Fun Times with "Shoo, Turkey" Call and Response Game for Thanksgiving

I usually had a difficult time getting some fun stuff in for Thanksgiving for my first and second graders because they were getting ready for their holiday programs. However, I thought it was important that we start rehearsals early enough to 1. incorporate concepts within the music and 2. add other fun stuff that had nothing to do with program songs. 

In November, one of the most favorite games was "Shoo, Turkey." There are various arrangements of this song/game in publication, but the one I always used was from the Bessie Jones/Bess Lomax Hawes book Step It Down. This is a great call and response song you can use for assessment!

Alan Lomax, a well-known folk musicologist, recorded Bessie Jones singing this ditty during an interview on the music she remembered growing up in a Georgia farming community. (By the way, her biographical information in Step It Down is fascinating! If you don't have this book, you should. It is a treasure.)

The "call" in the recording is different than it is in the book, but that's the beauty of folk songs. The Moving Star Hall Singers have a different version on another treasure trove: Smithsonian Folkways recordings. The words to this version are similar to what Jones has in her book. 

1. Point to the students to sing the response when you sing the call.
2. Teach the order of the call and response phrases with cards (like the ones in my "Shoo, Turkey" activity from Teachers Pay Teachers).
3. Create a signal you can use as students learn the call. 

In Bessie Jones's version of the game, the children stand in a line facing the leader during the call and response. During the chorus, each child turns 45 degrees to the right and follows the end player as they wind around the room pretending to shoo turkeys away. The fun part: the kids are squatting like a bird, throwing first one arm and then the other out on the beat. To make it challenging, the printed music includes claps on 2 and 4. So, for a challenge, which kids can do this: (1) arm out (2) clap (3) other arm out (4) clap?

How can you keep this game safely distanced? 1. adapt with standing instead of squatting and put foot markers on the floor. (If you have the time, you can purchase these from Amazon:


2. If you have someone who can help you (because I know you are totally swamped right now) and you have small enough classes because of class splitting or quarantines, get long light-weight rope and ask a family member or friend to use colored tape to mark off hand-holders 6 feet apart. (This idea is a long shot, but for some of you, it might work). You would have to eliminate the clapping, obviously.

If you can go outside, this is my version of the game: the soloist is the "farmer". The chorus is made up of "turkeys". During the chorus, the farmers chase the turkeys. If they are tagged, they go in the turkey "pen" (a designated place in the room). The new farmer is selected from any students who did not get tagged. Everyone gets to start over.

You can get a ready-made activity through my Teachers Pay Teachers store. The activity includes a link to a Boomcard deck, as well as activities to help with call and response, ta ti-ti, and rest. If you would like the Boomcards alone, check out this preview to see if it will work for your class.

Have you played this with a different game? Share your plan here or email . You will receive a free copy of Turkey Movement Cards for your contribution.

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Keep It Kinesthetic: Non-Locomotor Movement for Concepts, Stress Relief, and Distance

Carl Orff stated that "Dance has the closest relationship to music. My idea and the task that I set myself was a regeneration of music through movement, through dance." Later, he added that rhythm is difficult to teach, expressed only by "releasing" it. Anne Green Gilbert, who developed Brain Dance, noted the connections between dance and human growth and development. Two Orff educators, Jenny Burnett and Laura Webster, wrote an article for the Orff Echo describing how to use movement to teach concepts (Orff Echo, Vol. 42, No. 4).Finally, as noted on this blog post on Walkabout, movement is a crucial tool in social emotional development, which is probably needed more now than in past decades.

