Jedi Music

A Resource for the Beginning Elementary Music Teacher


Teacher Attitudes: Gratitude

I've been thinking about gratitude in the past few days, and especially how it applies to teaching.  I live in an area where teaching jobs have been historically hard to land...we have many universities in our state and many graduates with education degrees with a desire to stay in-state.  With the economy as dismal as it has been, and with a governor slashing the education budget, teaching jobs are EXTRA scarce these days.



This school year my schedule is especially I bought an extra-big water jug!

I'm noticing some pros and cons already...I like the size (there is so little time for refills with my packed schedule) and it really does keep the water cold all day long, but I need to find a secure place for it in my car so it stops rolling around as I make turns! My next car needs a 52oz. cup holder, I guess...

And no, it's not coffee (as my students think) in my monster mug, (nor any alcoholic beverage, like some of my colleagues may suggest!) it is really for my water that I drink constantly throughout the day.
Drinking lots of water is something I've always done to stay healthy and to hydrate my vocal cords.  Every new music teacher needs to get on board with keeping their hydration adequate.  So, if you are leaving the college world with a Mountain Dew/Coke/Pepsi/coffee/Monster/RockStar  habit, try swapping out a few of those drinks with a big jug of water.  Little by little, you may be able to wean yourself off the caffeine and your body (and teeth!) will thank you for it!*
*OK, those teeth pictures were even sicker than I thought possible! But, if it was enough to shock you into reaching for some ice water instead of "Doin' the Dew", then my mission is complete.


Music Questions for Games

My students love to play games in music, and they get quite competitive in the process! Having a set of music questions on index cards on hand is very useful; I can use them with any game (music football, music baseball, etc.) that I dream up to play in music. 

If you get these prepared early in the school year, then you will be ready for any game that you want to include in your classes for the entire school year! (Forethought=timesaving=good!)

I like to give the students two choices of answers to pick from; that way they have a 50/50 chance at success, which adds to the fun.  Here are some examples of questions I use for grades 5 and 6, taken straight from our music series and curriculum:


Kick the new school year off right...with Music Football!

I like to start the school year off with a review game for my older students (4th, 5th, and 6th grades)...and what better game for the fall season than (American) Football...although I've tweaked the rules to review musical vocabulary or instruments that the students can identify.

Making the football field by hand was a big time investment when I made the first one (about 10 years ago!), but today I think that I'd take a simpler route and use Google Image to find a simple view of a football field such as the one pictured here. I'd then blow it up using a color copier and laminate it for durability.  The game board that I use for my classroom is roughly 2 1/2 feet by 6 feet.


Fabric for Bulletin Board Coverings

(This is a new one I bought for this school year!)
 A few years back, I started using fabric to cover my bulletin boards, and I've been so happy with the results.  Using fabric for bulletin boards beats paper by far because it is:
  • Much easier to hang.
  • Fades less than paper (but also depends on the fabric).
  • Looks more appealing and interesting.
  • More durable than paper (you won't be re-hanging it year after year).
  • Widely available in many musical patterns.



Does anyone under 33 know this guy?  Or has the movie been played enough on cable that age doesn't matter?

Have you ever worked with someone as dried up and in need of retirement as this guy? Or were you a student with a crusty teacher?

I think I should make a video of myself for my blog, saying "Comments?... Comments?  Comments?..."


Educator or Entertainer?

"The cardinal sin
of an educator
is to be boring."

-Theodore Roethke

Haven't we all been there? Nodding off at a desk, counting the minutes, doodling in our notebook, watching the clock...(I had a teacher in my pre-cell phone high school days who removed the clock from the room because too many students checked it constantly!) all of these memories conclude that education is not always entertaining.

And that's OK by me.  Sometimes it's like taking a bad-tasting will make you better in the end.  I had a childhood where we didn't have cable TV or video games and we were allowed to be bored, and I believe those experiences stretch the mind into creativity.  But, today's kids are not OK with boredom, or anything that doesn't smack of pure entertainment.  I have watched a student of mine come into the classroom, plunk himself in a seat, and announce immediately, "I'm bored!" before the class even began! Talk about a tough crowd...


Substitute Planning...Do it while you're healthy!!

Back to school season is here again, and when setting up your classroom, please don't forget to plan ahead for the inevitable day when you might not make it to school because of illness.  Beginning teachers are especially prone to picking up sicknesses going around because they haven't built up an immunity.  So, your sick self is going to thank you sometime mid-winter when you don't have to haul yourself out of bed in sub-zero temps to get to school to set up for a sub!

When it comes to sub plans, keep it simple! Most of the time your sub will not be a music specialist, and will not feel comfortable picking up lessons where you left off.  My best sub plans include a music game or activity that anyone can teach, or a video that reinforces or extends concepts taught in music.

