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Christmas Tree Hunt and Christmas Music Charades
Print or cut out some Christmas tree shapes. Write the names of Christmas songs on each tree. You can get already made ones in my TPT shop!
Next, hide them around the room.
Have students find the Christmas trees– it helps if there is a timer!
Put up a list of all of the Christmas music included in your trees. If you buy my product, it comes with one. This is optional, but it is helpful for some of the more obscure Christmas songs.
Once they have found the trees, play Christmas music charades. If you are not familiar with charades, you break the class into two groups. Have one person come up and act out the name of one of the songs on the cards (I have them use the cards they found). Their team (team A) has to guess the name within a certain amount of time. If they guess, they get a point. If not, the other team (team B) has a chance to guess that one. If they guess it, then they will get a point. Then it is team B’s turn. After each turn, play a little bit of the Christmas music so that the students can hear it.
If the teams are too much, then you can just have the whole class try to guess.
Another option: You can play Pictionary. This has basically the same format, but one person from each team draws a picture of the the title of the song at the same time, and whichever team guesses first wins. I like to use white boards or chart paper.
So there you go– it’s not anything crazy or magical, but it was super fun. I paired it with the song Oh Christmas Tree (because why not?), but it would be super fun with any Christmas song, like the 12 Days of Christmas. Both of those two links take you to blog posts that are both games based off of those songs. The Oh Christmas Tree post comes with a free download of the lyric sheet, so make sure you check that out.
Don’t forget to pick up the Christmas trees in my TPT shop here!
And of course, if you need a few more things to do this holiday season, you can head over to my TPT shop and check out the Christmas in the Music Room bundle, which has all of the Christmas lessons I currently have.
If you want my Christmas tree song name cards, you can get them here.
What are your favorite Christmas lessons? Do you prefer Christmas music charades or pictionary? Let me know in the comments!
The Holiday season is the best time of the year. Everyone is a little happier and gives a little bit more. It’s full of sparkle and music and peppermint everything. But everyone knows the Holidays can get stressful. That is even more true when you are a music teacher. If you are not careful, music teachers can quickly burn out during the Holidays. So this year, I– and now you!– am getting super intentional with my self care during the Holidays.
December is the absolute busiest month of the year for me, and I assume for you as well. My students perform in concerts, we have parties and field trips, I perform in concerts, my church kids have concerts– and that is on top of the normal Christmas festivities. Both my family and my husband’s family live near us, which means we have a lot of Christmas festivities. And then there is the end of the semester madness with grades and assessments…. it’s no wonder that music teachers are especially stressed out this time of year.
My usual strategy for music teacher self care during the Holidays is to basically do my best to sleep when I can and hold on for dear life until Christmas break.
But let me tell you, that is not a strategy for music teacher self care during the Holidays.
My wake up call came when I looked at the schedule for this school year. Normally we have at least a week off before Christmas– and during that time, I clean, shop, wrap presents, etc. This year, we get out on Friday the 20. That means there is the weekend, the 23, and Christmas Eve. Now, the whole reason I shop over winter break is because no one is at the stores. But surely people will be off that Monday and Tuesday. Which means there is no peaceful I’m-off-work-but-no-one-else-is shopping.
In addition, between church program and mom’s birthday and seeing all of the family, I don’t have a lot of time left over for baking and cleaning and making presents, which I usually do, and wrapping.
Now, I don’t say any of that to sound ungrateful. I love the Holidays. I love the concerts. I love the programs. I love seeing all of the family.
But I also know if I normally am stressed out, this year has the potential to be extra stressful.
So, my point in all of this is to say that I am being very intentional about my music teacher self care during the Holidays this year– and you should too! So let’s talk about specific ways that you can do that down below!
If you enjoy this post, make sure you sign up for the newsletter, so you never miss a post! I post lesson plans, DIYs, and self care in the music room. You will also get access to the FREE resource library– where I post freebies monthly to help you with your music room. Current freebies include heartbeat charts, Christmas Tree lyric sheets, treble clef quiz, and more! Sign up here!
Write Down Everything
I know, you thought that I was going to start by saying that you should take a bubble bath or get a coffee, right?
We’re going to kick off this guide to music teacher self care during the Holidays with getting your life together. how do you do that? Write down EVERYTHING that you will need to do during the stressful season. Grades, choir kid presents, wrapping, shopping, baking, field trip planning, etc. Write everything down. It is going to be a massive list. It’s going to get overwhelming.
Automate, Delegate, and Eliminate
Once you have all of you items down, look and make sure that you actually have to do them all. Chances are, there are some things that you could delegate to someone else.
For example, I don’t need to spend a bunch of time cleaning my classroom when I could hold a few fifth graders back and have them clean up the room right after class. This gives me an extra five-ten minutes of work time, and allows me to reward some of my hard working students.
Or maybe you could delegate baking or decorating to your spouse of your kids if they are old enough. Or maybe you buy some lessons of sub plans off of TPT so that you don’t have to come up with them.
There may be something you could automate to make life easier– like maybe you order your meal plans or use a Roomba to vacuum the floors. Maybe you automate procedures, like having your choir students come into your room for rehearsal and immediately start stretching on their own instead of you guiding them through stretches.