There's an issue: I KNOW some of you are thinking that it's tough enough to keep kids distanced from each other, much less let them move around the room! Non-locomotor ideas to the rescue. These ideas can be be used to reinforce concepts, expression, mindfulness, or just as a brain break. And honestly? I would strongly suggest you participate as well. It makes for a safe classroom, because kids will learn it's OK to make mistakes. And you could probably use the mindfulness and stress release as well!
  • Songs with Directions in Lyrics. My primary-aged students (even my older kids) LOVED "One Green Jelly Bean" . They would ask for it just about every time they had music. If you have never heard it, it's darling! Students do the following: Jump, pat head, rub tummy, and kick. Oh, did I say it was cumulative? Picture kindergartners (or you!) trying to kick and jump at the same time. Perfect for large motor skills and for when the kids have been sitting and listening too long.
  • Revamp favorite folk dances. Another activity my students loved was "7 Jumps". (Found here on my Spotify playlist or on Amazon.). Based on what your health standards are, you could go ahead with the circle, but just add tape on the floor where the students are to step. The con to that is that most Ks and first graders will try to hop to the next spot, but depending on the class, that could be a good thing! The original dance goes something like this (variations, of course, abound@!)
    *Fermata-I like to have the kids stretch in one direction and then the other
    *8 counts-walk clockwise in group circle
    *2 beats-clap clap clap (ti-ti-ta)
    * 2 beats-turn around 180 degrees
    * 2 beats-clap, clap, clap
    *2 beats- turn the other way
    Fermata-balance on right foot
    *Repeat whole pattern each time, but each time, there will be an added fermata at the end of the phrase, and you will be adding moves cumulatively
    +balance on right foot
    +balance on left foot
    +kneel right knee
    +kneel left knee
    + right elbow on floor
    +left elbow on floor
    +forehead on floor
    *Instead of moving around the circle, check out what this gym teacher does at the beginning:
    For older students, how can you adapt T'Smidje? Here are the original moves, as "performed" by one of my classes several years ago:

    *. Concentric circle, partners side by side.
    *Partner on the inside is considered the "driver". Partner on the outside is the "passenger"
    *4 Steps forward, turn and 4 steps backward in the same direction
    *Partners jump in, out, and switch places
    *Jump in towards each other, jump out.
    *Here's the tricky part, one that Sanna Longden (who taught this at an Orff conference I attended) calls "driver/passenger switch": driver goes to passenger side of the couple in front of them. Passenger switches to their driver side, so it's a zigzag effect.
    *The original calls for hand holding. I don't do that, so it's easily adaptable with masks and spacing if you have it! Great for a pop-up warm day or a day you can utilize the gym. Show them this video first.
  • Movement Cards. Movement cards are a great way to get students' attention because they have to switch movements or poses when someone changes cards. It's also a great way to stretch. Here is a set of skeleton movement cards offered for free on my Teachers Pay Teachers store. It includes Spotify links to 7 listening selections.
    *Yoga cards are another great way to incorporate stretching, as well as mindfulness for restless kids. And, of course, they are also springboards to creative movement. My students just LOVED Yoga Pretzel.   I would use one of the Eric Chappell Potpourri arrangements for music. Yoga was often one of the first things my primary aged kids asked for when they walked into the room. Even my most reluctant students or my most antsy students concentrated on getting each pose correct. I guess this is probably why more schools are incorporating yoga. The moves and the quiet work! Here's a photo from my last first grade class before I retired:

    First grade students doing yoga poses from Yoga Pretzels pose cards

    *And then there's Mr. Stick: 😂
       Using wooden art manniquin for movement

We would start out with a chant: 
                    Mr. Stick, make it quick.
                    Show me a pose and make it slick.

Sometimes I would use music, but usually I didn't. I would also pick students to be the "conductor". That, of course, would be up to you, but you could have the child wear glove.

  • Teaching Concepts. Movement is a fabulous way to teach musical concepts. Both the Kodály and Dalcroze teaching philosophies emphasize movement as a teaching tool to incorporate the elements inwardly. 
For example, in one of my newest Teachers Pay Teachers products, Trick or Treat Triple Meter Music Activities, one activity consists of stomping on a spider on the strong beat of triple meter. The other includes skeleton poses, in which the teacher signals for students to switch poses on the strong beat.

Do not eliminate movement. Your students need it. You need it.

Please feel free to share any new ideas you have developed to make movement safer in your classroom. You may use the comment section.

Comments are extremely helpful to both sellers and buyers on Teachers Pay Teachers. If you have purchased from me, please drop by and leave a review! You will benefit with credits towards future purchases.

Distance Learning: Memes to Help, Part 2


As I type this, many of my music teacher friends and relatives are living through the planning or first day stages of distance learning experiences. Life has changed with plastic panels, new sit spots six feet apart (if you're lucky enough to either have classes split or a large class), or new experiences on a cart. OR, you are navigating through recording your lessons and working around various online activities.

This is part two of a  three-part blog series collecting various tip Memes of the Day on my Facebook pageInstagram, and Twitter.  Because I'm retired, I've wanted to help, so I began posting these memes, but then realized having all of them in one place might be nice.

Distance Learning Memes, Part 1

Distance Learning Memes,  Part 3

Part 2

Use puppy pads to catch condensation in music class.

