Music Teacher Inspiration for the New Year

Welp, party people, it's officially a new year. And as with any new year, there's about a million and one resolutions floating around. I'll run a marathon. I'll start to purge some things and become more minimalist. I'll read 100 books. I'll do all the things. (Note: These are resolutions that I've heard here or there, not necessarily my own. Except that book reading thing. I need to do waaaaay more of that.) But as I was reflecting on 2017, I realized that it was seriously different than any other. And it made me reconsider the same old, same old resolutions.

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Last year was the biggest year of my life, pun somewhat intended. I was either pregnant or a new mom the whole year--which is no joke. Becoming a parent was the most wonderfully terrifying experience of my entire life. I remember sitting in the labor and delivery ward at the hospital, hours away from delivering our baby girl, staring at my husband and thinking omg we're going to have a baby. I mean, that's sort of what the whole pregnancy thing is about, I realize.

But it didn't become real to me until she was literally crying on my chest.

Those first few weeks were a blur. Between the typical new mom struggles (that no one really talks about) and the lack of sleep, I was a hot mess express. Everyone talks all about the labor and delivery, but I felt blindsided by the first few days of motherhood. It was beautiful and rewarding, and all of the amazing things, truly. But I was completely overwhelmed and swimming trying to find myself within this brand new identity.

Y'all it was hard. I struggled. I still struggle.

Becoming a mom is the hardest and the best thing I've ever done. Anyone who's a parent will say those exact words--at least in my experience! The other thing they say, as frustratingly true as it is, is that there's no way to understand it until you've actually done it.

I think most things in life worth doing are this way. You never know how strong you can feel on mile 8 until you build up to mile 7. You never know how free you can feel when you have the hard conversations  with those that you love.

And you never know how much you can get out of teaching until you put as much as you can into teaching.

Now don't get me wrong, this is not a guilt trip about what you are or are not doing. I'm not about to tell you to spend more hours at the school. You don't need to spend more money on resources that are going to sit on your shelf unopened. And you don't have to have each and every word you're about to say in each lesson scripted, with every "i" dotted and "t" crossed. It's all about mindset. And for me, it's three little words.

Purposeful. Sequential. Joyful.

Now if you've looked around here at all, you'll notice that these three words come after Anacrusic throughout this website. There's a reason these three words are the core of my teaching practice. They provide the clarity I need to set my intentions every morning before school. They define my goals for each day, each lesson, and each interaction with my students. They are simple, but heavy.

I want to be purposeful with each and every moment I have with my students. They are often few and far between, or even fleeting. I might be the only music teacher they ever have, the only voice they ever hear sing, or the only person who lifts them up that day. I want everything to be sequenced beautifully. I want my kids to be fully immersed in each and every musical experience, by doing music. There's clear intention, but it unfolds organically from lesson to lesson. But most importantly...

I want each and every student, each person, that I make music with to feel the inherent joy that made me want to make music my life's work.

There's a reason that I became a music teacher. And it's not so that I could teach 2nd graders to identify a half note. I mean, that's a great literacy goal, but that is absolutely not why I get up in the morning. Once I reconnected with the real reason, joy, I never dreaded getting up another day. I never had to force myself out the door. I still needed my morning coffee, but I drink it with a smile.

So this year, I challenge you to stop spending hours and hours pouring over what to do next, or how to fill time. Don't allow yourself to get bogged down with #allthethings. Give yourself the grace you need to be the inspired musician you are and the joyful music teacher your kids deserve.

Find the purpose, be thoughtful with the sequence, and choose joy.

My Favorite December Books for the Elementary Music Classroom

Today I’m sharing with you my absolute faaaaavorite books to sing in the elementary music classroom in December. Although a few are holiday themed, there are certainly a couple that you can use if you don’t feel comfortable or aren’t permitted to do holiday themed activities at your campus… so really the title says five, but there are a TON more than that in this post!! #ninjaskills

Without further ado, here are my five favorite books to sing to my elementary music students in December!

(*Disclaimer: the amazon links in this post are affiliate links! Can y’all say 2-day shipping?!)

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1. Ten on the Sled written by Kim Norman & illustrated by Liza Woodruff (by the same author/illustrator & winter themed: She’ll be Coming Up the MountainIf It’s Snowy and You Know It, Clap Your Paws!)

