Elementary Music

Lessons from my First Semester Teaching Elementary Music

The week before Christmas break was hectic. It included my first PTA performance, my first field trip, eight parties for good behavior, 43 Christmas sing alongs, three songs sung in front of the church (twice!), a church Christmas party, one dress rehearsal, and two concerts. And that is not to mention the actual teaching part of my job.

And then it was over.

And I realized that the end of the second marking period means that I am halfway through my first year of teaching. Yay!

And I haven’t even killed anyone yet.

I have done some things well, and a lot of things not so well. Not necessarily badly, but I can definitely improve.

So here are some lessons (and things that need improvement!) from my first semester teaching.

Lessons from my First Semester Teaching Elementary Music. The first few months have been fun and eventful! Check out what I learned, and hopefully something will help you! Becca's Music Room.

Classroom Management is Everything

Now, I had heard this in student teaching. During student teaching, we worked a lot on classroom management. My classroom management is decent for a first year teacher. It could definitely improve, but for the most part my classes are good.

This is more of a lesson I have learned from watching other teachers.

If you are a teacher, I am sure that you can already think of a few teachers who have zero classroom management. I am thinking of one in particular. Her students do not respect her, they look like wild animals in the hallway, and they are ridiculously late for EVERYTHING. And all I think is that there is no way that learning can happen in that classroom. I have been in there, and there is very little learning happening. I hope that it was just the day I happened to be there, but I doubt it.

Don’t let your classroom be like that.

Need help with classroom management? There are a few key aspects.

  1. Clear expectations
  2. Consistent follow through
  3. Rewards for good behavior

Kids have to know what is expected—in every situation. The more specific, the better. And they need something to work towards.

Check out my classroom management posts here and here.

 

Be Flexible

If you have read this post (Best Classroom Purchase Ever!) or this post (Traveling Teacher: What to do when Not in Your Room), then you know that my classroom got flooded this year. I spent two weeks travelling to classrooms, a month in another classroom, and two weeks where we were in my room but it was a disaster.

My lesson full of Kidstix Stations was not going to work.

I learned flexibility really quickly.

My dad is an assistant principal in our district. He says, “We make the lesson plans due before we tell teachers about all the things that mess up their lesson plans.”

And it is so true!

Assemblies, field trips, testing, etc. All of these things are told after the fact. I cannot tell you how many times I had my lessons all ready and only one class actually had the lesson due to all of the other stuff.

My suggestion? Have some ideas like anything from this book or this book that you can whip out when things are not happening like you want.

 Lessons from my First Semester Teaching Elementary Music. The first few months have been fun and eventful! Check out what I learned, and hopefully something will help you! Becca's Music Room.

Don’t Be Afraid to Repeat Lessons

I thought I had all of these ideas about lessons and games. A few weeks into the school year, I realized that I had very few.

Which makes lesson planning difficult, because I need to find more lessons every week.

To make life easier on myself, I teach the same thing to K, 1, and 2 and then the same thing to 3, 4, and 5. The kids don’t know and it makes my life way easier. Especially because I only have to have two sets of instruments out instead of six. It also allows me to really know my lesson. This helps me to teach to the best of my ability, and is especially helpful with classes that have more severe behavior issues.

You can read more about my lesson planning tips here.



Kids Get Rhythm Faster than Anticipated

I do not know what it was about rhythm, but I could not figure out how to explain it. I was fine with the older kids, because they already had the foundation for it. If they already know about beat and quarter notes and eighth notes, then explaining sixteenth notes is easy.

But I was stumped when it came to kindergarteners.

How do I explain rhythm to kids who barely know their letters?

I finally got over myself, and did this lesson featuring a Halloween song and Popsicle sticks.

And y’all. They got it. Immediately. Even the lowest achieving kindergarteners got it.

Then I got stuck teaching other lessons in preparation for a field trip (like this scarf routine and some of the ideas on this list) so rhythm took to the back burner.

A month and a half later (I know, I’m terrible!) I pulled rhythm back out and added rests and they got it immediately.

Moral of the story: don’t be scared to teach something to the kids. They are smart. They will get it.

And if they don’t, then you can try again next time!

 

Hold onto the Good Stuff

Teaching is really great. It is also not always so great.

I keep a journal where I write funny or touching things that kids say. This way, when I have really crappy days where everything goes wrong and no one learns anything, I can go back and read them.

We all know those teachers that are just way too worn out. They are tired, frustrated, and generally done.

Those teachers have lost sight of the good parts of teaching.