Use Puppy Pads for Condensation. 
Honestly, I can't remember where I read this, but it's genius. We had a package we never really used because our "adopted as grown" dog didn't need them, but they lingered at the bottom of a closet for two years. Obviously, brass condensation, even at a distance, is a problem. With this simple solution, the student lays the pad under the general spit valve area, throws it away, and uses hand sanitizer at the end of class. 

Wrap old socks around mallets
Wrap Old Socks around Mallets. 
Admit it. At least once a week, you are going to lose the mate to a sock, especially if you have kids. Take that mate and wrap it around mallet handles, or put them over a yarn or felt mallet head. Yes, the sound will be softer, but generally, students cannot keep their hands of the heads. These socks can go in a travel laundry bag to be tossed in the washer at the end of the week.

Use craft sticks or pencils for rhythm notation in music

Provide Recorded Rhythm Patterns on SeeSaw for Dictation. 
 SeeSaw is a online portfolio platform I absolutely loved to use when I was teaching, and my kids did, too. Now, SeeSaw lends itself well to both distance teaching in the classroom and home virtual learning. This activity is geared more towards your home learning students. If they don't have craft sticks, they can use pencils, straws, or other objects. (Please do not have them use chopsticks, however.)
I actually have this activity in a template free for you! You can edit it and adapt it to your own use.

A Capella app for music  class distance learning

 If you haven't used Acapella yet, it's a neat tool that allows you to create harmony with yourself, or send a recording to someone else to layer another part. This would be especially gold for students who are doing virtual learning at home. Zoom, unfortunately, often has delays caused by various internet connections. Acapella is also a great way to have students focus on the parts of others.

Family Songs. 
I ran across a terrific unit to include family in the book The Family Folk Song Project. Unfortunately, circumstances prevented me from fulfilling this activity, BUT, there is probably no reason why you can't, especially if your students are learning virtually. You might THINK a lot of your parents, guardians, etc., would not want to be involved. However, this activity can also include grandparents, aunts, and uncles, all through Zoom. The family can opt to record their Zoom session, provide an audio recording, or simply write the lyrics. It would be a touching way to help your students find out more on their heritage as well. You will just have to emphasize to the adults to choose wisely. For instance, Grandma might have been a civil rights protester in the 60s, and "Lift E'ry Voice and Sing" might have some significant meaning for her. Maybe Great Great Uncle Fred fought in World War II, and gets a kick out of "Chattanooga Choo Choo". Plus, you might find some new folk songs for your repertoire.

Greetings in music class during COVID

Use Non-locomotor Motions for Greetings. 
If I was teaching during COVID, I believe the thing that would make me the saddest would be having to turn away hugs. But, you could still incorporate non-locomotor moves in their distance spots to create greetings. Or better still, have the students improvise them.

Flashlight in music class.

Use Flashlights as Teaching Aids.  
You might not be able to walk around the room safely during COVID. You want to set an example about self-space and distancing. Use a flashlight or laser pointer to indicate a child on whom you are calling. IF you have a fairly reliable class, you can ask them to bring their own. Decide judicially, though, because you can't just go up to them and take them away if they misuse their privileges.

Wrap mallets in Saran Wrap

Wrap Mallet Handles in Saran Wrap
Use plastic wrap on the mallet handles. Students can simply unroll the mallets, and let them fall into a container without touching them, and then toss the wrap away.

Part 3 of Memes to Help will focus on emotional and self-care ideas for you and your students.....

Starting on September 1, come check out Tuneful Talk Tuesdays on Facebook Live at 7:00 pm. Central Time at Dr. Stafford's Musical Cures Facebook page. Topics include:
  • Children's literature features
  • Instrument techniques
  • Classroom management ideas
  • Teacher care
  • Social emotional ideas
  • Leadership and collaboration
  • Vocal techniques
  • Technology
  • And whatever else might pop into your brain (or mine!)
Please take care and feel free to share. You need each other.
Part 3  🠊

Distance Learning Tips: Memes to Help, Part 3

Right now, many of you have already started school. Some are still waiting, because your district might have postponed the start of school, hoping to provide staff more time to prepare. Some of you are fulltime in the classroom. Some of you are doing virtual teaching. Some of you are on a hybrid schedule. Some of you have been moved out of your rooms and onto a cart. Some of you have masks only. Some of you have shields. I'm willing to bet, however, you all are just a little stressed.
This is part three of a  three-part blog series collecting various tip Memes of the Day on my Facebook pageInstagram, and Twitter.  Because I'm retired, I've wanted to help, so I began posting these memes, but then realized having all of them in one place might be nice. This third set is going to focus on YOU, and how you can care for yourself.

