Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Double Star Day

Let's be honest - some classes are more difficult than others. Some combinations of classes are rough.  

Most specials teachers can name the day of the week that is tougher than others. (And the day of the week that they wouldn't miss for the world! #AmIRight?) 

At one school where I worked, Thursdays were ROUGH across the board - no matter what we did, Thursdays "spun" like the Friday before a break. Kids were wild and wooly on Thursday and the SAME KIDS would come back on Friday friendly and happy to be there. Whiplash!

This year, my Wednesday schedule is turning out to be one of my tougher days. I have a group of kids in the afternoon that try to argue constantly on Wednesday, and come back to me on Thursday morning like little angels. There are differences in time of day, circumstances that happen, and of course differences in body levels (are they hungry? did they just take their medicine? did they just wake up?). Regardless of the issues, we still had work to do and things to learn!

So, today I tried something a little different - double star day! 

You might remember from this post that I use a system of stars to track group behavior in my classroom. For the older kids, we do points. Classes set a goal at the beginning of class and attempt to reach that goal during the day. 

This year, I added charts (thanks to Sing Play Create!) that track weekly goals. So, for example, if they reach their goal that week (4 stars, or 40 points), they get a smiley face on the chart. 

The chart has 8 blanks per class, since I see the classes twice a week this year (wow!). This means if they reach their goals consistently, they can earn a "reward" every 4 weeks or so. 

Today I took a page from my old principal and did double star day! It was a HIT! Not only did the kids get excited, but I could move them all closer to their goal (even my roughest classes finally got to move up!!).

At the end of class, I took the total number of stars (or points) earned and doubled it. They were SO excited to get the huge number of points or stars and that's half the battle! As an extra incentive, I allowed some classes to earn "double moves on the chart" - aka 2 smiley faces. This helped me move those classes that were behind a little closer to the same schedule as the other classes (for my sanity!).

I can't wait to try this out with my Monday classes (whom I feel like I never see and they are constantly behind - anyone else?). I'll let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Bobby Shafto: Canons in First Grade

I know what you're thinking - canons in first grade - no way! But it's actually not as hard as you'd expect.

1. Independent Singing

First I teach Bobby Shafto with hand motions:
Phrase 1: Bounce a salute at your hat rim 4x
Phrase 2: Bounce your fists on alternating knees 4x
Phrase 3: Pretend drive a steering wheel (back and forth 4x)
Phrase 4: Alternate hands and salute 4x (Right - Left - Right - Left)

After a few weeks of them singing and me doing the hand motions*, I say, "Ok, boys and girls, let's see if you can do it without my help!" And then I don't even do the hand motions with them.

*Teacher voice note: Don't sing with your students every time! Sing as a model and then get out of the way so you can hear them! 

2. Teacher-Only in Canon

IF they can do this successfully, I say, "Now I'm going to try to trick you!" and I do the "wrong" hand motions.

Of course, music teachers will know - I didn't do the "wrong" motions, I did the motions in canon! I started with phrase 4, then phrase 1, 2, 3. Differentiation: Some classes can't handle if I start at the same time, so it's ok to start when they get to phrase 2; that's what we are eventually moving towards.

After they do this I say, "That was too easy! This time I'm going to sing with you, but I'm not going to sing the right words. I'm going to try to trick you. If you sing with my words, that means I tricked you!" After they start (with motions), I sing it in canon with motions.

Then I ask, "What was I doing that was tricky?" Almost always, a student will say, "You started after we did!" And then I explain, "In music we have a fancy word that means "started after" we call it canon!"

I always say, "Your mom and dad probably call it a round and that's ok - tell them canon is just a fancy word for round." It's so cute to hear back from parents - they really do tell them!

3. Small Group w/Teacher in Canon

The next step is my favorite!! I pick a group of students and have them sing with my and "try to trick" the other kids. They stand around me in a small circle and we start after the whole group.

4. Large Group w/Teacher in Canon

If this is successful, the next week, I pick another group of students. After a while I say, "Let's see if the whole back row can do it." I have the back row turn and face back (with me) and we sing in canon with the class.

Generally, that's either a disaster or a huge hit! If it's a disaster, I go back to smaller groups until they know the song better independently. If it's a hit, I say, "I wonder if we could break the class into two groups and sing in canon?" Then we play around with dividing the class in half or by rows. With an exceptional group you might be able to do 3 rows!

