Reviewing and Relevancy in Music Class after a Long Break

We all like breaks. I took a mini-hiatus from blogging to devote more time to my CASA kiddos. It's beautiful and emotional all at the same time.  But for you teachers, especially if you're a public school teacher, the break was pretty much needed for your physical and mental health. I hope you were able to take advantage of the healing a break can give you.
Unfortunately, next week begins a new year and for most of you, the end to your winter break. And darn it! I have to say it again, it brings a lot of the unknown. COVID decided to mutate again into Omicron. Political issues might not have been addressed. Your kids who need SEL might need to be re-triaged. You have to be ready with your "bring it! I got this!" face. Pooh on that. It's tough enough to return from a break without all this other stuff facing you. Now, more than ever, you mustn't STRESS about turning cartwheels lesson plans. You need to review. But you need not go into crazy detail and start composing or rehearsing for a program if you still have one going on or break out the recorders and start something new. You need to come back to something comfy and familiar like kids love that old blankie they hang onto. Your kids desperately need that, too. 
Here is your After Break 2022 Survival Handbook......
  • Break out the familiar movement games. You will have to assess their behavior as they come in on the first day, of course, so have a variety of movement games in mind so you can switch as needed. Don't limit them by age. If your fifth graders haven't done Charlie Over the Ocean since kindergarten, and they want to do Charlie Over the Ocean (and seem to be able to handle it appropriately), let them. (True story. Sixth grade was the oldest grade in my building, and in May, they all wanted to do Charlie Over the Ocean because it was a comfort game of their childhood. They were nervous about moving on to middle school.)
    Kids can also do something as simple as mirroring with a partner to TV theme songs (my go-to was the Theme from Doctor Who), shadowing, or any type of movement that calls for concentration and focus. I'll be listing some of my favorites further down the page.
  • Don't rule out reviewing with technology. You are probably sick of it, but consider keeping it in the background. To be totally honest, you can't be sure your school won't go remote again. Be prepared for that. Using something you already had set up for Google Classroom or found on Teachers Pay Teachers or Boom Learning can allow your kids to review quietly and stay distanced if necessary. Look for items that have answer sheets or provide instant feedback. 
  • Let them read. How is that related to music?? You can take what they read and use words to create speech pieces later when everything is as routine as it's going to get. More on that in a week or two. (BUT, I will have a free lesson plan for anyone who signs up for my newsletter or who is already on it because I keep a Google folder of freebies just for those folks! Look for it by January 1.)
  • Provide review puzzle pages and worksheets. You can either print them, or you can check Teachers Pay Teachers for any worksheets that might be in their Easel format. Additionally, you can scan or upload them into Seesaw if you use it. (See my blog post on the basics of Seesaw.)
Detailed Activities:

Movement Ideas
  • Charlie Over the Ocean. Concepts and desirable skills learned: Echo, acceptance of losing. 
    Like any other playsong, there are a variety of lyrics, since it is a folk game. Here are some ideas:

    Beth's Notes
    Kodaly Center for Music Education
    We'd add a little extra when we played. I'd often play walking music with an open fifth. If the child was tagged, we'd say "Oh, no, fishie got caught". If the child made it, we'd say "Yay, yay, the fish got away". (I taught the song using "big fish" instead of "blackbird")
  • Sasha. A huge favorite from New England Dance Masters. This video gives you some idea of how to play this game, but basically, there is a section where the children walk around and on a signal, they must find a new partner. To make this less frantic, you can have half the children wear Mardi Gras beads. Beads have to find non-beads. This also avoids the gender issue. How can you distance if your COVID numbers are up again? If you have the room, have your children back up the right number of feet, and then during the walking music, ask them to walk in a circle. Don't change partners.
  • Other Activities for Lower Grades: I have written about this in my posts on kindergarteners and keeping class kinesthetic.
  • Activities for Older Students: My older student enjoyed a variety of movement activities that incorporated the basics of movement I learned as prequels to music improvisation. Your students can do mirroring activities or shadowing activities to various styles of music. Here are simple directions:
    *Establish a quick but safe way to divide the class into partner groups. Use the bead suggestion as provided above, or use partner cards (free from my Teachers Pay Teachers store). I would ask the students to rock, paper, scissors to see who the leader would be and who the "reflection" or "shadow" would be. In mirroring, the students are facing each other. In shadowing, the shadow is behind the leader. Use an instrument like a triangle or rachet to determine when the student pairs would change "jobs".
Little or No Prep Activities
  • Speech Pieces. Speech pieces are not as complicated as they sound, and they are pretty easy to create. You can use any form of reading medium, select words from the reading sample and create word phrases that can easily be said rhythmically. Here's an example of ostinati I recorded on A Capellla, using word phrases from the book I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes and Gordon James. If you are feeling a little ambitious and have the materials, you can utilize rhythm pattern cards for the students to match with the word phrases. In fact, in my next newsletter, going out on January 2, I will have a free speech piece lesson plan with word cards and reading sources already provided. To get it, just opt-in for my newsletter!
Check Teachers Pay Teachers
There are oodles of worksheets, puzzle pages, and simple activities provided by excellent music teachers, all ready to go for you. You won't need anything complicated at all!

From my TPT store, these activities are good for review or movement with little prep:
Take these activities and enjoy them with the kids! Let yourself have fun with them. Do what you can to enjoy your classroom during times when things might be pretty tough in education. 

Take care....


