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Elementary Music

Tips for the New Music Teacher from My First Year of Teaching

It is now June, and I have finished my first of teaching elementary music. I am no longer a new music teacher. It has been a good, long year. It has definitely not been easy, but it has been worth it. Teaching anything—let alone elementary music—has its ups and downs.

So if you are reading this, about to be a new music teacher, here are some tips for what to expect and how to get through the first year of elementary music.

Tips for the New Music Teacher from my first year: Some useful help from my first year teaching elementary music. Becca's Music Room



Overplan

This is a lesson I learned in my first grade class on the very first day of school.

Overplan.

What I mean by that is plan way more than you can get done.

Trust me, there is nothing worse than getting through your 50-minute lesson in 20 minutes and then having a bunch of bouncy, distracted first graders staring at you. And you being out of things to do.

It is something you never want to repeat.

Keep an eye on the clock as you go, and I suggest writing down on your plans how long you think each portion will take. This way, if you think the introduction will take ten minutes, and it only takes five, then you know you need to extend something else.

In my lessons, I always try to have something that you can extend. For example, pretend you are teaching a song. If you notice that you are running early, you can always extend a song longer. You can add in some rhythm or melodic work into the lesson. With older students, you can add make it into a round. You can add instruments to help.

I also add something to my lessons as a contingency plan. At the bottom of my lesson plans, I literally write something like this:

EXTRA: If there is extra time, he teacher will read the book I Know a Shy Fellow who Swallowed a Cello.

Or watch a video. Or review a song. Or whatever.

You will not always need this, but when you do, it helps to have a plan. And it can be the same plan for a few weeks.

Don’t feel stressed by this. You can literally just keep a pile of books on your desk as a “just in case”.


Have a plan b

This goes along with the last one. It will take you all of a few weeks as a new music teacher to learn that school are full of all sorts of random, unexpected things that will be thrown at you at the last second.

Right before the end of school, the principal walked in at the beginning of my fifth grade and announced that a band director was coming to talk to the kids. When that was over, it was too late for my normal lesson and I had to change plans on the spot.

And the last week of school, I had no idea that I was teaching all classes in the classrooms. And I didn’t know that I was helping with testing that week too.

And I didn’t know that I was helping with kindergarten and fifth grade graduations. And I didn’t know that I would be doing class parties.

I don’t tell you these things to scare you, but just to show you that things change. And you may not know until five minutes before (if you are lucky).

Have a few activities on the back burner for those weird and crazy days.

If you need some help, you can read this post that I wrote about back up plans in the music room.



Keep learning

I know that you just finished school and have no desire to go back there, but don’t cut yourself off from learning. It doesn’t have to be crazy. Read some books. Check out a conference. Get on Pinterest—serious, you can get all of you lesson ideas from Pinterest! (you can follow mine if you click here for some music teaching ideas).

My best tip? Find some other music teachers to talk to. Even if you just get together with someone and have coffee, I cannot tell you how much it helps to talk to someone who understands. And although I love my fellow classroom teachers, they have different views than we do.

I find that most people are very happy to talk to anyone—just shoot them an email. One thing I am so glad that I did was add some music teachers on instagram. I know that seems stupid, but it is so nice to share in the joys and struggles of other music teachers. And they have lots of ideas that I like to steal… (you can click on my instagram at the top of the page).

 

Don’t take it personally

So…. This is part that we never want to talk about. But y’all… kids are mean sometimes. Most of your kids will be sweet, but some of them will not. Some of them enjoy getting under a teacher’s skin. Especially under the skin of the new music teacher. Some do it on purpose.

And some do it totally not on purpose. Because kids also have no sensitivity. They don’t think twice to ask you if you are pregnant or if you know how to do math or if you are turning 100.

Yes, all of these happened to me this year.

So whether it is on purpose or not on purpose, don’t take it personally. Try your best to just let it roll off of your back.

If it is on purpose, remember that the child has much bigger issues than you. They are bugging you to try to gain much needed attention. Allowing them to get under your skin just gives them what they want—and they will continue it.

And if it’s not on purpose, then they really don’t realize they are being rude. You may want to tell them gently that it is not appropriate—but don’t get mad at them for not realizing something is rude.

And for really rough days, check out this post.

 

Get a hobby

This, incidentily, will help you with letting things roll off of your back.

Find a hobby that will allow you to relax. I took up painting this year, and it has certainly helped keep me sane (you can check out my etsy shop if you’re curious). And I figure it is better than watching Netflix all night…. Although, you can paint and watch Netflix…

You can read, dance, write, arrange flowers, garden, whatever. My dad (also in education) has been a whole new man since he took up kayaking.

Find something you enjoy and do it!

Tips for the New Music Teacher from my first year: Some useful help from my first year teaching elementary music. Becca's Music Room



Remember to have fun

Like I said at the beginning, there are both ups and downs to teaching elementary music. Especially for the new music teacher.

Some days you will wonder why on earth you chose to do this. You may go home and swear that you are never having kids (until you remember that you will never have 20 eight year olds at the same time).

And some days will be wonderful.

Sometimes I joke about getting paid to dance and sing and play games with kids all day. But really—I get paid to dance and sing and play games with kids all day. How awesome is that?!

There are some times that you will think, “I cannot believe I get paid to do this.”

Hang onto those days. They may be frequent of they may be far apart, but remember those feelings.



If you are starting out as a new music teacher, there are great joys ahead of you. No one will pretend that it is all sunshine and rainbows, but it is pretty great.

