Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Happy Canada Day!

Greetings from Canada, eh?  I'm actually in Canada right now on vacation with my family.  We are having a great time fishing, boating and enjoying each others company!  Today's post will be a short one. I just wanted to share that I am participating in a fun music teacher event for the start of July!  Special thanks to Amy Abbot from Music a la Abbot for putting this event together!

Today only, you can download nearly 40 FREE resources from TpT.  Go to the site and search July1stMusicFreedomFreebie or click here to be taken directly to all the FREE resources!



Also - check back on July 2 and 3rd for even more deals and steals!





Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Musical Road Trip - 2nd Stop!


Welcome to our 2nd stop on our Music Road Trip! Thank you Aileen for a great 1st destination at MrsMiracleMusicRoom!  For this stop we are still in Ohio, just a bit south of MrsMiraclesMusicRoom and will be talking about melody.


If you are a blogger and/or TpT seller, make sure to read the directions at the end of this post to link up a blog post and/or a melodic product for sale!

Teaching melodic concepts and skills has always been harder for me than teaching rhythm – maybe this is because melody is more abstract, maybe it is because it is harder for me as a musician, maybe it is for any other number of reasons.  I find myself revisiting my lesson plans, teaching procedure and resources more often than I do with all things rhythm.  Do you find certain concepts and skills harder to teach than others?  Do you know why?

The reason I ask why, is because once we figure out why something is challenging, we can better solve the problem.  In my personal refection, I find melodic elements must be experienced, initially, between the ears and for me personally, as a musician, that is just HARD! So I imagine that it is hard for my students as well.

What to do?  For me, digging into my lesson planning and using only the best song material, musical transitions, setting specific targeted expectations and assessments is key.  Here are some ideas that may help you too:

1.  Sing Sing Sing –Only the best song material is good enough for the students and they need to have lots and lots of opportunities to experience the music before they are expected to do anything with the elements included in each song.  I have found great ideas and reminders of things that I had forgotten about in bundles on TpT like this one from Aileen Miracle, Songs and Activities to Teach La.


2.  Make the melodic element known physically - Have the students feel that relationship between pitches is key.  The younger the student the bigger the motion needs to be.  I teach K-1-2 and we do a lot of body signs, showing the pitches with our body, moving manipulatives and showing contour.  As the students get older, add work with writing the notes with paper and pencil but also doing hand staff work, playing barred instruments and letting them create ways to show the contour.

3.  Make the melodic element known visually - There many ways to show your students melodic elements. This includes on the staff and with icons. One of the best 'discoveries' I made was when i started using a stair step diagram with my students. The picture shows a major scale, but you can put only the elements the students know -make sure to make the step smaller where the half steps occur.  

Another things that has made a difference in my teaching it to remember to show the students a couple of different ways to represent the melodic elements but also to be consistent in how you show them......using the same language is also key!

I love this set, Smitten with Melody, from Music a la Abbott because it uses stick notation with solfa and staff notation!  Students need to read both!

During the practice phase of each element, I do a lot of work with melody flashcards, both known and unknown patterns.  Newly released just today, is my Activities to Practice Melody Using Flashcards - on sale AND reduced by 25%!



4.  Aural Work - This may seem obvious, but remember that to really 'count' as working with a melodic element, you must do something to make that element conscious.  Just singing the song is not working with the melodic element.  Playing interactive whiteboard games has really shown me a great deal about the students abilities - and - they LOVE to play them!  One of my favorites is Cup of Cocoa Kod├íly Solfege and Rhythm Game: so mi by Malinda Phillips.  

5.  Just for Fun - Don't forget that while all of the planning, reflecting, planning again and teaching is important, so is having fun with your students! There are so many GREAT ideas out there that support their melodic development!  Dancing/Structured Movement, playing instruments, listening maps, listening glyphs (Jena Hudson at Sew Much Music has some awesome glyphs that my students have really enjoyed!) are just a few that my students have really really enjoyed! 