What can you eliminate from your to do list? Surely there are some things on there that are cool, but not necessary.
Something I am eliminating? This year, in December, I am not writing blog posts. I usually do, but as I looked at the things I needed to do and thought about how busy I would be, I decided that I needed to drop something. I decided that would be blog posts.
Something else I am dropping? Grading a bunch of papers. I usually give my students one-two written assignments per month. In December, I am doing almost all of my grades through observation so that I won’t have to grade, keep up with, and store a whole bunch of papers. It is something super small, but I think it will make life just a little bit easier.
Schedule it all in– Including Your Self Care
Now that you have your super overwhelming list– which is hopefully a little shorter after your last step– you need to assign those tasks to a day. The problem with to do lists is that they are just overwhelming piles of tasks. But when you actually sit down and determine when you will do those tasks, it is a lot less overwhelming.
I use my weekly spread from my to do list product on TPT, and I just go ahead and print out enough for the whole month. Then I start with this week and write things down. When I get to the point where I know I will not get anything else done (especially on days when there are meetings or field trips), I don’t add anything else to that day– it goes to the next day.
Also important to schedule? Your self care. This is normally done outside of school, so I do it in my Full Focus Planner (you can get it here or watch a walk through video I did here). I decide on some things that I am going to do to take care of myself and I write. Them. Down. Just like any other task I need to do. This includes things like have lunch with husband or go for a run or take a bath. It also includes intentionally not scheduling anything for periods of time– especially if we just ended something big. So if I just had a concert last night, I am going to schedule in extra time where I don’t schedule in any time the next day.
Yes, I schedule in time to not schedule anything.
Is anyone else over here a 1?
Why? Because being a music teacher during the Holidays, if you don’t get intentionally about blocking off time in your schedule for you, IT WON’T HAPPEN. Life will happen and the to do list will happen. You need to schedule in time for you– even if that means scheduling in time to do nothing.
Get Things Done Early
I have the benefit of time right now– as I am writing this, we are only half way through November. If you are reading this on December 24, then you may want to just file this away for next year.
Get things done early. If you know that a particular week is going to be really busy, do anything you can ahead of time. That may mean cleaning the weekend before, or freezing dinners to eat that week, or doing extra grades the week before so that you don’t have to stress about those things the week of all of the stuff.
You know grades will be due. You know that you will need to make a Christmas program. You know that you will need to rehearse with your kiddos. You know you need to buy presents for your parents. Don’t put those things off!
Don’t get bombarded with things to do– if you know it is coming, get it done early!
Stay Present and Enjoy Yourself
Newsflash! The Holidays are supposed to be fun.
And so is music.
You probably started music because you enjoyed it and you liked performing– don’t let that get buried under a mountain of to do lists.
I know its hard, but try to stay present. That means keeping your mind on the RIGHT NOW, not on the other stuff. That is the whole reason why we wrote them down and scheduled them in– now that they are down on a calendar, you don’t need to keep all of those tasks in your brain anymore. You can be confident that they will get done when they should, so you don’t need to worry about them.
So don’t worry about them. When you are making cookies with your kids, just focus on that. If you are driving around looking at Christmas lights, just do that. If you are working on your Christmas program, then just do that. Focus on what you are doing, and remember to enjoy it.
Alright, so that is the ultimate guide to music teacher self care during the holidays. Looking for ideas for what to do for self care? You can read this post (Ways to Destress After a Long Day of Teaching) for specific ideas of what to do for yourself this Holiday season.
What would you add to our list for self care during the holidays? Let us know down below!
I have a really funky schedule for when I see my students– I see them everyday (well, let’s be honest, four days) for a week, and then I see a new set of students next week. A lot of interesting things have occurred because of that schedule– Mondays are really tough, but behavior has improved, I get to know my kids better, and….. I tend to theme my lessons more. Before I would do here’s a lesson and here’s a lesson, but with the week long classes I like to have a theme for the week. Right now my theme is fall. So I realized I needed to throw in a listening lesson, and I decided on Im Herbst by Robert Franz.
Im Herbst is not a super well know piece of music. It is a lieder (German art song) composed by Robert Franz. I know it because I sang it in college, and I fell in love with it because it is sooooo dramatic. It is about a person who discovers their love is false (the really high part at the end says “My love is false”), and is extremely distraught.
Because the piece is so dramatic, it is perfect to teach tone color. And because there are a lot of variations in the tempo (those German Romantic composers loved their rubato) and pitch (lots of ascending and descending scales), it definitely needed to be done with the scarves.
Since my school is doing a variation of writing across the curriculum, I decided to tie this piece in with my writing for the week.
First, tell the students you are going to listen to a piece of music. It is in German, and the title is Im Herbst which means in the Fall. Don’t tell them anything else. While they listen, ask them to think about different words they could use to describe the song as they listen (You can say some examples of words to describe music, just to give them a starting point)
After listening to about half of the piece, have the students turn and talk to their neighbor about the words they would use to describe the piece.
Then give students sticky notes and have them write their words down and put the sticky notes onto an anchor chart. (Mine just says “Words to Describe Im Herbst by Robert Franz.) Alternatively, you could write it on the board. Students write the words on the white board with dry erase markers.
