Tuesday, 24 December 2013

...And Baby Makes Three!

Merry Christmas! Here in Ontario we have been hit with a major ice storm that has left some without power since Saturday night. Thankfully our power was only out for a few hours.

Clearly, I have taken a bit of a break from blogging the last little while but I have a good reason - my husband and I are expecting our first child at the end of January! 

Life, in the last little while, has been very busy with getting our house looking the way we want it before Baby V arrives, setting up a nursery, Christmas concerts and carol sings, and trying to get as many assessments done of my students before I leave. I feel blessed to have a full-year maternity leave but I've also been struggling with leaving my kids and my program to someone else as my Principal hasn't hired anyone to replace me yet. Alas, I will survive and have been told repeatedly that when I'm off with my baby I won't even think about school. I'll let you know how that goes. 

Here are a few other maternity photos taken by Joy Gomersall. If you are in the Toronto area and are looking for a great photographer, check out her website!

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

2/4 Tuesday - Labeling Recorders and More Floor Staff Games

My Grade 4s and 5s are gearing up for recorders, the Grade 6s have started playing their ukuleles, and I am ready for a vacation!

1. Labeling Recorders

I ordered my recorder and book package from Music Play again. Click here for more information. Again, the recorders arrived within a week. I spent two periods today labeling the student books and recorders. 

Last year, I wrote a post on labeling recorders. I was proud of myself for finding the gold Sharpie marker and had high hopes for its success. It worked well on the cases but smudged off over time on the recorders. So this year, I still labeled the cases with the marker but used my label maker for the actual recorder. We'll see how the label stands up.

2. Free Music Posters

Check out the Music posters that came with my recorder order...for free! Now, I just need to put them up in my room somewhere. Every time I place a large order with Music Play they throw in something for free. I'm very loyal now! They also gave me a free "Recorder Spirituals" book for duets with a recorder and piano. 

3. More Staff Games

To prepare my Grade 4s and 5s for note reading, I set up my floor staves again. Note: Last year I did not remove the tape until the end of the year. Bad idea! We had to scrape it off the floor (and by "we" I mean my poor Grade 4 helpers) so I won't be leaving it all year this time. Read this blog post for more staff games that I've played with my kiddies.
For this game, I split the class into two teams. I had each time brainstorm a list of words they could make using the letters of the musical alphabet. They wrote their list on a whiteboard. 

The students then had to choose one person from their team to place the letters (foam circles) correctly on the staff. I really had to emphasize putting the notes on in order from left to right. Each team would get one point per letter in the word with 0 points if the word was spelled wrong or placed on the wrong line or space. The students quickly caught on that they would get more points if they used their longest words first.

This game is actually a pre-teaching activity that I am using to prepare them for their note naming culminating assignment (more to come)!

Don't forget to check out Stay Tuned for more ideas from other Music teachers!

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Progress Report Card Comments

Today I am feeling liberated! This week our school had it's District Review. Principals and the superintendent visit every single teacher to check out what is happening in the classrooms. They ask the students questions (What are you learning? How do you know when you are successful?) and watch a bit of a lesson. This was a 15 minute visit but a lot of preparation goes into it. I will share my lesson later on this week.

I also just finished my report cards! Yay! These are the comments I came up with for the Progress Reports:

(By the way, *N* = name of student, *4* = He/She, *2* = his/her, *1* = he/she)

Grade 8

In Music, *N* performs a variety of simple and complex pieces, sets specific goals for improvement, and responds to music *1* listens to with detail.

In Music, *N* performs a variety of simple pieces, sets goals for improvement and responds to music *1* listens to.

In Music, *N* is experiencing difficulty performing a variety of simple pieces, setting goals for improvement and responding to music *1* listens to. As a next step, *1* should practise three times a week at home or at school.

Grade 7

In Music, *N* is able to assemble *2* instrument, play with correct posture, and can apply the steps needed to play the first three notes. *4* can produce a clear sound and has demonstrated great initiative so far this term. 

