Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Escape the Music Room

I am so excited to share about Breakout Edu!!!
Some of the tools included in the Breakout Edu Kit
(Not pictured: Large lockbox and the invisible ink pen)

   My husband and I love puzzle rooms/escape rooms and I was so excited to see Breakout Edu online.  If you have never done a puzzle room/escape room your goal is to get out of the room.  Usually, there is a brief introduction and then you are left to search the room for clues, etc.  There are puzzles, locks, sometimes hidden passages, etc.  Breakout Edu is one way to bring this excitement to your classroom.

   When it was my turn to use the kit, I decided that I wanted to start with my choir 6th-grade choir.  I see choir for 55 minutes and my K-5  classes for 25 minutes.  I don't have any time between classes so my 4th graders spent the last 5 minutes helping me hide clues before choir arrived.

   The kid my school purchased was Breakout EDU kit and Platform Access.  It was $150.00 and can be found here:  I know you could make your own kit, but I really like the digital resources provided and the quality of the kit.  I started with a pre-made game called, "Attack of the Locks" that is included in the Platform Access.

   Currently, there are very few games created for Elementary Music students.  "Attack of the Locks" had one music clue (using letter names from sheet music to help open a lock). Initially, I was going to follow the exact game and focus on building community with one music clue. Instead, I got excited and modified the game to include all music hints.

   The "Attack of the Locks" game on Breakout EDU had an introduction video that I showed the group, that allowed them to find a key to open a lock.  I bought this Star Wars box at Target and I had my husband drill a hole into it for the lock.

This was just sitting out on the piano (you could hide it if you wanted but my students had never done a puzzle room before).
Inside: Star Wars stickers with the hidden writing on the back and the black light with the batteries backward.
Inside, I placed two stickers sheets.  I used the "invisible ink" marker from the Breakout EDU kit to drawn music notes in different directions on the back of the sticker sheets.  The stem directions were later used to open the directional lock on the big box.

A coded message written on an index card.
A coded message (using a code from the "Attack of the Locks" game with Star Wars letters) that read STEMS.  This was the hint to use the directions of the stems from the music notes to get the lock open.

I hang things students give me on my office window.  The code key blends in among the papers!

This code allowed them to read the index card from the mailbox and figure out "STEMS" 

I hung some giant Star Wars Posters in my room. Using invisible ink, I wrote do, do, mi, do1.  That was a hint for a lock 1, 1, 3, 8 on the small lockbox.

Other posters hung on the wall and on cabinet doors.  As they were searching the students opened the cabinets behind the posters and found the small lockbox.  The 4-digit number lock was on it.  They translated the solfege that was written on the other poster into numbers.  Inside was a Star Wars Lego set with the instruction sheet on how to put it together.
They found Star Wars Lego in the small lockbox and an instruction sheet.
The students eventually put the Lego set together and found nothing.  They used the black light on the instruction paper and realized 1-5-4 was circled.  This allowed them to open the final big box.

Students found index cards with letters written on them.
Side Note: I was doing "Alphabet Soup" from Gameplan with Kindergarten and I had created letters on index cards.  Choir found the letters and thought it was a clue. They worked so hard to make a word.  I guess it was just a fun mistake!

In a tall cupboard, behind another Star Wars poster, they found the giant lockbox up high.  They had all of the codes figured out except an ABC Letter Lock.

I reminded them that all of their codes that have been useful involved music and Star Wars.

Finally, the realized the music on the piano was Star Wars (Main Theme)!

Sheet music (invisible ink circled notes)

Once they found the sheet music, the used the black light to find the answer to their last letter lock!  The pitches circled plus a dot were the answer for the final lock!

The blacklight revealed certain pitches circled.  The letter names answered the ABC lock!

This allowed them to open the final lock!!!!

The final lock is opening!!!!!
Inside were glow sticks, candy, and small toys!  Just silly and fun!
The best part was talking about how it went!

This I learned:
  • Practice!  Test the locks, have someone else test them.  Walk through the order of the clues the way the kids will
  • Use the Lock Parking Lot to keep track of locks and ensure a student doesn't accidentally reset them or change the code.