4. Then, give students a scarf and tell them to “Match the music”. I tell them I am mostly looking for contour (high or low) and that if is is fast, move fast, if it is slow move slow, etc. I find this helps them to analyze the music in a low-stakes way, and helps when we get to the point where we are watching a conductor, because they are used to the movement of the hands v. the music.
5. Next, read the book The Flute Player by Robyn Eversole. Before reading, tell the students that you are going to read a book. In this book the author had to listen to music. Then the author come up with pictures of what the music sounded like. Ask them to see if they can figure out all of the pictures.
6. After reading, ask the students about the different “pictures” that represented the songs.
7. Play Im Herbst again, and have them think about a picture or a movie that it brings to mind.
Last week, we talked all about the ins and outs of centers in the elementary music room (Check it out here!) This week, I am sharing some fun (and easy!) centers activities that are all Fall music center activities– because themes make everything better, right?
These are just a couple of ideas, definitely not an extensive list, so leave any suggestions in the comments!
Feed the Monster
First and foremost, Feed the Monster. This is a super fun fall centers activity for primary students (think K-2). Basically, you make a “monster”. Students take turns reading rhythm or melody cards, and if they get them right, they get to feed them to the monster.
Who doesn’t love mini erasers? That is the question.
Get some Fall mini erasers, and have students practice putting them the treble clef or making rhythms with them (one sound v. two). If you are going the rhythm route, you can get FREE beat charts in my free resource library!
Not a part of the free resource library? Sign up here! You get access to free resources– more coming out monthly– as well as exclusive emails where I send you ideas for teaching your elementary music class straight to your inbox!
Talk about easy! For this activity, all you need it cut outs of fall things– pumpkins, ghosts, pie, bats, etc. This could be pictures from the internet, Ellison Press cut outs, Cricut cut outs, foam, whatever. Have students arrange them to make compositions and play them on small percussion instruments (if they can be trusted!). You could also do this with partner dictation or pretty much anything.
If students are reading, you can write the notation on the manipulative, or have students figure it out themselves!
If you have seen my TPT shop or my Instagram, you know I am ALL about the matching games!
I have matching games for recorder, piano, treble clef, treble clef sharps and flats, bass clef, rhythm, solfege, instruments of the orchestra, and more. Yup. That’s a lot. And I have them all in pumpkins and in candy corn! (Does anyone else like candy corn? Because I do….)
Another go-to station is to have students listen to a piece of music and either write or draw something to go along with it. This can work for any time of the year, and any concept. Students could figure out the form, write words to talk about the timbre, draw the instruments they hear, draw what picture comes to their brain when they hear it, etc. Whatever you are talking about that week, you can have them do it in stations.
My top picks for Fall music centers activities would be:
Im Herbst by Robert Franz (I have a TPT product that goes with this one and has writing and drawing components!)
Have students sort candy names into rhythms! You can print out picture of candy bars and have them sort the candies into buckets with the correct rhythm (so Hershey’s would be two quarter notes or two eighth notes depending on how you do it), or you could have them write the rhythm down.
In the Hall on Rhythm Instruments or Boomwhackers
We are actually doing both of these activities.
On Youtube, there are rhythm play along videos and boomwhacker play along videos for In the Hall of the Mountain King. You can have students watch the videos and play along on the board, on iPads if you have them, or you could screenshot the videos and print them out!
Centers are definitely the trend in education right now. There are a ton of benefits to having centers– they can be easily differentiated, you can work with students in smaller groups, which means they get more attention, and hypothetically students should be engaged because there are many different things that they get to do.
That’s all good, but when you teach music, and you have 500 or 600 or 1300 students who you only see for 45 minutes a week, it can be a different story.
Is it still possible to do centers? Yes! I do centers on a regular basis in my elementary music room, and it is always very productive– and I even differentiate.
Not because I am amazing, just because I put in a little bit of effort at the beginning of the year to get centers figured out. Once they are figured out, it is so easy to implement them on a regular basis.
How do you figure out centers? There are a few decisions that need to be made:
Number of groups
Who will be in each groups
Setting up boundaries
Number of activities
What the activities will be
Want some more centers help? You can check out some of my other center blog posts down below!
The first thing you want to decide is how many groups there will be. This helps you determine who will be in each groups, how many activities there will be, etc.
This is definitely a personal preference, but I like to have groups as small as possible. I find when there are more than 5 students at a group, it gets chaotic. I always have 6 groups (unless a class is super small, and I will do 5). Most of my classes are sitting around 24ish kids, so that puts 4 in a group. I find this is be a good number of students, but again, personal preference.
Who will be in each group
Now that you have determined a number of groups, you can start putting kids into groups. The most important thing here is that YOU DECIDE ON GROUPS AHEAD OF TIME. Seriously. Deciding in the moment takes way too much time, kids get disappointed or mad that they have to go to that center first or be with that person… it’s not worth it. Take 5 minutes before class starts and decide on your own. That way when you call students into groups, you can do so quickly and they don’t have time to be upset.
You can determine groups however you want, but I highly recommend using centers to differentiate. In order to do that, you need to group students by their performance on some sort of work or quiz or something. You can read (or watch!) all about this in my post But how do I actually differentiate in the music room?
