Saturday, June 24, 2023

Upper Elementary Music Class: The Perfect Game

Looking for an easy last minute game for upper elementary music classes? Need a game that reviews content, but older students still love to play (even when they're too cool?!)? Trashketball is my upper elementary kids' new favorite game. It requires zero prep and very little setup - and you can use it as an assessment tool as well! 

The setup:

  • Divide the class in half. 
  • Put a trashcan at the front of the room.
  • Pull out a basket of paper recycling.
  • Open any interactive rhythm game, pull out any set of flashcards, or grab a list of questions about any musical topic that you've covered. (You choose!)

How to play:

  • Each student gets a turn to come up to the board and answer a question.
  • If they answer correctly, they get to pick a piece of paper "trash" from the recycling bin, wad it up, and try to make a basket in the trashcan. (or make a basket in the recycling bin - this tends to have a wider opening)
  • If they get the basket, they get a point for their team! (Name the teams if you like: ten points for Gryffindor!) 

It's so easy! I was shocked that they actually liked this game, but they request trashketball EVERY game day.

Extensions / Differentiate:

  • After playing a few rounds of trashketball with the "regular" rules, go wild! Add multiple spots for shooting - 2 points from the middle of the room, 3 points from the corner. Designated hitter. Answer two in a row for double points. Pro Tip: Wait until they get a little bored before changing the rules; after a few different days of play, I say, "It was fun playing the easy version, let's make it harder." 
  • For a short period or an extra large class - have students quickly select a "dream team" from their half of the room to compete. If those 4-5 people have a turn and there's still time, you can draw names (ie. close your eyes and point to the seating chart) for bonus turns. 
  • For my small neurodiverse class - get a point for trying the rhythm, a point for saying it correctly, then get a piece of trash and make a basket just for fun! They loved this game, but you might have to alter the rules a bit - give multiple chances to make a basket, etc. 
  • Start with the easier rhythms, then work up to the newest and most unfamiliar patterns. 
  • Don't forget to have a roster handy so you can "keep track of who's had a turn," AKA give assessment points to those who nailed it and make a note of kids who need more practice or individual attention later. 
  • Have a super-shy student who doesn't want to shoot a basket? Have them assign a designated hitter! Or whatever they call it in basketball. :-p 

Why save this for upper grades? 

Honestly, my little guys would really enjoy trashketball - maybe not the competition aspect (they don't understand how to lose), but they enjoy trying to make a basket with every paper towel, so I think this would appeal to them. 


They will also play Bee, Bee Bumblebee and All Around the Buttercup and Here Comes a Bluebird and every other singing game. Without complaint and begging to play more. 

So I don't really NEED this game until end of 3rd grade/4th/5th. It might seem counterintuitive, but I really like having new games to introduce to my upper elementary kids. 

So yes - you can play trashketball with the littles, if you need to, but if you already have a good collection of singing games that they like, save it for when they start to get squirrely - end of 3rd or middle of 4th or whenever that happens for each group of students. 

What content works well with this game?

The possibilities are literally endless, but here are some ideas for topics:

  • rhythmic patterns like these or these
  • melodic patterns (singing solfege) like these
  • melodic patterns (note naming)
  • identifying and defining terms (dynamics, tempo, standard or iconic notation symbols, etc.)
  • identify the title from a melodic or rhythmic phrase of a known song (“name that tune”)
  • any music flashcards 
  • identifying instruments, or instrument families
  • music analysis (identifying errors, historical period, meter, form)
  • improvising a phrase with help
  • open-ended questions 
  • ice breaker questions (favorites, would you rather; there's no right answer - so everyone gets to try to make a basket) 

The easiest way to teach this game is with simple rhythm or melody cards. 

I start with the easiest rhythmic set (quarter and eighth notes, or quarter rest patterns) and work through each pattern. Then I add on sets with more advanced concepts in order of my curriculum (half note, then sixteenth notes, then combined patterns, then syncopation).

Why is this the perfect game?

It's a little tongue-in-cheek, of course, but this game fits just about any content and any group of learners.

