Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Summer Tips for Making Your Next School Year Easier

Once the school year starts, it feels like a sprint where I can hardly catch my breath. Whatever new organization or ideas I plan to use must be thought of before I start the year, but I also need to take plenty of time to renew my batteries for the next year. I have written down some ideas for how to make the next school year easier. 

I put so much into my teaching, as many good teachers do, and get so burned out during the year. It is really important for me to do things that charge my battery. We are all different, so what charges my battery will be different from what charges someone else's battery. Be sure to link up or comment at the bottom with your ideas! 

I charge my battery by traveling to see family, by creating my new theme for the next year, by evaluating my last year, and as an introvert, by spending plenty of time relaxing by myself, spending time in beautiful outdoor places that make me feel peace. 

I am sure I am not the only who who feels that there is never enough time during the year to cultivate those relationships that are important to me. I am currently visiting my family in Ohio. My dad has Parkinson's disease and won't be around long, so this is an important time for me to spend with him and other family members.

I have dear neighbors who I rarely get to spend time with during the school year that I plan to do things with this summer.

I do take some time during the year to spend with my sons and their wives, my grandchildren, and my daughter, but in the summer, I take even more time to do things with them. That is really important to me. 

When in the middle of a hectic school year is not the time to carefully evaluate things. Once you are done with the year is a great time to evaluate what went well and what you want to change. 

My end of the year was extremely hectic, no doubt because I went out of town for a week with my husband to a conference in San Jose since I hadn't taken my 5 vacation days. I do Kindergarten coloring books, first grade beat books, and 2nd grade books of a folk song that the kids make up verses and draw pictures of. Before I left, I madly worked hours and hours to put together the first and 2nd grade books, so my substitute could use them to do relevant things while I was gone. I always hand out my kindergarten book and my first grade beat book pages and have kids color them, or write down the beats, leave them in file folders of each song and then put the books together at the end of the year. I have never wanted to make the books at the beginning of the school year because I was worried that kids would ruin the books or have a hard time finding pages. In retrospect, I have decided it will be worth the time and effort to teach the students how to be careful with their books in order for me to not have such a hectic end of the year. I've already sent in my print order for next year. 

I do my 5th grade recorder program that has become a tradition in my school and kids aspire to learn and to earn recorder belts. This year, my 3 classes earned an average of 50 belts per student. I give the students yarn and beads for their belts leading up to their black belt and yarn for their extra belts. The yarn is really inexpensive but takes time to cut. You can read about my free recorder program here. 

I do a teddy bear picnic that is a highlight for my kindergarteners. I do a fun 3 Bear's Jive song and have cute Goldilocks and the 3 bears manipulatives I use and decided last year to give each student their own set. I also have each student color a mask to go with "Going on a Bear Hunt". Why do I do these things? I guess because the kids love it so much. 

I would get bored if I didn't have new things to look forward to each school year. I have a new theme each year, which the kids love. I plan to do a pirate theme next year. I am excited to get started on this fun theme. You can read about how I do a theme of the year here. 

In order to make my year easier, I plan to cut out my yarn and 3 bears manipulatives and masks ahead of time. I can do this in the beautiful outdoors where it is peaceful. I also plan to get some of my best 5th and 6th grade workers together for a day or two to help me. I know which kids are great workers. I mentioned to a couple of them that I'd like to bring them into school to help me this summer. I plan to buy them pizza and give them a few dollars to take to the dollar store. They are very excited about helping. I know it will make my year easier. A new theme gets me excited to come back again, so I also plan to work on my pirate theme over the summer. 

These are just a few tips that will make my year easier. I'd love to hear what you do to make your next year easier. Leave comments below or link up your post below using this graphic. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Music Education Blog Carnival

I am excited to be the host of the blog carnival with great posts from April. 

First, check out my friend Shelley's post about Music Teacher First Year Flashbacks.  She will be doing a series of posts about how she and other teachers did their first year of teaching. 

I also linked with Shelley to tell you about my first year in teaching. Read my post titled, "Music First Year Teacher Flashback". 

Next, check out David's (Make Moments Matter) post on using colored paper clips for form and classroom management. What a clever idea! Read his post titled, "Link up! Cumluative Form and Classroom Management". 

Check out Elizabeth's post from "Organized Chaos" on lesson ideas for the end of the year. She gives several ideas such as Hula Hoop conductor, Soundscapes,  Going Downtown, and Silly Sounds. Those names just make you curious. What fun ideas! Check out her post titled, "Elementary Music" Lesson Ideas for the End of the Year". 