Hopefully some of my advice will help you in your first year.

What advice would you give a new music teacher? Let us know in the comments!

If you need some more help, you can read through some of my posts for help, or shoot me an email if you have any questions.

Subscribe and follow me on social media for more help in teaching music!

Happy teaching!



Tips for the New Music Teacher from my first year: Some useful help from my first year teaching elementary music. Becca's Music Room


3-5, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Calming Down Activities for Music Class

As music teachers, we spend a great deal of time trying to get kids; energy up—it requires energy to sing, dance, use scarves and parachutes, etc. We do tons of movement activities and games that teach but also are a lot of fun. And then we send the little people back to their teachers without calming down…

Halfway through the year, I realized I was sending these kids back wired. I thought that getting the wiggles out by dancing was enough, but it isn’t. Kids do not yet know when or how to calm themselves down—they need help calming down.

Since then, I have done a much better job at calming kids down. I find that they act better in line, and hopefully beyond that.

So here are a few super easy end of class calming down activities to help your kids.

I also sometimes use them throughout class if they are particularly wild that day.

These are not anything monumental, but they work. They are all no prep and can be used for any amount of time.

Calming Down Activities for the Music Room. Some ideas for musical ways to get students to wind down before sending them out again. Becca's Music Room.



SQUILT

This is a great concept. You can check out the website here. SQUILT stands for super quiet uninterrupted listening time. The basic premise is that students learn how to listen to music.

And that’s it.

Just listen.

Now, we all know that students cannot just sit and listen. They need something to do. There are lots of different ways to do SQUILT (I love these worksheets for when we do this as a large part of class).

My favorite way is to have students close their eyes and “put the music in their bodies”. I tell them they can move their head, hands, or bodies, but they cannot get up and they have to close their eyes. They actually get really into it. It’s awesome. I have seen a huge difference in the kids’ ability to move to the music and describe it since I started incorporating this.

Another way is to have them show you movements. With my older kids, I will play a song and have them close their eyes and show me the hand signs for the letters of the form. You could have students put their hands up for high parts and down for low parts. Have them pretend to play an instrument they hear. There are all sorts of super easy movements that can keep kids engaged.

Bonus: You can use this as assessment!

Also read: Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

 

Videos

Now, videos are always a great way to end a lesson and calm children down. You can find videos of everything on YouTube.

One easy thing to do is to show an orchestra playing a song that you learned. So if you did a movement routine like this Bizet scarf routine, you could show people playing the music. This helps kids get a feel for the song.

You could do a video that has to do with the country a song is from, or a composer.

For time fillers or for fun, I like to use some of Disney’s Silly Symphonies. They are cartoons set to classical music and they are hilarious—and have classical music! I always ask the students to notice how the music and the cartoons line up.

Calming Down Activities for the Music Room. Some ideas for musical ways to get students to wind down before sending them out again. Becca's Music Room.



Books

Books are a great way to get students to calm down. You can find a book that goes along with any of your songs or concepts.

There are also a ton of great music books. Berlioz the Bear, I Know a Shy Fellow who Swollowed a Cello, and Orchestranimals are some of my favorites! You can click on the pictures below to see more about them on Amazon.

Sing Alongs

Thre are a few ways to do sing alongs.

First, you can teach a song (or do a song they learned a while ago) and sing it while you play a background instrument (I really want this ukulele!). Second graders especially love songs that build on themselves—we have done There was an Old Lady who Swollowed a Fly and the Irish song Rattlin’ Bog (they thought this was wonderful!) and they were all about it.

You can also teach a song and put up a YouTube video with the lyrics on the screen.

And…. You can also use Disney sing along songs. I reserve these for right before a break or when I am trying to reward my students. I just play Disney songs on YouTube and they go for it.

Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Animal Form



Deep Breaths

This is a super quick and easy calming activity. if I run out of time for a calming activity, I will at least do this.

I have students move their arms up and breathe through their nose, and then out and breathe through their mouth.

I have actually had kids request this.

Dum Dum Dah Dah

This is a really fun song that I often use when we are in line waiting for a teacher. You can check it out on YouTube. Essentially you sing dum dum dah dah and do an action, and the student copy you. It’s like music Simon Says.



Also read: Tips for Incorporating Social Studies in the Elementary Music Class

So those are some of my favorite calming activities. What do you do to calm students down? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!



Calming Down Activities for the Music Room. Some ideas for musical ways to get students to wind down before sending them out again. Becca's Music Room.



Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Free K-2 Music Lesson: End of School Luau!

Now of course, you can use this lesson at any point of the year, but I am going to use it on the last week of school (and will update with any extra information I come up with then). This luau will include singing, dancing, and of course, limbo. Although we are doing music standards (we sing music, we move to music, we connect music with history and culture), this lesson will be mostly fun.

Because it’s the last week of school. It’s supposed to be fun.

You will notice I pick activities strategically—we do an active warm up first, followed by a calming activity, then some fun, and finally a calming activity at the end. I try to structure all lesson like this, if possible.

This lesson will include a little bit of social studies. You can find some more social studies tips here.

And without further adu.. here is the end of school luau!

Free K-2 Music Lesson: End of School Luau! What better way to celebrate summer than with a Hawaiian themed party? This lesson includes singing, dancing, geography, and a lot of fun. Becca's Music Room.



End of School Luau!

Materials:

Focus:

I can sing and dance to Hawaiian music.