In Music, *N* is able to assemble *2* instrument, play with correct posture, and can apply the steps needed to play the first three notes. 

Grade 5 & 6

In Music, *N* is able to create and perform a rhythm composition through clapping and playing on rhythm instruments. *4* participates with enthusiasm in all of our activities and thoroughly reflects on *2* learning.

In Music, *N* is able to create and perform a rhythm composition through clapping and playing on rhythm instruments. *4* actively participates in all of our activities.

In Music, *N* is experiencing some difficulty creating and performing a variety of rhythm patterns by clapping and playing them on rhythm instruments. As a next step, *1* is encouraged to use a variety of internet tools and games to reinforce *2* learning of rhythm symbols. 

Grade 4

In Music, *N* consistently keep a steady beat and is able to compose and clap a rhythm pattern while another student claps a different pattern.

In Music, *N* keeps a steady beat and is able to compose and clap a rhythm pattern while another student claps a different pattern.

In Music, *N* is beginning to keep a steady beat. *4* has difficulty clapping a rhythm pattern while another student claps a different pattern. Next Steps: *N* will be working in a small group to practise clapping simple rhythms. 

Grade 2

In Music, *N* can consistently keep a steady beat using rhythm instruments and accurately uses rhythm symbols to represent one and two sounds per beat. 

In Music, *N* can keep a steady beat using rhythm instruments and can use rhythm symbols to represent one and two sounds per beat. 

In Music, *N* is beginning to keep a steady beat using rhythm instruments. *4* has difficulty using rhythm symbols to represent one and two sounds per beat. As a next step, *N* can work on maintaining focus during class lessons and discussions.


*N* explores the elements of music (e.g., beat, volume, pitch) through singing songs, clapping, and moving in different ways. *1*can accurately make a “music map” to show the pattern of high and low sounds in a familiar song. *N* always follows instructions and joins all our musical activities with confidence and enthusiasm.

*N* explores the elements of music (e.g., beat, volume, pitch) through singing songs, clapping, and moving in different ways. *1* is learning how to make a “music map” to show the pattern of high and low sounds in a familiar song. *N* follows instructions and joins all our musical activities.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

2/4 Tuesday - Grade 5 & 6 Rhythm Compositions

How is it possible that October seems busier than September? I've missed the last two 2/4 Tuesdays but I was determined not miss three in a row. Remember to check out Stay Tuned for more great lesson ideas from other Music Teachers!

1. Grade 5/6 Rhythm Composition - Culminating Activity

Here's the info about my culminating rhythm activity as mentioned in this post

We started off by going over the Success Criteria:

The students then worked independently to compose a 16-beat rhythm pattern. They used this organizer to help them plan the composition. On the back of the Beat Chart I included a reflection question for the students to answer: How will what you learned from completing this assignment help you when you begin to the play the recorder/ukulele?

Once, the pattern was composed they practised clapping and saying their patterns and then were able to select a rhythm instrument of their choice to perform their composition on. Click here to access my rubric. Since I am cheap and don't like wasting paper I set it up so that I can print off two rubrics on one 8 1/2 x 11 sheet of paper and then cut it in half. 

2. Using Rhythm Dice Games during Presentations

It is always a challenge to find something for the rest of the class to do while others are presenting. Since this was their first time playing in front of an audience I wanted the audience to be made up of just me. 

A few years I ago I ordered this set of Rhythm Dice Games from Musicplay but had never used them. What was wrong with me? This set comes with over 10 different games and 25 dice with different rhythms on them. I set up the games into 7 different baskets, put the cards in page protectors, and used dry erase markers so that I didn't have to waste paper. I split the students up into groups and pretty much told them that they had to read the instructions and figure the game out themselves. They were not allowed to bug me when I was listening to the compositions! I was surprised by how well they managed on their own. 