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If you use "Ten in the Bed" with your kids (  so-mi-do practice song, anyone?) then this is a super fun extension that my kids go absolutely nuts over. It's all about a caribou who has all of his friends on the sled. They "exit" the sled a lot of different ways, and there are lots of different animals, providing about a million different things to chat about outside of the rhyming words and alliteration.

2. There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bell written by Lucille Colandro & illustrated by Jared D. Lee (similar: There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Snow)

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This is truly one of my very favorite series of books. There are about a million (okay, not that many, but a lot) for every season and every holiday. This one is perfect for the holidays and for audiating do at the end of each verse. I also love to give my kiddos bells to ring as we sing the story. 

3. The Littlest Reindeer by Nicola Killen

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This story I use shamelessly when I want to do a Reindeer themed lesson. (Reindeer Vocal Explorations and Reindeer Games Melody Practice are peeeeerfect if you want to play along!) There are a couple of reoccurring sounds that are perfect for un-pitched percussion integration, similarly to how I use The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything. (I talk about it in this post!)

4. Hush Little Polar Bear by Jeff Mack

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I looove to talk about lullabies with my Kindergarten kiddos, especially when we talk about loud/quiet & fast/slow comparatives. This is a really fun variation on "Hush Little Baby," and takes the reader on a trip through the narrator's dreams. The kids always pick up on (and go nuts over) the fact that the story book cover in the book is the same as the cover of the actual book. So meta, right?

5. Jingle Bells by Iza Trapani

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Iza Trapani books are seriously pure gold. I think I own every single book by this author, and I always snatch them up when I see one I think I might not have! (As a matter of fact... I might have accidentally bought doubles of a few!!) I just about lost it when I found this one--it's so good y'all! I love all of the different verses and the warm themes throughout the book. And the illustrations are to die for. Not to mention that your kiddos will love singing the chorus 800 million times--pass out some bells to make it a real party!!


That about wraps up this round up for December books! If you love round ups like this and want to be the first to find out about them, sign up for my newsletter below! You'll get instant access to the FREE resource library, which has all sorts of goodies!!

Reindeer Vocal Explorations in SeeSaw

This is the shortest and sweetest little blog post I've probably ever written... because the video below is going to tell you eeeevvvveerrrrthing you need to know about the latest and greatest resource in the FREE Resource Library: Reindeer Vocal Exploration Templates for Seesaw!

This digital resource is the first venture as to what I hope will be many digital components to resources, something many of you have been asking for! Check out the video below, download the templates, give it a try, and let me know how it goes!!

6 Halloween Activities for the Music Room

I looooove holidays, especially in the elementary music classroom. There's something magical about celebrations with those sweet kiddos, and I always do my best to add in some seasonal flair where I can. Here are six of my favorite Halloween activities that don't require you to stop teaching everything to do. Oh no, there's some juicy music learning in each and every one of these!!

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(1) Passing Games:

Passing games are always such a favorite of mine, especially around the holidays! I love using a seasonal or holiday object to make things a little festive! I learned "We Will Pass the Pumpkin" from another teacher colleague of mine when I first started teaching. Beyond that, I don't have a source (if you know one, please let me know!), because she said she's been singing it for years and years and years.

This game is super simple, and is a favorite of all of my students, whether they are kindergarteners or fifth graders!! It's simple enough--you simply take a pumpkin (I find a really small gourd version, or an artificial one from the craft store) and pass it around a seated circle to the steady beat. At the very end it speeds up, and whomever has it "when the music stops" is out! Take a listen below--the instructions are right in the song. (And remember: I'm a trumpet player by trade ;) )

Important Note: the words also say "anyone is out if the pumpkin drops." We always have a very serious talk about who is the referee (ME) during this game. I always have the rule that if you don't pass the pumpkin, hand to hand, then you are out. If I see "air-time" (even a light toss or throw), that student is out. We always do a practice round before the game starts so that the rules are super clear.

I have another fun passing game song in the Resource Library for all my Anacrusic Insiders!! IT's called Jack-o-lantern! Click on over to check it out. :)

(2) Halloween Books: (links are amazon affiliate :) )

(psst!! I talked about these four books in my Instagram live last week!! Did you catch it?! Follow me here so you don't miss the next one!!)

