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! 


Music Teacher Summer Planning: Don't Sacrifice "Me" Time


It's summer. It's time to chill with Netflix binges and poolside lounging. Some of us obey when we hear people say things like, "It's summer. Get your mind off of school!" Of course, then your hackles get up when people say, "It must be nice to have three months off." and you want to be able to prove just how busy you were on your more-like-two-months-break. Or, you just try to get in as much living as you can and you don't worry about what others say.. Go, you! But, for many of us teachers, it's also a time of ruminating what went wrong last year and endless PD book reading, workshops, and fretting. 

I get it. I was there! Anytime I was on vacation, and my husband and I traveled, he got pretty peeved when I wanted to take my computer. Computer stayed home, but sometimes I was busier using my phone to check school email (as little as there was in summer) than I was taking pictures of gorgeous mountains. When we splurged on that Danube rivercruise, I fretted when international cell service wasn't available. If I wanted to read email, I could have saved a lot of money and not travel 5,000 miles. I loved to take workshops and levels, once attending Kodaly Level One and an Orff masterclass IN THE SAME SUMMER, and every level I took except Orff Level One was in a different state. Yet, I panicked when I felt my room wasn't quite ready for the opening of school. Because, I couldn't set a specific goal with everything I learned. I wanted to do it all. (I did, however, give up on email on the Danube river cruise, but got peeved when I couldn't post my pictures on Facebook).

Good preparation, as you know, is crucial to successful teaching. Chris Kyriacou outlined the importance of good planning for teachers in this blog post. It allows thinking time, alleviates stress, and gives you the opportunity to try out new things. But do you have to sacrifice the freedoms having days off brings in order to plan? Or must you scrunch it all in? You can do both in the summer. It's a matter of planning. Much of this you probably already know, but like any human being, we need constant reminders, especially after the 18 months we just had. It's a mindset that I'm learning after retirement but taking on a part-time job, my TPT store, and volunteering.

  • Set a timer and set a time. Each day, find a time to do maybe an hour of prep, like your newsletter or reviewing what you learned in levels or a workshop. Shut the door. Turn off your phone. Do not answer emails. Use an extension like some that are mentioned in this blog post . Then, at the end of your set time, finished or not, walk away from school work like a bad habit. Hide it. Have someone in your family or have your favorite teaching colleagues nag you to stay off. Just WALK AWAY and do you.
  • Use Post-It notes for to-dos. OK, I know that I'm killing trees here, but hear me out...when I make check-lists, I would feel good about what I checked off, but if I didn't finish, those unfinished tasks would glare at me. That stresses me. So, one year in school, I decided to put all my tasks on individual Post-Its or notecards. I would stick them in a drawer except for the one that had the current task. Then, when I was finished, I had the joy of slowly tearing that note up and tossing it. Then, I'd pull another note for the next task. Mentally, that helped because (1) all the tasks weren't glaring at me. I could put them in order of priority. (2) There's something rather cathartic about tearing up what has been completed. (3) I couldn't sneak another thing on the list. If I absolutely HAD to add something, I'd put it in another pile for my new stack.
  • Make a pact with a colleague. If you have a colleague who also plans over the summer, hold each other accountable. Make a date for coffee (yay, for open facilities!) Bounce ideas off of each other and write it down. Set a time limit, and then PUT IT AWAY.
  • If you attend workshops or levels, don't think you will have to incorporate everything. You can't. It's not humanly possible. Besides, the purpose of Kodaly, Orff, Dalcroze, MLT, World Music Drumming, etc. is to act like the mama bird pushing her baby out of the nest. The levels give you the take them to YOUR level and the level of your kids. Most levels instructors will be glad to give you a little reminder if you can't remember what you can't double in Orff orchestration or what consists of presenting in Kodaly. Even if you don't remember, in the long run, it's the process and philosophy that means the most, even if you don't use alto recorder or a tuning fork. Pick and choose what your kids will enjoy or handle and go from there. Keep others on the back burner in case the kids surprise you. New position? Start from the beginning when you teach. Plan for that. You can always advance. If you have older kids, you might want to try out Aileen Miracle's "Songs and Activities for Older Beginners" and use it like a pre-test. 
  • SMALL CHUNKS EARLY. Consider this early planning like a progressive dinner. You might have appetizers at one house, drinks at the other, etc. You get small chunks and you don't stay long, and sometimes, you start early. It won't do you any good to start small chunks at the end of July. Remember what happens with your kids if they try to practice 4 hours before music festival. What is usually your advice? It's probably to isolate difficult phrases and just practice those. Same with summer planning.
  • Start your room as soon as you can, but only spend an hour or two on it if you live close enough. Obviously, if you live some distance, that's not practical, so...
  • Or buddy up with a teacher friend, help each other, and go out to eat later. In 2017, I wrote about helping a friend organize her room, getting rid of stuff and helping her arrange other things. She, in turn, came to my room and helped me rearrange furniture. It was such a fun time to get to know each other better, bounce ideas off of each other, AND get our prep for the year finished in a short amount of time. In either case, it's better to start a little early in chunks and find you have free August time than to wait and end up having to fight over the copier.
DURING YOUR FREE TIME: Take care of that bucket list! Like.......
  • Travel where it's safe and explore hidden treasures in your state.
  • Learn to zip line 
  • Learn curling
  • Take up a new craft
  • Learn an unusual instrument (or even a usual one).
  • Go hiking
  • Sit at the park and birdwatch
These are suggestions, of course, but this summer, you probably need extra emotional, cognitive, and mental brain drains to reboot with a new sense of focus. For most of you, school will be closer to normal than it was last year, and you might not remember what "normal" looked like. Discover it without worrying about being ready.