Musical Ideas for "Change Sings"

Using Change Sings in Music Class
Change Sings by Amanda Gorman


As teachers, we know how important it is to provide opportunities for social-emotional learning and development in a child the fact that they can make a difference in the world. One young lady has done that and has inspired adults, and this book can inspire kids as well.

Amanda Gorman is not only the youngest poet who has recited her poem at the U.S. inauguration but is also the first youth Poet Laureate in the United States. She was raised by a single mom who was an English teacher and has revealed she has an auditory processing disorder and speech disorder. To practice her speech development, she sang.  Your students with various abilities can probably relate to the struggles of overcoming speech issues. 

But to the book.....

The illustrations by Loren Long are fabulous. Gorman refers to singing often. Another great aspect of the book that is unique to music is Long's use of musical instruments in the illustrations and the mentioning of diversity by both: not just racial diversity, but ability diversity as well. 

So, how can you use this book for meeting musical concepts?


  • Use the vocalizing words mentioned in the text to practice the four voices and vocalizing to extend range into the head voice (singing, screaming-don't really do that!-humming).
  • Use the book as the basis for movement: Play a recording like Fanfare for the Common Man and ask the students to act out what the words are saying. 
First Grade:

  • Create a simple melody, preferably with so-mi,  and use it as part of your so-mi preparation. If you use this book later in the year, use phrases from the poem for simple rhythmic dictation with ta and ti-ti.
Second Grade:
  • The idea is similar to first grade, but create your song with so-mi-la-do (or add re in the later part of the year.) Students can also create a simple melodic ostinato with solfege and words or phrases from the poe.
Third Grade:
  • See the end of this post.
Fourth Grade
  • Students will create ostinati with phrases or words from the poem to use as a speech piece for movement, either during the poem or in between for another style of a rondo.
Older Grades: Create a melody for the poem. It would be best to divide the class into groups and give each a stanza.

Have YOU thought of a great lesson plan for this wonderful book? Send it to me, and I will share it. If I use your idea on the blog, you will get a $10 Amazon gift card!

Freebie! I am offering a free third grade lesson plan for Change Sings. No strings attached.

Please use this book. Your students will love it.

Using "Interactive" Bulletin Boards in a General Music Class


Using Interactive Bulletin Boards in Music Class

Bulletin boards
. You might totally love them or totally hate them. You may love the process of putting them up, but hate the end result. OR, you might hate the process, but love the result. Or, you might put up the bulletin board paper and leave it blank until a colleague is tired of it and slaps something up for you. However you slice it, when you get down to it, bulletin boards add a special aspect to teaching. We know visuals are important, based on various studies. We also know that time is precious. You just might not have the TIME to keep changing bulletin boards. You also know the length of a student attention span. If you don't call attention to what is on the board and never change it, it languishes like the dust bunnies behind the piano. If you have several bulletin boards, are you wasting your time keeping the information fresh?

Why not create interactive bulletin boards? OK, I don't mean interactive like virtual or digital, but bulletin boards that can be utilized daily. If you are lucky to have a board outside of your classroom, you might possibly recruit colleagues or parents to contribute. Here are some ideas:

  • Use an hall bulletin board for advocacy. For instance, you can have a bulletin board about music opportunities. During Open House, ask parents if they would be willing to share their music experiences. A superpowers bulletin board? Give them a cape graphic to write their activity and initials and put it up. A news-themed bulletin board? Parents can send in newsclips or other artifacts that show their activities. Students could put up their musical accomplishments outside of music class. Do a "Did you Know" bulletin board and ask teachers to write a short paragraph or two of their favorite music moments. Ask students to bring in news clippings (or printed from the Internet) of music and musician news (make sure the information is appropriate for school).

Interactive music news bulletin board for music classroom
News-themed hall bulletin board. Students can clip up news articles or pictures/programs of their other music activities (like piano recitals)
  • If you have a large enough bulletin board in your classroom (or even a large section of wall), use it as a target achievement gauge. When I taught, there was a large old green chalkboard in the back of the room. Teachers were required to put up their daily targets.  Honestly, that's a pain for those teachers like us who see multiple classes. In addition, I had taken an Orff masterclass where the instructor, Christ Judah-Lauder (who is a wonderful person) talked about discussing targets afterward.
Music class targets bulletin board

Music "targets" display using printable magnet sheets on an old chalk board. Boys who did the wrong "dab" not included. 😄
  • Use interactive bulletin boards for concepts. I have used interactive bulletin boards as a measure of vocal assessment/motivation, understanding of solfege and intervals, and for musical elements. I've also used it to gauge Recorder Karate progress. 

    Melody Mountain interactive bulletin board music

    Melody Mountain solfege bulletin board to the right
  • Use them for social-emotional learning. Use your bulletin board for exit tickets. I used a bulletin board entitled "Musical Greats", and the kids would use Post-It notes or repurposed worksheets to write down their music successes. Music successes don't have to be musical. For instance, a child who has anger management can write that they counted and use breathing when they felt they would be upset. It's a great acknowledgement of all the emotional and mental phases a person goes through to be a good musician AND a successful participant in society.
But......I don't have bulletin boards!

You can use:
  • Posterboard on a cart
  • An  old chalkboard or whiteboard you don't utilize
  • A large sheet of bulletin board paper on a blank wall (even in the hall)
  • Display cork strip
  • Window shades
movement word display in music class
In the back, window shades are used to display action words. Students use those for creative movement

Do you have great interactive bulletin boards you use? Feel free to send me a picture with information (your title and last name, state you are in), and if I display it in an upcoming blog post, you will get a $10 Amazon gift certificate.