Part  3

Tips to record brainstorms for music teachers

Find an Easy Place to Dump Your Thoughts
Music teachers are famous for running, creative thoughts, often turning into "Drat, what was that?" after 5 minutes because that brilliant idea just flew out of your head since you didn't have a place to record that thought. This incident probably happens 10 fold now with the additional concerns of planning distance learning. One remedy: open a Google Doc as a second tab on your browser. If you get a random thought at 3 a.m. and your phone is near you, open Google Docs on your phone, jot it down, and it will be there when you do your work a your computer. If you get that thought while driving? Use Siri (or the equivalent for Google-based phones) to send you an email with that idea. One minor snafu: sometime Siri doesn't translate well. So instead of "Don't forget to cover the tubano heads," you might get "Don fogged coming to the bano said." Hey, that might jog your memory, though!

Music teachers need to take social media breaks.

Take Social Media Breaks
I don't think it's news that the atmosphere in the United States is on tenterhooks right now. Amazingly, one of the biggest "bones of contention" is the handling of safety measures for COVID. Branching off from this is how administrators/governors handle the beginning of school. Couple this with the freedom and "anonymity" that many people feel on social media, even with their names posted, and hard feelings and backlash can ensue. The "old" adage of not sending an email while angry holds even more for social media, because many eyes will see posts and responses. As difficult as it is, when you see posts that stringently and rudely criticize teachers based on rumor and propaganda, walk away. There are even apps to help. Phone apps are listed here.  I use Waste No Time as a Chrome browser extension to help me focus only on sites I need (such as Teachers Pay Teachers or my blog.). Be careful on Facebook, even teacher groups that are supposed to be "private". Some teachers have unfortunately been turned in to their administrator because of advice they seek in groups because a parent or other staff members got into the group, even with the screening questions common in groups. So, if you use any apps, go to Netflix to watch "The Office" before it flies to Peacock. Download the Kindle app or read an old fashioned book. Use your Calm app. Reading comments can wear you down physically and emotionally after a while, like emotional trauma, because, in many ways, it is. I am saying this as someone who has to tell myself this all the time. We KNOW the benefit of teachers, and we KNOW there are people who appreciate us.

Advocate for music during distance learning

Be Respectful, but Don't Be Shy about Advocating for the Importance of Music
Teachers aren't the only ones who are stressed. Administrators have to field angry/scared parent phone calls, adjust lunch, and work out necessary schedules so the students' education is as thorough as can be during a pandemic. And on top of all that looms the possibility that everything can turn on a dime with just one positive COVID test if school is in live session.
However, they do need to remember that the arts are still a crucial part of a child's education whether they are assessed or not. Principals, sadly, might forget that and still regard the arts as break time. They may put you on a cart without consulting you. They may cancel your classes at the last minute or not be concerned about safety measures for your room. Unless they have been an arts teacher or have family members heavy into the arts, it just might not even show up on their radars. This is a time when "specials" should get together and ask for a meeting with the principal. Offer your suggestions on how your disciplines will enhance the learning. Ask how you can make your room safe, if you can at all. (Unfortunately, many music rooms will not accommodate distancing.) Show the principal examples of technology you can use for music class that will allow for musicking. If you come at it with a proactive, gentle, but assertive demeanor, the principal will not be put on the spot. Make sure you relay your message from the viewpoint of how it benefits the children, not how it makes your life easier or supports your ego.

Team teaching in music during COVID

Team Teach with Someone in Your District if You Can
"Two heads are better than one," (John Heywood, 1546). This can be especially true in times like these, where information is spinning about what constitutes safe teaching, to mask or not to mask, and everything else in the world. (What's on YOUR 2020 Bingo Card?) Sometimes, you just have to work with someone to cure the monkey mind. If it is at all possible, team teach with a colleague. This may not be practical if you are in the building with students, but if your school has an adequate Zoom account, why not combine classes? Maybe two music teachers can break their classes into Zoom groups for a composition competition. Perhaps your P.E. colleague and you can collaborate with students on a folk dance that calls for individual moves. 
At the very least, share ideas. Interdisciplinary activities should not become a dinosaur simply because you have to use a screen. The classroom teacher can work with students on a particular country in West Africa. The art teacher can work with them on African work indicative to the area using materials in their homes. You could work with them on West African drumming with buckets. You get the idea! The kids will love it, and you will probably love it as well, because you will be getting adult interaction and not feel quite so lonely.

