Sunday, August 31, 2014

Music Around the World

I'm going into my 7th year teaching, and this is the first year that I'm really trying to have a "theme" for my classroom.  So, over the summer, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest, looking at different blogs, and just thinking about what my theme could be.  Then, I found this poster in my room: 
Sorry it's a little blurry.  The quote reads "Music may achieve the highest of all missions:  she may be a bond between nations, races, and states, who are strangers in many ways; she may unite what is disunited and bring peace to what is hostile."  -Dr. Max Bendiner

Now, this quote is way over the heads of most of my kiddos, but I love the thought behind it.  I was born with somewhat of a travel bug, and I absolutely love learning about different cultures and places, and I love traveling too.  I've lived in 4 different countries and now 5 different states, and have traveled to Europe, Africa, Asia, and a lot around the USA, Canada, and Mexico.  We're planning lots more trips, because my hubbie likes to travel as well!  Anyway, there is just a wealth of songs from other cultures that I would love to use with my students, so I used this quote, and the idea of the flags on the border, to come up with the theme "Music Around the World."  Not too original, but much more to the level of my kiddos.

My school went under extreme renovation this summer. They added a whole new office/teachers lounge area and several new classrooms - including a brand new music room!  I have more space than I did last year, for which I am very grateful. It's still not quite big enough if I want to do folk dancing or something with especially my upper grades, but we have a large room called the flex room I can reserve for those times.  Well, it seems that many schools in my district went under renovation, so on the first day of school, they were still not quite done with my room.
Here is a photo of me and my daughter, looking through the gaping hole in my door!  Luckily, they finally installed glass this past week, but we went through about 8 school days with no glass in my window, and the entire school was getting to hear singing and instrument playing.  I don't really apologize for that - I was just doing my job :)
Anyway, they are still not quite done with everything in my room.  I have a wonderful storage closet that doesn't have shelving yet, and I'm supposed to be getting a couple of bulletin boards.  Until then, I'm not really supposed to hang anything on the walls, so I've gotten a little creative with my decorations this year.  Here are a few photos:
This is my "WORD WALL" which is no longer on a wall - I had to put it on a cabinet :)
I made a couple of posters that go along with the theme - which I'd love to put on the wall at some point, but for now, they're on the white board.  I totally used part of Lindsay Jervis's theme Lindsay's theme for inspiration, but took a different direction with it.
I have great plans for an amazing bulletin board for this one - I was going to have string going to different countries of songs and composers we learn about this year.  Mozart is hanging out in the middle because I'm still developing an idea I have for a game called "Where in the world is Wolfgang Amadeus?" (based on one of my favorite shows/games as a kid - Carmen Sandiego).  Watch for an upcoming post about that one!
I am allowed to string things from the ceiling, so I printed out a bunch of flags in color, laminated them, and put them on string to form this little hanging banner with the theme.  My kids love this!
Here's a slightly better view, that also shows some of my cabinets:
I have storage baskets above my cabinets, which I sort by class.  Each class is making "Music Passports" this year - watch for a post about that later too - and I'm keeping all of their supplies and everything in these baskets - purchased at the Dollar Tree!
I have shelves for my instruments (sigh; I wish I had more).  My adorable 4-year-old daughter loves coming in and playing my xylophones :)
I use this bookcase to store "art supplies" and other random things - pencils, crayons, etc.
I have this little mailbox I found at Target a couple of years ago.  I tell my students that sometimes they might have a question that I might not have time to answer, or they might want to ask me something not in front of the whole class.  I keep post-its or scrap paper right next to the mailbox, and they can ask any questions they want to.
And finally, a view of the front of my room - white board, projector screen, teacher desk area in the corner, and a cute little music rug I use for so many things.
Anyway, I feel that this year I'm not quite decorated as much as I'd like to be, but I'm honestly just glad to have as much unpacked as I do.  Once I feel I'm more up-to-date, I will post more pictures.  This year is a work in progress!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Engine Engine Number Nine

Engine, engine number nine
Going down Chicago Line.
If the train falls off the track,
Will I get my money back?
That's the way I learned it - there are so many versions, all of them good but a little different.
Such a great chant for teaching ta, ti-ti, steady beat, and so much more!  I also like using it to get the students to improvise a so-mi melody.  So many uses!

A couple of years ago, I found these really cute mini train whistles on Oriental Trading. 
I just checked, and they don't carry these exact ones anymore, but they have other cute train stuff, including some cute wind-up trains I'm really tempted to buy.
Like many of you, I love using this chant to prepare/present/practice steady beat, quarter notes and eighth notes.  My kids really like it too, because I always have them form little trains and walk around the room to either the beat or the rhythm, depending on what we are working on.
Then, I came across these adorable train track beat charts on  (I just adore her blog - she's got so many great songs and resources)
I thought it would be great to actually give each student a train whistle so they could visually move it across the chart as the song progresses, like this: 
Instant success!  Some of my (1st grade) kiddos were having a hard time pointing at regular beat from left to right, but the little manipulative really helped them.  Love it so much!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Classroom Rules

How do you do rules in your music classroom?  I have seen so many cute ideas on Pinterest and Teachers Pay Teachers.  A lot of teachers spell the word "MUSIC" and have each letter represent a rule.  In fact, Lindsay Jervis at has a great idea using this concept, and she has also come up with cute little songs for each rule.  You can find them at Teachers Pay Teachers here: Lindsay Jervis music rules.

I've always used them a little differently.  I picked the 5 most important (to me) things I want the kids to do in my classroom, and just figured out the rhythm of the words.  On the first day when we go over them, I actually like to get a little body percussion round going on with all of the rules.  I'll split up the class and have them start on different rules.  I also use them whenever I need a simple ostinato for a song.  They are also great for preparing syncopation (the last 2 rules).  I've even had the kids transfer them to instruments on my Orff-inspired days.

My rules are:

Be respectful
Stay in your seat (even if your seat is on the floor)
Raise your hand and wait your turn
Follow directions
Always participate

I made a pdf file of these rules that you can get for free on Teachers Pay Teachers here:  Jaylene Scott music rule posters.  I made them both with and without the music notation, so you could use them in other subjects, or figure out your own notation - or make the students do it!

Here's a preview:

What do you do?

Monday, August 18, 2014


Today was my 3rd official day with students.  I do something new with them on the first day of school every year.  This year, I'm actually really excited about - more to come on that later.


Anyway, as an attention-getter this year, I found this really fun youtube link:  Minnesota Boy Choir Dum-Dum.  I love it so much, and can think of so many ways to use this in my special chorus, general ed classes, and just for fun.  However, I learned the song more like this: 

I'm using this song with my 3rd through 5th graders right now, and they are loving it.  They are also coming up with different ways to change the actions, but especially the tempo.  (They absolutely love going as fast as possible).  It is a great quick transition song, great attention-grabber, and I can see myself using this a lot this year.