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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mystery Instruments

Everyone likes a mystery!  Well, in music class we sure do!  One of my favorite centers to do with grades 2-6 is Mystery Instruments.  In this activity students use what they know about classroom instruments to identify the mystery instrument in a paper bag.
For this activity I usually choose something like a maraca, triangle, recorder or woodblock.  These fit easily in a small, brown, paper lunch bag.  It would be fun to put in a trumpet, flute or bongos using a paper grocery bag.  My third graders would love doing that during their instrument unit!

Here’s how it works: 
1.        Prep the workstation by putting in the instrument and stapling the bag closed.
2.       Copy the worksheets so that each student has their own.  The worksheets ask students simple questions about what’s in the bag, have them guess what it is not, ask them to sketch it and finally to name it.
3.       When introducing this station I explain that they may shake the bag, but only once because they don’t want to let any of the other students hear too many clues before they get a turn at the station.
4.       I also explain that it is okay to touch the bag and feel the instrument, but they can’t crumple the bag around the instrument.  That might give away the shape of the instrument too quickly.
5.       Students, armed with a clipboard, worksheet and pencil work in groups to examine the mystery instrument and complete their detective sheets. 
6.       At the end of class I ask them what is in the bag and them open the bag and show them.

I love this activity because it gets students talking descriptively about instruments.  “This one is made from metal.”  “This one feels light.”  “This one is very noisy.”  “This one has many parts.”

I have a few different worksheets that I use regularly.  They are slightly different depending on the grade level that is doing the detective work.  You can download the set HERE.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

Dabber Activities in the Music Room

Dabbers, dotters, dot markers, daubers or bingo markers.  Whatever you call them, they certainly make showing what you know fun!  I’ve recently added some dabber activities to my classroom.  For the most part, I’ve used them as part of workstations or centers.  As soon as I can buy a few more dabbers I will use them for whole group activities and for assessment.

In this activity, students are asked to identify line and space notes.  I’ve used this with 1st and 2nd grade.  For second graders this was a little easy, but first graders found it challenging and fun.  I plan to use it with Kindergarten at the end of the year.  This set includes activities for naming notes on the treble clef staff too.  My 5th and 6th graders will use some of those.

In this activity students are identifying different notes (whole, half, quarter and barred eighth notes).   Later we’ll do dabber activities that ask students to dab the note that gets the most beats or to dab the notes that add up to equal a specific number of beats. 

These activities are fun to do and provide a nice snapshot of what students know.  Third graders are working on their instruments of the orchestra unit right now.  The instruments set will be perfect for identifying instruments and what family they belong too. Formative assessment in a quick and colorful format?  I’m in!   I strongly encourage students to spell instrument names correctly from the first time we learn about them.  One of the activities in the instrument set has them check for misspelled instrument names.  They are going to love it!

Another activity that would work great with the dot markers is this Dot Composing.  Check out this blog post to see how I use dot stickers to reinforce quarter notes, barred eighth notes and 16th notes.  This would be a great way to use dabbers and stop buying thousands of those little stickers!

Although they are fun and keep students engaged in learning, there are a few things you will need to think about before you begin.  Here are some tips:

1.     If you have bought a new set of dabbers, they are NOT ready to go.  Before letting students use them, take time to dab them yourself and get the ink flowing to the sponge tip.  Sometimes this take a few tries and sometimes it makes a puddle of ink.  If you do this before they are in the hands of students, you’ll save yourself a headache or two.

2.     Speaking of ink puddles…it happens.  If you squeeze too hard on the markers, ink flows faster and big puddles form on the paper.  If you press down too hard it happens.  Sometimes if you are just having a bad day it happens!  Plan a way for the papers to dry.  Perhaps that means setting them on or under a chair, laying them against the wall in the hall or borrowing some drying racks from the art teacher.

You may want to keep some baby wipes handy to keep students from running to the restroom.  I explain that if they are careful, this won’t happen.  If they keep their hands away from the ink until it dries it won’t happen, but….well…sometimes it happens.

3.     Buy washable dot markers.  The kind that I have are not washable so they are a little tougher to scrub off skin and clothing.  It comes off, but just not as easy as the washable kind.  I found several dot markers on Amazon and know several teachers that recommend these from Do-a-DotArt.

4.     Dot markers are great fun for melodic dictation, exploring lines and spaces or working on pitch names on the staff.  They make perfect noteheads!  Print off large staff paper and you are ready.

5.     Plan to use a bin or basket for storage.  I use a small basket for the 5 or 6 that I leave out at workstations and use a larger one to store the classroom set.  This makes them easy to pass out and collect.  You could also find a shoe storage bag to hang in your room and store them as well.