Don't Be a Hero
Full disclosure here: at the time I posted this meme in July, I had no clue how parents would negatively react about district decisions for school, especially with hybrid or virtual learning.  My meme says, "Parents and kids will understand." I'm going to be blunt here: not all parents understand. I can sort of get this: they are scared for their jobs. They are scared for their kids. However, like I said in my section in social media, they often whip out a negative post without thinking. One post comes to mind in responding to pictures in a local paper showing kids in their classes on the first day of school. Most were wearing masks. One parent commented: "Take off those masks! We can't see their cute faces!" I sat stunned. Of course, there was backlash, but not as many people chastised her as I thought. Some parents, out of fear, denial, or frustration, are expecting the impossible. But don't wear yourself out trying to make everyone happy so they don't complain.  For some, it's very deeply ingrained, and you won't be able to do much to keep them happy.
But I can almost guarantee 90% of the kids will get it. They are there. They see what is going on daily. And it's the nature of most kids to respond positively to a teacher, even if they don't always act like it. Do your best. And if you have a child who doesn't appreciate it? Consider the old adage: the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. Love them anyway. Do what you can, and don't beat yourself up if you don't get to playing #5 in Volume I from memory. (I honestly do not have my Music for Children open, so I have no clue what #5 is, LOL).
Which leads to....

Music teacher self care

Take Care of Yourself
It is NOT selfish. How can you care for your students and family if your brain and nerves feel like this?
Politics getting to you? Turn on a streaming service and pull up an outrageous comedy. Find a movie featuring someone who has overcome adversity to inspire you. Put on Zen music and do some yoga stretches. OR, put on some classic 70s and beyond and dance like Erkle. Allow yourself some indulgent food, measure it, and SAVOR it. (I have finally learned how to do that and am losing all my after-baby fat. My youngest is 28. BUT, I'm down almost 50 pounds into a 100 pound weight loss goal!) I've found several websites that list foods that are good for helping to alleviate stress, but I'll post this one.
Or just.....create music.  Listen. Use YOUR music..........
And please take care. 

Distance Learning Tips: Memes to Help, Part 1

       I am going to be honest: I have felt pretty helpless as my former colleagues are planning, worrying, buying, and collaborating to prepare for.....well, "How long will we be in the building?" "How long will we be virtual?" "How do I keep kids at a distance?"

       It's not much, but I decided to provide a tip Meme of the Day on my Facebook page, Instagram, and Twitter. However, I started realizing that having all those memes in one place might be nice, so I wrote three posts to cover these issues.

Part 1

Distance learning tip.Teaching music from a distance: Use SeeSaw to sing your morning song to students
Use SeeSaw or another video platform to sing your morning song to your kids.
As teachers, we know how crucial routine is to our students. One of the biggest debates on school versus virtual is getting students back on a regular schedule. There is good and not so good on both sides. But, if you are going virtual, there is no reason why you cannot continue a morning song or teach a new one. SeeSaw has video capabilities to allow you to reach your kiddos with a cyberhug. (See more on my SeeSaw basics post.) 

Distance learning tip for music: create found sound packets for each student.
Using Found Sound.
An easy and relatively inexpensive way for your kids to experience rhythm either at home or at school is with their own found sound kit. I know of teachers who have been asking for oatmeal boxes, sticks...whatever they can so each child can have their own personalized kit with few concerns about cross-contamination.

Remote learning in music: Use body percussion to teach rhythm in distance learningIncorporate Body Percussion Videos to Assess Rhythm Understanding
Orff focused teachers understand this: elemental music begins with play, and we have seen children create their own hand jives. Utilizing body percussion for an at-home activity is fun, can be recorded, AND can involve family members!

Using Zoom break-out rooms for teaching from home in music
Zoom Breakout Rooms
One of my favorite activities while teaching was utilizing group activities. Yes, I liked them! I love the creative flow. Even if you are in your classroom, though, the kids can't be close enough to collaborate. Enter Zoom. Divide your kids into breakout groups, and they can do body percussion creations, found sound, lyric writing.....Then, ask them to journal into SeeSaw. The kids can then perform with the whole group Zoom.