Interactive bulletin boards in my TPT Store:

Music Class and Kindergarten: Updates

Working with Kindergartners in Music

A few years ago, I wrote about ideas for calming the kindergartners because, as we know, kindergartners can be a big challenge, especially since their development is different from child to child.

Kindergartners are a mixed bag of experiences. We have kids who are expected to not only know their letters, but need to be ready to read by midterm. We have kids who aren't just counting, they're counting and grouping. We have kids who attending school since infanthood. We have kids who have a couple of years of preschool. We have kids who never had preschool. We have kids whose parents spent time playing music to Mommy's tummy and reading to the child in the womb, playing music constantly, and singing to their children. We have kids whose parents plop them in front of the TV.  We have kids whose parents prepared them for school through social interactions. We have kids whose parents give in at the first sign of a tantrum and "NO!". We don't do naps for kindergarten anymore. Kids don't get much explore time in public school. Some kids have trauma experiences that they cannot verbalize, but bring out in behaviors. Some have been tossed from home to home in foster care when their parent cannot take care of them.

No wonder they go bonkers. They are live in the moment, concrete thinkers who are still learning fiction versus non-fiction.  I often say that there is a special place in heaven for kindergarten teachers (and special education teachers). So many variants of personalities. We only have to work with them maybe no more than an hour a day. And yes, you, too, can survive an hour of kindergarten.

Class Management:
Yes, kindergartners are newbies. That being said, they need structure. They need to understand there are rules. Some will obviously take longer to learn. But insist. Repeat your rules every day. In my teaching, I used to incorporate some form of the Whole Brain rules:
  • Follow directions quickly.
  • Raise your hand for permission to speak.
  • Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.
  • Make smart choices.
  • Keep your dear teacher happy.
The basis of Whole Brain is repetition, repetition, repetition. If someone is way off track, stop and make them recite the rules. It seems like a time-waster, but in the end, for the majority of kids, it will catch on. 

If the kindergarten classroom teachers are consistent with each other, you can adapt their behavior management plan if it is workable. Don't feel you have to. It's nice to keep the consistency with the children, otherwise they may not respect or remember yours. This is just a 5 year old brain. Don't take it as an insult if they don't remember. After all, they have you, their classroom teacher, art, gym, library, maybe a case manager, counselor, speech, reading, principal, custodian, and those fabulous lunch folks to remember, too.

Definitely stick with your building plan. That provides consistency as well. A few years ago, after my building had implemented PBIS,  I had one of the more active, immature students kicking up his legs, talking back, refusing to sit on his rug square, and other actions. My first action was to pick up the phone, because this youngster had had problems since Day One. I was told, "Keep him there and reteach, and call later if it doesn't work." At first, I thought, "They're all on the verge of squirrelly!" But I asked the student to sit in the "Rest and reflect" seat, because he was upset because I called for help. And I retaught. We went over the rules, and I literally used him as an example. After going over the rules, I ignored him, except to point out to him that hanging upside down from the chair wasn't a good idea, because he'd fall and hit his head, and that would mean I'd have to call the office and tell them he got hurt because he couldn't sit in the seat correctly. That got his attention. As I started on Mortimer (a great book for the four voices, by the way), he quietly said, "Could I try again?" And, for the rest of class (about 30 minutes), I only had to redirect him once and he responded immediately. So, even the tough cookies can turn around. There are, of course, the ones who need more than what we can give them. The issue is your judgement call.

If they are in a safe spot, think corner, or whatever you use, do your best to ignore them unless they are going to be a danger or get so loud you must do something. I once had a little girl who would yell. She wouldn't stay in the safe spot. She'd march around and pull books out the bookcase, get in my face....all those nice things. The problem was....I had little administrative support. (This was a post-retirement position). I broke out a story. I told the kids that it was tough, but little Susie was probably frustrated for some reason, and she was still learning the correct way to use her words. Then I just kept reading. Did she sit down? Well, no. But, I modeled the correct behavior for her classmates. You will have kids like that, most likely, no matter what grade. This is where you find that person with whom you can connect: counselor, classroom teacher, parent...and document. And, yes, the girl had to come in later and put the books back during my plan. Then she had no audience. She quietly put them away and hugged me. 

We're musicians. We think outside of the box. We need to improvise, even with classroom management. And remember, even if you are at the edge of your rope, with calmness and patience, you will plant a little seed. In this little girl's case, she was used to adults yelling, including her classroom teacher. A word of advice from the Bible (which has words of advice for everyone, including those who aren't into the Bible): Proverbs 15:1 -- “A soft word turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Use your indoor voice as much as possible with them. Do your best to not go all negative. ("SIT DOWN or you'll go to the principal!". Well, some kids like that because they're one on one, even if it's negative behavior). Instead, give a positive angle and give them some choice: ("When you feel you can join the rest of the class and participate in the right way, come on over". "When you are finished being angry, come of over.") If you make the activity appealing enough, most will be there. There are so many littles that need that calm. Be that calm.

Work out a plan of action with other educators. Like my little girl above, you need a plan of action, even if your supporting adult doesn't follow through. In that school, it was common for teachers to stop teaching and call and parent. I did that. I don't think it helped much, but I could document that I did it, and the dad was very supportive.  What did help was conferring with the classroom teacher. There was also another music teacher in the building, right next door. We would be each others' buddy rooms. Support is crucial.

