Sunday, September 28, 2014

Music Teacher Books: Perfect Pairings & October Musings

I can't believe it's almost October! October?!

This is the busiest time of the year for my husband and other band directors all over the country. Marching bands everywhere will be blowing and going, competing and performing, practicing their music and shows until they can play it in their sleep.

It's so special to me when former students come back and tell me how much they love band. Band was such a huge part of my life in middle school, high school and college and I'm so glad I passed on a tiny little piece of my love of music to them, in the form of band love. :-)

It's time for another edition of Perfect Pairings! Woohoo!

Dog in Boots, by Greg Gormley

Obviously, this book is about a dog, but on the first page you realize it's not just any dog. He's a voracious reader and an incredibly creative pup!

He is reading a book about a cat who wears boots when he gets an idea that he might like a pair of boots, too.

So off he goes to the "shopkeeper" to find a lovely pair of boots. I just replace the word shopkeeper with "cobbler" on each page and it pairs perfectly with our song, "Cobbler, Cobbler."

(I realize cobblers mend shoes, but I'm not taking a huge leap when I say they sell shoes, too, right?)
The boots are no good for digging, so he goes back to the "cobbler" to get some better shoes.

Isn't he adorable?! The heels are just right for scratching!

This book fits nicely into the Kinesthetic lesson of my Beat unit (which is right after tuneful singing, so a perfect time to assess solo singing voice with "Doggie, Doggie." Check!).

The kids love this sweet dog's antics and how he keeps trying to find a pair of shoes that will work for all of the jobs that a dog has. I love the curious puppy, the unpretentious illustrations and the happy ending.

I'm having so much fun sharing these book connections with you. And I LOVE getting ideas in return! So feel free to comment here or on Facebook any books that you've found helpful in your room!

Happy October-to-be!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Kindergarten Magic: Make-Believe in the Music Room

I remember my first day having a classroom of Kindergarteners all to myself. We sang! We danced! We moved to the music! We read a story! We got out the instruments and played! And then I looked at the clock and only 15 minutes had gone by!! Wow!!!

It really was like herding cats that first year - playing game after game, singing song after song and not really diving deeply into anything.

Over ten years later, my Kindergarten classes look completely different (post-Kodaly of course!) but there is still that electric energy at the beginning of the year. Now, I love teaching Kinders and hopefully they love being in my class!

Getting the Year Started Out Right

For most of the first grading period, we are learning new repertoire, practicing procedures and developing relationships with each other! 
We have to learn how/when to go to the bathroom, how to get out/put away the instruments, how to raise our hands before asking a question or telling a story. Practice this phrase: "Tell me later."

And that's when most music teachers (myself included) go over types of voices to get the year started right. Then it's off to the races and we run through the concepts like there's no tomorrow! Loud/Soft! Steady beat! High/Low! Fast/Slow! Rhythm/Beat! 

And all the while interweaving topics like: Instrument Families! Music from around the world! Listening! Classroom Instruments! Patterns! Audience Behavior! Not picking your nose! 

What makes it all work together like magic? 

Entering the room

From the minute the step into my class, we pretend. We take a train ride to music land by marching to "Engine, Engine" as we enter the room and our train makes a circle. It works only as well as you buy into it. 

As they enter my room on the very first day of school, I say, "Stay on the train!" and "Can you make this sound?" as I ch-ch-ch into the room at a pretty fast clip. (arms in "marching" position of course!)

When we've made a circle-ish shape, I say, "Freeze! Who froze?" and look around for movers. Then I say, "Go!" and ch-ch-ch some more. We freeze/go 4-5 times before I say, "Now like this" and slow the tempo down to a comfortable tempo for "Engine, Engine." 

Solo Singing / Singing Voice: 

A million years ago when I was teaching band and elementary music (K-12 baby!), I heard a TMEA presenter speak about having a puppet or stuffed animal for the kids to sing to. Even the shy kids would sing to a puppet, or make the puppet sing. It worked so well that I still do this!

Meet Melody! She loves to sing so she hangs out in the music room all day singing with the boys and girls. Occasionally she goes on vacation and comes back with shades or a cute new ribbon. Just enough to freshen it up.

We read a story about elephants...

{You could choose any elephant book you like, but this is one I grew up with so it has a special place in my heart. :-) It also has a nice demonstration of "calling" or "shouting" voice.}

...and sing Melody's favorite song, "Elephants Have Wrinkles" from Movement Songs Children Love - you could also use another elephant song like "Elephants All Over the World." 
And then get down to business!

