Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt

Monday, December 29, 2014

New Years Resolutions 2015

Can you believe 2014 is just about over? Fast away the old year passes. 

This was a big year for me: Getting married, running my first half marathon, starting my blog and TPT store... wow! Here's hoping that 2015 holds even more excitement. 

Now I'm linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share some of my resolutions/goals for the upcoming year:


1. Personal: Read more for pleasure
For Christmas, I received a copy of Artie Almeida's Parachutes, Ribbons, and Scarves book, and I am so thrilled to dig into that. Thanks, Santa! However, I realized that it's been several weeks since I read a book for myself. Any suggestions?

2. Professional: Create an Orff ensemble
This year, I'm glad that one of the schools where I am teaching has a nice Orff instrumentorium. However, the instruments are housed in the other music teacher's portable. I'm free to use them, but it's not exactly practical to transport a large number at a time back and forth between general music classes. I recently came up with a solution to this problem: an after school Orff club! It's still pending administrative approval (I only brought up the subject right before the holidays), but I am hoping to get it off the ground when we get back to school. 

3. Classroom: Student-driven learning
I had my first formal observation of the year at the beginning of the month. It went OK, but my AP had some concerns about the number of students actively participating versus those who were sitting and watching. It made me realize that a LOT of my lessons on the SmartBoard involve students taking turns at the board individually. I'm going to try and re-vamp some of my existing lessons to fix this problem, and create some new activities that will be more student-driven and therefore more engaging. 

4. Blog/TPT: Finish Sight Singing product
I've been cooking up a new product for Sight Singing, specifically for the upper elementary levels. I want to make it more appealing to the older boys, since a lot of my products are kind of "cutesy," so I went with a construction/toolbox theme. It's still a work in progress, but here's a little preview:




5. Just for me: Lose the "honeymoon weight"
In 2012, I started exercising and eating well, and between 2012 and 2014 I am proud to say that I lost 60 pounds! But after my wedding in July I got waaay too relaxed with my healthy habits. In the five months since my wedding, I've gained back almost half of the weight I lost. Yikes. So for 2015 I resolve to shed that and get closer to my goal. 

That's it for my resolutions. Hail the new, ye lads and lasses!


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Liebster Award!


I am happy to share that I was nominated for a Liebster Award by Shelley of Pitch Publications and Melissa of Mrs. Stouffer's Music Room! Thank you so much, ladies! 


The Liebster Award was created to highlight blogs with growing audiences. 

The rules for receiving this award are:

  1. In your post link back to the blogger who nominated you as a thank you and a 'shout out'.
  2. Answer the questions that the tagger set for you plus create 11 questions for the people you've tagged to answer. (The questions I have answered please)
  3. Nominate 11 people (Blogs with less than 200 followers) and link them in your post. 
  4. Let your nominees know and provide them with a link back to your post (so they can see the rules)
  5. No nominating the person who nominated you, however send them a thank you :)
1. Why and how long ago did you start blogging?
When I was in high school, I toyed around with web design and had a personal blog that I built all on my own with nothing but HTML and CSS. Then... I went to college and moved on with my life! Haha! In October, I decided to get back into the blogging scene as a form of professional development for my teaching career. This time around, I'm letting Blogger do most of the work.

2. What one word sums up the heart of your blog and why?
Reflection. Ever since I started this blog, I've found that my outlook towards my job has improved a lot! Even if I've had a long, exhausting day pushing my cart around, blogging helps me to think back on what worked and what I can do to improve. This is why I started my Three Stars and a Wish linky party: to reflect on my teaching.

3. Is there something you learned late in your blogging journey you wished you knew before?
I'm only a few months into this teaching blog, so I'm learning new things every day! The most important lesson I would have to say right now is connect! Communicate with other bloggers and learn from what others have done before you. No need to reinvent the wheel!

4. What is your favorite past time other than blogging?
I tend to rotate through hobbies every few months. Running has been one of my favorites for the past few years. I'm also really into scrapbooking... as much as I love graphic design, there is something so satisfying about creating art with your hands.

5. How many hours per week do you dedicate to your blog/TpT?
Probably about 5 or 6 hours. I don't blog every day, but most weekends I will sit down for several hours for a little marathon of blogging/lesson planning/TPT product designing.

6. What category of blog posts do you enjoy the most?
Linky parties, definitely. I like having the structure of answering questions or responding to prompts. I also enjoy reading other peoples' responses.