Procedures:

  • When students come in, give them a lei to wear for the day (I take them back for the next class, but you can let them have them if they keep them). Tell them we are having a luau and ask if anyone knows where they have luaus.
  • Tell them luaus are from Hawaii. Hawaii is a state in the US, but it is far away (pull up a map that shows Hawaii).
  • Baby Shark song! If you don’t know this one, it is awesome. You can check it out here.
  • Pick a movement for the chorus, verses, and instrumental parts of the song Hawaiian Rollercoaster Ride. Have students follow you in their movements. You can also have students pick, but I picked ours so that they went with the song. I used this strictly to have kids get some wiggles out so I wasn’t concerned about them learning very much in this part of the lesson.
  • Watch the video of the Lilo and Stich movie that has this scene. This one is the sing along version.

Free K-2 Music Lesson: End of School Luau! What better way to celebrate summer than with a Hawaiian themed party? This lesson includes singing, dancing, geography, and a lot of fun. Becca's Music Room.



  • Then, pick two students who are doing a good job to come up and hold the limbo stick. Have them walk in a circle (I use the perimeter of the carpet) and limbo under the stick. Tell them that if they hit the stick, they are out.
  • Alternate version: If you prefer, you can have them go through a different way each time. So one time they could crawl like a crab. They can walk like a dog, they can lean forward or backward, whatever you pick. You can pick a different one each time they go through.
  • Limbo! Play some beachy 50s music while they do this.
  • To help them calm down, show them some pictures of Hawaii. You can just google “Hawaii” and then show them the google images results. This helps them understand that it is an actual place, not just something in Lilo and Stitch.
  • Teach them the song “Aloha Oe” by rote or by solfege (whatever you prefer). You can see the ukulele/guitar/piano tabs to play with it here. Once they have at least kind of learned the song (I’m only doing the chorus), sing it with them and play an instrument (or sing with a video). It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be fun!



And there’s our luau! It incorporates movements, games, singing, and social studies!

You could use this with older students as well—without even tweaking much.

Also read: Blue Skies Music Lesson

Another good thing about this lesson is that it has a very very easy backup plan—if the students are too out of control for the fun, then they can just watch Lilo and Stitch! (and make sure you write that into your lesson plans!) You can find more backup plans here.

What would you include in a last week of school luau? Let me know in the comments!

Happy Teaching!



Free K-2 Music Lesson: End of School Luau! What better way to celebrate summer than with a Hawaiian themed party? This lesson includes singing, dancing, geography, and a lot of fun. Becca's Music Room.


Elementary Music, Management

Going Back to Teaching After a Really Rough Day

And I mean like a really rough day. Really, really rough day.

This is my first year teaching. And man, it has been a year. I don’t want to go into too much detail, because I intend for this to be uplifting, but I have been yelled at, cussed out, ignored, hit, and downright disrespected. I have some children that for the life of me NEVER sit down. I mean, spend the whole hour walking around my room touching my instruments. (Although I found out yesterday that they do it in everyone’s rooms, not just mine.)

We are not quite finished (still 22 days left), but we are getting down to the wire. Teachers are ready for summer (at least I am!). Students are ready for summer. And with that, comes some crazy.

And depending on your school, it might be a lot of crazy.

It might have already been pretty crazy, but now it is getting even worse.

Some days just drain all the energy out of you.

Then the next day, you are expected to go back to school.

How do you go to school the day after you were cussed out by a 10 year old? How do you approach that? How do you give your kids your best teaching self when you don’t feel like yourself?

I definitely do not claim to have all of the answers (and any input in the comments would be appreciated!), but here are some things that I (personally) have found help me out when it is the day (or the afternoon) after something really ridiculous happens.

Going back to Teaching after a Really Rough Day. Some tips for what to do the day after something bad happened, or when you feel defeated. What do you do? Becca's Music Room

Get Some Rest

This starts the night before (AKA the really really rough day). You need to destress. Whether that means taking a bath, reading a book, or just laying on the couch eating Taco Bell, do it. I know that this may be hard depending on if you have stuff to do or kids at home, but try your best. Put the kids in front of Moana and go use that hour and a half to take care of yourself.

I find that painting is a really great stress reliever. I paint a lot (so much so that I am about to open an Etsy shop), and it really helps keep my mind at ease. It is really great to take some time to just calm down and make something creative. (If you’re new to this, try abstract art. Anything goes!)

You can find more destressing activities in this post.



Take Some Time for You

This is more for the morning. In the morning, don’t just roll out of bed and throw some clothes on. Take a few minutes to enjoy yourself before going to school. That could mean reading your Bible, sitting on Pinterest, doing yoga, etc. It may just mean that you drink your coffee really slowly in the silence.

This will help get your mind right before you go to school. If you can take care of yourself, then you can take care of the children.

You can read more about morning routines in this post.

 

Pick Something Easy

Now, I know that most schools are sticklers for your lesson plans. But if it better to pick something easier on you than struggle all day. See if there is anything in your lesson plans that can be extended, shortened, or altered.

For example, I had a rough day a few weeks ago. It was a Wednesday. For the next two days, I was basically drained. My older students were learning a song and then getting on the keyboards. I shortened the song part (they still learned it, I just went a little faster) and put the extra time into their keyboard time (I always do half lesson and half playing for fun). I didn’t have to change my lesson plans, I just made it a little bit easier on myself.

If you feel like you just cannot do whatever your lesson plans say, then go ahead and reprint them just in case of an observation. And make sure what you replace it with is still going with the same standards.

For really easy lessons, I like this game or this movie.

You can read about backup plans in the music room here.

