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Spirit Days for Music In Our Schools Month

Spirit Days for MIOSM by Tracy King

Celebrate Music In Our Schools Month with music dress up days!  Plan an eventful month that ends with a spirit week using some of the ideas below.

When planning dress up days plan themes that most students will be able to do.  Although Michael Jackson look alike day may be fun, it is not likely that all of your students would be able to do it. Choose themes that are easy to interpret in a variety of ways.

Create a letter to send home to explain MIOSM and give some guidelines for participating.  I always make sure parents know that students have to work all day so their spirit outfits should be comfortable and not inhibit their vision, ability to walk safely or participate in all school activities.  It never ceases to surprise me when it comes to dress up days!  I also mention the words “school appropriate” a few times for those Madonna wannabes. 

Here are a few ideas for musical dress up days:

Spirit Days for MIOSM by Tracy King

Genre Days
Rock Star Hair Day-Tease it! Spray it! Color it! Spike it!  Go all rock and roll on your hair today to celebrate Music In Our Schools Month!
Blues Day – Wear blue today to celebrate the soulful coolness of the blues music.

Country Music Day –Let’s go back to the early days of country music.  Blue jeans, flannel shirts, overalls, boots and cowboy hats will make you a country superstar today!
A Day at the Opera – Dress up in your finest clothes as we celebrate the music of the opera.
Classical Music Day – Classical music is everywhere and today let’s celebrate it by wearing a classic white t-shirt!

Spirit Days for MIOSM by Tracy King

Decade Days
50s Sock Hop Day – Don your poodle skirts, leather jackets and bobby socks as we celebrate the decade that brought us Bill Haley and the Comets, Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
60s Tie Dye Day – Groovy man!  Wear tie dye today to celebrate the decade that introduced us to the Beatles, the Beach Boys, Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones.
70s Disco Day – Pull out your bellbottoms, leisure suits and hippie fashions as we celebrate the sensational seventies!
80s Hair Band Day – Hairspray anyone?  Rock out your hair today and tall and as crazy as you can as we celebrate the decade that introduced us to hair bands  like Poison, Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, Firehouse and Whitesnake.
90s Grunge Day –A big movement in the early nineties was comfortable and inexpensive-grunge!  Holey jeans, big t-shirts and flannel shirts were all the rage!  Grunge it up today as we celebrate the decade that brought us the music of Hootie and the Blowfish, Pearl Jam, Alanis Morissette and The Backstreet Boys.

More Ideas:
Music TIES us Together – Wear a tie to celebrate how music brings together people of all cultures and ages.

Inside Out Day – Wear your clothes inside out today to celebrate the way touches us inside (our feelings) and displays itself on the outside (smiling, dancing, etc…)
Band T-shirt Day –Celebrate your favorite band or musician by wearing their t-shirt today!
Disney Musical Day –Take inspiration from your favorite Disney musical today by dressing as a hero, a princess, a villain or another favorite character.
Music of the Night – Wear your favorite pajamas today to celebrate music in our schools!
Life Would be CRAZY Without Music –Crazy hair day!
Celebrity Crush –Come dressed as your favorite musician today!
Color Wars – Each class comes wearing an assigned color.  Assign colors inspired by bands: RED Hot Chili Peppers, The BLUES Brothers, BLACK Sabbath, PINK Floyd, GREEN Day, Moody BLUES, BLACK Keys, BLACK Eyed Peas, WHITE Lion, Deep PURPLE, etc…  Award the class with the most participants with treats at the end of the day.

End your spirit week with an assembly that celebrates your band and choir members.  Invite local performers or your high school band to come and play.  Haul everyone to the gym for a sing along.  Make music!

Have fun celebrating music in your school!  If you do some music spirit days, I’d love to see pictures!  Email me or connect with me on Facebook.

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Calming Classroom Noise - Shhhhhh!

Calming Classroom Noise by Tracy King

My days are often drenched in sound.  I don't usually mind.  I often wish my life came with a soundtrack like in the movies.  As a music teacher I like organized noise.  I call it music.  However, in a class that focuses on sound I have to have some ways to calm down our "working noise" when we are working in small groups, workstations or having a classroom discussion.

If you'd like to read more about classroom discussions, check out THIS blog post.

Here are a few ways to calm the classroom noise that comes with learning conversations, small group work or workstations:

1.  The Magic Clap
Thanks to a brilliant cooperating teacher during my student teaching time, I started using an echo clap pattern to get the attention of the whole class.  I used ta ta titi ta.  When I clap this rhythm the student's job is to 1) Stop what they are doing. 2) Echo clap back.  3) Silently put their eyes on me and await my instructions.  I make it a point to always clap the same rhythm because we clap a great deal in music class and I wanted it to stand out.

2.  Give Me Five
An oldie, but a goody, this method has to be taught to students and it works best if classroom teachers reinforce it.  When the classroom gets too loud just raise your hand, fingers outspread as though you are showing the number 5.  Each finger stands for:
(1) Eyes -- look 

(2) Ears -- listen 
(3) Mouth -- closed 
(4) Hands -- still 
(5) Feet -- quiet
3.  Whole Brain Attention Getters
I've found that this is an engaging and fun way to get the attention of the class.  Although I've taught this in my classes only, it really works so much better if it is used in their other classes as well.
Essentially this works like this:  I say "Class!" and they answer "Yes!"  The fun part is that they have to imitate the way I say "class" when they answer "yes".  So if I use a silly, sliding voice, they do to.  If I say "Class, class, class-a-rama, class!"  They say "Yes, yes, yes-a-rama, yes!"  Fun!  Often this will lead into some echo clapping or vocalizations.
4.  Bouncy Balls
I know.  That's not what you thought number four would be, is it?  I love this website.  The kids LOVE this website.  My tired ears LOVE this website.  Bouncyballs.org is a free website that I use on my laptop.  It senses or listens to the noise in your room and reacts.   When the room is quiet it might look like the picture above.  As things get louder, the balls start bouncing.
There are also some great alternatives to the balls too.
  

I use this on my laptop which is often in the middle of the room or on my desk.  What's great about this website is that it can also work to HELP your class get louder!

I used this in a choir rehearsal to help them really develop a fortissimo section of a piece we were working on.  They LOVED watching the balls bounce around and go crazy when they hit that perfect balance.

5.  Learn this phrase:  Make music, not noise.
Make music, not noise.  -Tracy King

In my classroom we talk about this being important when we are working in small groups, practicing parts, rotating through workstations (especially recorder stations!) and that it can also be a life lesson.  Many times in life we should work to create harmony instead of chaos and this is a great reminder!
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Promoting Music In Our Schools Month


March is Music in Our Schools month and one of my favorite times of year.  This is a great month to educate your school and community about the importance of music education.  It is also a great time to brag on your amazing students.  Plan performances, radio spots, a special newsletter and huge bulletin board or hallway displays in your school. 


Looking for some fresh ideas for celebrating Music In Our Schools Month?  Try a few of my favorites below!

Daily/Weekly Music Trivia
This is such a fun idea and the competition heats up day after day.  When I taught in a K-12 district I did a weekly trivia question for the elementary and a daily one for 7th-12th grade.  For the elementary students I put the question up and then a coffee can that they could put their answers (plus name and class) into and collected it on Friday and announced the winner. 

For the older grades it was a little easier as they had daily announcements typed and delivered to each classroom.  I would put the question of the day on and announce the winner on the next day in the announcements.  I had a can for collecting answers in my classroom and one right outside the office so the secretary and principal could keep an eye on it.

For prizes I called around to local businesses to see what they could donate to support music in our schools (and yes, I asked using that phrase).  We had free ice cream cones from Dairy Queen, hamburgers from McDonald's, tacos from Taco Bell, personal pan pizzas from Pizza Hut, free sodas from local gas stations and grocery stores and more.  They were quite excited to be a part of something to support the arts.   I sweetened the deal by promising them a shout out in our local paper.

The questions varied from music history, current music trends, music vocabulary and even questions about the musical background of the teachers and staff.  I could have had the students come up with the questions, but I was trying to keep it as fair as I could.

Over the Intercom
There are so many cool ideas for using your school intercom or P.A. system that are easy to do and really get your whole school involved in celebrating MIOSM.

National Anthem- Although I wish this was something we did every day, I definitely scheduled these special performances to happen during Music In Our Schools Month.  I invited a class down to the office and we led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of the national anthem.  If space is a problem you could just record the class during music time.

This Day in Music History-Great for daily announcements too, adding an interesting tidbit about music history is fun and educational.  Here are a couple of websites that can help in preparing for this.  This might be a great project for students too!
This Day in History – Look to the right hand side.  Sometimes there are several things under the Music category.
This Day in Music History –This is great, but usually has many things to read through.

Mystery Singer –Secretly recruit teachers and staff members to sing over the intercom.  If privacy (or performance anxiety) are an issue, you can record these ahead of time.  Have them all sing the same song (maybe the national anthem or your school song) or let them choose a song.  A verse or verse and chorus is usually enough.  Have students put their guesses in a coffee can or collect them online if your school has the technology and award a randomly chosen winner with a treat delivered by that person.

Another great way to do this is to have each class vote on who it is and submit their answer as a class.  This requires a bit more help from your classroom teachers, but is still lots of fun!  The winning class gets to hang a banner or plaque on their door until a new winner is announced.  Create a Mystery Singer Detectives of the Day certificate, pop it in an inexpensive frame from the dollar store and a way to hang it.  (A piece of yarn or magnets might do the trick depending on your setup.)

Brown Bag It
It might be possible for you to partner with a local grocery store to spread a music positive message in the community in a very artful way.  I contacted a local grocery store and asked if we might decorate their paper bags with a Music In Our Schools Month messages and pictures.  Partnering with the art teacher, we used art and music class time to color one side of the bags and then gave them back to the grocery store to use during March.  This was such an attention getter!  I had emails and phone calls about how much they loved carrying home their groceries in the bag.  The local grocer was pretty happy with this event as well!

I hope that these ideas will inspire you to try something new this year with your music advocacy efforts.  You are the strongest advocate for your program and your students.


One of my favorite displays comes from the stories of teachers and staff members.  I ask them a few questions about their musical tastes, activities and history and then create a display that has delighted both students and other staff members.  You can read about that bulletin board and download a freebie to get you started HERE.
MIOSM by The Bulletin Board Lady
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Decorating ideas for Music in Our Schools Month

Decorating for MIOSM by Tracy King, The Bulletin Board Lady

I love March because March is Music In Our Schools Month!  I love using this opportunity to push my music advocacy efforts even more.  I love using this opportunity to brag on my students.  Here are a few ideas for decking the halls for this special month.

Be aDOORable!

For a long time I taught in a very small school district that had one class per grade level.  I sent out an email about two weeks before MIOSM asking everyone with a door if I could decorate it.  I know.  It sounds crazy, but I really wanted to make an impression and this did it!
Take those bulletin boards that you saved.  You know the ones.  The ones that you printed, cut, laminated and cut again and just couldn’t throw out.  Use those as a starting point to decorate as many doors as you can.  Put a positive music message in every place that you can. 
A simple display like this one would easily fit on a door.  Just type up a few musical things and their current cost and add the title "the joy of music...priceless."  I used instrument prices, the cost of a CD, a music download, an MP3 player and private lessons.  Fun!

Brag on Your Amazing Students

I love bulletin boards that brag on students.  Students love to see their names on the wall.  Bragging bulletin boards are win-win!  They can also be super easy!  In these two examples I put student names and if they were a member of band or choir I added that too.  Use inexpensive notepads from the teacher store and let students write their own name and the boards are even easier!
Grade A Musicians by The Bulletin Board Lady

Great Musicians Grow by The Bulletin Board Lady

All Halls Salute

I love to take one of the longest hallways in the school and create a HUGE display.  My favorites are the ones that are student generated.  They tend to get the most attention and stop the most traffic.

For this display I took plain paper plates and had students (K-6) decorate them using a good singing face.  We discussed mouth position, eyebrows, etc... and got this gorgeous display


Another year I chose a Mindcraft theme with this Music Crafts Your Mind display.  Students loved coloring their own avatar and writing music positive messages.
https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Music-Crafts-Your-Mind-Bulletin-Board-1722588

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Music-Crafts-Your-Mind-Bulletin-Board-1722588

All a BOARD!

Pick a bulletin board that is colorful and eye-catching with a strong message of music advocacy.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Music is Out of This World by The Bulletin Board Lady Tracy King
Music is Out of This World
Music Rocks by The Bulletin Board Lady Tracy King
Music ROCKS!


Have a great month celebrating music in our schools!
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7 Super Powers All Music Teachers Have

Music teachers DO have super powers.  Did you know that?  New teachers and veteran educators will love this cheeky, but 100% honest look at the life of a music teacher.
1. Music teachers can make a song out of anything.
Really.  A song for lining up, a song for sitting down, a song for a rainy day, a song for remembering the order of mathematical operations, a song for good oral hygiene and a song for feeling happy when you are sad.  As a music teacher, you are used to making up little songs for everything.  As a music teaching mama I make up songs for everything at home too.  Potty training, picking up blocks, saying our prayers and peeling potatoes are just a few of the topics of recent household songs.

Why?  It helps kids remember what they need to know.  Also, I am a firm believer that cheerful teachers create better learners and if my little song about how to tie their shoes makes them smile too, then they are doubly blessed.  Singing songs to make routine chores easier is an old trick in the classroom or at home.  Using songs to help students transition from one activity to another is a fun and easy way to speed up this time.  Sing a little song.  Move the day along.

2. You can get an entire auditorium of kids to quiet with just the clap of your hands.
Actually, to some of us, clapping “ta ta titi ta” is such an old trick that we don’t even realize the power it holds.  I remember the first time I got to show off this super power.  The principal was late for an assembly and all 9 classes were there crammed into the bleachers getting restless.  When he arrived, the sound system gave out and the students got a little bit louder with each passing second.  He looked at me in panic (probably wanting me to go and smack the sound system around).  I stepped to the front of the group and clapped the magic rhythm.  Every student stopped, clapped it back and sat in silence.  The principal picked his jaw up off the floor and began to address the crowd.  Music teacher win.

3.  As a music teacher you can turn pool noodles, ping pong balls and discarded board games into incredible instructional manipulatives that vault your students’ comprehension of any topic through the roof!  Okay…that may have been a little dramatic, but music teachers are incredibly resourceful.  And some of us may be unintentional packrats as we save almost everything for that one workstation or costume that may need it.

4.  I can help you or your child memorize almost anything.
Seriously.  A song for learning to spell your name, recite your phone number, name the states in alphabetical order, learn the order of the planets and say multiplication facts are just a few of the things that you can remember with a catchy little tune. 

5.  Music teachers can move an entire room of 6 year olds to tears with a well-chosen listening activity.
It was party day and I had planned a listening and writing activity for a favorite group of 1st graders.  I chose Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”.  We moved to the music with beautiful scarves and then sat down to consider what Beethoven may have been thinking about when he wrote this piece.  Wow.  The tears flowed.  Dead pets.  Sick grandmas.  A dad that never called back.  The music moved them!  I used this cry fest as an opportunity to talk about the power of music.  I’m not sure their classroom teacher knew what hit her when she picked them up.

6.  I can plan, organize, rehearse and lead a performance of 600 kids on two Mountain Dews and a leftover cupcake.
I don’t think this needs much more of an explanation, but…heck…most days…even with a STALE cupcake I found in the back of the teacher’s lounge fridge, I can still make it happen.

Music teachers DO have super powers.  Did you know that?  New teachers and veteran educators will love this cheeky, but 100% honest look at the life of a music teacher.

7.  Music teachers change the world one song, one child, and one day at a time.
We have the greatest jobs on the planet!  Each day we have the opportunity to be ambassadors of joy to our students spreading the power of music and the joy of music making.  


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Music Workstations: Snowball Scoop

Music Workstations:  Snowball Scoop

Recently I've come across a few very sturdy Styrofoam coolers.  With just a little bit of imagination and a bunch of ping pong balls, it has become a rhythm workstation!

For this workstation I used:
-a Styrofoam cooler (although other coolers or containers would work)
-4 pairs of gloves (I found some for about $1 each.  I got four because that is the optimal workstation size for me.)
-some plastic spoons (plus extra because sometimes kids do weird things like put them in their mouth or scratch their head with them and that weirds out other kids...and well...just have some extras.)
-lots of ping pong or other small white plastic balls (You could use a variety of sizes if you wanted.).
-4 containers marked 1, 2, 3 and 4.  I used some little tubs, but I think that small buckets with shovels (instead of spoons) would be fun for this activity.

With a permanent marker, draw notes on each ping pong ball.  I did some single notes and then I did some rhythm patterns so that students would have to add them up to place them in the correct bin.  As I created these I placed the balls in the bin so that I would have a fairly even amount in each one.  To do this I had to duplicate the smaller values which is fine.


I know.  I know.  At this point, you've figured out everything but the gloves, right?  They are there to "highly motivate" students.  Yep.  They are the novelty.  The "Weird" that kids love.  I tell kids that it makes it a little trickier to scoop the snowballs (which I'm pretty sure is not the truth) and that they help them get into the spirit of the activity.


After you have the balls labelled, dump them into the cooler and mix them up a bit.  This makes a delightful sound!

Place the gloves, spoons, bins and the directions near the cooler and your workstation is ready to go.  For some classes that need a reference sheet of note values I include THIS one by Sara Bibee.



There are many variations of Snowball Scoop that would be valuable.  I think I may make a set for instrument families and have students sort instrument names into their appropriate family bin.  This would also work for pitches but those might be a bit trickier to draw on the ping pong balls.

I hope you enjoy this activity with your students!  Be sure to check out my other ideas for centers or workstations in other blog posts.  Music Centers



Black History Month in Music Class


Looking for a few new ideas to try to celebrate Black History Month in Music Class?  Try some of these ideas for decorating and planning engaging musical lesson plans.

Decorate
You probably know that I'm a big fan of decorating with a theme.  One of my favorite bulletin boards for February is "All That Jazz" and it features some amazing contributors to the world of jazz.  I like the black and white pictures paired with the colorful backgrounds.  Popular jazz musicians like Duke Ellington, Bessie Smith, Charlie Parker, Jelly Roll Morton and more are highlighted.  Get it HERE.

 Jazz Musicians Bulletin Board

 Jazz Musicians Bulletin Board

Listen, Learn and Love
Although I try to incorporate a wide variety of listening experiences through out the year I always worry that it isn't diverse enough.  I love taking a little extra time to explore the music of some famous African Americans.  If you've been reading my blog, you know that I am a BIG fan of listening glyphs.
Listening glyphs allow students to demonstrate their musical understanding in such a fun way that they may not even care that it is an assessment!  I love this set of Black History Listening Glyphs.  Not only do they contain ways to assess students' understanding of what they hear, they also have a short description of the musician.  I think this helps students connect with the artist and it is a great tool to help them retell what's going on in music class when they get home.  

 Black History Month Listening Glyphs - Will Smith
What's different about these glyphs is that a variety of genres are represented.  Jazz, blues, rock and roll, hip hop, pop and opera are all represented in this set.  

 Black History Month Listening Glyphs - Nat King Cole    Black History Month Listening Glyphs - Aretha Franklin



 Black History Month Listening GLyphs - Queen Latifah     Black History Month Listening Glyphs - Michael Jackson

Mix it Up
I love this Jazz Mixer presented by Smithsonian Folkways.  Although I would present this on my Smartboard, it would also work on iPads or laptops as part of a workstations rotation.

 By adjusting the sliders, students can focus on one instrument or mix their own variations.  Three songs are available for student experimentation: "Bill Bailey", "St. Louis Blues" and "When the Saints Go Marchin' In".  Clicking on the instruments brings up a brief description and clicking on Timeline pulls up a fabulous timeline of artists and events that shaped jazz music.

Sing Me a Story, Read Me a Song
There are SO many great books to use to celebrate the rich musical heritage of our great nation.  Here are a few of my favorites:


Follow the Drinking Gourd
Read it.  Sing it.  Put it in your reading workstation because kids will want to read it again and again.

Max Found Two Sticks
Wow!  Love this book!  I give students drum sticks or chopsticks (much quieter and a novelty for the students).  As we read through the story they will imitate the sounds that Max's sticks make with their own.  Often we will warm up by echo playing rhythms.


Dizzy
Love this story of Dizzy Gillespie.  If you can, get the audio file to go with it.  LOVE it!


Charlie Parker Played Be Bop
Love this story!  I read it to 1st graders and we add the "be bop, be bop" with the story.  Later we will sing "Scat Like That" by Greg and Steve.  So much fun!

I hope that these ideas will inspire you to try something new during Black History Month!


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