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DIY Crayons to Use as Classroom Rewards

An inexpensive idea for classroom rewards is creating your own cool crayons from old ones.  Students, teachers and principals love them!

I keep a goody box in my classroom.  I use it to reward exceptionally great behavior, actions that demonstrate kindness and inclusivity and for brave performers that share with the class.  I'm always looking for cool things to put in the box and this year I'm filling it with custom designed crayons!  Read on to learn how to make them and to avoid some of the pitfalls that I fell into.

Several years ago, my friend Linda, from Floating Down the River, wrote about how much her students loved these crayons.  Recently David Row, from Make Moments Matter, also wrote about his experiences making crayons.  I was reminded of all of the molds that I bought and never used.  Armed with old crayons, inspiration and a few seasons of the Gilmore Girls I set out to make my own crayons.  Here's how to do it:

1.  Gather Crayons
I always buy 30 new packs of crayons each year for my classroom and at the end of the year I dump them all in a bag and take them home to craft with or donate or whatever.  If you don't have your own crayons, just put out an email at school or a post on Facebook requesting some.  It doesn't matter what brand, if they a broken or what size they are.  They all melt.

2.  Sort the crayons by color.  Don't get too picky here.  All the various reds can go together and all the variety of blues can go together.  I matched papers to decide what color group they belonged to.  This worked well for me.

3.  Get the paper off.  I've heard a few ways to do this and I've hated them all.  No kidding!  This part just stinks.  You could soak the crayons in warm water and peel the paper off.  Soggy, yucky mess.  You could take a knife or box cutter and cut the paper off.  A pain in the booty.  This is the method that I chose, but it made for a long, tedious task and I spent hours and hours doing it this way.  I'd love to say that I have a great solution, but cutting the papers off with the utility knife worked better than other ways I tried.

4.  Now you'll have baggies of similarly colored, paperless crayons.  If you chose to cut the papers off, you might also have your crayons in small pieces already.  If they aren't in small pieces, use a small hammer to break them into little pieces.  You don't have to have hammer them to dust, but smaller pieces work better in the molds.

MOLDS:  Before beginning this project you'll want to collect a few silicone molds in fun shapes.  Make sure that your molds were designed to go in the oven.  Most candy molds are, but you should check before you purchase them.  Most of my molds are made by Wilton and are very sturdy and easy to use.  Here are a few molds that I've used or can't wait to use on Amazon.

5.  Load your molds with the crayon pieces.  You'll want to put in enough so that it piles about the well.  When they melt, it looks like much less.

6.  Place the crayon filled molds onto a sheet pan and bake for 8-10 minutes at 350.  WARNING:  This stinks.  Literally.  It smells gross, but looks delightful.

7.  Let them cool before turning the mold over and popping them out.

8.  I decided to group my crayons together in little treat bags and add a themed saying to the bag.  Some examples of what I used:

An inexpensive idea for classroom rewards is creating your own cool crayons from old ones.  Students, teachers and principals love them!

These stickers are Avery Label 22806 (These are on my suggested Amazon list.)  You can get copies of the sticker templates that I created (and other freebies) by joining my mailing list.  Just print them on the sticker paper and they are ready to go.

I hope you have a great time coloring your students world with music!  If you like these ideas, PIN THEM for later.
An inexpensive idea for classroom rewards is creating your own cool crayons from old ones.  Students, teachers and principals love them!

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Dollar Store Bulletin Board Hacks

Like many teachers, I love a great bargain.  Dollar stores and discount stores are great ways to decorate and stock your classroom without breaking the bank.  Here are a few dollar store hacks for decorating your room and adding some pizzaz to your bulletin boards.

Many dollar stores already carry education supplies like flashcards, letters, charts and border.  They can help put up bulletin boards, class job charts and come in handy when creating folder activities or workstations.  Let's walk a litter farther through the store and see what we can find that may be a little out of the box.

Wrapping paper makes excellent bulletin board backgrounds.  Many are fadeless and instantly add color, texture and interest to your bulletin board displays.

