Jedi Music

A Resource for the Beginning Elementary Music Teacher


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Old Black Fly"

Here is another find from the local public library: "Old Black Fly" by Jim Aylesworth and illustrated by Stephen Gammell.  The melody for the book is "Buffalo Gals".   The book is organized as an alphabet book with the old black fly doing everything from eating apple pie, to stealing jelly, snoozing on a quilt, and finally "zzzzzzz-ing" his way to being swatted.
This is another nice wrap-up to a music lesson, especially if you are working on call and response songs with your students.


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "We're Going on a Lion Hunt"

Here is another variation on "We're Going on a Bear Hunt"; this time we are hunting lions! "We're Going on a Lion Hunt" by David Axtell is a great book for students to invent their own creative movements to reflect the story.

"In this charming rendition of a well-known children's chant, two sisters are looking not for a bear but for a lion- a lion that lives on the African savanna, where the girls go through swishy swashy long grass, a splishy slpashy lake, and a Big Dark Cave. When they finally meet their lion, they have to run, run, run through it all again to get back home."


 This postcard appeared last week (1/22/2012) on, and my reaction to it is the same as any other time I hear of any kind of innappropriate relationships between students and teachers.  WHAT WERE THEY (THE ADULTS) THINKING!!!!????

A simple google search will turn up loads of evidence of both male and female teachers who carried on sexual relationships with their current students.  If these teachers cannot find a date in any of the usual ways available and legal in 2012, and choose to resort to their own students as a pool of available candidates for a date, could they do all of us a favor and PLEASE FIND A NEW PROFESSION?


Would Abby Lee Make It As a Public School Teacher?

I've been hearing about "Dance Moms" for months now, and finally caught an episode last night.  For those who haven't heard, Abby Lee Miller is a dance teacher and her drama-filled studio* is the subject of the Lifetime network series "Dance Moms".  As a teacher, I loathe the teaching methods Abby uses with her students; in the episode I saw last night she taught mainly by screaming directions and berating/belittling her students.  She doesn't have any better behavior reserved for the moms who pay tuition for their daughters to learn from her; she treats them just as poorly as the girls.  (Not that the behavior of the moms is exemplary...)


Make Your Own: "Ribbon Wands"

There are terrific products out there for teaching music...but who can afford them all?  Sometimes I devise ways to make my own for much less money.

Some time ago I bought rainbow ribbon wands at  My students and I love using them for performances, showing phrases in music, creative movement, and many other activities.  But $26.00 (plus shipping) for only 6 makes the cost too prohibitive to have enough wands to involve an entire class of students in an activity.


Audition Help (always wanted!)

Back on January 1, I shared that an important lesson I've learned is to never be afraid to ask for (and in that particular case, pay for) help.  As this past week I auditioned my elementary chorus students for solo singing and speaking parts in our musical revue, "The Lion King", I realized that I've been asking for help for years when it comes to our elementary school auditions.

Collaborating with my colleagues is something that I really enjoy, and when I started producing musicals at the elementary level, I valued their opinions and input when casting the students.  So, I sent out an email asking for help to all staff at both of my buildings, and together with my volunteers, we listen to each student sing, read, and then worked on the cast list together.  Often, the other teachers on the audition team serve as extra eyes and ears and may catch something that I missed.

Not every music director likes to work in this way, but I appreciate the extra insight that my fellow teachers can provide.  For example, before entrusting a large role to a student, I consult their classroom teacher on how reliable they are in the classroom.  This is often a valuable indicator of how well the student will memorize lines and songs.


Introducing...This Year's Chorus Shirt!

In "Spotlight on Music: Ways to Promote Your Music Program", I mentioned t-shirts as a great way to promote your music program.  While it is an extra effort in a busy teacher's schedule to collect money and orders for t-shirts, I feel it is well worth the effort.  The students love the colorful shirts they chose this year and wear them often.

Here is the process I use to obtain t-shirts for the chorus:

  1. Contact the t-shirt business and ask them to develop three samples of designs for the students to choose from.
  2. The students vote on their favorite shirt design and also vote on a color.  (This year multi-color tie dye won the vote!)
  3. Distribute order forms listing choice of sizes and cost of the shirt, and also listing a deadline for the return of the order forms and money.
  4. Collect order forms and money.
  5. When orders are complete, and money is collected, submit order and payment to the t-shirt business.
  6. When shirts arrive, distribute to the excited students!
  7. Enjoy spotting our chorus t-shirts in class, in the halls of the school, and out in the community...and, of course, don't forget wearing them for performances!
Be ready for these issues:
  1. Many students will miss the deadline, lose their order forms and need multiple copies of the order form, and will need many reminders about turning in their order forms and money.
  2. Learn the return/remake policy of the t-shirt business, in case of shirts not fitting properly, or if students order the wrong size.
  3. Some student's families may be in financial crisis and cannot afford the cost of the shirt.
    Ask your parent-teacher group if they will assist in covering the cost of the t-shirt for students in need.  If they cannot do this, ask permission of your principal to have a small easy fund raiser, such as a jean day for the staff to raise money to cover these shirts.


Marvelous Music Makers: "Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes"

A CD that has been enjoyed by my students is "Jim Gill Sings The Sneezing Song and Other Contagious Tunes".  I love that many of the songs focus on following directions (a vital skill!) and are still very fun.  Many musical skills and objectives for young students and special needs students are addressed in this CD as well. 

Here are some of our favorite songs from this collection:


Vocal Timbre Practice with the Three Bears

My kindergarten language support students love a good snuggle with a stuffed animal, as witnessed in a recent music class.  We had three visitors: Papa, Mama, and Baby Bear, right out of the story "Goldilocks and the Three Bears".  Using stuffed animals in the lesson helped some of my shy students gain more courage to try out their low, medium, and high voices.

A special purchase of three stuffed bears was not necessary.  As most moms will attest, stuffed animals seem to mysteriously MULTIPLY in a home with children. The kids seem to receive them as gifts, win them at church picnics, and before you know it, you have a house overrun with stuffed critters!  For the bears used for this lesson, I just searched through the collection and found three of different sizes, and off to school they went.  If you don't have children of your own, try asking a mom you know...she'll probably be glad to donate some bears for you to use!