I say, "Melody will do whatever you ask her, if you use your singing voice. Like this. Melody, do a flip! (I toss her high in the air) Melody, give me a hug! (hugs) Melody, do a cartwheel! (spoken voice) Oh no! Why won't Melody do a cartwheel?!" 

One kid will always speak up and say, "You didn't use your singing voice!" 

Then we take turns around the room (volunteers, not everyone) and they get a chance to make Melody do whatever they want: spray them with water, jump on my head, blow me a kiss, turn off the lights. They come up with the best ideas!

And if they don't use their singing voice, Melody doesn't do it. I usually prompt and say, "Oh! Can you use your singing voice?" If they try again and can't, I simply say, "Sing it with me," and then Melody will act. 

Thanks Denise Gagne for this sweet activity I've held onto over the years!

Inner Hearing:

I used to have a huge parrot puppet with a gigantic mouth. It was perfect for practicing inner hearing. "Whenever Sam's mouth is open he sings for all to hear, but when his mouth is closed up tight, he's using his inner ear." 

Now I have a sweet puppy dog puppet that does the same thing. He helps the boys and girls know when to sing inside their heads. What do you use for inner hearing?

Transitions & Repetition:

Make-believe is PERFECT for creating smooth transitions in your Kindergarten lessons. I can be in the middle of a sentence and I stop and look at Melody (the elephant) and say, "What? You want to go see your friend Dog E. Dog?" And off we go singing Doggie, Doggie.

Or I say, "Last week Pup E. Dog was at Old MacDonald's farm and something was buzzing. It sounded like this: Bzzzzz! Does anyone know what could make a sound like that?"
Lamar Robertson shared tons of stories in our Kodaly training - he had a story for every song! He loved to tell a story that had the kids singing a song over and over again. 

One of my favorite "repeat" stories is for "Doggie, Doggie." I tell my students that Dog E. Dog is looking for his bone. I walk around the room and sing-ask each of the stuffed animals or imaginary people about his bone that is missing. Eventually he goes to the "music room" & there it is - right where he left it last week!
The most important thing is that you are engaging their hearts with a story that they can latch onto, instead of jumping from song to song. I polished the phrase: "Now, let's sing __" for YEARS until I figured out it was more fun with a story. 

Tips for Make-Believe Success

1. Just go with it! It's all about the improv in the Kindergarten classroom. Whatever the kids say, take it and incorporate it into your lesson. If they're talking too much, I look at one of the stuffed animals and say, "What?! You want to give them a star but you can't give them one until they're quiet?"

grace note: Check out my popular post on positive behavior management here!

2. Keep it going! Next week is week 6 at my school and I have a student who has said in every class, "Shh! Don't scream! It hurts Melody's big ears!" I said that the first day to help with random screaming that tends to happen when Kinders get excited - and now I don't have to say anything! Plus I have older kids who still ask about Melody and how she's doing.

3. Keep it simple! Don't try to do it all in one day. Start small and simple and just get the creative juices flowing. Before long, you'll be adding in little make-believe bits without even thinking. 

Need some Kindergarten resources for your classroom? Check out these products at my store on Teachers Pay Teachers. Follow me on Facebook for more ideas and to hear about new products first!
How do you use "make-believe" in your classroom?


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Books in the Music Room: Swirl by Swirl and LMNO Peas

It's time for another edition of Perfect Pairings! Yay!

Books are a great way to build creativity and confidence in your students. Books are also great for connecting songs to other content areas, like science and social studies!

Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Sidman and Krommes

"Swirl by Swirl" is a piece of artwork! My students LOVE the details of all the different spirals found in nature. This is a perfect pairing with any snail song, including my favorite: "Snail, Snail."

On the 4th or 5th week of Kindergarten, we stand in our circle and connect hands. "Hold on and never let go!"

I take one end of the circle and start walking around the room like a snail would, meandering around the different areas of the music room. While we walk I sing "Snail, Snail" and move my feet to the beat. Almost always, the students join in with my feet. We end up back in the circle and sit down.

The next week (or later, if behavior issues prevent it) we sing the same song again and this time at the end, I spiral us back towards the center. ALWAYS spiral the kids so they are facing outwards, so there is less funny business. Can I get an amen? (Thanks Phil for that tidbit!)