I hope you have enjoyed the second stop on our Music Road Trip!  Here is the itinerary for the rest of the journey!





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 melody/melodic concepts, AND/OR
  • Link up to a melodic product on safe for 25% off (you can leave it on sale until Sunday, June 17)
  • You can do either simply by clicking on the button below!
What are some of your favorite ways to teach melodic elements?  Feel free to comment below!  See you at our next stop!









Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Music Room Set Up

So excited to finally have time to post pictures of My Music Room Set Up.  I'm linking up with Aileen Miracle at MrsMiraclesMusicRoom.


This year I decided on the theme of mustaches - partly because I just love them but also because they are one of my daughters favorite things!  

My room does not have a great deal of stuff to 'decorate'.  I decided to focus on the bulletin board by my door, the window in my door and the wall outside of my room.  I also must give a shout out to Katie Wynkoop and my daughter for their amazing help in setting up the room!  I couldn't have done it without their help!

The bulletin board right inside my door is seen by everyone, either as they walk into the room or as they are walking in the hallway. This is also the area of the room where I choose my start student at the end of each class, so we spend a good amount of time looking at it and I wanted it to be bright and cheerful.  I used a Cricut Machine to cut out the letters and stapled tissue paper squares onto the board to make the mustache 3-d like.


Here is the wall outside of my room where I went went "Do you know this 'stache' of famous people?"  I made frames out of paper that I printed out in a wood pattern, typed up a sign with the name, dates and what they are famous for and then added black mustache decals from Amazon.com to each one!  The kids (and parents) have really enjoyed checking them out.   I included both composers and artists.  They are: Saint-Seans, Beethoven, Monet, Grieg, Kandinsky, Picasso, VanGogh, Wood, Tchaikovsky and Copland.  These were chosen because I bring them into the music classroom at different points of the school year.   Again, I cut out the letters on a Cricut Machine but this time I got smart and used Avery whole page labels so that the backs were sticky - it went so much faster!

Lastly, my door.  It is very large and has lots of glass - which I do like being able to see through.  so I did not cover up the entire thing so that we could see in and out as well have get some light.  (This picture is taken looking into the hallway from my room).  I printed out letters and taped to black construction paper.  The mustaches are vinyl clings that I purchased from amazon.com.

I also have lots of space beside and above my door, so I decided to put a little mustache decoration there too.
Shout out to The Bulletin Board Lady - Tracy King for the Mustache Welcome Banner FREEBIE!  Love it - you can download it here

I found these pencil eraser toppers at the dollar store and set them in my window sill.  Not sure how many students have seen them because they are a little high, but many teachers have walked by and stood in the window so it looked like they had a mustache!  I love that!

I also placed my mustache themed rules from my teacherspayteachers store at the front of my classroom but I seemed to have deleted that picture!  Here is what they look like:


Here are some other pictures of my classroom (just to give you an idea of my space).  Lots of storage and movement room.  Both pictures are taken from the front of the room and you cannot see the SmartBoard and my computer desk.  



Hope you have enjoyed seeing my room.  It has been a great start to the school year for me - I hope your start has been or will be as good!



Sunday, August 3, 2014

Products for Prep

Happy August to all my teacher friends out there! Ok, I'll be honest, I'm not so sure that I'm really happy that it is August, I've had a great summer with family and friends and am not really ready for it to end just yet!  But, that being said, I am excited to start (ok not really start becaue I've been thinking all summer about this) thinking about my classroom set up, bulletin boards, new teaching strategies and working with my colleagues at Indian Trail Elementary!


This week brings the wonderful TeachersPayTeachers back to school sale! My entire store will be 20% off and if you use the code BYS14 you will save an additional 8%!!  I know that my wish-listed items will soon be a dream come true!  Click on the picture to go directly to my store to find all the deals!  Thanks to Jena Hudson from Sew Much Music for the graphic!

I am also excited to link up with Aileen Miracle at MrsMiracleMusicRoom for the Products for Prep Linky Party!