Going back to Teaching after a Really Rough Day. Some tips for what to do the day after something bad happened, or when you feel defeated. What do you do? Becca's Music Room



Remember….

Always remember that if a kid totally freaks outs, it is a rough day for them too. And they are still reeling from it too. What is traumatic for us is traumatic for them.

If a kid is having a rough enough day that they are screaming or they are walking out of the classroom or banging on instruments or whatever, then they are going to be upset as well. And although you may not ever want to see them again, you have to. So, make sure there is a consequence and then let it go.

It’s hard. I know. But you have to let it go.

That doesn’t mean there’s no consequence. That doesn’t mean you don’t learn from it. But it means that you do not continually punish them for something that they have already paid the price for.

 

So those are my tips for going back to school after a really hard day. Have you ever had these feelings? How do you deal with them? Let us know in the comments. And don’t forget to subscribe!

Happy teaching!



Going back to Teaching after a Really Rough Day. Some tips for what to do the day after something bad happened, or when you feel defeated. What do you do? Becca's Music Room


Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Free K-2 Music Lesson: A Train Jazz Lesson

All month, I have been sharing Jazz resources with you (since April is Jazz month!). I shared ideas for incorporating jazz and a jazz lesson on the song Blue Skies (which includes scarves!). This week I have another jazz lesson on the song A Train.

Now, if it is not April, do not panic. Jazz is great to teach all year long, and can be used to incorporate many different aspects of music—pitch, steady beat, instruments, mood, etc.

This lesson has some steady beat, but the bulk or it is actually making up lyrics for a writing connection. Because as we all know, incorporating academics is very important. I did this lesson with K-2, but you can definitely tier it up and use it with older students. Free K-2 Music Lesson: A Train Jazz Lesson. This lesson uses the Ella Fitzgerald and has a writing component! Becca's Music Room

A Train Jazz Lesson

Focus: I can keep a steady beat while listening to Jazz. I can make up my own lyrics based on the song A Train. Materials:

Free K-2 Music Lesson: A Train Jazz Lesson. This lesson uses the Ella Fitzgerald and has a writing component! Becca's Music Room Procedure:

  • I started this lesson with a review of the song Blue Skies from the week before (which you can read in this lesson). Students kept the steady beat, moved their hands up and down with the contour of the melody on the chorus, and pretended to play each instrument during the solos.
  • Tell them: We’re going to listen to another jazz song. This one is a little bit different, because at the beginning, they use instruments to sound like something that is not an instrument. If you think you have figured it out, give me a quiet thumbs up.
  • Have students close their eyes and listen to the beginning. I always have them close their eyes because than they are not concerned with their neighbors. Be prepared, some of them will start laughing, because it is funny.
  • Ask: What did that sound like? (Keep letting them guess until they guess train) It sounds like a train! They use a drum to sound like the tracks, and a trumpet to sound like the whistle. What do you think the song will be about? Let’s see where we are going on the train…
  • Allow students to listen to the rest of the song, and determine where the train is taking them (to Harlem).

  • Tell them: This song is like a map. It is giving people directions to Harlem. Harlem is a place in New York where people would gather and write songs, write stories, make paintings, and do other artsy things.
  • You can do the next part as a class or individually (or in small groups!). Have students come up with three directions to get to Harlem—the sillier the better! I put things on the board like “Go over….” And let them fill in the blanks. With some classes, I had three people pick and we wrote them on the board as class lyrics. Some classes have better writing skills, so they got to make up their own.
  • Have students write their three directions and then “That’s how we get to Harlem!” on the bottom.
  • Have students illustrate their map. Make sure they show all of the directions.
Free K-2 Music Lesson: A Train Jazz Lesson. This lesson uses the Ella Fitzgerald and has a writing component! Becca's Music Room
Here is an example of one of my kids’ map!
  • Put on some Jazz music while you finish up!
  • Have students share their maps with their classmates.

  PS– Here is a really great video of Duke Ellington’s band playing the song!

And there you have it! This was a hit (even though I made them write) with all of my classes. And for those who cannot handle pencils and clipboards (yes, I have those classes and if you need some help with them you can read here), we came up with lyrics and then we just danced in our seats to the music.

What is your favorite jazz song or lesson? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Teaching!

 

Free K-2 Music Lesson: A Train Jazz Lesson. This lesson uses the Ella Fitzgerald and has a writing component! Becca's Music Room

Elementary Music, Lessons

Tips for Incorporating Social Studies in the Elementary Music Class

As music teachers, most of us try to incorporate different subjects into our classroom. Some of us may even have administrators that ask us to do this. I would do this regardless, but my administrators have expressed that they would like to see this as well. In school, social studies was one of my favorite subjects. I have always loved history and different cultures.

Even before I became a teacher, I knew that I would want to incorporate as much social studies as possible into the curriculum.

Throughout this year, I would say I have done ok with that. I definitely haven’t added it in as much as I would like, but I have used it some. I admit, I have been concerned with the new teacher I-want-to-teach-everything-everyday issue. I keep thinking I want them to sing every day and move every day and read every day and play music every day and incorporate other academics…. And that is a lot of stuff. I am trying, and hopefully I will be able to add more next year.

Anyway, here are some super easy tips on ways to incorporate social studies (history, geography, and different cultures) into your classroom. Most of them are little things you can add into most lessons without very much effort.

Check out a music-science lesson here and a math lesson here!

Incorporating Social Studies in the elementary music room. Some practical ways to use social studies with the lessons you are already doing in your classes! Becca's Music Room.