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Over in the Hollow:

(I have to give credit for finding this ah-mazing book to one of my students at the American Kodály Institute!! Rachael, you are a rock star!!)

If you do anything with the song "Over in the Meadow" in your classroom, this is an awesome book to use! I could do a whole separate blog post on what the original song is good for (audiating tonic, rhyming words, phrasing, etc.) but just trust me that this is one of many variations that are in book form that you should add to your music book library! For bonus points, I sing it in minor.

Ghosts in the House: 

This is my Halloween vocal exploration jam. I print out ghost icons on cardstock and laminate them so every student has a manipulative to play with during vocal exploration. You could also make tissue ghosts—just wrap a tissue over cotton balls and add two sharpie dots for eyes. There’s no set “cue” for when to do different vocal explorations, but I just scatter it throughout this book. You can lead or have a student lead! Take advantage of the different ways ghosts make sounds to practice different vowel sounds and placements.

The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything:

This is a gem. There are repeated sounds that reoccur throughout the story, such as “clomp clomp.” Have your students pick unpitched percussion instruments to represent the sounds and help tell the story. (I personally think keeping “clomp clomp” with shoes is awesome—just make sure they can tie them up quick if there’s a fire drill!! #beenthere #playedthatgame)

There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Bat:

We all know the original song tale about the Old lady who swallowed a fly, right? There are about a million different variations out there. Do yourself a favor and get your hands on all these books. The kids love them, and you can have them audiate and sing cadences all the livelong day. #rhymingwords

(3) Five Little Pumpkins

This rhyme is an old standby, because it's good for SOOO many things!! (If you don't know it, just google it and you'll about a million different YouTube videos for it!) I don't use it as a song, but rather as a chant.

It's perfect for practicing four voices (speaking, singing, shouting, whispering), either with the whole rhyme one way or different lines as the different voices. It's also easy to add unpitched percussion to tell the story. My absolute favorite thing to do is to have students act it out in small groups. Get creative!!

(4) Trick or Treat Games:

I love doing different Halloween speech patterns this time of year. I've seen lots of super fun activities with different candies, but I prefer to use costumed characters! I made these trick or treat interactive games to review all the fun rhythms for Halloween!! Get them here. :)

(5) Halloween Listening:

There are so many fun pieces to use around Halloween time as listening examples! My two favorites are Toccata and Fugue & In the Hall of the Mountain King. Toccata and Fugue requires a bit more ahead of time planning, due to the form of the piece. There are some excellent listening maps out there that do an excellent job of outlining this form. 

In the Hall of the Mountain King is the perfect steady beat and fast/slow comparative song for the younger grades. I like to lead a follow the leader steady beat movement game that glows in the dark! Find some fun glow in the dark gloves, give students glow sticks, and dim the lights!!

(6) Jack-o-lantern Song & Games!

Now if you're looking for something that gives a little Halloween taste with the main meal still practicing concepts on your curriculum map, this resource is for you. This group of presentations and games is everything you could need to practice so and mi in the month of October.

Check out a preview of the original song in the resource library!! Sign up below to get access!!

Have a Happy Halloween!!

Improve Parent Communication {Sparkle & Shine BTS Pt 5}

Y'all. Can you even believe it? It's still September and we're finally wrapping up this back to school series!! (...hey, one day still counts!) I hope that this series has been helpful for you and you've picked up a couple tips and tricks along the way. This last topic is one that has definitely been tricky for me in the past, so I hope these tricks I've picked up help you!

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Love it our hate it, (and depending on the circumstances, it could definitely be a little bit of both!) parent communication is part of the teacher gig. And if you’re a music teacher, you likely have 500 or more students, and therefore approximately 2,395,827 parents to communicate with.

And if you’re liiittle passive aggressive like me, it’s a total party. #not

Aside from the occasional parent contact for a problem or, hopefully more often, a total rock star day, most of my parent communication is to the masses. Here are 4 ways I keep those channels open and positive throughout the year. (Psst! If you want more info on how I do those parent contacts for the tricky kiddos, click here to check out this post.)