  • Remember, it's ok if they don't escape, or if something goes wrong!  It happens, give them a hint, or a new clue, or skip a step, it will be fine.  When we were playing a lock fell off the hasp (the blue things that allow you to use a lot of locks on one box) and I just put it back on and we kept going.
  • Have fun!  

I hope this helps inspire you to try an escape/puzzle classroom or just go out of your comfort zone and try something new.  

Has anyone else tried an escape room? Breakout EDU? Something you created?  

Saturday, November 7, 2015

November Small Goals 2015

Happy November!

 I have linked up with The Yellow Brick Road in hopes to hold myself accountable to meeting my goals!

I have been a bit behind on my blog, I was out busy planning a wedding and getting married!  I will soon write a post about the beautiful music nerd wedding we had :)

I am so happy but I am still settling into this role of "wife."  Our household roles are a bit reverse.  I am very, very spoiled and Jeff is a fabulous cook even with our mainly vegan appetites.  This left our housework a bit uneven.  I have been providing the bathroom cleaning and laundry and I was still not really pulling my weight around the house.  To even things out, I will now be in charge of our finances and budget.

Small Goal #1

Sort out our "normal" budget now that the wedding expenses are done.  I have been searching the internet for a great plan that fits our lives and I haven't found exactly what I want yet.  We are using and some excel documents I have created

Small Goal # 2

Write the rest of the wedding Thank Yous!  We were very lucky to have so much DIY help!

Small Goal # 3

Continue work on my Woodland Animals Decor Bundle on TPT.  So far I have Hand Sign Posters  and Ensemble Groups Posters completed!


Small Goal #4

Streamline my before school/after school routine.  I would love to be more consistent with gradebook entries and positive calls home.  I am going to make an after school checklist to help me organize my end of the day routine.

What are your goals?  What are your after school routines?

Please comment below!

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 16, 2015

Music In Our Schools Month!

I am just returning from Spring Break and I am a little behind on celebrating Music in Our Schools Month!

Over break, I created a pennant/banner to display in the hallway in honor of the month!  Tomorrow the students will start to decorate their banner!  I am so excited!

Also, I have reached 50 Likes on Facebook so until I get home, the product is free!
 It includes color options as well as black and white ink saving options!

TPT:   Music In Our Schools Banner!

Also in honor of the month, I just have to thank all of you!  When I started this year my walls were empty and my "Wall of Answers" is so helpful to the students and it looks incredible!  I got a LOT of compliments during conferences.

Here is an updated Classroom Tour:

As you might remember, my wall is wavy to help improve the acoustics.  That means I can't really use it for shelving or tables so it has become "The Wall of Answers."  Students are used to referencing the wall and the are so proud to more pieces every day!

Yes, it's a bird!  This is my entrance door!

Teaching in a school that offers Spanish Immersion and I was thrilled when Cori Bloom of Rhythm and Bloom posted this set!

With the big open floor plan in this room Jena Hudson of Sew Much Music's 

With the New Standards, this set from Lindsay Jervis has been very helpful.  Plus administration loves that it is posted!  National Standards

In the hallway before I even met my students this fall,  they learned of my small obsession with The Wizard of Oz.  This music advocacy set from Lindsay Jervis was too good to pass up!  

I am so grateful every day to have such a strong online community.  As a music teacher collaboration is sometimes hard to find and I just wanted to say thank you for your resources, advice and your hard work!


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Quarter 2 Accomplishments!

     I can't believe that the school is halfway over!  Along with grades I send home a list of our accomplishments to each family.  This year is my first year in this building and I am really working on providing a well rounded experience.  I have been very spoiled and the wonderful teacher before me has every resource your heart could desire!  It has actually been difficult figuring out what to teach!
    I was thrilled when I found this clip art!  It was perfect for my quarter 2 summaries.  I color coded them by grade level (it matches the Share the Music grade books).

Here is a sample of what I send home to Kindergarten Families!