Keep a Map

This is something I installed at the beginning of the year and I love it. All year, I add songs to our map to show where everything is from. And every time we learn a new song, I show the kids where we live and where the song is from on the map. I also allow them to ask a few questions, because maps make kids super curious. (“What’s that big purple one? It’s huge!” “Why is England so small?”)

I have caught kids staring at it while getting into line, because it is a cool thing. I color code it so that each grade has a different color.

I printed mine off of the internet, but I couldn’t get the quality very good. I am planning to buy this one off of Amazon.

Incorporating Social Studies in the elementary music room. Some practical ways to use social studies with the lessons you are already doing in your classes! Becca's Music Room.
This map is up all year. I add names of songs as we learn them.



Use Music from Different Countries

Most of us do this without thinking, but think about it. Especially with older kids, tell them where the song is from or what kind of music it is. Add in one or two fun facts about the country or the culture.

It doesn’t have to be long, just one or two little things.

Even if you don’t go with different countries, you can show them different styles of music too. I have a really fun music styles bingo that you can do once they have learned about it. Find it here.

Incorporating Social Studies in the elementary music room. Some practical ways to use social studies with the lessons you are already doing in your classes! Becca's Music Room.
Bubble map about things we learned about Ireland during our St. Patrick’s Day lesson.



Embrace the Holidays

Black History Month. St. Patrick’s Day. Mardi Gras. Hanukkah. Christmas. Hispanic Heritage Month.

All of these provide easy opportunity for teaching about different cultures. Pick some lessons that go along with what holiday is coming up. Explore traditions in different countries.

 

Use different instruments

I observed a teacher this year that had an instrument of the day. Each one provided an opportunity to talk about different cultures. When I was there, she was showing the claves, so they talked about where they come from and what the claves are like. Then students who did a good job throughout the lesson were able to play them for a minutes or two.

This is a really great calming down activity, and if you are reinforcing the song or dance from the lesson, it is even better.

I just got some castanets like these!

Incorporating Social Studies in the elementary music room. Some practical ways to use social studies with the lessons you are already doing in your classes! Becca's Music Room.



Composer of the Month

This is a little more on the history side—composer of the month. This is something I have not tried but I have seen other teachers doing. Each month they pick a composer, and then use some of the composers’ music in the lessons. That doesn’t mean that that is all you do, put a portion of it. You can take some time to talk about the time period and the composers’ life—again, they do not need a big long lecture, just some quick facts.

Try to pick people you were going to pick anyway. You can use their music for movement routines (like this one) or for listening activities (like this one). For younger kids, it is a good idea to have a calm down activity so that they are not totally crazy when you release them into the hallway. I have found that just having them close their eyes and “move to the music” is a really great way to accomplish this.

Incorporating Social Studies in the elementary music room. Some practical ways to use social studies with the lessons you are already doing in your classes! Becca's Music Room.
Example of a chart on a country.



Show the country

This is my favorite thing to do. Whenever we talk about a different country, I show them where it is on the map, and then I google it and show them photos. It requires no set up at all. For St. Patrick’s Day, I typed in “Ireland” and showed them pictures of the landscape, the flag, the map, etc. Then we look at the pictures and talk about them. It’s super quick, and they will be amazed by it.

I find this is good because it makes it come to life. You can say that we are learning about a country called Ireland, but it may as well be Narnia if they cannot at least see pictures of it. Once they see pictures of the country and maybe the people, it becomes a real place to them.

 

So those are a few of my favorite ways to incorporate social studies in the classroom! I did not include any sort of country study or videos or books, but all of those are also great ways to include social studies in the classroom.

How do you incorporate social studies? How do you incorporate other academics? Let us know in the comments! And don’t forget to subscribe!



Incorporating Social Studies in the elementary music room. Some practical ways to use social studies with the lessons you are already doing in your classes! Becca's Music Room.



Uncategorized

Morning Routines for Teachers

We all know that our students need routines. We spend the first few weeks of school going over routines—how to line up, how to get supplies, how to turn in work, etc. (You can read about some routines in my classroom here) But sometimes we forget that we need routines in our own lives. I think this is especially true in the mornings—if we start our morning off with a good morning routine, it sets the tone for the rest of the day.

It is important to remain consistent, especially as we are wrapping up the school year. I know all too well how easy it is to continually hit the snooze alarm, throw on some clothes, and make coffee at school.

Resist the urge. I am talking to myself—Becca, resist the urge.

We are at the post-spring break, testing, and crazy part of the year. Maybe it is different for you, but for me, it is getting harder and harder to get up and start my day well. But I will say, the days that I give in and sleep late and don’t take care of myself tend to be the days that don’t go so well.

So I am practicing having better control over myself and my habits. This morning routine has been the same for me all year. I adjusted a little bit since last year to allow me to get to school earlier (I prefer to get to school early rather than stay late).

Of course, you may have totally different needs that I do. I don’t have any kids. I do have two dogs to take care of in the morning, but I do not have to worry about people other than my husband.

So this is my routine, with a few suggestions for you: Morning Routines for Teachers plus some of my favorite beauty products! Tips for preparing yourself for those kids! Becca's Music Room.

5:30 Wake up, wash face

I would really suggest waking up early. It is so much better to have time in the morning to geet everything done. You don’t have to wake up at the same time as I do, but adjust the time based on when you need to leave.

As soon as I get up, I go the bathroom and wash my face. I read recently that you really don’t need to wash your face every morning, but I honestly just love the way it feels to have a clean face in the morning. Then I put on face lotion.