It can be altered for multiple choice, short answer, creative expression, ice-breakers, you name it! 

Even adults will agree to participate in an ice-breaker question if you let them shoot a basket for their team afterwards. ;-) 

I think for me there are many reasons it's perfect for older students - but the main one is they LOVE shooting baskets with trash. It's something they like to do and we add a learning objective. BAM. That's what makes it perfect. 


My amazing co-teacher Kirsi Seagraves gets full credit for teaching me about the wonders of trashketball. She came up with it during Covid when her students wanted to play a basketball-style rhythm game, but they weren't allowed to touch the same object without sanitizing. Thus, trashketball was born. I took the idea to my classes and ran with it! Thanks Kirsi! 

    Monday, June 28, 2021

    Music Teacher Tips for Back to School: How Do I Remember All These Names?

    How do you learn up to 1000 students' names each year? It's a daunting task and I'm sharing practical advice that I've collected over the years from other music teachers to help you!

    Music Teacher Tips for Back to School: How Do I Remember All These Names?

    This topic seems to pop up in the music teacher groups like clockwork each year - how in the world do I keep track of hundreds of names as the students come and go like a revolving door? Names are important and I have tried a few ways to help myself that might be helpful for you!

    First - keep a seating chart. I know the free spirits out there are going to resist - but hear me out. You don't have to keep them in their assigned seat all the time, or even most of the time. But students thrive on structure and one simple structure is to start class in their assigned spot so that you can visually match a student face with a written name. 

    Just like our students have different learning styles, so do we! After greeting the class at the door, I close my eyes and pick someone (from the chart) to lead the short greeting/warmup. Saying their first and last name out loud while looking at them, and seeing their name in print really does help!

    Pro-tip: This year I learned how to use the seating chart feature on PowerSchool so that I can have the students' photographs on my seating chart - game changer! You can also do this on iDoceo by taking a photo of each child the first few weeks of school.

    After the warmup, you can have students come sit closer to the board, or make a circle, or choose a seat around the piano - whatever works for your teaching style. And of course, it's great to have a seating chart to go back to at the end of the lesson. It not only helps you to see them in their "spots" again, but also provides a bit of closure as they transition to their next learning environment. 

    Second - Practice saying their names! I know this seems obvious, but sometimes we miss the obvious - it's going to take some focused practice. I like to get out the previous year's seating charts, or a yearbook to help with this. (Borrow one from the library if you can - you might be able to make photocopies for educational purposes if needed.)

    If I can practice a few minutes a day before school starts, then I feel like I'm ahead of the game. I can try to have most of the "old heads'" names remembered before school starts so that all I have to do is add the new students. 

    Pro Tip: Just like studying for a college exam, your practice sessions should be intentional. Print off the whole sheet of photos, and cross off the obvious ones you already know (kids who got a part in the play, kids you go to church with or know their parents, kids who have a unique characteristic that helps your memory).  Cut the remaining photos into "flashcards" - these are the ones that need practice. Keep the set in your car or in your kitchen and plan to swipe through them as often as you can. As you learn names, you can remove their card from the stack.

    If you don't have photos of the students ahead of time, plan to take a minute and get a class photo of each class on the first week of school. Print it off and write the names on it. The kinesthetic experience of writing their names also helps! 

    Third - name games! Of course this is a fun way to try to remember students' names. There are so many to choose from, but here are ten of my favorites!

    Add a "Say Your Name" to the end of a song:

    1. Ickle Ockle - Turn the lyrics into a name game (chanted or singing).

    "Ickle ockle, blue bottle, fishes in the sea,

    Can you say your first name to little old me?

    My name is Kayla, Your name is Kayla."

    2. Hickety Tickety - This song is perfect for Kinder and first grade! They love singing their name to the little bee puppet!

    "Hickety tickety bumblebee! 

    Can you sing your name to me?

    My name is Brayden

    Your name is Brayden."

