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.