Jedi Music

A Resource for the Beginning Elementary Music Teacher


Merry Christmas!

May you have the Merriest Christmas enjoying your loved ones!


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Christmas Mice!"

Just as "Halloween Mice!" was a great book for a creative movement activity, so is the equally fun "Christmas Mice!" also by Bethany Roberts and illustrated by Doug Cushman.

"The holiday mice are back! It’s Christmas time and the four cheerful mice merrily hang stockings, string popcorn, wrap presents, and sing carols. The little mice are so caught up in their joyful preparations that they almost forget to look out for their old enemy, the cat. Happily, their Christmas spirit is so infectious that even the cat is not immune. Simple, lively verse and colorful, action-filled illustrations convey the all anticipation and goodwill that come with the Yuletide season in this delightful read-aloud." -from

Here are my ideas for using this book in music class:


Songs You Already Know: "In the Stable"
  My son (currently age 8), when he was in preschool, learned this cute song for a Christmas program.  It was such a favorite that he taught it to me, and we still enjoy singing it around the house during the Christmas season.  I have not been able to find the resource where this cute song can be found. 

Here are coloring pages to go with each verse; it would be a great idea to print the words of each verse along with the coloring page picture.  For your students who love to color (My five year old daughter is one of those!) they will be delighted to have a picture to color while learning the song.  For those students who do not enjoy coloring (such as my son!), they will still have a good visual representation of each verse to help them learn the words.

All around the sky that night,

The angel light was beaming.
Every shepherd said to himself
"Hey, I must be dreaming!"

The Angel said,

"Do not be afraid, you are not in any danger
Jesus Christ the Savior's been born;
Go see him in the manger."
Every shepherd hurried to town

As fast as they were able
They found God's Son asleep on the hay
Where? In the stable!

Song You Already Know: "Pop Goes the Weasel"


More Christmas Music Books

Included in my Caroling post were two books I use as resources for Christmas music: The Usbourne Book of Christmas Carols and Wee Sing for Christmas.  In addition to these two books, here are three more beautiful and useful books for Christmas carols from my collection.  I've had these for so long that they are really inexpensive to buy used at this point, and you know the music is going to be back in style each December!


Caroling (outside of the school setting)

Sometimes, when you are a music teacher, you are asked to help out with musical tasks in other venues.  Sunday Schools, Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Brownies, Girl Scouts, and church youth groups are some organizations that you may be part of, and they also enjoy Christmas caroling at this time of year!

In the public school setting, we focus on the most secular of Christmas tunes for caroling.  On the other hand, caroling with groups outside of the school setting gives us a chance to broaden the repetoire of music to include the beautiful sacred songs of the season.  If you are caroling to residents of nursing homes or elderly neighbors, the sacred songs are the ones that they enjoy the most.  I love to see when the people we are visiting sing right along with us!


Hot, hot, hot...Hot Chocolate!

On Monday, I wrote about our caroling plans for school...and what Christmas caroling experience is complete without the hot chocolate?  My students bring the cookies, but I provide hot chocolate, with the help of many crock pots!

Both of these recipes are from the Fix-It and Forget-It Big Cookbook by Phyllis Pellman Good.  I've adapted them to fit into a busy teacher's schedule.


Caroling (in the school setting)

The Christmas season is in full swing, and it's no longer "too early" to be hearing the old familiar Christmas tunes everywhere!

One of my "fun activities" for my chorus students is caroling.  Many schools may not have the budget available for busing to go caroling at a nursing home, but that doesn't have to keep you from spreading holiday cheer through caroling right in your school.


Stretching My Boundaries

Always, I've considered myself an elementary teacher, and never desired to expand my teaching horizons further than sixth grade.  Especially in the music teaching realm, I like that I get to be the fun special class, and that I don't have overwhelming pressure to have the perfect concert.  Enjoying the process of making music is more important to me than picking and choosing who the best musicians are at this age.  My goal is to allow everyone to enjoy music and expand their own musical knowledge.

