If you're anything like me, the anticipation of the start of a new school year can get me incredibly motivated... and incredibly overwhelmed by #allthethings there are to do before kids even walk through the door. The most daunting task is creating and editing my curriculum and subsequent lesson plans for the upcoming year. I try to always have a super clear (but flexible!) road map of everything I want all my kids to learn. But it can be super intimidating when I start to look at the HUGE pile of resources I've collected over the years.
*insert comment about being a hoarder here*
However, as time has gone on, I've found that I keep going back to the same materials again and again when it comes time for me to make those overarching plans for the year. These resources are my all-stars, the ones that I can always count on to make things a little bit clearer. (psst! click the titles to find out more about each resource!)
#1 - Lesson Planning in a Kodály Setting by Rita Klinger
This is such a gem of a book. It's wonderful for new teachers, but also for those of us who have been in the classroom for some years as well. It's on my book list for all of my Kodály pedagogy students, for reasons you could infer directly from the title. However, if you don't consider yourself a Kodály-inspired teacher, do not run away from this book!!
At $25, this is truly just an amazing model of sequencing. No matter what your sequence looks like (and she has a fabulous one outlined in the text), and although it is very much contextualized by Kodály-inspired teaching, Klinger gives a fabulous example of how to plan long term and in the subsequent short term. Everything from prepare/present/practice, transitions, lesson segments, and much much more are included with this book. Definitely my #1 go-to for all things planning.
#2 - Artful Playful Mindful: A New Orff-Schulwerk Curriculum for Music Making and Music Thinking by Jane Frazee
Let's just go ahead and get it out there that anything written by Jane Frazee you can pretty muh take to the bank. Her texts on Orff-Schulwerk are some of the most clear cut and inspirational that I have read. This particular text outlines a beautifully composed curriculum for an entire six years, complete with yearly planning and projects to help students discover rhythmic and melodic elements.
What I love most about this text are the many rich examples with different Orff-Schulwerk media (speech, singing, movement, and instruments) all within the context of a project approach to teaching and learning music. This is another one that should, without a doubt, be in your library.
#3 - Music in Preschool by Katalin Forrai
This, my friends, is the Early Childhood and Kindergarten Bible.
*mic drop. We could probably go ahead and just call it good right there.*
Everything you need for your itty bitties is in this book. The concepts, the songs, the games, how to plan... it's the most comprehensive text that I can find for this young age group and I wish it existed for each and every level. Again, this is probably most accurately classified as a "Kodály-inspired resource," particularly considering the author, but I think we can all agree that good teaching is good teaching, regardless of approach.
And with this book? Your approach will be golden.
#4 - Creative Dance For All Ages by Anne Green Gilbert and Teaching Movement & Dance by Phyllis Weikart
It has been a goal of mine for the past couple of years to purposefully include movement experiences for my kids as much as possible. These are both invaluable resources, and for different reasons.
I use Anne Green Gilbert's text predominantly for guidance on sequencing creative movement (obvious, right? it says it right in the title), as opposed to folk dancing. She includes discussion and lesson plans for Laban vocabulary throughout all ages and skill levels. This is so important, especially if you aren't used to structuring movement experiences for your kids. Her ideas and plans are so incredibly accessible and adaptable that any teacher could successfully implement creative movement into their classroom.
The Weikart text is my good old stand by. I've had it since my first year of teaching and it is well. loved. She also includes numerous dances for all ages and gives really wonderful examples of how to break down and process teaching a dance for children. My goal in teaching a new folk dance is to teach it like Phyllis would.
#5 - Listen Up! by Brent Gault and From Folk Songs to Masterworks by Ann Eisen
Just like I'm trying to incorporate movement experiences for my children, I'm working on being very intentional about creating active listening experiences for them as well. These two texts are wonderful. They both include specific concepts that can be explored with each piece of music, and sequence lesson segments so that teachers can both "plug and play" examples, but also take the structural inspiration and apply it to new lessons and strategies.
Listening can be intentional, purposeful, and active. These texts outline ways to get them moving, singing, and actively engaged in art music.
#6 - Sail Away, 150 American Folk Songs, & any other song collection that you love.