I use these (click on the pictures to see better):

Morning Routine Tip #1: If you are not used to getting up early, do it gradually. One week, try waking up ten minutes earlier. Next week, ten minutes earlier than that until you get to where you want to be.

5:45 Walk the dogs

So… I have to walk my dogs in the morning. This is obviously not something that everyone has to do, but I do. But in 48 days, we are moving, and we will have a fenced in yard. I will just open the door and set them free! I cannot wait.

5:55 Yoga or hair

So this alternates. Once every four days, I curl my hair. After that, I just pin my hair up when I am showering. Yes, you may think that’s gross, but it is truly the best for my hair. I use a Aussie hair insurance to smooth and protect my hair, and a wand to curl my hair (check it out here), and it takes of 15 minutes. And I have a lot of hair. And stays for four days.

On the other days, I do yoga. This makes my body feel ready for the day, and helps me feel mentally ready for the day.

Morning Routine #2: Do something for you. We spend the whole day worrying about our students, and it is vitally important to have some time for yourself. Whether that is reading, spending five minutes sipping on coffee in silence, petting your dog, whatever. Take a few minutes for yourself before you spend the whole day worrying about other people.

6:15 Read Bible

This is for obvious reasons, but the same kind of thing. Take a few minutes to take care of yourself. Morning Routines for Teachers plus some of my favorite beauty products! Tips for preparing yourself for those kids! Becca's Music Room.

6:30 Breakfast and lunch

At this point, I get mine and my husband’s breakfasts and lunches ready. I try to keep them really simple. He generally takes salads (we buy the salad kits) and something like crackers. I take fruit and yogurt or pretzels. All things we can just throw in a bag and go. For breakfast, I eat oatmeal and he eats a smoothie. And of course, I drink coffee. Morning Tip #3: Keep your breakfast easy.

6:45 Actually getting ready

After all of that, I spend all of fifteen minutes getting ready. I do my makeup (usually a little over 5 minutes. By the way, if you want to keep your make up looking good all day, I would suggest this primer. And using this on your eyebrows is a game changer—it is a super easy and quick thing to do and makes all of the difference.) Then I get my clothes on.

I find the best way to do this is to pick my outfits for the week the week before—I just pick out five things on Thursday or Friday and just put them together in my closet. This eliminates all of the I-don’t-know-what-to-wear issues.

It used to take me forever to pick out clothes, and now I do not. It takes all of five minutes each week and saves my tons of time. And although I curl my hair first, I don’t actually do my hair until after I put my clothes on because it never fails that it will pull all of my bobby pins out of my hair. And I eat my breakfast while I do these things.

7:00 Drive to work

I leave at seven and I drink my coffee on the way to work.

So there you have it—my morning routine and my 3 best tips for your morning routine. Remember, if your morning routine isn’t working, then change it. And keep changing until you get it where you would like.

Also read: Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz

What is your morning routine like? How do you use your morning routine to get ready for your students? Let us know in the comments!

Happy Teaching!

Morning Routines for Teachers plus some of my favorite beauty products! Tips for preparing yourself for those kids! Becca's Music Room.

3-5, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson

As you may know (or you read in my post about Jazz lessons here), April is Jazz month! I actually just finished a unit on jazz (yes, my planning should have been better), but this allows me to share some of my jazz lessons with you. This one is one of my favorites from the year, based on the song Blue Skies.

I used this with kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade. This lesson uses the song Blue Skies to incorporate singing, movement, instruments, and improvisation.

And yes, I used scarves.

Because if you cannot tell from this post or this post… or this post…. I LOVE scarves.

They are fun, they integrate movements, and you can use them as incentives. What could be better?

Now, this was actually two lessons for my students, but I will put it all here and you can make it one or two (or three if you want). Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson. Jazz lesson including singing, dancing, improvising, scarves, and instruments! Becca's Music Room.

Blue Skies Jazz Lesson

Focus: I can sing, move, and improvise to jazz music. Materials: You can click on these affiliated links to see them in Amazon.

Procedure:

  • Tell the students that we are going to learn a new style of music, called jazz music. Jazz music started in the United States when people from different cultures mixed their music together.
  • Listen to Blue Skies. You can do steady beat motions (snapping to the back beat is great for this), or have students close their eyes and “move how the music sounds” (I talk more in detail about this in this post).
  • Ask the students: If we have Blue Skies, what do you think that means? Are we happy or sad?
  • Teach them the chorus for Blue Skies by rote. While doing this, have the students move their hands up when your voices go up and down when it goes down.
  • Practice the chorus with the recording.
  • Listen to the song again, this time doing steady beat motions (patting shoulders, marching in place, swaying, etc.) until the chorus. At the chorus, stop and move hands up and down to trace the melody (my students like to pretend they are holding a paintbrush and we are painting the melody).
  • Do this activity again, but use scarves this time—because scarves make everything better!

Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson. Jazz lesson including singing, dancing, improvising, scarves, and instruments! Becca's Music Room.

  • Have students get a handheld percussion item, like tambourines (we just got these from Donor’s Choose and they are awesome!).
  • Have students keep the beat on their instrument on the verses and move their “paintbrush” up and down on the chorus. You could also have them move their tambourines up and down for a fun effect.
  • About halfway through, stop the music and talk about improvisation. Tell them this is something that happens in jazz a lot, where we make up our own music. Does this mean we are just as loud as possible? No. This means we try to think about what will sound cool and do that.
  • Play the song and allow students to improvise to the song. Walk around the room and listen and encourage those who do not need a little extra support.
  • Closing: Ask students what words they would use to describe the song. Was it fast or slow? Was it loud or soft? Legato or staccato? What kind of instruments do you hear? See what they come up with.

