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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Need a Pencil?

You're running a rehearsal and you ask students to write something in. It's almost inevitable that a hand will slowly raise and the question on the end of that hand will ask for a pencil. This small action eats up precious rehearsal time. Creating a simple pencil pan has saved me from these problems. Here's how I did it:

What you'll need:
pizza pan
duct tape
magnets (strong enough to hold the weight of a pencil)

hanging materials (I used command strips)

Wrap a piece of duct tape around the top of a pencil. Try to line up the pencil with the middle of the piece.

Place a magnet on the back of the duct tape flag.

Decorate, hang, and enjoy the silence!

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Job Search and Interview Tips for Music Teachers

Job searching can be a daunting task. After going through the process recently, here are a few things I've learned.

Finding a music teaching job can be tough. This post has a lot of tips from cover letter writing to interview questions and even an answer to the dreaded biggest weakness question. You'll be teaching students of your own in no time!

Cover Letter
For me, writing cover letters are the most difficult part of the job search process. The best resource I've found for writing music teacher specific cover letter is Eastman's Musician's Cover Letter Handbook

The most important thing to do while drafting a cover letter is to tailor each cover letter to each position you apply for. Do your research on the place you're applying to and include something unique you like about the school/district in the final paragraph such as their technology initiatives, teacher mentor program, or extra or co-curricular activities you are interested in. 

It is safe to assume that if you're applying for a music-related job, you taught music at some point. Include specific verbs, approaches, and stats to make you stand out. Did you increase participation in your choir program? Did you organize a new event or collaborate with other teachers?

Don't be afraid to constantly tweak or change your resume. I changed wording, added and deleted items, and even changed the font. Did you know Times New Roman has become the "sweatpants" of fonts? You never know what someone is looking for or what someone may be turned off by. If you're applying to jobs and haven't heard anything back, try changing something on your resume.

Digital Portfolio
Digital portfolios are becoming more of a trend in the job hunt process. The first thing my new principal said when she sent the email asking if I wanted to interview was that she loved my digital portfolio. I included a link to my digital portfolio on my paper resume. This portfolio is a great way to show you are technology proficient as well as a way to showcase your skills.

What to Include in Your Digital Portfolio
Teaching samples such as lesson plans and unit plans
Videos or audio clips of performances
Parent newsletters
Teaching philosophy
Educational social media
Contact information

How Can I Create A Digital Portfolio?
Choose a free website platform that comes with a template you can easily adjust to what you'd like your portfolio to look like. I personally like to work with Wix because I like the look of the pre-made layout portfolio templates.

A few suggestions for websites:

Interview Questions
The best way to prepare for the interview is to practice, practice, practice. Practice in the mirror, practice in the shower, practice with a friend or family member. Write out responses to organize your thoughts but don't memorize the exact answers. You don't want to sound too robotic.

Here are a list of a few questions I compiled to practice:

Tell me something about yourself that we can't find out from your resume.
What's the best lesson you've ever taught?
What are your successes with your current students?
How do you integrate technology?
What counting system do you use?
What is your plan for discipline?
What music would you program for a _______ concert?
What are your 5/10 year goals?
What are your biggest strengths/weaknesses?
Why should we hire you over any other candidate?

Another great resource for interview question ideas are the music teacher and band director Facebook groups. Search for interview questions and you will find dozens of threads.

The Dreaded Biggest Weakness Question
Workaholics and perfectionists are a dime a dozen with this question. Pick a music related weakness and how you're working on improving.

Here's my answer: Brass is my biggest weakness. In order to overcome that, I bought a trombone and trumpet this year in order to continue practice and learning them. It’s helped me to learn technique, fingerings/slide positions, and what students may struggle with.

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Your iPad's Camera App As An Assessment Tool

I would love to individually assess all of my students on rhythm reading. In reality, that isn't always possible during class because of limited time, shy students, and concert prep time among a million other things. Have access to iPads? The camera/video app can solve your assessment woes! You don't even need a whole class set for this to work!

Your iPad's camera app can serve as an easy assessment tool for your music classroom! You don't even need a full set for this to work.

During the 2nd quarter, I used my beginner Nutcracker rhythm composition kit with my 2nd graders. They were instructed to create a 4 beat pattern, read the rhythm using ta's/titi's/to-o, read the rhythm using the Nutcracker words, and then record themselves. 


Tips for Videos

1. After students have pressed record, make sure you have them pause briefly before saying anything. Sometimes kids start speaking before they are recording without realizing.
2. In order to identify which recording belongs to which student, have them say their first and last name as well as their homeroom/classroom teacher before they start whatever part they will say for the assessment.

3. If you choose to have students email their assessments to you, organize the video files by creating a folder for each classroom teacher.

4. Don't have access to a full set of iPads? Use it as part of centers activity!

Gathering Student Work
My school is fortunate enough to have a Google Drive folder for each child. Students uploaded their videos to their folders. I was able to go into their folders after school to assess their videos. If you don't have a Google Drive system set up at your school, don't fret! These videos are small enough to be emailed. Here's how:

1. Go to the camera roll and select the most recent video. Then tap on the icon that's in the bottom left side of the screen.