Last but not least, you need some stuff to teach the things. (How'd you like that specificity?) No, but seriously, I can't tell you how many times I have pulled out my own curated collection and thought, I am so sick of this song for this concept and I need a new thing. After all, you have to love a song or game or activity enough to teach it to all of your kids for many weeks on end, right?
Enter: song collections. And the reason I mentioned both of these by name is because (1) they have a lot of good stuff, and (2) they are organized beautifully for my sequence, by concept and with rhythmic and melodic content, and all the other things that my OCD structured and sequenced brain needs to be happy. Not to say that there aren't others out there, but these are two (rather inexpensive) gems that give you an amazing start to your own curated song collection.
Whew. It was hard to just pick six resources that I run to for planning. And if you noticed, I cheated just a liiiiiittle bit and added a couple doubles in there for good measure. There are so many awesome resources out there, but I can promise you that any on this list will get you off to a fantastic start for those yearly and individual lesson plans.
Psst!! If you're just iiiiitching for curriculum guide type stuff, make sure you sign up for my newsletter below. There's a little something special I have in the works that just might pop into your inbox before school starts. Plus, you get access to the FREE RESOURCE LIBRARY!!
In the wonderful world of Kindergarten, we spend lots of time on comparatives, steady beat, singing voice, and around this time of year, rhythm. This is always a pretty natural transition point for kiddos, as they spend a lot of time talking about sounds and syllables in their general classroom, making it easier as music teachers to talk about one or two sounds on a heartbeat.
Although I have a long list of essential repertoire (i.e. really really good songs) to use for quarter note/two eighth notes prep and practice, one of my absolutely favorites is Apple Tree. This is a relatively well known song and works beautifully for kindergarten rhythm practice and melodic practice in late first or early second grade. Click here to get my notation and game instructions for Apple Tree in the Resource Library!
There are a million different ways to practice one and two sounds on a heartbeat, rhythm vs. steady beat. My students know that "the steady beat always stays the same" and "the rhythm is the way the words go." It's a little call and response we do each and every class to make sure kiddos remember that the beat is constant but the words change depending on how many songs we hear. Here are ways I prepare one and two sounds on a heartbeat for the whole class, in small groups, or individually.
Whole Class Preparation - Icons with Hearts
This might be considered an "old school" approach, but honestly one of my kiddos' favorite ways to show one or two sounds on a heartbeat is by using those good old fashioned die cuts/bulletin board accents from the teacher store (get some similar to these by clicking here). The foam hearts are from the Target dollar spot, which I picked up around Valentine's Day. I simply added some magnet tape to the back and they are good to go!
Target to the rescue again! I love snatching up all the little eraser packs in the dollar spot because they are absolutely perfect for dictation. I pass out small dixie cups of heart and apple erasers (enough for one motive--8 apples and 4 hearts) to pairs of students. Then we take turns deriving the motives and I show the answers on the doc cam projected onto my board.
This would also be perfect for stations or to share on a video or in a picture in Seesaw!!
Maybe my absolute favorite way to prep one and two sounds on a beat is with these rhythm coloring sheets. I usually take 3-5 of my essential songs for kindergarten and make a mini coloring book for each of my kindergarteners using this set. By the time we have done the third sheet together, they are ready to rock and roll independently the next time. The transition to "ta" & "ti-ti" (the syllables I use in my room) seems almost seamless, and I can use the similarly structured dictation sheets to transfer iconic to formal notation.
In my classroom, active music making is my number one focus. About 99% of the time. There are those other elements of music teaching and learning that don't necessarily lend themselves to the most interactive experience. For me, teaching the instruments of the orchestra has always felt this way.
I mean, it's pretty much rote knowledge, right? Here's the thing, here's what family the thing is in, here's what the thing looks like and how the thing makes a sound. Boooorrrrriiiinnnnggg.
Lucky for me (and you!! Lucky you!!) There are some amazing resources out there that can help make this unit more enjoyable for you and your kiddos. Granted, it's still not the most active experience, but these are some fun resources I've used this year for teaching the instruments of the orchestra!
The Remarkable Farkle McBride
It's no secret that I'm an avid user of story books in my classroom. My kindergarteners know we almost always end a class by singing a story. But as the kids get older, there are a ton of amazing books that work beautifully in a music classroom. This is by far one of my top five for third grade and above.
