myself.... My students would LOVE playing instruments while reading that book..... sooooooo I took a trip to the book store and have since fallen in love with Pete the Cat.  I'll let you know how our we do when we get ready to accompany the book.  HarperCollins has recordings available on their website of each book.

Here is the Pete the Cat book list for your reference

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Word Wall Words - Composer names!

Hey Ya'll!

Here are a few (51) of my favorite composers listed in word wall format.

I've got their names fixed up into two formats.  You can print them on 3 x 11.5 sentence strips, OR, you can print groups of them on 8.5 x 11 card stock and cut them.

There are lots of great composers out there, but I have found over the years to be the most common both in my own use, textbooks, listening resources and trips to visit the local symphony.

I hope you enjoy!

If you are interested in the original post check out this link musical word wall

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Word Wall Update! - Forgotten Words and Great Suggestions!

Hey Ya'll!

I don't know about you guys, but my beginning of the year has been typically CRAZY BUSY!

But the nice thing is that I'm beginning to hit my stride into a routine.

As school was starting I got some really amazing feedback about the word wall. I was amazed at some of the basic words that I forgot to include.... you know some obvious ones like "snare drum" and "spaces"...... There was also some really great suggestions that were mostly "duh" words that everyone wants.

My suggestion list got long enough that I'm even having to break up my updates into smaller groups of words.

SOOOO without further ado..... Here is update number 3

Remember - when I say sentence strip size, I mean that you intend to print your words onto sentence strips.  If I say 8.5 x 11, I mean that you intend to print your words on sheets of card stock and then cut them apart.

Update # 3 - Random words - 

You should notice that all of my clip art either came from msn clipart OR was purchased through a subscription from iclipart. 

I had more than one suggestion for "tubular bells".  I have not included it here because I have yet to find the right image.  If you come across a picture that I can use for tubular bells that might work, send me a link and we will check it out.  

If you are just coming across the music word wall posts, 

Check out the following links