    Find an object or identify who has the object:

    3. Who has the ghost/pumpkin/reindeer/valentine/shamrock/bunny? - Sister Lorna Zemke has the best holiday song for Kindergarten, first and second grade. Pass a toy or picture or small manipulative around the circle until the word stop. You can play with any object!

    "The pumpkin goes around and around and around and around and around.

    The pumpkin goes around and around and around and around and stop!

    Who has the pumpkin? Jada has the pumpkin!"

    4. Any guessing game that you hide an object and try to guess who has it. (Cookie Jar; Muele que Muele; Doggie, Doggie; King's Land, etc.)

    The first day we sing Doggie, Doggie, sing it with students' names in place of "I" - then later, you can make it a solo opportunity.

    "Doggie, doggie, where's your bone?

    Someone stole it from your home!

    Who stole my bone?

    Namoni stole your bone!"

    Change the character or animal to a student's name:

    5. Mother, Mother - Add a student's name in place of Mother.

    "Janilyah, Janilyah, I feel sick! 

    Call for the doctor, Quick! Quick! Quick!"

    Add-on movement games: 

    6. All 'Round the Brickyard - Say the name of the student who is next after the list of motions.

    "All 'round the brickyard, remember me,

    All 'round the brickyard, remember me!

    You've gotta disco, disco, disco 

    and a-wash it, wash it, wash it, and a-remember me! 


    Songs with names:

    The easiest way to practice names is to incorporate students' names into a song that already has a name in it. This simple switch is a lifesaver when you want to learn names, but don't have a lot of time to devote to it.

    7. Bow Wow Wow - Add a student's name in place of Tommy Tucker's name.

    "Bow Wow Wow! 

    Who's dog art thou? 

    Little Kaden Tucker's dog, 

    Bow, wow, wow!" 

    8. Are You Sleeping, Little Sally Water, or Lazy Mary - My students love to pretend to be sleeping in the middle of the circle. 

    "Are you sleeping, are you sleeping?

    Treliyah? Treliyah?

    Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing,

    Ding! Ding! Dong! Ding! Ding Dong!"

    9. Paw Paw Patch - Change the name and words around the name if needed.

    "Where, oh where, is our friend Alondra?

    Where, oh where, is our friend Alondra?

    Where, oh where, is our friend Alondra?

    Way down yonder in the paw paw patch!"

    10. Bounce High, Bounce Low - I use beach balls, but if you use a recess ball or a yarn ball, too could try rolling the bar across the circle to the person whose name you called.

    "Bounce high, bounce low,

    Bounce the ball to Mackenzie."

    Bonus: One that you probably don't want to hear - volunteer to be the "caller" for car rider duty. This puts a few hundred (or more) names in front of you every day, plus you potentially get to see them in family groups, which helps for recognition. 

    What do you do to help remember all those names? Comment below or join the conversation on Facebook!

    Lori Sweet
    Sweet Sounds

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    Monday, July 20, 2020

    My Favorite Substitute Plans for Music Teachers

    Do I need a Substitute Plans?

    YES, you will get sick - your classroom is a petri dish.

    YES, you will need a Sub Plans. Or a Sub Tub. (or Sub Binder or box or however you roll)

    If you have children, you know they'll get sick, so go ahead and prepare for it now.

    It doesn't have to be fancy, but it needs to be done so that when you get sick, you can set the tub on your desk/table and not have to create more work while you're sick.

    Last week, I shared with new teachers my favorite tips for thriving during their first year. Today, I'm sharing some general thoughts and guidelines for selecting activities for your substitute plans, plus some of my favorite resources to use!

    General Guidelines

    Non-Tech & Non-Music: 
    Include things that ANYONE can do.

    Most districts don't have enough subs, and some don't assign subs to specials classes. It might be a teacher's aide, your vice principal, or the recess monitor who is stepping in to "teach" your class.

    Even most regular substitutes don't know a whole lot about teaching music - and if you are a control freak like me, you don't want them teaching music to your classes!