The Remarkable Farkle McBride (<---amazon affiliate link) is always the first introduction I give my kids to the instruments of the orchestra. The story is beautiful, the text is vibrant and sophisticated, and the pictures are hilarious. I've never had a child loose focus while reading this story. It's also one of the best entry points into the instrument families.
In the past, I've used instrument lessons as a lead up to a live orchestra performance for my students. But in case you don't have access to a live orchestra (or, honestly, even if you do) YouTube is the most amazing thing!! (Sidenote: I think it's still super important to find a way for kids be able to actually see and hear instruments in live performance. As in, in the same room.)
BBC Meet the Orchestra
This is the most concise video I've found on YouTube that introduces each instrument family. This is always my first introduction to the different instrument families before going into a more in depth discussion. The videos are pretty short, so much so that the kids often ask for a replay!!
There's already a playlist of the BBC Meet the Orchestra created on YouTube--why re-invent the wheel? You can access it by clicking here.
How It's Made Instrument Videos
I love these videos to integrate a little bit of science and engineering into the music classroom. I'm constantly amazed at how much the kids love watching these videos and then talking about the science behind instruments and sound production afterward. I usually pick one instrument from each family to watch and discuss.
Again, lucky for us someone has already put together a list of these videos for instruments!! Click here to watch.
**A note about YouTube: Make sure that you always, always, always watch an entire video before showing it to your kids. It's likely that your school has some provisions in place for using internet videos in class, so be sure to follow that protocol. Safeshare might be most commonly used for watching YouTube videos in class, but I actually prefer Keep Vid. I started using it because (1) it gets rid of the ads, and (2) I don't always have a reliable internet connection. This website allows me to download the video to my computer, then I can create my own folders on my computer or in Google Drive. Check it out if you haven't already!
If for some reason you don't have the resources to use YouTube in your classroom, this DVD by the Dallas Symphony is great. It's actual footage from one of their children's concerts, and has short clips of the full orchestra as well as the different families. It was made some time ago, but I still find that the kids are super engaged and interested!! (*sidenote: it's always fun for me to watch because I've played at the Meyerson and my trumpet teacher is in the DVD!!)
Games & Puzzles
Something that never ceases to amaze me is how much my third and fourth graders absolutely adore word searches and crossword puzzles. So much so that I created these puzzles for my orchestra unit, and they were a HUGE hit.
Stations are often a big portion of my orchestra unit, since some students move at a quicker pace through different instrument explorations than others. I created this fun game for my stations! The kids love it for a preparation or review of the instruments and their families. They do tend to get a little competitive when playing, as there are a few twists to the game.
This year I was feeling burnt out on some of the things I've used the last couple of years for this unit. So, naturally, I headed over to Teachers Pay Teachers to check out what some of my brilliant colleagues had to offer. Here are a few of my favorite resources that I found and my kids LOVED.
- A Dab of Music Learning Instruments by Tracy King - This is PERFECT for stations or a sub. My kids loved using these worksheets. I don't have dabbers in my classroom, so I just used crayons or colored pencils and it worked just beautifully.
- Instruments of the Orchestra Scavenger Hunt by Jena Hudson - I used this set as a pre-test and post-test for our whole orchestra unit. I love how Jena included worksheets for both instrument families and individual instruments. I total hit!
- Instruments of the Orchestra Flipbooks by Jena Hudson - I love Jena's stuff, can you tell? These are AWESOME for some independent work and assessing kiddos' knowledge after talking about different families. She's included flipbooks for both individual instruments and entire families. The kids LOVED making these. Super straight forward directions and beautifully put together.
Well that wraps up this round up! I hope these resources are useful to you. Don't forget to sign up to get your free puzzles in the Resource Library!! Until next time friends!!
Welcome to the final installment of the Stress Soothers Series!!
Every Tuesday during the month of March, I’ve been bringing you all the goods to re-energize your teaching and get out of the infamous spring slump. Today is all about professional development and how to beat music teacher isolation. Let’s rock and roll!
Part 4 - Professional Development & Community
So often, music teachers are a party of one, or maybe one and a half, at a campus. Our classrooms are at the end of the hall, isolated from the rest of the school community, and we can easily feel as though we live on our own island, both physically and figuratively. While there usually isn’t a whole lot to be done about where your classroom is located, there are a few things you can do to (1) improve your own teaching within your specialty; and (2) ensure you are a part of the greater school community.
