Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Favorite Halloween "Pins"

If you haven't joined Pinterest yet, you really should.  There are so many great ideas out there for music ed.  Even if all you do is look at music ed stuff, you will never, ever run out of great ideas.

Here are some of my favorite ideas I got from Pinterest this month:

1.  "Missus White."  This is a really fun rhythmic chant using ta and ti-ti.  On a side note, I use "Miss" instead of "Mrs." but either will work - depending on what rhythm you want.  My 3-year-old daughter recently improvised - on her own, might I add - "Snow White had a fright."  She is definitely the child of 2 music teachers :)

  I recently discovered this great pin that leads to a FREE Teachers Pay Teachers product:

2.  "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" - love this for vocal exploration with Kindergarten!  And I love that it incorporates literature in the music classroom:

3.  This sounds like a really fun Halloween rhythm game - transferring to instruments and everything:

I just LOVE Pinterest!  :)

Pumpkin Fat

This is a great song to use with your kiddos at Halloween that's not necessarily Halloween-y.  It does mention the word "jack-o-lantern," but that's as bad as it gets :)

When this song was introduced to me, it ended with a "so-mi-so" pattern, but everybody just kept singing "so-mi-do" - not on purpose, and I think that works better.  I made this PowerPoint for my kids, and I can use it for both introducing rests and for introducing "do."  In 1st and 2nd grade, I begin working with a 3-line staff, and don't really start adding more lines until mid-2nd grade or so.


I recently went to a district training where we talked about how to incorporate Common Core into the music classroom (this is where this song was introduced to me).  We can talk about personal feelings about Common Core another time, but since my district is implementing it, I'm trying to do this the best I can.  It was suggested for this song to incorporate it with K-3 Common Core Math Standards, defined as:

"Asking students the right questions is an essential part of the learning process.  Questions are the easiest way to incorporate the Common Core State Standards in the area of K-3 Mathematics while teaching music.  Students are more engaged in every moment of the lesson when using questions in the process."

The presenter suggested that we use craft sticks and pipe cleaners to create the rhythms and bar lines.  Students create the rhythms and bar lines (counting, division, etc).  Take turns:  some students pat the beat while the others chant/tap rhythm patterns.  Then, replace patting and tapping with instruments.  Rotate instruments, and count off the rotation.

The training made it easier for me to accept Common Core, because it's not that much different from what we already do as music teachers - all we need to do is ensure we are asking better thought-provoking questions, and most importantly, to have the students be the problem-solvers.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Classical" Music for Halloween

I teach in a school where we need to be careful about celebrating certain holidays, especially Halloween.  In my first few years of teaching, I never encountered a problem teaching the good songs like "Skin and Bones" or "Witch, Witch," but I am now teaching in my second school where I need to be very careful of what I teach in October. 

Having said that, I am a firm believer in giving kids exposure to music of all kinds, but especially orchestral music (what non-musical people call "Classical").  There are so many great "classical" pieces out there that I can use in October that aren't all about Halloween!  I can teach so many musical skills and concepts through these pieces - minor modalities, rhythmic patterns, symphonic poems, incidental music, composer profiles, you name it! 

Here are a list of my favorite "Classical" songs that I use in October, but really can be done any time of year:

1. "In the Hall of the Mountain King" by Edvard Grieg.  There is so much material out there for this piece - lesson plans, listening guides, etc.  This is a fantastic piece for teaching ta and ti-ti (quarter note, paired eighth notes) and tempo!

Some helpful links here: (printable listening map)

And here: (lesson plan and materials for grades K-2) (lesson plan and materials for grades 3-5)

2. "Danse Macabre" by Camille Saint-Seans.  This is really kind of a creepy song, so I really only use it for upper grades. 

Youtube link to creepy 1980s cartoon:

Here are the slides to a PowerPoint presentation you can use (I don't know who made this to give them credit, but it is very well done.  Good job, whoever!)

3. "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor" by J.S. Bach.  This is actually required listening for my 3rd graders, and it's the perfect time of year for it!
The kids really enjoy this piece, but I usually only play the first little bit of it.  In the following recording, I usually play until about 2:40.  Supposedly it is the "best version ever" of it :)
This one has the famous "bar graph" score:
And there's always Disney's version - but played by an orchestra insead of an organ:
4. "Night on Bald Mountain" by Modest Mussorgsky.  I remember watching the "Fantasia" version of this growing up, and it gave me nightmares, so be careful with this one.  Great for teaching minor though :)  Side note - I was watching "Wizard of Oz" with my daughter the other day, and noticed they used this piece in the background of the Wicked Witch's castle scene.
5. "Sorcerer's Apprentice" by Paul Dukas.  This is a fun one that I leave in substitute plans sometimes - the kids just really love watching it, especially the Disney version:
6.  Finally, and this one really isn't Halloweeny, but I love it and it is a bit creepy sounding, "Prelude in C# Minor" by Sergei Rachmoninoff.  This is a piece I am practicing right now and just love the way it sounds:

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Seating Charts

I don't know about all you other teachers, but I have a hard time learning all of the names of my kids.  It's especially hard since this is my 4th school in 6 years, and my brain just can't seem to handle all of those names, at least at first.  Somehow, I do seem to learn most of them by the end of the school year, but that's due mostly to me creating seating charts.  If I can look at a name, then look at a face, it really helps me organize my thoughts and somehow the right name sticks with the right student.