Don’t be like them.

We all know that not all parts of teaching are good. Some parts really suck. And some days really suck.

But you know what? A lot of parts of every job suck.

Don’t let yourself think that it is just teaching. Or it is just this school. Not every day is going to be good.

So don’t forget about the good things. Hold onto them.

And when a day really sucks, try some of the things on this list to help you get over and move past it.

Remember that every day is a new day.



I don’t want this list to be too long, so I will stop there! There are a lot of things I can improve on, like having my lessons more connected and incorporating more instruments.

The good thing is I have another semester to work on those things!

What have you learned this year? What did you learn your first year? Let me know in the comments!

Lessons from my First Semester Teaching Elementary Music. The first few months have been fun and eventful! Check out what I learned, and hopefully something will help you! Becca's Music Room.



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Elementary Music, Organization

Tips for Keeping on Top of Lesson Planning

Lesson planning. AKA the bane of most teachers’ existence.

I cannot wait until I have taught for a while, so that I will have more lesson ideas. Sometimes I feel so stuck for fun lesson ideas, and it seems to take me forever to write a lesson.

Because I sometimes find it difficult, I have implemented a lesson planning schedule to help keep me on track. This is one of the biggest reasons I am able to get all of my planning done on time and keep my stress levels down! Lesson planning with this schedule keeps me organized.

And we all know that being organized is one of the most important aspects of being a good teacher.

You can check out my other organization posts here. Subscribe for more—I will be continuing this series for a while!

Tips for Keeping on Top of Lesson Planning. Schedule and tips so that your lesson plans are turned in on time! Help stay organized no matter what you teach: elementary school, middle school, high school, art, music, or pe! Becca's Music Room



Schedule to make lesson planning easy

Tuesday- Think about lesson planning.

Yes, I have a day dedicated to thinking about lesson planning. This helps because it gives me plenty of time to think things through. Sometimes, I will not have any ideas in the morning, and as the day goes on, I come up with something great. I usually just write down the ideas on Tuesday.

For example, this week my list says “Carol of the Bells Orff, Pentatonix listen, Christmas sing along. Listen to winter, talk about winter, sock skating to beat, hot potato with jingle bells.”

Not exactly what you would want to put in your lesson plans for your principal to see…. But it works for me.

Wednesday- Write lesson plans

Our template is long and clunky and ridiculous, so this takes a while. Always make your lesson plans detailed enough to prove to your principal that you know what you are talking about.

They especially like to see “content specific” words. Even if they don’t know what they mean, seeing them in your lesson plans makes them think you know what they mean. Things like dynamics, tempo, quarter notes, etc.

Thursday- Gather materials

This means printing materials, making materials, finding them, etc. I love doing this on Thursday, because our lesson plans are due on Thursday at 5. This means most teachers are just starting to think about their lesson plans, and I have free range of the copier. Friday and Monday, it is packed.

Also, since our lesson plans are due on Thursday, planning to do them on Wednesday ensures that I have them done on time. If I cannot get it done on Wednesday, I have a whole entire other day to work on it.

If I planned to do it on Thursday and couldn’t, then I would be in a bind.

Friday- get everything ready

Pull out the materials, get them all set to go.

 

You will notice I didn’t put anything on Monday. This is because with new lessons, I like to have some time to tweak it and not worry about anything else.

Free Music Lesson: Bizet Scarf Routine



Some general lesson planning tips:

Make a series

If you don’t know what to do, pick an instrument and go with it. Or pick a theme. This does wonders because it limits the amount of lessons available.

For example, you could spend a month on Kidsticks Stations. Or recorder. Or whatever.

You could do a musical month, a keyboard unit, a ballet unit, opera unit, etc.

(Click on these pictures to go to the Amazon page)

Embrace the holidays

Teachers love holidays because they make things different!

You can extend Christmas for a whole month. Same with Thanksgiving and Halloween. Also, Hispanic Heritage month and Black History month are great for lesson planning as well.

If you pencil all of those in, there won’t be many days left!

Here is a Halloween lesson: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Rhythm

Combine grades

This is one of my favorite tricks. I honestly only plan two lessons a week—one for K-2 and one for 3-5. This works well with our schedule and really reduces stress. It is worth it if just for the materials—you only have to get out one set of instraments, or two. Not six.

I think ideally K-1, 2-3, 4-5 would be the best groupings, standards-wise. This does not go well with our schedule at all, but I may try it anyway and see how it goes.