(sidenote: if you haven’t taken a look at last week’s post, it’ll give you a couple tips for being a real team player at your campus, and how to give and earn respect with your non-music colleagues.)
#1 - Make Campus PD & Goals Relevant to your Classroom.
We’ve all sat in on staff meetings or trainings that seem like a complete. waste. of. time. If it doesn’t apply directly to our subject areas, music teachers have a tendency to zone out, check out, or whichever mode of ignoring the presentation you choose to engage. While I think most of our non-music colleagues would agree that there is no reason for us to be there, what would happen if we flipped the script?
What would our colleagues think if we found ways to make that meeting relevant to our classroom? What if we could find innovative ways to adapt the campus goals to our classroom, even if they seem so outrageously different from what we teach day in and day out?
I can think of one particular example when I did just that. In the spirit of incredibly high stakes testing, made even higher by the fact that my current campus was under AYP (Academic Yearly Progress) observation, my administrator at the time required each classroom teacher to incorporate the math term of the week into their lessons. It didn’t matter whether you were the reading specialist, the art specialist, the physical education coach, or the music teacher, we were all expected to have an observable portion of our lesson relate to the math terminology into our weekly lessons.
Since I’ve always been fairly intentional about having an opening sequence for each class, I decided the most natural way to incorporate these seemingly pesky math terms was to add it into that routine, alongside my learning target for the day. Although, once I started brainstorming how to make it all relevant to music I realized that I could easily (1) push my own music teacher agenda while incorporating a campus goal; and (2) create a bulletin board display (check it out for FREE here) that would make my administration do a complete happy dance.
Once I got over my “that doesn’t apply to me” attitude, I found ways to make everyone happy. Including the kids, who were amazed that music applied to other subjects in school. Total score.
So the next time you have to “sit in” on a meeting that is all about ELA or Math, I challenge you to get rid of the “this doesn’t apply to me” attitude and challenge yourself to think, how could this apply to me? Then prepare to see your colleagues and administration overjoyed with your initiative. As an added bonus, you automatically will be seen as a team player because you turned all that negative energy into a collaborative opportunity.
#2 - Seek out PD Relevant to Music Teaching & Learning.
Early on in my teaching, I noticed that teachers on my campus were given many opportunities for professional development, either (1) in our on campus trainings, or (2) off campus and with coverage during the school day. As a music teacher, and being an island of one, this is not always the case—at least not from the get go.
Many of the schools I have worked with have offered, at the bare minimum, a built-in time to collaborate with other music teachers in the district, either on on-going basis or scheduled a handful of times a year. Although this never seems to be enough, I recognize that there are many different pathways to music teaching and learning, and although our curricular goals are generally aligned as a district, our teaching styles are not identical.
I am so grateful, that as an elementary music educator, there are usually several opportunities for professional development throughout the year, whether it be local workshops or national conferences. In particular, I have found that my local Orff & Kodály chapters have provided some of the most meaningful professional development, in addition to the national conferences and summer courses (which can sometimes be a challenge to attend). But let me just tell you...
Summer courses are the jam.
It can be really difficult to give up a week in the summer, let alone three or more, to go through levels trainings in any one pedagogical approach. But if you have the opportunity, these experiences are transformative and completely re-energizing. Summer courses have changed my teaching. (If you want to see which I’ve done, click on over to the About page.)
Granted, these types of opportunities are expensive and time-consuming. I recommend that you gently ask your administration what opportunities might be available to you as a music specialist who does not always get content specific training at the campus or district level. Honestly, I’ve never had all expenses paid for any of these workshops, conferences, or courses, but I have found that when I show the initiative and highlight that my own time and money are going into this professional development to better my teaching and our students’ learning experience, there has been something available to me. Why not ask? The worst they can say is no, and then you’re no further behind than you were when you started.
#3 - Take Every Opportunity to Collaborate
If you do have the great opportunity to take part in a summer course, a workshop, or even a national conference where there are a ton of your people, make sure you step out of your comfort zone and make some music teacher friends! Although we are all probably secretly introverted (and acting our little hearts out in front of our kids each and every day), it is so important to make connections when the opportunity arises.