It's a movement canon, so it's really cool to see, as well as hear. Make sure you have your class turn and face the back and go the opposite direction so all kids can see the canon coming towards them. It's a really neat experience.

Catch up with me on Facebook and let me know how it goes!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Classroom Organization Tip: A Peaceful Music Room

When I first started teaching, I thought my room had to be perfect! I wanted bright, flashy displays of every instrument, every composer, every genre. I felt like I had to cover every inch of wall space with concepts and inspirational posters.

Now that I've been teaching for over 13 years, I've learned the value of white/blank space, peaceful decor and bringing beauty into the classroom.

My friends with special needs also appreciate that my walls aren't vibrating with color and stimulation. I try to keep it simple & organized so that all kids will be able to take a breath and enjoy music class.

I also decorate for myself - hey - I have to look at it all day every day, so I want it to be something nice to look at.

My inspiration for my classroom this year comes from the home reno shows that I've been watching in the background all summer! #musthaveshiplap

I am in love with the rustic, farmhouse look and I wanted to see what I could do in the classroom to evoke that kind of softer, peaceful atmosphere. I found some fantastic ideas on Pinterest so I started a Pinterest board to bring all my ideas together.

How cute is this?
Love how they mixed the different types of baskets - 
so much nicer to look at than my previous mismatched plastic tubs!

What about spelling out Music or Sing? 

I have the perfect ribbon for this! I love the look of this for my tone ladder - with a bow on top!

Even a small accent can add to the room!

Love those magnolia wreaths!

After checking out the local arts and crafts stores, plus one or two home stores, I began to design my class decor set around shiplap (the wooden board background), magnolia leaves and cotton bolls. I was easily able to find lots of useful classroom items that complemented this style.

My dynamics posters go up in a spectrum - loudest to softest. I used a 2 inch ribbon to connect them and show the flow from each dynamic level. The hand held set will go in the board basket with magnets so that we can choose which dynamic to sing/play when working at the board.

My tempo cards will also go in a line to show the spectrum of beat! I love having a hand held set to use with magnets with Kindergarten and 1st grade beat charts. Just one more thing for them to "choose" for when we sing a song!

These bucket labels will go on the outside of each bucket or basket to help when students put away instruments. The Orff instruments will get a label attached to each instrument and the drums and rain stick will have a label on each shelf. 

I'm a little different than some people when it comes to solfege - I don't want them to see what's coming ahead in the next concept. In my Kodaly training levels, we discussed that they need to experience the sound before they label the symbol. So I have a set of these on velcro that only come out when we are working with a new solfege syllable - and only the ones they know!

I'm in love with these binder covers! swoon! I love having a main binder to keep me organized and a few additional binders for all the extra stuff. I don't need to carry home every IEP, 504 or BIP every day; however, I need to know where they are to be able to access them when needed. I have a separate binder for those forms, a binder for choir music and permission slips, one for each musical and a binder for parent communication logs & administrative paperwork like PO's and grades.

Inside my main binder are my grade level checklists, a copy of my yearly plan, lessons for the week and upcoming week (if needed), music and whatever else I'll need for the week. I have gotten into the habit of carrying around a stapled packet with my lesson plan checklists during each class. After the week is over, I can prep the next week's lessons easily by looking at what we accomplished, and file the packet in the binder for reference.

Grab this Shiplap Music Room Decor Set for 10% the bundled discount during the #MusicTeacher101 event!

It's a growing bundle, so I'll be giving you a sneak peak at the rest of the product next week before the bundle grows and the price goes up to match!

Happy Summering!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Tips and Tricks from #KMEA2017

It has been a wild and crazy year! I can't believe it's already February and time for KMEA!

The Kentucky Music Educators Association conference was this past week and there were some great presenters this year! Let's take a minute to share a few of my favorite new tips and tricks!

First, if you don't attend the yearly state music educator conference, I encourage you to start making plans for next year. Not only is it one of the few opportunities for professional development in your content area, it is also a great chance to connect and collaborate with other music educators. Many years, I learn more from dinners and coffee dates than I do from the presenters!

If your school won't allow you to take days off, it might be worth it to go in the evenings or just to the weekend sessions, depending on the location and price.