I literally just keep taking steps towards the middle until the "tail" of the snail is in place. Then I stop and ask, "What shape are we in?" Most of the time they answer "a snail!" and I say, "You're right! And a snail makes a spiral shape. Everyone say 'spiral.'"

Then I let go and duck under their hands to the "tail" student, and say, "Let's unwind our spiral." And off we go, back to the circle. Then we sit and read this wonderful book, taking time to savor each picture. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

LMNO Peas by Keith Baker

LMNO Peas is a fantastic alphabet book! I love it when alphabet books go beyond your normal "A is for Apple" and I love it even more when books about "community helpers/jobs" go beyond the norm as well.

And I can't forget to mention that Keith Baker has another "peas" book - of course! I can't wait to check out 1-2-3 peas and Little Green Peas. 

The peas are so sweet and the illustrations are perfect!

These are my favorites:
B - bikers in a race!
C - climbers and campers and he's a circus clown!
G - gardeners, gigglers, givers and takers
K - kayakers
P - parachutists (and a whole page of unique parachutists) 
Y - yogis in a pose
Z - zoologists

Talk about some great vocabulary and creative ideas for who the peas are. And at the end it asks "Who are you?" and we get to do a sweet discussion of "What do you want to be when you grow up?" and sing The Friendly Song.

This is a song I sang when I was a kid, and I adapted the lyrics for my classroom. I'm not sure if someone wrote it, so if you find the original, let me know so I can give credit!

It's a great way to improvise lyrics in Kindergarten - we fill in the "job" with 6-8 kids. At the end we practice saying, "That's ok" and "no big deal!" if we didn't get a turn. And I say, "Should we sing this song again sometime so that others can have a turn?"

What books do you use in your music classroom? I'm always looking for new ideas so please feel free to comment below!

Check out the first edition of Perfect Pairings here!

There's something new in my store! 

Check out my Bounce High slideshow for prepping, presenting and practicing La. :-)

Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Teach Like a Pirate Day!

Arrrrr Mateys! Tomorrow is Talk Like a Pirate Day! (Thursday, September 19) Will you dare to speak like a pirate all day in your classroom? I won't! But I will be singing some "pirate” chanteys.

Some music teachers got together and decided to throw a Teach Like a Pirate Sale! Just click on the picture above or go to and search for PirateMusicFlashSale for some great deals on Pirate songs! Or else ye walk the plank!

My pirate deal of the day is my "Turn the Glasses Over" slides. Isn't he a cute pirate?

Review known rhythms!

Read & play new pitches!

...and a challenge with the flashcards! 

*Note: I usually don't use such decorative fonts, but my 4th graders LOVE trying to read the "pirate language." *giggles*

And as a bonus, all of my pirate songs are 50% off - including money-saving bundles! Woohoo!

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Music Teacher Books: Perfect Pairings

One of my favorite things to do is find good books! Books that sing! Books with beat! Books with extractable rhythms! Books that connect to songs topically!

My friends are probably tired of me telling what book pairs to do in their classes, so I decided to blog about it. I blogged here and here about it before I figured out I should make it a series.

When I was growing up, my mom would take me and my brother to the library all. the. time. Bless her. Each time we went, we would get a stack as high as we could carry (think Library Lil) and carry them home.

A few hours later, we would unearth from our stack of finished books, grab a fresh Dr Pepper or snack, get another pile and dig in! I remember going to the library every week, but it may have been more.

Because my mom was a reading teacher, I had access to her classroom library (think 1000+ books when she started) and our own personal library that was close to the same size. I should have bought stock in Half Price Books. Hindsight.

So suffice it to say I have had a love infatuation with children's books since I was little.

Now my personal and classroom libraries are starting to rival hers, thanks to a windfall from her retirement. (yesssss!!) I probably have a few hundred pins (music and non-music) over the spread of several boards on my Pinterest personal account.

So, if you want a sneak peek at what will be coming to my blog, check out my music teacher "book list" on Pinterest. I'm just starting to "pin over" from my personal boards, so if you follow that board, it will flood your feed with tons of books! Don't say I didn't warn ya. ;-)

I will try to divide each post into two parts - books with topical connections to songs and books with direct connections (as in, a song book or a book to the tune of a song). Since this is the first post, I'm not sure what will happen, so be gentle!

Here we go!

Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina

I love this simple story about a man that sells caps and gets into a sticky situation with some monkeys. It's such a sweet story and it's very short and accessible to all backgrounds. 

I love the colors of the illustrations, the sneakiness of the monkeys and the resolution of his problem. 