However, at the end of the summer, when I was offered a supplemental activity that would include grades 7-12, I was excited at the new prospect.  Soon, my days are going to get even busier than usual, because I am the new vocal director for our high school musical!  As someone who grew up performing in musical theater, (actually I would love to still be doing community theater if I wasn't so busy with teaching and family) this was an offer and opportunity that would have been very difficult to pass by. 


The Journey to the Concert Destination

Focus on the journey, not the destination.
Joy is found not in finishing an activity, but in doing it.
-Greg Anderson

It is better to travel well than to arrive.

To a music educator at this time of year, these quotes take on a new meaning in the context of CONCERT SEASON!! Many music teachers are either expected to, or contractually obligated to produce both a holiday concert and spring concert.  For many the past months have been the "journey" portion of the music process; the practicing done alone, in small groups, and in large group situations.  The "destination" portion of the music process begins now in the holiday season, with the holiday concert.


Evaluation systems discourage student teachers??

Sigh.  Here's one more thing that makes a career in teaching unappealing...some states adopting tough teacher evaluation systems as law are actually discouraging schools from allowing student teachers to get their experience.

Of course teachers need to be evaluated, but so many states' lawmakers are pushing evaluation systems through quickly without thought to how effective they will really be.  Is the system effective if it relies on student test scores? Teachers can only control what goes on in their classroom during school hours...home life makes a huge difference in the success of the student.  And what about us in the special subject areas?  We do not administer standardized tests in our subject area, and in my district, my students do not receive a grade for music.  How does that translate into a teacher evaluation?

Teacher evaluation systems should not discourage districts from allowing student teachers to teach in the schools.  My principals have always welcomed the extra help in the classrooms, and everyone sees student teaching as a positive asset to our schools.  We should be using the evaluation system as a tool to identify the most effective teachers, who should be the ones mentoring the student teachers. 


The Responsive Classroom

This past week's mentoring meeting focused on The Responsive Classroom.  While the focus is on use in the classroom teaching realm, I find so many elements that can be reinforced or adopted into the music class every time I learn more about Responsive Classroom.  So much of the material is very applicable to music education.

"Responsive Classroom is a widely used, research-backed approach to elementary education that increases academic achievement, decreases problem behaviors, improves social skills, and leads to more high-quality instruction."


What are we doing today?

My students ask me this question often, and these magnets I made help me keep it all organized:

I used heavy cardboard, large die-cut numbers, smaller die-cut letters, glued, laminated, cut out, and added magnets on the back.  Very durable, and well worth the time investment...these still look great in their seventh year of use (just a little dusty from chalk, that's all!)


Teacher Attitudes: THANKFULNESS

As a music teacher, I am thankful for...

1. My job
2. Finding newfound inspiration in blogging that makes my job a joy
3. Terrific co-workers
4. Reliable babysitters
5. My children who are happy to let me bounce new ideas off them, and give me their honest opinions
6. My students who are always willing to try something new
7. The online music education community who helps out when my own ideas are running dry
8. Thanksgiving vacation! Enjoy!


Seasonal Bulletin Boards

I'm trying something new this year: student-created Seasonal Bulletin Boards.  In the past, I found that it was very time consuming to devise bulletin boards for each month, by the time I completed one, it was time to start over on the next month!  Next, I switched to bulletin boards that could stay up months at a time, but I really missed the changes and was tired of looking at the same things all the time. 

For November's bulletin board, I took a Thanksgiving song that we learned, and added some turkeys to color.  I gave copies to my kindergarten students to color if they chose to during their indoor recess time, and the ones that they returned to me were stapled on my fabric-covered bulletin board.  Easy and fast!


Spotlight on Special Subjects

Our school district hosted "Parent's Visitation Day" as a part of American Education Week last week, and my classes were involved in a news broadcast of the school's TV station on that special day. It was a fun time, and this activity really helped put a focus on the special subjects in a positive light.