People I have met through my levels courses are still some of the most important people in my life, professionally and personally. A random folk dance partner at a workshop or conference can lead to lunch and a great conversation about music teaching and life in general, and grow into an amazing collaboration. Don’t let moments pass you by—the universe sets you up for all of these amazing opportunities.
There’s nothing that replaces live, in person opportunities to collaborate and take part in life-long learning. But I do understand that it is difficult, expensive, and time-intensive (and sometimes just impossible!) to attend face to face events. Lucky for us, we live in the digital age and have a whole world of music teachers at our fingertips.
I’ve found that Facebook groups are amazing resources for questions, brainstorming, and just getting a general feel for what is going on in the music ed world. Here are a few of my favorites:
- I'm a General Music Teacher
- Elementary Music Teachers
- American Orff-Schulwerk Association
- Kodály Educators
- Kodály Educators Resources
- Organization of American Kodály Educators
Going along with that, I often check out different hashtags on Twitter to see what other music teachers are doing in their classrooms and what questions they are sharing to the twitterverse (is that a term? Did I make it up?). Some of my favorites are #elmused #musedchat #kodaly #orffposse. (#elmused & #musedchat even have weekly twitter chats!! Check them out!!)
Instagram hashtags are another great way to search for beautiful visuals and connect with music teachers. Melody Payne wrote an awesome blog post about music teacher hashtags. A great place to start is with #iteachmusic and #musicteacherlife.
There’s probably a million other resources out there that I’m not even thinking of, but these are great places to start.
With a little bit of effort, we can find ways to beat music teacher isolation and seek out resources and opportunities for collaboration with our peers. Don’t forget, I’m always here to answer your questions and brainstorm with you as well! Follow me on Facebook, check me out on Instagram, and take a peek at my Twitter feed and obsessive pinning about… everything. It’s not just about finding other music teachers who can help us in the classroom, but having like-minded folks on our team that we can build a solid, life-long relationship.
Welp, that’s it for the Stress Soothers Series!! What did you think? What do you want more of? Don’t forget to let me know, and don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss out on any other tips or the Free Resource Library! The math posters I referenced in this post were just added!!
Welcome to Part 3 of the Stress Soothers Series!!
Each Tuesday in March, I'm bringing you tips & tricks to beat that spring slump and re-energize your teaching. Today is all about advocating for your program and working happily with all your colleagues. Let's jump right in!!
Part 3 - Advocacy & Respect
It seems like, more often than not, music teachers (and elementary music teachers specifically) are the only one in their subject area at a campus. Being a party of one has so many challenges that comes with it, namely being on your own "team" and being isolated in terms of subject area (more on this next week!). But aside from that, we're often lumped into "specials" categories which is more often a curse rather than a blessing. Whatever your situation or perception of your role at your campus, here are 4 tips for how to field some of these challenges.
Tip #1 - Embrace & Live Up to the Title "Specialist"
Well let me just come running out of the gate and give you my honest opinion about something that might be controversial in the elementary music teacher world.
I like being called a "specials" teacher. Because I'm a music specialist.
To me, the word is NOT synonymous with "babysitter" or "extra," but truly that of a specialist. I am an elementary music specialist. I have spent a lot of years and still spend an extraordinary amount of time focusing on music pedagogy. I am highly qualified to teach music, and therefore am in a specialized subject area.
I recognize that my colleagues in art, physical education, and library are all specialists in their field of education. I understand the general gist of their curriculum, but I don't know the ins and outs enough to teach it beyond our few collaborative projects a year. I adore the classroom teachers work with because they have so many moving parts in their classroom, are with the same group of kids all day, and have truly mastered the art of cultivating a beautiful classroom environment. I would argue they are classroom specialists.
I know what you're thinking. Good for you Anne, way to claim and define the title on your own terms. That doesn't change how people view or talk about my subject area in my building. Here's my gentle response: have you lived up to your specialist title?
Have you found ways to do collaborative projects with other teachers at your campus? I know, where's the time, but any small connection can make a big difference. Have you explained to your students why you're called a specials teacher? Each year I explain to my kids exactly what I outlined in the paragraphs above. They get it. Do you show teachers and administrators what your classroom really looks like?
This brings me to...
