Sunday, March 12, 2017

Teach Eighth and Two Sixteenth Rhythm in a Way They'll Never Forget!

I love teaching rhythms through games. It makes it so easy to learn! The students love singing a song and playing a game and can so easily translate into a new rhythm. We play a game that makes learning the eighth and two sixteenths as well as two sixteenths and and eighth patterns so easy to remember.


Sailing on the Ocean is a great game for introducing these rhythms.

Here is the original song from the Holy Names University collection:

2. Got me a pretty girl, stay all day (3x)
     We don’t care what the others say.

3. Eight in a boat and it won’t go round. (3x)

     You can leave the pretty girl you just found.

Here are the directions for the song, again from the Holy names collection:

Game Directions 

Formation: single circle with four boys in the center.

Action: 1. Players in the outside circle join hands and circle clockwise while the boys in the center face toward the outer circle. Join hands and circle counterclockwise.

2. All players drop hands and both circles walk counterclockwise; each boy in the center chooses from the outer circle the girl nearest him and walks beside her until the end of the verse.

3. Each boy puts his partner on his right and all 8 join hands in the inner circle and move counterclockwise, while the other circle moves clockwise. On the word "leave" the boy leaves his partner in the center and goes to the outer circle. the game is repeated with the girls in the center and the words are changed by substituting "handsome boy" for the "pretty girl". 

Source: Elizabeth Coffman, Anna, Illinois

Lyrics Variation

In our district, we have changed it to make it more generic. Here are our lyrics:

Sailing on the ocean, the tide rolls high.
Sailing on the ocean, the tide rolls high.
Sailing on the ocean, the tide rolls high.
You can catch a great big fish, by and by.

Caught me a great big fish, stay all day.
Caught me a great big fish, stay all day.
Caught me a great big fish, stay all day.
We don't care what the others say.

Four in a boat and it won't turn round.
Four in a boat and it won't turn round.
Four in a boat and it won't turn round.
You can lose that great big fish you just found.

Word changes made by Jerry Jaccard

We do it a bit differently in my class. Here is our variation in directions.

Directions Variation

1. One circle walks counterclockwise with one student walking the opposite direction around the inside of the circle. That student stops at the end of the verse by a student, who the becomes the "fish for the next verse.
2. The new "fish" walks counterclockwise and stops at the end of the verse by the first "fish". 
3. Both of the first two "fishes" do motorboat for the third verse. 

Motor boat is where both student face each other holding hands with their feet close together and close to each other. They lean back as they shuffle their feet quickly and go in a circle. I challenge the students to be careful to not "fling" the other student on the floor, especially if one is bigger than the other. The students love doing motorboat. 

The next time students start over, there are two "fishes" and they catch two new ones. The third time you start the game over, you would have 8 "fish". The kids would continue to do motorboat in pairs. By the end, I have "all in the boat and it won't go round". 

Variation told to me by Julianna Gylseth

Reading the Rhythm for the first time

After we have played the game, we read the rhythm. We discover that we already know ti-ti (two eighths) and that we already know tiki-tiki (four sixteenths). They are able to then take that knowledge to figure out what this new rhythm is called. We then read our new found rhythm and they are all so proud of themselves- that they can read a rhythm that only the big kids know. 

Playing the Rhythm Game

Play the following rhythm game. Line up groups of student along one side of your room. I usually have about 7 groups of 3 or 4 kids. Each group has the 8 measures of Sailing on the Ocean cards. I have them turn them over and “mix them up like crazy”. They choose a “leader” of their group. When I say “go”, they put the cards in order and then the leader runs up to me and as each group gets done, their leader runs up to me and gets in line. Once the leader is in line, the group can no longer change their rhythm. 

2 of the 8 measures of rhythm

I will check the rhythm of the group whose leader is first.
If that group is correct, they win. If they are not 
correct, I ask them to go back and fix it. This song is 
repetitive, but you would be surprised how often, 
especially when they first learn the rhythm how they
are not careful about the tiki-ti’s and the ti-tiki’s so they mix them up. 

I will leave the rhythm page up on my promethean board when they are first starting to play this game with a song. Once they get better at this, I take away the “cheat” sheet so they can really think through the rhythm. 

I will give a tiny eraser to the members of the team who wins. Once a team wins, they can win again but they will not get a prize. They are just thrilled if they get it first. 

My kids love this active way of practicing their new rhythm and it helps them to remember how to read this rhythm every time. 