So that is my Blue Skies jazz lesson! I broke it into two by stopping after the scarves on the first day. On the second day, we reviewed the chorus, danced to the song, and then added in the instruments.

The kids loved it. So much so, that I may try it with some of my older students too. I am playing around with a parachute routine for it… So make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss anything! You can also click here to view a lot of lesson ideas on my Pinterest page.

Happy Jazz month!

Free Music Lesson: Blue Skies Jazz Lesson. Jazz lesson including singing, dancing, improvising, scarves, and instruments! Becca's Music Room.

Children's Church, Management

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church

I’m not going to lie, dealing with behaviors in church is really tough. It’s not school, and it’s only a few hours (maybe only one!) a week—so there’s no time for bad behaviors, right?

Wrong.

Other people think that church kids should be the best kids.

Also wrong.

Now, I am not saying you will for sure have difficulties. But there may be a few students who need a little extra push to help them behave appropriately.

Remember, children’s church/Sunday school is all about preparing students for their future—you want them to grow firmly in God. You can’t do that if they are yelling and screaming and rolling on the floor.

Now, hopefully, that will never happen to you. But to be honest, I have had a few who did that—do that.

And if you do too, I am here to tell you it may get better. I have two in my mind that learned a lot and got a lot better as time went on. One of them is older, and not in Children’s Church anymore. The other one still is. He still has his days, but as a whole, it has gotten much better.

So here are some tips for dealing with difficult behaviors in church. I have some other behavior management posts that you can read like this one. The others are centered on teaching music, but the concepts are all the same.

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church. Tips on behavior management for children's church, sunday school, youth group, etc. Becca's Music Room



Talk to the Parents

This may seem like a “no duh” kids of thing, but it is so important. If parents don’t know what is going on, they cannot help. They have to be on board in order to help difficult behaviors in church get better.

I will admit, I was scared of this for a long time. I did not want to talk to parents. Because seriously, who wants to tell a parent that their kids was being ridiculous?

But once I did, it really helped.

I stand at the door at the end of class—that way I guard both people coming in and going out. It also means that I get a chance to talk to all of the parents. With some of my more spirited children, I give an update every week—good or bad.

One more time: good or bad.

You don’t want it to always be bad. Don’t lie, but if a child was better than last week, tell them that. Especially if you talked to them last week and the news was not good.

Remember, you and the parents are on the same side. You both want little Johnny (I don’t have any Johnny’s at church) to grow up and love Jesus and be an awesome person. I tend to use “Johnny was having a tough time today. He did xyz…. I really hope next week we can do better.”

Avoid saying things like “He ALWAYS gets out of his seat…. She NEVER listens to me.” We are not interested in always or never. We are interested in the behavior today. And remember, it’s the behavior we are addressing, not the child themselves.



Have Clear Expectations and Consequences

This is harder in a Sunday School or Children’s Church environment. You don’t want it to feel like school. you also tend to have more students moving in and out.

But if kids don’t know that something is wrong, they won’t know not to do it.

Now, I am not saying that if you get a new kid you should immediately plunge into a long explanation of what is ok/not ok. But as things come up, mention them.

For example, I take my kids to the bathroom half way through church every week. This gives them a mental break, and also has almost completely eliminated the “I have to go to the bathroom!” conversation. Every time we go, I’ll say, “We’re going to take a bathroom break. This is the only bathroom break you will get, so you need to go now. We are not running down the hallway. Please use whisper voices, so we don’t disturb other people having church. Two people in the bathroom at a time.”

Now, if I have only the kids I have had since they were two, then I’ll shorten it. But the idea being—they now know what to do. There is no excuse to not do what you are supposed to do. If I hadn’t said those things, they would run, they would talk loudly, there would be 12 people in the bathroom, etc. but since they now know what to do, it eliminates the ambiguity.

And although you think something is obviously not allowed, that does not always mean the child does.

Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church. Tips on behavior management for children's church, sunday school, youth group, etc. Becca's Music Room



Give Them Something to Work for

If you have never heard of PBIS, you need to look it up! It is all about getting students to do what they are supposed to by rewarding them.

This could be with food, with praise, with games, with special privileges, etc.

For a while, we would write all of the students’ names on the board. If someone was doing a good job, we would give them a point. Whoever had the most points would get to be it first in a game or we would pass out snack in that order. Whatever little reward it was, it helped. Class Dojo is an online version of this, which would be great if you tend to have the same groups of kids each week.

You can also do it as whole class. For example, if the whole class can earn three points, then we will play a game or go outside. They want to get the reward, and they will work for it.

On a crazy day, it also helps if you just walk around and hand out a piece of candy or one cheerio or goldfish (I know a lot of teachers that buy these large boxes off Amazon and they last forever). Don’t even stop, just hand one out and keep talking. The other kids will figure out what you want by looking at the child who is doing what they are supposed to.

I did this the other day with jellybeans. I didn’t say a word, I just handed a jellybean to a kid who was sitting nicely and listening.  A few minutes later, I handed out another. You have never seen kids sit that nicely. And seriously, it only cost me 15 jellybeans. (I actually just gave them the ones I didn’t like out of my pack…)

These are also a cheap option.

You can use some of the ideas from this post as well.