As I begin work for the 2014-15 school year, I am first thinking of a theme for my classroom.  Inspired by my daughter's love of all things mustache, I have gone with a 'stache theme!!  I've created these classroom signs, rules, posters, tags and binder covers to use in my room.  

I also have an idea about a couple of bulletin boards stewing right now - more to come on that later in the week!


Another thing that I do for all of my 1st and 2nd grade students is choose a star student at the end of each music class.  With my 2nd graders a star student is chosen on the first day of music class because they know the routine from 1st grade - which is great, but I have to have my ducks in a row to be ready for them.  To help with that I've created a star student Smartboard template complete with page links, different colored stars and a free font (used with permission from MrsMiraclesMusicRoom).  


Click here read more about how I incorporate star students into my teaching by reading this previous blog post.



As the school year begins, it is necessary to review songs, games and concepts from the previous year.  I am excited to use many of the games that I put together in my file, Activities to Practice Rhythm using Flashcards.  

This download comes with everything you need - over a dozen activities and games as well as 9 sets of flashcards! Check it out!


Lastly, I am super super excited to use Sara Bibee's Music Jeopardy - Frozen Rhythm Game!  I snatched this one up during the $2TuesdayMusicFlashSale (if you don't know, look for this great sale on the first or second Tuesday of the month - great products for only $2!!!).  At the end of last school year, I shared the Piano Guys "Let It Go (Disney's Frozen") Vivaldi's Winter youtube video with my students.  They were MESMERIZED!!! (click here to watch it - if you do not know the Piano Guys, check them out soon!!!).  I can't wait for my students to play this version of the Jeopardy Game.  Thanks Sara!!!


Hope you find some great products to support your start to the school year!!!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Teaching Tips from the Trenches

This week, I am very happy to be linking up with Lindsay Jervis at The Pursuit of Joyfulness for Teaching Tips from the Trenches Linky Party!




I have been teaching for over 20 years and things in the world of education have changed in so many ways!  Here are a few tips to my fellow educators:


#1 -  Stay Current - or at least as current as you can in the world of education.  This is not an easy task at times because it does require hard work!  I have found that by being involved at my building level with leadership teams and serving on district committees goes a long way to keeping me informed.  I also think it is so very important to attend music workshops and conferences.  This can be at the local, state, regional or national level - just attend!  As we are often ‘loners’ in our building, being the only music teacher, meeting with other like minded educators is so empowering!

#2  - Integrate Technology - No matter what your school provides in regards to technology, integrate it as much as you can.  Remember, the technology should enhance the learning that is already taking place.  Do not integrate technology for the sake of technology.  Also, start simple. Don’t try to bring something new to every single class every day.  Integrate 1 new idea for 1 grade level a week or more or less.  It all depends on your specific situation.


#3 - Routine Routine Routine - Create a routine in your classroom so that the students know what is expected of them.  A few simple things that I incorporate are:
       -meet and greet at the door and invite the students into the music room;
     -when the students walk in the room, they are to make their circle, join hands and wait for the next direction;
     -let the students know the game is about to end by saying something like ‘one more time’.  This really helps those kids that do not transition well, they have time to get ready to move onto the next activity;
     -have a line up procedure for the end of class, in my room, students are called to line up in various ways (boys, girls, birthdays, colors they are wearing, etc).  Once in line, I choose my start student for the day (read my blog post about star student here and check out my star student SmartNotebook file for sale at TpT here - get it now while it is still on sale for half price!)



#4 - Learn Names - In my classroom, I do not have assigned seats so I am very diligent about learning students names - not the just the good, the bad and the ugly, but EVERYONE!  I do this through the use of names games, using names every time I speak to a child or when lining up - basically anytime I can say a name, I do.  This not helps with classroom management but also builds great relationships with the students!  I have around 800 students in my building so this is a very big task for me. It does come in very handy when i’m on bus or cafeteria duty and can rattle off students names - the other staff members love that part of being on duty with me!