    Pro Tip: If you include things like CDs or movies or pre-recorded lessons, be sure to also include worksheets or books or some other non-tech activity. You would be surprised how many tech issues arise when you're not there. Even tech-savvy subs can have trouble and you don't want to leave them with nothing to do.

    Extra Practice:
    Start collecting lots of "extra" worksheets, flashcards, games, and activities that you can swap out of the sub tub.

    I make at least one class set of each worksheet and put each class set in a separate file folder. It's likely that your sub will be rushing in at the last minute and won't have time (or the copy code!) to make copies.

    Include a Table of Contents:
    I like to make a table of contents for the top so that subs know what their options are.

    If I laminate this page, I can mark off activities each year as they are completed.

    How to Keep Track:
    I keep a log of which classes do which activities.

    It is CRAZY trying to remember who did what while you were sick (Did my Tuesday classes or my Friday classes do this? Did they actually do all the things I left or just the first one?).

    Throw a spiral notebook in the tub and write out what was completed. I also leave a checklist for the sub to mark, but they don't always let me know.

    What Concepts to Include:
    I love to include simple composer activities (facts, music history, listening), note naming practice, and even instrument family work that a substitute might (potentially) not mess up.

    Coloring pages while listening to music is great for my youngest babies. Drawing along to the music (with ideas) is fun for the middle grades. Simple games that the students have played before might also work, depending on the group.

    Pro Tip: Try to think about what each grade will already know if planning sub activities by grade content.

    For example, my first grade sub activities include anything that they know from Kindergarten, plus whatever concepts we've already covered so far. So, their sub activities are high-low, loud-soft, fast beat - slow beat, and rhythm v. beat, plus quarter and eighth note activities. (You can always add more if you're out later in the year.)

    Second grade activities might include everything they did in first grade - quarter and eighth notes, quarter rest, so-mi patterns, and so-mi-la patterns, plus whatever we've covered so far in the year (2/4 meter, do, or maybe half note).

    Favorite Things to Include

    Some non-tech options:
    My students love playing freeze games! This freeze game includes game cards that can be printed and left for a sub. This is NOT a freeze dance; it's more like rock-paper-scissors!

    Centers that students are already familiar with are another non-tech option for subs. Print off a few sets of this memory game to add to your Sub Tub centers. My students love to play these games!

    Music Vocab Bingo from Christine at Elementary Etudes

    Shelley at Pitch Publications has TONS of activities to go with music books!

    The Music Crew on TpT has a whole hashtag dedicated to sub plans - check it out here!

    Here are even more ideas for your music sub tub!

    From Ginny at Ginny's Music Space

    From Jennifer of the The Yellow Brick Road

    What activities have you had success with in your substitute plans? Join the conversation on Facebook!

    Lori Sweet
    Sweet Sounds

    Follow Sweet Sounds on TpT to keep up to date with new products, sales, and more!

    Let’s Connect!

    Monday, July 13, 2020

    Music Teacher's First Year - Ideas to Save your Sanity

    This time of year is usually pretty crazy in the music teacher world - with performances and end of the year activities and field trips, it's all usually a blur by the end of May.

    This year, with so many things shut down for the virus, I have a lot more time in the evenings to relax and decompress and think.

    I've been thinking about the things that I found helpful as a first year teacher - so I thought I would share them with you!

    1. Plan Ahead at School (what you can)

    Things change so rapidly the first year at a school, so don't freak out if when your plans have to change, too.

    Keep that in mind as you are planning things, and leave some empty weeks at the end of each semester/year for each time you have to bump lessons to the next week.

    Lesson Planning (Yearly): Try to outline your year (or at least the first semester) so that things don't sneak up on you. Even penciling in things like, "do favorite Halloween song" or "teach the Nutcracker," will help you remember what you have going on during certain times of the year.

    My first years, I literally wrote the weekly dates down a sheet of notebook paper and penciled in things that I wanted to teach. After years and years of teaching, I have refined my system, but a basic Excel/Numbers doc or piece of paper is a great place to start.

    Programs and Performances: Find out what kind/how many programs you are expected to do and get them on the school calendar. Communication with your administration is very important. (But don't be the person who asks too many questions! If you can find the answer by asking another teacher, do it!)