There's even a video to go along with it, but I don't use it because I like to add so-mi to his calls.

To add so-mi, use just the repeated phrase: "Caps for sale! Caps for sale! Fifty cents a ca-ap" (with a 6/8 feel: ss m ss m ss ss s-m). I can't take credit for this awesomeness - it's just the way my mom sang it to me when she read it to me!

Since I use this with Kindergarten, I don't label the solfege, I just sing it the first 2 times and encourage the class to sing it with me after that. "Can you sing it, too?"

The topic is great because you can transition from any hat song to any monkey song, or vice versa. My classes sing "My Hat it Has Three Corners," then read this story, then sing "3 Little Monkeys Swinging from the Tree." Perfect!!

The Star-Spangled Banner Illustrated by Peter Spier

This is a great way to go into detail about the Star-Spangled Banner with your 2nd and 3rd graders.

I tell the story first. (Detailed descriptions and a photo of the actual manuscript are in the back!) And when I get to, "He had to stay on the boat and watch his countrymen fight," I start with the first page and sing it.

The pictures are so helpful in explaining, "What's a rampart" and "What were they looking for?" In the first few pages I usually say, "Do you see it? That thing they are looking for? Don't say it out loud!" and keep reading.

When we get to "that our FLAG was still there!" (chills.) I make a huge deal out of it: "Why does it matter? It's just a flag, right? Why is it important that he could still see the flag in the morning after the battle?"

Sometimes they need a little prompting: "If I took over your fort and saw your flag up there, the first thing I would do is take it down and put up my flag."

Inevitably one of my kids will say, "It means we didn't lose." Ding-ding!

And we finish the book. Sometimes I'll read the whole thing, but most of the time I don't have time to do the additional verses. But the pictures are so good!

I hope you've enjoyed this installment of Perfect Pairings! I look forward to hearing your comments below!

What books do you use in the music room?

p.s. Thanks to Sonya Dehart, Creative Clips and Lovin' Lit for the super cute graphics and paper!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Glittery Wal-Mart Fun, Labor Day Sale and $2 Tuesday!

I can't believe it's already September! This year is flying by!

Now I'm a Target girl myself, but occasionally I like to check out the deals on Legos and craft supplies at Wal-Mart. I found some really cute things the other day for my classroom!

I love glittery foam letters - they would be perfect for tapping the Beat or Rhythm or Melody on my interactive white board. Slap them on a paint stick and away we go! And they are about a buck a piece, so it fits nicely in my budget. 

Did you know that there is GLITTER duck tape? I had no idea. I've seen the shimmery kind and the sheets of duct tape in all different colors, but I found glitter - in several different colors. They also had tiny duct tape and duck washi! How cute! 

I use duct tape to mark where my chairs (are supposed to) line up in rows. A little piece on the leg of the chair and a little piece on the cabinet or wall where they should align. It's a nice visual that helps most kids be able to align the chairs independently. 

It's too bad I can't do a purchase order to Wal-Mart anymore or we'd have a budget problem in the music room. Ha!

Now for the fun - it's time for a Labor Day Sale!

My store will be 20% Monday and Tuesday only! Just in time for those teachers that go back to school after Labor Day (lucky!!).

And as a super fun treat, it's $2Tuesday again! Tuesday only, music teachers all over the world will be joining in to offer one of their normally $3-$6 items for $2!! I love $2 Tuesday!

To find the items, just go to TPT and search for $2TuesdayMusicFlashSale (or click here!). Teachers will be linking up soon, since the other side of the world is getting ready to head into Tuesday. (or maybe they're already there!)

This month, I'm offering my new bundle for La - this includes both the Bobby Shaftoe slides and the Lucy Locket slides!

I recently updated both the Bobby and Lucy files, so they are super cute and ready to go! 

Here's a sneak peek into some of the slides for Bobby Shaftoe: La Practice Pack:

Improvise some new lyrics!

Vanishing Treasure game for writing the new pitch under the rhythms

And plenty of flashcards (staff and rhythmic notation) 
for whole group or centers reading, arranging and instrument play!
(full color & ink friendly)


The case of the missing melody: Writing our new note la!

By purchasing in a $-saving bundle, you save 20% off, and when you buy on $2 Tuesday it's like saving 20% and then 50% more! I love a good deal.

Hope you're having a fantastic Labor Day! Grill up some burgers! Relax with your family!
Have a safe and happy holiday!