Here are the sources from Kindergarten:

Grinding Corn:

Ho Ho Watanay:

Twelve Days of Christmas: Actions as listed in Kindergarten Gameplan

Dance of the Reed Flutes: Actions as listed in Kindergarten Gameplan

Instruments to add sounds to a story:  I read the story of The Nutcracker (I love the pictures in this version and then we list the main characters.  We talk about the sound of each character (the Mouse King could be loud and low) and then we find an instrument in the room to represent that character (a tubano).  I divide the students into groups to "play" each character.  I read the story again and each group plays when I say their character's name.  The students love it!  It is a great beginning composing lesson.

Ha Ha This Away:  I use the version found in and I teach a dance that I learned while student teaching that fits with the A section.

Mr. Troll: I use the version found here and for my spanish students we sing in English but the color must be sung in Spanish.

What have you accomplished this quarter?

What do you think I should do more of with Kindergarten?

How do you communicate with parents?  Do you have a newsletter?

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Resolutions!

Happy New Year!

This break did not go exactly as planned.  I spent break sleeping, blowing my nose and resting.  After going to the doctor I learned that I have pneumonia.  I guess my body was telling me to rest and take it easy.  The good news is I didn't have to miss school to be sick!  The bad news is I didn't have a very productive break.  Maybe I needed to take a break.

In my lazy state I have been reading a lot of new music blogs and taking time to catch up on my favorites.  Mrs. Miracle's Music Room hosted a linky party and I was happy to link up!  

 Mrs. Miracle's Resolution Linky Party


   Find a balance.  Over the summer I started to blog, got engaged and we bought a house.  I am coaching volleyball, leading a CmPS (Community Problem Solving Team),  singing in my church choir and trying to establish myself in my new teaching position.  It has been a lot.  I am told it only get busier when you have kids :)  

   Before this year, everything was work and coaching with some time for friends and family plugged in.  When I reflected in an earlier blog, I didn't have much to report on the personal accomplishments.  This year while planning a wedding and becoming a homeowner,  I have entered a different world trying to figure out how to get rid of mice, learning about roof rakes and ripping up carpet.  I have fully enjoyed it but I still need to learn to balance my time with these new adventures in my life!


    Last year I taught in a Spanish/Chinese Immersion IB School and collaboration was mandatory to be successful! In my new school, I can be more independent and I realized I have not collaborated with what students are learning in their classrooms.  Although I collaborate with behavior concerns, my PLC time and socially I feel I have slipped with my content collaboration.
    It seems like people are very split on the issue of collaborating with what students are learning with their classroom teacher and focusing on the music pedagogy. I personally find collaborating inspiring for me and very helpful for my students.   I don't make the classroom content the center of my curriculum, but I would like to add a few songs a month that connect the two.


   Organize and establish myself.  I am very fortunate to replace a fantastic veteran teacher who had a plethora of resources and the school loves music.  This year I am working on creating my system and routines.  As a fifth year music teacher in a new position this year, I have been trying to find what is going to work best for these students this year.  As a result I have modified my lesson plans, expectations, communication, etc.  I love keeping traditions, but I also want to make my own.  With so many wonderful things available it is sometimes hard to navigate what I should do first!  I want to focus on curriculum mapping and staying organized for the rest of the school year.


   As I mentioned in the personal goals I struggle with balance and one of the first things that tends to get lost is my blog.  I realize that right now blogging once a week might not be reasonable but I want to try and blog twice a month and post at least once TPT resource a month.  I find both things to be extremely valuable and although I am busy I want to make time for this outlet!

Just for me!

   Like many people thinking about New Years Resolutions, I would like to be more healthy.  Making myself a priority for 30 minutes a day to work out should be reasonable.  Planning ahead for the week to ensure I can eat healthy is completely possible.  The most helpful thing for my accountability has been joining my friends in a Facebook fitness challenge group!  To see others complete there workout for the day is sometimes all my competitive body needs to get moving.  It is also so encouraging to see everyone transform.  I am very spoiled and I am not the cook at home.  If we get the groceries, Jeff will make us fantastic healthy food, I just have to eat it.  No excuses then!  