Non-locomotor activies in music during COVID

Focus on Non-locomotor Skills
I'm thinking that one concern you might have teaching elementary during this time of necessary distancing is the fact move! They can't help it. So, take advantage of this to help them solidify non-locomotor moves. Utilize yoga (check out  this Amazon search!) Another wonderful resource that can tie into the social-emotional aspect of teaching is Brain Dance, which is based on normal developmental patterns experienced during the first year of life. Several of the activities are similar to those utilized by trauma specialists, such as tapping. Non-locomotor movement songs are super as well.Use non-locomotor moves as an assessment in a listening example (dynamics, contour, etc.) Make a Power Point with action words that utilize the 8 efforts from Laban. I've done this for all ages, and animated the words so the kids had to change their movement the minute the new word popped up. I have this Power Point attached with a link to Spotify. Give it a try! Let me know if you have any problems. 

Take students outside to sing during distance learning in music
Teach Outside
The reason I suggest having another adult with you is because of safety and management, but you know your kids. You can also take drums outside, keeping in mind safety issues.

Prepare new children by sending a video showing you putting on your COVID safety gear
Prepare Children

My friend Stephanie is a genius. She decided to make a video showing her putting on all her COVID "gear". She also made a picture button so new students would know what she looked like. She then posted the video on the school website. This is going to be a little scary for kids. Prepare them.

Do not insist a child use Zoom.
Do Not Insist a Child Use Zoom

Although Zoom is a very handy tool to have during these times, it can also open up a whole new set of technical use issues. Give them the alternative to just leave the microphone on, or allow them to use the chat feature to record their thoughts. 

There are a myriad of reasons why a child is nervous using Zoom. It might be due to a differing ability which makes them nervous or thrown to see everyone in mini Brady Bunch windows. Some students do not like their routines changed. (Well, we were crabby, too! But, you know there are children who have difficulty adapting or expressing themselves.) The child might be in an environment of which they are embarrassed or an abusive environment where they are afraid someone might tell.

In any case, confer with the classroom teacher. If you are both experiencing the same issue and don't know why, report it to the principal.

Part 2  🠊

SeeSaw in the Music Classroom: The Basics

(Disclaimer: I am a SeeSaw Ambassador, but I am not employed by the company. I just love it!)
Educators are having a difficult time planning for distance learning. If they start at school, they have to worry about distancing and the possibility of having to suddenly teach from home again. And, obviously, music is performance-based. How do you assess singing and possibly playing? It can't take the place of consistent musicking together, but SeeSaw online portfolio can make it a little easier. The platform makes it easy to go from school teaching to home teaching. Students can still sit apart and work collaboratively with peer assessments. Teachers can keep up with students with computer or phone. And parents can be involved while their child is at school by being able to check their portfolio.

When I was teaching,  I absolutely loved to use SeeSaw. I'd set up "recording studios" with ceiling canopies or gym mats so pairs of students could help each other with recorder. Groups who were improvising or composing could make notes without losing them, show job assignments, reflect, and record their accomplishments. I set them up for substitutes as well. I even made videos at conferences that would show up in the class journal letting them know that I knew who was working and who wasn't! Parents who connected would leave little notes for their kids, encouraging them. It was nice.

One of the greatest thing about SeeSaw is this:
A SeeSaw account setup for teaching remotely during COVID for music
 In the community section, teachers share activities they created (after a SeeSaw panel approves it). All you have to do is click "Share". This makes planning a little easier, because you can edit to suit your needs.

SeeSaw has 3 plans. Start out with the free plan. As you become comfortable with the platform, you might want to expand or convince your district to sign up for the school plan:
Another wonderful feature of SeeSaw is the option to have a family connect with their child's account. They will ONLY see their child's account, and can leave comments. You can also send messages through this platform.

SeeSaw's privacy policy is very reassuring for both parents and teachers. The world can't see student submissions. In fact, students can't see what's going on in other classes.  There is an option for a class blog, which is public, but there are still privacy issues in place.
Some examples of how I utilized SeeSaw in my classroom:
Students work on Christmas compositions using SeeSaw in music classg
Students created holiday compositions with icons, coverted them to pitches on the staff, and recorded themselves playing their pieces on recorder.

Creating rhythm patterns with SeeSaw in music class that can be used for at home learning.
Students worked in groups to create and record ostinati patterns.

