Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Learning Target Exit Card

Our district has been working on learning targets this year. They want us to have one target for language arts and one target for math. As a music teacher, they want me to have one posted target for major concept for each half hour lesson, even though we do several things during a half hour. They also want us to assess that target. Most of our assessment as a music teacher is visual. That works well when our target is having each student conduct in 4/4 time, but sometimes, we need to know that each individual student knows something, either in written words or in written music.

I have thought carefully about how to assess without making my life more difficult, having over 500 students. I first made an exit card square on cardstock that I would have to cut out. Since I often have 10 or 11 half hour classes a day and 25 to 30 students in each, that would be a lot of cutting and a lot of paper, not to mention a lot of time to look at and record.

I came up with an idea last night to make an exit card that is write on/wipe off card with one side that has a place for writing letters and the other side a place for writing music. I am using vis a vis markers and they can wipe it off with a damp paper towel. I used it this morning with two 6th grade classes, and it worked well. I taught a lesson on Beethoven, reading out of the book on Beethoven from the series "Getting to Know the World's Great Composers". I love that they make it so relatable to the kids.

My Target was: "I can give some facts about a famous composer". I told them they would be expected to write down some facts at the end of class. I read some pages, talking about the meaning of things as I went. After we read a few pages, I asked students to tell me some things about Beethoven. Some of them could tell me a many things. We did several other things in our half hour, but at the end of class, I had each row go to their station, (see my stations HERE.) get an exit card and a vis a vis marker. Each student wrote down a few things he or she remembered and then came by the sink to show me. I checked what they had written, and gave them a small damp paper towel. They then erased it, put their materials away, and got in line. It worked pretty well. Now I just need to record the targets I have assessed. This one was easy. Every students hit the target. Some targets may be a little harder, but if I write down which students didn't hit the target and then quickly record the rest who did, it shouldn't be too hard.

Get my 2 sided Exit Card here.

See my general post on learning targets HERE. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Learning Targets

Our district has started to talk about posting your objectives or "targets" as they call them. Our beginning of the year district meeting was about it, and we will be studying the book, "Learning Targets" all year as a district. It is actually a pretty good book, and I am starting to understand how useful a learning target is.

I came up with something that will work for me. I made a heading for my music class, made labels for each grade and at the moment, am making I can statements using a free font named Schoolhouse Print. I got it from Pinterest. At the moment, I can't find it again. I might try using one of those white strips that you make big print on, laminating it and writing on it with write on wipe off markers. If I can store these strips, this could work. It might be too much effort, but it looks nice. This is not the best picture, but you'll get the idea. Also, I was working on getting a working chart, so I just got some ideas from random review lessons for each grade. I have two extra special education classes, thus the extra two names. Get my header and class numbers for FREE HERE. 

I have also included a second grade lesson plan (beginning of 2nd grade, so it is review) with targets for each activity, as well as the targets to print out. I only have room at this point to put one target per lesson for each grade, but I will tell the kid what my target is for each part.

Get my target header, grade level #'s, plus a sample (review) 2nd grade 
lesson with targets to print out Here.

EDIT: I have since put some of those writing strips schools have, taped them together and laminated them. I write my learning target in write on/wipe off marker in the morning and then wipe it off when I do a new one the next day. 

Evaluation of each target

They want us to evaluate each target. Most of it will be visual. I made a learning target card that I will laminate. It is two sided so you just fold it in half after you cut it out, and then glue it together. Kids will use vis a vie markers and will show it to me so I can see if they "got" it.

 Learning Target Exit Question Card

Get your card FREE HERE.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Around the World First Day- Introducing the theme of Music Around the World

I am very excited to do my theme of Music Around the World. See a post about it HERE and HERE.

I plan to have my room set up like an airplane (thanks for an idea from my favorite mentor teacher), 3 seats on each side, with an aisle down the middle.  I will greet the kids with a welcome to Transworld Airlines (didn't we used to have an airline named that?) and ask them to be seated.

I have been watching Power Teacher (see videos HERE). I will talk about expected behavior on the plane and in class using my own behavior plan (you can get it free HERE).