Teaching Music in Summer School

Teaching Music in Summer School

One of my most favorite assignments ever in my teaching career was teaching summer school music at the elementary level. The coordinator of summer school when I taught it knew the students needed down time. They needed enrichment. They needed higher level thinking. Summer school offered enrichment options for kids whose parents choose to have them attend. Then there were the "remedial" students. They could not sign up for classroom enrichment and could only attend "specials" if their work was finished. You know, those kids who needed art, music, and P.E. the most? But that's another soapbox for another time.....Anyway, after three years, the district assigned another coordinator. Gone were all the enrichment opportunities, including (you guessed it), music, and P.E. Still another soapbox, but I digress.......Summer school music opportunities were a treasure for both the kids and me.
     If you are considering teaching summer school or have been assigned, congratuations if you're teaching in the arts! Depending on your district, you can toss formal curriculum, standards, and quantitative assessments out the window and focus on true student led opportunities. Your inner Maria Montessori, Carl Orff (actually, more Gunild Keetman), or Jacques Dalcroze can emerge. My students and I created accompaniments to the Beach Boys, moved to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, orchestrated books, held informances at the end of the sessions.....without concerns about observations, which would result in music being shoehorned into standard classroom assessments. I didn't have to worry about grades. The students did their own assessments to judge for themselves how their performances were doing.
     I did learn some mini-reality lessons along the way. I knew summer school was going to be different, but I didn't take into consideration:
  • You might not work with "your" kids. Depending on the district/system, not every building may hold summer school. My district varied from year to year, putting both in-town schools together, one outlying town school would house the out-town schools in that area, or one building would house students with various special needs like ASD, or students who are home-schooled or attend private school might be in attendance if you are in a public school system.
  • Your students might not know each other. Unless the students know each other from worship, daycare, or team sports, they might be surrounded by several students they don't know.
  • Attendance will probably be very spotty. This was something around which I couldn't and still can't wrap my head, but I'm old school. You are probably already familiar with students being out the regular school year for vacations (and, let's try to forget 2020 to half of 2021!). In summer school, you might have a child gone for a week, or you might see a child once, or you might only see them on the last day. If your summer school experiences are like mine, "specials" are "rewards" for getting regular classwork done.
  • Your need for diversified teaching strategies just boomed expeditiously. You might have anything from kids who are gifted to kids who should need a paraprofessional but don't get one. (Hey, that's normal, right?) Add to that: 1) students who might have had little to no music theory if they are homeschooled or attend private school,  2) students from your district whose music instructors might have a different teaching style, and 3) students who are in vacation mode and not in any type of "formal" learning mode.
  • Rethink your battles regarding discipline. Because it's summer and you're not assessing, you might need to pick your battles in more detail than you would during the regular school year. 
  • You might be in a different room with different equipment. If you're used to having a nice Orff instrumentation or a nice set of tubanos, you might work in a building that has rhythm instruments and MAYBE a bass xylophone. You'll have to think outside the box. (After all, if you're thinking Orff, you think PROCESS, not instruments. You don't?? Uh, oh. We need to have a talk.😉)
Music teachers were born to be creative. That's how we survive teaching on a cart! Here are some ideas to help reap the wonderful rewards of summer school:
  • Start with name games. Just like in August/September, you and the kids need to get to know each other. There are plenty of songs that involve names. For instance:

    Younger Students: Ball Bouncing Game-Establishing Beat
  • Students are in a circle, standing, not holding hands
  • Teacher bounces ball and chants in a 4-beat phrase: "My name is Dr. Stafford." (My name is Mr. Jones, etc.)
  • Students reply back "Their name is Dr. Stafford." (You might want to consider using the gender-neutral "their" and "they". This is information you need from the administrator for that building.)
  • Bounce the ball to a child. This child starts the process again with their name.
  • Tell he students to bounce no higher than their waist grab and grab the ball with both hands. 
  • Student needs to have arms out so the ball doesn't bounce on their toes and run away.
  • No dribbling
Name Game-Older Students
  • Use drums, buckets, rhythm instruments, or body percussion
  • Students sit in circle (even if you have a small class, a circle helps them establish eye contact).
  • Student creates a pattern to "My name is Joe Cool and I like bread"
  • Other students echo.
  • Go around the circle so each student can have a turn.
  • On subsequent days, see if you can get to the point where students audiate the names and can play without speaking out loud.
You can find other name games in:
Pop Accompaniments
Use what you have (including Found Sound) to create accompaniments to popular (school appropriate) songs. For instance:
  • Rappin' Ced sung by Daveed Diggs from the movie Soul. This works well because there is no melody. Ask the students to establish the beat, and eventually, to echo rhythm patterns they hear. Eventually, you can divided up different patterns to assign to students to play on body percussion, found sound, or regular instruments.
Folk Dances/Games
If you don't have any of the books/CDs by the Amadons (New England Folk Masters), it's time to splurge or to beg. Some of these activities are marvelous for summer school. One caveat: consider attendance. You might best be served by dances that call for scatter formation, such as Sasha. Longways sets might be good as well.
If you have the numbers for older grades, my absolute favorite dance of all time to teach is T'Smidje. The lyrics reflect the ballad of a blacksmith who left his forging to travel to France to meet a pretty girl. He married her, and now wishes he hadn't. (Hey!)

Bucket Drumming
Inexpensive and fun, bucket drumming has taken music education by storm. Summer school is a perfect time to do some drumming because you can take it outside. Perform echoing, learn taiko drumming techniques,and more. You can use old rhythm sticks or dowel rods for sticks, and don't be afraid to try various sizes of buckets as well as various materials.

Breakfast Quiz
  • Teacher asks the question: "What is the best breakfast ever?" 
  • Allow students to consider their answer and how they will play it.
  • Teacher plays the rhythm of the question as they ask it.
  • Each student plays their answer in rhythm, 4 beat phrase.
  • Once students have established correct rhythm, repeat the process with audiation (no words). Teacher plays the question in between each student turn.
Try this bucket drumming activity that goes from "body" percussion to bucket: Solar Sensation

Invite a Guest
Do you know someone who plays a digeridoo? Blues guitar? Is a symphony member? Invite an intriguing guest to have a discussion session with your kids (remembering your COVID protocol)

Puzzle Pages
If it's raining, puzzle pages are a good, relaxing way to review objectives. Find some that do not rely on the objective having already been taught (keeping in mind you will have a variety of experiences coming into your room).
For instance, try this Crack the Code worksheet. The students decipher the code to come up with the answer (which is "triangle"). This is free for my blog readers!

Embrace summer school teaching. Enjoy it. I would love to teach another session. Earn a little money, try something new, -- and best of all --still enjoy a few weeks of vacation!

Musical Ideas for "I Am Every Good Thing"

by Derrick Barnes and Gordon James

This beautiful little treasure was written to the memories of young Black men such as Tamir Rice and acknowledges the inner strength in young Black boys, or any child in particular. This book would be beautiful to use for Social Emotional Learning or any time a teacher wants to highlight positivity and self-esteem.

Musically, this book can also tell this story, with some enhancements. Positive words such as "energy", "go-getter", "leader." This words can be either used as ostinati,  as an expressive speech piece accompanying the reading of the book. Let me give you an example:

Adding a little melody with a book that intersperses with sections of the book re-emphasizes the tone and lesson of the book. The little melody I wrote is:

You can also add instruments to enhance certain words like ENERGY (with a drum roll or xylophone roll), "far-off places" (glissandi).....

The illustrations are beautiful. The lesson is fabulous. We need more of this in the worlds of our students. This book lends itself greatly to music and journaling. For instance, "What kind of music might go with 'I'm a cool breeze'"? This can lead to student participation and student led planning, with teacher guidance.