7. Where does your blog inspiration come from?

Usually, it's from my own teaching! I like to share the songs, activities, and manipulatives that worked well throughout the week. I figure after a few years I will have built up a great collective of tried-and-true lessons, complete with my anecdotes of what worked, and what I plan to improve for the next time around.

8. Which post that you've written are you most proud of?
I am most proud of my post about my Stretchy Band! This was a new addition to my teaching this year, and after trying it out with several different grade levels, I posted about some of the ways we used it to respond to music. This lesson was featured in November as part of The Music Teacher Showcase by The Yellow Brick Road. 
9. Is there any post you have been planning to do, but have been postponing it for a while now?
Actually, no. I try very hard to stay on top of my blog posts; if there's something on my mind, I start the post as soon as possible. I am working on getting into the practice of back logging my posts and scheduling them in advance, as well.

10. What's your favorite aspect of blogging?
Getting to look back on what is going on in my classes and connect with other teacher bloggers. No one is an island here!
11. Which recipe, project, or idea on my blog would you be most likely to try yourself?
Drum Circle! I've always found the concept of doing a drum circle intriguing, but intimidating. I recently found a bunch of excellent drum circle videos that make the concept seem more accessible. I just need to make sure I have enough unpitched percussion on my cart for every student to have something in his or her hands.

Here are my nominees!
(I don't think I'm going to be able to come up with 11 people who have not been nominated already. If you've already been selected, please think of this as a nice compliment!)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Happy Boxing Day!


I found a free font maker app for Android and started messing around with making fonts based on my handwriting! I'm excited for this venture. I wonder if anyone would be interested in downloading my fonts....

Anyway, Happy Boxing Day! I hope all of my teacher friends out there are enjoying some relaxing time during this break!



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Three Stars and a Wish {Holiday Edition 2014}

Winter break is here!!! We made it!!! I thought I would celebrate with a Three Stars and a Wish to reflect on my last few days of school before Christmas cookie-induced inertia sets in...



1. I have spent the past week doing sing-alongs with almost every grade. (PreK and Kinder being notable exceptions. I like to stick to my regular structure with them as much as possible.) Our school's number one goal for this week, and today in particular, was to ensure that every student was safe and accounted for. I'm happy to report that I had almost no behavior issues from my "usual suspects." Something about a Christmas sing-along seems to bring people together, and I just can't get enough of it!

2. Since my sing-alongs were already pre-planned for the whole week, I was able to use my planning to FINALLY get a week ahead in my plans. It's nice to have one less thing to have to think about over the break.

3. I don't want to disclose too many details yet, but another teacher blogger and I are teaming up to work on a project that could be AWESOME! We're going to Skype over the break to work it out. I'm very excited for it! If all goes well, I will share more news on that in upcoming weeks/months.

A Wish: The only grade that didn't buy into my sing-alongs today was fifth. Which was weird, because every other school I've taught, the fifth graders have LOVED this activity. I will consider it part of the learning process for me being at a different school. New school, new culture, I suppose.

I can't wait to travel home to my parents' house and celebrate the holidays! You probably won't hear from me again until January, so to all my fellow teachers out there: Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

If you would like to share your own Three Stars and a Wish, download the template here and link up! Please remember to link back to this post to share the love.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

December Plague

Well, it's happened... after being a part of a super fun winter concert at one of my schools on Tuesday, I came down with the inevitable achey, coughey, ruin-your-singing-voicey cold. This brings up the age-old question of "what am I going to do with my classes when I have NO singing voice?"

Here's what I've been working on in some of my grades... Some no-singing winter music lessons:

5th Grade: Dreidel
After already learning the song, "S'vivon, Sov Sov Sov" for Chanukah, I told my students a little background about the holiday and they were eager to learn the rules to the dreidel game. I had them play using bingo chips instead of gelt. While they were playing, I had a playlist of Chanukah and Klezmer songs playing in the background.

4th Grade: Snowball Fight
Since we've been learning notes on the treble staff, this was the perfect time to practice reading and playing them. For my snowball fight game, every student writes a four-note melody, crumples it up, and tosses it across the room at the opposing team. Then they try to earn points by correctly reading and playing the melodies that were thrown at them. This gave my students practice reading and playing barred percussion with a competitive-but-friendly twist.

Trepak Cup Game

This awesome cup game has been floating around Pinterest for a while, and the Speed Stacks cups that I ordered last month just arrived... can you say perfect timing? My fourth graders had a BLAST learning this and they got a bonus lesson on form by doing it!