Tip #2 - Share the Music Making
If no one ever sees or hears what a real music classroom is really like, the only thing they have to equate it to is (1) the performances you put on, which admittedly are not always demonstrative of your classroom environment... that's a whole other blog post; OR (2) what that teacher or administrator experienced in their music class how many years ago.
I guarantee what you and your kids are doing is very different than what teachers, administrators, or even parents think you're doing. So show them!
This year, one of my buildings is under construction and I'm visiting classes to have music on a cart. Most of the teachers flee during their planning period, but a couple stay behind to do work at their desk while I'm teaching their class music. One first grade teacher in particular stopped me after school one day and said,
"I just have to say I am so impressed with how you teach. You are actually teaching the kids music. Each week you are obviously building on concepts you worked on before and it's really cool to watch! I'm not sure I could do the things you're asking them to do."
Okay, but honestly, this response was not because my teaching is the best ever. I have some pretty solid teaching strategies in place, but I guarantee the so-mi-la patterning she was referring to is something that happens in most first grade music classrooms. But guys, they just don't know what we or the kids are doing. They don't realize what happens in our music classrooms. Show them.
Send parents an email with video or audio, ask to be a co-teacher in SeeSaw, and invite teachers and principals in to see your class in action. I've done all of these things this year, and it has worked wonders for my relationships with other adults, not to mention confidence and self-efficacy boosts for kids. When people begin to understand what and how you teach, they start to really respect your specialist title. Because they realize how well deserved it is!!
Tip #3 - Make Everything About the Kids (...because it is.)
This might seem like a bit of an obvious tip. And in our music teacher brains, I know that what is best for kids is always at the forefront of our agenda. But does your language reflect it? Do your emails, conversations, and meetings take you out of the equation? Because, quite honestly, any hot button issue that involves your opinion should be an opinion you hold in the best interest of children making music.
I have 2 specific examples I can think of to illustrate this point. The first is scheduling. Ah yes, the sweet sounds of this person wanting their prep here and making sure that math because after ELA and the only time fifth grade can honestly come is at the end of the day after they've packed up all the things and have completely checked out of the school day.
Been there, played that game.
The second is performances. You need help supervising all 200 kids in the second grade for the big important production that the parents and the teachers said was the most important thing ever, but now you have no help during the dress rehearsals and can't possibly run sound and conduct at the same time.
Two for two, kid.
We've all been there. Our job is stressful because we're working with lots and lots of personalities and lots and lots of kids. Like, all the children. In an entire school. To the tune of 600 kids, sometimes more. And they are the reason we do what we do each and every minute of each and every day.
So when a conversation about scheduling comes up, focus on how certain prototypes just don't work because the kids miss out. Having first grade, then kindergarten, the first grade, the fifth grade, and then second at the end of the day without a break in between guarantees that each class will miss out on some instructional time because set up is impossible for that many grade levels back to back to back (not to mention we drink a lot of water. and coffee... infer what you will). Notice there's no "I statement" there?
And with the performances, the kids really need extra support to have the best performance experience possible because there are so many support positions beyond conductor to make it all successful. Could we offer them that support? Not a single "I'm overwhelmed" etc, because it's all about the kids. And yes, we are the one person who facilitates all of these things, and we need help, but we need help to make the kids have the best experience possible.
And when everyone is working toward the common cause, we are SO much more successful.
Tip #4 - Be Part of the Team
If everyone is focused on the kids, this part is easy. And it's all about give and take.
If I'm willing to switch a couple classes so fifth grade can still have music on a field trip day, I will absolutely do it. It makes that day nutty, but at least my classes don't get behind or off, and I'm setting a precedent that I am part of the team.
If you can accommodate someone, just do it. Unless it's an impossible feat or won't be beneficial for kids, help your fellow teacher out. You will, after all, need someone to run the lights for a program, or cover for the first ten minutes of your class when you're running late from a doctor's appointment. The more you think of your colleagues as your school family, the more warmth they will feel and shoot back in your direction.
Coming up in this Stress Soothers Series...
We've got one more installment left!! Check out Part IV next Tuesday, March 28th, when we chat all about Professional Development & Music Teacher Isolation... geez, sounds joyful doesn't it?? No worries, it will be by the time we're done!!
Something else you would love to chat about, but it didn't seem to make the list the time around? Drop me a line here! I would love to hear from you. :)