Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Valentine's Day Pencil Toppers: A 400 Facebook Follower Freebie!

I checked my facebook page yesterday and realized that I made it to 400 followers! I'm so grateful to have people following my facebook page, since that's where I announce the release of most of my new products and announce every time I've written a new blog post. Following me on facebook is the best way to keep in touch. Since I've made it to 400 followers, I decided to create a fun freebie for valentine's day!



All you need to do is buy a class set of cute valentine's day pencils and print enough pencil toppers for everyone (Each sheet has 16 toppers.)

When I made these at home, I had some kid-friendly pencils lying around already, but you can get a class set of pencils fairly cheap on Amazon.

When you cut out the toppers, make sure you carefully cut along the gray lines to make the slit where the pencil will go. I printed on regular paper, but if you can get these printed on cardstock they will be even more durable!



Ready to get started? Download the freebie file from my store here:



Thanks for following!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Planning Checklist

Whether I'm planning my music lessons on a weekly, monthly, or long-term basis, I always start the process by asking myself one question: what do I want my students to get out of this? 

I know that for some kids, their experience in general music may be their first and last opportunity to study "high quality" musical repertoire. That means it is my responsibility to make sure that they are leaving my class with a well-rounded knowledge of music and are having fun doing it. 

I've whittled down my core values of what makes up "high quality" music-making to include the following seven things: folk songs, foreign language songs, contemporary/pop music, classical masterworks, folk dances, improvisation and composition. So when I plan out my weekly lessons, I try to make sure that at least one of my grade levels is doing each of the things on this list each week.



For instance, this week my third graders learned a folk dance (Paw Paw Patch) while my fifth graders studied Mozart's Rondo a la Turka. My first graders sang several folk songs using the pitches so mi and la, while my kindergarteners improvised/composed rhythm patterns using ta and ti-ti. My fourth graders watched this super fun video of the Star Wars theme on Jimmy Fallon, and my second graders sang the African greeting song, Sorida. Next week, each grade will do something completely different from the checklist!

I use this checklist as a reminder of what's important to me and what I know my students will love. I helps me focus my planning on the micro level so that when I look back at the school year on the macro level, I can tell that my kids are getting a well-rounded musical experience in my classroom. 

I know that every teacher's values are different, and I'd be interested to hear what you would add or subtract to this list. Let me know in the comments!

Monday, January 11, 2016

6 New Activities Using Flashcards in the Elementary Music Room

Ah, flashcards. Some music teachers love 'em, others can't stand 'em. I happen to enjoy using flashcards to review rhythmic and melodic concepts with my students. However, when we use flashcards in my classroom, we are never just reading flashcards. I've put together a list of six ways that I use flashcards to inspire fun and creativity in my music class:



1. Fly Swatter
This activity is fun for kids and you can be a little bit competitive with it! Attach several flashcards to your chalk or dry erase board. Divide the class into two teams and have one volunteer from each team stand in front of the board. Give each volunteer a fly swatter. The teacher* then reads one of the flashcards out loud. Whichever volunteer swats the correct flashcard first wins a point for his/her team.

*To increase student engagement/participation, you can assign another student the task of reader.

2. Big Circle
Arrange your flashcards on the floor in a big circle. (You should either have one for each student or half as many if you would like your students to work in pairs.) Have each student or pair stand in front of a flashcard and read the notes. Ring a bell or chime to signal for every student to move clockwise to the next flashcard and read it.

Anchor yourself at one flashcard and this can be an easy way to take a subtle assessment.

3. Heads Up
For this game, the teacher holds a flashcard above his or her forehead so that all the students can read it. Instruct the students to clap or sing the notes on the card. If the students recite it clearly and accurately, the teacher should be able to identify exactly which notes were on the flashcard.

To differentiate this activity, have stronger students play the teacher role and try to identify the notes. This makes a great center or small group game.

4. Project on an IWB
There are limitless options when it comes to electronic flashboards on your interactive whiteboard. You can find great videos on YouTube that have rhythmic playalongs to familiar songs. You can also get a ton of review games on Teachers Pay Teachers that make reading flashcards fun and interactive.