I promise you are not an awful teacher for doing this. I believe it really helps you to do your best because you have time to work out all of the kinks, and you are not constantly trying to think of what your lessons are.

Now, if you have been teaching for 20 years, you probably know your lessons well enough that having 6 different ones isn’t an issue. But for us newbies, it is very helpful.

Have some carryover

When I am really put together, I do this very well. What I mean is that you use a piece of your next lesson in this week’s. Or you use a piece of last week’s lesson in this week’s.

For example, I taught my kids Al Citron a few months ago. We learned the song at the end of one lesson and then we played the passing game the next time. They sang so much better because they knew it better! It was fantastic.

Another time, we learned a circle dance to a Ringshout song as a Musical Explorers lesson. We used it as a warm up the next week.

Sometimes it is tricky or not possible, but if you can do this, it really helps! It allows time for the song or lesson to really sink into their heads.

Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

Find a Curriculum

I cannot sing the praises of the Game Plan Curriculum enough. K-8 is also a really great one. Both are fun, having singing and instrument playing, and get the kids to read music well.

Free K-2 Music Lesson: Animal Form

What is your lesson planning technique? How does it keep you organized? Any tips and tricks? Let us know in the comments!

Happy teaching!

Becca

Tips for Keeping on Top of Lesson Planning. Schedule and tips so that your lesson plans are turned in on time! Help stay organized no matter what you teach: elementary school, middle school, high school, art, music, or pe! Becca's Music Room



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Elementary Music, Organization

Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher

Teachers have a lot of things to do: lesson plans, grading, concert, PTA meetings, field trips, copies…. And that does not even include teaching the kids! Factor in personal life and non-work related commitments and staying organized can be a nightmare. I, personally, have to juggle work, choir, keeping up with the house and dogs, and church commitments on a normal week.

The best way to get it all done? Get organized!

Without organization, there is no way that you could possibly stay on top of everything.

We all know those teachers who are not organized. You know, the ones that are copying things during lunch the day they need it, never remember when staff meetings or PTA meetings are, are always late to duty, etc. Their class’ behavior usually reflects the poor planning.

Don’t be that teacher.

Be the teacher that gets stuff done…. On time! The teacher that doesn’t have to change their lesson plans because the copier is down again. Get organized!

Over the next few months (yes, months, because I didn’t want to completely quit with lesson plan ideas and other posts), I will be doing a series about staying organized as a teacher. I started two weeks ago with a post about my favorite classroom purchase and how it keeps me organized (check it out here). Subscribe in the sidebar or down below to keep up to date on the next posts! Or follow me on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook, all linked up above this article.

And without further ado… My favorite tools for staying organized as a teacher!

 Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.

Clipboard with Writing Pad

Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.

I love this clipboard.

I picked it up on a whim (because it was cute, of course), and could not be happier with it.

Why do I love this clipboard and think it helps me stay organized?

It has a notepad and a pocket inside of it. So I can clip paper to the front, and I can also write on the inside and keep my pencil or pen in the pocket.

I use this clipboard mostly for meetings and professional development. I put the agenda or ticket for professional development on the front, and then I take notes on the inside. I also use it if I am walking around the school and making list of things I need to do or remember or lesson ideas.

Plus, it is cute and inexpensive.

If you like any of these, click on the picture to go to the Amazon page!

Also: Lesson Ideas: Creative Movement with Scarves

Days of the Week Notepad

Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.
This is my true, messy, crazy to-do list. You can see the random notes I have written, like lesson ideas and how many copies I need of each paper. This is real life!

This was a gift from my (wonderful!) mentor teacher during student teaching. I have never met anyone who makes as many lists as I do! We were both constantly writing things down, scheduling things, etc. But we mostly wrote on random pieces of paper, which is ineffective. Because after we wrote them, we would lose them.

Anyway, for graduation she got me a notepad with all of the days of the week on it. I. love. It.

I keep it on my desk and make it specifically for my school to-dos.

Every Monday morning, I sit down and write in the things I know I have to do—write lesson plans, attend meetings, etc. Then I go through and add in the other things that I need to do—write emails, make letters, practice the accompaniment for a piece of music, etc. At the end of the day, if I have something I need to do that I have not, I put it on the next day’s list.

This could also work if you have a planner with decent weekly spreads, but I like to keep this on my desk and have only school related things on it, so that it is easier to distinguish what needs to happen at school v. at home.

Also: Free K-2 Lesson: Animal Form

Planner/Calendar

Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.

And just one planner or calendar. I am the worst about wanting to keep my home and school life in separate places, but resist the urge! Get one planner.