After that, I will hand out their passports (go to my post about it above), will hand out pencils, and they will write their names on them and will put their passports under their chairs. I will talk briefly about our theme for the year and how it will work.

We will take off for Africa, I will show this video of a 4 year old playing djembe. See it HERE. As I show the video, I will give them a small cup of something to drink. ( I borrowed the librarian's cart to put my drinks on).

When we "land", I will collect passports and we will tell the story of Nyyangara the Python from "the Singing Sack". It is a great story with a lovely song. I changed the "beer" in the story to "drink".

After the story, we will learn the song Tue, Tue (We will at least do the first part of the game with the clapping. We will then return home and class will be over. On the way back home, I will show a short clip of children's Wagago music. I will only have them listen to a short clip. See it HERE.

We end after we "land" and collect their passports.

UPDATE: After I spent a day with my first day classes, I wanted to add that I had 2nd through 6th graders today. It went well with all kids, even the 2nd graders, but they were very tired since they are not used to being at school, and I think I will try a song that is even more active for 1st and 2nd grade. I never do my yearly theme with the Kindergarteners. We do other things.

Motions for Tue Tue

One more thing, on Tue Tue, I pat legs twice, clap hands twice, then pat air twice (in later verses, you will be patting partners' hands). On the very last patting, you do the rhythm.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

My Pencils

I have my 5 stations (see the post about them HERE). In each station is a tray for my pencils. In order to try to keep as many of my pencils in my room as possible, I put a small music note on each one. I have had pretty good success with that.

I know you see them all over Pinterest, but I made my own sharp/flat pencil labels. They are legal size because I wanted to put them on a little bit bigger can. I used a Bush Beans can, but noticed that Campbells family sized soups are also in the same can. I used my handy dandy laminator to laminate them although the laminating pages are only 8 1/2 x 11 size. My school doesn't have a laminator for us to use. Then, I just put see through mailing tape on the back to seal it, hiding the unlaminated part underneath the overlapping label so you don't notice that it isn't laminated the whole way. Get your legal sized labels FREE HERE.

Flat/Sharp cans with words showing

Flat Sharp cans symbols showing

Kids are always wanting to sharpen pencils and it drives me crazy, so I plan to have the can of sharpened pencils  and the "flat" pencil can available so they can put their dull ones into the one can and they can take a sharpened one out of the other. Once in a while, I will take the time to sharpen a bunch and not have to pay much attention to the pencil issue. :-)

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Choir Music For My December Concert

I spent days looking through the JW Pepper site and listening to music. I LOVE that they have clips for many songs! After selecting tons of great pieces, some which I am ordering for next year (too many great songs), I found what I think is a good program. I try to balance sacred, secular, Christmas, major, minor, and tempo (feel) of the songs. I also have to be careful to choose things my choir can handle that are not too hard.

We have a patriotic assembly in the Fall. I have chosen "A Patriotic Salute" published by Heritage Choral Series [JW Pepper #3294554]. I love to find great medleys so my kids can be exposed to many different good songs. I also love the trumpet part and hope to be able to snag a friend of mine to play. :-)

Fall/Christmas concert

With the patriotic assembly and less time in the Fall, it is difficult to learn all of our songs, but somehow we do it. I have quite a bit of minor songs in here, although some are both major and minor, but it still feels like a good variety.

A Merry Merry Christmas [JW Pepper #10366601] - This is a great opening piece, a nice Major mode greeting, a nice bright and cheerful upbeat piece.

A Winter Carol [JW Pepper #3298587] - This is Huron Carol fro Canada and is in minor mode. It is a partner song, which makes it easy to learn. The website didn't have much of a clip for this one, so I will get to discover the rest of it when the music comes. I am doing a "music around the world" theme this year, so I am excited to do some songs from other countries.

Festive Fa La La [JW Pepper #10047763] - This is VERY fun, a Christmas song, but with easy words to learn with the only words being fa la la. It is in both major and minor mode and has parts of the melody  from "Deck the Halls".