If you need a video tutorial about how to get started, plus the basics, watch my tutorial.

Since I made this tutorial, I have found out that teachers can upload videos! Things are always changing. Here is a video from SeeSaw on updated features. 

Here are a variety of other sources for ideas:
I mentioned in the YouTube tutorial I was going to offer the completed activity I used as an example in creating one. Here is the link. Just find the three little dots and click "Share".

I know many of you have used SeeSaw and have great ideas. Please leave a comment to share your ideas. I know they will be greatly appreciated by other teachers!

Next blog: "App smashing" Boomcards and Google Classroom with SeeSaw. 
More freebies! Sign up for my newletter, where you get more ideas, update on my Teachers Pay Teachers products, and free products. 

Until next blog: Take care, be safe, and know you ARE special in the lives of children. 

Determining Racist Roots of Popular Folk Songs: Sources for Uncomfortable but Necessary Introspection

As owner of Dr. Stafford's Musical Cures , I support Black Lives Matter and stands in solidarity with Black friends, colleagues, students and loved ones. The treatment of Black people in relation to white people is a travesty. I am is dedicated to providing resources and information on racism and recognizing the white privilege with which I live. Additionally, I pledge to help fight against any police brutality, support officers who are making a positive difference. As a member of AOSA , OAKE, and NAfME, I also stand by their pledges to support their Black members. And I will continue to provide resources and information on teaching music, a way to help the world heal.

A Little Bit about White Privilege and Teaching

In the midst of a pandemic, learning online teaching, figuring out where to get masks, whether not we listen to the advice of the CDC, WHO, or our friends' memes..........amid all that confusion......... A man was killed. Maybe he passed a counterfeit bill. Maybe he didn't. But in the ensuing arrest attempt......he was murdered. I won't go into the details. Many of us have those details seared into our brains. We saw the video. As horrid as it was, if not for the video, four officers would not be charged with second degree murder. It would be another case of a Black man's word against four police officers. And guess who would win.........HOWEVER, stereotypes don't help. Not all police officers are rogue. In fact, the majority of them honestly want to serve their community. And, for the looting and riots: things are not always as they seem. They are usually not Black people. And like Forrest Gump says, "That's all I have to say about that."

I'm going to say little about my white privilege because that's not the focus. But, by the same token, I am learning to face it. It's not always pretty. That's why I want to mention it.The way I wanted to go in to city schools and teach after retirement because I wanted to make a difference? I marched in with my box full of Black musicians and those books about little children with "special" names. I wanted to make MY perception of difference, not theirs. I pronounced that I couldn't be racist because I drove 50 miles one way and took the job after retirement. I wanted to discipline them my way, consistently sending kids to ISS on the advice of others. But.........I rarely took the time to listen. Maybe that's why a teacher and a student claimed I was racist. I was shocked and taken aback. And I let it affect my health. I resigned 10 weeks in, doctor note in hand. In all fairness to me, there were other situations going on that made it less than ideal. But I certainly didn't help matters. I was operating on white privilege. 

Folk Songs and Racism
Folk songs have been a music teaching staple for centuries. As we know, folk music was passed down from generation to generation, often not written down. Kodály levels students are taught how to trace the roots of folk songs back to as primary of sources as possible. Sometimes, however, we don't go back far enough.Take the popular favorite for sixteenth notes "Chicken on a Fencepost (Dance Josey)". My students in the school before I retired LOVED it. Thank goodness I never got to it in my city school. There are subsequent verses that include the "n" word. There is a host of songs with minstrel histories and derogatory terms for Black people and indigenous peoples. Also, quite a few of the songs we might have taught have questionable authenticity regarding the culture attributed to them. 

Why Does This Matter?