Speed Stacks: These are great because they are so durable and can be easily transported on my cart.


1st Grade: Winter Melody project
I've been planning this one and gathering materials for it for a few weeks now. It was the first time I'd done a truly crafts-y activity with my kiddos. (Usually coloring with crayons is as inventive as I get with my young ones.) Since my first graders are already familiar with so, mi, and la on a two-line staff system, this project was an opportunity to show what they know by composing their own melody. I gave each child eight cotton (snow)balls that they glued on the staff. I let them take their projects home right after making them, so I don't have any examples of students' work. Here's my exemplar, to give you an idea:



Kindergarten: Winter rhythm cut and paste
I was fortunate enough to win this AMAZING set from Jena Hudson at Sew Much Music. Even though my rhythm unit is technically over, reteaching and reviewing is crucial for little ones. And as musicians we all know that rhythm is important in every piece of music we teach. So we had a nice rhythm review with some of the great activities included in this bundle, culminating in this cut and paste activity.

Disclaimer: My kinders needed a LOT of teacher help reading these words. However, they loved clapping them and figuring out the syllables/rhythm once they knew what the words were.




Teaching when you're feeling under the weather is decidedly icky, but sometimes you just don't have a choice. The students deserve to learn and I try not to cop-out and just show a video if I can help it. These were some very effective alternatives that saved me during this week with no voice.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Three Stars and a Wish {12-8-14}

Good evening! I thought today would be a good day for another installment of "Three Stars and a Wish!"

If you would like to share your own "Three Stars and a Wish," you can download the template for free here. Please share the love, and don't forget to link back to my blog! 


1: After spending a lesson or two listening, performing, and describing "soft" and "loud" sounds, I introduced the term "dynamics" to my Kinders last week. I didn't spend very long on the term itself and wasn't really expecting them to retain it yet. It made my day when they remembered it and said it without being prompted!

I'm guessing it was because of the super engaging, always a hit, hoberman sphere:
Photo from  ThinkGeek.com
2: I have a fifth grade class that has been bitten by the "I'm too cool for Elementary school" bug. It's difficult to find activities that they will all latch on to. Usually I do this activity more with primary grades, but I figured we would spend five minutes playing the dreidel game after singing the song "S'vivon, Sov Sov Sov." They learned the lyrics in both Hebrew and English and were soooo interested in the dreidel itself! I'm extending the lesson to continue on the next time I see them. Must file this one in the "teaching win!" folder.

3: As I mentioned in my previous post (my "What's On Your Desk?" linky party, which is still open for links), I have been prepping for an after school PD session on Effective Effort that I am co-presenting with a classroom teacher. It just so happened that at a completely unrelated meeting I attended for beginning teachers today, a large chunk of time was spent discussing Effective Effort. It was very reaffirming and I feel great about the upcoming session.

A Wish: For one of my schools' winter concerts tomorrow, my colleague put together a faculty choir to sing a super silly, incredibly fun version of "I'm Gettin' Nothin' for Christmas" and I volunteered to sing a solo! All of the verses of the song were modified to include names of teachers in our school (fun, right?) so I struggled a bit to memorize my part. I'm pretty sure I've got it down, though... ::fingers crossed:::

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday {12-4-14}

It's been a few weeks since I've done a Positive Thinking Thursday from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings. With the holidays and everything else, I've just had so many other things to think about and share.

My little bit of positivity today is another cart teaching success story.

If you saw my post and linky party from yesterday (which is still open to link up through the end of the month), you will know that I've been settling into my new desk space in a work room. Although I still travel from classroom to classroom, it is so nice to have my own little bit of "office space" to return to and keep my things organized.

My office is in a kindergarten classroom and I recently realized that that there is about 8 feet of completely unused hallway space right outside the classroom door. I asked the other teachers in the hallway and no one had claimed that wall! 

So now, even though I don't have a classroom or bulletin board to speak of, I have a space to display student work and decorate. I don't care that the wall is pockmarked and smudged... it's my special space!

Here is what I did with it today:


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's On Your Desk? Linky Party for December

Life on a cart is not easy. It can be depressing when you feel like you have no home base in the school building. That is why I was so excited last month: My advisor was able to find me a space to sit inside a workroom! Now I have a little office carved out where I can do my planning. 

I am so happy to have a desk I can call my own. It inspired me to create this linky party, "What's On Your Desk?" 