In Winter [JW Pepper #10028789] - This is a gorgeous song about Winter that is in both major and minor mode. I love that is has a solo in several places. This song has been stuck in my head so much since I first heard it.

Frosty Winter Snow [JW Pepper #100929821] - This is a Russian folksong that will be great for my "music around the world" theme this year. It is in minor mode and has a great Russian feel. I am really interested to see how the accompaniment sounds with piano when I get the music.

A La Nanita Nana [JW Pepper #10067774] - This is my one fully sacred song. It is a traditional Spanish carol and again fits with my "music around the world" theme. I love that this mixes a little Spanish with the English, although it is very little. I also love that it has some instruments with it. It is mixes major and minor mode.

Christmas in About 3 minutes [JW Pepper #3254208] Let me just say that I REALLY dislike the name of this song, but it is a great medley of many traditional Christmas songs, both sacred and secular. I love exposing the kids to many songs that they might not ever learn. It will be a great ending to our concert.

I may change the order or even switch out a song, but for now, I love my program. I am now ready to prepare them for teaching in a few weeks!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Recorder: Getting Started

My recorder program, begun by my favorite mentor teacher, is based on folk songs, many that the kids have learned since they were in Kindergarten and first grade. I love how we learn the songs, play the games, learn to read and write music using them, and ultimately, play the songs on instruments. It makes so much sense.

I have decided to start recorder in 5th grade. All the grades leading up to that are spent getting the foundations of music under their belt.

Two years ago, I made major changes in the way I teach recorder and improved it more this past year, and it has been a tremendous success. The kids LOVE it and they learn to play well.


I begin the year doing many different songs, but also incorporate the songs with games that the students will be learning on recorder. The students know how much the other years' 5th graders loved recorder, so they are begging to begin. We spend months learning our songs, singing them, reviewing the games, doing the sol-fa by sight and with our hands. We progress to reading notes on each song. This year I plan to spend some extra time playing some note reading games to be sure they are solid.


During this time, we talk about what will happen when we start recorder so the kids get very excited. I don't hand out a note for the kids to take home until it is a week or two from starting because if a student takes home a recorder but doesn't know how to play, that can be very frustrating. Because I have both English and Spanish Speaking parents, I send the note home in both languages. We have enough recorders at school for each student to use one there. The note gives them the opportunity to buy one for $5 for home use. Many of them eventually buy a recorder as they get excited about it. I have a letter in both English and Spanish in MS WORD, so you can edit it. Get it  for free HERE.


Every student gets a school owned instrument. Each instrument is numbered and sits on a recorder stand for his or her class in seating chart order. For instance the first student in the front corner would be B-1 (the B is based on teacher name). See my post on making your own recorder stands here.

I use crates for my music and utility boxes to keep track of my yarn and beads. See my organization, both past and present  and get free labels here.


Finally, when it is time to start, I use this process:

1. I teach about care and how to hold the instrument before I even get it into their hands. I have talked about being careful with instruments from the time they are in Kindergarten, even with rhythm sticks, so they know that instruments are precious and require great care.

2.  On the first day of play, we talk about rules in recorder Before they get it in their hands. These are the rules we learn about.

3. We learn how to hold the recorder with the left hand and discuss the fact that if the note doesn't come out, there are only two possible reasons: Either they are blowing incorrectly, too soft or too loud; or they are not covering the holes. Get the recorder rules of etiquette  for free HERE.


4. I teach C and A first. We work on C as a group, showing them the note on the board, as well as the fingering with it, and then one row at a time plays their C for the class. I fix problems as I go. Then I will play C's in various patterns and they will copy. We then work on A in the same manner. We play the first song, "Old Mother Witch" to begin. They have known this song and game since Kindergarten and love it. The look on their faces when they can actually play this song is priceless.


5. In the beginning of playing recorder, we do all of our work in a group, as written above. We work on a song and then pass it off in groups of 2 or 3 at at time. I give them a piece of yarn for the first song of the white belt and a bead for the second song. If a belt has 3 songs, they get 2 yarn belts and one bead. They love getting the beads.