I used the games with 6 different classes and it took two periods to hear all the compositions. Classroom management issues were fairly low and the kids had a blast! Scales and Slides (a version of Snakes & Ladders) was the favourite. What I really liked about this was that I had time to provide written feedback on their rubrics right away instead of going home and having to try to remember what they did well and what the next step should be. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

SMART Goals in the Music Room

Goal setting is such an important skill for students, especially students in Grade 8. I was inspired while on Pinterest (imagine that!) by this pin to spend some time at the beginning of the year teaching those kidlets how to set SMART goals. 

I set up a spot on one of my chalkboards and duplicated what I saw from that pin using sticky notes. Don't look too closely or you'll notice I made a mistake (realistic instead of relevant) but I later corrected it.  


We spent some time discussing what SMART goals were and then I split the kids into their Music Teams and they worked together to come up with an example of a SMART goal - music related or not. It was their choice.

Next came the creative/make my room look pretty assignment which was inspired by this pin. The students were told to write their own SMART Goal for Music, trace their arm, write the goal on their hand, and decorate it in some way that related to their goal. This is the rubric I used to give them a quick mark. In Ontario, we follow the Achievement Chart when assessing and evaluating students. K/U = Knowledge & Understanding   T = Thinking    C = Communication  A = Application (not assessed in this assignment). 

Here is the final product!


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

2/4 Tuesday - Rhythm, Band Fingerings, and Beat

School is definitely back in full swing and it is hard to believe that October is upon us. All my classes have been focusing on identifying and playing a variety of rhythms and we will soon be moving on to note naming. 

1. Rhythm Compositions

The Grade 5s and 6s will be completing a rhythm assessment for me this week (more to come later) and to get them comfortable with creating a 16-beat rhythm composition I pulled out my Rhythm Composition Folders. I modeled how to complete this task with input from the students and let them choose a group of three to work with. I did add a caveat that there had to be at least one boy or one girl in each group. I found that this strategy worked well as there were minimal classroom management issues. 

The groups worked together to create their 16-beat pattern using the Rhythm Composition Folder. I added 4 hearts to each folder to help them organize their work by putting each rhythm underneath the correct number of beats. Once the composition was done they clapped and said the pattern for me. I then selected one student to choose a rhythm instrument for their group and the students played their composition on the instruments and later performed for the class.

This was a quick activity (albeit a tad bit noisy) and I'm hoping it will prepare them for composing a 16-beat rhythm pattern on their own later this week. 

2. Beginning Band Fingerings

I need to give a big shout-out to Aileen Miracle (click here for a link to her blog and here for a link to her Teachers Pay Teachers shop). I purchased her Beginning Band Fingerings Mega-Set in the summer because it was so pretty and because I felt that I needed to make sure that I had somewhere in my room that students could access fingerings quickly instead of looking at a fingering chart in their notebook. This set comes with printables, flashcards, and teaching strategies and I highly recommend it. Aileen also managed to update her Mega-Set and added Tuba and Baritone fingerings in less than a week of me requesting them. Amazing! I hope to post some pictures of them up in my room shortly. Right now I am having my Grade 8s review their fingerings by putting the images up on my SmartBoard and having them copy them onto their Fingering Charts. 

3. Beat, Beat Baby

The Grade 4s just finished a mini-unit on beat. I find myself reinventing the wheel all the time because I come across so many great ideas but I was happy to revert back to this activity I wrote about last year. It always seems to be a big hit with the kids and reinforces the concept of beat and the importance of cooperation. Check out this post for more details. Because I'm so "thrifty" (read cheap) I even used the same paper cups as last year. I doubt they'll make it another year so I'd recommend investing in some plastic ones. 

As always, visit Steph's blog for more great 2/4 Tuesday ideas. 

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

2/4 Tuesday - Band Repertoire and Boomwhackers

Once again, I'm linking up with Steph from Stay Tuned for 2/4 Tuesday. 

1. Band Repertoire
I love my Concert Band! It is made up right now solely of Grade 8 students as the Grade 7s are just getting their instruments. I tell my 7s that as soon as they can play the first 5 notes of the B flat concert scale they can audition. Here are two songs that we will be working on in the next few weeks. 