This may seem like a no-brainer, and something most of you do already, but I just wanted to share a website I have found that makes seating charts oh-so-easy!
This site allows you to arrange the seats any way you wish (which, as a music teacher, is fabulous because you could arrange them in riser formation, circle formation, etc), and you can change and print it out as much as you like it.  I usually keep a copy of my seating charts in my substitute binder, and they have always said how much it helps.  The best part of all - it's FREE!

I just love free things, don't you?


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons: Practice melodic dictation

I absolutely LOVE to incorporate literature into my music classroom.  As a child, I debated whether to become a music teacher or a librarian.  I love to read and do so whenever I can find a spare minute.

Anyway, there are so many great books out there that we can use for vocal exploration, rhythmic chants, etc.  One of my new favorite books is "Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons" by Eric Litwin.  You can see a video preview of the book here:

The book is really entertaining, and my kids love it!  I use it for vocal exploration (words like POP!) and for the addictive song that Pete keeps singing.  But, my new favorite way to use this book is when we are practicing melodic notation on the staff.

I talk about Pete's "lost buttons" and how I found them - on the staff!

At a recent Orff workshop, we did a "make and take" day where I got this fabulous idea - cookie sheets from the dollar store with electrical tape (also from the dollar store) as the staff.  I put a 3-line staff on the back of the cookie sheet and a 5-line staff on the front, so I can use this with all of my kiddos.  With my older kids, I use it to spell words when we are working on absolute pitch names, and for everybody else, I use it for melodic dictation.  The "buttons" are actually magnets that I found at the Dollar Tree.  They work perfectly when we are talking about Pete's "lost buttons"!

There are lots of other ways you can use these cookie sheets - I love having these in my classroom :)

For some reason, these photos won't rotate. Sorry, folks!

Friday, September 20, 2013



I have thought of starting this music education blog for a long time now, but just with moving to a different state, husband starting his PhD program (also in music:  vocal pedagogy), beginning my 4th teaching job, and various other life events, I have kept procrastinating.  Well, the procrastination is finally over, and I thought that in honor of it being a Friday, I would start my blog with a song I have been singing for 15 years.

I think my love of Fridays dates way back to high school, when I just couldn't wait to get out of school for the weekend.  My Chemistry teacher in high school, Ms. Mazaros, fueled this love of the weekend by singing "The Friday Song" every week!  In honor of her, in all of the schools I have taught at, I've taught the kids this song:

The lyrics are:
Friday, Friday, Friday is my favorite day!
Monday is a bummer, Tuesday's only fair, 
Wednesday's getting better, and Thursday's almost there,
But Friday, Friday, Friday is my favorite, 
Friday is my favorite, Friday is my favorite day!

You'll have to forgive the notation - since I am the primary (and only) income earner in my family at the current moment, I use a free music notation software right now that I can't figure out how to get tied notes to work (MuseScore is great for simple things, though:  I'll play around with it, and I'm sure I'll figure it out at some point.....
Anyway, the rhythms are meant to be swung, not straight.

My kids, at all 4 schools that I have taught at, and I have taught all grade levels from K-12, have learned this song, and they all love it.  Some love it so much that they ask to sing it on Wednesdays!

Hope you all have a fantastic weekend!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

About Me

I have been singing and playing instruments ever since I can remember. The oldest daughter of a high school choir teacher, it was up to me to set the "musical" example for my younger sisters. I began taking private piano lessons at age 5 and private violin lessons at age 7. I participated in school choirs, orchestras, and bands. I received a Bachelor Degree from Utah State University in Music Education with a Choral Emphasis and finished my Masters Degree in Music Education from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio. I have completed Levels I and II Orff Schulwerk certification and am certified in 3 levels of Kodaly.

I started my teaching career at a K-9 charter school in Utah, where I taught orchestra, band, choir, and general music to all 10 grade levels.  Crazy - and I did it for 2 years!  We then moved to Ohio, where I taught grades 9-12 choir and keyboard music, for 2 more years.  We then moved to Georgia, where I taught at another charter school, but this one only grades K-5 - and I taught general music, choir, and band.  We have recently moved (AGAIN!) to Kansas, where I currently teach grades K-5 in general music and choir.  Call me crazy with all of the moving, but all of my experience has taught me some life lessons, and I have learned so much about different cultures and areas of the country - it has truly been rewarding.