Rotating through Centers
One of the trickiest parts of centers is the rotation.
How do kids know it is time to clean up? How do you know they are ready to switch? Where do they go?
These are all questions you need to know the answer to. Before the kids are in your room.
I have recently started using timers for centers, and I have to say, it has CHANGED my life. I pull up two tabs on Class Dojo (you could also do YouTube videos). One of them I set for 5 minutes, and the other for 1 minute. The 5 minute timer is for the centers. As soon as it goes off, the kids know to clean up their station. I set the 1 minute timer. If they are done cleaning before the cleaning timer goes off, then the class gets a point.
This has seriously made the biggest difference in the world. I don’t have to try to talk over them to be heard, I am not standing around waiting for them to clean up, and they know exactly how long they have.
I used to ring my chimes and say, “1, 2, 3, 4, put everything down, get off the floor, and FREEZE.”, which I still do sometimes, even with the timer.
Once everyone is cleaned up and frozen, I show each group where they are going and have them POINT to it. This way I know they know where to go and no one is moving while I am giving directions. When I say, “5, 6, 7, 8, hurry don’t be late”, they know to go to the next station and start.
So make sure you know which way you want them to rotate. (clock wise, counter-clockwise, etc.)
Sidenote: I do the pointing thing the first time, and usually the second time they will stand and point without me having to say anything about it.
Setting up Boundaries in Centers
My school is not considered a “good school”. That is, of course, very subjective, but it is still the truth. People who are local are always very impressed when they hear that I do centers with my students…. or they look at me like I am completely crazy.
Getting students to behave in centers can be difficult no matter what population you serve. The magic is to make sure you set up the boundaries very well.
What do I mean by boundaries? Basically the expectation. Where should students be? What are they doing? What are they not doing? We talk about these things every. single. time. Seriously. We talk about the boundaries for a good 5-10 minutes depending on the class.
The conversation looks a little bit like this:
I tell them what each station is.
Then I say: Just like everyday in music, we are going to follow directions, be respectful, be responsible, and be a participant (These are our music class expectations and we go over them nearly every day, so they are veeeery familiar!). This may look a little bit different in centers.
In centers, responsible students stay with their groups– that means you are sitting around the hula hoop– not in it. Do responsible people break things? (No!) Do they throw anything? (No!) Do they wander around the room? (No!) [At this point I will insert anything specific about the items we are using, like not dumping crayons on the floor or whatever] Great! So I will see responsible students sitting next to the hula hoops, whispering to their partners, and taking care of materials. Awesome!
Being respectful in centers is all about being kind to people in your group. I’ve already made the groups. You may not be with your best friends in the world, but that’s ok. You don’t have to say anything to them. Just make sure you are not saying anything rude. You are professionals today. Can you say professionals? (Professionals!) That means that being a student is your job, just like my job is to be a teacher. Can I tell my boss that I don’t want to work with someone? (No!) Can I say something rude to [insert the homeroom teacher’s name here] (No!) Great. So If I cannot say it to your teacher, then you should not say it to each other.
Yeah. That seems like a lot when I type it. And yes, we do this pretty much every time. If I have a class that’s rocking it and we have had centers before, then I will leave some of that out. But for the most part, I have very few problems with people messing with over people in centers.
And if they do? I have packets of worksheets on stand by, so if they are yelling or hitting or whatever, they sit out the rest of class and do worksheets.
You can read more about classroom management with centers here.
Number of Activities
Next, you need to figure out how many activities you need. Obviously, every group needs to have something to do, but you may repeat or combine your groups depending on the type of activity.
So if you have six groups, you could have six activities. But will you have time for six activities? My guess is no, unless you have really long classes or students who don’t need any explanation of anything.
I have six groups, but I only have three activities. I have found that three is the most successful amount– we can pretty much always get to three.
So I put out two of the same groups. Then I have half of the class rotate on the left side of the room and half of the class rotate on the right side. Everyone still does everything, but we are able to have smaller groups.
I also run one of the groups, and it combines students from both sides. I’ll pop in a picture of my anchor chart to show how I rotate kids through centers. It’s not as difficult as it sounds.
What will your activities be?
Now, FINALLY comes the fun part! Planning what activities your students will be doing.
I have done tons and tons of centers activities in the past (If you watch any of my lesson videos on YouTube, it will give you quite a few ideas), so here I am just going to write a few of the greatest:
Composing or dictating rhythms (You can get beat charts FREE in the free resource library (more on that below) and get rhythm cards free here!)
Using bingo chips or mini erasers to put notes on the staff
Feed the Monster (for little people! Use it for rhythm, melody or anything that involves flashcards. Also a FREE download!)
Matching games (I have matching games for recorder, piano, treble clef, rhythm, instruments of the orchestra, etc in my TPT shop!)
There are a lot more, these are just a few general ones.
If you need to get started, you can check out my FREE resource library. It has lots of resources that can work for centers, like beat charts (in tons of different key signatures!) and rhythm composition cards and more! More resources are added monthly. You can sign up here, and not only will you get access to all of the resources, but you will also get 2 emails per week with useful, practical tips and lessons to take to your classroom!