Check out some other fun rhythm activities:

Halloween Drumming or 18 other drumming packs

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Tug of War in the Music Classroom

Every year in 4th grade, we do a very fun activity that the students love. I got the idea from my favorite mentor. There is so much to learn from this activity and it is a huge hit.


We sing the song, "Oranges and Lemons" and play the game by getting into a circle. My person of the day chooses a helper for making a bridge. I encourage them to choose someone who will be good at helping them come up with opposites. We discuss what opposites mean and come up with ideas as a class to help them get their brains going. 

We learn the song before we start. 

Form a circle with two kids making a bridge clasping their hands above the circle. The two students secretly come up with an opposite, such as up and down and assign one word to each of the two. Kids walk through the bridge on the beat as everyone sings. Going through the bridge on the beat can be very challenging for some kids. I remind them that the goal is to go through it on the beat and not just to run through in order to not get caught. I stand right by the bridge and even put my hand between each kid to help them go on the beat. 

At the end of the song, the bridge comes down and catches one student. Then the two bridge students will tell the "caught" student their opposites and the student who has been caught will choose one of the words. I assign my student of the day to be team 1 and the other student to be team 2. If the "caught" student chooses team 1's word, I write it down on a paper under team 1. Since we do several activities during a half hour music period, we will only do 3 or 4 rounds during a music period. 


For the first few music periods of doing our "Oranges and Lemons activity, the kids who are "caught", just sit in their teams on the side of the room. I encourage them to sing along. Once we have done this activity for a few days, I then have the kids who are "caught" form their own circle so they have something to do. In this separate ground, they don't sit out when they are caught. That second group seems to easily choose two kids to be a bridge and it keeps them busy and out of trouble.

When we have finished sorting every student after many class periods, the two teams are never exactly even, so we put all of the kids back into a big circle and "catch" enough kids to even out the teams. 

I just tack my three class teams lists on the bulletin board above my desk to keep track of my lists. It is super easy to find my list in a second during each class. 


Once the kids are sorted out, we wait until the weather is good enough to go out and it isn't too wet outside because of rain. (We rarely get rain so that usually isn't a problem).

On the day that we play tug of war, I explain the rules up front, even the day before. Once the kids are out there playing the game, it is hard for them to hear and they aren't listening. It is always a good idea to explain rules while they are sitting quietly and listening. 


  1. Walk quietly in the hall to go outside
  2. Safety is very important - When I say to stop, you must stop so no one is dragged on the ground and injured. I've done this for 8 years and never had injuries, other than minor hands that feel tender from pulling on the rope. If I see any kids doing something unsafe, they are asked to sit out. In an ideal world, we would have gloves for each kid. I tell the kids that they can bring gloves if they want. 
  3. Be a good sport. This game is just for fun. You will win some and you will lose some. It is a team sport and we must work together.
  4. If we don't have even numbers, one student will volunteer to stay out of the game for one turn. 
  5. Walk back to class quietly


 I have figured out a way to make it all fair. Obviously, some kids are stronger or bigger and you are bound to have one team that is just better. My rule is that the team who loses gets to choose one student from the other team and must give up one student from their team. I remind the kids that we are all different sizes and it doesn't mean you are less of a person just because your team gives you up. It just means that you are smaller than some other kids right now. The kids accept this and I've never had a melt down from it. 

We do this every round and somehow, they keep going back and forth and seem very happy with the end results. One other Rule I have is that once you move teams, you can't move again. That keeps it really fair. 


We take the time once we are inside to discuss things we learned, such as working as a team, etc. It is interesting what the kids learn from this activity.


I did some research to find the best rope I could. I found one that is rated well for safety. I talked to my PTA about getting one and they paid for one that I use but could also be used in PE or for our field day. 

I hope your kids love this as much as mine! 

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Growth Mindset in the Music Classroom

Growth Mindset is on my mind lately. Our principal has been emphasizing that we help kids think of working the process, getting better, and improving. As a group, our teachers came up with ideas that go along with the letters in our mascot name.  I made  separate 8 1/2 inch sized posters  and a large poster for our school that are now posted all over the school to help us work with our kids. This is the 11 x 17 one.

How can I use these ideas in a music classroom? I have a few ideas:

I can help my students work together and collaborate as they make musical compositions, help each other on recorder to learn and decode the notes, think about the meaning of a classical composition. 