I buy almost everything from You can get large bags of pony beads for less than $6. See beads HERE.

I get the 1 inch ACCO loose leaf rings from amazon HERE.

******It is wise to spend some time talking about tying a double knot so the beads don't fall off. Even so, you will find beads on your floor off and on. Oh well.

Students earn belts in the following order:

White - 2 songs
Yellow - 3 songs
Orange - 3 songs
Green- 3 songs
Blue - 3 songs
Purple - 3 songs
Red - 2 songs
Brown - 2 songs
Black - 2 songs


After students finish the orange belt (the third belt), they begin to earn small prizes that I purchase from Oriental trading company. For each belt after that, they earn a small prize, only when the entire belt is passed off. When a student has passed off all belts, their recorder will look quiet colorful like this:

Once they get a black belt, I take their picture with my cell phone and put it onto a chart with many extra squares that I post on my bulletin board.  I insert the picture digitally in the black space.

The kids all love watching everyone earn extra belts. Below is my black belt chart, on which the students glue the extra belt icons they earn after they earn black belt. I will post my Black belt music soon and write another post about the extra belts I have developed in another post.


My favorite mentor actually developed the original black belt system, using mostly songs from our district curriculum. I have made changes to some songs, and I just rewrote all of the music in Sibelius, my music composition program. I made it prettier, changed some songs to work better, and put fingerings with the new note name(s) for the belt, with the note(s) on the staff on each page. 

After the preparation I do before I hand the kids a recorder, some of my students get their black belt in a few weeks. I have spent hundreds of hours making extra belts that go with the chart above for when students have earned a black belt, many that are suggestions of the students. That is how we accomplish so much. Check out my Recorder Mega Pack HERE.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Instruments from Around the World

I am so excited about my theme this year: Music Around the World! See my post all about it here.

I keep finding fun stuff to use. These instruments around the world cards are great! Go to this lady's blog to get them here. I plan to use both sets because even though the one set is more ordinary instruments that we use in school, many of them originally came from other places. There are a total of 48 cards. Very excited!

All About Me Spotlight

I like to do a spotlight on my 6th graders, since they are the oldest in the school. It makes them feel special. I made a new spotlight paper for this year.

 Get it here.

I have the students fill it out in the first few days of school. Then I will spotlight one student every time the class comes. I have a jar with a small treat for the student I spotlight. I read things about the student and the other students guess. You could use it for any grade, but I just use it for my oldest kids.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Make Your Own Recorder Stands

My room is very small, so where to put things is a real issue for me. I liked the recorder stands that I saw in catalogs, but they were around $50 each.

West Music Recorder Stand

I was at a workshop and a lady had made one and was kind enough to tell me how she did it. So, I went to Home Depot and got a long white pressboard.

I had them cut it into  14 inch boards and got three boards, plus an extra small one, on which I keep my personal recorders plus extra ones for new kids who come into the class midyear.

I marked 36 spots with dots on it and had one of my neighbors who had a drill press drill the holes. The dots were about an inch from the edge and 2 1/4 inches apart.

I bought 1/4 inch wooden dowels and marked them for 3 1/2 inch lengths and that same neighbor cut them. I sanded the end that would be sticking up and glued them in the holes with wood glue.

They are fabulous, and it only cost me $12 (more if you have to buy the wood glue)!! I have numbers on my recorders and my three stands sit on my piano. Each student is assigned a school recorder that stays at school. I have my seating chart with each student's recorder # listed in their assigned spot. The students have the option to buy a recorder for home use for $5. About 3/4 of the kids end up buying a recorder.

During the year, I sometimes move students if their spot is not working, but I usually don't move the recorder since they have gotten used to where their spot is. Some students don't put away their recorder properly, so sometimes kids have a hard time finding theirs, but we don't sweat it too much. It seems to work pretty well.  

My recorder stands

I have three 5th grade classes. I put papers on them that have the seating chart with numbers to help students remember their numbers. I made a black belt recorder system that my 5th graders love. I just use yarn and pony beads as they pass off songs. See how I organize my recorder music, yarn and beads HERE. The kids love seeing their recorders become very colorful.   See my post about how I start recorders with my students HERE.You can get my black belt system free. 