Diary of a Grumpy Elf  by Timothy Loest - this piece is a collection of excerpts from familiar Christmas songs. "Leon" the elf narrates in between each piece. It is pretty fun and gets the students playing in minor keys and a variety of styles. Click here to listen to it on FJH Music's site. 

Attack of the Garden Gnomes by Timothy Loest - I may have a small mythical creature/music by Timothy Loest theme going on right now. This is another fun song. I mean, it has a vibraslap in it and the kids get to scream like gnomes. What could be better? Listen to it by clicking the video below. 

2. Improvising with Boomwhackers

My 5s and 6s are working on beat and rhythm right now. We have been using boomwhackers to keep a steady beat and have been talking about improvisation. One activity that we have done involves keeping a steady beat and having individuals improvise a rhythm for eight beats. We go around the circle and each student gets a four beat intro before they have their eight beat solo. I love it because it lets me know right away who naturally understands beat and rhythm and it gets everyone involved and performing by themselves right from the beginning of the year. No one really has a chance to get too nervous because we don't stop until the whole class has had a turn. 

Monday, 16 September 2013

Monday Music Manipulatives - Singing/Speaking Signs

Here's another Linky Party you can check out over at Lindsey's Pursuit of Joyfulness blog. It is all about using manipulatives in the music classroom. 

I just made these signs this morning to use with my kindergarten class tomorrow. They were super easy! I used Microsoft clip art for the speaking and singing pictures (you can't tell from my amazing photography but there is a speech bubble coming out of the mouth of the cartoon character on the picture on the left) and taped a popsicle stick to the back side of one of the pictures. I then glued the opposite picture on the back to create these double-sided signs. I printed them on cardstock and probably should laminate them but most likely I'll just keep my fingers crossed that the kids don't destroy them. 

We will be focusing on differentiating between speaking and singing voices. The students will listen to excerpts of six songs featuring either a speaking voice or a singing voice and will hold up the corresponding sign. Nothing too fancy here but I'm hoping it will help all my little kindies to participate and show their learning.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Getting Started with Grade Sevens

Can I just say that I am really loving teaching Music all day? After teaching half Grade 5 and half Music last year this is a welcome change. I'm sure I will miss those blessedly quiet moments of independent reading but I feel as though the lessons I'm coming up with are a lot more fun because I'm only focusing on one thing. 

The start of a new school year is especially exciting for the Grade 7s at my school since they get to start band! I treasure these next couple of weeks because student motivation is high and they get to experience some major learning. Here's how I am having the students select their instruments. 

Lesson 1 - Intro to the Instruments and Making Magic with Mouthpieces

I set up some stations for French horn, trumpet, trombone, and flute mouthpieces. I didn't include clarinets or saxes since I didn't feel like wasting 120 reeds. Maybe next time. Each station had an information sheet about how to make a sound on that mouthpiece, a basket containing 6 mouthpieces, some Sterisol, and paper towels. I labeled my flute head joints with masking tape and the case number written on there so I would know which case to return it to. 

I did a brief demo of how to get a sound out of the brass and flute mouthpieces and then divided students into four different groups (one per station). Each student got the opportunity to try out all 4 mouthpieces (sterilizing them in between each rotation) and I circulated and helped as needed. We got through everyone in about 25-30 minutes. I limited the amount of time on each mouthpiece to about three minutes because it is easy for this to morph into a lot of silliness. This was a great opportunity for the students to figure out which mouthpiece was the easiest for them. 

I finished up by showing YouTube videos of the remaining instruments (tuba, bass clarinet, alto sax, and tenor sax). The students then jotted down their top 3 instrument choices and a quick reason why they chose that instrument. I make it very clear to them that I will be choosing their instrument for them but that most people usually get their first or second choice.