I can help students learning to persevere as they learn to improve at reading rhythms, struggle to learn to read notes or play the recorder or ukulele, work hard at learning parts for our choir concert, learn to understand the musical alphabet or the pentatonic scales and how to sing and identify them. 

We can learn to ask questions as we listen to a new composition and think about why someone expressed themselves in a certain way. We can ask how one instrument, such as the piano, is like ukulele and explore both to figure out the answer. We can ask and explore in 1st grade how the words of a song fit with the rhythm. In 2nd grade, we can ask and work to understand how a half note is longer and where re fits into the notes we already know. In every grade, we can ask questions to understand music better. 

We can think out loud in groups as we explore musical concepts. This helps every student, no matter their level to learn to think in new ways. All are lifted. 

We can offer solutions as a class or in small groups when we discuss or think out loud about musical compositions, the meaning of a song, how to move in a new or different way to music, or how to derive a rhythm for a song we know. 

We can also reflect our our learning in ways such as evaluating how well we are singing a song in choir, our progression on our recorder playing, evaluating ourselves on our understanding of a new concept, even if it means students hold up a 1 finger for not understanding and 4 for knowing it well enough that they could teach others. It doesn't have to a hard. I just made a recorder log so my 5th graders can keep track and evaluate their progress in our black belt system. The student will write the date, the belt name, how many times they have practiced it before trying to pass it off, and whether they passed it off. I will have occasional conferences with them to discuss their progress and give the log to parents at parent/teacher conferences. 

I was inspired by a "We Are Teachers" blog post about Growth Mindset books to read in class and saw some music ones that look like gems. 

Here are some FREE packs I have made to help your kids with growth mindset. Roll a Rhythm Game for Composing, Recorder Black Belt System Freebie, and Musical Moments Listening Sampler, Engine Engine Beat Book Sampler, Bubble Spot Active Listening Pack or my brand new I am Kind Music Composition Project pack. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#whyiteachmusic: Great Stories that Motivate

I was part of a blog hop last week where people wrote stories of why they teach music. I was so fun to read the stories on my blog post and the other 7 bloggers. I'd like to share some of my favorite comments. 

Read to the end to see the giveaway winners. 

I choose some of my favorites posts about why people teach music. Read on!

"It was my love of early childhood music that launched me into music education! Seeing how musical little ones are is such an inspiration!"

"I teach music because my music teacher believed in me when I did not believe in myself. I love seeing my students when the lightbulb that goes on in their eyes when they master a new concept. My kiddos feel so proud and accomplished when they do something they could not do before."

"I've had some similar experiences of students refusing to sing in kdgn, graduated to a whisper in my ear in first grade, gradually making progress to singing. A couple of twins that started their journey in kdgn grew to audition and sing beautifully in a 4th grade community children's choir. All the individual journeys create special rewards for me."

That is just a little inspiration we got from our blog post. Be sure to read some the other blogs to read some more inspiration. 

The winner of my Vocal Play Bubble Magic Mike is Jenny Trites. Check your email for a message from me :)

 There were seven other winners too! If you see your name below, check your email (the one you used to enter) for a message about your prize!

Organized Chaos: Michaela Gibbons
O for Tuna Orff: Christy Gibson 
Music with Mrs. Tanenblatt: Dan Leopold 
Sing to Kids: Becca Fiscus
Sing Play Creatively: Brooke Chamberlain 
Music Teaching and Parenting: Blanca InezSuzanne Fleischmann Bishop
Sally's Sea of Songs: Erin Scharman Middelhoven

I hope you enjoyed reading about why we all teach music and got some inspiration to keep you going! 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Why I Teach Music Blog Hop and Giveaway

I'm teaming up with other music education bloggers to spread some positive thoughts this week, and I'd love for you to join with us! Many of us are very stressed right now for many reasons. We want to give you some encouragement and reasons to be optimistic about your job. 

We plan to make it even better by having a giveaway of some fun goodies too! 

I loved playing the French Horn and being in concert and marching band in school. I went into music teaching because of my love of music. 

For many years, after I got my bachelor's degree and master's degree, I taught toddlers and their parents in classes. I loved how I could have such a great influence on those young developing minds by including parents. 

9 years ago, I went to a Kodaly certification course and was so inspired that I began teaching elementary music. I love how I get to teach every child in the school for years and I love seeing them find joy in the music. I especially love when one of my kindergarteners or first graders find their in tune singing voice and the whole class cheers. The delight on their face is priceless. 