I wish you all the best in your goals of the year!
2015 is going to be a big year!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

TPT Store is Open!


I have taken Thanksgiving Break to really focus on opening my TPT store!  I have been thinking a lot about what I would like to make and what was resources I really wanted that I couldn't find.

This fall in my new school, I really struggled to learn names and faces of all 600+ new students.  In my school we have a LOT of students with special needs that I NEEDED to know on day 1! We have become a hub for students with extreme allergies, severe diabetes and other special needs.  I was terrified that my first week I would not know which student had a severe allergy and I would cause an emergency simply by sharing mallets.  I sent out the following freebie to each classroom teacher as well as the special education teachers and our nurse.  I let the staff know this form was not needed for all students (ex: students with glasses) but only the students who would really need assistance to be successful.

When I got the papers back, I put a sticker on my seating chart by the students' names and then I attached the forms to the back.  As I was meeting my students, I learned quickly the names of my students who had special needs.  I now feel confident that a substitute would have the basic knowledge they would need for the day, without breaking any privacy concerns or keeping full IEPs locked in my room.

What tips and trick do you use to stay organized for a substitute?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Behavior in Music

I have been reflecting on the first month of school and wanted to share some successes and struggles.


K: Four corners using Lindsay's Four Voices posters with great success and fun
1st: Students have sung in Spanish and played ta and ti-ti rhythms on tubano
2nd: My Spanish students translated "Pobre Gatito" back into "Poor Little Kitty Cat"
3rd and 4th: Students have already done movement in boy girl pairs (and handled it!)
5th: Students have auditioned in small groups for the district wide choir concert (The Big Sing!).  I am very excited about their tone and support!
6th grade choir of 20 has read rhythm cards in two parts and they are beginning work on Zum Gali Gali

This first month has really flown by!  There is so much to do and so much that has already been done.


As I adjust to my new school I have struggled with some behavior issues.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, Dazzling Discipline, I hold the class accountable for our expectations by flipping our posted rules backwards when we need to fix them.  I also use a resting spot for students that need to reset for a minute.

As a young teacher, I have worked in a variety of schools each with their own ideas about discipline and how to handle behavior issues:

Buddy Room: If the student is unable to fix their behavior and they have lost the privilege of being in their classroom they go to a neighboring classroom for a break.  In some schools, the Buddy Room teacher helps them process and return to their regular class.  Others feel that the Buddy Room is a place for students to go until their regular teacher can process with them.

Stop and Think:  Some schools have a behavioral specialist.  The room or space can be called many things but the staff in the room process through the behavior with the student.  It is up to the staff of the behavior room to prepare the student to return to class ready to learn.

Principal/ Dean of Students:  If a student struggles, they go to the office.  The student waits in the office until someone can process with them.  The person in the office prepares the student to return to class and assigns any consequences.

None of the Above: My current school is moving towards PBIS certification.  The focus now is on positive behavior and rewarding it.  After winter break, the school PBIS team will develop consequences and procedures at their winter training.  Right now, each teacher handles things differently.  Some teachers fill out behavior reports, some use loss of privilege, some use buddy rooms, some just ignore behavior.

This year if "Take a Rest" hasn't worked with a student (or if the behavior has been extreme), I have found a time to conference one on one and talk about the behavior.  I am still getting to know my students and talking with them after the fact really helps us both understand what happened, and how to fix it.

Some students have called home to let them know how music has been going.  In my district calling home when a student is struggling is welcomed and expected.  I try and set up a goal with the student.  Usually the reward of meeting the goal is having the student call home to report positive behavior.

I am also starting call home with students who are excelling in music.  Although it takes time, it makes their day, and mine!  What do you do to acknowledge students who go above and beyond?

What do you do for those individual students who struggle but do not receive services?

Do you call home? Do the students call home? Do you use sticker charts? Does your school have a system you find effective?  

Please share your thoughts!

Have a fantastic day!