You will have those who will sit and refuse to participate. Remember, they might have had adult caretakers who would give in if the kiddo didn't want to do something. It could be an issue of shyness or feeling overwhelmed. The activity might even remind them of something unpleasant in their lives. Just work around them. It might take a few days, but eventually, that child will figure you out and participate.


So, What Are Those Fun Activities?

I mentioned doing fun activities that would get the attention of most kinders. There is an old adage about which many teachers have heard: Give students an activity that equals one minute for every year of their age. We need to consider 5 minute activities to quickly pull out when the kitty cats leave the corral and run around, lie on their backs and kick up their legs, whine to go potty, scratch their underwear, or smack their neighbor.

As far as those 5 minute activities? Here's a typical music class for kindergarten at the beginning of the year:
  • I started with my Hello Song, accompanying myself on ukulele. If you can play an instrument while singing your hello song, the kids are fascinated.
  • My reward for coming in quietly was Puppet Masters. If a class, for the most part, comes in quietly, sits in assigned squares, and looks ready to go, and I used the scrambler in iDoceo and pick 4-5 names. These students got to hold a puppet during class. They learned the proper way to hold a toy while listening. Students who came to class in an improper manner know that if their name was picked, it will be skipped. I didn't tell them, but if they complained about it, I told them it was because either the scrambler didn't pick them or they did something that wasn't a good choice. And the kids learned to reflect on that. I was also big on chanting, so to be proactive, I taught the kids to say "Maybe next time" if they didn't get picked. If they pouted, I merely say, "Sit in the chair until you're over it, and then you can join us."
  • We sang "This is  my place, this is my space, my place, my space, nobody but me." I learned it in Kodaly level one, but if anyone knows the actual source, please let me know! We put our bubble gum in our mouth, blow our bubble, and got ready for our opening movement activity, usually Tempo from Eric Chappelle's Music for Creative Dance: Contrast and Continuum, Vol. 3. (You can purchase this from West Music or download it on iTunes.)
  • I am big on drums and chanting. The less silence in transitions, the less of an opportunity the kids have to fill in the silence. For getting into self-space, I tapped a ta, ti-ti ta rhythm and say "Find your own space, find your own space in five (ti-ti-ta ta) four, etc." I continued to play the drum during the movement activity for focus and to help control their bodily tempo. My good friend Joshua Block has a method for getting those runners and bumpers in check that I have used, and it works well. He tells those who break other students' bubbles that they need to "sit down and watch until they learn how it is done". No argument. They sit and wait, and ask to get back in. I had kindergartners who get to the point where, if they bumped into someone, took themselves out of the movement.
  • During the lesson, I made sure I interspersed some breaks or used diversified teaching. For instance, when I started with the four voices, we sang the song/chant "This is my speaking voice. This is my whisper voice. This is my singing voice. This is my calling voice." (again, if you know the source, please let me know so I can give credit). I showed a Power Point with clip art of children using the various voices. I changed my voice and asked them to tell me what voice I'm using. I used pointer pages to have them point to the correct picture that represents the voice I'm using. I read Mortimer.
What about fillers? 

You must overplan kindergarten and have Plans B, C, D, E.........Sometimes you won't get through your main lesson and sometimes you'll have half a class left. What do you do?

To be honest, I have tried to use GoNoodle. But, I feel like classroom teachers use this resource enough and as a music teacher, it's my job to teach traditional game songs and nursery rhymes.

Here are some of my favorites:
  1. Mr. Stick. Mr. Stick is one of those poseable mannequins that artists often use. I use it to get the kids to contort into various poses (and yes, I give them the opportunity to even lie down!" My chant for Mr. Stick:
              Mr. Stick, make it quick.
              Show me a pose and make it slick.

The kids ASK for Mr. Stick. One day, I forgot it when I went to my second school. The downcast faces were heartbreaking. You bet I had him in my rolling cart after that! Here's a picture of some of my kids posing like Mr. Stick (yes, the kid in the back? There's always one):

2. Vocal exploration. Checking back to my previous blog post on this topic, I used a variety of props. If kids seem to get twitchy, I break one of those props out.

3. Movement songs. I used the following sources and kept them handy for a quick filler:
             Eric Chappelle's Music for Creative Dance CDs (available from West Music)
             Anne Green Gilbert's Brain Dance sources
             Movement Songs Children Love from Theme and Variations (Denise Gagne) (One Green Jelly Bean is terrific AND nonlocomotor!)
             The Music Effect, Books One and Two by Joy Nelson
             Movement in Steady Beat by Phyllis Weickert
             John Feierabend books, such as his book of Echo Songs and Circle Games
            Highway Number One from Folk Dances of Terra Australis, Vol. 3, by Shenanigans

4. Nursery rhymes. Youngsters aren't exposed to nursery rhymes as much as they were in my day. The repetition, rhyming, and imagination are just right for these minds. Just check out the background of them, please. Once, you do, you have great opportunities for a preparation for ostinato and beat as well as rhyming.

5. Rhythm band. Rhythm band visuals are a great way to introduce instruments. Make sure you introduce them precisely. You are probably used to how to hold and play a triangle, but kindergartners will grab the instrument itself instead of the string. They will shake a maraca or tambourine until they hit themselves. Don't assume anything; just practice with them and establish ground rules. If they do not play the instrument correctly, feel free to take it away. The kids will not be ruined for life, although they might want to make you feel that way!

Folk Song Games:

Charlie Over the Ocean is a BIG hit. But, the students know that if they have been rambunctious, I will tell them that I don't think they would be able to play safely.