I will never forget one of my students who came to my school as a kindergartener and refused to sing. It was a special challenge to get him singing at all, much less on pitch. I remember him singing a solo last year as a 4th grader and us talking about how he had become a songbird. The student and I got a great chuckle about it. 

I have so much fun using my "Magic Mike" bubble microphones (see pictures below) that I am giving a set away in the giveaway. My kids LOVE choosing their favorite color and singing hello back to me. Read more about how I use them and how I get students to sing on pitch HERE

Enter the giveaway and get many chances to win by:

1. Comment on the blog posts that will come out every day this week. (see links in the rafflecopter below)
2. Share your own inspiration about why you teach music on any social media, with the hashtag #whyiteachmusic plus a link to this blog post. Share this link
3. Share new blog posts every day to have more chances. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ideas For Getting Your Students' Attention

"Buzz Feed" had a fun post about how to get students' attention in class and I wanted to tell you about ways I get my students' attention.

I do the power teaching idea of using "Class Class" with the kids replying "Yes, Yes" but I have them sing it. I vary the way I sing it and they have to copy. Sometimes when they forcefully sing it back to me, I remind them to sound like I sound and we practice. Read more about power teaching (also called whole brain teaching) here.

I use the traditional ch ch sounds in a pattern, such as quarter, eighth-eighth, quarter, quarter. They respond back to me in the same pattern. I also sometimes clap patterns and have them respond.

At times, I use a gong or a little bell to signal quiet. It is good to vary what you do to keep them listening.

Since students start tuning out things when you do the same thing for too long, I have added a new one this year. Every year, I do a new theme in my classroom. This year, I am having fun doing a pirate theme. The librarian and I are both doing this theme. We sing, "Yo ho, yo ho" and they sing back, "A musical life for me". In library, they sing back "A reader's life for me". The kids love it and it is new and fun so it really works.

I plan to do it in solfa (solfege) as well and I think they will love that too. Check out my pirate theme here.

A teacher in my school says, "Freeze" and the kids say, "hands on knees". That one surprised me when they first did that after I said, "freeze".

I love some of the options in the "Buzz Feed" article. My favorites are:

Teachers says, "Shark Bait Students". Students say, "Boo ya ya" (Finding Nemo)
Teacher says. "Winner winner". Students say, "Chicken dinner".

Check out more fun ways to get students' attention on buzz feed here.

Do you have any fun ways to get your students' attention?

Friday, August 12, 2016

Make Your Own Non-Candy (inexpensive) Classroom Incentives

I got this idea a few years ago and have been saving leftover crayons. At the end of last school year, our district came down with a new rule that said we can no longer give out any candy. I suddenly got motivated to put my plan in place.

Any teacher can make these wonderful molded crayons for their classroom. I definitely have my work cut out for me since I am a music teacher and have over 500 students.

Every year, I have a theme of the year and my student of the day sits on my VIP chair and gets special privileges, such as leading games and helping the teacher. They used to get a piece of candy. They will now get one of my molded crayons! Check out my post about my VIP chair.

I also do a raffle for my 5th and 6th grade classes and choose a couple of tickets a day. I am amazed at how much they learn and how many things they will do, such as sing a solo to earn a raffle ticket. They also used to get candy and will now get a molded crayon! Read about and get my superhero raffle system free here.

I have streamlined my molded crayon making system. Hopefully, my trial and error will help you avoid some problems.

STEP ONE: Gather or buy crayons

First, gather crayons from teachers who don't need them anymore, friends in your neighborhood, local restaurants, etc. I have found that Crayola crayons are much easier for getting off the paper. You can also buy crayons. Back-to-school sales are the best. Back-to-school sales are a great time to get new crayons. In the last couple of weeks, I found Crayola boxes of 24 crayons for .50 at Target and Walmart and an off brand for only .25 a box, but the paper is harder to get off.

EDIT: I actually got a donor's choose grant for 250 boxes of crayons this year. 

STEP TWO: Get silicone molds

I have gotten carried away and bought a number of molds. There are tons of them on amazon, ebay, and etsy. 

Here are ones I bought:

Here is where I got molds:

Edit: Since I posted this, some of these items are out of stock, so go to ebay,, and etsy and search for silicone molds to find some fun ones. I did buy some really inexpensive ones from china that ended up being super tiny and wouldn't work, so be sure to check the size of the mold in your description. If you have funds, people on etsy sell these molded crayons as well. 