Lesson 2 - Persuasive Paragraphs

To start off this lesson we played an elimination game. Students stand (you could have students stand in a circle but since we were in our rows we made it work that way) and each person names a musical instrument. If a student repeats an instrument already said or can't think of anything they sit down. The game continues until one person is standing. It's pretty fun!

I really like coming up with ways of integrating literacy into my program. I thought that the Debate Team Carousel (see below) would be a great way for my Grade 7s to really reflect upon why they want to play a certain instrument and it would give me a chance to see who the really keen students are based on how much effort they put into this assignment. 

After the Debate Team Carousel (it took at least 20 minutes) the students began writing their persuasive paragraphs. Since not every student takes Music as seriously as I think they should (I know!) I told them that if they did not hand their paragraph in by next Wednesday I would select an instrument for them. I already have their Top 3 choices from the previous lesson so I know what they'd like to play. I really don't want to assign them something that they'd hate but I also want them to hand stuff in on time. 
Debate Team Carousel - Source: Total Participation Techniques p. 94

TPT #7 - Debate Team Carousel
- come up with a question that students will need to take a position on
- use the template found in the Total Participation Techniques book
- students pass papers to a peer and each time someone new is writing on their paper either supporting or opposing the original student's opinion
- papers are returned to the original student and arguments are shared

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

2/4 Tuesday - Goals and a Time-Filler

Apparently it is Tuesday again! That week went by fast. Thankfully I have Steph from Stay Tuned to keep me on track with my posts. Check out her blog to see what other music teachers have going on in their classrooms. 

1. Learning Goals

I wrote about learning goals in an earlier post but I'm mentioning them again because they are a big focus for me this year. I found that I kept forgetting to refer to the learning goals last year which made them pretty ineffective. Right from my first classes this year, I warned my students that I will forget to mention our learning goal. I'm counting on some "helpful" students to remind me if I do forget. Instead of me being the one to read the goal I am choosing a student to read the goal and then that individual gets to post the goal on the board. I have to be okay with them smudging the dry-erase markers but I'm working on it. 

2. SMART Goals
I'm hoping to write a longer post about this in the near future so I won't go into too much detail here. My Grade 8s need to set goals. It breaks my heart when kids come close to failing Music. Last year, I was constantly encouraging a few of them to just do SOMETHING. I decided to do something myself and teach them exactly how to set goals using the SMART system. (I apologize for the flash that is covering up "relevant".

3. Get To Know You Questions
It has been a rare occasion that I have had time to fill this past week but I did create a set of 30 get to know you questions just in case. Most of my questions I found from The Idea Door. Some questions don't fit with a public school setting but I tweaked them to match my population. I pulled out my box containing the questions with one class while we were lined up and waiting for their teacher to pick them up. I asked for a volunteer to answer one of the questions. The kids were really excited to get to answer a question about themselves so I know I will be drawing upon this activity in the future. 

That's what we've been up to in my classroom. Head on over to Stay Tuned for more great ideas!

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

2/4 Tuesday Linky Party - Baskets and Teams

I had a fabulous first day back at school! I'm really enjoying the classes that I have so far and have a positive feeling about this school year. I'm also really excited to link up with some of my favourite music blogs. Steph from Stay Tuned is hosting a 2/4 linky party where music teachers write about two to four things they are doing in their classroom. I'm taking it easy tonight and will just write about two things!

1. Day 1 - 5 Baskets

Last year, I used one of these baskets (from the Real Canadian Superstore five years ago) for each grade. It ended up being a really big mess so I decided to use one basket for each day in our five day rotation. I put all the materials and handouts I need for that day in a basket. Before I go home I move any unfinished activities to the next bin and make sure that I have everything I need for the next day ready to go! The labels came from Kristen Doyle's Teacher Toolbox Kit

2. Dividing the Students up into Music Teams

I had what I think is a brilliant idea of dividing my classes into six groups or teams. Here's the brilliant part: each group is named after a period of music history. We've got the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic, 20th Century, and Post-Modern teams. I'll post some pics of my Team Leader labels tomorrow. I forgot to take pictures today!