Check out this bundle of music dabber activities in my store.  They are ready to print and go!  Be sure to follow me on TeachersPayTeachers or like me on Facebook to stay informed about new dabber sets.  I'm working on one with patriotic music and one with recorders.  I hope to have them up soon.
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Monday, January 5, 2015

Carnival of the Animals Crafts

One of my favorite units of study is Carnival of Animals by Saint Saens.  I love the music and the way it sparks students' imagination.  I love the way they listen so intently on hearing the musical secrets and "finding" the animals in the music.  Often I like to have students listen to one of the pieces repeatedly.  That is not easy for little listeners to do, so often we will color a picture of the animal we are listening to and with some groups we will make Carnival of the Animal crafts.
One of my favorites is to create a beautifully colored fish while listening to "The Aquarium". 
In this version I used googly eyes that I had on hand, but I really like letting students draw their own fishy faces.  They always crack me up!  This craft takes 20-25 minutes.  This time may be less if you are working with a small group or if you have done lots of prep work (like cutting out all the circles or hearts, the fish, etc...).  I've also trained students how to quickly get supplies and get back to their seats by the time we do this project so that makes it flow a little easier too.
I am a scrapbooker so I have several different kinds of paper punches at my disposal.  For this example I used a heart punch (about an inch or so wide), but in previous years I've used a 1 inch circle punch.  I usually sit and punch shapes while watching TV.  I love magazines and have plenty to use for projects like this.  I just choose fun, colorful pages and punch out as many shapes as I can.
Often in class we will use glue sticks for projects like this, but I've found that regular school glue works best.  Sometimes with the glue sticks the scales will fly off before students leave the room.  I don't have drying trays or an abundance of flat space to lay student projects to dry so I send them marching down the hall carrying their projects.  Most teachers don't mind if they leave them on their desks to dry for an hour or so which is what it takes if you use glue instead of glue sticks. 
Okay...we glue like gluing maniacs in my room, so if you have more conservative gluers you may be fine.
Occasionally I'll save these gorgeous creatures for a large display in the hall.  I use pieces from my Carnival of the Animals bulletin board to hang with them.

I also do crafts for "Fossils", "Tortoises" and "Royal March of the Lion".  You can get the fish template and instructions as well as templates and instructions for the other three HERE.
You might also like to check out these Carnival of the Animal resources:
Coloring Books-I use these instead of the crafts some years.  The kids LOVE to color these and take them home and tell their parents about the activities we've done in music class.  I LOVE that they go home talking about music!
I like to mix up what we do each time and I love to review the Carnival of the Animals music in 3rd and 4th grade.  I have a variety of listening logs that I use.  Some ask students to identify musical opposites like loud/soft, high/low.  Others ask students to identify instruments that they've heard and some ask them to guess what animal they think Saint Saens wanted them to hear.  You can get all of these listening logs HERE.
I usually do Carnival of the Animals with second grade, but am working on a plan to it with K-4 to some degree.  For example Kindergarteners might listen and explore the "Elephant", 1st graders may do the "Aquarium", "Fossils" and "Royal March of the Lion", 2nd graders may do the complete unit and 3rd and 4th graders may do short review activities as their music vocabulary and understanding increase.
I'd love to hear about your favorite ways to teach Carnival of the Animals.  Let me know in the comments or find me on Facebook.  If you are a Pinterest fan you might be interested in my Carnival of the Animals Pinterest board.   
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Monday, December 29, 2014

New Year's Resolutions


2014 has been a difficult year for my family.  In June my husband was hospitalized for some heart problems.  In July, on his birthday, we were in a car accident.  I broke my wrist and hand and he broke his sternum and received an outrage seatbelt injury complete with bruising, swelling and awfulness.  Not even a month later he had a stroke. 
Due to this craziness, his already weak heart was further weakened.  On December 12 he had an ICD implanted.  This device serves as a defibrillator and a pace maker for my 42 year old hunky husband.  Unfortunately, the drama didn’t end there!  Last Monday he had emergency surgery to remove an abscess and old hematoma from the accident in July.  This left a HUGE (shockingly huge) hole in his abdomen. (Like 12 inches long and 4 inches deep.  Seriously.)
So, it has been a pretty drama filled year on the medical front.  I’ve missed lots of work and it looks like I may have to miss more to take care of the family.  This year we are going to focus on healing!  Eating better, taking superb care of ourselves and following doctors’ orders are top priorities for the new year.


I’m gonna level up!  I’m sure it is a similar story for some of you.  I didn’t complete my Orff or Kodaly levels right after college because I didn’t have the money.  Now that I have the money, I don’t have the time!  LOL.  Well, this summer I hope to change that.


I purchased 15 tubanos for my classroom this fall.  They are beautiful.  I love them.  I can’t wait to incorporate more hands on activities using these beautiful instruments.  I’ve already explored a few activities that I used to do on coffee can drums and wow…amazing.  If you have any tried and true activities, please let me know!


Some of my most popular products are those that I find the most tedious to make.  SHhhh!  Don’t tell!  I realize that this is the reason that others would rather buy them than make them.  I have a couple of those projects that I am going to tackle right away.  I love the finished project, so it is worth that extra push to get them finished.
I’m going to add more Composer of the Month kits including several female composers!  I’m also going to add a few more Exit Tickets to my stores as well.   Be sure to grab the bundle before the price goes up with the new additions!  If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments or let me know on Facebook.