Other games my kinders loved: The Old Gray Cat, Naughty Kitty Cat, Bluebird through My Window, Shoo Turkey, Bee Bee Bumblebee (getting ready for steady beat!),  and Circle Round the Zero. (See directions at the end of this post)

Great books with recordings (that also make super sub plans):
John Lithgow books (such as I'm a Manatee)
Octopus's Garden by Ringo Starr
Jazz Fly series by Matthew Gollub

How do you know when to and how to pace? You don't. If you notice them getting twitchy, don't worry about breaking your lesson plan sequence. Break out a movement activity. Don't worry about doing it over and over each day. Yes, you will tire of it before they do. Consider that kids this age love repetition. And chances are, you have 3-4 kindergarten classes in your allotted block or week time frame. You can handle it. So, redo that Tempo Tantrum. It's OK.

Above all, keep them busy. Watch your downtime. If you find unexpected downtime (like technology glitches that need to be fixed), chant. Make it up. Say things in a chant. Sing things in a chant. When my computer would act up, I would merely say "Come on, computer!" over and over. Kids started saying it with me, and it kept their minds occupied.

So, corral those kitties. And love those kitties. Curious. Cute. Chaotic. Cuddly. Kinders. You've got this.🙂🙂🙂

Products for kindergarten from Dr. Stafford's Musical Cures:

Game Directions:
Old Gray Cat: 

The old gray cats are sleeping, sleeping, sleeping
The old gray cats are sleeping in the house.

The little mice are creeping, creeping, creeping
The little mice are creeping in the house.

The little mice are nibbling, nibbling, nibbling
The little mice are nibbling in the house.

The old gray cats are creeping, creeping, creeping
The old gray cats creeping in the house.

The little mice are running, running, running,
The little mice are running in the house.

One child is the cat, and the others are the mice. Designate a cat corner and a mousehole corner. Act out the words. During the running part, the children must be on hands and knees. The children who make it to the "mousehole" by the end of that verse get to be cats as well. Example

Naughty Kitty Cat
Naughty Kitty Cat
Naughty Kitty Cat, 
You are very fat
You have butter on your whiskers
Naughty kitty cat (Scat!)
(Joy Nelson says she isn't comfortable using the word "fat", so her line is "why did you do that?")

Students sit in circle. One student is the mouse, and the mouse sits in the center. Another student is the cat. The cat walks around the circle while students sing. There are two doors. On the word "Scat", the mouse runs around the circle, going out one door, trying to get to the other door before being tagged by the cat. Example: (To be honest, I didn't use the door feature, but made sure they only ran one full circle. I like the door idea better!) I had the mouse become the cat if they were not tagged. In order to keep the cat from pouting, I would say, "<Susie> is in Cat Vacationland, where they get all the catnip they want and sunny windows." The cat would have to pick a new mouse.
If the mouse got caught, the cat would say "I caught the mouse, the mouse in the house". That cat would be the new mouse.

Bluebird, bluebird through my window,
Bluebird, bluebird through my window.
Bluebird, bluebird through my window.
Oh, honey, I am tired. 

Game directions are found from the link. Example: 

Another bluebird game is Here Comes a Bluebird.

Shoo, Turkey

Directions can be found my this blog post from November, 2020.

Bee, Bee, Bumblebee

Bee, bee, bumblebee.
Stung a man upon his knee.
Stung a pig upon his snout.
Goodness me if you're not out!

Students are in a circle. One student has a bee puppet or bee pointer. The "bee" is directed to tap each child gently on the heat every time I strike a drum. The students in the circle need to be told to not lean forward trying to avoid the bee, or it throws the beat off. The child who is tapped on the word "out" is the next bee. The former bee gets too rhythm sticks and taps the beat with me. (It is EXTREMELY important in elimination games to keep those who are out occupied.)

Circle Round the Zero (found in book by the same name by Maureen Kenney)

Circle round the zero,
Find your lovin' zero.
Back, back, zero
Side, side, zero
Front, front, zero
Tap your lovin' zero. 

Children make a circle. Those in the circle clap the beat while singing. There is a child who walks around the outside of the circle. At "Back, back, zero", that child, stops,  stands back to back with the child in the circle he is next to. On "side, side, zero", that child stops and bumps hips with the child he is next to. On "front, front", he will pat hands with the child he is next to. On "tap", they tap each other on the shoulder. The old leader sits down, and the tapped child is the new leader. The leader should skip anyone sitting down until everyone has had a turn.

Musical Ideas for the Book "First Day Jitters"


We know what those are like. The jitters whenever we face anything new. And the first day of school for newbies is ESPECIALLY jittery, even for new teachers.

This adorable book by Julie Danneberg and illustrated by Judy Love is about a person named Sarah. Sarah refuses to get up to go to school. Mr. Hartwell tries, but he has a huge time budging her. He tries opening the shade, talking to her calmly, until he has to give her a 5 minute ultimatum. Sarah tries hiding under the covers, begging, whining......and finally drags herself to breakfast. 

In the car, she was extremely nervous. She meets the principal and gets scared. The principal, Mrs. Burton, shows her around and finally takes her to the classroom, where she states:

"Class, I would like you to meet........your new teacher."


At least, we HOPE your kids will be surprised (unless their classroom teacher has already read it to them. ) Even so......

This book lends itself to some cute musical opportunities, even if it doesn't rhyme or have good soundscape opportunities. For instance, consider making up a little tune like this:

Maybe teach this with your solfege warm-ups. Read the story, review the melody, and ask the kids where they think the melody might go. Review rules for proper discussion.