I'm in the middle of the 5th grade musical (and about to jump into the 4th grade musical just before we finish the 5th grade show), so this year I wanted to collect a few ideas to incorporate into what I already have planned for the next few weeks when my musicals overlap.

One of the first sessions I attended was a Dalcroze session for the piano challenged. Christen Dillon from the University of Kentucky and Holly Smith from Louisville had some great ideas for incorporating Dalcroze Eurythmics into the music classroom.

It was fun and full of movement (of course!) but it was also very practical. There were some great thoughts on using basic piano activities to teach simple rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic concepts.

GEM (Great Educational Moment): My favorite activity from the Dalcroze session was a movement activity for harmonic analysis. Students walk forward while the teacher plays a I chord in any key. When students hear a V (or V7) chord, they walk backwards. So simple and yet what a great tool for teaching harmonic recognition!

After students have mastered this, you can add a IV chord and have the students walk sideways when they hear the IV chord (using the pattern I V7 IV V7 I). And later, you can bring it back and add a vi chord and have students turn in a circle when they hear it. How cute is that?

I love that even the beginner pianist can manage those chords on the piano while assessing (and managing the behavior of) their class. This activity can be done (on a basic level) with Kindergarten and first graders, and all the way up to third or fourth grade (or higher!).

Jeremy Howard from Kentucky Kodaly Classroom had a great presentation about transitions in the classroom. He brought his first graders (brave!) to demonstrate a typical lesson, using make-believe to facilitate transitions between songs and activities.

GEM: My favorite tip from Jeremy was a transition from Bobby Shafto to another song. The teacher shows the rhythm of the song on the screen/board with a picture of a lighthouse. "Oh no! The lighthouse is broken - it's giving out the wrong signals today!" The teacher taps the wrong rhythm on the drum or flashes with a flashlight (love this!) and the students have to identify the incorrect rhythm and tell what the correct rhythm was supposed to be. The next screen is the (incorrect) rhythm that the teacher tapped, so the kids can see the new rhythm.

Usually, when I do error detection, I have the incorrect rhythm on the board and I have the students correct it. I loved this take on error detection, moving from the correct rhythm to a new song.

One of the last sessions I attended was a hand-clapping games session taught by Dr. Martina Vasil, from the University of Kentucky. She had some great hand-clapping games as well as some tricks and tips for classroom management and taking a hand-clap game to the next level.

GEMs: One of my favorite "tricks" was having the inside circle sit down (in the middle) while instructing a double circle game. By having the inside circle sit, the outside circle can clearly see where they are going and who is supposed to be moving. Brilliant! After the outside circle practices their movement, all players stand and the game continues.

Another fantastic tool was the use of a drum to control the tempo of a game. Martina was able to add interest to the repetitions by adding accompaniment and changing the tempo. I loved that it was a non-verbal cue, but still a musical (listening) cue.

Oh, I almost forgot my favorite! For mixer/name games, Martina mentioned that she never had time to get to all 30 students (truth!). So, after teaching the game (teacher model), she would let 3 students have a turn. Each week, 3 different students would have a turn. After the kids knew the game well, she would break them into groups and have small groups all play at the same time, while she controlled the chaos with a drum. I can't wait to try this next week!

Since it was the third or fourth time the class had played, she gave a "theme" to each group. For our song, Jump In, Jump Out, students "introduce" themselves by saying something they liked. With students in small groups, Martina gave each group a theme like "favorite food," "favorite movie," or "favorite vacation destination." I loved that extension and I think it will add a little life to some of my tried and true name games/mixers.

Do you have plans to attend your state's music educators conference? I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, August 21, 2016

And the winner is....

The winner of the $10 Giftcard Giveaway is...

Thanks to everyone who participated! It was so much fun seeing all of your answers as we hopped through the Facebook pages. Don't forget to Like my page to keep up with future updates, sales, and giveaways!

Speaking of sales, the big TpT sale is tomorrow - use the code OneDay to get 28% off my whole store tomorrow only!!

Happy back to school everyone!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Musical Prep in Elementary Music 4: Drama Teacher Edition

Today I'm hosting a guest post by my partner-in-crime Drama Teacher Extraordinaire, Kala Chaffin! Check out the first 3 parts of this series here, here and here. Kala's going to give us some tips on the "tech" side of preparing for a musical. Take it away, Kala!