Once you get the planner, write in all of the school things you need to know—grades due, holidays, concerts, etc. Then add in all of the personal things that you have consistently—church obligations, social obligations, etc.

Then keep adding.

Everything.

Keep everything in your planner. I mean it.

Even though you have many different things going on, you only have one life. You should only have on planner.

Because I am obsessive, mine is color coded—I use green for school, purple for choir, red for my husband (dates or days when he works late), blue for my social life (ha!), etc. This way even though everything is together, I can still see what is specifically for what parts of my life.

You don’t have to do that much, if you are not as crazy as I am.

But you do need a planner.

I have this one with a different cover, and I love it! I also use these pens (and only these) for my planner. Clip to purchase!

Also: Questions to Ask Yourself when the Class is Off the Chain



Seating Charts

Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.

If you see every student in the school like I do, you are probably thinking I am crazy. But really, a few minutes per class at the beginning of the school year makes a world of difference! Especially if you see every student in the school.

Why is it more important if you see all of the students in the school?

Not only do you need it to keep yourself organized, but it will help you learn the names.

I have 750 students. That is a lot of students. If I remember one or two out of a class in the hallway, I am impressed with myself. But if I have a seating chart, then I know all of the names.

Knowing the students’ names changes everything. I promise. Try it.

How do you keep track of all of those kids’ names? Seating Charts!

I keep mine in binders with dividers between each day of the week. I keep a schedule in the front so that I can remember who I have each day, and if I unexpectedly have a sub, then they can find the class as well.

Each day, I take the days’ seating charts and put them on this clipboard. It opens up so that I can store pads of paper for notes or other things inside of it.

Here is a similar clipboard (although cooler because mine does not have a separate pencil place) and binder. Looking for seating charts? Teachers Pay Teachers has a ton of options here.

Also: Ways to Destress After a Crazy Day of Teaching

Rolling Cart

Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.
A picture of my cart, post a month of traveling nonsense. It’s quite messy.

And I keep my clipboard with my seating charts on my cart!

I seriously love my cart. It holds everything that I need on a daily basis, so that I can find everything I need. I keep my seating charts on the top. I also keep hall passes, nurse passes, a tambourine, pencils, my stuffed owl, and a bunch of stickers on the cart.

And yes, all of those things are very important.

Check out my full review of my cart here.


Need help getting organizational products? Check out my post on Donor’s Choose and see if you can get them donated! Also, check out what lessons I did while on the cart for a month.

Those are my top items to keep my life organized! What do you use to keep organized? I would love to know! Tell me in the comments!

 



Best Tools for Staying Organized as a Teacher. Becca's Music Room. Being organized is key to being a succcessful teacher, whether you teach music, elementary school, middle, or high school.

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Elementary Music

Ways to Destress After a Crazy Day of Teaching

I am not going to lie, today was awful.

Of course, by the time you read this, it will no longer be “today” anymore.

Four of my six classes were crazy. It was like every management tactic I could think of did not work. I tried everything that I knew how to do, and it made no difference. My first grade in particular. I tried stickers, tickets (our schools PBIS), games, dancing to get our wiggles out, and it was still ridiculous.

Also: Questions to Ask Yourself When the Class is Off the Chain

Now, I consider myself lucky in that even though it’s my first year of teaching, I have very few days that make me want to die. As teachers, there will always be those days. No matter the school, no matter the subject. How often these occur is not quite as important as what you do after them.

Your students need you to destress. You need you to destress. How do you destress after a day that was so awful you do not want to think about it?

Ways to Destress After a Crazy day of Teaching. Becca's Music Room. Crazy day at school? Full moon? dress down day? Not sure why but the kids have all lost their minds? Read this article for tips on how to forget all of that so that you can have a better teaching day tomorrow

Take a bath

I so wish I could do this. After getting married, I moved into what is essentially a studio apartment with my husband. So there’s no bathtub. Which is really sad because that was my go-to method of destress.

And when we move (in April, yay!) this will be my go to again!

Seriously though. Get a book (or set up Netflix on a stool), light some candles, and drink some wine or Coke or eat ice cream.

You’ll be amazed at how much better you will feel.

 

Exercise

Half of you are sitting there saying “Really?! How will that help?” It does. I’m not saying go run a 5K, but do something. If you are not an exerciser, then just go take a walk. It makes a huge difference. I went from hating exercise to looking forward to it in just a few months, and this is a big reason why. it gets all of the frusteration out, and it takes your brain’s focus away from the day and onto what you are doing.