Assign students to be the "pointer" and the "mouse clicker" to incorporate more jobs in the classroom.

5. Memory Game
Display several flashcards. The teacher randomly picks two or more flashcards and recites them one after another. Students try to identify the patterns and arrange them in the correct order.

This can also be a fun hands-on activity if you have index card sized flashcards. You can give a stack to each student or group so that students can arrange them on their own.

6. Composition Inspiration
Coming up with a composition from scratch can be intimidating for young musicians. Try displaying rhythmic flashcards and asking students to assign a pitch for each beat for an easy melodic composition.

You could also display a number of flashcards and give students the option of which ones they would like to use and arrange them in whatever order they like.
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I hope some of these ideas have inspired you or refreshed your memory with some great ways to use flashcards in the music room. If you need flashcards to get you started, I have a huge bundle of winter-themed flashcards available in my store right now. You can also see my entire Flash Cards collection to check out more options for the rest of the school year!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Plan for Success At Home

For tonight's Plan With Me Sunday, I'd like to share a few ways I plan for success outside of the school day. 

I am the kind of person who craves structure. Whenever I go away on a vacation, I have to clean the whole house first because if I come home and the house is messy, I will be SO stressed out. The same rule applies during the work week. If I have a long, tiring day at school, I feel so much better to come home to a place with order and structure. It helps me feel refreshed and able to do my best.

I'd like to share two ideas today of ways that I plan at home:


1. Meal Planning
I like to cook, but I'm not always keen on cooking dinner every single night. I have to admit that I've gotten into a horrible rut with my husband: we both come home from work exhausted and neither one of us has the mental energy to plan and cook a nutritious meal. We talk halfheartedly about food we could eat at home and then often we end up ordering in or going out to eat. It's a huge strain on our budget and super unhealthy. 

Therefore, I'm going to work very hard this year to keep up with my meal planning. The idea is to plan your entire week's worth of dinners on Sunday. What I usually do is start by scouring Pinterest and watching a dozen Tasty recipes to decide what I want to try that week. Then I go grocery shopping and write out my meal plan. It really helps keep me accountable when I have my meals already written out for me. When possible, I will pre-cook certain meals on the weekend, too. That makes my life so much easier on those crazy weeknights.


I wanted to share this freebie with you to help you plan your meals this week! To make my meal planner, I printed this template and put it in a regular 8x10 picture frame. Then I can just write on it with dry erase marker every week. 



2. Workout Planning
If you read my New Years goals blog post from a few days ago, you'll remember that one of my goals was to organize the bonus room in my basement. I'm proud to say that my husband and I have made some good headway in here! The room used to be packed wall-to-wall with boxes of things to unpack and sort. Now I'd estimate that we cleared about 70% of the stuff out of that room! And we donated a LOT of it- the local thrift store must love us! 

You can see in the photo above that we still need to find a good way to store my husband's guitar and vintage computer collection... but I've made some progress in unpacking and organizing my workout gear and I am really excited to be able to use this space as my little home gym. 

I decorated my corner with some motivational signs and I hung up all of my race bibs and medals. The thing that I'm most excited about is my new dry-erase calendar that I'm going to use to keep track of my workouts for each month.

When I was training for my first half marathon, I was following an online workout plan that laid out exactly which days to run which distances, which days to cross train, strength train, and rest. Now that I've run a couple half marathons I'm not following a pre-set plan but instead I am going to start planning out my months on my own. 

I've pre-selected the days that I want to attend cardio classes at the gym, which days are for strength training, treadmill runs, etc. I'm hoping this will help me just like my meal planner: because I've already written down what I'm supposed to do that day, I have no excuse not to do it! It will keep me accountable. I'm going to put a little check mark on each day that I accomplish my goal. 

I hope that these two ideas help you with planning at home. I truly feel that when I'm more organized in my life at home, I feel better. It sets my mind at ease and I am free to do a better job teaching during the school day. 

Don't forget to check out Plan With Me Sundays and see some other awesome planning ideas!