The broadcast started with our physical education teacher leading his class in the gym (and parents, teachers, and students in classrooms all over the building via TV) in an afternoon stretch workout. Immediately after the stretches, the cameras came into music class to catch the lesson for first graders on "There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly".


5 Songs for 7 Continents

Recently, a third grade teacher colleague asked me for any ideas on musical activities to reinforce her student's learning the seven continents.  Always, I tell my students that being smart isn't necessarily knowing everything, it's knowing where to find it.  Easily, I found these useful possibilities on, emailed them to her, and felt like a hero...I heart the information age!


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie" with Differentiated Instruction Ideas

Of all of the "Old Lady" book adaptations, this one is my personal favorite...probably because she is finally eating some delicious and edible goodies (except for when she devours the pot used for cooking!), and she reminds me of our own gluttony on the holiday of Thanksgiving! (Although, now that I am the one preparing the food for the feast, I find that I eat a less at dinner...wonder why? Must be sampling too much as I'm cooking!)

Here are some differentiated ideas on including "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Pie" in your music instruction:


Calm? Check. Thoughtful? Check. Caring? Check....

Recently, I was attending one of our district's mentoring meetings on the topic of Parent-Teacher Relations.  The speaker referenced the book, How to Deal with Parents who are Angry, Troubled, Afraid, and Just Plain Crazy by Elaine K. McEwan-Adkins.  There were many useful solutions and suggestions just in the presentation, I'd like to delve into this book myself in the near future.  However, I'd like to share this quote from the presentation that struck me as particularly appropriate to my Jedi-Teacher theme:

"As professionals, it is our responsibility to be calm, thoughtful, caring, intelligent, articulate, direct and honest at all times and in all situations."


Veteran's Day

Happy Veteran's Day...and a huge thank you for all who have served and sacrificed.  My very favorite Veteran's Day memory was when my grandfather was honored in the Veteran's Day parade in our town, along with his 6 brothers.  All seven of the brothers had served in World War II, and each one made it home safely.  I can still see him marching down Main Street, shoulder to shoulder with his brothers. Their only regret was that at the time (mid-1980s) they could no longer fit into their service uniforms!


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Thank You, Thanksgiving"

When we encourage our young students to sing, a pattern often introduced first is the sol-mi pattern, soon to be followed by the sol-sol-mi-la-sol-mi pattern. "Thank You, Thanksgiving" by David Milgrim is a great book to reinforce singing in these important patterns that form a strong foundation for our young singers.


My Privilege

Most days, we teachers leave the light sabers at home...

"Teaching is a privilege. It's part of a Jedi's responsibility to help train the next generation."
--Obi-Wan Kenobi

This quote is from the back of my son's "Clone Wars" book, and I love it.  For not being a true fan, I really do find a lot of teaching inspiration in the many variations of Star Wars! As teachers, we should all aim for this should be our daily mantra. Do we approach our work in this way each day?  It is certainly a challenge, but the attitude that we carry day to day leaves a lasting impression on everyone we come into contact with each day.  Please allow me to tell you a little story about some workers in another job with a terrific attitude...


The Gift of Sleep

Like all hard-working teachers, moms, and teacher/moms out there, I say THANK YOU for the extra hour of sleep last night!!   If only we could get that every weekend...



"Five small noodles, on my noodle plate..."
 "Noodles" is an interactive new activity I started with my language support and kindergarten life skills students.  This finger play is from the Dr. Jean site, which I have sucessfully utilized for quite a while, ever since my first "Tooty Ta" as a kindergarten classroom teacher back in 2003-2005!

To prepare, I cut five holes in foam plates for the entire class. Be sure to measure the placement with one of your student's actual hands, because if you go by your own adult-sized hand, they may not fit the children's small hands!