You can also take that melody and add words from the story to create an ostinato. The ostinato can be a simple two-beat phrase that is repeated under the melody or let groups of students create a longer one that can be the subsequent part of a rondo, with Part A being the melody.

To make life a little more simple for you, I've made up a lesson plan for free! It includes details, plus a template for word cards AND rhythm cards if you want to match words with rhythms. I loved lessons like this, and your students will have fun creating.

Just CLICK HERE to get a force copy download.

Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale! (I mean, it IS the beginning of the year for some folk!) If you've already been teaching and discover you might need new ideas (because, let's face it, last year blew a lot of plans), check out the various stores. Participating sellers can mark off their stores up to 20%.

NOW, my store will be marked off 20%. That's everything, so you might want to check out some of my beginning of school ideas.  My newest product, Deedle Deedle Dumpling Activity Pack, contains rhythmic and melodic ideas for grades K-1, plus incorporates a nursery rhyme. And as we know, many of our students had never heard a nursery rhyme.

But I digress.................Use the code BTSBONUS21 and get an additional 5% off. 25% is pretty good.

Every once in a while, teachers need last-minute help or a boost. I remember getting frustrated trying to advocate for my discipline, needing some brainstorming motivation, or just wanting to see a pick-me-up in the form of freebies that made my life a tiny bit easier.
Consider signing up for my weekly Weekly Music Class Booster for more.
By clicking on this link, you will be taken to a page to get you started. 

Take care and keep your kids healthy.

What's in a Name (Game)? Music Class SEL and Assessment

Names. We see 100-1,000 or more kids in music class. Sometimes the kids have music every other day. Sometimes they have music a steady 3 times a week, 2 times, a week.....or a weird block schedule where they will not see you every week. How can you even begin to learn names in a music classroom?

But, putting yourself in someone else's shoes:
Do you have an unusual name or spell your name in a not-so "common" way? 
Raise your hand if you got extremely frustrated when people would mispronounce your name, comment on how "ethnic" it is, or misspell it.

My maiden name is fairly common around the area where I grew up (Missouri "Rhineland") area, but it's not that common in the wider world. It's Whithaus (short "i"). It's a derivative of the original German name of "Witthaus". Anyway, when I went to college, one of the orchestra/strings teachers would insist on calling me "Veethaus". True, that's most likely how it's pronounced in Germany, but I wasn't thrilled that he called attention to it. And, then, there's the changes to "Karen". (Kathy, Sharon, Katie, Katherine, etc.). Most of the time this happened when I was middle school or older, but man, it bugged me. It made me think I wasn't important enough to at least be called by the right name. 

I get it. After becoming a teacher and getting kids mixed up with siblings and calling kids by the wrong name because they reminded me of another student, well, getting names mixed up happens. 

As teachers, we can sometimes tell a kid sorry, but move on. And honestly, for the children who have been traumatized or otherwise have a low self-esteem, acknowledging their names and owning up to mistakes means a great deal to them. How can this be done?

  • Seating charts. I know the jury is deadlocked on music teachers using seating charts. Honestly, I found them very handy for subs, for being organized at the beginning of class, and for a "home spot" for talking (much like primary age kids gather on the rug.) I LOVED, loved, loved using iDoceo for seating charts as well as grading records. I could easily take individual pictures while assigning kids to other tasks or games and embed them on the child's profile. iDoceo is NOT web-based, so there was no confidentiality issue. It's wonderful for the Save the Sub binder. I had a Noteworthy Rug, so I could upload a picture of the rug and slide the student images to the correct square.
  • Repetition, repetition, repetition. I made sure I spoke the names of at least 5 students every day if I didn't know them, even if it was just, "Great job, Joe!"
  • Make it a challenge. I used a modified version of Whole Brain Teaching in my classroom and had a scoreboard. If I got a student name wrong, I'd give myself a minus.
  • Empathize with them, but let them know mistakes happen. Like I said, people mixed my name up quite a bit. AND, if you haven't already discovered, kids will mix your name up with another teacher's. I don't know how many times I was called by the art teacher's name. So I came up with a gentle solution that simultaneously reinforced my name and let a child know I understood. "I'm so sorry I keep goofing up on your name <insert name to reinforce it>. I know how you feel, because sometimes kids will call me by Ms. Potter's name. Do you want to start the next round of.....<insert smooth transition back to the task on hand.>
  • Ask them for THEIR help. It's OK to admit that you have trouble with names sometimes. Chalk it up to old age or whatever, but I'd avoid saying "I've got SO many names to remember!" unless you connect with, "I'm betting you might be overwhelmed with your class teacher name, art teacher name" etc. Again, by doing it this way, you are showing understanding and empathy. Otherwise, a child MIGHT feel that they are just part of a multitude and won't feel as important.
    Ask the child,"Can you suggest a little trick to help me remember [how to spell] your name?" You involve them in a "teaching" process AND they will come up with solutions that are OK with them, and you won't accidentally offend them (like connecting their name with the way they look, for example). 
  • Learn with games! HERE's the fun part. But did you know you can also use these games for pre-assessment or to assess retention? Here's a fun call and response game I used with my third graders every year. I assessed their ability to retain a melody and their understanding of call and response.
Telephone Game