For this linkup we can share what interesting books, documents, and decorations we have on our desks to represent what's going on in our teaching at the present time. 


*Thanks to Krista Wallden of Creative Clips for the clipart used in this graphic.*


This is what's currently on my BRAND NEW desk:


  • Decorations: a wedding photo of my hubby and myself that always makes me smile, and a "teacher" wordle that I received as a gift last year
  • A laptop 
  • Spotlight on Music Animated Listening Maps
  • The Skillful Teacher textbook by Jon Saphier. My principal has asked me and another teacher to lead an after school PD session next week on the concept of Effective Effort, so I am brushing up on the information I learned when I took a Skillful Teacher class last fall.
So, what's on your desk? To join the linky party, follow these steps:
  1. Save the "What's On Your Desk?" graphic to your computer.
  2. Include the graphic and link to this post in your blog post.
  3. Post a picture of your desk (if possible) or current workspace with a description of the items.
  4. Submit your blog here to be included in the linky party. 






Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The CASE Method

In college I had a professor who used to tell us to use the CASE method of teaching: Capture And Steal Everything!

I was reminded of that today as I popped into my colleague's room and saw her doing an awesome activity. I immediately said to her, "I'm stealing that!" and whipped up a quick little Smart Notebook to incorporate it in my next lesson.

What I saw was this brilliantly simple way of writing out text so that it matches the melodic contour of a song:


Writing out the melody like this was a great transitional way to help my 2nd graders to recognize higher and lower pitches with a visual.

Then, I transferred the song to the staff. In our last lesson we practiced finding so and mi on the staff with my game "Help Me Find Me" (which is still 28% off in my TPT store until midnight tonight) so we were ready to identify the line and space notes of this melody and sing it with solfege:

Now I just threw this little notebook file together during my lunch break today, so it doesn't have any bells and whistles, but you're welcome to download it for free and try it out. See if your students respond as well as mine did to the visuals!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Let's Get Social

Ever since I started this blog in October, I've pretty much jumped head first into the social/tech teacher experience. 


Image with thanks to: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mkhmarketing/8539048913/

It started with uploading my products on Teachers Pay Teachers... then, some of my fellow Music TPT sellers convinced me that I need to also have a facebook page for my store. My school started its own Pinterest page so I created a professional Pinterest handle for myself (although I still use my personal account interchangeably). 

Now, most recently, my friend Molly convinced me that I should get involved with some educational twitter chats. So I created a twitter account just for that! 

Am I a social media butterfly, or what? Feel free to follow me on any/all of these platforms, should you choose:

Facebook
Pinterest
Twitter
Teachers Pay Teachers

P.S. Don't forget about the big TPT sale. I would be remiss if I didn't remind you that today and tomorrow the entire store is on sale, PLUS my products will be an additional 20% off. 




Sunday, November 30, 2014

TPT Cyber Sale Linky Party



December is here! The holidays are near! That means it's time to celebrate with some festive songs and activities in music class. Fortunately, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a Cyber Sale December 1st and 2nd. 



I'm participating in Amy Abbot's Linky Party to promote some of the awesome cyber deals that I'm going to be taking advantage of during the sale...


  1. From my store:

    When I looked on TPT for some Chanukah resources, I was not too impressed with the results that came up. So I figured I should start to make my own! This is a slideshow with the lyrics to The Dreidel Song, along with instructions on how to play the dreidel game. The instructions should be simple enough that even someone with no prior experience with the holiday should be able to teach it and have fun! You will need to supply your own dreidels to play the game.
  2. From Joyful Music:



    Joyce Moore of Joyful Music created this awesome pack of activities related to Tchakovsky, which of course is PERFECT for this time of year. I will be teaching my students about the Nutcracker Suite and I absolutely LOVE the fact that she has written these cute lyrics to sing to the tune of the March from the Nutcracker.
  3. From Creative Clips:



    Krista Wallden of Creative Clips is selling Snow Buddies, an adorable set of winter themed characters. I can't wait to use them in some of my upcoming work. I found some great treasures of hers as freebies from her last holiday themed giveaway. Now I look forward to supporting her by purchasing this awesome set.

I hope you find something you like on Teachers Pay Teachers for the holidays. Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Five Favorite Pins of November



As November comes to a close, I am linking up with Mrs. Miracle's Music Room to share my five favorite pins. Here are some of the fun things I've found on Pinterest this month.