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Slowly, Slowly, Slowly," said the Sloth

Most early elementary students have a favorite tempo, and that would be FAST! Oftentimes we need to remind our young students to slow down and take it easy, and not just in the context of the music! As a fan of the art of Eric Carle, I collected many of his books for my own children's collection, but "'Slowly, Slowly, Slowly,' said the Sloth" has been overlooked at our house until now.  In the day of the sloth, he hangs out on a branch, eats, naps, and wakes up....what a lazy day! After being pestered by some other animals, the sloth gives his defense: he just likes to do things slowly, slowly, slowly.

Rachel Rambach has written a song to reinforce the need to go slowly called "Slow and In Control". Listening to this song would be a great way to introduce the concept of the slow tempo, and to lead into this book.

Here are my ideas for using this book in music class:


Marvelous Music Makers for Music Ed: "Disney Halloween Songs & Sounds"

Happy Halloween!! This album has been with me for many Halloweens...and my very youngest students really enjoy the music! Some of the musical concepts that are reinforced by this resource are steady beat, group choreography, creative movement, identifying verse and refrain, vocal timbres, and vocal exploration

Some of my favorites include:
  • The Werewolf Song
  • Shake Your Bones
  • Which Witch is Which?
  • They Don't Scare Me
Here are the activities we use for these songs:


Holiday "Flip" books

Incorporating visual aids is very important for our young students success, and sometimes students need a hands-on visual aid. For this reason, I developed the "Flip Book".  These simple creations help more students follow the sequence of a song, assist in developing reading skills, and lead to more excitement and interest in the activity.


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Halloween Mice!"

Oh, those Preschoolers, Kindergartners and First Graders, always on the move! They are naturally always in-motion and on the go, and we need to include plenty of movement activities in our music classes.  We also always need to be mindful that their attention span just about equals their age in the four-year-old can pay attention for four minutes, the five-year-old for five minutes, and so on. (Personal aside: Why does this only pertain to school, and not so much to video games??)

So, for the music teacher, this means that you need to be changing up your activities in the lessons you plan quite often! It is challenging to plan all of the necessary activities, but well worth having your young students engaged, learning, and happy in their musical activities! To that end, "Halloween Mice!" by Bethany Roberts is a great book to use as a creative movement activity as a part of your class during this month of October.


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything"

Our first grade curriculum focuses on "voice choice" and discriminating between singing, speaking, whispering, and shouting voices. A terrific reinforcement for this concept is found in "The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything" by Linda Williams, and it is seasonally appropriate for October!

"The Little Old Lady. . . is a clever reworking of the classic story of a ghostly body that appears bit by bit (see ``What's the Matter'' in Maria Leach's Whistle in the Graveyard Viking, 1974 ). The humor of the little old lady's fearless attitude and her clever solution as to what to do with the lively shoes, pants, shirt, pumpkin head, etc., that are chasing her, will enchant young audiences. The catchy refrain never falters, and the rhythmic repeated sounds made by each of the woman's pursuers are sure to appeal to children. Lloyd's brilliantly-colored, detailed folk art-style illustrations are a perfect complement to the text." -Alice Cronin, Belleville Public Library, N.J. Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Here are my ideas for including this book in early-elementary music class:


Differentiated Instruction for "There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat"

When I originally presented ideas for utilizing "There was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat", there was pretty much one activity for the class: learn to follow the sequence of the song by using some visual aids to help them.  For use in a regular education class, that plan has been very sufficient. 

Now, I'd like to share some more ideas for the very same lesson, this time to address differing needs in a special needs classroom.  Differentiating the instruction can help more students of different abilities to achieve the objective of the lesson: learning to follow the sequence of a cumulative song so that they can more easily sing along!


Differentiated Instruction in Music Education

 "Effective teachers have been differentiating instruction for as long as teaching has been a profession. It has to do with being sensitive to the needs of your students and finding ways to help students make the necessary connections for learning to occur in the best possible way."