Get my FREE Black belt system HERE.

If you want to go even further to challenge your students, get my Mega Recorder belt system that goes beyond the black belt with 70 extra belts, charts on which they put pictures for the belts they pass off, games and more. Get it HERE.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

North, South, East West

I have several songs that talk about North, South, East, and West. One is "North, South, East, West". The other is "Little Sally Saucer".

I made new signs to put up this year. Get them here.

Recorder Music and Materials Organization

I began recorder by doing a black belt program for which the students progress through 24 songs to get 9 different belts. My first year, five students achieved a black belt and only because they came in extra times before school.

In the school year (2011-2012), I changed how I prepared and taught the recorder and it was a huge success. Every student in the fifth grade got a black belt and many earned up to 25 extra belts.

This past year (2012-2013), I continued how we did it but pushed the kids more and let them suggest new belts and again, every student earned a black belt and we now have extra 57 belts. At least 8 students filled up their whole extra belt chart and about 4 students earned every single belt.  I will write several more posts about my recorder prep and procedures in the near future.

When I started recorders, I just used a plastic embroidery floss box I bought at Walmart for a few dollars.  They also sell them on for a little more.

embroidery floss box

My box looked like this:

I put my regular belt music into a plastic crate with file folders. The kids would get music as needed and put it away when done. I also have a music crate for my extra belt music. I told the students who have their own recorder that they could take music home if they were going to practice. Here is a picture of the regular belt music crate. I would just put it on a counter. I put my extra belt pictures and yarn into a similar crate this year and it worked okay, but as the students became tutors and began passing off more and more belts, it was not efficient enough. Here is the crate with the extra belts in alphabetical order.

After making my teacher Teacher toolbox that has my 9 regular belt materials plus various teacher supplied that I need, I decided to make one with all smaller drawers for the extra belts the students earn.

 My regular belt teacher toolbox (click on Teacher Toolbox above to read more about it).

Each drawer for my extra belts (below) has my recorder icons (picture they put on their chart) and the yarn to go with the belt. I got a drawer with boxes all the same size on I justified the cost because I use it for half of the year, and it will make things go much more smoothly. See the 64 drawer cabinet from

64 drawer craft cabinet

I took my icons that I use for the students to put on their Black belt recorder charts and made labels for the drawers. It is going to work well. I even have room for some of the new belts we will come up with!

Friday, August 2, 2013

Stations to Make Your Class Run Smoothly

A great mentor who I worked with my first year as a part time 2nd teacher had stations around her room at which students quickly got their materials. I loved the idea and tweaked it to work for me.

I usually have my classes in 5 rows, ideally around 5 kids each, but sometimes up to 6 in a row if I have more than 25 students in a class. In Kindergarten, I just have 4 rows and near the end of the year, I use the stations for them to start getting them used to using them. This procedure becomes the procedure I use in every grade. It helps students to get their materials quickly so we don't waste time in our short 30 minutes of class time. 

I have 5 stations around the room. Each station is an inexpensive plastic crate-- the kind they sell at the beginning of year for college kids. At the station is a music write on/wipe off board. I got them at West music, and although they are expensive, I use them a lot. I also have an inexpensive white tray that I got at Walmart with pencils in it. On top are clipboards so the kids can write on a hard surface when we have paper and pencil work. Beside the station is a tray for their work. There are crayons in a pile at the station as well. 

At the beginning of the year, we review how to line up at the stations. The first row in front of me goes to station 1. The second goes to stations 2, etc. They are to line up in a straight line and one student at a time gets his or her clipboard and a pencil (crayons if needed). Then they come to me for the paper they need. I have gotten in the habit of singing "Clipboard, pencil, come and get a paper" to help the kids remember what they need to do. They have gotten into the habit of singing it as they go get them.