    There will be certain things you are expected to do the first year. After getting some experience under your belt, then you can start to change things and make them your own.

    Pro Tip: Start teaching program songs and choreography sooner than you think. Since you don't have experience pacing student learning, you'll need to schedule a larger chunk of time than normal. You can always take a break and do something else for a few days if your students get too far ahead.

    Depending on the grade level and skill level, my students take 8-10 weeks to prepare for a program. Sometimes I can start teaching the songs earlier through a typical lesson, which reduces the amount of "program prep" weeks.

    2. Plan Ahead at Home

    I can't emphasize this enough - you will be tired. And most of it is mental tiredness from making decisions all day long.

    Mental Health: Think ahead about ways you recharge as an individual - reading a book, working out, visiting with friends. Whatever it is that helps you decompress, schedule it now so that later you won't have to make that decision.

    Other ways to reduce decision making: Plan your meals, your clothes, anything at home that you have to make decisions about. You don't have to stick to it forever, but making a rotation of meals for the first 6 weeks of school can really simplify the decisions you're having to make.

    Outsourcing: Another way to reduce that teacher-tired is to outsource anything you can afford to outsource. From lawn mowing to grocery shopping, there are ways to set up systems to help you at home after you've already spent all your energy at school.

    Even outsourcing resources, lesson plans, worksheets, games - there are so many great resources out there. There is no sense in making a brand new Name the Notes or Label the Key Signatures worksheet - it's already been done - literally thousands of times!

    Pro Tip: Check out Teachers Pay Teachers for tons of resources that help support your fellow music teachers! You might even discover a new song or pedagogical resource that will help you along the way.

    3. Make a Sub Tub

    YES, you will get sick - your classroom is a petri dish. Of the whole. school.

    YES, you will need a Sub Tub. (or Sub Binder or box or however you roll)

    If you have children, you know they'll get sick, so go ahead and prepare for it now.

    It doesn't have to be fancy, but it needs to be done so that when you get sick, you can set the tub on your desk/table and not have to create more work while you're sick.

    Be sure to include things for those who are not music teachers and/or not tech-savvy.

    Leaving books for subs to read is a great option - especially books that you don't normally have time to read!

    Sub Tub Log - I keep a log of which classes do which activities, so I don't lose track!

    Here's a post of more ideas for your sub tub! (coming soon)

    4. To Train or Not to Train?

    I see people in the music teacher groups recommend getting additional training immediately after graduation. While that may be helpful, don't sweat it if you can't manage it before your first year.

    YES, training is vital to what you will do day to day.

    YES, every music teacher would benefit from getting highly trained in a specific method instead of relying on hodge-podge/eclectic style. (I know, I know, teachers combine methods all the time; I'm mostly speaking of the ones who just attended one clinic/workshop and didn't get trained in anything. My blog, my opinion.)

    BUT having a year (or more) under your belt before you get training is also very helpful.

    Why? You can take the things you are learning and mentally file them in the right place, since you have the kinesthetic knowledge of having your own classroom after going through that first year.

    Learn More: During your first year of teaching, check out the blogs, YouTube videos, and online groups for each type of training so that you can see what you're getting into.

    Talk to someone who is certified in more than one methodology. Talk to people who are leaders in their areas so that you can see what might fit you best. And start saving your $$ because it's not cheap. Go to clinics and workshops for each type of methodology to gain better understanding.

    Exceptions: If your university is offering a training as part of your degree or is offering a discount TAKE IT. If someone is offering to pay for your training TAKE IT. If your school requires you to have training as a part of your first year DO IT.

    My personal recommendation is getting trained the first 3 years after your first year. So, you would teach for one year, and the following 3 summers will be working towards certification. Yes, get all 3 years, it's worth it.

    Pro Tip: If someone is offering behavior management training before your first year - do it! Or specialty trainings that your school may offer like Kagan training - these can be very helpful and can be easily adapted to the music class setting.