"Differentiated Instruction makes it possible to maximize learning for ALL students. It is a professional and responsive mind-set where the teacher is proactively planning for the needs of diverse learners.
Most teachers naturally differentiate to some degree. The more differentiated a classroom, the more its students feel successful and motivated, resulting in higher student achievement."


Songs You Already Know: "The Haunted House"

(Almost) everyone loves to get into the Halloween spirit when you work in an elementary school! By using new words with songs that we already know, we have an activity that reinforces reading skills and singing skills.

Tune: (the song you already know): "The Wheels on the Bus"

Holiday Song: "The Haunted House"


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Five Spooky Ghosts Playing Tricks at School"

Using the melody of "Six Little Ducks", Steve Metzger has written "Five Spooky Ghosts Playing Tricks at School".  Illustrations are by Marilee Harrald-Pilz.  This book is a great addition to your sing-along seasonal collection.  The pattern of the book will also remind you of "Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed".

The five naughty ghosts are up to no good at school, and one by one the teacher sends them home. Finding herself alone and lonely at school, the teacher calls the parents and says "Let those ghosts go back to school!" (A likely story...!)

Here are some ideas for using this book in music class:


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Skeleton Hiccups"

Do your 5 and 6-year-old students have a difficult time with the concept of "rest" in music?  Of course, with an age group that is usually very active, "rest"ing is a difficult skill!  Try using "Skeleton Hiccups" by Margery Cuyler as an extension at the end of a lesson on quarter rests. In the story, Skeleton has a pesky case of the hiccups, which he finally "scares" away.  Can you guess how? 

He looks in the mirror and sees himself...soooo scary! (and perfect for the Halloween season!)


Worthy Websites for Music Ed: ""

shirt by
 This site was recommended by a colleague and it's not what I initially expected at all...but that's not necessarily a bad thing! I was anticipating a site dedicated to vocal training for young singers, but Voice Academy's focus is on the vocal health of TEACHERS and site is described as a "no cost self-directed virtual school built for the vocal health of US teachers"!

Ironically, I was recently reading an article about teachers who battle severe career-ending vocal problems such as polyps or nodes. The goal of the Voice Academy is to "develop an outreach for the hard-working voices of schoolteachers...based on compelling research showing a high incidence of voice problems in the profession."


How are my grades? (Update 5)

I am continuing to allow my new students to Grade the Teacher. At the beginning of the class, I give one student the job of tallying my mistakes (and I've been making plenty!) and writing my score on the board. This generates a lot of interest on the part of the students! Here are my grades:


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Five Little Bats Flying in the Night"

Here is another re-write of "Six Little Ducks" just in time for Halloween! Steve Metzger is the author and Laura Bryant is the illustrator of "Five Little Bats Flying in the Night", a cute book to sing with your early childhood students. In the story,  "rambunctious bats get into all sorts of trouble as their mother tries to protect them from one mishap after another. An inventive approach to counting and rhymes, Metzger and Bryant show that, despite life's risks, mother has to "let those little bats fly, fly, fly!"

Here are my ideas for use in music class:


October Music Education Blog Carnival!!

Dr. Joseph Pisano of is hosting the Music Education Blog Carnival for the month of October... and one of my more "mysterious" posts is included!!!

Dr. Pisano presents a variety of terrific resources for music education, private music teachers, Recreational Music Making (RMM), music technology, music advocacy, professional music networks, and music composition.  Please check out the carnival!


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat"

That little old lady sure does like to eat, doesn't she?  If you are a fan, you may want to introduce the original song "I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" before delving into the many seasonal "old lady" books.

For the spooky season, Lucille Colandro has written "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Bat!" This is a good reinforcement of sequence and cumulative songs. Most kids just love Halloween and everything associated with the holiday, so this song and book will make them very excited!

Here are my ideas for using this book in your music class:


How are my grades? (Update 4)

In my new school, I am continuing to allow my students to Grade the Teacher.