2. Select the video you want to send. The current video will come up already selected.

3. Select the send via mail option. The video will automatically compress once you tap the mail icon.

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Sunday, April 12, 2015

Musical Opposites: Videos and Singing Games

Starting out lessons with a quick video is a great way to get students hooked on the day's lesson. Here are a few short videos to go along with singing games on musical opposite concepts high/low, fast/slow, and loud/soft.




Andy Pandy

Students march to steady beat and then freeze on high to reach as high as they can and low to touch their toes. Add another level by having students march in a circle.

Sigh High, Sing Low

Students stand in a circle and pass a dog (or other stuffed animal) to the student they call. In order to show who has had a turn, have students keep one hand on their head until the stuffed animal is passed to them. 





This song is sung slowly until the fermata. After the fermata, the song picks up in tempo. I like to drag the first part out to really show contrast to the second part. To play the game, students sit in a circle. One student is chosen to walk slowly around the circle while students sing. When the class reaches the fermata, the student taps the shoulder of whoever is in front of them. The chosen student then chases the student around the circle and attempts to tag him/her before the song ends.

I do not have much room for chasing in my small music room so instead of having students running/chasing, I had both students gallop around the circle without trying to tag each other. They enjoyed it just as much without the competitive part.



Grizzly Bear

Students sit in a circle while one student(the sleeping grizzly bear) sits outside of the circle facing away from the rest of the group. One student in the circle is chosen to "wake" the grizzly bear by tapping the grizzly bear on the shoulder during the last two lines of the song (please be very quiet....). When students sing the word mad, the grizzly bear turns around and has three guesses to find who tapped them on the shoulder.

This post is a part of Fermata Fridays! Click above for other great music education posts.

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Sunday, March 29, 2015

5 Children's Books About Women in Music

Incorporating literacy into music is an important part of my classroom. Celebrate Music in Our Schools Month and Women's History Month with these 5 books!

Incorporating literacy into your music classroom doesn't have to be tough! Celebrate women in music with these 5 children's books. Great to use for centers or when you have a few minutes at the end of class!

1. For the Love of Music: The Remarkable Story of Maria Anna Mozart by  Elizabeth Rusch
Many people know about Wolfgang Mozart but his sister is lesser known. This story tells of a brilliant pianist who toured along side her brother. The book is based on actual letters written within the Mozart family.

2. Skit-Scat Raggedy Cat Ella Fitzgerald by Roxanne Orgill

This wonderful story tells about Ella Fitzgerald's life from her childhood to her professional singing days. A great biography written for children so they can understand.

3. Clara Schumann: Piano Virtuoso by Susanna Reich

This book is more suitable for older children. It is a chapter book with 118 pages on Clara Schumann's musical life. The book includes diary entries and letters by Clara.

4. Little Piano Girl: The Story of Mary Lou Williams by Ann Ingalls and Maryann Macdonald

Just like Mozart, Mary Lou Williams began playing the piano very young and became a professional musician before she was a teenager. As a jazz pianist, she had the opportunity to arrange music for famous players such as Duke Ellington and Dizzy Gillespie. 

5. Harlem's Little Blackbird by Renee Watson

This story features Florence Mills, a lesser known singer from the 20s. Her singing and dancing dazzled audiences on broadway. 
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Sunday, February 22, 2015

Put Your Old Wii to Work in You Music Classroom

Have an old Wii? Use it in your class through the game Wii Music! It's a fun treat for use in centers or as a full class review!

Boxshot: Wii Music by Nintendo of America

What You'll Need
Wii Console
1-4 Wii Controllers
1-4 Wii Nunchuck Controllers (some games can be played without it but some also require it)
Wii Music Game - purchase it used for under $5 from Amazon or Game Stop

Introduce the Activity: How to Play Wii Music

The lessons option can help you to introduce how Wii Music works to your students. Select Jam Basics to show students how to use the controllers.

What Games & Skills Does Wii Music Cover?

Jam Session
Select Custom Jam Session to let your students choose song, instruments, and venue. The band set up allows students to choose a bass, chord, percussion, melody, and harmony instrument. Instruments range from traditional such as violin and trumpet to world such as the sitar and castanets. Bouncing blobs at the bottom show students the steady beat, which can help reinforce playing in time/on the steady beat. At the end, students can watch their performance by selecting View Replay.

Pitch Perfect
This game is a great way to reinforce aural skills. A player is randomly selected to complete a challenge. These challenges include tasks like putting notes in order from high to low, finding the Mii who plays the same pitch as the given pitch(picture below), finding the instrument(out of a group of 4 instruments) who made a mistake in the music, picking the group that sings "like a sunny day" (major vs minor), and many more. Players earn points by selecting the correct answer. The quicker they find the answer, the more points they earn. This game can be used as a whole class review in single player mode.

Mii Maestro
This game allows players to become orchestra conductors. The Wii controller becomes the baton. When more than one controller is involved in this mini game, the object is to conduct at the same time. This game can be used to reinforce steady beat and give students a chance to experience what it's like to be in front of an orchestra. At the conclusion of the game, a score is given on how accurate the conductors were. I will warn you, the multiplayer aspect of this game is more difficult than you'd think! 