    There are so many more things to think about, but that's a good start! What suggestions do you have for first year teachers? Join the conversation on Facebook!

    Lori Sweet
    Sweet Sounds

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    Sunday, July 12, 2020

    Covid-Era Teaching: Changes in my Music Classroom

    On the music teacher social media groups, the talk is all about moving to a cart and creating individual instrument packs. I'm loving the brainstorming and camaraderie during this crazy time!

    I am (luckily?) one of the few that is planning to be in an actual music classroom, instead of pushing in on a cart. While there are many benefits to being in my own space, I will definitely be making some changes to accommodate the physical distancing and cleaning procedures that will likely be in place in the fall.

    Here are some of the ideas I'm brainstorming to help create a calm, welcoming, but more physically distanced classroom.

    1. Remove the Extras for Space:

    - Removing furniture to create more extra space - anyone else a collector of bookshelves? I'm planning to move or remove all of my shelves except what is absolutely necessary to create the maximum amount of square footage for students to spread out.

    - Removing chairs / spreading out sit spots - I love having chairs as a "home base," but I'm probably going to remove them for this year so that I can spread out my sit spots as far as possible.

    2. Remove/Store Materials to Facilitate Cleaning:

    - Removing stuffed animals, puppets, and curtains (anything cloth)

    - Putting small equipment and instruments into containers and buckets - typically my drum area gets very dusty and isn't cleaned very often. I'm hoping to get tubs or other closed storage for these to help with cleaning.

    - Removing personal belongings/decorations - this is an easy way I can help my custodians save time. This doesn't mean my space has to be devoid of decoration, but I am going to think outside the box and maybe create laminated pictures and easily cleaned items (that I can clean myself!).

    3. No Shared Materials

    - Students bring their own pencils/white boards

    - Creating enough mallets for several classes to use (and then clean)

    - Individual sets of rhythm cards - I'm working on creating smaller versions of my rhythm sets so that I can print off a page for each student (we might bring our own scissors to music that day, I'm not sure yet!).

    Other changes:  

    Open Door or Windows: I'm extremely lucky to work in two classrooms that have either windows that open or an exterior door. I'm planning to have those open as much as possible throughout the year.

    - Class Outside: At both of my schools, there is a small area just outside my classroom that could be used for outdoor class. I'm brainstorming ideas for the logistics, but I plan to take us outside as often as possible.

    - Assigned Seats: While I have assigned seats for my chair area, I have traditionally let students choose a seat on a sit spot. I think the one of the first things we will do next year will be to assign seats for everyone.

    This is definitely just a place to begin - I have some guidelines from my district, so I will start with those things, but I'm trying to think outside the box about what can be done to create more space.

    This is in NO WAY a replacement for your county/state/district recommendations or requirements. I'm going based off of my state and local recommendations and how I think I can do that in my specific classrooms.

    This is not the ideal situation (or anywhere close), but it's my attempt to see what I can do to make it more manageable for my classes. What ideas do you have? Join the conversation on Facebook!

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    Sunday, February 2, 2020

    Favorite Music Activities for Valentines Day

    What are your favorite things to do with your class around Valentines Day?

    I hear that question in the music teacher groups around the end of January every year. So I'm sharing my favorite music activities and brain breaks for my classes in February!

    Pass an Object: Holiday Edition

    My younger students (Kindergarten and 1st grade) love to pass around objects while we sing. I have a set of wooden shapes for each holiday, but you could use foam shapes, valentines stuffed animals, or anything else you'd like (Lucy Locket's pocket perhaps?).

    We pass the object around the circle and sing a song - you can choose any song you'd like (Lucy Locket, Valentine Red and Blue, or something that you're already singing in class!). At the end of the song, we stop passing and sing, "Who has the _____?" with a so-mi pattern. 

    There are two ways to finish the turn:
    1. The rest of the class will say, "Caitlyn has the valentine." 
    2. If your students are ready for solo singing, the student that ended up with the object replies, "I have the valentine." (Or "I have the pocket," or "I have the heart.")

