Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Summer Job!

First of all, I just have to say....

I love my new blog layout!  

Hats off to Megan from A Bird in Hand Designs! I would highly recommend her to anyone!  I chose her custom blog plan!  She was so helpful, patient and clearly talented!

Thank you also to Lady Coco at GiftSeasonStore for my sweet little bird!

As a teacher, what do you do in the summer?

As a young teacher, I work!  I long for the day when I can take my Kodaly and Orff levels in the summer.  This year, my summer job is the best!  I am currently teaching at Summer Academy, a camp for high potential students in the Twin Cities Area.

In February, I wrote a course called, "Movie Magic!" The basic premise is learning how to compose in Garageband and create music videos in iMovie.  I have 21 incredible students!  We have already learned how to add sound effects and background music to a silent (Minion) video using Garageband, selected poems to use as lyrics for our song and tomorrow we are meeting with a professional composer!


One major way Summer Academy communicates with families is through blogs.  I decided to host my blog through http://kidblog.org/home/.  I honestly couldn't be happier!  What's great about kidblog is you set up a page, create a class list, assign passwords and that's it!  The kids don't need an e-mail to sign in, you don't have to send them an invitation code or anything.
Each student get their own blog!  They can post on their own blog that is connected to the mainpage.  They can add photos, links, video, tags, you name it!
You also have complete control.  Right now I need to approve any posts and comments before they are published.  The students are going crazy!  The camp ended at noon today and students are still posting and commenting on each other's blogs at 7pm!

Feel free to check it out!

The limitations are 100 MB of storage and 50 students.  If that isn't enough space, you can upgrade!  I am not sure this blog is the best option for the fall with 600 students but maybe each "student" could actually be one class?

~  Do you have student blogs?
~ What is your favorite way to communicate with families?
~ What do you do in the summer?
~  Please feel free to comment below!

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Have a Mike Day!

Happy Father's Day!

         As many of you know I lost my Dad to cancer a few years ago.  I am going to steal a line from him and say, "I'm Lucky!" But seriously, I am so lucky to have him as a Dad!  I won't change it for the world.  We have a big golf tournament to celebrate him and it benefits Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Center.  My Dad spent a lot of time after chemo and surgeries working with those wonderful people.  For more information on the golf tournament, please go to his page!  Mike Lust Charity Golf Tournament.

Reasons My Dad is pretty great:

  • When I was in elementary school, he would put notes in my lunch box that used all of my spelling words.
  • When he traveled for work he would make a point to have "Father/daughter dates" with me at least every other week (air hockey, bumper cars, racquetball, mini golf, etc.)
  • He was always optimistic, even at the end
  • He believed in making others happy, even strangers.  Tons of old man jokes!
  • When he got too sick for the softball and volleyball that he loved, he picked up golf 
  • In first grade, my Dad was driving me to school and I told him that one of the boys in my class stapled his finger on purpose.  Our teacher said he had to be done with the stapler.  My Dad said that you couldn't staple your thumb.  He had a stapler in his car and picked it up to prove me wrong.  There in the parking lot of my elementary school I watched my Dad staple his thumb.
  • He spent hours coach my friends and in softball and volleyball. "Point, step and throw."
  • His coaching theme and really motto was focus on what you can control.  Can we control how hard they serve? No, but we can control if we move our feet.
  • He sang loud and proud even though he couldn't sing in tune.
  • He always believed in me.
  • He would stop at every mirror, look at himself and say, "Yep, still good looking." Even in public.  Even in the mirror aisle. 
  • He would always ask me, "Whose your favorite Dad?"
  • He would constantly badger my cousins about being their favorite uncle.
  • He went to chemo in Hawaiian shirts and was always smiling
I could go on for hours!  It's not a great quality but the link below is a speech he wrote for Toastmasters about being Lucky.

This speech is literally about how getting cancer made my Dad "Lucky."  If you look close enough you can see him rockin' his Chemo pack!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dazzling Discipline Linky Party!

I am so excited to be Linking up with Aileen from Mrs. Miracles Music Room in celebration of her 1,2000 followers!

I have had the privilege of working in a variety of settings as a music teacher.  I have taught in school districts at the elementary level, middle school/ high school level, and in a Spanish/Chinese Immersion Charter School.  Each school has its own approach to discipline to guide your classroom.  In all of these settings, I have learned a lot and added more tools and tricks to my room.