After a long day of teaching, it clears my mind and helps my body feel better.

Don’t trust me? Yay try it!

Yoga is particularly relaxing. You can find some great yoga routines on Pinterest or on YouTube. (Like this one for beginners!)

Also: Positive Management Strategies for When You Don’t Feel Positive

Color

If you didn’t believe me about exercise, you probably really won’t believe me about coloring.

But try it.

I’m not sure what it is but it is very relaxing. It doesn’t take very much concentration or brainpower, but it almost soothes your mind.

You can download some for free, but I have a few. My favorite is the Van Gogh coloring book!

Do something productive

This may sound counterintuitive. You want me to destress and relax by doing chores?

Yes.

I find myself so much less stressed after accomplishing something. Think about it– do you find it hard to destress when there is a massive to do list looming over your head? Can you relax if the house is a mess? I cannot. I would rather get some things done then lay on the couch thinking about how it needs to be done.

And again, it takes your mind off of your day and onto something else.

My favorite thing? Working on my blog. It puts my energy toward something useful. Every time I finish a blog post or get something scheduled, I feel as though I have done something. I didn’t realize this would happen when I started, but it is a huge reason why I continue to blog.

Even if I don’t feel like I accomplished ANYTHING while teaching (aka today), I write blog post and finish it and get some sense of accomplishment.

You could also do something like clean out your closet, get all of the dishes put away, make some manipulatives for your class, etc. Even if it is really small like you finally put clean towels in the bathroom– it will make you feel better.Ways to Destress After a Crazy day of Teaching. Becca's Music Room. Crazy day at school? Full moon? dress down day? Not sure why but the kids have all lost their minds? Read this article for tips on how to forget all of that so that you can have a better teaching day tomorrow

Create something

This is on the same idea as the last one. Creating something will allow you to feel productive. Who cares if it is something no one will ever see? The important part is the process, not the end result. Draw a picture, write a story, etc.

My favorite? Painting. Painting is my new favorite hobby. I used to love it and I haven’t done it in forever and now I am painting all of the time. It feels so good to have something to make. And even better once it is done and you can be proud of it!

And if you can make something to give away, even better. Do a craft that you can give to someone. Have an Etsy shop? More power to you!

Go to bed early

Laying in bed early and getting a good nights sleep will do wonders for your mood. And it will get you ready to face those crazy children tomorrow!

Also: Free K-2 Music Lesson: Rhythm

Ways to Destress After a Crazy day of Teaching. Becca's Music Room. Crazy day at school? Full moon? dress down day? Not sure why but the kids have all lost their minds? Read this article for tips on how to forget all of that so that you can have a better teaching day tomorrow

What did I choose to Destress?

Now, I do not always do the same thing. Today though, I chose:

  • Do something productive (I cleaned up the house a little bit)
  • Create something (I painted a picture that I have wanted to do for a long time)
  • Do Something productive (I wrote this post)
  • Go to bed early

Destress time is over… now what?

Remember that tomorrow is a new day. Give your kids a new start. Give yourself a new start. Make it better!
This doesn’t mean that you forget everything or don’t follow through on necessary punishments from whatever was done. But it does mean that you don’t hold it against them.

Ways to Destress After a Crazy day of Teaching. Becca's Music Room. Crazy day at school? Full moon? dress down day? Not sure why but the kids have all lost their minds? Read this article for tips on how to forget all of that so that you can have a better teaching day tomorrow

One final thought

Don’t forget why you teach in the first place. It’s not for the bad days. It’s for the good days, when a kid finally “gets” it.

Or when a kid you didn’t think ever hears a word that you say does something that makes you realize that they were listening all along. Or when a kid comes up to you and says, “I love music!” Or when a kid gets into a specialty school and you know that it is literally going to change their life.

Keep a journal. Every time a kid gets something or says something that touches you, write it down.

When you have awful days like today, go back and look at the journal. It will help remind you of why you do this.

Yesterday, I got to add to my journal.

A first grader came up to me at the bus ramp and said “Mrs. Davis! Did you know there’s only three days and then the next day I get to go to music?! I’m so excited!” This was Monday. I don’t see his class until Friday and he was already excited to sing and dance and learn.

That is why I teach.

Ways to Destress After a Crazy day of Teaching. Becca's Music Room. Crazy day at school? Full moon? dress down day? Not sure why but the kids have all lost their minds? Read this article for tips on how to forget all of that so that you can have a better teaching day tomorrow!


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