    Pro Tip: If two kids end up with it at the end of the song, sing both names, or have them sing, "We have the valentine." They LOVE to sing that and it's so darn cute!

    There's also a very sweet passing song that I learned from a clinic (I can't remember who!):

    "The valentine goes around and around and around and around and around." 
    (Sing in a scale pattern starting on low s, like this: s, dd r rr m mm f ff m mm r rr d.)

    This can be adapted to ANY holiday: The reindeer goes around, the turkey goes around, the shamrock goes around, the flag goes around, the bunny goes around, the treble clef goes around! 

    Reading Rhythm Practice

    My middle-grade students love practicing reading their rhythms. Yes, you heard me right! They enjoy it because I make it a game!

    I pop one of my smart board games on the board and let them select which rhythm to say by tapping a picture on the board. 

    While we love playing in teams, it's a great individual assessment opportunity for me to see who really understands each rhythm.

    If you have a very mixed group of abilities, you can do a mixed point system. Your team can say the rhythm together for one point, or you can say the rhythm "solo" for two points!

    Freeze Game

    All of my classes - even the ones that are "too cool" for anything else I try - absolutely love playing this freeze game

    If you follow Sweet Sounds on TpT, you've probably seen the Christmas version (Reindeer, Christmas Tree, Candy Cane, Freeze!) or some of the other versions. I have tons of holiday versions, plus Carnival of the Animals Freeze, Nutcracker Freeze, and Pirate Dragon Unicorn freeze for other times of the year!

    The best part about this freeze game is that it is non-locomotor. Some classes absolutely cannot do activities that move around during certain parts of the year. This has been true at every school I've ever taught at! 

    The solution? This super simple freeze game - you say the chant, pick a pose, and click the screen to see who is out. It's that easy! (And for some reason they love it! I think it's because it's more like Rock, Paper, Scissors than a freeze "dance" game.)

    Classes that can handle the basic version get to add drums and other percussion instruments on the chant. 

    And if I need an additional improvisation activity for my takadi unit, I can grab almost any of the freeze game cards and they get so excited about improvising! Teacher win! 

    Pro Tip: This can be one of your stations - it doesn't have to be just for takadi (sixteenth notes beamed with an eighth note). Students could play the game, create patterns, improvise new patterns, add instrumentation - the possibilities are endless! 

    Pro Tip: This is great for subs! As long as you've played with your classes and explained the rules, my subs have had success using this as a backup activity when technology fails. Be sure to read "How I Teach This" inside the directions PDF for tips on making this a smooth game, where no feelings are hurt!

    This Valentines-themed version of the freeze game is perfect for the end of January and beginning of February! My students beg to play, which gives me a nice bit of currency on those days after week-long indoor recess. 

    What music activities do you do in your music class around Valentines?

    Saturday, January 25, 2020

    A Year of Children's Books in Music Class

    It's difficult to make time in a busy schedule to read to classes, but I think it's important so I make an effort to read to my students as much as I can!

    In addition to reading to my classes, I try to leave a book for every class when I have a sub! It's something that subs like to do and the kids (usually!) don't mind.

    I did a Goodreads challenge the last few years and I read around 100 books a year! Before you are too impressed, let me say that I include ALL the books I read in my classroom (or in preparation for a class), too!

    Here are some of my highlights from this year: 

    Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush - illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
    This one is perfect for the first day of school! As a song tale, you sing each page and my kids love to join in. 

    There Was a Man and He Was Mad - adapted by John Feierabend; great song tale - if you have a male friend who can record himself singing this book it's even better!

    Down by the Station - illustrated by Will Hillenbrand
    I love this illustration of the folk song Down by the Station! Hillenbrand does a great job keeping my students' interest with new animals and an add-on sound effect each time. My students always notice the child in the wheelchair at the end. Perfect pairing with Page's Train or Engine, Engine!