Clear Expectations

I had the opportunity to student teach with Kristi Wagner, a fantastic elementary music teacher rural Minnesota.  To this day, I use what I have learned from her every day!  I am constantly modifying my expectations to fit each group of students I have worked with.  This year I used Lindsay's Music Rules and Songs.  I found last year that students have a lot of rules to remember.  There are rules for playground, their classroom, the hall, the bathroom, the gym, home, the bus, etc.   I wanted to help them remember and Lindsay's rules all fit with a song!  What a great idea.  I didn't realize how helpful that would be!  At the beginning of the year, we would use her songs are vocal warm-ups and to remind us of our job.  This kept the rules fresh in our minds and the students even made up actions, which helped my little wiggly ones stay focused, and involved more of their brain (whole body teaching!).  By the end of the year, I would just hum the tune and they would self-correct!

I post my rules on hooks by my board.  This is how the group is held accountable.  If I notice the group is struggling with one of the expectations I casually walk over the flip the card to the black and white side.  I typically don't need to interrupt the lesson I just give them the visual cue of what they need to fix.  Once they fix it, I flip it back to the color side.  If most students fix it, and one or two are still struggling I help those students (see #5).  

In my building we give the classroom teachers a 0-3 to let them know how the specialist time went.  I connect these to how the cards end.  I am teaching K-3 they are just kids who are learning and playing.  The mistakes are how they learn!  If all the cards end forward it's a 2, if one is backwards it is a 1, if two are backwards we have already stopped the lesson reviewed expectations, modified the activity and tried again and they end with a 0.  I save a 3 for something special.  We have all had those magical lessons where things click, the students completely get it or they work together extremely well, it isn't an average day.  A 3 is rare and very valued!

Here is how I use the cards: During class if we have a card flipped backwards and the students haven't modified behavior I will remind the group and give them a clearer expectation.  "Right now we are reading and speaking rhythms.  If you were involved your hands would be signing the rhythms and your voice would be speaking them."  That should be enough to get the group on track.  I can then help those few that might need more.  

If that doesn't work, I need to evaluate what I am doing.  It's the rule of 3.  In general, if it's more than 3 - 4 students not following expectations, it's me.  I need to change something.  Maybe the rhythms are too hard and they don't know what to do. Maybe we have done too many and they are getting bored.  Maybe they just came from testing and they need to move.  Stay in the moment.  Even if it is the 50th time you have sung the song today, you can't go on autopilot.  What do they need? Are they understanding? How could you word it differently, show it differently, engage them more?  Don't just talk, teach!

Model Expectations

 Students in general want to to the right thing.  I have been very fortunate to teach in buildings where students and staff value music.  They want to come to class and do a great job.  When you make it very clear what you are looking for, they rise to the challenge.  
For example:  One of my expectations is "Care for our Room and Instruments" which could mean a lot of things.  When we are playing xylophones we put them in rows with an aisle in the middle.  The expectation is that you walk down the aisle, down your row and sit behind your instrument with your hands in your lap.  For K-3 students, that's a LOT!  
I do a shortened version of a Responsive Classroom discussion (we only have 30 minutes!).  I explain the steps and model them.  Then, I make mistakes :)  I go to fast down the aisle, I play before it's time, I start to step over instruments, etc.  We make it very silly with lots of giggles.  

I learned the weirder I am, the longer they remember it!

Practice Expectations

Sticking with the instrument introduction example, the next step is we have students try it.  Before we do, I make it very clear that we are practicing.  If you make a mistake, I am not mad, you are not in trouble, you are learning and you just need more practice.... it's  OK!
I have a student model walking down the aisle, across the row, sitting behind the instrument with hands in lap.  If they do it, we clap!  If the get too excited and pick up mallets or make even a minor mistake, they get to try again in a minute.  I say, "Oops you forgot_____.  It's ok, we are all learning together.  Have a seat and you can try again with the next group.  Thanks for taking a risk, we will have you try again in a minute."  I have a few other students model what to do and then I got back to the first person and let them try again.  All very positive and encouraging but very clear and specific.  

Expect your Expectations

It sounds really simple but it is very difficult to be consistent all the time!  If you expect students to wait to pick up the mallets you need to hold them to it.  If you only hold them accountable for their actions sometimes it is very confusing for the kids.  It will all fall apart.  Your students following the rules get frustrated with you or the class and the students not following expectations will really test you.  You aren't being mean, you are being honest. You are following through on what you said.  It's logical not emotional. 

Don't Give Up on Anyone!

We all have many students that need more than what's above.  They aren't following expectations, now what?  You have prepared, you are consistent, what's next?  Honestly, it depends a lot on your building's expectations.  I am used to a Responsive Classroom Model.  I have a "Take A Rest" spot in my room.  Students can choose to take a rest or I can ask them to.  The resting spot is for small things that they are able to fix on their own (jumping down from risers, blurting, they are upset because they lost in a game, etc.).  In the resting spot there job is to get ready to return.  I compare it to a restart in a video game or when a coach calls timeout (be careful with this analogy).  For me, this isn't a negative thing, it's a tool.  You just need a minute.  As adults we have all needed a minute.  Just a minute I am on the phone, just a minute I am finishing this last page of my book, just a minute I have to grab a pencil... you just aren't ready.  