At the beginning of the class, I give one student the job of tallying my mistakes (if any) and writing my score on the board. This generates a lot of interest on the part of the students! Here are my grades:



Every teacher needs to develop a "quiet signal" for those times (and they happen often...) when their students are too loud. Elementary students of all ages can get carried away by an activity, excited for any reason, and sometimes just want to visit with their friends.  For these times,  a quiet signal is necessary.


How are my grades? (Update 3)

I am continuing to allow my new students to Grade the Teacher.

At the beginning of the class, I give one student the job of tallying my mistakes (if any) and writing my score on the board. This generates a lot of interest on the part of the students! Here are my grades:


Worthy Websites for Music Ed: "Metronome Online"

Every music teacher, whether they teach privately or in a school setting, knows the importance of a metronome to help their students keep a steady beat and tempo. A metronome is a practice tool that produces a steady pulse (or beat) to help musicians play rhythms accurately. The pulses are measured in beats-per-minute (BPM). Most metronomes are capable of playing beats from 35 to 250 BPM. Common uses of the metronome are helping you to maintain an established tempo while practicing, and learning difficult passages.


How are my grades? (Update 2)

Even though my current student teacher has now taken over the day-to-day lesson planning and instruction, I still allow my students in my new school to Grade the Teacher (me, that is) on how well I am learning their names.

At the beginning of the class, I give one student the job of tallying my mistakes (if any) and writing my score on the board. This generates a lot of interest on the part of the students! It also helps me to review, and assists my student teacher in learning the student's names as well.  Here are my grades so far:


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "The Runaway Pumpkin"

'Round and 'round
across the ground
makin' a thumpin'
bumpin' sound
came that
round and roll-y

You can tell by this rhythmic recurring theme in "The Runaway Pumpkin" by Kevin Lewis that this is a story very well-suited for music!


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly"

There are many book versions of "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" out there; I included this one illustrated by Pam Adams just because it's the one I own.  It is a nice big size to share in class and includes die-cut holes in the pages to see each animal swallowed.

This is a great book and song to include early in the school year, because there is a variety of different "Old Lady" holiday variations to include throughout the year.

Here are my ideas for incorporating "There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly" in your music class:


Marvelous Music Makers for Music Ed: "The Hill Brothers"

As the first of my "Marvelous Music Makers", I'd like to introduce..."The Hill Brothers" (and Hill sister, Suzie)! At the beginning of each new school year, I use their "3R's: Respect, Responsibility, and Reading" CD for the first five weeks of school with my first graders. As one of our veteran paraprofessionals recently said to a new staff member, "You'll hear it until your ears bleed!"

The group is based out of upstate New York, but they have traveled down to our school in Western Pennsylvania twice in the past six years. The Hill Brothers give an excellent live show; they involve the audience, and leave behind infectious tunes remembered for months to come.


Great Expectations

As a student, I always hated "THE RULES". Of course, without rules life would be chaos, but there was always a part of me that resented being told what to do! Even as a teacher, I resist saying "Follow the rules". Instead, I ask my students to "Fulfill my expectations".


How are my grades? (Update 1)

This year, I am teaching in a new school, along with another school I've had for some time.  In order to learn the students' names, I allow the students to Grade the Teacher.

At the beginning of the class, I give one student the job of tallying my mistakes (if any) and writing my score on the board.  This generates a lot of interest on the part of the students!  Here are my grades so far:


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

Happy first day of fall!  While I'm personally not looking forward to raking all of the leaves that will soon be falling at my house, I don't mind an autumn-themed music lesson centered around a fun book for my early childhood students.  Patterned after "We're Going on a Bear Hunt", this book by Steve Metzger is a great introduction to the fall season for your youngest students. "We're Going on a Leaf Hunt" lends itself well to many musical extensions.

Do you have access to an Ellison die-cutter? If so, you can use it to cut out the various colored leaves you will need for this lesson.  If not, you can develop your own leaf pattern; I recommend using google image.