Monday, June 17, 2013

Looks Familiar!

I started this blog hoping to fill it with ideas I've used in my classroom, and I'll admit I've done a terrible job keeping it up to date. I hope I can get better about it, but of course we'll see.

Just like many teachers, I'm spending part of my summer already planning for next year. I was recently looking online for a good game to play to review instrument families, possibly with the whole class. Using the same idea as the game "Spoons" that I used to play in middle school, I came up with this game which I call "Looks Familiar!" I went online searching for instrument pictures to use as cards, and came across these coloring pages from the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra:,3 They're great because they have 4 instruments from each of the 4 families, which works perfectly for this game. I plan on just printing them at a smaller size to make cards.

Looks Familiar!
Be the first player to hold a set of four different cards from the same instrument family (example: trumpet, trombone, french horn and tuba).

For each player, you need a set of four cards from the same instrument family

Playing the Game
1. Everyone sits in a circle
2. Deal 4 cards to each player
3. Every person takes one of the cards they were dealt and passes it to the player on their right
4. Each player then receives a card from the player on their left
5. Each player may not have more than 4 cards in their hand at a time.
6. Players try to collect an entire instrument family (may not have any repeated instruments)
7. When a player collects all 4 instruments of any family, (s)he shouts out "Looks Familiar!", the teacher checks their cards and if the family is correct, they are the winner!

Monday, January 21, 2013

High and Low Woes

I know it's been a long time since I've posted, and I apologize. It's been a crazy few months here!

Kindergarten has finished their steady beat unit and has now moved on to the most difficult concept I have to teach them: High and Low sounds. This concept is especially hard because we constantly ask to have the volume of the television, the radio and the computer turned "up/higher" or "down/lower." So when it comes time to discuss high and low in music class, about half the class is convinced I am talking about volume. As with most abstract concepts, the best way for the kids to get a grip on high and low is to experience it.

I introduce high and low with a lot of movement up and down as we experiment with our voices. I also show them a xylophone turned on its side so that high is up and low is down. I also use the sentences "High and squeaky like a mouse" and "Ho, ho, ho, I speak low" to solidify the feeling of the high voice and low voice in their minds.

Last year, I came up with a game to really reinforce the concept, and the kids absolutely love it. I call it "High and Low Hide and Seek." One student is chosen to be "it" and has to close their eyes. Another student is chosen to hide an object somewhere in the music room (my room doesn't have many places to hide a person, so we use a hand drum mallet). The class's job is to guide "it" to the object using their singing voices. When "it" is far away from the object, the class sings low, and as "it" walks in the correct direction, the class's voices begin to rise. The highest sound is always right near the object.  After "it" finds the object, they get to hide it for the next student. It is great seeing the kids use their voices to help out their friends, and I especially love seeing the "it" person turn around the instant they hear the voices starting to get lower.

If you have any great ideas for teaching high and low, please share!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

3rd Grade Treble Clef Jigsaw

In case you're wondering, 2nd grade is working on their program, so not much to report there. We're learning our songs and the motions for our December performance.

3rd grade spent the beginning of the year working on rhythms (and the math side to them, since my school is very focused on passing the standardized tests!) using my version of the rhythm foldable I found on this blog through pinterest. I had the students do note values on one side of their first page and then the rest values on the other side of the same page, complete with names of each, the length and how we count them. Then I gave them a 2nd sheet and showed them how to combine the notes and rests to make rhythms, and had them complete the whole page with 4 beat rhythms. We spent the next few weeks practicing reading and writing rhythms, and then we did an assessment, which showed me they were ready to go on.

Now my 3rd graders are reviewing the notes on the Treble Clef staff. Although they learned them last year with "Freddie the Frog," 3rd grade is in a different building than K-2, so we get a lot of new students at that age. Instead of revisiting Freddie for a 3rd year, I explain to the kids that the method they used for remembering notes with Freddie still works, but we're going to come up with a new way to figure them out this year. I go through how to identify notes as lines or spaces, and then point out that the space notes spell FACE. I then go through the letters for the line notes. I ask if they spell anything, and I always have a few kids try to sound out EGBDF as a word... When we determine it is not a word, I introduce their next activity. I group the students into 5 groups, and challenge each group to come up with their own sentence to remember the letters in order. I try hard not to give them an example, because they become less creative. I just reinforce that the first word must start with E, next with G and so on. If groups are having trouble, I suggest a word that they might be able to use for one of the letters as a starting place, and that usually helps.
After each group comes up with a sentence, I regroup them so that their new groups have one person from each of the first groups. They are asked to share their sentence with the new group and write down every sentence that their new groupmates had down on their paper. They should all end up with 5 sentences on their papers at the end of this grouping, and the 5 sentences should be the same on everyone's paper.
Finally, we regroup as a class, and I show them how to use the sentence of their choosing from their sheet and the word FACE in combination to figure out the notes of the Treble Clef. I copy a practice sheet with notes onto the back of their paper from working in groups and have them name as many notes as they can in the remaining time of class. I love seeing the sentences they create, and they seem to remember the sentences better when they helped to write them.

Treble Clef Beanbag Toss

This week in music class, my first graders are reviewing all 12 notes on the treble clef staff from C4 to F5. Most of them are able to identify about 10 of the 12 correctly on a regular basis, which is great. This is all thanks to Sharon Burch and Freddie the Frog. If you are a music teacher and haven't heard about Freddie yet, you're missing out! Go check out this site when you're done here. So far I've read "Freddie the Frog and the Thump in the Night" and "Freddie the Frog and the Secret of Crater Island" with the 1st graders. I make sure to read each of them through on two different days with each class, so that students who miss a day of music don't totally miss out on the story. It's also a great review for the others who were there.