We model the practice taking a rest and how it could look.  What helps you calm down when you are upset?  What works outside of school when you are upset? We brainstorm and decide what are some great choices that would help you without distracting the class. Some common tricks:take slow quiet breaths, squeeze your hands together and then let them release, think of something else, watch how other kids following expectations.  The general goal is usually to calm down, let your heart slow down and get ready to learn.  When you feel ready we are ready for you!  

If I notice it has been longer than 2 minutes I will say, "Are you ready to follow our expectations?"  If they say no I will ask if they need one more minute or if they need someone to talk to.  Some problems they need help solving.  Then it's too big of a problem for the resting spot.  If they need someone to talk to they know it can't be me right now, I am teaching the class.  It could be the counselor, the psychologist, their support staff or the principal.  I ALWAYS follow up with the student and/or the person they talk to if this is their choice.  I also talk with them outside of class if I notice patterns (every time we sing they take a rest, every time we play an instrument they take a rest, they need a rest every day, etc.).

I realize this is a LOT!  I feel like a could write ten blogs on this topic and I am still learning more every day and modifying what I do!  I don't have the time for all of this, this gives me time!  Setting aside time for expectations makes the time you have left run smoothly!  

I can't wait to read what others have blogged about! 

What tips and tricks do you use? What works/ doesn't work in your room?  Please leave comments below!

Monday, June 9, 2014

End of the Year/ Music Sub Tub Ideas

Packing Up!

   On my first day of summer vacation, I thought I would catch up on my blog!  I have packed up my classroom for the year and it looks pretty empty.
    I still have the Music Rules from Lindsay Jervis up ready for the fall.  The rules spell out music and they each have a song to go with them.
   They worked so well for me!  By the end of the year, I could just hum the tune to the rule and students will self correct behavior!

To keep dust out for the summer I have covered all of my instrument shelves with paper and written what is under it.

Some rooms are used for summer school so I left out basic pencils, pens, scissors, etc.

All of the resources I need for the summer are loaded up on the cart to bring home

Sub Tub

Before leaving for the summer I really wanted to collect materials for a sub tub.   I work very hard to leave lesson plans for a sub instead of movies.  In our district we are typically able to have a music sub or at least someone who feels comfortable singing in front of kids.  We have a few retired music teachers who can lead my normal lesson but sometimes we have a sub who is terrified of subbing in music.

So far, here is what it contains:

My Many Colored Days Kit: Book, Scarves and CD I also have the old VHS with the Minnesota Orchestra.

The manilla envelopes are full of games for note naming stations for my older kids.  These are things I have purchased on Teachers Pay Teachers:
Amy Abbott's Let's Go Fly a Kite Treble Clef Review: Students get to add letter bows to the bottom of the kite to match the notes on the treble clef
Aileen Miracle's Visuals and Activities for the Treble Clef: Students get to match donut letters to coffee mug notes!
Emily F's Recorder Mega Set: Students get to match ice cream cones to recorder fingerings and use fly swatters to practice reading the notes on the treble clef.
Lindsay's Sol and Mi Ready Set Print Great worksheets for assessing.  She has since made many additions La, High and Low and Do
The green playing cards are Amy Abbott's Uno Inspired Treble Clef Game: Just like Uno!  The students treble clef letters and rhythms (instead of colors) to play Uno!

Mallet Madness Strikes Again and the books needed for the literacy lessons

Wee Sing Sing-A-Longs a book and CD collection of folk songs and other common songs with games and activities

After using Facebook as a professional tool, I began to hear a LOT about John Feieraband:  I purchased some of his materials this year and I love his program!
John Feierabend book collection
First Steps in Music Curriculum and CDs: I was excited to hear Jill Trinka as the vocalist on the CDs- I studied with her for my undergrad!

There are two DVDs inside:
Folk Rhythms At MMEA this year, I attended a session with Nyssa Brown and loved this DVD instantly!

Oscar's Orchestra This DVD introduces instruments of the Orchestra
Many picture books with a lesson idea typed and put inside (some add sounds for certain characters, some have a way to keep the steady beat in the story, some add instruments on key words, etc.)

My main curriculum books (GAMEPLAN) are set on top before I leave for the night with the lesson plans for the next day.  I hope that helps you start or add to your sub tub!  Please feel free to share your thoughts and what you include in your sub tub!

Thanks for reading!
~ Kate