Here are some good activities to leave in your sub folder:


Children's Literature: "Punk Farm"

A while back I introduced "Punk Farm on Tour", and now I'm happy to share that my copy of  "Punk Farm" has arrived and is ready for use in my music classes!  And if my own children are any indication, my students are really going to enjoy this one!

While "Punk Farm on Tour" was a remake of "The Wheels on the Bus", this book is an updated version of "Old MacDonald", written by Jarrett J. Krosoczka.  In the story, we meet the band as a innoculous group of farm animals, but when Farmer Joe goes back to the farmhouse for the evening...look out!  These animals are ready to rock a packed house in the barn!

Here are some of my ideas for incorporating the book in music classes for young children:


Building a Partnership Between Music and Reading Skills

Encorporating reading is natural in early childhood music education, but sometimes finding appropriate literature is not.  We want to be sure that both reading skills and music skills are being addressed by incorporating a particular book.  You will know that the balance is met when you can identify specific music objectives being met at the same time as reading skills are reinforced. 

Also, building a library of children's literature appropriate for reinforcing music is challenging to a new teacher because of the expense of purchasing the books.  Here are some of my thrify tips for picking up quality books on the cheap:


"Where Children Sleep"

Documentary photographer James Mollison recently published a photo book entitled "Where Children Sleep" which developed from his idea that a photo of someone's bedroom can reveal much more about them than a portrait ever could.  The book gives a fascinating view into the personal lives of children, and is an especially stark compare/contrast tool for the "haves" and the "have-nots" around the world. (And the pictures are going to be excellent as an extension to our "Hello to All the Children of the World" song in the Third Grade "Share the Music" series.)

Imagine if all of your students arrived at school with a picture of their sleeping place in hand. In our communities, we would likely see a very diverse a group of rooms, and some may be just as startling as "Where Children Sleep".  Understanding just where our students are coming from is a big step in a new teacher's understanding of their students, and a useful reminder to teachers to use patience with our students. This is why many school districts have begun to incorporate the home visit.  More ideas on home visits can be found here and here.


Children's Literature for Music Ed: "Punk Farm on Tour"

Here's another new gem I picked up at the library to peruse for the new school year, and I think it's going to be a winner with the little ones...."Punk Farm on Tour"! Written and illustrated by Jarrett J. Krosoczka, this book is actually a sequel to "Punk Farm" (I'll be checking that one out soon!)

One of the many elements I like about this book is that it combines a story with a song...and the story is one that my young students are going to enjoy! Farmer Joe is off for the Tractor Conference in Reno, and the Punk Farm band (Sheep: lead vocals, Chicken: keyboards, Cow: drums, Pig: guitar, & Goat: bass) is going on their first big tour, complete with issues with their van, the weather, and a rush to get back to the farm before Farmer Joe.

Here are some of my ideas to incorporate this book in music classes:


The Networked Teacher

Check this out:
When I started teaching in 1999 (last century!) 64% of this would have been very puzzling. At that time, I could have told you how to use exactly five of these networks for educational purposes. (I was fresh out of undergrad; chat was soooo not used for educational purposes on my campus!) Can you believe how lucky we are to have instant access to so much information?  As teachers, we should be more efficient and better educated than anyone who has come before us! Is it any wonder that our brains are feeling a little fried??!  And I know I'm not alone in blaming technology for my lack of sleep; each night after my children are tucked in, I'm online waaay too long at night, and I'll admit, it's not always for professional reasons!


Children's Literature for Music Education: "Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles-Think of That!"

"Rap a Tap Tap: Here's Bojangles-Think of That!" by Leo and Diane Dillon is a terrific book that I found at my local public library and I plan to utilize it soon in my classroom. The book shares a slice of Bill "Bojangles" Robinson's life, focusing on his street dancing.  A simple afterward tells a short biography of Robinson's life.  The repetitive rhyme, "Rap a Tap Tap- Think of That!" lends itself to many musical extensions.

One of the many great aspects of including children's literature in music is that there are limitless ideas that we can use in each book.  Each teacher is going to think of different activities they can implement so that the book not only reinforces reading skills, but also supports our music curriculum. Our students will often lend their own creative ideas when given a chance, so don't forget to ask them!

Here  are some of my ideas on how I will include this book in music class:


Good Reading: "So You Want To Teach?"

Are you a "List Person", that is always making lists of tasks to be completed, and then gaining satisfaction as you cross them off one by one? Yeah, me too.

Joel of "So You Want To Teach" is a list person, but of a different sort. He is terrific at making lists that pertain to our lives as teachers, and they are often full of positive messages.  Every teacher, music or otherwise, will gain insight from his blog, and his online persona seems like he is a teacher in the Jedi mode: cool, calm, meeting any crisis with finesse, etc.  Check out his list of "Fifty Reasons to Love Your Job as a Teacher".  (And he doesn't even include summer vacation!) Also, "15 Ways to Stay Positive" and "10 Things for a First Year Teacher to Do".