Have you used centers in your classroom? What would you add to my list of things to think about? Let us know in the comments!
Rhythms centers can be really fun.. or really boring, depending on how you handle them. My kids always love them, because I try to include at least one game. Now, I love to stick to crowd favorites, like Kaboom! (seriously, they are disappointed it we don’t play this one!) or Go Fish (yes, even my fifth graders seem to enjoy this one), but it is nice to switch it up sometimes. What is a good way to switch it up? Well, Feed the Monster generally does the trick.
Feed the Monster is a game that I found on Pinterest. I looked and looked but cannot find the original post that I saw, however, if you type Feed the Monster into the search bar, you can find a ton of differs monster styles. In the post I read, they used it to teach sight words, but obviously, I am not going to do that. I generally use it with rhythms (although we are trying with melody soon…. wish me luck!). It does work best with younger students, and I have had success with students K-2.
Feed the Monster Rhythm Game
Grocery store paper bags (or a cereal box would also work)
For this game, you will need to set a few things up.
Monster: The monster is a brown paper bag or a cereal box. Cut a hole in it to be the mouth. I also like to have the top part open so that you can dump the cards out easily when finished. Add some eyes and hands and so forth to the bag to make it more fun.
First off, put students into groups. I find groups of 4-5 usually work pretty well.
Each group sits at a station with a Monster bag. Cards can be stacked up or just on the floor. I like to use a hula hoop to contain the chaos.
The first person picks up a card and reads it. If they get it right, they feed it to the monster. If it’s wrong, it goes back in the pile.
Next person goes next.
Keep going until you are out of cards!
It really is that simple.
I usually walk around while this is going on and assess whether students are reading the rhythms correctly or not. This allows me to assess their skills without them knowing that they are being tested– which is a win in my book (I even have a whole blog post on assessment without “assessment” in the music room!).
This game works really well in October, but I have done is in all different seasons– the kids do not mind!
What rhythm games work well with your little people? Let us know in the comments!
When I first started teaching elementary music, I was SO excited to start my 5th grade choir. I had been in choirs for years and I loved it, and I knew that my students would love it to. No, of course, I had no idea what I was doing, but it was great anyway.
We worked so hard for that first year, learning about breathing and vowel sounds and consonants…. And then fifth grade graduation happened. And they were all gone.
The next year started up, and I realized that I had to start all the way over from scratch.
This time, I changed it. I did not want to start from scratch again. Now, I have done fifth grade choir for two years– with fourth graders in it.
Some interesting things happened when I added fourth graders into my fifth grade choir– a lot of which I did not expect.
When I added 4th grade to 5th grade choir….
Behavior got better
The very first thing that I noticed is that behavior improved almost instantaneously. I was shocked at the fact that I was no longer spending a huge portion of my time saying, “Be quiet!”
Now, I had other strategies that I implemented that also helped, but even without those the behavior got so. much. better.
I do not know exactly what is going on in their heads, but I have hypothesized a few reasons why this has happened:
Fifth graders feel more responsible. First and foremost, the older students feel more responsible, because there are younger students around them and they want to show them how to behave.
They aren’t as familiar yet. This may seem weird, but just having students from different grades means that kids are not quite as familiar. Of course, most of them know each other (Does anyone else work at a school where the students are all related?!), but they have not been in classes with the other grade levels.
It differentiates the regular school day from choir. Interacting with kids on different grade levels adds an extra layer of differentiation from the regular school day, because kids are with other kids they are not normally seeing on the playground and in the lunchroom.
Students learn more repertoire
I don’t know what it is like at your school, but I am constantly appalled by the lack of knowledge of what most of us would consider “normal” songs. Specifically when it comes to holiday and patriotic music, my students hardly know anything. Yes, this is my job, but I feel like they should know songs from other places too.
I am currently in the process of coming up with a plan to make sure that I am teaching these “normal” songs throughout the years, but it is taking me some time to get everyone up to snuff (Side note: Do you have a particular time of year that you teach patriotic music? I can never figure out when to do that!).
Choir provides a good way to teach all of those “normal songs”– or at least a few of them. Being able to be in choir for two years doubles the amount of repertoire that the students can learn.
It built the hype
I try to do a lot of extra things with my choir– singing at assemblies and taking them on field trips and having parties. All of these things help them grow (ok, maybe not the parties), but also make them enjoy choir that much more.
Having fourth graders see their friends go on field trips and sing at assemblies makes them WANT to be in choir. So when they get to fifth grade, I have even more students who want to join.
Which leads me into the next point….
I have more kids who WANT to be there
Because students see their friends doing all the cool things, I have more kids that want to be involved. Now, I can only have so many students at a time, so I do have auditions (you can read more about that in this article), but I am able to get not just the best singers, but the students who want to be there the most.
And we all know that that counts much more than who is the best singer.
We can learn harder pieces
Now that I have fifth graders who have already sung with me for a year, we are able to do slightly harder pieces. For example. I do a round in EVERY rehearsal for a warm up. Seriously. I have this book:
And I pick one, teach it one week, use it as a round the next week, and sometimes a three part round the next week week. Why? To build part independence and make it so that one day we will actually be able to sing partner songs.
And that day is this year, I can feel it.