Just for Me

This year I resolve to eat to live NOT to live to eat!  I am emotional eater.  I am a stress eater.  We celebrate with food.  We mourn with food.  Heck, I think that I’m gonna celebrate posting this blog post with a big brownie.  *giggle*  So next year, I’m going to try and look at food differently.  Eat a little cleaner.  Plan a little healthier.  Substitute thing here and there.  Get into a new relationship with food.  I've already started healthier pinning.  Check it out here.
Do you make resolutions for the new year?  Feel free to share them in the comments.  I’m linking up with Mrs. Miracle’s Music Room for this New Year’s Resolutions Linky Party.  Join us!
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Saturday, December 13, 2014

A Rockin' Christmas and A World of Celebration

Hey!  Wanna take a peek at our Christmas concerts this year? Check out THIS LINK to view them both.    The first concert features 1st and 2nd Graders and was called "A Rockin' Christmas".  The second concert, A World of Celebration, featured music from around the globe.  It was performed by the elementary choir, The Bearytones, and our 5th an 6th grade classes.

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

What's on my desk?

What's on my desk?  Well, it's concert week.  Double concert week, so some unusual things.  Let's take a peek!
1.  Elsa.  Yep, that's her.  I bought her mostly because my daughter lives and breathes Frozen, but also because I thought she might be fun to put in the lobby where parents will pick up programs.  I don't think I'm going to do that now.  I think everyone will touch her.  I don't want her broken!
2.  Christmas Decorations-leftover from my bulletin board in the hallway.
3.  Folders of  Stuff-papers sorted by days, papers to grades, manipulatives, etc..
4.  Plates-Seriously.  I have a thing for plates.  The red and blue ones with the star are from a patriotic concert that I did.  We used them as practice plates before we got our snowflake plates in.  First graders are doing a plate routine to "Let it Go".  (Thus...the Elsa I was considering.)
5.  Kleenex - Because teaching in an elementary school this time of the year is like swimming in a slime pond of germs.

6.  A Pickle and a Cookie - No.  I am not pregnant, but the art teacher recognized my stress level topping out earlier this week and bought me a Diet Mt. Dew (my favorite!) and a cookie.  The pickle is from our concession stand.  It seemed like a good idea.
7.  Apparently I like to have a variety of drink choices available at all times.  *giggle*
8.  Concert Book - For each concert/performance I create a binder to hold music, seating charts, special parts, etc...  If I lose this, the show will NOT go on.  :-)

  9.  Some Stupid Frog - That was taken away from someone that was flinging it at someone.
10.  A messy stack of papers to take somewhere else.
11.  Phones- My cell phone (I use it as a timer quite often because it can't actually get calls IN the building.) and my school phone.  I am so thankful that I can now call outside numbers on this phone and not just in the building.  Efficiency!
12.  Fan - Okay...I am one big, sweaty woman and after dancing around for half an hour with each class I get a bit warm.  :-)
13.  Miscellaneous Pens - And most of them even WORK!
14.  Poker Chips - We use them for notes on the staff, but today I gave them to students I caught doing something great and let them get a treat from the treat box when we were finished rehearsing.  Fun!
15.  My Computer - It's my stereo, video player, SmartBoard controller, assistant teacher....hero.  :-)
I'm linking my pal, Mrs. Tanenblatt to take a peek at other teacher desks!  Click the link to see more.
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Sunday, December 7, 2014

Bulletin Board Ideas for December

Okay...I know it's already a week into December, but hopefully you'll still be interested in a few ideas for this hectic time of year!  Here are some of my favorite boards for December.


This is a new bulletin board, but quickly becoming one of my favorite!  It uses the lyrics from the "12 Days of Christmas" and some math challenges to inspire students.  Get it here.  This display was created by my pal Jeaneau Julian.  

This is one of the fastest and easiest boards to get up during this busy time of the year.  It features mp3 players with the names of Christmas songs.  Students love to look at it and sing little snippets from each song.  Get it here.

Musical Life...Priceless
Another one of my favorites!  This bulletin board went up pretty fast too.  On the colored slips of paper there are musical items and what they might cost.  For example:  Piano Lessons $15, Recorder $4.95 and so on.  The CDs are just an accent and the jumbo play money serves to draw attention to the board.  The title of the board reads "A Musical Life...PRICELESS".



This is on my hallway board right now!  LOVE how colorful it is and I love that students stop to read it all the time.  Each of the bulbs has a little bit of a music advocacy tidbit like "Good musicians are usually good readers."  After I put the bulbs up I took a piece of chalk and drew the curly lines to make them look like they were all on one big strand.  You can get this board HERE, but it is titled "Let Your Light Shine".

Do you have a favorite December bulletin board?  Link me up in the comments.  I would love to take a peek at your classroom.

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