Click here to see what other teachers are doing in their classrooms!

Monday, 2 September 2013

First Day Activities - Routines, Rules, and Icebreakers

Tomorrow is the big day! Yahoo! Here are some activities that I have planned for the first day for my Grade 2s right up to Grade 8s.

Learning Goal: To help students become familiar with the rules and routines of the Music Room

Introduction - I will introduce myself and discuss some important procedures such as lining up to come into the room (silent line, left shoulder against the wall), attendance (touch name on SmartBoard as they come in), learning goals (one student reads the goal and sticks it up on chalkboard), and team leaders (more info to come!).

Music Rules - The rules I am using for my classes this year came from the Pursuit of Joyfulness blog. Lindsay has some great songs that go with each rule. You can download the posters and songs from Teachers Pay Teachers for $2.50. They are super cute! I'm using the bird version even though the owls are adorable. 

Source: Pursuit of Joyfulness

I will divide my students into five groups and give each group a piece of chart paper and markers. They will need to list as many examples as they can of how this rule applies to what we will be doing in Music. Each group will present their two best examples. I will teach each rule song by rote after each presentation. 

Music and Me/Find Someone Who - I found these two great icebreakers here. This pack comes with 4 variations of the "Music & Me" game and the "Find Someone Who" game for $3.85. I'm using Music & Me with the 2s-6s and shrunk it down to fit 4 sheets on one sheet of paper. I'm all about reducing the amount of paper I use especially with the increase in classes this year. The Find Someone Who game I'm doing with the 7s and 8s and am putting those sheets in page protectors to be used with dry erase markers. These are more music theory based and I'm hoping will be a good review for the kids. 

Fingers crossed that I manage to fit all these activities into a 40 minute class! I'll keep you posted on how the lessons go. 

Friday, 30 August 2013

What I Accomplished in Two Weeks

The 2013 school season begins on Tuesday! I have been in my classroom the last two weeks tidying, organizing, and planning and I'm still not done. Oh well! I've had to remind myself that my program doesn't need to be 100% ready to go on the first day. Here are some before and after shots of my room. I'll go into a bit more detail later on.



The sad part is that the photos don't really look that different. I did stuff I promise! The good thing was that I didn't have to change the paper or borders on my bulletin boards so that saved a lot of time. Here's what I did:

  • Re-labeled my bank of drawers (finally!)
  • Put extra method books in the drawers and got rid of a rolling cart that was taking up space
  • Set up my SmartBoard and added a computer for student use
  • Moved my rhythm instrument/materials shelf beside the piano
  • Removed student work from bulletin boards and moved posters to the high bulletin boards so that I don't have to stand on the ledge to hang things during the year
  • Took down everything from bulletin/chalk boards except for the Learning Goals. I'm going to be posting more anchor charts/student work on those boards
  • Dealt with the pile of instruments in the gym. Thank goodness for great colleagues who helped me bring them up two flights of stairs!
  • Rearranged the instruments to make room for the new ones on the shelves
  • Assigned instruments to Grade 8s
  • Put Grade 8 mouthpieces in cups and labeled cups and reed cases with student names
  • Inventoried left over mouthpieces to determine the number of instruments the Grade 7s could choose. I'm hoping for an influx of trombone players this year!
  • Set up chairs and put tape "Xs" down to ensure (hopefully) that the students set the chairs up each day in the "right" way. I want them to be beautifully curved with an aisle down the middle. My husband looked at me like I was crazy when I told him about the "Xs". We'll see how crazy I am. 
  • Put duct tape on the ends of markers and pencils
  • Set up my office - labeled magazine boxes, prettied up my mailbox, removed most of my non-music resources, set my Day 1-5 baskets out
  • Created class lists and seating plans for my 16 classes
  • Revamped my daybook
  • Planned my first week
  • Got most of my materials ready for the first day!
Now I feel better! I still have a bit of work to do this weekend but I'm feeling good and ready for Tuesday!