When we first started doing rounds it was STRUGGLE BUS CENTRAL. But now? It’s so stinking easy. I also do them in regular music class, because it is so much fun, and my regular music class kids are getting better too.
But my point is that my fifth grader have now learn at least 15 rounds over the past year, so when we do them, they are SOLID. And the fourth graders? Well, anyone who has been in choir knows that it is easier to sing your part when someone is singing confidently in your ear.
I don’t have to start from scratch
Finally, what prompted this conversion, and also what you probably guessed, I did not have to start from scratch this year. Yes, we still talked about posture and breathing and I had to teach the warm ups, but again, it is so much easier to sing your part when someone else is singing it loudly in your ear.
I already have a base of students who know how to sing and sing well. They know our warm ups and our ways (seriously, I have had hardly any behavior problems this year– although it is only October), and they can be role models and teach it to the younger students. I’ll say that again– they can teach it to the younger students, so I don’t have to.
So that is 5 different things that changed when I added 4th graders to my 5th grade choir. Some are expected, and some are not, but so far there have been very few negatives.
Do you have a 5th grade choir? Fourth and fifth grade? Did anything happen when you combined them? Let me know in the comments!
This month is Hispanic Heritage month! I love Hispanic Heritage month, because I love teaching lessons from different cultures, and I also love a good theme. I find themes to be the easiest way to make lessons really flow together. This year, I am sharing one of my favorite lessons: Al Citron.
Al Citron is a Mexican folk song that has a passing game along with it. It is perfect to teach dotted quarter-eighth note because those are ALL over the song.
Also, the words are nonsense, so if you totally mess them up, it really doesn’t matter.
I use this lesson with my 4th grade and 5th grade students, but you can use it where’ve it fits into your sequence!
This post includes the opportunity to get FREE Spanish fruit rhythm composition cards. If you would like to get those, plus visuals, printable worksheets, and printable lesson plans, then you can check out the product in my TPT shop. As always, you can do the lesson without the product, but it enhances it and makes a huge difference!
Looking for more Hispanic music ideas? Check out this post for a roundup of my favorites!
I always start with a movement based warm up. For this lesson, we learned the A section to a dance to La Raspa (AKA the Mexican Hat Dance). After the dance, I showed them on the map where Mexico was. Then….
Tell the students that we are going to learn a Mexican song and game. The words are in Spanish, but most of them don’t mean anything, so it’s ok it they are not perfect.
Teach students the words to the song (Side note: I find that teaching other languages is easiest when you split up the words one day and the melody another day.)
Teach students the melody by rote and have them keep the steady beat on their bodies. (These visuals are from the PowerPoint in my product. It comes in regular and stick notation!)
After teaching the song, prep the game by having students take their right hand and keep the beat by tapping their left leg and then their right leg (this is prepping the passing motion).
Once students have gotten that down, change it so that the last part of Al Citron (triki triki tron) goes left-right-left.
Give students items they will pass during the game. Traditionally, I believe that it is supposed to be rocks, but I use cans, because that is what I use for the cup game, so I already have them ready to go.
Have them practice the motion in their seats first, then get into a circle. This is helpful, because even with big kids, going from mirroring to being in a circle and seeing people doing what is seemingly the opposite is a struggle.
Before playing the game, practice just the very beginning (Al citron) to make sure that all of the students are going the correct way (I usually do counter clockwise for everything).
Once everyone is going the right way, play the game! Students pass the cans to the right while singing the song. At the end, on the words triki triki tron, you switch the pattern to right-left-right. If anyone messes that up, then they are out!
Dotted Quarter-Eighth Note
Once students have sung Al Citron so many times they could sing it in their sleep, we look at the dotted quarter-eighth note rhythm. I start by putting the notation up on the board and asking students what rhythms they know. We will review quarter notes and eighth notes.
Next, I point at the dotted quarter note and ask what they think it is. After allowing a few to try to figure it out, someone will usually say “It looks like a quarter note and a dot.” And I say, “You are exactly right! It’s a quarter note with a dot. And we call it a dotted quarter note. Think you can remember that?” And they look at me like I’m crazy.
I briefly explain that quarter note gets one beat and the dot gives it half, and we do the math on the board, but really I want them to think of the dotted quarter-eighth combo as having two beats all together, so I don’t stress that too too much.
Next, I let the students practice this new rhythm a few different ways. We are working on the pianos, so I have been giving students dotted quarter eighth note rhythms to play on the pianos during centers.
We have also been playing Kaboom, because it is wonderful, and my level 3 rhythms include dotted quarter notes.
Finally, Mexican fruit compositions! In my Al Citron lesson pack, there are composition cards where students can create rhythms with different fruit names! (Because a citron is a citrus fruit, kind of like a lemon). These composition cards are available FOR FREE in my FREE Resource Library. (Not a member yet? Sign up here! You get access to the growing free resource library PLUS practical tips + tricks in your email every Sunday morning!) There are different options for these– You can make the rhythms and play them on instruments. Make the rhythms and write them down. Or you can make the rhythms and then add melody to it (You can do B-A-G if you are working on recorder– I also have level 3 rhythms BAG flashcards too!)