**Note: I understand that many students do not necessarily go home to their parents, but may be in a different home situation where they see grandparents, an older brother or sister, an aunt or uncle, or even a family friend when they head home from school. For the ease of reading (and writing!) this post, the term “ parents” really means whomever is loving on your sweet kiddos outside of the school day. :)


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#1 - Take Home Trinkets

Although this isn’t necessarily direct communication, the number one way to get parents curious as to what you’re doing in the music room is to send your kiddos home with a little something special. Nothing huge that you have to stop everything to make and send home, but when the opportunity presents itself having something here or there to put in the good ol’ take home folder is a nice touch.

My kindergarten students absolutely love these rhythm coloring sheets, and I get the best positive feedback from parents when they get to take them home. I think it’s a refreshing surprise for parents to see something tangible come from the music room. Although worksheets are not my most favorite form of music making (…not as active as it could or should be!), seeing a piece of paper with musical concepts that kids can explain reinforces that learning happens in the music room!

Another positive way to improve communication is to give out awards or incentives in the music classroom. For example, I’ve mentioned that I have little Brag Tags that I use as PBIS, and that is the perfect little trinket to send home. I talked a little bit about them in this post, and you can snag a couple freebies in the resource library. Having a little piece of paper or something that says “Super Singer” or “I Sang a Solo Today!” is sure to get parents asking their kiddos “what’s that for?” when they pick them up from school.

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#2 - A Note from the Music Room

At my old campus, all of the specialists (Music, Art, P.E., & Library) took turns sharing what was happening in each of our respective classrooms. It was a brief, but effective way to give parents a little bit of information without completely bombarding them with #everylittlething that is happening in the day in and day out of the music room. It was just enough to feel connected.

This is probably the easiest way to start a direct communication line with parents. Not too much of a commitment, not solely on your shoulders, and creates a nice collaboration with your team! I highly recommend starting here if you’re new to reaching out to parents on a consistent basis.

#3 - A Music Newsletter

Taking it up a notch, I know several folks who create a newsletter that is specific to their music room. This can be incredibly effective and tailor made to each class or grade level, or better yet, if you have a choir or other special performing group. Most folks send something like this out about once a month, and highlight some of the learning objects that students are discovering, and gives hints for opening up communication about music class at home. 

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For a choir or other performance group that might have more frequent and time sensitive announcements, a weekly newsletter might be the way to go. Remember that no matter how often you are sending this out, you can do it digitally, or pass out a hard copy… or both. Because let’s be real, the more modes of communication, the better!

#4 - Seesaw - The Secret Sauce

This past year, I completely fell in love with Seesaw. I didn’t set it up for all of my classes, but I did a “pilot” version with one of the Kindergarten teachers at my building and it was amazing. If you aren’t familiar with Seesaw, it’s an app that serves as a classroom Facebook of sorts, where students and teachers can post videos, photos, and other things to the class page or to personal pages. Parents can log in and “like” and comment on things their child is doing throughout the day!

What made this really successful for me was being set up as a “co-teacher” in the classroom. What that means is the teacher I was collaborating with gave me access to her classroom (on my own account) and made a music folder for each student and the class. Throughout the year I posted individual videos of students solo singing (while I was assessing), and whole class videos of performances and super fun games we were playing. The kids loved it, and the parents really enjoyed having a look into the music classroom—something they don’t get to do very often!

I’m hoping to dive even deeper into Seesaw this year, and hope to have some tips and tricks coming at you soon! Overall, I think this is probably the most effective way to communicate with parents on a regular basis. They can download the app on their phones and enable notifications (if they’d like) so they are always up to date! If their students have music once or twice a week and they see posts on Seesaw on a semi-regular basis, say twice a month, what a special way for them to feel connected!


And there you have it! We’ve finally come to the end of the Sparkle & Shine Back to School Series!! (It only took me two months…) I hope that you’ve found these posts useful and that there are a few tips or tricks that are either new to you or made you think a little differently. The goal for all of us is to always be learning and making our teaching practice a little bit better for our kids! Here’s a recap of all the posts in case you missed anything:

All the freebies from this series (and more!) are in the Resource Library, so make sure you’re all signed up to be an Anacrusic Insider so you have total access!