I hope you get a few Teaching Tips from the Trenches and I invite you to like my facebook page here and TeachersPayTeachers store here to keep up to date with CMajorLearning!








Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dazzling Discipline Linky Party

Today I am very excited to be joining MrsMiracleMusicRoom.com linky party on Dazzling Discipline!

Before I delve into my ideas, I thought I should share a little bit about my teaching situationas I think the situation significantly impacts the approaches:
  • I teach at Indian Trail Elementary in Canal Winchester, OH (about 20 minutes southeast of Columbus) in a K-2 building of approximately 850 students (yes - that is about 12 classes per grade!):
  • I have been at this school for 16 years, 21 years in my career;
  • I am very fortunate to have the respect of my administrators and fellow teachers.  The related arts classes are not considered 'baby-sitting' for the kids and because of this respect, there is high expectations of the students no matter where they are in the building;
  • Our school has developed a building wide language that all teachers use to mean the same thing no matter where there are in the building.  For example, traveling position means you are ready to move around the building with your hands at your sides, your eyes forward and your voices quiet; or listening position is where the students are sitting criss cross applesauce with their hands in the laps and their eyes on the teacher.  
  • Along with this common language, we also have a "Behavior Matrix" for each grade level that lists both positive and negative age appropriate consequences for the students actions.  They are color coded and some teachers flip cards, move magnets on a cookie sheet or track on charts at students desks.
With all of this in mind, I guess I do have some advantages in place before the students even enter my classroom.  However, I do build upon these ideas and make them work in the music classroom and I thought I would share the top 5 strategies that I think really make a difference.


Meet and Greet ~ My classroom is located on the main drag of the school building.  I have all kinds of traffic (both good and bad) past my door as everyone moves about the building.  I often times joke with my principal that it is like we are in a cage at the zoo and everyone stops to look in as they go past!  


Because of the location, it is often very congested in the hallways at related arts switch times.  I have worked it out with all of my teachers as where the best place to wait in the hallway is in case they are early or I am running late.  I make it a point to greet the teachers and class and invite them into the music room.  This is often a time where the teacher tells me what kind of day they are having, rewards they are close to geting, or if there are important things I need to know relating to the students (like Sarah has her book bag because she is leaving at 10:30 for a doctors appointment, etc).  

Having dialog BEFORE the students even enter the music room helps me know where the class is that day both behaviorally and socially but also reminds the students even though it is subconscious, that the teacher and I talk and have the full support of each other in regards to consequences and rewards.


Set Up Expectations From Day 1 ~ While the first weeks of school are exciting they are equally exhausting for me.  It is during this time that I do the most "talking" about classroom behavior and expectations, especially with the kindergarteners.  I liken these days to the month of March - I come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.  

It is during these first lessons that I am constantly reminding the students of what is expected of them, classroom procedures and routines and the consequences or rewards that come with their choices.  As the year goes on, I wouldn't say that I lighten up my expectations, but I find that I spend less and less time talking about them because the students know what is expected and what happens when they do or do not meet those expectations.


Positive Recognition ~ I hope you have noticed that I have mentioned the negative consequences as well as the positive ones in my writing thus far.  I believe with my whole heart that kids do like to please their teachers and do things that make themselves feel good.  There are many ways that this has evolved at our school.  The school wide language and behavior matrix have definitely helped but I have also learned that if I can find out what the class is working for in their homerooms, I can use that as incentive in the music room too.  This includes using class dojo where the teachers bring their class ipad to the classroom and I can give and take points throughout the class period;  earning points or money or puzzle pieces that work towards a class or individual student reward; or helping students earn cotton balls, scoops, marbles, etc to fill up their reward jar.  The students, even at the young age of 5, really do get that their behavior follows them throughout the entire school from the classroom to the playground to the cafeteria to the related arts classrooms to the bus.