I made a game to review the notes they know and the kids have had a blast playing it, and I've had a blast watching them learn. I call it the treble clef beanbag toss. Here's how it works:

Materials Needed:

  • 6 Beanbags (I use different colors, but you could adapt it based on what you have)
  • 6 Dry Erase Markers to match the color of the beanbags
  • White Board (either one per team or a large one for everyone to write on)
  • Treble Clef Floor Staff (I made a long one out of a clear vinyl carpet protector like the one pictured at the bottom of this post with electric tape lines on the bottom...I'll try to remember to take a picture of mine and post it on here)

  • Divide class into 6 teams (or number of beanbags you have).
  • Have teams sit down in lines facing the floor staff.
  • On teacher's command, first person on each team tosses the beanbag onto the floor mat (if they throw too far, their team loses that turn)
  • Student who tossed figures out what note their beanbag landed on, and writes it on the whiteboard using their team's colored marker.
  • After writing on the board, the students go sit at the end of their line.
  • As a class, check all of the answers. I make the kids say cues with me like "The space notes spell FACE" every time we check an answer so that they have to pay attention. 
  • If an answer was correct, that color team gets a point. If it was not correct, there is no point given. I try not to call attention to the individual who made a mistake, I just say that the "green team" was not correct. The students are also pretty good about understanding that we all make mistakes.
  • At the end of the class period (yes, they can play it the entire 40 minutes without getting bored), I let the team with the most points line up first.
Let me know if you try this in your own classroom, or if you have any ideas to tweak it! The kids seem to love it and it's amazing how much more accurate their answers get by the end of class.

Kindergarten Steady Beat Icons

Hello All!
Hope you enjoyed my first post. Now for an exciting glance into what I do in my music room! I'm going to make a few separate posts so it doesn't seem so long and wordy.

Right now, my Kindergarteners are working on learning how to keep a steady beat (heartbeat as they call it). We're doing a lot of "Copy Miss Klein!" to make sure they can move at a steady tempo. I introduced steady beat by making them move with the 2nd movement of Symphony No. 101 by Haydn (aka "The Clock"). They liked this because they could hear the steady beat playing the "tick-tock" of the clock. Now that they can keep a steady beat (for the most part), we have started tapping pictures on the steady beat. I made cute tapping sheets to match the theme of our songs, laminated them and cut them apart. I have the kids put them on the ground in front of them and tap left to right, counting as they go (the counting helps them to keep a steady beat, and keeps them moving from left to right). Here's my penguin icons that I use with the song "Doing the Penguin" from the Making Music series by Silver Burdett.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Hello all, and welcome to my page!

I am a 3rd year music teacher in Ohio, and after reading hundreds of blogs this summer thanks to Pinterest, I decided to try to write my own. In my district, I am the only music teacher for the Preschool through 3rd Grade classes. Each class comes to me once a week, with the exception of 3 first grade classes that get to visit twice (don't ask how they picked which ones would visit twice, it's a mystery to me). I have 2 classrooms, one of my own and one I share with another music teacher.

As with any new music teacher, I feel like I am constantly redoing things to find the absolute best way to reach each and every student. I am open to new ideas, so if you have any thoughts or comments, please feel free to share with me!

I'd like to start with a tour of my main classroom, the one I don't have to share.
I am blessed with a large room, where we have 2 different areas to work. Most of the time my students sit on the colored mats you see in this picture. I like having them sit in a square because it makes it easier for traditional circle games and I am able to see all of the students. The mats are great because I give the students the choice of sitting "criss-cross applesauce" or on their feet, and they can see where they need to be to be in their own personal bubble.

Throughout my first year as a teacher, my principal kept suggesting that we all post schedules and objectives for the students to see. I did not realize how beneficial it was until I created these 2 boards side by side. On the right, I made pockets out of the scraps from laminating (you know, those really long tails that you always have to throw away?) and made generic descriptors for the activities we do on a regular basis. Every week, I change around the activity cards so students can see what we will be doing. Even the kindergarteners start to catch on to what word is what by the end of the year because we use the same activities throughout the year.
The left board is a new one I added this year. I had been posting my goals for each class as "I Can" statements, but I decided to dedicate a board to the goals this year. I laminated white bulletin board paper to make the piano keys, and cut them out and stapled them to the black background. I take an overhead marker and write the various goals for each grade level on the keys, and when it's time to change them, it's easy to wipe the keys clean with a wet paper towel. The kids love being able to see what I expect from them before we even begin class.

This is my other new bulletin board this year. I spent time this summer typing up bios for many different composers, and I am featuring a different one every month. I am doing centers a few times this year to see students in smaller groups, and this area turns into the "Composer Center" where the kids draw what the music makes them think of or fill out a listening glyph while listening to music by the composer. The listening glyphs I use can be found here.
In this picture, you can also kind of see that I lined my white board at the front of the room to make a giant staff. It took me a few hours to get it exactly how I wanted it (using electrical tape and a ruler for straight lines), but I find myself using the staff on a daily basis.

A big project this summer was redoing my entire behavior system for my classes. I had been making classes earn stickers to move towards a "music fun day" where we played games that they chose, but there were some classes that had a difficult time listening, and did not care that it took them half the school year to earn their first "fun day." After seeing the "Rockin' Behavior" guitar on pinterest from this site, I decided to create guitars for each grade level. Each class has their own clothespin labeled with the teacher's name. At the end of every class, we decide whether or not we followed the music rules. If they did, their clip moves up toward the words "We Rock!" If they did not follow the rules, their clip moves down. This has been very effective because the classes get to see how their class's behavior compares with that of the others in their grade. When a class reaches "We Rock!", we have a "Rockstar Day" where they get to choose from a list of games or movies for the next class period. After the "Rockstar Day," we reset back to the green in the middle of the fret board.

Any comments and/or questions are more than welcome!