    Bear Feels Sick - by Karma Wilson
    This is a great book to read in the middle of flu season! "Why aren't we high-fiving at the door, Mrs. Sweet?" "Because everyone has the flu or the stomach bug!" It's super sweet and has a good ending - and it gives you a chance to talk about staying home when you're sick so you don't get your friends sick. It's also a great pairing with the folk song Mother, Mother, I Feel Sick!

    Charlie Parker Played Bebop - by Chris Raschka
    After I found the Between the Lions episode with this book, it has become one of my favorites. Even if you don't show the video in your class, I recommend listening to it to get ideas for how to read the jazzy words.

    The Song of Six Birds - by Rene Deetlefs
    The Song of Six Birds is a beautiful African tale about a girl who goes and collects "songs" from birds to make her song better. Such a sweet message! It's a perfect pairing with Here Comes a Bluebird.

    What Do You Do With An Idea? - by Kobi Yamada
    This is a fun book to connect to your composition unit or after improvising. It is a great read for a sub!

    Too Many Carrots - by Katy Hudson
    This is an adorable quick read if you have a song about a rabbit - I like to pair this with Little Bunny Foo Foo! Of course, you could just read the Little Bunny Foo Foo book by Michael Rosen instead!

    Lon Po Po - by Ed Young
    This is a fabulous Chinese tale of the Big Bad Wolf. I have used this in October with We are Dancing in the Forest and I've used this during as part of a multi-cultural emphasis. It's a little bit scary, so save this for a more mature group.

    Hoot & Honk Just Can't Sleep - by Leslie Helakoski
    Such a sweet story! Great for loud/soft unit or to pair with a song with bird emphasis; very few words, so a quick but gentle read.

    Chicks and Salsa - by Aaron Reynolds
    Silly adventure story with some smart chickens! When I have time, I like to include this when I introduce Chicken on the Fencepost.

    Dog in Boots - Greg Gormsky
    I read this book as a hilarious transition from Doggie Doggie to Cobbler, Cobbler. (I replace the word shopkeeper with the word cobbler and it works well!) My students love the dog's antics and the ending is perfect.

    The Wheels on the Bus - Maryann Kovalski
    After presenting ta/tadi, my students love getting to practice on instruments right away! Most of my students know the song already, so we sing along and play rhythm instruments on "round and round" (aka tadi ta). The best part - it doesn't take 14 years to teach! There's also a French translation if you're daring (or know French!).

    Animal Boogie - Debbie Harter
    I make sure I read this book to the class and teach them little motions before I have my first substitute of the year. It's perfect for a sub and now there's a video on YouTube that a sub can play as well!

    L is for Liberty - Wendy Cheyette Lewison
    Beautiful short story with a patriotic theme!

    I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie - Alison Jackson
    This is my favorite version of the "Old Lady" books. I try to impress my students by reading the repeated phrases as fast as I can - hilarious!

    All the Pretty Horses - illustrated by Susan Jeffers
    This book is an illustration of the folk song Hush-a-Bye. The pictures are gentle drawings with soft colors and fit perfectly into my loud-soft Kindergarten unit. This looks to be out of print, but can be purchased used online or at your local used bookstore!

    I Have a Little Dreidel - Maxie Baum
    Cute story that acts out the song - can be read or sung. Includes a recipe for latkes at the end!

    The Story of the Nutcracker Ballet - Deborah Hautzig
    This is a great addition to any Nutcracker unit! It tells the story of the ballet in simple words. If you're short on time, just show the pictures and let the kids tell you what they see.

    The 12 Days of Christmas - illustrated by Jan Brett
    This is a beautiful version of the 12 Days song! I like to pair it with another of my favorites (though it may be harder to find a copy!), Letters of Thanks. If you can find a copy of it, The 12 Days of Kiwi Christmas by Myles Lawford is great as well!

    Santa Claus is Comin' to Town - illustrated by Steven Kellogg
    This is a book that I've read so many times, it's falling apart! I read this to every class the last time I see them before Christmas. The illustrations are incredible - of course! - and the storyline is fun.

    If you want more, check out my Pinterest board Music Teacher Books here!

    What books do you read in your music class? Comment below or connect on Facebook!

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