***IMPORTANT- Even if a mold says silicone, be sure to check to see that it will work in an oven. I found two molds that said silicone that melted. When I went back to look at the description, it said not to put them in the oven. 

Lego Molds (affiliate link)
Dinosaur Mold
Skull and Crossbones
Animals (bear, hippos, lion)
Treble Clefs - From ebay but now out of stock
Hearts- I can't remember where I got these. It might have been Walmart or Hobby Lobby. If you look online, you can find them in other places.

STEP THREE: Sort crayons into like colors

I have found that kids love to do this. If you have huge numbers of used crayons, have them sort them into similar colors. Then sort further into more precise colors and put them into ziplock baggies.

STEP FOUR: Take off the paper

This is probably the most challenging step if you have used crayons, but I have some tips for you. First if you put them into very warm water (not too hot or they'll melt all over). If you have new Crayola crayons, most of the papers will just come off and for others, just slide the paper down with your fingers. That will take off the glue. For used crayons, many will come off with warm water but some will be harder. I have been getting the easiest ones and then dumping the water and getting more warm water. It is definitely more challenging. The few ones- usually an off brand of crayons- that are almost impossible, I throw away because I am doing such a high volume, I don't have time. I have a plastic tub to put my depapered crayons in. Then I dry them all and put them back into the ziplock baggie.

I actually invited a few choir students to come and help with this. They had a blast and even had races to see who could do it the fastest!

New Crayon paper quickly comes off in warm water

STEP FIVE: Cut them into small pieces

I first started using scissors, which didn't work well and then tried a large exacto knife. It worked better but my husband found the best way. It is a utility knife we've had forever with a razor blade. I looked online and found a U-Line knife. He just chopped straight down on them using a cutting board and he was able to do it so quickly!

U-Line Utility Knife with Razor Blade 

Crayon pieces ready to put into molds

STEP SIX: Put the crayon pieces in molds

Put the crayon pieces in molds and put them onto a cookie sheet. I put several molds in at a time. I have found that for me since I am making large amounts of these, I put all of the same colors in at a time. At first, I was chopping and putting varied colors in the same mold. It ended up mixing up the colors a little bit. If the pieces are already cut, you could probably do varied colors in one mold and it would work fine. The smaller molds take only 1 crayon. The larger ones, such as the skull and cross bones take 2 crayons if you want to fill them up, but you could definitely do only one and they will just be thinner.

STEP SEVEN: Put the molds in the oven

Preheat your oven to 250 degrees and bake for 15-20 minutes. When you look at the melted crayons, they should be totally liquid. If you see any lumps, leave them in for a little bit longer.

STEP EIGHT: Let cool and remove from mold

Be sure to let them totally cool. If I get impatient, I stick them in the fridge to cool. Be careful getting them out of the molds. Most of them were easy. The guitars were easy to break the neck, but once I figured out how to get them out, it wasn't too hard. I had to be careful with legos to be sure the top pegs don't come off. Again, be sure they are totally cool.

Some fun crayons I made

The newest batch I made tonight

Some Star wars, stars, and fun hats, sunglasses, mustaches, and bow ties

STEP NINE: Clean up the mess

I would immediately clean up your mess of the little bits of crayons that chip off as you are cutting. I didn't clean up right away and we had company coming. My husband used our steamer on the floor and it left small crayon streaks. I just used a Mr Clean "Magic Eraser" to easily get it off. Also, let your molds sit in very warm water for a few minutes and then wash your molds off. Another trick is to put them back into the oven to let the leftover bits melt and then clean them off. I would use a little scrub brush (not too rough) if you have one. You want the mold to be pretty clean before you put another color in it.

EDIT: We have found that getting a box lid, putting parchment paper (newspaper would work too) under the cutting board, and then cutting that makes a big difference to keep the mess down.


I intend to let my students choose a molded crayon, so I put them into a set of drawers I already had in the classroom. I also found a smaller one with drawers that students can choose from.

Small bin from Walmart 

Once you are done, enjoy! I can't wait to give them to the kids!

Edit: I am now a few weeks into school. The kids absolutely LOVE these, even my 6th graders. They treasure them and show them to other students. Other teachers and administrators are telling me how much the kids love them. It is a big hit. I just ordered a Pikachu mold on amazon. Get it here.