So there you have it– a whole lessons (or a few day’s worth of lessons) on the singing game Al Citron. Have you ever use this in your classroom? How did you use it?
Since I started teaching, I have wanted to incorporate more books into my lessons, but I had two problems: 1. I didn’t have many books and 2. I didn’t know what to do with them.
Over the past few months, I have been working to remedy #1, and not I am working on #2– figuring out what to do with these books.
Now, of course, you can read a book just to read it. You can also read a book that has a similar theme to a song that you are learning. Even though both of those ideas are valid, I wanted more meaningful, musical ways to read books. These different ways are coming along (slowly but surely!) as I try to incorporate one to three books in each set of lessons.
This lesson was a huge hit.
This lesson is based off of the book Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. It includes beat, rhythm, instruments, and more!
I also have a Teachers Pay Teachers product that has some helpful resources in it. You can do this lesson without it, but it has a printable lesson plan, powerpoint, and a bunch of printables to go along with it! You can get it here!
So without further ado, let’s get into the lesson!
Prefer to watch or listen? You can see this lesson on YouTube!
Go to the piano (or grab a guitar or ukulele) and play along with the students while reviewing a previous song. Allow students to keep the steady beat.
Say, “I wonder who can keep the steady beat to this song” and start to sing the alphabet song.
Next, say, “Great! That reminds me of a super fun book that we can read today! And we can keep the steady beat to it.”
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Lesson:
Read the book and have students keep the beat (quietly) on their bodies. It helps if you keep the beat on a drum– I have this djembe and use it all of the time.
After reading the book, tell the students you are going to play the instruments– but first you have to figure out what to play. Write the words to some of the lines that repeat themselves on the board with heartbeats on top (or use the cards that come in my TPT product, which will make this part much easier!) and have students help you figure out the rhythms. We do this one beat at a time and I ask if there is one sound or two on the beat. Then I ask if that is ta or titi.
Practice reading the rhythms with both the words and the rhythm syllables.
Then, pass out small percussion instruments. I used castanets, which are my favorite.
Have students practice the rhythms with the instruments.
Once the students know the parts they are playing, read the book again. When you get to the parts you pulled out (Chicka chicka boom boom, Will there be enough room?, I’ll meet you at the top of the coconut tree, etc), pick up your instrument and play the rhythm. Have the students repeat it back to you and play their instrument.
*Note: I have students put their instrument on the floor and hands on their shoulders when they are not playing, and I do the same so they have a visual reminder of what they are doing.
To close, you can do something that practices ta and titi. Here are a few suggestions:
Have students work in small groups to figure out the rhythm of a different line in the book
Have students write the rhythms to one of the lines. I have pages in my product pack where students can write the rhythms and color in a picture of that scene.
Give every student a card with a word on it and have them sort the words into ta or titi. (This is a good example of an exit ticket that does not require any writing– which is helpful if you don’t have tables!)
Give students a heartbeat chart and have them write rhythms or use manipulatives to make rhythms.
Need some heartbeat charts? There are a ton of different ones in my FREE resource library! Not a member yet? Sign up here! You will get access to all of my free resources– and I add new ones every month! You will also get one email a week with tips and tricks that you can use in your classroom tomorrow.
Alright friends, that is my Chicka Chicka Boom Boom lesson. It was a huge hit with my first graders at the beginning of the year (and you know 1st grade needs some alphabet reminders at the beginning of the year).
I recently posted my classroom tour video and blog post (you can check out the video here or the blog post here). I also posted pictures on my Instagram account. Throughout all of this, I got a lot of questions about different areas in my room. Some of those questions included:
Why do you have standards and I can statements up?
Do you have to use anchor charts?
You HAVE to have interactive bulletin boards?
What the heck is a data wall?
Now, the short answer to these and other similar questions is that I have these things because I am told that I have to have these things in order to comply with my district’s standards based classroom requirement.
So what exactly is a standards based classroom?
Standards based classrooms have two different components– they have a classroom component and also a lesson component. We will get into both of those down below.
Now, you may not need to have a standards based classroom. I understand that this blog post will not resonate with everyone. But when I was told that I had to have a standards based classroom, and that what I previously had did not cut it, I could not find ANYONE talking about a standards based classroom in music. So here I am, talking about a standards based classroom in music. So that you will not be totally lost.
I am basing this post off of what I have learned about in Georgia. You may have different requirements in a different state.
Along with this blog post, I am putting up a FREE standards based classroom checklist in my free resource library. To get access, you will need to sign up here so that you can get the password. I will also send you exclusive tips, tricks, and lesson round ups each week to help you even more!
What is the point of a Standards Based Classroom?
A standards based classroom is just a fancy way to say that you are focusing your instruction, as well as your decor, on the standards. This way, you are focused on what you are teaching, and your classroom reflects that. Students should know what they are learning, have examples of it (in anchor chart or student work form), and be able to reference materials. They should also know where they stand in relation with the standards (how well they are doing) without making them feel singled out.
Don’t worry. We will get into the nitty gritty right now.
What are the components of a standards based classroom?
Standards, I Can Statements, Schedules
Standards, I can statements, and schedules are probably the first things that popped into your mind when I said standards based classroom. For every lesson, you should have your standards posted. This shows the kids what you are working on. You should also have I Can statements or Essential Questions posted– this is basically the main theme of your lesson. If students are going to learn ONE thing, then what would it be?