When the students are done, I sing, "clipboard, pencil, put away your paper" and the students take their boards and pencils back and put their papers in the tray next to their station. I emphasize putting the clipboards in a nice order and straight, so they don't fall all over. I also emphasize putting pencils into the pencil tray, crayons back where you found them, and papers in the tray beside the station. I compliment rows that get things put away nicely and eventually, they get pretty good at it. 

This system works very well for me and helps to keep things from getting congested.

Get your free station labels here.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Around the World- My Theme for the Year

Every year, I come up with or borrow ideas for a theme for the year. This year, I am doing an around the world theme.

I bought a map from and plan to show the kids the map as we sing a song from another country, so they will know where the country is in relation to where we live. I looked at several different maps and this one looked the most interesting and got great reviews. Nice thing is that it comes laminated! It is pretty small, but that works well for me since I have a small room and not much white board space. I used magnets on my white board to post it and put it low so that all of the children will be able to look at it.

World MAP Kids Geography Educational Poster Art

I made a passport for each student. There are three spots under each country. You could hole punch or stamp or even just make a mark on your passport when you sing a song. I will sing three songs for some countries and only one for others, but the three spaces gives me the option. I have made them in both black and White and color. I plan to use small black and white ones for each student and a large color one for each class.

The class passport is 4 1/2" x 6 3/4". The individual one is 2 1/2" by 3 3/4".

Bulletin Boards

Music is a Universal Language

I have two bulletin boards related to my theme. One outside my room will say "Music is a universal Language".

It has many of my world posters on it with some world clipart. I spent many hours making posters for the countries for which we will sing songs. My room is very small, so I have very little room for posting things. I have put the world posters on several bulletin boards, as well as my wall, and will also use them when I introduce the countries. I will probably use the promethean board to show the posters when I introduce the countries. 

Traveler of the Day

I will put the passports in pockets for each class on my "Traveler of the Day" board. You could put your passports in alphabetical order for each class if you want to use them during class. I have so little time during class and so many kids that I will probably mark our class passport during the year and then have the kids mark their passports at the end of the year before they take them home. Each day, we will take the first passport from the class's pocket and move it to the back. The next student will be the Traveler of the Day. What does the Traveler of the Day do?

He or she:

1. Gets to sit on my music VIP chair for the class period
2. Gets to give the class points. See my piano point system for the year
3. Gets unlimited drinks, as long as he or she are not disturbing everyone
4. Gets to go to the bathroom once without asking (must take the pass)
5. Gets to be the first to take turns in any activity we do, such as a games or vocal play with puppets
6. Gets to wear one of my traveler hats (my son is bringing home a sombrero and poncho from             Mexico, and I will find at least one other costume)

Get printouts of all passports, world posters, songs list, and bulletin board items here:

World Theme passports, bulletin boards, World posters, and song list

Read about My Around the World Behavior/ class reward chart here:

An Around the World Behavior Chart

I have been using the same behavior chart for the past 4 years. I have been having my person of the day put up tickets each time a class has a good day or does something especially well. This year, I got lazy with it and didn't do it during class. I feel like it has lost its appeal, at least for me.

I decided to design something to go with my "Around the World" theme for the year. Each class will have it's own Around the world chart. I keep the charts in separate drawers for each grade. The tourist of the day will go get it and put it up. As the class does something well or has a great day, the tourist of the day will advance a child from around the world the number of spaces I choose. There are 30 spaces. Once a class has moved around the world, the class will get to choose an activity to do. I have class twice a week-- 8 times a month if it is a normal month. So ideally, they would get around the world in a month. I need to average an advance of about 4 spots a day in that case. So they will get an extra game when they go around each time. I think I will tell them that when they get around the world three times, they get 15 minutes of games. When they go around 3 more times, they will get 1/2 hour of games. When they get around it 3 more times, they will get a special treat for the class. That will happen by the end of the year.

Around the World Behavior Chart

It is available in 8 1/2 x 11 page size or 11 x 17 paper size. It includes 12 different children from around the world, as well as teacher name plates you can velcro onto your chart.  I am going to use sticky tack to move the child. I think that will work the best for me.

These children are included:

Choose from the following fonts: