Friday, December 31, 2021

Behavior Reboot

 Behavior. Say that word to any teacher this school year and you will get a multitude of responses and emotions including hands thrown up in the air, eye rolls, shaken heads, and sighs of frustration, disappointment, and discouragement.

How many of us are feeling the effects of Covid in our classrooms? Every. Single. One of us. And it isn't their fault - it seems we pressed the "pause" button on child development in March of 2020. You have probably seen the meme about the last time our fourth graders had a normal school year - they were in FIRST grade. Our second graders have NEVER had a normal school year. Once back from Remote Learning students came back into schools that tried to make them sit in desks, work in groups, walk in lines, be present, focused, on task, be around other children, with or without masks, and expect no differences.  Our students have been impacted by all of this in ways we cannot possibly understand. We can understand what we understand, but we need to understand we will never truly understand. We are not children who have been through what our children have been through. 

Students who have never been in a school before. Students who don't know how to lock the door on the bathrooms because they have never been in a public restroom. Students who don't know how to line up, even after 3 months of being in school. Students who don't know how to be around other children or in large groups, or work in a small group. We have probably all seen or know someone who has seen students tearing things off walls, throwing chairs, running out of classrooms, screaming, arguing, or just falling apart.  

They are trying to tell us something. Maybe we need to

That means we have more opportunities to show consistent and positive kindness and love, to set consistent and positive boundaries, to figure out how to love on those "prickly" kids, and to help our students be their best selves. 


It also means to expect the unexpected.

With the winter break it is now time for a Behavior Reboot in 2022.

With each class:

  • Before the class even comes in - are YOU ready? Are your materials close at hand, do you have a backup plan in case the lesson goes sideways? Do you have some pocket songs or books nearby you can sing or read in case that is what the class needs?
  • Are YOU centered and focused? I find that closing the door before the children come in the room and taking a 30 second inventory - closing my eyes, taking 3 deep breaths, setting an intention of positivity, care, and kindness, helps me enormously to feel grounded. 
  • Are YOU prepared to meet the children where they are? If they come in hyped up on sugar are you ready to do the Seven Jumps dance (my next post will be on how I use this dance - it's not the traditional one) or something else to get the wiggles out?  This helps in leading them down the path to where we need for them to be. Doing so is purposeful yet playful, and encourages relational teaching and builds community.
    Enforcing immediate compliance without time to transition into your class is similar to a prison guard trying to re-establish control during a prison riot and can lead to you and the students being at odds.
  • Set clear expectations and boundaries. Then set them again. And again. KEEP those lines drawn. What I say is what I mean and what I mean is what I say. The consequence may be different for different children and that is OK- fair and equal are not the same.  Part of this is knowing your students and being relational. A child who is trying to get away with behavior is not the same as a child who is acting out of anger or frustration. A child with mental health challenges is not the same as a child who is sneaky and manipulative.
  • What is your lesson flow or structure? Children, like adults, thrive with routine and structure. That doesn't mean there is rigidity and inflexibility. Here are some ideas for the first 5 minutes of class. Here are some ideas for the last 5 minutes of class or for when you need an additional quick activity. 
  • When difficult behaviors happen, don't get in a power struggle. Just don't. It doesn't work for you OR the child.
  • Be the investigator - what does this student need? Do they need a chance to feel successful? Do they need to be a helper and turn lights on or off or get things for you in the classroom? Do they need a time out or a time in? Are they overstimulated - Do they need a quick trip to get a drink of water/go to the bathroom? Do they need a side hug or just to be told they are not in trouble or that you care about them? 
  • Remember we teach children. Say it with me. I teach children. I teach tiny humans. Then say, "I teach tiny humans music."  When teachers say, "I teach music" it takes out the human element. We teach music to children, but we teach children first.  
  • If what you are doing isn't working, put on the investigator/experimenter hat and try something different. Talk to classroom teachers to find out what is working for the class or specific children and try, try again. 
  • Also, it's important to say we as teachers are going through a lot. A LOT. A LOT A LOT A LOT. Take your mental health as important as you would a serious physical illness. Take a walk, do yoga, get a massage, cry, play piano, sing, journal, see a counselor, talk to someone, ask for a hug. DO the things you need to and don't feel you have fall on your sword as a teacher - you matter, your life matters, your health matters. Teaching is not more important than you. Prioritize your health and well being. 
Please know I'm always here for you.
Much affection, best always.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Candy! Candy! Rondo

 December is a month full of holidays and is a perfect month to talk about sugar! 

This is an International Candy Rondo idea focusing on first American candies and then involving the students in an exploration of international candies. Thanks to my friend Tammy for creating this idea- she created this as a Project-Based Learning activity with her students so you could easily have your students research a cultures candy and/or treats. 

Click here to make a copy of the google slides. 


Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Let's Talk Turkey

 If you haven't caught my LIVE on facebook yet, go check out all the past videos at

Today I talked turkey. Yes, you read that right. I shared several of my favorites, many from my Sing a Song, Play a Game book and here are some pictures from the google slide you can get HERE. Please note this will force you to create a copy. :) 

Last year I posted about the rhyme, Mabel, Mabel and using this to play with meters of 2/4, 6/8, and 5/4 - which is SO much fun and a good challenge for older students!  
Click on the first picture for the original post:

Lastly, Pass Me the Turkey is a fun song with a CUP GAME! Check it out by clicking on the first picture to go to the original post. 

Happy Thanksgiving! I am so thankful to all of you who have been reading and following along- we are almost at 1.5 MILLION VIEWS!!! I can't believe it!  Who knew 12 years ago that I would still be blogging and publishing, editing, presenting, etc.  Certainly not me. Be open to all the world offers, friends. You never know where life is going to take you. Blessings!

Monday, October 18, 2021

Monster Trouble/ In the Hall of the Mountain King

 Monsters, Monsters, how much do I love thee?

Younger Children

I love using In the Hall of the Mountain King but with little ones I do this activity. It is a fun activity using locomotor movement and a modified melody. 

Older Students

 If you have the book, In the Hall of the Mountain King, I start this lesson by reading the book.

Decode the rhythm. 
See previous posts for additional ideas.

Create Music "Trolls" or "Troll Kings" or "Monsters":
Here is my example:
Step by step directions:

Some of my students creations:

Next, we learn this speech piece and perform it by opening the monster (high), closing it (low), turning around for "monster everywhere" and moving it side to side quickly for "fast" and slow for "slow", then running in place for "go go go". 
Then we perform the speech piece with the book, Monster Trouble, every 3-4 pages. SO MUCH FUN!

Vegetable Creations and Monster's Don't Eat Broccoli

 If you have been on my blog before, you know my love of cute, adorable monsters!  

I have so many monster books, as you can see here!

Monster's Don't Eat Broccoli is a very cute book with a visual "twist" at the end. The kids love the illustrations and they always make me giggle, too! 

I have several ways I use this book in the music room, here are two:

Song with Book:

Read book, sing song every time "Fum, Foe, Fie, Fee" appear. 


Print the 2-beat vegetable building blocks found here. Here are a few to show what they look like:

Small groups create elemental forms using ABAB (each letter is one 2-beat building brick), ABBA, AABB, AAAB, or ABCA.  Practice performing with body percussion, transfer to barred instruments set up in C pentatonic. 

Could be performed in rondo form:

A: Song

B: Group 1 performs improvisation using their 16-beat rhythm.

A: Song

C: Group 2 performs improvisation


Rhythmic Speech and Body Percussion

Here are a few slides to show what this looks like. Click here for the link. 


Monday, October 11, 2021

Ideas for Upper Elementary

 Upper elementary music classes can be challenging. Fourth and fifth grade students can be tough!  They may see some music activities as too childish and think themselves "too cool for school music."  They are more self conscious about everything, particularly singing, and fearful of being judged by others.  If you are in your first five years of teaching, trial and error is your best friend. Once activities are found that engage these age levels, build upon those activities to continue challenging them while achieving content and curricular goals. 
On Sunday, October 17, I am having a special guest for an Upper Elementary Chat on my Patreon site - hope you can join us or watch the video after!  Click the picture for more info! 

Upper Elementary Tips:

Invite, don't enforce. 
Establish trust, build relationships.
Play (instruments, singing games, be playful).
Build a culture of singing.
Use songs they know and enjoy.
Make it fun.
Friendly competition and challenges.

Here are a few successes.

Bucket Drumming

Choose a tongue twister, play the rhythm on the top of the bucket. Play the rhythm with rim hits only.  Play the rhythm by tapping sticks together only, etc. 
Determine on what words to add rim hits, side of bucket, tap sticks together, etc.  
Ask students to tell you the "most memorable" part of the speech or other words from the text - create a 4-beat rhythm ostinato. I have found ostinato's with rests are more pleasant than constant audible beats (think- We Will Rock You's ostinato of ta ta ta rest.). Decide how to play - rim shots, top, etc. Half the class performs the text,  half performs ostinato. 
Add another ostinato, one third of class performs text, one third performs Ostinato 1, one third performs Ostinato 2. 
Decide Form: Determine repeats, play Ostinato 1 and 2 only together, play text only, speak text only, whisper text only, etc.

Turkish March Remix
For a ready-made drumming activity my students performed in front of a Kindergarten through High School seniors event (and those high school kids went BANANAS!!) check out the post, music, and video link below (click on picture) using a trap remix:


Singing games and clapping games are still engaging and fun with this age, but up the level of complexity- take the clapping game and make it more challenging as in Four White Horses where partners stand across from each other in a group of four and change when and how the clapping pattern is performed. This is from my Hands to Hands Hand Clapping Songs and Games from Around the World Book.

Or clapping games like these: 

Pass the Beat

One thing I have found that works well for these ages is a "challenge". Gameify it with a "Level 1", "Level 2" and so on, and they rise to the challenge and love it!  When we start Pass the Beat in Grade 2, we play it a few times, then play it again in third grade, adding Level 2. In fourth grade we add Level 3 - same as below, replace "room" with a pat.  In fifth grade add Level 4 - replace "pass" with snap. 


Popular Music 

Pop Music can still be elemental, sometimes it's the rhythm, the form, or the melody. In fact these songs use pentatonic scales in the melody (the pentatonic melodies may be a partial hook or phrase and not the entire melody or melodies):
Atlantis, by Shinee (for full lesson click on picture)

Let it Be, by the Beatles
Wake Me Up, by Avicii
Home, by Phillip Phillips
Glad You Came, by the Wanted 

They still want to have fun and are still ready to play!  Lots of things from Artie Almeida's Parachutes, Ribbons, and Scarves book with parachutes work beautifully for these ages. And, they are ready for more sophisticated and complicated rhythms and forms.

Hope you enjoy these and hope to see you soon!