Practical Reasons
  • Parents. Many parents are more savvy than we give them credit for. So, you better have good reasons to back yourself up if you have a parent calling and saying, "So, you're teaching 'Dinah'. My child came home singing it. I looked it up and found it has racist roots. Why are you teaching our children this?" which can lead to ..... 
  • Administration. Whether it's that parental phone call that skips you and goes right to your principal (or in smaller districts, even the superintendent), is it really worth getting called on the carpet to sing a song where you can play a game to chase a rubber chicken? (OK. According to Aileen Miracle, a prominent Kodaly instructor, the racist version of Dance Josey was included after the song had been around for a while, but she still chooses not to include it). That's your judgement call. Which leads to.... 
  • Your community. Some songs in a "gray" area might be fine in certain communities. When in doubt, discuss with your administration if you trust them. 
 Emotional Reasons 
  • Pride of Heritage. Why drag a race or culture down? For instance, for the sake of argument; some of us remember a time when people of German ancestry were called "Kraut" (a derogatory term for German soldiers in World Wars I and II). If you were teaching songs from those wars, would you really include one that included the word "Kraut"? Probably not, because Germany is an ally AND because you probably have students with that heritage. Why, then, would we want to include songs that ridicule Black people? They are our citizens: probably a majority who had ancestors with choice about coming here.
  • Bogging Down with the Negative. Why do that? Black people have had a tremendous history of contribution during and after slavery. Despite odds of not having the advantages of whites merely because of white privilege, numerous people of color have overcome obstacles. Pulling on songs from a minstrel history or songs with racist overtones recalls times of oppression. Why go there? 
What Do We, As Music Educators/Directors Do?
  • Research pronunciations. Do you have a singing soloist sing a German art song without getting a grasp of German? It's the same with dialect. Check out Black composers. Note that all the big names in choral or band arranging may sacrifice dialect for mass production. Jester Hairston is an example of an arranger considered to be true and authentic to Black dialect. (even though his music was around when I was in high school!) If it uses the derivative "chillun" for "children", think again. At this time, when one thinks about gospel or spiritual arrangements, one thinks Moses Hogan, but there are many others. (See list in references)
  • Bring on the jazz. Why was jazz so ignored in earlier music series except for some token units? It's the art form developed in the United States. It was developed from songs of oppression, yet perseverance through work songs and spirituals. Think of the musicianship that goes into improvisation. Use (with common sense!) the lives of jazz musicians as life lessons. Billie Holliday's life was horrible, You MAY not want to touch on her history of prostitution. You can, however, touch on the abuse. If your kids are doing DARE or other types of substance abuse education, you can touch on her drug use and how it killed a rising, brilliant star. Bring on the songs of civil rights. "We Shall Overcome." Bob Dylan. Peter, Paul, and Mary. Help your students to understand that music was important in the fight for social changes throughout the centuries of our country.
  • Face the Uncomfortable with Your Kids WITH DISCRETION. You and your principal need to decide IF you can use certain folk songs and delve into the ugly history. You know your kids. You know your families. When it doubt, leave it out. If you are using songs in conjunction with civil rights, it might be beneficial.
  •  Check your defensiveness/denial. I say that in all love, because I am terribly defensive. Until now, I have avoided books on white privilege/supremacy. Denial and defensiveness. Honestly, I was scared to see what I would find. It's uncomfortable. But it's necessary in order to be a fully empathetic educator. The world is diverse. We need to embrace that diversity. I feel if I had read those books, I might have not had as many issues in the city schools. Who knows?
  • Read, read, read! Learn from others. Check out the list of resources below.

As teachers, we are taught to utilize introspection to continually evaluate ourselves and our teaching. A huge part of our teaching is respect for all of our students. The following graphic was found on Jean Pierre's Facebook page, posted on June 10, 2020. You may wish to look a it and evaluate yourself: where do you fall? When we are able to determine this, we can go forward with the evaluation of our pedagogy, our Kodály binders, our resources, and our outlooks.

Probably the most current definitive organization resource dedicated to research into musical equity is Decolonizing the Music Room by Brandi Waller-Pace Executive Director and Lorelei Batislaong, Co-Editor and Deputy Director. A nonprofit organization, the mission of DTMR is focused on helping music educators develop critical practices and utilize the knowledge and experience of Black, Brown, and Indigenous People in order to challenge the dominance of Western European and white American music, while making more prominent non-dominant races and cultures in music education to make the field more equitable for all.

Resources on songs with questionable pasts

Classical-style music written by Black composers.

Choral Arrangers with a Specialty in Authenticity of Spirituals
  • Jester Hairston
  • Moses Hogan
  • Rollo Dillworth
  • Andaya Hart
  • Rosephanye Powell
  • Andre Thomas
  • William Grant Still
Books on Spirituals and White Fragility
Children's Books about Black Musicians and Music from Black Tradition
Spotify/Smithsonian Folkways

If you have any contributions to these lists, please leave a comment. It would be wonderful to have this list grow as a handy resource.
Next time: Using Boom Cards™ with SeeSaw.

Until then...stay safe, stay healthy, keep musicking.......