30+ Fun Ways to Teach Notes on the Staff

As I begin to teach/review treble clef notes with my intermediate students, I am going to be using centers. I can't wait to utilize my school's chromebooks and ipads as part of my centers and play some of these fun games. 
Percussion Clothespins Clip Activity

I love the idea of writing names of instruments on the clothespins to create a great labeling activity. This would be a great end-of-the-year review after I've taught about the instrument families.


A Have A Little Snowman

I love how the lyrics to this song are color-coded to match the boomwhackers. I just introduced my pre-k students to boomwhackers last week as we talked about melodies going up and down. I think they would really love whacking along to this fun song. It would also make a good review of colors for this age group.


Cup Game for Trepak from the Nutcracker

I'm collecting fun activities to go along with the Nutcracker to teach this December. I love how accessible the rhythms are in this activity and it will be such a great way to introduce form.

My Favorite Christmas Movie!

"Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Music Teacher Showcase

Good morning! Only two more days until Thanksgiving. Who's ready for some much-needed family and relaxation time? I know I sure am!

I'm happy to share that my blog was recently featured on The Music Teacher Showcase by The Yellow Brick Road!

http://www.yellowbrickroadblog.com/2014/11/music-teacher-showcase-november.html

Thank you to Jennifer for including me in this month's installment. I am so honored to be listed along with these other creative music educators.

Please be sure to take a look at the showcase and see some of the great ideas being shared!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday


Edit: 
Molly Patrician invited me to her Gratitude Linky Party. Please join the party and link up with five things for which you are grateful!

_______________________________________________________________________




Thanksgiving is just one week away, and I thought I would get into the spirit by listing some things that I am feeling particularly thankful for this year:

My Family
I just got married in July and I feel so loved by my husband and both of our families.

My Job
No one can say that teaching comes without its struggles. But I am thankful to have a job that challenges me, inspires me, and allows me to be creative. Every time I hear a student humming one of our songs walking down the hallway, I remember why I love my job.

My Pet
Buddy the Bearded Dragon.
No further explanation necessary.

Fitness
I think running is the thing that keeps me sane when everything else in my life feels crazy!

This Blog
I love having an outlet where I can be reflective of my teaching and share my highlights with the rest of the techie teaching community.

What are you thankful for?


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Three Stars and a Wish 11-18-14

Happy Tuesday! It's hard to even believe, but there's only three more student days until Thanksgiving! Next week we have parent conferences on Monday and Tuesday, which means plenty of time to get prepped before the December music madness sets in. Here's my Three Stars and a Wish for the day.

If you would like to share your own "Three Stars and a Wish," you can download the template for free here. Please share the love, and don't forget to link back to my blog! 




1. I always know I have a hit on my hands when I actually hear a student say, "This is fun!" I saw this song posted in the Music Teachers Facebook group, but I can't remember who came up with the lyrics. If you know who this is accredited to, please let me know in a comment.


To the tune of "Charlie Over the Water:"


Turkey in the barnyard.

Turkey in the tree.
Turkey in the kitchen
But you can't catch me! 

This was perfect for my primary students, especially since my first graders learned "Charlie" a few weeks ago. I slightly modified the melody to end on low do since that's what I was presenting in the lesson. (As I've mentioned before, I'm not a trained Kodรกly teacher, but I do try to use the three p's as much as I can in my teaching.)


2. In the past, I have saved center activities for the end of the school year as a sort of lighter way to review concepts. This year I have a class of 33 5th graders. I'm finding that doing too much teacher-centered instruction with this large of a class just does not work. So I decided to change the way that I would normally teach the treble clef by adding centers. I picked six activities that I'm very excited about- one of them was painstakingly handmade by me and I hope the kids enjoy it! I'm going to start introducing the centers when I see that class on Thursday, and I will blog more about the centers after I've implemented them.


3. Since I am an itinerant teacher, I am not the music specialist responsible for chorus at either of my schools. For me, as a graduate of Westminster Choir College, this has been kind of a bummer. 


Fortunately, this year my colleague at one school wants to add all third graders to the winter chorus concert. (The regular chorus is a 4th and 5th grade pullout program.) Since we both teach third grade general music, we collaboratively taught our classes four songs for the concert. 


The kids are thrilled to be included in this special performance. I used to think I hated the idea of a mandatory all-grade chorus, but now that I'm teaching it I actually think it's a great thing because it exposes students to the experience so that they can make an informed decision about whether they want to be in chorus next year.