Handbell Harmony
Use the Wii controller and nunchuck to form a handbell choir! Follow the colored handbells on the screen, which tell when you should play. This game can be used to reinforce playing rhythms in time. One trick I've found is you should try to play your handbell slightly before it gets to the yellow strip. 

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Tuesday, February 3, 2015

2, 4, 6, 8 Ta & Titi Partner Activity

This month, my kinders are starting to explore short and long sounds. We transitioned to call these short and long sounds ta and titi during this week's classes through 2-4-6-8 Meet Me at the Garden Gate.

I believe 2-4-6-8 is meant to be a chant but I wanted to add pitches to continue to reinforce sol-mi-la. Here's what I did:

After discovering one sound in one steady beat is a ta and two sounds in one steady beat is a titi, I added a partner hand clapping activity. First we practiced keeping the steady beat by using a pat-clap pattern. Then I had them practice pat-clap-pat-hands up. The hands up motion preps them for high five-ing their partner later. Once students can comfortably sing and do the pat-clap-pat-hands up motion, I put them into partners. First we practiced the pat-clap-pat-high five partner motion alone and then we put it with music!
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

4 Free Online Professional Development Resources for Music Teachers

1. Try a MOOC(massive open online course). These courses are offered for FREE to anyone with internet. They aren't any old courses taught by Joe Schmo though. These are courses taught by professors from legitimate universities.

Where can I find it
Coursera has hundreds of courses from well known universities across the globe. Music specific course offerings include Jazz Improvisation, Introduction to Music Production, and Teaching the Violin and Viola: Creating a Healthy Foundation. General education course offerings include  K-12 Blended & Online Learning, Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century skills, and Teaching Character and Creating Positive Classrooms.

edX is similar to Coursera but does not have as many music and education courses. Though, it is worth checking out! Some music specific courses up on their website now include Vocal Recording Technology, Intro to Music Business, and Jazz Appreciation. General education courses include The Art of Teaching, Critical Issues in Urban Education, and Leaders of Learning.

How it works
You can sign up for courses through the website. Some courses may have already started, some may be starting in the future - this information will be posted in the description. The course is structured like a typical college course. It week has it's own assignments, videos, forums, and more! You can do as much or as little as you choose. Certifications can be earned, usually for a fee. Even if a course has already finished, you can often still join and review all material that was put up during the semester.

2. #TweetIt. Twitter can connect educators from all over the world. Hundreds of educational twitter chats happen weekly. These 140 character discussions can pack a lot more punch than you might think.

Where can I find it
Twitter hashtags are used to connect those who wish to participate in the chat. Check out this list to find a list of common educational hashtags. #musedchat and #elmused are two music education chats I have participated in.

How it works
Each chat occurs on a specific day and time. #elmused happens each Tuesday at 9PM EST and #musedchat happens each Monday at 8PM EST. If you find a chat and you're not sure when it occurs, usually a search of the hashtag on Twitter or Google will let you know.

You'll want to use a program such as TweetDeck or Hoot Suite to keep up with the chat. These programs allow you to track a specific hashtag and will update the tweets in that hashtag automatically. It will appear more like a group chat this way.

Topics are usually chosen in advance. One person acts as the moderator. Sign on at the time the chat is supposed to start and feel free to introduce yourself by stating your name, what you teach, and where you're from. The chat begins when the moderator tweets the first question, usually indicated by a tweet that begins with Q1, which stands for question one. To respond, start your tweet with A1, which stands for answer one. Follow A1 with your response to the question and be sure to end your tweet with the proper hashtag, or else those participating will not see your tweet. The next question will be indicated by the moderator when he/she tweets Q2 and participants then respond with A2.

Chats can be fast paced so don't feel pressured. Tweet as much or as little as you'd like!

3.Pin It, Scoop It! Social media isn't all pictures of cats and viral videos. There's a whole other educational side to it!

Where can I find it
Pinterest is probably the most well known social media outlets. I love Pinterest because I can organize all of my boards instead of having a single stream of things I have "liked" or "favorited." 

If you like Pinterest, you should check out Scoop It! Similar in concept with

How it works
Pin or scoop blog posts, articles, videos, worksheets, and countless other resources to your own feed. Follow specific boards/topics by searching or a user's whole profile. One feature I really like from Scoop It is the curation option. Users have the option to write a blurb about the posts and are usually a bit more descriptive than Pinterest descriptions.

4. Facebook Groups. Many teachers have a Facebook so why not do something productive while you're there?

Where to find it
There are tons of music specific groups on Facebook. I belong to several, including Music Teachers and Band Directors. A simple search can help you find others.

How it works
First request to be in the groups. They are closed so an admin or someone already in the group will need to add you. Then post a question, answer one, or do a search! Teachers are talking about everything from lesson ideas and auditions to classroom management and admin/parent questions. Be sure to read the guidelines before posting. There are certain rules that apply to each group, especially regarding ads and products.

To follow a Facebook post without commenting on it, find the thread you want to follow and click on the gray down arrow on the top left of the post. Select Turn on notifications.

Follow me on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook!

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