  • I can remember the melody of the song through audiation.
  • I can demonstrate the hand position and pitch of re in relation to mi and do.
  • I can demonstrate a knowledge of call and response.
  • I can demonstrate singing alone within my comfort zone and communicate what that comfort zone is.
  • Assessment Checklist (find out how to get a free one at the end of this post)
  • Optional-toy cell phone (not advisable as long as any strain of COVID is around!)
  • Solfege warm-up, gradually adding the fragment "mi-re-do". Scaffold by doing so-mi patterns first. Do not add other solfa until the class is able to do the first patterns.
  • Segue into teaching the whole melody of the Telephone Song.
  • Introduce call and response by making up a short example. (For instance, tell them when you point at them, they must say "Yippee!" no matter what else you say.)
  • Demonstrate the telephone song by taking turns being the call and response with the students. 
  • Explain the directions to them. (It is up to you whether you let them have a redo)
  • Select a student randomly to begin.
  • The class and soloist does the first round. Assess during the solo.
  • If you can tell a student is very nervous and anxious, don't push them. Offer to let them pick a friend to do it with them away from the class or ask them, "I understand. How many people do you want to go before you until you feel you've learned it enough to be comfortable?" Or just, "Let a friend know if you want [them/him/her] to choose you." 
    Remember, performing in front of a group solo is not the objective right now. Safe space is.
  • Don't do this all in one day unless you have a high achieving class or one that can just stay on task. For my average class, I would have 5-6 sing each period and then do something kinesthetic. You will be keeping track of who has had a turn with your assessments and tell the class each time who still needs a turn.
And there you have it! A fun name game and a quick assessment.

I mentioned earlier I had a simple assessment checklist for the Telephone Game. Here's how you can get it AND a number of other things:
  1. Click on my sign-up page for my newsletter and read carefully. (I just want to reassure you I'm not a spammer, but a real person!)
  2. Sign up for my weekly newsletter.
  3. You should be redirected to a thank you page that leads to a Google spreadsheet. Click on the link
  4. There you will find links to a variety of freebies, including the Telephone Game assessment in Word and PDF!

Teachers Pay Teachers is having their back-to-school sale on August 3 and 4! In my store, you will save 20%, OR use the TPT code BTS21 for an additional 5% off. And...guess what, speaking of name games.....I have a nice name game bundle with a variety of games and worksheets for grades K-5. You could get that for 25% off!

Thinking about all of you. PLEASE be safe. PLEASE listen to guidelines. Take care of yourself, and I'll share again with you next week.

Music class preparation checklist

Countdown to First Day: Be Prepared for Your Music Classroom with Checklists

       It's the middle of July, and you know you still have vacation left. But, you are noticing announcements of PD Days for July. You see the dreaded Back to School Sales. It dawns on you that the fight for the copiers will begin August 1. And unfortunately, the COVID cloud is hanging over once again as the vaccination dance continues in earnest. Then...............THE LETTER arrives. I don't know what you receive, but we always got the "Yeah, it's starting!" letter from the superintendent, along with schedules and must-dos for convocations, team meetings, deadlines for insurance, building meetings, deadlines for watching the required HR videos.....the things that make your head spin because there are so many, no matter how experienced you are. Top that with excitement of seeing colleagues again, and suddenly you realize you're on Day One, and your bulletin board isn't finished, and it's Open House.

We all know that checklists are important tools. When I use an organizer, I feel smug and adulting. When I don't......Let's just let me state the obvious and say you need to be thinking about this. You don't need to necessarily ACT on it right away, but making a list right now could save you headaches in late August or early September. What should be on these lists? Based on my experiences, your to-do list to be ready for the first day of school might look something like this:

  • Make substitute folder. I know this is one of the most obvious and required things to do, but honestly, it's also one that many teachers put off because it's tedious, not fun, and difficult to think with the brain of a non-music teacher. And as substitutes might be more difficult to find again this year, someone from your building may need to step in. Below, I've listed a couple of fabulous blogs that might get you jump-started with this folder. Because you never know when you might need a sick day.......
  • Write down important dates (PD, Open House, End of Marking Period). Again, that should go without saying, but it's easy to forget. And at the risk of sounding like an old Luddite: write important dates down instead of relying on your phone. Write them on a monthly calendar. Why? Often teachers live in the moment and don't have time to think toward the next hour, much less two weeks ahead. With a monthly calendar, it's easier to glance and see what's coming up. I'm not saying DON'T use your phone. I do all the time when I'm away from my calendar. Just make sure you transfer the information as soon as you can..
  • Have a number of 5-10 minute activities for kindergarten. Ah, kindergarten.Cute,adorable...energetic.....shy........terrified...........spunky........what a gamut you will get! Experienced teachers know that on the first day, there will be the child who is running around touching everything to the child who is wailing at the top of their lungs. General rules of child development says to have a minute of the same activity for every year of a child's age. This is when having a treasure trove of movement. I will say, although I'm not a huge fan of using GoNoodle for the music classroom (because I just believe music should be created by the child), this website is a lifesaver for those first weeks. I would just advocate to gradually use other music movement, because classroom teachers use GoNoodle, too. If you want terrific recordings, Denise Gagne's publishing company has great books on movement activities for children. (My students wanted to do "One Green Jelly Bean" through 4th grade!) I also have ideas on this blog post on corraling kinders.