A Wish: At one of my schools, I teach in two different portable classrooms on the different days I am there. (Everyone who was involved in making this decision knew that it wasn't ideal, but it was the only option.) Today was our first real freezing, windy, day. The students have to transition outdoors from the gym to my classroom, and.... let's just say I will be reminding them to bring their coats to music class for the next few months!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Stretchy Band!

On Thursday afternoon I was in the school office and the secretary said, "This came in the mail for you... I have no clue what it is." 

It was the stretchy band I ordered!!!





Needless to say, I was super excited and tried it out with almost all of my classes on Friday! Two kinder classes, two first grades, and two second grades, and two third grades. In hindsight, I probably shouldn't have done it all on one day because using it can get exhausting, but I was just so eager to share this new learning tool with my students. 

And they LOVED it!




I started planning by collecting activities to try on my Pinterest. I couldn't find too much on there; I've heard great things about Artie Almeida's Parachutes book and I think I might order it soon to try some of those. If you have experience with this book or have other stretchy band activities you like, please let me know!



Here's some of the things we did yesterday:

  • Third grade was learning Liza Jane on solfege, so as a class we decided where the stretchy band should be for each pitch.
  • In the primary grades we showed high and low sounds by holding the stretchy band over our head and in our lap.
  • We practiced bouncing the band to a steady beat and counting measures in groups of four beats.
  • In first grade, we listened to Elgar's piece, "Faeries and Giants." I asked the students to make a prediction about what the faeries would sound like and they voted by holding the band high or low.

I also told my students about my favorite part of using the stretchy band: putting it away! We counted down "3-2-1-GO!" and all let go of the band at the same time so that it snaps into the middle of the circle. What fun.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Stick to Staff Solfege Activities




I have been working on solfege with my students for a few weeks and now I am starting to transition them from reading stick notation to the treble staff. Last week we played this awesome game using stick notation by Aileen Miracle, and today I started using some things I created.

Stick to Staff Writing Activity

I created some flashcards with solfege on them and had students transfer it onto large laminated staff paper. The thing I am most excited about is the fact that I differentiated the examples and used colored star stickers to organize them by difficulty. Now I can see exactly what level each student is at and can facilitate learning of all different levels within a single class.

Click here for a free download of my Stick Flashcards. I pasted them onto index cards and laminated them to last longer.

Catch That Turkey

My next step is to play this stick to staff review game that I created for Smart Notebook. I got very into the thanksgiving theme and when you click on the different turkeys, the correct answer will actually GOBBLE. Sound effects make everything more fun!


You can purchase this turkey game from my TPT store.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Three Stars and a Wish

One of my personal goals when starting this blog was to give myself opportunities to be more reflective of my teaching. So far I have loved participating in Positive Thinking Thursdays, courtesy of Mrs. Laffin's Laughings, and I thought that I would try to incorporate another method of reflecting on my days. I designed this template based on a tool that I use with my students for giving constructive peer criticism: three stars and a wish. The rules are simple. You list three positive things and one wish for improvement next time.


1. Who doesn't love free coffee? The Baltimore metro area McDonalds locations give free coffee to teachers with ID every Tuesday for the entire school year! As a vegetarian I don't usually make any trips to McDonalds, but I'll happily do a lap through the drive through if it gets me my favorite beverage for free.

2. I "auditioned" singers today for a special performance for Grandparents Day, coming up next week. I am new to one of my schools this year, and fortunately the other general music teacher was fabulous about getting music together on short notice. She found some great selections from Music K8 for our 1st and 2nd graders, including one song with a solo section. It was these kids' first audition experience, and (for the most part) they handled it very well.

3. Students had a two hour early dismissal today and teachers had a PD related to the new PARCC assessment being used in Maryland this year. I was expecting to have to sit through two hours of a session that- let's be honest- didn't really relate to my content area. Instead, my administrators decided to differentiate the PD and allow the cultural arts team to meet separately. We created our own set of content-related questions in the style of what students will face on the PARCC exam. We came up with some great examples for music, art, PE, and media that challenge students to find details in their text, whether it is a painting, musical composition, physical activity, etc. I can honestly say that it was an excellent use of our time. 

A Wish: Because I found out about our upcoming Grandparents Day performance at the last minute (it comes with the territory of being at a new school), I had to put my other plans for students on hold so that we could learn the songs in time for that. In the future I hope to foster better communication with administration about when students will be asked to perform. That way I have time to make sure they do their best.

If you would like to share your own "Three Stars and a Wish," you can download the template for free here. Please share the love, and don't forget to link back to my blog!