Save the Best for Last

This goes along with the last one. One of my favorite ways to control behaviors in church (and at school, for that matter) is to have a built in reward. This could be anything they like—dancing, games, crafts, etc. whatever really fun thing you are going to do (once more, that you are already going to do), do it at the end.

That ways you can remind them the whole time.

You have to listen to the lesson to play our really fun game.

You have to participate if you are going to do our songs.

I am looking for people who are going to be able to dance today.

Oh good, so-and-so looks like he wants to go outside. I can tell because he is sitting still with his eyes on me. He’s not talking or messing with people.

Try it and see the children transform before your eyes.

Note: if you do this and a child really doesn’t earn it, you need to follow through on it. Give them plenty of chances, but in the end if they cannot get themselves together, then they do not need to have the reward. They can sit and watch while you play a game.

You have to follow through. The kids notice whether you do or not. And if a child has bad behaviors in church the whole time and still get the reward, they will continue their behavior. And the others will look at that and think they don’t need to bother behaving well either.



Remember that They are Kids

I do not mean this in an excuse kind of way. It should not be “Oh, well Johnny was dong flips and broke the door, but he’s just a kid.”

No.

I mean, you have to remember what kids are like. They are energetic, they like fun, and they like to talk. Build in some time where that can happen. Build in time for dancing to get energy out. Plan for them to play games. Maybe give them talking time during a craft or have a break in the middle so that they can get do that (because their attention spans are very small).

Never use the excuse that they are just kids, but do remember that when you are planning your lessons.

You can read more about finding building your lessons around different ways to keep kids engaged here.

You can check out this book for more information and ideas:

 

So those are my best tips for controlling bad behaviors in church! It is no magic wand, but just some things to help you get through your day.

How do you handle bad behaviors in church? Let us know in the comments!



Dealing with Difficult Behaviors in Church. Tips on behavior management for children's church, sunday school, youth group, etc. Becca's Music Room



 

3-5, Elementary Music, K-2, Lessons

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz

If you cannot tell from other posts, I love to teach students about different kinds of music. I think that music teachers have a unique job in that we can show the students the similarities and differences between different cultures. Music is a great way to integrate different cultures. I spent some time teaching my students about jazz this year, and am sharing some of those lessons—along with some other ideas—with you.

If you want to incorporate different kinds of music, jazz is a good starting place. It is different enough from what most students listen to that it is new, but close enough to popular music that they don’t think it is totally weird.

Here are just a few ideas for how to incorporate jazz music into your music class!

PS—These are great for Black History Month, but you should know that April is Jazz month! And of course, you can just do it anytime.

And if you want to incorporate other styles, here are some ideas for opera!

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.



Backbeat

Jazz is all about the back beat. Practice keeping the steady backbeat first by using movements, then with instruments. I found that tambourines provide a similar sound to the cymbal on the drum set.

By the way– I just got these tambourines in my classroom (from Donor’s Choose!). They are super cute– they are the ones in the pictures above.

Improvising

There are a few ways to do this.

With younger students, I used the song “Blue Skies”. They kept the backbeat with the tambourines. About half way through, we talked about improvising, and I allowed them to try it. We talked about trying to make it sound cool instead of just making tons of noise.

With older students, you could start there, and then go further. On xylophones, you can do question and answer improvising—you improvise for eight beats with the music, then they improvise for 8 beats. Don’t forget to make the xylophones pentatonic.

You can also practice scatting! Have students listen to a song that has scatting in it. Talk about what scatting is. Decide on a syllable and note, and have students come up with their own rhythms. (For example, you can have students use the syllable “do” on middle C. This way they only have to come up with the rhythms.) Once they have that down, you can open it up to different syllables. (Don’t forget to model for them.)

Also read: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Five Little Monkeys (with Math and Reading!)



Instrument study

Jazz songs are great for instruments, because the instruments often take turns improvising! Talk about the types of instruments that you hear in jazz music, and show them pictures (if you can bring some in, even better!). Show them how to play the instruments.

While listening to the music, have the students pretend to play each of the instruments they hear.

Bonus: for an assessment, you could have students hold up cards that say what each of the instruments are.

 

Scarf movements with melody

I did this with the Blue Skies song too. Teach the students the chorus, and have them move their scarves up when the melody does up and down when the melody goes down.

For the verses, you can have them follow you with movements or make up their own!

Read more above listening lessons with scarves here and get YOUR scarves here!

 

Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.



A Train

This song is about directions to get to Harlem. Have the students listen to the song, and tell what directions are said (take the A train). Have students come up with their own directions on how to get to Harlem, and draw a map that shows it. The more ridiculous, the more fun! My favorite one said that we had to go over the Great Wall of China.

 

What a Wonderful World

Talk to students about Louis Armstrong, and how he was a really important jazz composer. Tell them a little bit about his life. Have them listen to the song What a Wonderful World. Have students make up actions for the song—you could have one group make up actions for the first verse, another group for the second, so on and so forth.

Ask students what you think a wonderful world would look like. Have them draw a picture and write a few sentences about their own wonderful world.

Also read: Phrases for Classroom Management in the Music Room

Books about Jazz

Books are always a really great way to teach about music– and include reading lessons as well.

Miles the Crocodile is a really cute book about jazz. Here are two books about jazz you can read to the kids. Click on the pictures to see them.

So there are some ideas for Jazz music! How do you incorporate jazz music? And how what styles of music do you like to incorporate?

Happy Teaching!



Music Lesson Ideas: Jazz. Free music lessons to help teach jazz in elementary music. Great for Black History Month or Jazz month. Becca's Music Room.