Hi everyone! I'm Kala Chaffin and I'm so excited to be guest posting on Lori's blog. Today I'm going to be giving tips and advice from an elementary drama teacher's perspective!

So, you have an upcoming theatrical production.... Whether you've been roped into this massive project by your school or if it's because you love theatre and it's your first time directing and producing a show, you're going to need some "tech" (technical elements for a production such as lights, sound, costume, set, props and makeup) if you really want your production to pop and "wow" the crowd.

Planning Tech:
First, schedule your production dates and work backwards from there. You need to give yourself enough time to get all your tech work finished before opening night. Check out the schedule that I used last year for our production of 101 Dalmatians. Use this as a reference to help you plan.

Now that you see the time frame you are working with, it's time to start making lists. Because our school is tax exempt through Lowes and Wal-Mart, I usually make a separate list for each store.

Take a look at your script. Usually, there is a prop and set list either in the front or back of the book. If not, get yourself three different colored highlighters (one for set, one for props and one for costumes) and highlight the appropriate sections any time they pop up.

Now that you have everything organized in your script, figure out which supplies you need to purchase to create each item and place them on the appropriate list. Most of our props are made from cardboard or materials we have on hand, but there will be plenty of things to purchase or get donated.

I usually have a third list (in addition to my Lowes and Wal-Mart lists) that is dedicated to online shopping. If you want to be even more organized, make a "donation" list. This is a supply list of items you'd like to ask people to donate to your production. 

You also will want to make a list of big ticket items that are available for rental through local companies (mic packs, mixing board, lights, speakers, cords, etc.).

Be sure to have all your supplies purchased before your first Tech Day (if possible). 

Shopping for Tech:
The actual shopping part is so exciting for me! I get to imagine all of the supplies coming together to make something absolutely fantastic for the kids and the production. If your school has a parent teacher organization, I would suggest trying to go through them for your shopping needs. (Shout out to our amazing PTA moms and dads!)

Going through your school is fine, but you need to plan ahead even more so because you have to go through additional steps to get a purchase order. Not only do you have to fill out a Purchase Order form, you might have to have more than one person sign for its approval, and it may sit on someone's desk for a few days before it ever makes its way back to you. I find it easier to do some fundraising at the beginning or end of the school year and create an account for your program through the parent teacher organization or a booster organization.

After making purchases at local stores, it's time to shop online!

Online Shopping for Tech:
I love getting costume accessories, stage make-up, wigs, glow tape, spike, etc. online because you can find some great deals and have it delivered right to your school! A few of my favorite places to get "tech" for a show are: Theatre House, The Costumer, Norcostco, Oriental Trading, Party City and of course, Amazon. 

Amazon is always wonderful to use, but the tax-exempt process is more difficult. I'm an Amazon Prime member so this really comes in handy during tech week when something last minute comes up, I can have the item shipped free to me in two days. 

After making all of the necessary purchases in stores and online, it's time to order the mics, lights, speakers, etc. Call your local rental shop and order any of the big pieces that you plan on renting instead of buying. Make sure you get everything in writing and have a responsible parent pick up the equipment when the time comes. 

If you don't have a reasonably priced local rental store, don't worry! You can also rent items from NorcostcoThe Costumer, or Grosh Backdrops.

Paint Tips:
We get great deals on our paint. I call both Wal-Mart and Lowes, or any local paint store and ask if they would donate any of their mis-colored paint to our drama program. Once, a local paint store donated truckloads to our theatre program! 

So far, I've not been able to get Lowes or Wal-Mart to donate their mis-colored paint to use for free, but I have been able to get them to agree to sell it to us for $1/can. All you need to do is call the store and ask to speak to the manager. For painting foam insulation board, I suggest latex or acrylic paint. For painting poster/butcher paper, I suggest only acrylic paint because it will weigh the paper down.

Lightweight Set Pieces:
If your production is for an elementary school or you're working with younger children, you're going to want your set pieces to be light and movable. I love the insulation foam from Lowes. My favorite to purchase is the 1" thick 4'X8' sheets. They're easy to paint and to carve.