  • Build Spotify/iTunes playlists. Spotify is a LIFESAVER. Before iTunes went to pay-per-month, I had many songs on my phone (and iPod before that), ripped some CDs, connected with Bluetooth, and walked around with the music, or kept the phone on a dock. Now, I use Spotify. Need a last minute song to go with giraffes? I just put in "giraffe" and see if there are songs with the word in the title that stylistically fit my gameplan. Here is my Spotify playlist called "for school." (It would be a lot bigger if I hadn't retired.)
  • Organize a number of kinesthetic brain breaks. This is where your playlist comes in handy. For example, use this Laban chart to get you started. Ask students to mirror you. Kids third grade on up can mirror each other. Use selections to go with the use of yoga cards. Use an art manniquin. Only use GoNoodle in an "emergency."
  • Write grants and store in safe place until time to submit. Determine your wishes and write that rough draft out. It's especially helpful if your principal or music supervisor tells everyone about a terrific grant opportunity, but you need to work fast because the deadline is tomorrow. I will have an upcoming blog on writing grants.

  • Make only a week’s worth of plans. Unexpected assemblies. Calls to go virtual. Late summer floods (yup, been there). Sudden change of schedule. The first week is very fluid. Don't make plans that are concrete. You can still lay a foundation for concepts with movement activities, name games, or assign "Getting to know you" papers.

  • Make Plan B’s. Speaking of the unexpected: always have a Plan B. What if the class can't handle movement right away? What if a kindergartner pees on your rug? What if a student escalates into their red zone? What if a sudden assembly is called? Always have a Plan B. 

  • Be prepared for last-minute changes. This always goes with Plan B. Unfortunately, disciplines like music can be fodder for taking a room away because more class space is needed, or teachers are assigned to new buildings for whatever reason.

  • Organize room for just what you need for about a week. Speaking of Plan Bs, if you organize your room for the first week only, there is less of a chance of a child with a lack of impulse control trying to grab everything in sight. It also prevents kinders and new kids from feeling quite so overwhelmed. If you get a chance, ask older kids to help add items later as you get a feel for classroom management issues. Proactive is always best.

  • Establish rules.What worked last year? What didn't work? Plan it out now, in accordance to whatever character ed or management plan your building adopts, post it, and put it in your newsletter.

  • Get class roster rough drafts ready. I say "rough draft" because you want to take some semblance of attendance on the first day, but you will probably get a number of students enrolled at the last minute or some that never show up because the adult in their lives didn't withdraw them. (Remember: if you hate paperwork, treat your administrative assistance in the office kindly.)

  • Update insurance and other HR paperwork and turn in.

    via GIPHY

    Is this your life? Just get it finished as you receive it, even if you have to put a DO NOT DISTURB sign up to keep people from popping into your room to chat. Unless, of course, you LIKE missing out on that extra vision insurance you wanted or like getting nagging emails.

  • Turn in all summer PD forms to make sure you get credit. Have a safe place for it. If your district asks for a spreadsheet of all your PD activity, don't wait until May to do it. (You say people don't procrastinate? You don't know me very well! 😁)
  • Outline curricular goal for the year. You gotta have a plan so you know where your boat is going to land.
  • Copy a number of exit tickets, reward cards, etc. These work. They are nice to have, especially for those kids who don't get much attention. See below about a free exit ticket.

  • Obtain as many existing IEP documents as you can. BY LAW, ANYONE who works with a child should have access to at least an outline or "snapshot" of the adaptations for any child who is in a program of some type. Although you won't obviously be able to receive definitive information on new students or students who have never before been referred, you can get an understanding about the students who have qualified for special services and get the updated IEP after their new assessment. If you don't, you are opening yourself up for trouble. Trust me. This was the topic of my dissertation. Get them and look at those babies! You will be doing what is needed for the child AND saving yourself some potential classroom management problems. Please make sure you keep them confidential and in a safe place.

  • Make any necessary orders for what you will need for the first 9 weeks. Generally, the new fiscal year starts July 1. If you have any budget money at all, take care of office necessities at least, or items you KNOW you will utilize. If the building is all under the same budget (like mine was) be sure to have talking points to objectively advocate for what you need for music before it all goes to someone else. The principal may have to weigh which is more important, but at least you will be in there early advocating. Make sure you give the money decider a copy of your talking points and keep one for you as well.

  • Write music class newsletter. This is another item that music teachers may not want to do, but I did it every year and asked parents to return the signature page. I did this for several reasons: (1) It helps to establish music as part of the curriculum instead of playtime (2) If a parent returns the signature page and then says later in the year they didn't know the concert dates (or your classroom management, etc.) All you have to do is pull out the signature page. Honestly? I just kept them in a portable file box in folders by teacher. Check the end of this blog to find out how you can receive a free newsletter template.

  • Enjoy what time you have left in the summer. This checklist doesn't need to consume your life, even if it seems overwhelming. HR papers, for instance, only take a few minutes. Put up a "Do Not Disturb" sign, set a timer and a focus, and then promise the colleagues who want to catch up with you a time for lunch or Happy Hour!
Every once in a while, teachers need last-minute help or a boost. I remember getting frustrated trying to advocate for my discipline, needing some brainstorming motivation, or just wanting to see a pick-me-up in the form of freebies that made my life a tiny bit easier.
In my blog, I mentioned a newsletter template and an exit ticket template. By signing up for my weekly newsletter, you will receive a link to a spreadsheet that has links to all my freebies as they're added. That means you don't miss out on earlier free things. You'll also get pick-me-up messages, find out opportunities to share3, a heads' up on TPT products and sales, and more! And....

By clicking on this link, you will be taken to a page to get you started. 

In future postings, I will have that blog on grants, first day ideas, and more. Take care and feel free to email me if you have questions or just want to share!