I also do rewards for students or the class in the music room - this could be as simple as having 3 extra minutes at the end of class to play their favorite game, to allow them to choose that game, to letting the students "be the teacher" at the smartboard during interactive activities.  My most favorite routine that I have implemented is the "Star Student".  This is done at the end of class each and every music time.  I choose one student who has done a great job - maybe it was a very hard skill that the mastered or they used their singing voice for the first time or their behavior was amazing that day.  Each student is chosen once before a 2nd awarding is done.  When they are chosen, the student gets to come up to the smartboard and place their name inside the star of our star student file and then pop a balloon on the following page.   They also receive a "Star Student" sticker! 


If you are interested, you can click on over to TeachersPayTeachers to purchase the smartboard file I've created.  It is currently at the 50% off "Dazzling Discipline" price for a limited time!


Yes, There Must Be Negative Consequences ~ I wish I could say that all of my students are angels and I never have any discipline problems, but that would be a lie!  Kids will be kids and they will make bad choices.  I think the key to dealing with any issues that occur is constancy.  I use a 3 strikes and you are out approach.  Students get 2 warnings and on the 3rd time, they are done.  Now this could be "done" with that game, "done" with the instrument, "done" with the music class - it really does depend on the specific situation.  I do use time outs in the class and this, again is a school wide policy.  We spent a good deal of time learning about the time out process and what does and does not work for this age of students.  

Here are the steps we use:
  1. remove student from the activity - depending on age and activity this can be in or out of the classroom
  2. the student is only out of the activity for 3-5 minutes
  3. before returning to the classroom, ask the student why they were removed and discuss the choices that led to the time out
  4. invite the student to join the class again and finish the activity they were doing when they were asked to leave - this is tricky because I move pretty quick in my lessons and often times we are on to something else in the 3-5 minutes the student was out of the building.  But if it is possible, the student returns to what they were doing before being removed, this time doing it correctly.
  5. move on - if the student is making good choices, there is no need to discuss the issue further.  If bad choices occur, there are further consequences that follow our behavior matrix


Treat Students Like They are You Own Children ~ I didn't really get this until I became a parent - I believe that I always treat my students respectfully but when you have kids of your own it is just different......that being said, I am very conscious of the tone that I use when dealing with discipline issues, always treat the students with respect, remind the students that it was their choice, not mine, that got them into this situation, and ask the student if they understand why they received the consequences they did.  I always have in the back of my mind - if this were my child and they had made a bad choice (and really what kid doesn't at some point in time to varying degrees), how would I want and expect them to be treated by their teacher.....try to think about that next time you are in the heat of the moment.



I hope that you have found some "Dazzling Discipline" ideas here and invite you to like my facebook here and TeachersPayTeachers store here to keep up to date with CMajorLearning!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Blog Hop - Perfect Poolside Planning!

I am super excited to be participating in a blog hop with fellow music bloggers!  Check out my blog and at the end click on the "Perfect Poolside Planning" to be linked to the next hop in the blog!  Thanks go Lindsay Jervis for organizing this fantastic idea!


In the spirit of "Perfect Poolside Planning", I am drawn to thinking of ways to plan and incorporate movement into the Kodaly classroom.  We all do movement activities through folk songs, game, playparties and structured movement, but have you ever found this great new dance or activity and when you teach it to your students it goes sooooo badly?  Well, that happened to me a great deal when I first started teaching.  When the class was over, I thought to myself, that didn't go so well....  I was sequential in teaching the steps, broke it down in to smaller sections, gave time for practice and kept the tempo slower gradually getting up to the correct tempo....so WHAT did I do wrong?  Maybe it was just that class that struggled - I'll try again tomorrow with this other group of students.  Well, you can guess what happened, the next group bombed it as well......now what do I do?

I decided to find anything I could about teaching movement, now mind you this was many years ago and the resources available were much fewer than the books available today.  I started with two fantastic resources that were already in my collection:
1.  The Kodaly Context Creating an Environment for             Musical Learning by Lois Choksy
2.  120 Singing Games and Dances for Elementary                Schools by Lois Choksy and David Brummitt

Both of these books have wonderful songs and I had used them for that many many times, but I had not taken the time to actually READ the sections about movement and dance.  So I dug in!