Check out Mrs King's blog post about making a fun teacher appreciation gift using a 2 liter pop bottle. She always has such clever ideas! Check out "A Popular Teacher Appreciation Idea"! 

I have always LOVED crafts and Jennifer of Music Educator Resources has a wonderful post about music crafts that kids can make. I love it and am excited to try some of these. Check out her post titled, "Music Crafts For Your Group Activities". 

I am also excited to have you read my friend Jennifer Hibbard's post on her blog, "The Yellow brick Road". She has written a post about doing Maypole activities. What a fun activity for this month! Check out her post named, "All Around the Maypole". 

Finally, I am excited to share Jennifer's post from her blog "Sing to Kids" about children's literature in the music classroom. I love sharing fun books that relate to music and she has some fabulous ideas! Be sure to read her post titled, "Children's Literature: Spring into music". 

I hope you have enjoyed reading these fantastic posts! If you want to read blog carnivals from prior months or to know how to host the blog carnival click here. 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Best End of the Year Lessons: Juba and Folk Instruments

Every year, at the end of the year, when my sixth graders are ready to be done with elementary school, and when they are on the verge of not listening anymore, I get out my folk instruments. We learn Juba, a song about how the slaves would get the leftover scraps to eat. It has really fun hand slapping called hambone that is contagious. The kids love doing these movements and singing this song. I first start by talking about the meaning of the song after we sing it- that the leftovers, such as the husk of the corn, the crust of the bread, and the skin of the meat are given to the slave mom's to cook. The kids' mouths hang open in disbelief. We discuss how it is so nasty that the song says it killed the yellow cat. 

It is best to learn the song first before you start teaching the hands, because once you teach the hands, it is hard to get them to stop. We sing the song a few class periods before we start doing the hands. Watch a video of me singing the song first. Where the X's are in the song, I make hand signals for rest. That is hardest part of the song- getting the rests, but the kids love it, so they get it pretty quickly. You are ready to do the hands when they can sing it pretty well without getting into the rests. Here is a video of me singing the song.

After your students learn the song well, then you can teach the hand movements and finally add the hambone to the song. I did my best to show you the hambone hand movements.

Once we have gotten the song and hands started, we watch a favorite video I love called "Folk Rhythms" by David Holt. I know it ages me, but I grew up watching David Holt do all kinds of fun folk instruments and mouth sounds on a show my dad used to watch called "Hee Haw". Mr Holt is amazing and when he came to our area a few years ago, I got to see him. You can see him play fun folk instruments and do mouth sounds on this video. It is really fascinating and the kids love it. Luckily, you can also find parts of this video on youtube, in case you can't purchase the video. 

The first folk instrument we do is paper bags. I bought a big pack of paper bags about 6 years ago at Sam's Club and I just use about 30 a year and still have tons. I ask the students to be gentle with the bags and reuse them with multiple classes. The medium sized bag works well- not the lunch size. If you don't have the folk video, you can just open your bag and put some air into it, fold the top down and tuck it a bit under your left arm.  Hit the bag in quarter notes with a stronger beat on 2 and 4. Play it along with your Juba song to practice. 

Here is a video on youtube of David Holt playing the paper bag (fancy rhythms) along with a man playing the bones. I'd love to get some of those bones to learn how to do those too! 

The next instrument we learn to play is the spoons. I got some cheater spoons and later realized that real spoons aren't so hard to play. I got some cheap ones at walmart in the housewares section. Ideally, you'd get a little nicer ones. I have enough that there are some for every student. 

Once again David Holt has a youtube video that teaches you to play spoons. The kids will absolutely love this. Again, play your spoons along with your Juba song to get practice. 

The final instrument we play is the washboard. I have bought a few washboards a year and now have enough for half of a class, so we only have to do two rounds of washboards within one class to get everyone a turn. I have the rest of the class practice their Juba hambone movements while half of them are playing washboards. The Folk Instrument video has kids tap on the board in quarter notes with 2 and 4 being stronger. If you don't have the video, there are some interesting youtube videos to show you some fancy washboard playing. Again, add your washboard playing to your Juba. 

Finally divide your class into 4 groups and work together to play a nice ensemble, including Juba, paper bags, washboard, and spoons.  So much fun!

Link up your favorite end of the year blog posts below!