Another great bulletin board background source is tablecloths.  Most dollar stores carry a variety of inexpensive plastic tablecloths.  Patterned tablecloths are great to use when decorating with a theme or color scheme.  My favorite is to use the birthday tablecloths and then add Music K-8's composer and musicians' birthday calendars

Of course, solid colored tablecloths provide a bright pop of color and don't fade like regular bulletin board paper if you are using it in a sunny area.  These flannel backed tablecloths are quite sturdy an you'll want to use a box cutter or scissors to trim the edges.  Be sure to look for a rectangular one to fill all of your bulletin board.
BONUS:  I use these to define areas on the floor for centers.  In this way, students keep all of their things in this area and it is a snap to clean up!

Pom poms are a great way to add texture and dimension to your bulletin boards.  Add one in each corner or staple them up close together to make a border for the entire board.  I like these pom poms because they are inexpensive, but they are a little frustrating to pull apart and fluff.  With a little patience, you'll have them ready to go in no time.

Letter stickers are an easy way to add a headline or captions to your bulletin board.  Here's how to keep them straight.  First adhere just the bottom to a ruler or yardstick.  Sticking just a quarter of an inch or so, make sure the letters and words are spaced how you want them to be on the bulletin board.  Press the yard stick to the bulletin board and press the top of the letter stickers to the bulletin board.  Gently roll the yardstick towards you so the letter stickers come off and then press them firmly to the bulletin board paper.  

I am a big fan of adding dimensional objects to bulletin boards.  I have tied them, stapled them, hot glued them, tacked them and once even added packing peanuts behind bulletin board pieces to make them stand out.  I look for objects that are easy to staple to the board like hats, flags, plates, balloons and pom poms.  Summer is a great time to find patriotic objects to use for your patriotic music or American composer bulletin boards.  I like THIS bulletin board that is simply lyrics to some popular patriotic songs that you may teach in your classroom.

I have an unusually large collection of paper plates in various sizes, shapes and colors.  I use them for movement activities for props when deciphering form and for bulletin board borders.  Yes!  They make the easiest and fastest border ever.  I start with a plate in each corner and add the other plates to fill in.  They are fast to take down and you can reuse them time and time again.

Just like paper plates, paper hats as a border are just fabulous.  They add extra interest and color. I've used a variety of hats and my students always love the displays.  In addition to dollar stores, I have found many great options at Oriental Trading and local party stores.

Occasionally I will post a bulletin board that is interactive.  When I do, I usually ask students, parents and teachers to color part of the board, leave a message, answer a question, etc...  With a couple of Command Hooks, this basket could hang near the board and hold markers or crayons.  FUN!

Poster board is a great way to create bulletin board pieces, letters or signs that you'll place on your bulletin boards.  For teachers on a cart, a piece of poster board could be turned into a bulletin board on the go.  You can evening use poster board to create a clever awning for your bulletin board.  Check it out here.

This is a weird one, but stay with me.  Playing cards make a creative border for your bulletin board.  Any order, number side up or back design up they are eye catching.  Try a title like "A Great New Year is in the Cards" or "Stacking the Deck for a Great Performance" and you've got a great bulletin board.

The last great dollar store find for bulletin board is tissue paper.  It makes a great background, but with a little bit of creativity you can make an even bigger statement.  Fold the tissue paper into paper fans and staple to the corners of your bulletin board.  Take individual pieces of tissue paper, crumple them and staple as a 3-D border.  Follow THIS tutorial and create beautiful flowers.

Looking for more dollar store hacks?  Check out these Dollar Store Deals for Music Teachers.

I hope you've been inspired to decorate your bulletin board with some of these tips.  PIN THIS for later!

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Friday Favorites: Pillows, Chickens and Music Stuff

Fridays are for favorites!  I hope you enjoy reading about some of my favorite things this week.

Customized Pillows - I use a reading center in almost every one of my center rotations.  I usually have some kind of rug, a few pillows, a funky lamp and books!  This year I made a few customized pillows with Vista Print.  I LOVE the way the turned out and they colors are bright and beautiful.  To create your own just upload a logo, graphic or picture.  You can put the same picture on both sides or mix it up a bit.  Don't purchase anything on Vista Print without a coupon.  There is always a coupon!

Squeezy Chickens -  Look what I found at Walmart this week!  They are cheaper than ones I have found on Amazon.   I love squeezy chickens and so do my students!  I use these as fun props in relay racing games.  On their feet I right a letter from the musical alphabet.  Then I create tiny rhythm cards or tags and tie them on to their necks.
Next, I lay them in a line at the front of the room.  If we are working on pitch names, I'll show a flashcard or pop one up on the screen that has one note on the staff.  When I say "go" a student from each team runs to the front and grabs the chicken with the correct letter and squeezes the chicken.  If we are working on rhythm, I clap one of the rhythms on the chicken then say go.  This is great for review and for times when you might have a few extra minutes.  My students ask for the game all the time!

We Shall Overcome - I learned this song in elementary school and a few years ago I added this beautifully illustrated book to my classroom library.  I think I am going to read/sing it to my classes this year.  I found a video on Youtube video of an elementary music teacher reading and singing this book that you might like to hear.  Click here for the video.  

Rainbow and Clouds Bulletin Board Border - I really have SO many sets of border that I don't need to buy any for another ten years, but they keep making the most beautiful sets so I keep buying.  This year I used it with a black and white scribble patterned border for my Have a Magical Time in Music bulletin board.  I think that next year I may use it to border my desk. It is created by Creative Teaching Press.  LOVING it!

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Teaching Music During School Closures

Teaching music during school closures can be a challenge. Distance learning for group performances, singing, making music together can't be replaced.  Games, activities, videos and project ideas for music remote learning are listed here.  Free downloads too!

Let's face it, nothing can replace a classroom full of music making.  Singing, dancing and playing instruments joyfully together must be experienced authentically in person.  When that isn't possible, what should we do?  I'm afraid I don't have a perfect answer, but I'd like to share a few ideas with you and I hope that you can use them or find that they are a springboard for your own creativity.

Make Music
Incredibox (free on PCs, paid app for tablets and phone) Students can create loops using many different sounds and then share them with you.  Assign THIS free project to have students create music for different movie scenes and email you their mixes through Incredibox.
Isle of Tune - I try not to play with this very often because I lose huge chunks of my life to it.  Free on PC.  Build a town with a musical twist.  Elements like light posts, houses and trees are the sounds and cars drive down the road and "play" the composition.
Play Boomwhackers - Encourage students to notate melodies with crayons or markers.  Write a rhythm using Boomwhacker colors and perform on these digital Boomwhackers.
SING! Mrs. Miracle has some fabulous suggestions to keep your kids singing.

Music Theory
Staff Wars (free on PCs, $ .99 for tablets and phones) Practice pitch names in a seriously cool game.
Music Tech Teacher - games, worksheets and quizzes
Music Games from Plank Road Publishing -high/low, pitch names and more
Compose Your Own Music (Classics for Kids) -drag notes to compose, students can share their composition by emailing you a link.
The Rhythm Trainer - rhythmic dictation.  You pick what note values to use.

Music Games
PBS Music Games
Music Symbols Matching Game

Music History
Learn About Composers (Classics for Kids) - Have students read about a composer of their choosing and write a 5-7 sentence paragraph to summarize what they have learned.  I use THIS template for paragraph writing.
Composer of the Month - A great website with composer biographies and links to biography videos.

YouTube Awesomeness
Carnival of the Animals - Use with this set of listening worksheets.
TVO Music Videos -not YouTube, but a great collection of videos for kids
Short Composer Biographies by Five Minute Mozart
Music Concepts Videos by Music K-8 - I LOVE these videos and so do my students.  They are great for introducing or reinforcing a concept and could be used before a worksheet or assignment.  Concepts include forte/piano, presto/largo, major/minor, etc..  Try this free interactive game about musical opposites from Linda McPherson or these free high/low worksheets by Sara Bibee.

Learn About Instruments
New York Philharmonic KidZone (requires Flash)
Classics for Kids - a variety of fun and engaging activities

Star Spangled Banner Evaulations -Links and free worksheet.
Build an Instrument -resources from Dallas Symphony Orchestra
Rubber Band Harmonica -It's not a beautiful sound, but it works!
DIY Music Instruments - Several ideas for crafting instruments at home.