I actually find these really hard, because in music, our standards are things like “singing” and “playing instrument” and “moving to music” and “describing music” and I’m like… we are doing all of those things.
For the purpose of your standards based classroom, just pick one that is your MAIN focus.
You should also have a schedule up, so that your students at least know how much time they have in your classroom. To have a perfect standards based classroom, you should really have a schedule for each class, but I have a funky schedule, and I finally convinced our academic coaches that that was not going to word for me.
Next up is examples. Students need to know what to do and how to do it. There are a few different ways that you should show your examples in your classroom.
A word wall is necessary, of course. This is just a dedicated bulletin board space with vocabulary words. I have seen people order them by alphabet or by concept. The main difference between a standards based classroom and a normal classroom, however, is that the words go up AS YOU LEARN THEM. So your word wall should not be full the first week of school. If you noticed in my classroom tour, mine is nearly empty, because the first week of school, we were reviewing. Each lesson, I add more and more to the word wall (If I remember……)
Secondly, you have anchor charts. Anchor charts are basically posters that you print or make that show students what to do or how to do it. Ideally, anchor charts are made with your class and are specific. Teaching music, however, that is not always a possibility (because I am not making five different anchor charts for first grade). So you can make them, or you can even get student input into what to put on them. I sometime laminate my anchor charts so that I can do them with the students with expo markers.
Student work should also be up in or outside of your room. It should be graded, and have commentary as to whether or not the students met the standard. Yes, I am aware that that is a lot. I did not come up with this, I am just relaying messages.
In a standards based classroom, there should be spaces for students to work independently, in groups, or in partners. Now, to be honest, my students just sit on the floor.
But technically, that qualifies. We have assigned seats for independent work, I separate them to different carpets for group work, and partners sit around the room.
SoI wouldn’t stress about this one– just think through if your room is conducive to all of those things.
Side note: Someone posted on Instagram asking if it was ok to put students into rows instead of the groups they had the students in currently. She said they were way too chatty. The answer to that is YES. When you decide where students will sit, think about what message that sends to them. If you have them at tables looking at each other, it sends the message that they should collaborate– it does not send the message that they should sit quietly and look at the teacher. If you want them to sit quietly and look at the teacher, then they need to be facing wherever you normally are.
Data walls are probably the least helpful thing in music, if we are being honest.
Standards based classrooms have data walls so that students know where they are in terms of the standards…. AKA, how are they doing on the standardized tests. Yeah. Don’t get me started.
In my county, we don’t take any standardized tests for music (yay!), so this has been a challenge. Through the years, I have talked with my (4) different academic coaches to come up with different ideas that would be conducive to having 750 students. Here are a few things I have tried:
An “I can keep a steady beat” or “I can use my singing voice” chart. I just wrote teacher’s names on pieces of paper, and as my kindergarteners showed these skills, I added their names to it.
Recorder karate– or piano karate or whatever. I just printed out some charts from PowerSchool and checked off different skills as my fourth graders passed their piano tests.
Pie charts: I do give pretests/posttests in my class (but I make them myself). At the beginning of the year, I print out pie charts that show the percentage of the students in the class that are approaching/meeting/exceeding standards. Hypothetically, I update this mid way through the year but… that has never actually happened..
This year, I think I am going to try a modified version of the pie charts. I will get back to you if that works out.
Standards Based Classroom Lessons
We are not going to go super deep into the lessons in a standards based classroom, we will talk a bit about it. The components include:
Opening: During the opening, the teacher should introduce the standards and the learning targets, and help students access prior knowledge.
Transition: Guided student practice of the concept.
Work session: Students work independently or with a small group. Teacher monitors, assists, and assesses students.
Closing: Formally or informally assesses students. Summarizes progress.
That is a lot of educational words.
I music, that might look totally different than in other classes. Let’s have an example. Let’s say we are working on quarter note and barred eighth notes in first grade. A practice lesson might look like this:
Opening: Students sing the song Tick Tock and perform actions with a partner (this would be the “hook”). Afterward, the teacher reminds students of ta and titi. They talk about how ta is one sound and titi is two sounds. The teacher “figures out” the rhythm for the first line of the song, then asks students to assist in figuring out the rhythm of the rest of the song.
Transition: Students get popsicle sticks. The teacher shows how they can use popsicle sticks to make ta and titi. They practice making rhythms from the song along with the teacher.
Work session: Students work independently or with a small group to figure out the rhythms of another song they are working on with their popsicle sticks. The teacher walks around and assists if needed.
Closing: Teacher could dictate rhythms for the students to notate with their sticks. Alternatively, they could fill out an exit ticket in which they write the rhythms of a song on the paper for the teacher to assess.
Not so scary, right?
Now, again, I would not stress too much about this for music class. In music, we are always working on multiple things, so it is not as conducive to having one thing. But throughout your units, make sure that you are following this model– even if it happens on four different lessons.
Need some more info? I got mine from the GA Department of Education. It talks about standards based lessons here.
Do you have to have a Standards Based Classroom? Let us know in the comments!