I've included the melody written out with simple chords for you to make it easier. You can use this melody to practice FA or tika-ti. Just click to download from my Google Drive. It will force you to make a copy. I notated this in the key of G.

I hope you enjoy this little gem. If you would like to share any lesson ideas you've used with this book, feel free to leave a comment.

Have a wonderful day!


Working with Wacky Holidays in Music Class, Part One

Disclaimer: I am an Amazon Associate. When I link items to Amazon in any of my blogs, the link leads to them item. If you purchase through the link, I get a small percentage. So, you don't have to, buy if you do purchase through the link, I really appreciate it!

We've all had them. We have our usual concepts that we teach year after year. But somehow, we tire of the same presentation. We might want to create a new theme. But, we've used the usual holidays, music themes, general sports themes, etc. 

Why not try crazy holidays?

There are various websites that list things like "National Ice Cream Day" or "National Save the Kumquat Day" (OK, I don't know about that one). Consider the fun it would be to introduce these to your kids! Here are some ideas for holidays January-April.


January 21 is "Squirrel Appreciation Day." I don't honestly appreciate squirrels when they're in my birdfeeder, but they're cute nonetheless. There are several squirrel folk songs, of course, but this one is probably the most famous:

This is an expanded version of "London Bridge". Select several pairs of students to be the "bridges". The other students form a line, weaving in and out of the "bridges". At the end of the song, the bridges drop and catch the "squirrels". Here's a video of my students doing this.

January also has (drum roll...........) National Kazoo Day (January 27). What fun! Use them in conjunction with instruments. (AFTER COVID) or to add a little spice to a song.

I LOVE this one. January 2 is Ancestor's Day. What a wonderful time to talk about folk songs, and how folk songs were passed down from generation to generation. Why not assign a family song activity? The Family Folk Song Project book breaks this activity down. Students can interview parents, grandparents....and if "Found a Peanut" was a family favorite, run with it! Whatever gets parents involved with making music with their children.


February 3 is Carrot Cake Day. (Bet you didn't know that.) Why not work with vegetables? There are several things you can do.

  • Use plastic vegetables  for rhythms. (when the world is safe). Students can work in groups and get cards with rhythm phrases. They must match the phrases to the names of the vegetables.
  • Use them to diagram form.
  • Use them for subsequent parts in a rondo to The Garden Song.
February also has National Almond Day, on February 16. Although many of you probably know this lullaby, I just discovered "Raisins and Almonds", which is a beautiful song about the "widow of Zion" singing a lullaby to her baby. There is a children's book and even a song kit from Plank Road publishing that can enhance your teaching. The song is in harmonic minor, which can add a little challenge for your older kids. 


There's a Marching Band Day, March 4! Great time to use "The Stars and Stripes Forever" for the beat, or do a webquest about John Philip Sousa. Kids LOVE seeing the formations of the Ohio State Marching Band. (Check out the band playlist on the Ohio State News YouTube channel.)

March also has Mario Day, March 10 (My daughter's birthday!). You could.....

  • Use video game music for creative movement, like The Legend of Zelda main theme, a great theme for quiet, reflective movement. Of course, there's also one of the Mario theme songs.
  • Use them as listening examples. "Zelda's Lullaby" is gorgeous and can lend itself well to emotional/feelings listening journals. A little bonus: it can be transcribed for recorder for your older students!
  • Have groups of students notate the rhythms of characters of various video games and then create body percussion to perform.

There is actually a National Film Score Day on April 3. So, if you do a unit on John Williams, this might be a perfect time! Maybe a webquest. You could also do listening lessons, like comparing the music of John Williams to the music of Hans Zimmer or Danny Elfman.

April 13 is National Scrabble Day. You can get a little creative and, using Scrabble tiles, write rhythmic notation on the back. Students can create various patterns that they either have to clap in order to earn that turn OR avoid certain patterns that you can predesignate (or a certain number of beats).


Some products from Dr. Stafford's Musical Cures Store that go with a few holidays:


When I looked at all the silly, unusual holidays, I thought, "This is a treasure-trove for music teachers!" I'd like to share part of that treasure-trove with you. 
I have a newsletter! It shares new blog posts, music updates, new products from my Teachers Pay Teachers store, and more. 
ISign up for the newsletter and receive a Wacky Holidays condensed list for January-April, with ideas and links! I will be sending out May-August soon.

I hope these holidays can put a little inspiration in your planning!