Saturday, October 21, 2017

How to survive interruptions to your plans

Half days. Early dismissal days. Teacher work days. Even assemblies. If you are on a weekly schedule (in other words, you meet with the same classes on the same day of the week), this can really throw off your attempt to keep all your classes on the same page.
After a couple of these days, you probably want to throw up your hands in frustration!

Relax! It's all good!

First of all, take a deep breath and remind love this job! You chose it because you love working with kids, you love music, you want to share your love of your subject with your students, perhaps even inspire them. So...with your attitude realigned, let's talk about what is truly important and what you can let go of.

Adapt your lessons. If all your 5th grade classes learned "casting off" with Alabama Gal but 2 classes missed it, YOU get to decide what was important about the lesson and what could be dropped out. If you dance alot in music class and the 5th graders will be learning more dances incorporating "casting off", then that dance step is probably not one to skip.
So as you review last weeks' lesson with all the kids that learned "casting off" last week (kids LOVE repetition but change it up a little), teach Alabama Gal to the kids that missed it. And then like Elsa, LET IT GO!

If you try to cram all of the material you covered in 2 lessons with the majority of the classes into 1 lesson with the kids you missed, you will stress yourself out and the joy of the material will not reach your students. And isn't that the point?

We have the loveliest job! To teach kids how to connect to the beauty of music. Obviously music means a great deal to you or you wouldn't be in this business.
Don't forget WHY you are here!

To make a difference! This is all about ATTITUDE here!

On the surface, you may feel like you are just a break for classroom teachers. They may not realize that you actually have plans and standards that you are planning to teach. But quite honestly, we are ALL in our own little microcosms. Classroom teachers are focused on their plans and standards just like we are. Sometimes you meet some classroom teachers who "get it". They understand that we are actually teaching content. CHERISH THEM!

For the others who cannot see beyond themselves, be kind. People cannot understand what they have not experienced. Be patient with adults as well as kids. Again your attitude says so much about who you are.
And how people will accept your music program.

You can't do everything! Do what you can and remember to make it musical and joyful. That is what the kids will remember!

Hang in there! Ellen

Don't miss this week's Musician in the Spotlight
 ... the very sassy  Mariah Carey

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Moving Your Music Classroom?

The beginning of the year you set up your Music room just the way you want it.  It's organized and easy to maintain. You teach your students how to enter and exit in an orderly manner. Things are flowing the way you'd like and then...

there's a change in your space. It could be some kind of school construction or you could lose your room to a new section of first grade. This will require you to have a different space... now... just after you've gotten your students into a routine!

So... how do you set up a new space and keep similar routines? You realize that you cannot get everything in place before the classes start coming. The school schedule must go on. What can you make sure is ready before the kids arrive and what can you add little by little?

SET UP THE PHYSICAL SPACE the way you want. 

1)Are you setting up the seating in a semi-circle or in rows? Think about where you "present" most of your lessons: near the Smart board? next to your instruments? by the piano?

Do you have a "front" of the room where the students will face most of the time? If you use a rug or chairs or sit spots, decide where they work best and put them in place.

2) If your students bring their lunch boxes because they go right to lunch after your class, where should they put them? The special area teacher across from me has her students place their lunch boxes in a neat square (marked off by tape) in the hall outside the room. In the Music Room, I have a table and the kids put their lunch boxes under it.

Water bottles are commonplace in my school so I have a small area next to the table for them. I keep them separate so that a leaky water bottle does not get lunch bags wet. (Lesson learned from experience.)

3) Think about where you will set up your instruments (or at least store them).
Will your students move to this space or will you bring the instruments to them? If you teach different grade levels in a row, can your change what materials you are using easily or will you need to use the same stuff class after class (no matter what grade) because there is no time in your schedule to exchange materials?


After you've figured out how you are going to set up the physical space, think about how you will get your students in and out of the room. How will they move from the entrance to their place in the room? I use assigned seats for a few reasons: knowing where to sit creates better flow and less confusion. Now how will the kids exit your room? How will they gather their lunchboxes, etc?

Once you have your physical space and transition routines figured out, you can add your posters, silent teachers, etc. as time allows. Don't worry about getting that done right away unless you have the time.

The change in your Music Room will definitely affect your students. Most likely they will be taking it all in and not be as focused as usual. Go with the flow. Remind them of your classroom routines. Refocus them if necessary. It's almost like the first week of school all over again but they should respond more quickly.

Your classroom is a place where you spend ALOT of your time. Be thoughtful about how it will work FOR you.

If you have a topic you would like me to cover, please feel free to suggest it in the comments below.

Happy Honking! Ellen

This week's Musician in the Spotlight is country music superstar Tim McGraw. Be the first person to PM me on Facebook and I will send it to you for free! 

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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Organizing Tips for Boomwhackers

artwork by Music K-8 magazine
- you know, those colorful plastic tubes that kids love to play! As fun as they are, these enticing instruments can be a challenge to organize and store.

Big bins can make this much easier. Separating them into 2 groups can keep them even more organized: diatonic (C-c) and chromatic add-ons (the sharps/flats).

When preparing for the week's lessons, try separating the boomwhackers according to which notes you will use and then put those in a smaller bin(s). For example, if your third graders will be using D-A for a steady beat (great as a substitute for a level bordun on an Orff instrument), gather those tubes and put them in a temporary bin or crate for use in class. In a different bin you will put the D pentatonic tubes for your fourth graders.

When teaching harmony, divide the I chord and the V chord boomwhackers and put in bins labeled as such for your fifth graders.

In an earlier post, I discussed the use of classroom helpers. When the bins are labeled by grade level, helpers can easily get the them for the class. Smooth set up and pick up during class - who doesn't want that??!!

Organizing is a HUGE way to give you more energy - both physical and mental. I would love for you to share with me how you organize materials. Why not leave a comment below?

Happy Honking! Ellen

Hispanic Heritage Month is in full swing! Here are a few products that promote Hispanic music...

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