I started with The Kodaly Context.  Click the picture to link to the book available for purchase at amazon.com (it is pricey but you can buy it used for a significantly less amount of $$).



I found such interesting information in Chapter 3 "Movement and Dance in Kodaly Practice" from this book.  Specifically regarding movement in Hungary and historic roots of dance in America but the best part for me was the "Developmental Sequence for Teaching Movement and Dance Via Kodaly Principles" found at the end of that chapter.  Choksy has broken down types of movement and the skills involved into 17 different categories - this was mind blowing!!!  No wonder my kiddos were unsuccessful at the dance I was trying to teach then, I had skipped many of the movement skills necessary to do the one I was asking the to do!

I also dug into the 120 Singing Games (while I realize too this is an expensive book to purchase - it is well work EVERY penny - I have used nearly every song in the book at some point in time over my 20+ year career!).  Click the picture for a link to the book available for purchase from West Music.  


As I said, I was familiar with the song material but did not realize there was so much insight in the Forward, Preface and Introduction to the book!  And upon closer inspection, I discovered that the book is organized in such a way as to take you right through the sequence for teaching movement and dance to your students.  Choksy and Brummitt have laid the categories out in 9 sections:

1.  Moving in Space
2.  Free Movement in Space
3.  Circle Games and Dances
4.  Singing Squares
5.  Line Games and Dances
6.  Passing Games
7.  Clapping Games
8.  Games That Don't Fit
9.  Creating Games and Dances


Now that I had thought through this sequence of teaching movement and dance, how to incorporate it into my teaching?  PLANNING!!!  It is imperative to move through a progression of  skills when teaching movement and dance, much like teaching rhythms and solfege.  I compare it to a year plan where you skipped over tika-tika (4 sixteenth notes) and went right to ti-tika and tika-ti (eighth 2 sixteenth and 2 sixteenth eighth).  Your students would eventually get the concept and skills but it would be a much harder process than if you had not skipped over tika-tika (in my opinion).  Master teacher Jo Kirk stresses in her teaching that EVERYTHING you do in your lessons has a purpose....this is just as true when it comes to teaching movement and dance!

These new ideas significialy impacted my teaching oh so many years ago and now, as a Level III instructor at Colorado State University, learning how to teach movement and dance sequentially has become at the forefront of our studies.  Many teachers are hesitant or unsure of how to incorporate some of these ideas into their teaching.  It really is no different than learning how to prep/present/practice concepts and skills!  Throughout the years, I have compiled a listing of songs to fit the categories stated in The Kodaly Context.  This is by no means all inclusive and I give thanks to all of my former students for their contributions, specifically Jenny Authier, Mallory Harris and Jodi Shoppmann Roberts.   Please click on the link below to download the file.

If you know you want to include a certain dance or structured movement in your lessons, take a minute and refer to the sequences discussed above.  Are you students ready for all the actions called for?  If not, what are they missing?  Do they need experience with a certain type of action before they are ready for this dance?

I encourage you to take some time and go through your current song repertoire and take note of the types of movement you are already doing, I'm sure there are things already in place that set your students up for great movement success!  Are there steps that are missing?  Can you incorporate the missing elements with other song/game material?  

If you are interested in learning more about teaching movement and dance, I encourage you to attend workshops, read and talk with your peers about this topic!  There are classes on Dalcroze Eurythmics offered around the country as well as amazing workshops being presented - if you get the chance, check out Andrew Ellingsen, Sanna Longdon and Sandy Knudson just to name a few!

I hope you found some interesting information in this blog, you can follow CMajorLearning on facebook here and on Teachers Pay Teachers here.

And don't forget to click on the image below to make your next stop in the blog hop for more "Perfect Poolside Planning".