Use a turkey carver to cut sheets into the desired shapes! I do not allow the children to use the turkey knife; I either do it myself or have a parent volunteers do the carving. You can also use a hot knife to carve into the foam. I used this when I worked with high school students once but I prefer the turkey carver because it seems "safer.” The hot knife lets off a terrible chemical smell when cuts into the foam and that can't be healthy for our lungs!

Acting Cubes:
Another thing I would do is to invest in some acting cubes. These cubes are so versatile! You can paint them how you need them to look, drape fabric over them (I do this a lot when I need a couch onstage) and they are movable and lightweight so children can move them on and off the stage.

When I arrived at my new school last year, they didn't already have any, so I had one of the awesome theatre dads make us a set of three. Here is what you need to make your own:

   Plywood that has been cut vertically into three strips (16, 16, 15 3/4)
   Drywall screws
   Wood glue (same kind he uses in the video)
   2x2’s, quantity = 6

Click here to see the DIY video that I have used in the past.

I hope this information was helpful to you. Please check out my blog sometime for more Theatre Ed tips and hacks. I've just started my blog and it's the beginning of the school year so I don't have much content on there yet, so stay tuned! I want to thank my partner in crime for having me as a guest on her beautiful blog and for helping me create my own. She's the Tina Fey to my Amy Poehler!

Kala Chaffin teaches Drama at an elementary school in Lexington, Kentucky. Follow Kala on Instagram or Twitter @kalasstage. Kala blogs over at Kala's Stage (coming soon) or you can catch the latest video on her new YouTube channel (coming soon!).

Here's a link to the first three parts in this series: Part One, Part Two and Part Three

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Musical Prep in Elementary Music: 3

It's time to plan next year's musicals! This is the third post in a series! Check out the other posts here and here!

My partner-in-crime drama teacher and I have already chosen our musicals and done a rough sketch of the nitty gritty schedule. I'll talk more about that later. Let's get started by digging into Tech Day!

Tech Day is a family day where all the kids in the show come with their parents (and some siblings!) to put the physical pieces of the set and props together. It is a required event, but we don't take attendance (shh!). We know that our families are busy so we make it come and go and ask that they come for 30 minutes minimum. Most families stay longer than that, but this allows those with sister's gym meet and brother's basketball photos to be able to participate. 

To prep for Tech Day, the drama teacher and spend tons of time preparing. We researched exactly what we wanted the backdrop and set pieces to look like, decided on color schemes for the whole set, and brainstormed prop ideas. We made a huge shopping list as we brainstormed. We filled out POs and made shopping trips to Lowe's and the Wals-Marts to get everything. We made a giant list of things that needed to be done and wrote it on the white board in the drama room. After making this giant list, I turned it into task cards!

Task cards were easy to make and super helpful! 

We turned our to-do list into short tasks, added a list of materials needed and simple instructions if we wanted something done in a particular way. Then we printed these on card-stock, chopped them into strips and put them out on a table for Tech Day. 

After families arrived and we gave brief instructions, the parents and kids went to the task card table and selected a task to work on. This was very flexible - you could join any group and switch groups. If you didn't finish a task, you had to make sure the card got back to the table before you left. If you worked on a task, you had to sign your name on the back, so that we had a record of who worked on each item. 

As you can tell, there were tons of things to do and thankfully we had tons of families show up to help! 

Helping hands assembling the garment lists

We hung each garment list on a hanger and the kids put their costume on the 
correct hanger when they came to school for costume parade!

Large boards of insulation foam cut into various pieces

cardboard piano anyone?

not a box.

More foam insulation carved into a truck!

We have great artists at our school!

Reusing old backdrop pieces saved time and money!

The brown and tan houses from Aristocats got a makeover
with fresh window treatments for 101 Dalmatians (above)!

Big Ben going up!
Funny moment: 
Student: Why do you keep calling it Big Ben, Mrs. Sweet? 
Me: Because that's its name!

Foggy London-town!

Some of the dads helped create a backstage area with some velvet fabric, pipes and rope!

Costumes were made - each student brought their own white shirt (if they were a dalmatian) to paint!

We used generic headbands for all the dalmatians, and specific colors for the other dogs.

Sponsored in part by... just kidding. 
Although the directors and assistants were definitely powered by sweet tea!

Shew! I'm tired just thinking about it! It was a great day and I'm sure I'll remember more things to share as we finish this series. Stay tuned for more Musical Prep and Happy Back to School!

Check out part 4 here!