Netflix, Vudu, Hulu and other streaming services have several musicals that your students might love.  Try out some of the worksheets in this free musicals sampler.  There are complete sets for many musicals in this bundle.

Remember that when posting worksheets for students that you must protect the property of the copyright owner by placing the worksheets in a secure environment.  That means that the files must not be available for the whole Internet to download if they want.  Secure them on your school website with a password or a file service like Dropbox.  Send parents the link and the password.  You can also send the files via email or Google Classroom too.  Students must login to access them this way.

If you liked these ideas, PIN THEM for later!
Teaching music during school closures can be a challenge. Distance learning for group performances, singing, making music together can't be replaced.  Games, activities, videos and project ideas for music remote learning are listed here.  Free downloads too!

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Free Music Workstation Round Up

Music workstation freebies from popular TeachersPayTeachers music teachers.  Make centers come alive with these freebies for your music classroom.

I've rounded up some of my favorite music workstation freebies.  They are from some talented musicians that share their ideas via their blogs and/or Teachers Pay Teachers.  Enjoy!

Note and Rest Duration Chart - It's simple.  It's clean.  It's handy.  I have about 10 laminated copies of  it because I use it all the time!  Check out this freebie from Sara Bibee.

Eighth Note Dancing Raccoon Game - My kiddos love ALL of Linda McPherson's games.  I use them on tablets and on my Smarboard.  So much fun!  And this one is free!

We are Dancing Composition Freebie - Aileen Miracle has so many great ideas for centers.  Check out this blog post for some ideas for creating workstations that make your students composers. Click on the We are Dancing picture to go to the freebie.

Headbandz Some day I am just going to show up at Amy Abbott's classroom and sing and play with her all day!  I love all of her song sets and games.  This freebie is great for a workstation.

10 Games for Rhythm Cards - SO many of these ideas can be used in workstations.  These ideas are from Lindsey Jervis from The Kodaly Inspired Classroom.

American Composers Coloring and Facts Sheets - You probably know Cori Bloom for all of her amazing listening sets, but this freebie is one of my favorite Cori products.  I like to include a worksheet or coloring center in each of my rotations if I can.  I use this one each year.

American Composers Flip Books - When I used these fabulous, free flip books I assembled them for my students and they used their workstation time to research and color the books.  I LOVED the finished product and I bet you will too.  Jena Hudson has done a fabulous job making these books quick and easy to complete.

Beethoven Biography and Worksheet - Bryson at That Music Teacher uses this for his sub tub, but it makes a PERFECT workstation for my 5th graders!  Read a biography and answer some questions.

Station Signs for Music Learning Centers - David Row from Make Moments Matter has a great set of stations signs that you can use to organize your workstation rotations.  Be sure to read this blog post to learn more.

Want MORE freebies?  I have 14 in my store and some are designed for workstations.  Check them out HERE.

Like these ideas?  PIN them for later.

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Books for Women's History Month in the Music Room

I love adding featured books to my classroom library for special months, holidays and events.  Here are a few of my favorite books for Women's History Month:

1.  Beyonce: Shine Your Light
Yep.  A book about Beyonce that is perfect for the elementary music classroom.  This has been a favorite of my students since I added it to our classroom library last year.

2.  Ella Fitzgerald (Little People, Big Dreams)
This book is for lower elementary students and tells the story of Ella Fitzgerald.  I love the illustrations in this book.  It is part of a larger series of books that I would love to have for my daughter.

3.  Dolly Parton: Coat of Many Colors
So, I basically love everything Dolly and this book is delightful!  The illustrations are beautiful and the story of this song is as delightful as the song itself.  I also like THIS book on Dolly for older students.

4.  A Dance Like Starlight:  One Ballerina's Dream
This book is actually fiction but is basically a tribute to Janet Collins, the first ballerina of color to perform at the Metropolitan  Opera.  Love this story!

5.  A Voice Named Aretha
  Aretha Franklin's story is beautifully illustrated in this picture book.  I learned quite a bit about this amazing woman myself from this book!

If you liked these ideas, PIN THEM for later!
Women's History Month books for the music classroom.  Musicians, music teachers and music students will love these stories of great female musicians.

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