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 that............kids 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  🠊